Saturday, March 9, 2019

Never[land] meet your heroes.

One of the few personal traits I'm proud of is that I've always had a firm grounding in reality. Oh sure, I sat with a friend poring over Beatles magazines and fantasizing that I would marry Paul McCartney someday, but I was nine years old.

I really don't have any other recollection of celebrity-chasing. I have gone to a few book signings, but they were people like Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet (well before the sex abuse claims against him came out), Garrison Keillor (again -- decades before he was disappeared for touching a woman's back), Jodi Picoult (no allegations against her that I'm aware of, and before she became a regular on the New York Times bestseller list), former Mets Manager Davey Johnson, baseball announcer Tim McCarver, and Phil Lesh (at which Mr. Brilliant was fangirling a lot more than I was). But I have never felt that I "knew" these people.

Oh sure, there are celebrities that I've thought might be cool to hang out with, but I've never felt I really knew any of them. The very fact that they are celebrities means that they have a public persona that may or may not resemble their real personalities, no matter how many interviews they allowed Barbara Walters or Morley Safer or, yes, even the Queen of Self-Revelation, Oprah.

The closest I've come to rubbing elbows with celebrities is the time I was an usher at the Drama League Awards, where my function was to point guests to the correct room. What struck me that day was that except for John Lithgow, who is as massive as you'd expect, and Jeff Goldblum, who was an absolute prince of a fellow with the three women attending an unrelated conference at the same hotel, just how much SMALLER these people were than you'd expect; small people with extraordinarily large heads, for some reason. The biggest surprise to me was Frances Sternhagen, who made a late-life career playing imposing WASP matrons. You may know her as "Trey's mother" in Sex and the City. In real life, Sternhagen is about my height (which is less than five feet tall). The colors of the world may only seem real when you viddy them on the screen, but despite what Gloria Swanson said in Sunset Boulevard, in reality the movies got big but the stars are small.

If you watched all of the documentary Leaving Neverland this week and stayed to watch the discussion with Wade Robson and James Safechuck afterward (yeah, it was moderated by Oprah, but people DO listen to her), and you came away NOT believing that these two men were telling the truth, then I would say that you are refusing to distinguish between artist and person, between image and person.

Perhaps it's easier for me to believe these two men because I have zero investment in the Mythos of Michael Jackson. I was never a fan. Yes, he was a charismatic entertainer, but there have been plenty of those. I don't toss around the word "genius" lightly. And I sure as hell know that what I see on a stage or in a music video or even a concert has nothing to do with who the person is when he gets off the stage.

With Jackson, it's not even like he was trying to hide anything. The endless parade of prepubescent boys, traded in for a younger one once they reached their teens. The hand-holding. The media calling these boys Jackson's "travel companions." The theme park of a "ranch" that couldn't have drawn in more little boys if its driveways and walkways had been painted in Krazy Glue. All of it as if it were perfectly normal, as if EVERY adult male in his 30s and 40s decks out his house like a kiddie park and walks around holding hands with boys that are not his. The media were so focused on his increasingly grotesque appearance that they didn't even seem to notice what was going on in plain sight.

Everyone enabled him. He was a cash cow to so many people. There was too much money to be made off of Michael Incorporated to look at his personal proclivities. Then add in a celebrity culture in which ordinary people long to be touched by what they perceive as greatness to the point that they're essentially pimping out their sons just so they can hang out with a star. What do you end up with? You end up with James Safechuck's tormented countenance and shaking hands as he finally feels courageous enough to face the demons that the star everyone thought just "loved children" put there.

I don't see Michael Jackson as a monster. It was clear from very early on that he himself was severely damaged by his childhood. I don't know if he was sexually, emotionally, or physically abused, but that he was put out there on stage and expected to use his charisma to support his entire family and even enable the less talented among them to have show business careers constitutes abuse. No, he was not a monster. But he was someone who had the resources to buy the ersatz childhood that the Neverland Ranch and boys like Wade Robson and James Safechuck, and others brought him. They were easy marks because their parents became starstruck and indulged their sons' and their own fandom to an extreme that they don't even understand anymore. They were in thrall to Michael Jackson and now that the curtain has fallen, and the spell is broken, they can't even explain it.

