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.
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
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
Listening, listening to its incessant wisdom
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
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
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
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
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 ---