Blood, Earth and the Day I'm Not Going to Die

Michael Ortiz Hill

Dear Dad

On December 28 I’m not going to die, Sure, sure I could get struck by a car or lightning or murdered by a stranger but I doubt it. Hell I could slip in the shower and drown or even commit suicide because the world is so unbearably desperate.

(Bad art. To kill oneself in an apocalyptic time?)

There are so many ways to die – the possibilities are without number – but I’m not going to do it.

On December 28 I’ll be 18,904 days old.

I’ve anticipated December 28 for over 30 years now.

You see dad you died when you were 18,904 days old. A few months after my mother separated from you and took my 11 year old self and my three brothers to New Mexico you had your first heart attack and then submitted to the yogic discipline of slow-motion suicide. Alcohol and cigarettes. Bloated with congestive heart failure you drew your last breath nine years later in a hospital in Glendale.

Perhaps every man, but certainly every eldest son, has to understand how he is like his father and how he is different. How he is in fact his father and how he most certainly isn’t.

I’ve often said that I bear your melancholy. But it’s also true that I laugh a lot.

A lot.

I certainly picked up your wild mind and wild uneducated scholarship. Your quasi Buddhist mysticism, love of books and love of meditation. You carried a profound wound in relationship to women. Your last conversation with your mother ended “you will never understand me will you?” I insist awkwardly skillfully hopelessly not to live out a translation of that wound. The only shard of that portion of my childhood that was Catholic is an absurd faith in the sacrament of marriage.

I love my baby.

In your forties your body sheltered the disease that took you to your grave and I cultivated hospitality for the “incurable” Guest, multiple sclerosis.

Listening, listening to its incessant wisdom

And addiction?

In the mountains north of my grandfather’s ranch the penitentes used to flagellate themselves and crucify a member every Easter. That old time religion was good enough for me but I merely flagellated my nervous system with psychedelics for a few years until it bled its ecstasy into the earth.

I tried hard to be an alcoholic, made a few gallons of sake’ those months I was a hermit after nursing school. I’d meditate all day and drink into the night, communing with my your spirit. But ultimately I didn’t have the will. Why would a self-respecting hippie choose to be addicted to a drug that would numb my soul ?

Psychedelics were my game and with them I courted madness and vision.

I remember well when we ate LSD together a year before you died. You looking in my eyes, I into your, beneath the gaze of the icon of Kwan Yin you won in a poker game in Korea during the war and you said, “We are the same person aren’t we ?” and I said “Yes,” as it was the mutual evidence of our senses.

“Not one, not two” says Suzuki Roshi.


Allan Watts says of his experiences with psychedelics, “when you get the message hang up the phone,” I was most stubborn or most dense. Eventually I conceeded to the message that the gods had offered with such generosity.

The truth is I would have been most disappointed if I didn’t acquire some kind of addiction. Although I first imagined that my addiction was somewhat superior to anothers’ the company of fellow addicts showed me the utter banality of it. The same tawdry distorsions of building a life around using, the same driven willingness to make loved ones suffer for your appetites.

My great good fortune is that I bottomed out as a homeless teenage druggie and then began the “slow cook” that has been my life.

But now, in reterospect, the birds eye view.

You father Daedalus and I your son Icarus – after tasting 100 micrograms of LSD you tell me I’m not to get too close to the sun? Know you nothing of aspiration? When the wax wings melt you speak of the tragedy of a young man’s longing. But the aspiration and the fall to earth are the story we’re in.

(This I write, inveterate smartass, three decades after your death, and you remind me you were doing a spiritual exercise taking all the love of the universe into your heart when you had your first coronary. I see Icarus fell through your death into my body, and reconfigured through my addiction to fall finally to earth.)

Every addict and every moth knows that the flame is more compelling than mere survival.

And in the full ideogram of fate the fall to earth is equally blessed though many don’t live to taste the blessings.

Such is the sweet and desperate intimacy played across generations and every one of these 18,904 days.

The old man in the boy always knew this: the rise, the fall and the healing of the full cycle is the fistful if flowers I offer you on the day that I will not die.

The boys choice of addiction that vanquishes the fiction of choice I offer you on the day that I will not die.

The tears. saliva. blood and breath of all the drunken ancestors forever grieving that we lost the confederacy I offer to fire the day that I will not die.

And that other disease, multiple sclerosis, the years of piss and shit, going blind and then not, losing my legs and regaining them, losing my mind and recovering a portion of it, wondering if it was mine to be paralyzed – the gamut of this brief spasm in a still brief life -- I offer over this day that I will not die.

I have a lovely wooden coffin, once a container for ARMIDA POIZIN: THE WINE TO DIE FOR. RIP in which I will leave this letter and all I cannot name that is to be burned on the day I will not die.

And after that?

After 18,904 days?

Well – one day at a time from then on.

May we all rest in peace, dad ---