Body and Mind
One can die in cleanliness, or one can die in filth. I’m not talking about your soul. At the Prince Hotel — an old Bowery flophouse — the men paid a few dollars a night to live in stalls, four feet wide and six feet deep, with chicken-wire ceilings.
Recently I was invited to give a special lecture at the university where I teach. I accepted the invitation though, contrary to what my sons might tell you, I don’t really like to lecture.
Throughout it all, I put one foot in front of the other, watching the gray ribbon of road unspool beneath me.
Rule #20: Never bring a book to work. It makes the customers think you’re better than them. It doesn’t matter what you’re reading. It doesn’t matter if you’ve finished cleaning all the glasses and it’s a quiet Monday afternoon — leave the book at home. You’ll know this when your father comes behind the bar looking pissed and tells you to come into his office.
We lived in a place between mountains in the trout lands. The fish dwelt in the chill of eternal movement, slick and lithe and beautiful, in the curve of sapphire rivers twinkling with western sun. This was why we’d moved to Montana when I was a boy — to chase fish, in the church of my father’s religion.
There are many ways of not knowing, not seeing, and there are equally many ways of knowing, of coming to know deep in your body, embodying knowledge the way my ancestors embodied culture, the way the earth embodies language and spiritual belief and insult. Or maybe what I want to say is that it takes many ways of knowing to overcome your brain’s many refusals. To admit you know a thing like cancer resides — is seizing control — inside your body.