So why don't people like Macauley Culkin and Corey Feldman come forward about him? Perhaps it's because he DIDN'T abuse them. Why not? Because what did he have to offer two young stars in their own right that they didn't already have or could easily get? He didn't have the leverage with them that he did with two unknown kids whose "show business careers" only existed in the reflected light of Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson was a sick, tragic man and clearly his maturity development was stunted. The world wanted him to remain that cute kid on the Ed Sullivan Show forever. As part of the Jackson 5, while he looked like a little kid onstage, offstage he wasn't allowed to be one. And when the puberty monster hit, his emotional development stopped.  As a young adult, he was able to use his money to create the childhood he'd missed, even as people like Quincy Jones and others were able to create an image that could loosely pass for a reasonable facsimile of evolution into something perhaps having some of the aspects of an adult performer.

Jackson didn't abuse everyone he came in contact with any more than a rapist rapes every woman he sees. But no matter how tragic Michael Jackson may have been, no matter how much he cried in the corner at the thought of his favorite boys being away from him, no matter how lonely he was, no matter how much money he had or made for others, no matter how much people may have enjoyed his records, his videos, and his concerts, the fact remains that Michael Jackson ruined the lives of Wade Robson and James Safechuck and probably others who are not yet ready to come forward. No amount of talent, or your enjoyment of it, mitigates that fact.  And for the men he abused, his musical legacy does nothing to change that.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Blogrolling In Our Time for February 28, 2019

Say hello to Hammer of the Blogs!

John Oliver and the Rare Medium Beef

Last Sunday, John Oliver did a devastating segment on an industry that preys on the emotions of troubled people.  No, I'm not talking about the purveyors of fake cancer "cures", I'm talking about psychics.

Full disclosure:  I have paid an animal communicator.  Twice.  Both were times when Maggie, my little white cat, was deathly ill and I had no idea what was wrong with her.  The second time was three months after Mr. Brilliant had died.  A stubborn upper respiratory infection had seemingly morphed into a horrible skin disease which manifested as suppurating, crusty sores on first her ears, then her eyelids, her paw pads, and her anus.  I'd had to approve Mr. B. being taken off of life support just three months earlier, and now my beloved babycat was deathly ill and three vets had not been able to tell me what it was.  Maggie was 15 and my head told me it was time but I was unsure if it really was time or if it was just me having run out of gas and just wanting it to be over. 

I don't even remember what this animal communicator said.  There were things that resonated, but I can't tell if she gleaned the things she said from what little information I gave her or if she really can telepath with animals. I do know that she didn't tell me "Maggie wants you to know that it's time to go."

I'm on the fence about these animal communicators. I know that I was pretty desperate when I enlisted the one I did. 

I've never understood people who AREN'T in a life crisis who go to psychics.  A friend of mine went to a party where they had a psychic (which says it all right there), and the psychic said to her "I'm seeing the name 'Steve'."  Well, who DOESN'T know someone named Steve, especially in our age group?  And have you EVER seen a psychic who doesn't tell a bereaved person "S/he wants you to know that s/he loves you very much."  This isn't rocket science.

It's not that I don't believe that the dead can communicate with us, at least for a while.  If you've ever had what I call "dream-visits", you know that they are very different from "dreaming about" the person who died.  In the latter, the person never died or comes back from the dead.  Those are just dreams, and they are obviously about wish fulfillment.  In dream-visits, you both know that they are dead.  They FEEL different. 

Almost 30 years ago, a work colleague was killed when he was hit by a train.  He was a lovely man and his secretary adored him. She was a devout young Catholic who believed in heaven and hell and nothing else -- until the dream visit, when he visited her in the courtyard of the building they worked in and told her that he was OK and she should not be sad...but that he had to leave now.  About 20 years later, I thought about that when his widow showed up on an episode of "Hoarders," a show where the worst hoarders are almost universally people who have never come to terms with the death of a loved one or a divorce.  I think about her sometimes and wonder how she's doing now.

After my mother's husband died in 2000, I had dream-visits almost every night for a month.  In each one of them, he would ask me, "Where's your mother?"  Through that month, he became less sick with every visit.  Whereas in the first visit he was sallow, thin, in pajamas and a bathrobe the way he was when he died, by the time the visits stopped, he was back in jeans and flannel shirt and healthy.  But every time, it was "Where's your mother?"  It was as if he was trying to visit HER, but for whatever reason was unable to.

