Monday, May 2, 2011

Hotel California

That song scares the crap out of me. Which is one of the reasons I have it on my playlist but with the prophet singing it. When I was little I would hide whenever I heard it. I felt as though demons were coming out of the song and coming to get me. As I got older I figured out that the song was about drug addiction. It made perfect sense then. My father was an addict as were ALL his friends, which is not unusual. I remember watching them all go in and out of recovery. And when most of them came out for good they had AIDS, thanks 80's. From 1985-1991, I was to attend more funerals than probably I would attend in my entire left. Friends just kept leaving. But there wasn't the same kind of love and recognition for these friends outside of their little family. The most sympathy went to hemophiliacs or those unfortunate to get tainted blood during a blood transfusion. The next were gay people or women who caught it from a gay man on the down low. Honestly gay men did not get a lot of support outside their community either. But if felt like the bottom of the barrel were those who had drug addictions. These people were just deviants. And they somehow deserved to suffer and to die.
I remember working as a candy striper at Mount Vernon hospital during the 80's. I worked on the oncology and geriatrics floor. And I remember one patient clearly who was on the geriatric floor. He had all kinds of health signage on his door. Where a face mask, wear latex gloves, wear full frontal paper gear, wear feet protectors. This was obviously before the hazmat suit because I am sure I would be decked out in that too, just to bring this man his lunch! Turns out he was a Catholic priest all of 40 years old. On the geriatric floor because he had AIDS. Didn't ask him how he got it - which was usually the first question when you told someone, or most likely it was found out, that you had AIDS. I didn't care. I wanted to know if anyone came to see him. No one. His parishonors were told that he had been transferred. The other priests didn't come to visit him or to pray for him. I visited him every day I worked there. And I would read to him (funnily enough not from the Bible). He would ask me about school and my family and what I did for fun. And I would ask him why he chose to be a priest. And why no one came to visit him. And then one day I came to see him carrying a copy of Plato's Republic, because I felt he should have to sit through it too since I was reading it for the third time at this point. And he was gone. The bed had been stripped. All the warning labels had been removed and the room smelled like that disgusting hospital sanitizer and bleach. I knew where he was. So, I asked the head nurse on the floor when his funeral was and she said she didn't know if he was having one. I checked the paper for his obituary - nothing. I went down to the morgue and asked what mortuary he had been sent to. And they told me he would be not be embalmed because few funeral directors would agree to do that. And they didn't know where he was buried he was picked up by the county. No mass. No last rights. No respect. I had a hard time with G-d after that but an even harder time with His emissaries. How could a person's life be given so little value? Back to Hotel California.
That song continues to haunt me because I think of addiction and how prevalent it is - and how easy it would be for me to become one - after all I have strong genes in that area. And to never escape. To constantly be at the mercy of a part of your brain that needs and you can only overcome the need through will. And I think about that last line - "You can check out any time you want but you can never leave." This idea of addiction is part of my previous post about mental illness. There is a certain cruelty to being trapped by your mind or your chemical make-up or your genetic make-up. And yea, I know you can overcome just about anything, but somethings feel like an uphill battle, a true war. Doesn't mean we don't do it - everyday. But like the priest buried alone with no mourners - it feels unfair. It is unfair. And it is also life.