Wednesday, March 22, 2017

St. Louis Frank

"I know nothing about it, sir," I answered very decently; I was afraid. Like a flash one of his hands went to my throat. He pinned me to the wall, choking me, and brought something down on my head with the other hand that turned everything yellow and made my knees weaken. Still holding me by the throat he lifted me clear of the floor and threw me into the cell like a bundle of rags. There was about a half an inch of water on the cell floor. I lay there, and looked about me by the dim light of a gas jet out in the corridor. There was nothing in the cell but a wooden bench. After a few minutes I crawled over to it, and, pulling myself up, stretched out, more dead than alive. If people can be corrected by cruelty I would have left that cell a saint.

St. Louis Frank, in another part of the jail, got a worse beating than I did.

From that day on St. Louis Frank smiled no more. He became snarly, short spoken, and ugly. We got our money and parted. He went out on the road, "bull simple," simple on the subject of shooting policemen. The stories told about him are almost unbelievable. Years later I saw him in the San Francisco county jail waiting trial for the murder of a police officer in Valencia Street. The day he was sent to San Quentin where he was hanged, he sang out to me, 'So long, Blacky. If I could have got Corbett I wouldn't care.'"

Jack Black, You Can't Win

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fresh Spring

"It was Springtime. Sundown found me miles away on a country road, walking westward. Yes, I was going in the right direction. There was the sun going down away off in front of me. Darkness was coming on, but it did not strike me as unusual that I had no supper or no room for the night.

I came to a bridge and stopped when I heard voices below. I looked over the side and a voice came up: "Come on down kid. Don't be leary, we're only a couple of harmless bindlestiffs."

I picked my way down to the level place beside the creek where they were. One of them was unrolling a bindle of blankets, the other was washing a large tin can in the creek. "Throw out your feet, kid, and fetch some wood, we'll have a fire and a can of Java anyway."


Dodge City, KS

"I walked uptown and into a lunch counter. The waiter was idle and talkative.

"Travelling?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Which way?"

"Denver."

"Beating it?"

"Yes."

"Listen here, it'll take you three to four days to get to Denver that way. You'll ruin your clothes and might get thrown off a train and handed a thirty day sentence at Colorado Springs. Big chain gang there. They're cleaning up the streets. If you can dig together five dollars I'll give you a card to a porter on the Overland tonight. Give him the five and he'll do the rest."

"Thanks I'll try it."

Jack Black

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

You Can't Win



"Looking back at it, it seems to me that I was blown here and there like a dead leaf whipped about by the autumn winds till at last it finds lodgment in some cozy fence corner. When I left school at fourteen I was as unsophisticated as a boy could be; I knew no more of the world and its strange ways than the gentle, saintly woman who taught me my prayers in the Convent. Before my twentieth birthday I was on the docket of criminal court, on trial for burglary."


"I also learned to play ball (football), marbles, and, I must admit, hooky, the most fascinating of all small boy games. These new games, and so many other interesting new things, soon crowded the prayers into the background of my mind, but not entirely out of it. I said them no more at night and morning, nor any other time, but I still remember them, and I believe now, after forty prayer-less years, I could muster a passable prayer if an occasion required it."

- Jack Black, You Can't Win

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Plane Crash Boys

Fri. Mar. 10

Woke at dawn, turned off the appliances in my apartment and packed my Caliber in the bone-chilling cold of a Marquette morning -- phone says four degrees with a wind chill of minus eleven -- then drove into historic downtown Marquette on the bay, all view of the lake drowned out by a whiteout, lake effect snow; parked in the shadows of St. Peter Cathedral's massive twin sandstone steeples. I walk west down Washington Street, headlong into the bay, searching the icy storefront windows for address numbers, literally experiencing a brain freeze as Superior's gales howl off the frozen lake. My therapist's office turns out to be right off the lake, at the intersection of Washington and Lakeshore Drive, and I open the big brass door and stomp my boots on the landing as I warm my bones from the cold. The directory hanging on the wall tells me that my therapist's office is upstairs on the first floor.