When my mother died, there were two dream visits, though they took a while.  In the first one, she was in the assisted living residence that she'd been in for a few months before she died 36 hours after going home.  I was shocked that she was still alive, and said "You're going to be so mad, Mom...we thought you were dead and we got rid of all your stuff!  She just patted me on the arm and said it was OK.  We chatted for a while, and she was as calm and happy as I'd ever seen her.  And suddenly I blurted out, "I miss you, Mom.  Not very much, but I do miss you."  And I waited for her to fly into one of her patented rages, but she didn't.  She just patted my arm and said "It's OK."  In the second one, we were sitting on a bench in the cemetery, she was wearing the clothes she was buried in, and we were just chatting about -- I don't even know what.

Mr. Brilliant took a LONG time to visit, and I was sure it was because he hated me -- hated me for not staying 24 x 7 in the ICU at the local hospital that botched his care at the end, hated me for working through that final illness, hated me for letting them stick tubes in him at all, hated me for choosing to let him go instead of letting them cut a hole in his throat for a trache and put a gastric feeding tube into his belly. (I still wrestle with all that, and I always will).  Then one day I was in the shower and I felt this wave of his rage, but I knew it wasn't directed at me; it was directed at his parents -- a rage that had come out after he'd stopped self-medicating when he was ill and which had terrified him.  And I started to cry and said "You have to let it go.  You have to forgive them.  They won't let you move on until you forgive them."

A few days later, I smelled cigarette smoke in the house. A lot of it.  I don't smoke.  I went outside, thinking perhaps our neighbor was sneaking a smoke, as he did sometimes.  No smoke smell outside.  This happened three times.  After the third time, I said "You know, you'd think you could find a way to let me know you're here that wouldn't piss me off."  The next time, I smelled pot.  A lot of it.  The good stuff he used to smoke in Jamaica -- green and loamy and sticky.  The smell was so strong that someone outside would have to be smoking a spliff the size of a cigar to make it smell that much in the house. 

I'd have dream visits too, where we were just talking, though I never remembered when I woke up what we talked about.  The last one was when I was in Prague for work in 2015.  In the dream, Mr. B. was there with me.  We were just talking; that seems to be what happens in these visits, no matter who it's from.  Suddenly I realized that his skin was peeling.  It was little half-moon-shaped peelings.  I said, "You really need to put some moisturizer on that,  you know."  And he said "No, it's just that there's only so long I can incarnate before this happens.  I have to go now."

And that was the last one.

I've seen him since then.  I saw him in the A&P parking lot in New Jersey once.  I saw him at the airport here when I came to look at the house I now live in.  I know those sightings weren't him, but how do we know they can't use other people's bodies to manifest momentarily?  He's been in this house twice.  I see him as a shadow, always in the dark, always at night.  I know it's him because the shadow is tall.  I guess he can't incarnate anymore.  And that's OK.

They say that if you see a penny on the ground, it's a "penny from heaven."  They say that if you see a cardinal in your yard, it's your dead spouse, to which I say that if the cardinal I always see in my yard is Mr. B., I wish he wouldn't bring his new girlfriend and set up a nest here right in front of me. 

The bottom line for me is this:  You don't need psychics.  I have no doubt that there are people whose perceptions are ticked up a notch or two.  But those are not the people charging you a hundred bucks to tell you that your dead mother loves you.  Those people have access to Google and MyLife and Spokeo and a host of places where they can find out about you long in advance and know that you have a friend named Steve.  Or that your mother died in 1997.  But I've experienced enough to believe that yes, we DO go on in some fashion.  I've always envisioned it as being like the movie "Defending Your Life," where if you don't get it right you have to keep doing it until you do...and you have a trial to determine if you got it right.  Maybe I honed into Mr. B's trial that day in the shower and told him that he had to forgive his parents or he couldn't move on.  Or maybe it was just me begging him to forgive ME for the ways I failed him.  I don't know.  I do believe, though, that if we're open to the possibility, they do speak to us.  They don't need a middleman.


But here's what I do know:  I know that we just don't know.  The dead have the answer to the question that most of us go through life wondering about.  And some middle-aged woman from Long Island is not going to be able to answer it for us.  We just have to wait till we get there.  And hope that they're all waiting for us there.  Including the pets.  And that they haven't run off with Meryl Streep.  Because, well, who the hell can compete with Meryl Streep? 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Blogrolling In Our Time for Wednesday, January 23

Because you can leave the Hotel New Jersey (h/t Deborah Anna Ackner) any time you like, but you can never really leave, say a big brilliant hello to Smoking Toward New Jersey.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

On being a secular Jew in neo-Nazi-ascendant America

I grew up in a home that was sporadically Jewish.  By "sporadically," I mean one where some years we went to Sunday school at the (reform, hence Sunday) synagogue, and some years we went at the Unitarian church.  I mean one where some years we lit candles for Hanukkah and some we had a Christmas tree and opened gifts on December 25, until my parents gave up on the candles and the Sunday school entirely and we became a secular Christmas home.

