Thursday, June 20, 2002

Mangled Dime

Through the morbid curiosity and confusion, which seems bent insidiously on
making my grief a parody of itself, I find the best memories of Jacob coming
to me when I least expect them. A picture of him sitting on my cellar floor
or of he and I playing guitar doesn't quite do it. Nor does hearing his
voice pour out pain on my MP3 player in the form of Good Morning Reality
tracks. I remember Jacob best when I look at my fingers and see the thick
pads on my left hand where the guitar strings cut and blistered and recut
and finally callused. Those were his work. Jacob was the one who taught me
how to tune a guitar and showed me the correct way to hold a pick and make
an Em chord (without which no Nirvana song could have been written).

I have a dime on my desk that was caught in the driver's side seat of my
girlfriend's car and bent nearly in half. I don't know why I didn't throw
it away, but seeing it makes me think of Jacob because it's the sort of
thing he would have appreciated. Hell, he may have even put it in his
pocket and saved it. Everyone on his message board remarks about how
creative and talented he was. Truth be told, I saw those things as
secondary to his simple awareness of life. He was impressive onstage,
brilliant on tape, but when you sat next to him and watched his awareness of
what was going on around him, you had to wonder if he didn't see more in a
single glance than most people see in a long determined study. He
appreciated detail, but did not flog it to his own ends. He was the kind of
guy that could appreciate the beauty of an average, everyday, three leaf
clover. Or a mangled dime.

There are perhaps as many different ways of viewing the afterlife as their
are people to think about it. The philosopher Rene Descartes theorized in
Meditations on First Philosophy that not only did God exist, but that the
soul was not grounded in a physical form and continued unhurt and
undiminished after the failing and degeneration of the body. Some people
think that Karma kicks in, others think that the deceased goes to a place
where angels play harps and look in on the living for their protection.
Still others think that the spirits remain earthbound and inhabit the living
earth. Occasionally popping up and scaring the shit out of us.

I like to think that Jacob has crossed over into what Shakespeare called
the "undiscovered country."  A place where, whether we like it or not, we will
all follow in our time. But I know even that's not true. Jacob is still
here. His songs are still in our hearts, his face is still in our memory,
and the calluses on my fingers will always remind me of him. Everytime I
see a mangled dime, or a branch that looks like a scythe, or a guitar that's
ready for the scrap heap, or even just a broken blade of grass, I won't be
able to look at it without that feeling that maybe Jacob is looking over my
shoulder, trying to get a better look at whatever mundane miracle I've

It is hard to imagine, though I know it was true, that a person so blessed
by the ability to appreciate life would ever be unhappy.