Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Fine Day For a Suicide (a true story)

Talk about a blast from the past. These are the slightly edited original notes, written immediately after the event. But first a brief word about terminology. I had just developed the concept of "Event Contingency Matrix," or "ECM," and was using it whenever I could. An ECM can be called "the womb of circumstance" – wherever it is that events come from. Events can be running along one track and then – bam – they’re on another track. I called this "contingency warping." I was developing a terminology to describe shamanism, miracles, etc. Like "God," I rarely use this terminology anymore. Here are the notes:

Quite the ECM today (Apr. 28, 1975). A burst of Events.

First, Robin came over, which precipitated a new event: Judy & Robin will bake bread together tomorrow.

Then I got $10 from my old man for taking care of his place while he was away. Very rarely get money: a significant event. Then Judy went to P.O. and brought home a $28 tax refund check. We never get money twice in one day.

She also brought home a packet of books from Dave. I immediately started reading Spaceship Beagle and was still doing so two hours later when a car pulled up outside.

Eddie and a friend came down the steps and knocked on the door. I don’t remember Eddie’s friend’s name. Let’s call him Fred. Friend=Frend=Fred.

"Hi." "What’s happening." "Not much."

"We’d like to know if we could borrow your pump," Eddie said. They were cleaning out the Radium Springs Pool and needed to pump the last few hundred gallons of water out of the bottom so’s they could paint it.

I immediately refused. "I wouldn’t loan out such a valuable piece of equipment," I said. But instantly had second thoughts so paused and said, "OK, let’s go and I’ll run it myself."

So we loaded up the pump and some plastic pipe and headed down the road. Fred was driving, Eddie was front right, and I was right rear. We turned left immediately after the Rio Grande bridge onto the dirt road along the river. Just as we got to the Leasburg Canal Road, Fred stopped so a car on the Canal Road could go on by. Instead, the car slowed, and swerved towards us.

"He’s going to turn down our road," I thought.

The driver stopped opposite Fred, and leaned out the window.

"He knows Fred so now they’re going to bullshit," I thought.

The driver of the other car was a young Latino, high school age, about 17 years old. "My Dad’s going to kill himself," he said.

I went numb. What was all this hot ECM shit I was going to write about today?

"What?" Fred asked, unable to believe what he’d just heard.

The young man’s face started quivering. He was crying. He was freaked. This was for real. "My Dad’s going to kill himself!" he cried.

Fred and Eddie sat there stunned, so I instantly became leader: needed to get INFORMATION.

"Where is he?" I asked.

"Down there," he replied. Meaning at the river end of the dirt road that parallels, on the north side, the canal that bleeds excess water from the Leasburg Canal back to the river.

"Let’s go," I said. We turned left onto Bleeder Road.

"Where’d the kid go?" Eddie asked.

"He’s already down the road," Fred replied.

We could see a camper truck parked at the end of the road.

"What’re we gonna do?" Fred asked.

"He’s probably got a gun," Eddie said.

"Better watch your ass," I said.

We parked behind the camper, and we saw a portly Latino man, about 45 years old, with tan overalls and white undershirt, standing about 30 feet away between us and the river.

The man turned to face us: a dead mask. His right hand was tucked into his overalls, concealing something.

What does one do, what can one say, in a situation like this? The guy’s got a gun, we assume; he’s freaked, so you watch your ass.

In fact, you either stay in the car (as Fred did) or you open the door and stand leaning on the top of the car, as Eddie and I did, using the car as a shield.

"Been fishing?" Eddie asked, friendly-like.

"Catch anything?" I asked, friendly-like.

The man was morose; said nothing.

The vibes were weird; normally you never drive up to a stranger and just look at him, which is what we were now doing, conversation exhausted.


After a minute he turned and walked toward the river, and became half-hidden from view by a saltcedar clump. We expected a gunshot at any moment.

"What’re we supposed to say?" Eddie asked.

"I dunno," I replied.

For all I knew, maybe the man would be better off suicided, but we felt some obligation to the crying kid and had to "do something" even if it meant just standing there. What does one say? Anything you said would be an intrusion.

The sun was shining, birds were singing, wind blowing a bit, saltcedars in bloom, muted roar from the Leasburg Dam and Bleeder Canal... what a peaceful, fitting place for a suicide.

I was keyed up and vibrating inside. No inspiration, so I just stared intently at the saltcedar clump and vibrated hard.

After a couple of minutes the man turned and headed towards us, hand still tucked into his overalls. "Move your car so I can back out of here," he said.

We did; he did; we drove our separate ways.

Eddie, Fred and I went and drained the pool, and each of us said to the others, at least twice, "Wow, nothing like that’s ever happened to me before."


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