My parents split up and both remarried.  My father married a lovely woman who wasn't Jewish and celebrated a mostly secular version of Christmas.  My mother married a Jewish man who went to services on High Holy Days but also ate pork.  Mom's version of being Jewish meant all the baggage of our people and none of the religion.  And to some degree, this is what I inherited.

I was always aware of being Jewish, no matter the Christmas tree, or the years we went to the Unitarian church, and long after the menorah was put away in favor of permanent Christmas at home.  I read Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish. I joined the junior youth group at the synagogue in town despite the fact that we didn't go there.  I went to my friends' bar and bat mitzvahs.   I saw "Fiddler on the Roof" in the movie theatre. 

My first experience with anti-Semitism was in high school, when the mother of a friend of mine referred to me, and others of my ilk, as her "dirty Jew friends."  She was shuffled off to a private school, partly to remove her from my terrible influence, and we lost touch after that. (I am happy to report that thanks to social media, we are now friends again and when she visited me briefly a few years ago, it was as if those years had never happened.)  A few years earlier, there had been a bit of a to-do in town because of a requirement that to be in the choir, you had to be in the Christmas tableau.  A few Jewish parents and ACLU-ers filed a lawsuit, and there was some nastiness in town that eventually settled down.

I saw more of it at the provincial tiny college I attended, where once someone literally asked me:  "If you're Jewish how come you drive such an old car?"  I met someone who was perhaps the only other Jew on campus in my sophomore year, and we dated until I graduated.  After graduation, I dated Jewish and non-Jewish guys, then joined a Jewish singles group at the Y.  That was when I came closest to really returning to the fold, even having a seder one year for my mother, her husband, and my ex-nun Catholic downstairs neighbor.  But then the Y decided to eliminate our program because we weren't producing marriages and babies. And that was the end of all chances this world had to make me a practicing Jew.

So what was I?  I married a pagan, celebrated the Winter Solstice because we were obligated to endure a horrific Christmas Eve with his father and brother every year, but I have always identified as Jewish.  But what is that, really?  Someone asked me that recently, and I didn't know what to say.  I've never "tried to pass", for all that I have kept this Italian last name because I've had it for over 32 years and I'm used to it.  Yes, I bake cookies that may or may not fall during Hanukkah, and I've been known to hang a garland on the mantel, because I figure these are all symbols from Celtic and Germanic paganism anyway. 

Most years I don't even know when the High Holy Days are.  I eat pork.  When I was a child my mother somehow always ended up making pork chops on Yom Kippur.  She always said she never planned it that way, but I wonder if that was HER passive/aggressive way of separating herself.  And yet, I am still Jewish. 

Jewishness is in my soul, in a deep place that I can't even define.  It's in that deep pain that I feel when I see imagery of the Holocaust.  It's in that fear that I feel when I hear about swastikas being spray-painted on synagogues and in public high schools, and when Jews are massacred in their synagogues as happened in Pittsburgh this year.  It's in that fear when I see people in Charlottesville, Virginia shouting "Jews will not replace us", or when a Trumpazoid invokes "George Soros," which I know is code for "Jewy Jew Jew Jew."  It's that knot that my stomach turns into when anyone discusses Israel, because I am not a Zionist, I feel no strong affinity for Israel, I hate what Netanyahu is doing, and yet I feel that the Jewish state is necessary BECAUSE of the people in Charlottesville and BECAUSE of the massacre in Pittsburgh and BECAUSE of the swastikas in the high schools.

It's in the experience of having gone with Mr. B. to see Marc Maron doing stand-up comedy and him finding it funny while I'm practically on the floor laughing until my stomach hurts because I KNOW what it's like to live in a head like that.  It's in the feeling of hearing four bars of klezmer and knowing that it is the song of my people.  It's in the collective memory that the aroma of half-sour pickles and pastrami evokes; one of shopkeepers and tenements and the people who came here on ships in the early part of the 20th century.  It's about the experience of seeing the Statue of Liberty gleaming in the sun as the cruise ship I'm on approaches New York Harbor and knowing in my heart the hope that my grandparents felt when they came here from Russia and Poland to escape the pogroms because as it has always been, Jews were already blamed for everything.