What with its nineteenth century style heat vents and narrow, boarding house hallways with hardened green carpet laid over the creaky wood floorboards, the staircase and indeed the building in general remind me of Paul Biegler's Ishpeming law offices and the Marquette county courthouse on the bay in Anatomy of a Murder -- ' just a stone's throw away from the world's largest inland lake, as dark and deceitful as a spurned woman, either caressing or raging at the shore, but today on its best company manners, presenting the falsely placid aspect of a mill pond' (as a substitute teacher, I had employed that as my daily quote to my students at a local high school up there on Monday, and my mind momentarily went back to them). I find my therapist's office at the end of a long hall with ficus plants scattered throughout, behind another big wooden door that reminds me somehow of the old Burt Lake cottage with its boarding house style rooms. Inside the office, I'm dumbfounded with serendipity as I run into Angel, the hero who salvaged Adam and I's camping trip to Copper Harbor when Adam visited back in November of last year; I'm certain he recognizes me in the same way I instantaneously recognize him, as certain as I am that I will see him again soon.

Whiteout conditions dominating the Upper Peninsula landscape, I drive cautiously and anxiously across Northern Michigan listening to some of the Dan Lebatard show, only to find M-28 along Lake Superior closed due to strong winds/waves over the road. I turn around and take a detour South, lose the Marquette ESPN station and put on my new audiobook The Agony and the Ecstasy, a fictionalized biography of the Italian artist Michelangelo; get lost in the first four chapters of Michelangelo's apprenticeship to Ghirlandaio in fifteenth century Tuscany. The book is written by the same author as the Van Gogh bio -- his final, one-eared years were largely spent in an insane asylum -- I just finished, Irving Stone. Stopped for a piss break in the one-stoplight town of Engadine, where I parked my car next to an Amish horse-drawn buggy.

By the time I hit U.S. 2 along the Lake Michigan underbelly of the Upper Peninsula the weather had let up, opening my windshield to a vast portrait of snow-capped evergreens along the frozen shores, where the hilly sand dunes are coated in thick layers of ice, and to my incredulous bemusement I found the Michigan basketball game coming in from a Traverse City station just in time for the second half, the Wolverines holding a one point lead headed into the locker rooms despite a half court buzzer beater by Purdue. The game has me mesmerized through Gaylord, at least (the teller at the Mackinac Bridge, an older gentleman in yooper cap, hearing my radio, asks me the score, and I joyously relay the Michigan advantage to him) the Boilermakers and Wolverines going back and forth, Michigan's young bigs in Mo Wagner and DJ Wilson more than holding their own against Purdue's twin towers in B10 Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas. When Michigan pulls away in overtime, I pump my fist to an empty gray sky, nary a car in sight going North or South on 1-75 in the middle of nowhere, Northern Michigan. What had heretofore been perhaps my least favorite senior class in Michigan Basketball history in Walton and Irvin, the duo suddenly seemed bent on rewriting their legacies in Michigan Basketball lore, a legend that was growing in lieu of the team's plane crash mishap en route to the Big Ten Tournament in Washington D.C.

It would be dishonest for me to say that I didn't revel in the following game, too, rolling through the flat farm lands of mid-Michigan towards the industrial smokestacks of Saginaw -- a low scoring, old-fashioned Big Ten battle between Michigan State and Minnesota, which the Spartans wind up blowing late. Maybe I'm really becoming a Yooper, because I can barely fathom the rush hour traffic on the freeways as I reenter the familiar confines of  the Metro Detroit area; suburbanites drive like maniacs.

Pulled into Frank's Farmington Hills condo shortly after six o'clock, an eight hour drive in total; not bad considering the shitty conditions in the Yoop. Knock on Frank's door -- no answer -- let myself in and greet Deek, then find Frank napping. Turned on the TV and watched basketball by myself for three hours, journaled, drifted off to distant galaxies, and watched most of the Duke-Carolina ACC Semifinal solo, until Frank finally woke up, Bryan arrived, and later J, too, Duke capping an epic day of college hoops with an historic comeback to beat the Heals and advance to the ACC Championship. That night, I inwardly reflect on how much of a Yooper I've become while listening to the three of them talk about their upcoming Vegas trip with Steve and Jim, how we lead very different lives, now. Bryan tells us about his most recent speeding ticket and his misadventures at Twin Peaks. Like de ja vu.

