May 12, 2008

Suicide Run

My last apartment in San Francisco [some six years ago] was out in The Avenues -- in the northwest section of the city, the Richmond District, in the shadow of The Golden Gate Bridge.

When I lived in The City, I had several major bouts of depression and I came to believe what I still believe, that a leap from a bridge, that bridge, was the best way to end one's life -- at least, it is so for me.

One day, I'll take that leap, if only to avoid the descent into dementia that has claimed many of my relatives, including my parents. I'd hate to be around to watch my brain shrivel into confusion. As Woody Allen joked, my brain is my second-favorite organ.

So, being homeless and carless following the Flying Glass incident, with only about $65 in my wallet, I decided a leap attempt was in the cards. I had so very little -- my sociopathic sister having perhaps successfully commandeered the inheritance from my mother for herself, against all that was true and just.

The route from Sacramento to San Francisco has two legs: the first, much the longer one, is by train. Yeeha. Both my recently deceased mom and I were train fans. While it is a short ride, lacking all the train-culture benefits of a Zephyr run to Denver [or, further, to Chicago], it was a bit of a nice ride from Sac'to to East Bay's Emeryville. From Emeryville the ride is by bus, across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco's depressing Bus Station, at 2nd and Mission streets.

I used to work next to the SF Bus Station, so I was familiar with the area, with its mix of new, fresh businesses and blight. The bus station, though, is wholly blight and very much as it was when I worked next to it, 80% abandoned and dirty.

There is a small ticket office inside with cross-country busses disembarking and leaving, but mostly there is a vast interior space that is unutilized. In its heyday -- the 30s? -- the place may have been lively with restaurants and group treks to Reno, but no longer.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived in San Francisco is that it was very cold, damn cold -- and here I was without a coat. The cold was welcome, though; my poor dead mother had complained throughout the terrible 10-hour ordeal of her death from sepsis [bacterial blood poisoning] that she was extremely cold. I wanted to feel her pain, encounter some of the misery she had to try to bear -- until her heart gave out.

I had come to The City to die [maybe]; it made sense for me to embrace Mom's recent death, even though we were not terribly close, in most ways.

I don't want to be overly morose here. While I have had "dark nights of the soul" more than a few times, my will to end my pain has always been overwhelmed -- while standing on The Bridge -- by feelings that I can renew my life, somehow, and begin again. Also, I am overwhelmed by how terrorizing a leap into the cold waters would be. Cowardly Tom had always trumped Suicidal Tom before. And since you are reading this now [written on 5/12/08] you know I did not kill myself when I was in San Francisco three weeks ago [ ~ 4/17 - 4/20/08]. Cowardly Tom triumphed, again. Damn him.

While I was in San Francisco, I learned about homeless culture within the bus station there, and the purely cruel policies of the security staff. [I'm unclear about what the security staff was securing at the mostly vacant station, but they were there in large number, dedicated to a mission of keeping people cold and preventing them from sleeping.] More about this is a later post.

When I did get around to my "suicide run," taking a Geary bus out to The Richmond for a walk to The Bridge to attempt my leap it was so incredibly cold, I could barely move. So, I never got closer than a few miles from the bridge. Ah life. Here I am. I continue to live. Breathe in; breathe out.


Mumon said...

What's going on?????

You OK???

Seriously, there's a lot of Buddhist blogosphere that cares...

Nagarjuna said...

Tom, although it's easy for me, in my position of relative comfort, to say this, I'm glad the "coward" in you triumphed yet again, and that, as a result, you and I were able to meet and have a delightful conversation three days ago. Aside from the sheer pleasure I experienced in meeting and talking with you, I realized that you were no longer just an Internet "friend," but someone I am privileged to consider a real friend. And when I read about your suicidal thoughts, I feel great sadness for you along with great hope that you'll soon find a way out of your current predicament and that, during the time that you continue to find yourself homeless, it will be more of the positive "learning experience" you characterized it as being than an intolerable ordeal.

To stave off the depression that can sap anyone's strength of purpose and will, I can't state too strongly how important I think it is that you research your options and develop a clear and effective plan to improve your circumstances, making optimal use of all the help available from people and agencies that can and want to help along the way.

Tom, you are a bright, wise, engaging, and lovely person, and I want to enjoy your friendship and see your Buddhist presence on the Internet for a long, long time to come.

With warm regards,

Danny Fisher said...

Tom: Everything Steve said expresses my feelings and thoughts as well. You've been a great friend to me, and I hope you know that I think of you as a friend too. I'm so glad you're here, and I hope you stay with us for a long, long time. It sounds like you're in a lot of pain right now. Know that I care about you and that I'm listening. Your friend, Danny

Tom said...

Thanks, guys. Didn't mean to scare anybody. Just figured I'd be as honest as I can be with this new blog.

It's not a bad thing to have [St. John of the Cross-like] dark nights of the soul. Makes one more compassionate toward [and in contact with] the world, I do believe.

Not to worry, truly. I'm not really all that depressed, now. Nor is being homeless all that withering for me. I am well liked in the homeless milieu where I am now: Sactramento. My current problem is that I am suffering from food poisoning. It is very very hard to be out on the street while ill. Oh for the joys of lying in a warm bed, eating crackers and sipping 7-Up.

Mumon said...

Please don't worry about how I or anyone else feels; but do know I'll continue to care.

I do hope you find yourself in better circumstances soon.

TMcG said...

Tom... I'm sending you warm thoughts and wishes and hope that your 'dark thoughts' don't get the best of you.

I have always loved your blog and the wisdom from both your posts and your comments on my blog which have helped this young Buddhist pup on her way on the path. You are so valuable and essential both in your words and actions.

If there is anything any of us can do to help you out, please don't hesitate to let us know.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

"Cowardly Tom triumphed, again. Damn him." - in my humble opinion it takes amazing courage to keep living in the face of so much of the suffering in our lives. Most of us just live by momentum, asleep to the reality of duhkha, thirst, and the potential for awakening.

"Ah life. Here I am. I continue to live. Breathe in; breathe out." - These are words we all can use. Thank you. Thank you for continuing to blog through this hard time (remember when I almost quit blogging after losing the Spanish love of my life? - you kept me going).

Keep breathing. Keep blogging. Much love, Justin.

Tom said...

Thank you so much, compassionate, mumon and TMCG. Your warm feelings are a tonic for me. Not to worry; my spirits are bolstered.

Wow, thanks, Justin, kind Buddhist philosopher.

"Don't stop thinking about a better tomorrow" is my touchstone/touchphrase -- not that there aren't a lot of folks in the homeless community who are helpful bodhisattvas, angels, and wizards for me.

Justin, I am sure there is a specific law in place to prevent you from harming yourself. YOUR life -- unlike a few of us -- is a treasure chest with value for others. Besides, you're young and handsome and charming; if you get down, you can always become a skiing instructor in Veil. I mean, for you, What's the worst that can happen?