I often wonder about guys like Stephen Miller and Mike Cernovich; guys who were born Jewish but have adopted views that fly in the face of the hardships their forebears endured.  They insist that they are not Jews, as if that will insulate them when shit gets real.  Perhaps it will.  There was the Jüdenrat during the Third Reich after all -- a Jewish agency charged with enacting anti-Jewish policies. But I simply don't understand how someone can NOT have that feeling in their soul of this collective history, its joys and its heartbreaks.

When my mother died in December 2012, my sister found a reel of home movies in her house.  She thought it might be from when we were kids, and took it to be digitized.  But what was revealed was even more important.  It was footage from our mother's childhood, between around 1930 and 1938.  These are fascinating snippets of the Jewish diaspora in America during that time.  Most of them are short clips, but there is a longer video of a party which appears to be a celebration.  My grandmother and three brothers had come to the US together from Poland.  Their parents and sisters came later.  This clip appears to be a celebration of their arrival.  What's striking about this clip is that my grandmother, the most sour woman I ever knew, looks happy.  My mother is perhaps three or four, wearing a little white dress and a big bow in her hair.  She is dancing with another girl and my grandmother is smiling, clapping along and smoothing my mother's hair. It is a joyous gathering.

My great-grandparents and their eldest son, Joe, who stayed
in the US along with my grandmother and three brothers.

My grandmother's sisters returned
to Poland with their parents.
From a different video.  My grandmother here is
waving at her father here, probably upon his arrival. 
My mother is sticking her tongue out at the camera.
She did this her whole life, thinking it was still
adorable even in her 80s.

My great-grandparents were unable for some reason unknown to me to adjust to life in the US, so they and the sisters returned to Poland -- just in time for Hitler.

Watching this video, and other clips which show my mother and her sister as normal, happy children, playing in the sand at the beach, riding ponies, kicking water in a kiddie pool, playing hopscotch, it suddenly all made sense.  The monster that my mother had always described her mother as being wasn't always that way.  She became that way when she learned what had happened to the members of her family who went back. I can't even imagine the guilt and recriminations she must have felt -- the "what if"s and the "If only"s -- regrets she lacked the psychological insight to deal with.  We believe she turned her grief and rage against her husband and children.  And those children turned that damage against THEIR children -- in our case, those children being my sister and me.  We too are Holocaust casualties for all that we have no Holocaust survivors in the family that we have known.  Neither my sister nor I have children, and perhaps that's for the best.  It ends with us.

I've never tried to hide that I'm Jewish.  Even when I married Mr. B. and changed my last name because I was tired of being at the end of the alphabet, I've never tried to hide.  How could I hide?  It's in the way I talk, it's in the way I overanalyze everything, it's in my dark sense of humor, it's in the neurosis and anxiety that more clever Jews than I have turned over the decades into art in the form of music and film, on canvas, and elsewhere.  It's in my blood and in my very being. 

So yes, I am a secular Jew.  The theology does not speak to me other than that I know that it is part of me, it has shaped me, it is engraved in me as it has been for millennia.  All of those who have died over those many centuries simply because they did not believe the way the majority did, are all part of me.  Even if we don't believe, we owe it to those who died to acknowledge and honor them, come what may.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The hardest thing about getting older

The hardest thing about getting older isn't the jowls, or the hair loss, or the creaky knees, or the utter stubbornness of the belly fat you really did try not to accumulate, or even the inevitability of our own certain demise, because life here on earth is going to be a dystopian nightmare in about twelve years anyway. No, the hardest thing is watching the losses pile up, as both your cultural touchstones and those around you start going gently into that good night.  Some of them are older, some the same age, and some are younger, which tends to make one wonder why one has been chosen to still be here.

On September 28, the last of the cancer vloggers I was following, Daniel Thomas (a.k.a. Peeweetoms) died after a three-year battle with an aggressive and particularly horrific soft-tissue cancer called pleomorphic sarcomatoid carcinoma.  Dan Thomas was a cheeky fellow, also from the UK, whose journey actually had him cross paths with Emily Hayward, who predeceased him into the embrace of the universe by almost exactly three months. Dan leaves behind a heartbreakingly young widow, part of an amazing and highly entertaining family who plans to keep posting what may be hundreds of hours of Dan's musings on life and never giving up that he recorded in a frenzy in his final months.  This young man faced terminal illness with a bravery that most of us twice his age don't manage, all at an age (32) when so many of his peers are playing beer pong.  I have to admit that Dan's demise didn't knock me flat quite as much as Emily's did, mostly because when  you've seen video of a formerly vital young man, his skin sunken into his skull, his face wracked with pain, still vlogging while on large doses of morphine in a hospice, you just shout to the universe "Just take him already and free him from this pain!"