Sat. Mar. 11

Saturday morning I showered and went digging through my childhood bedroom closet for my brother and I's old Michigan basketball jerseys, found the old number five Deion Harris jersey (I used to tell people it was a Jalen Rose jersey) and put it on over a long sleeve tee, then ventured over to Frank's to meet Bryan before the Big Ten Semi Final against Minnesota. From there, Bryan drove to the Lakepointe Yacht Club on Newburgh Lake, where we were meeting Steve for a reunion of sorts, along with Bryan's brother and buddies.

"I used to come here every day last summer!" Bryan boasts jokingly.

"I did a lot of writing across the lake in the woods last summer," I respond, laughing hysterically, reflecting on those hot summer afternoons after my day program, when I would sit out at the docks writing; we lead very different lives now indeed.

We order lunch and drinks (beers for them, cokes for me) at a high top wood table in a sea of middle-aged men; been a long time since I've been to the Yacht Club -- probably not since my drinking day, I speculate. The Plane Crash Boys take another, carried by now-undisputed team leader Derrick Walton Jr.'s career high twenty-nine points and nine assists, advancing to the Big Ten Tournament Championship tomorrow, but Steve, Bryan and I are largely distracted. I scribble down notes and corrections for chapters twenty-six and seven of my novel as Steve and Bryan recount their version of events from the spring, summer and fall of 2012; the height of my drinking, I guess my memory of events isn't exactly the greatest.

Sat. night is de ja vu all over again. Is it ever any different on a trip home? Frank calls me over late after he gets off from work, and though I'm already in my pajamas I head over.

"I work every day, literally," he tells me with a dumb smile on his face when I ask him if he has to work again tomorrow.

Bryan is over, too, but he is passed out on the couch; don't think he's been home all day.

"I have to bail someone out of jail later," Bryan mumbles from the couch before rolling over to sleep some more; I'm not sure if he's serious.

"I'm about to pass out, dude," Frank tells me about ten minutes into "Being Charlie," a film written by Rob Reiner's son about an eighteen year old drug rehab runaway that initially reminds me of students at the rehab facility Up North. A few minutes later, however, I realize that Charlie is clearly me, and I suspect that Frank left me alone to watch this movie for a reason. When it's over, I'm left with the deeply profound impact that any addict feels when another addict shares his story, the connection and how it relates to me on a personal level.

Daylight savings robbing us of an hour, I drove home a round three in the morning through the relatively empty streets, listening to the Michelangelo audiobook to get my mind off of "Being Charlie" briefly -- Michelangelo befriends another apprentice named Granacci -- before going back to the radio, when I'm astonished at how closely I can relate to a song I've heard hundreds of times in a way that I never could before, how I've never quite been able to feel it as I feel it in my soul tonight:

"And you can't fight the tears that ain't comin'
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like the movies
Yeah you bleed just to know you're alive

And I don't want the world to see me
Cause I don't think that they'd understand
When everything's meant to be broken
I just want you to know who I am"

After catching a replay of the PAC 12 Championship game and getting some writing done, I finally went to bed around five in the morning.

Sun. Mar. 12


This weekend, I've been explaining the theme of the novel I'm writing to various friends: "It's like fate," I told Steve yesterday at the Yacht Club. It was your fate to go to Michigan State like it was my fate to go to Michigan. My book is like that, with the Red Wings." It never sounds as good as it looks on the page, I reflected.

When I told my brother about it during halftime of the Big Ten Championship game, it dawned on me that I was living in yet another of those fateful sports weekends: "Michigan went on that run as soon as I went to rehab in 2013. I watched every game at your house, including the Trey Burke buzzer beater to beat Kansas," I waxed nostalgically, "and this weekend it feels like I was meant to be home watching this Big Ten tourney run with you guys." Following the plane crash in Ypsilanti on Wednesday, Michigan basketball did seem to be getting the bounces of destiny in recent days.

"I can't wait for you guys to read it," I said to Bryan and Patrick as the Michigan Basketball team emerged from the locker rooms for the start of the second half. I opened the curtain of the sliding glass door for no reason other than to temper my anxiety, looking out at the steel gray Farmington sky. There were two ducks flying in disregard of the coming blizzard.



