Mar. 3rd, 2017

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In my dream, I was writing a story at the same time that I was watching the events of the story – a wonderful trick of narrative that one can only achieve in dreams. It was an epic, sweeping story. Think Legends of the Fall in the Hudson Valley. The final line read: He had not been, but he would be, for only travelers see cluster lights. To the habitational, all paths are dark, all paths are familiar, all paths lead in only one direction.

That “habitational”, thought I in my dream. Very problematic.

But you know how words get stuck in your brain? Once they take up lodging there, it’s almost impossible to evict them.

So it was with “habitational.”

Don’t ask me what it means. I have no idea.

Is it even a word?


The high winds that have been sweeping over the countryside lo these three days past have finally subsided; the air is wonderfully clear. Sunny and bright but back down to seasonal temperature norms. I worry about those sprouting daffodils.


Last night, I started thinking about Michael Garrett and Synanon.

Synanon was a cult I spent a couple of years associated with when I was in my very early teens.

I had a drug problem (big surprise, right?) and Synanon was ostensibly a drug rehabilitation program. But actually it was a vanity project set up by an early Jim Jones/David Koresh prototype named Chuck Dederich.

One reason I’d luv to believe in the Christian afterlife is because it would give me great joy to imagine Chuck Dederich with a barbecue shaft up his ass while Lucifer’s most sadistic angels worked on his pedicure.

But, helas! I believe in reincarnation. The wisps and vapors that were once Chuck Dederich probably coalesced into a fetus somewhere in south Kentucky in June 1997. In the last election, they voted for Donald Trump.

What a loathsome, loathsome man.


Michael Garrett was Synanon royalty. His father, Dan Garrett, was the cult’s attorney. Dan Garrett had been an alcoholic, one of those stumbling, knock-down shit-facers who destroyed everything he touched. Once he joined Synanon, he focused that tremendous, braying zeal into a more collective channel.

Michael’s mother got out of the marriage relatively early, dragging the kids – Glenda Garrett, Michael Garrett – all around the country from marriage to marriage. I think there was money there. Banking money. Oil money. Mike’s mother had that Oklahoma vibe.

Eventually, though, she wandered back to California where her fatherless adolescent children were easily suborned.

Mike was my first boyfriend. It was a sweet relationship. We lost our virginity together on a bed covered with an American flag (no, really) while The Doors’ Crystal Ship played.

Before you slip into unconsciousness
I'd like to have another kiss…


I wish I had more time this morning to write about the tragedy of Mike’s life at length. But shortly I must be slipping out the door to perform selfless public service.

I did mine Synanon at length for the description of the death cult my heroine Ybel is forced to join in one of the novels (Where You Were When) I’m perennially writing.

The odd thing is that while I was writing about the death cult, I couldn’t figure out whether I was making stuff up or remembering events that had happened to me.

Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life. Synanon has that level of unreality for me. I don’t know what happened and what didn’t happen.

And I have some survivors’ guilt. Not only about Mike. About all the people I’ve known throughout my long life who for one reason or another didn’t make it. It seems to me that I flew much closer to the sun than they did. So, I was the one who should have gotten burned.

And yet, I didn’t.

Where's the justice in that?


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