Not In This Lifetime

We moved to Portland, Oregon a couple days ago, having found a landlady who didn’t object to children or dogs (don’t landlords know that cats shit inside the house?) and so far this place seems very cool. You’d think I’d know it a little better after playing about a bazillion shows here over the years, but all I’d ever seen here were rock clubs, the Bijou (my favorite ever breakfast place) and friends’ apartments.

My amazing brother, David, lives here, though, and he put us up for a few days, showing us the good parks, the good pizza and the best place to buy blueberries in the middle of the night. Coffee is a non-issue; like most people in the Pacific Northwest, Portlanders are coffee nazis and have made sure that the espresso here Does Not Suck, anywhere you go.

That settled, we raced out to the ocean. If I can find water and snakes in a place, I know it’s a Good Place, and I found water: big, nice, green water with salt in it and waves what hurt you when they want to. Really beautiful.

Snakes are another story. I have been hiking through woods for days now, looking for anything…a western garter would be fine (I’ve only ever held the eastern kind) but I haven’t seen anything. And if I don’t find a snake soon, I’m afraid I won’t be able to stay here. I’ll keep looking, though, ’cause I like it here. Maybe they’re sleeping.

In the meantime, a familiar melancholy has settled over the household. It’s the opposite of nostalgia: the loneliness you feel when you have no memories in or attachment to a place. It blows — but it fades.

This time it’s particularly difficult, though, because my oldest son, Dylan, is now 19 — as old as I was when I had him — and living in Providence, Rhode Island, the city where he was born. As many of you know, I lost him as a toddler; his father took him away from me when I left him for Billy. I guess he was trying to kill me by taking away my reason for living. It almost worked. I left Rhode Island, heartbroken, and spent the next fifteen years moving restlessly back and forth across the country.

I always knew this would have a happy ending. It was so awful, so wrong, so dangerous for laws to work in favor of someone trying to separate a child from his mother, it had to have a happy ending; I would go home, I would get the baby back. Anything else would be a tragedy.

One of the saddest things Billy ever said was, “Not in this lifetime”, referring to an unfulfilled dream. And listening to my new record recently, I realized that the songs that aren’t about the furiously passionate & passionately furious (yet strangely comforting) Billy O’Connell — are about going home and getting the baby back.

But the baby grew up. I missed it. Now I know firsthand that there are tragedies. Tragedies that are not sweetly sad and facing heavenward, but ugly, hellish messes that should never have been. I don’t go home, I don’t get the baby back.

Not in this lifetime.


Posted in: words on April 20, 2006