I think it's also that I was in a flurry of activity lining things up for the consignment of Mr. Brilliant's cremated remains to the waters off of Negril, Jamaica, where in 12 trips to Negril and another six to other parts of the island, he was able for one week to stop fretting about work and his own self-doubt, smoke all the ganja he wanted, and just BE. 

I'd always planned to do this, I just wasn't sure when.  When he first died, I just "wanted him home", even if that meant a Japanese-inspired urn on the dresser.  But over the five years since them, the question of what would happen to them if I died started to really bug me, because the truth is that there isn't another human being on the face of the earth who was going to care what happened to him.  And just because he would tell me (when he wasn't quoting Homer Simpson about how he wanted to be stuffed and propped up on the couch as a constant reminder of our marital vows) to just throw them in the garbage, I wasn't going to indulge his more depressive moments by doing that.

Transporting cremains to Jamaica involves a TSA-approved urn and something called a transit permit.  Since I was planning a water burial, a degradable urn was easy enough to find online.  Most airlines require that cremains be in your hand luggage in order to prevent incidents like this one.  The transit permit, however, is a bit more difficult, because you are required, if you are unlucky enough to have your hand luggage searched, to present it at Customs.  Now, you might be able to find a driver willing to do this legwork for you, but then there's the issue of how to get it to you.  So to make a very long and anxiety-fraught story short, I managed to find in a Facebook group a service charmingly named Any Likkle Ting U Need, and was able to FedEx them the necessary paperwork, whereupon they had to shlep an hour and a half to Montego Bay and make three stops to get the damn thing and FedEx it back to me.

With that taken care of, the next thing to deal with was finding a boat operator who would take us out far enough to place the urn in the water, where it would float for 3-5 minutes, then sink and gradually decompose over a period of days, presumably scattering the cremains among the sands of the Caribbean, where they would lie under the Jamaican sun forever.  I'd wanted him home, but now I wanted him to have this permanent Negril vacation so he wouldn't end up either in a dumpster someday or else shocking someone who buys this beautiful urn at my estate sale.

Facebook has taken a lot of entirely well-deserved flak over the last few months.  But before it became a data-mining, election-influencing monster, it was a social network, that facilitated old friends reuniting after many years, relatives who never see each other to keep in touch, parents to stalk their children, the lonely to find support, and so on.  And just as a Facebook group brought me to the folks who went above and beyond to get me the transit permit that I ended up not needing thanks to Club MoBay, who breezed us through Customs, it brought forth a wonderful American woman who lives part-time in Negril who set us up with a friend who just happens to be a  dive instructor.  Now, all jokes about "Only you could find a Jamaican dive instructor named 'Myron'" aside, Myron and his crew proved to be compassionate gentlemen who treated Mr. B's urn with the appropriate solemnity and respect.  And Myron went above and beyond anything I had expected by diving into the water himself, and tucking the urn under some coral, where it would be not readily visible to curious divers.  Then he told me the exact name of the reef where we did the internment, and pointed out the landmarks, so if I should decide to go to Negril again, I will know where the ashes are.

When I told my sister, who had accompanied me on the trip, that both the couple who got the transit permit, and the woman who set us up with the boat, would be on the boat, she asked "Are you sure you want to do this with people you don't know?"  But the answer was "Absolutely," My gut told me at that point that these were EXACTLY the people I wanted with me.  These were the kind of people whom I truly believe that Mr. Brilliant, who hid the self-loathing I'd never known he had until the last months of his life  behind a façade of "No one I didn't meet first is cool enough", would have absolutely found to be "cool enough" for him.

As our plane took off from Montego Bay two days later, I did feel a little bit like I was leaving him behind; abandoning him somehow.  And yes, once I got home the grief journey started all over again and it continues still.  The weather grows chilly here in North Carolina, there has already been snow in New Jersey, and he always hated November.  But every time I visit that Facebook group and someone has posted yet another photo of the beach, or the beautiful sunset, I feel that he's exactly where he'd want to be.  And then I wonder how it can be five years already.