The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 41
In the early ’70’s, the work of Suzuki, Campbell, Castaneda, Hesse, Watts, Huxley and others became my literary introduction to non-European thought, philosophy, ritual. All this arose on the heels of my encounter with the strange racehorse and drove my course in silent, chaotic ways.
Art was less silent. I did what I had to do to get by so that I could create, and by creating I inched closer to emptiness.
But that was not what I needed to tell Lorraine. I needed to tell her of another very real possibility I faced: that of becoming completely blind.
So I did, and never heard back from her.
By mid summer I’d given up guessing and wondering why.
I kept painting, even though Mike, my collector friend, could no longer afford to buy anything. His wife and sugarmama was cut loose from her partnership in the Arthur Anderson accounting firm as the Enron scandal to which they were connected mushroomed into headline news.
I’d have to find another way of making money.
Dr. Bleckman: Look, you are most definitely legally blind. It’s a bitch of a process but your condition completely fits. Start calling around. Find out about disability benefits. I’ll provide whatever medical evidence they need.
How ironic: a visual artist going blind. But if she was right, the irony within the irony was that after so many years of struggle just to find the time and space to pursue art, I’d soon be in a position to concentrate on it exclusively.
I had no idea where to begin. The Glaucoma Institute referred me to Braille, Braille to the State of California Department of Rehabilitation. I was getting nowhere until someone at the Dept of Rehab transferred my call to a counselor. “I can put you on the right track,” he said. “When can you come in for a interview?”
The counselor, Casey, in his mid 30’s, was 6’ 5”, handsome, and had become completely blind and deaf as a teenager. He had no cane or guide dog. He got around the offices by feeling the walls and door jams with his hands. There was a Braille translater keyboard attached to his talking computer and headphones wired to the telephone on his desk.
He invited me to take a seat, then attached a wireless mic to my shirt.
“I’ve had Cochlear Implant surgery,” he explained. “So, given a little secondary technology, I can hear again. Kind of a miracle.”
Casey’s story was, in a sense, the reverse of my own. Yet he seemed to understand when I provided the backstory to the endless forms I’d filled out prior to our meeting, which included as complete a listing as possible of all the jobs I’d ever had.
“Questions?” he asked at the conclusion of our meeting.
“Just one. A personal one. I see you don’t use a cane or a guide dog… “
His laughter was joyously erratic, like deep to mid-spectrum bamboo wind chimes. “Used to have a guide dog,” he said, “but, being tall, there was unfortunately no way she could keep me from banging my head into trees, awnings, signs. My girlfriend used to joke that maybe a giraffe would have been more appropriate.”