Monday, March 6, 2017

Ending of Chapter 26 (rough draft)

(seven chapters shy of a finished manuscript)


KOCUR


26






Grandma Fideler’s beach cottage sits on sandy, pine-needled ground just off the shore of Lake Michigan and adjacent to the Pentwater Channel, the last house on the left at end of W. Lowell Street. If Lowell Street extended any further, it would have to run out along the heavily-bouldered jetty protecting the channel until it dead ended at the pierhead lighthouse, a cyllindrical white structure with a single nautical green stripe. After arriving late on a blistering hot July afternoon, Steve, Bryan and I drop our bags off at the cottage before anxiously hurrying off to explore the public beach across the street, where lifeguards in aviator sunglasses watch over the beachcombers like tanned statues in their wooden towers.

You think those girls are eighteen?” Bryan asks impishly as we pass a concupiscent group of summer girls tanning on beach towels; classic B.

Why don’t you go up to them and ask?” Steve retorts mockingly. “I’ll give you five bucks if you can get one of their numbers.” To this, of course, Bryan refuses. 

We crack our first beers of the weekend back at the cottage and bring them out along the pier, watching the waves crash against the boulders on one side of the jetty and the comparatively placid waters of the channel on the opposite side. Miniature white sailboats float out on the horizon like cocktail flags; a yellow speedboat sputters slowly into the channel in observance of the multiple “no wake zone” signs posted along the channel. The smell of watercraft gasoline wafts pleasantly in the air, bringing me back to the Indian River Harbor of my boyhood summers, the magic and the wonder.

After our third round of beers we decide to walk into town for dinner and drinks. Steve leads the way down the pier and around the harbor boardwalk, where golf course style mansions with columned porches and cottages with vast verandas watch out over the harbor from behind perfectly-manicured lawns, weeping willows and cherry trees. American flags wave proudly atop flag poles on nearly every lawn. Farther into the harbor, we hang a left at the Pentwater Yacht Club, where sailboats tower majestically over the metal docks, and wander our way through Village Green Park to downtown Pentwater.

Hancock Street runs North-South along the Lake Michigan shore, serving as the little main street to downtown Pentwater that was like every other little main street in every beach town along Michigan's west coast, with its outdoor clothing shops, tourist stores, post office, antique shops, ice cream parlors, pubs, cafes and eateries. Steve recommends The Brown Bear restaurant; we enter and a long-legged brunette in tight jean shorts sits us at a high top rustic wooden table under a flat screen displaying the Detroit Tigers game. The three of us order beers and burgers and pick up where we left off with the drinking while staring intently at the Tigers – Indians game from Comerica Park.

Most of the Brown Bear's patrons are similarly glued to the Tigers game, many of them sporting old English D caps and Tigers tee shirts. In lieu of the Red Wings post-2009 paralysis, the Tigers emerged in the following decade as Michigan’s best shot at a sports title, becoming, in the process, Detroit’s favorite team again after decades of irrelevance. Following Justin Verlander’s AL MVP and AL Cy Young campaign in 2011, all eyes were on Miguel Cabrera that summer as he tore his way towards baseball's first triple crown since 1967, when Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat. Like bars across Michigan, the Brown Bear was filled with fans hoping Miggy’s historic season would culminate in Detroit’s first World Series title since the magical “Roar of ‘84” season, many of whom, including Steve, Bryan, and I, were not alive then but had long been accustomed to seeing the famous photo of Kirk Gibson jumping for joy after hitting a three run bomb in Game 5 that series.

Following dinner and another round of beers we paid our tab and crossed the street to the Antler Bar, where we met Steve’s mom and aunt for drinks on the second floor outdoor seating area, New Orleans style. Steve’s mom and aunt had managed to grab a railing-side table overlooking Lake Michigan, and we toasted shots of lemon drops and Jaeger bombs while watching the sunset – not much in the Midwest more beautiful than a summer sunset from the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, lavender horizon over a pink-reflected lake, burnt orange ball sinking behind broad brush strokes of mauve, periwinkle and rose. Feeling the mystical stirrings of drunkenness in my soul, I admired this all with a smile on my face, basking in the company of good friends and summer nights. Clouds of gnats were gathering around the golden orbs of hanging lamps.

Back at the cottage, Steve, Bryan and I smoke a joint from the end of the pier, our bare feet dangling from the concrete pier over the rough black waters below us, passing a bottle of tequila between us. A golden gibbous moon hung in the midnight blue sky along with thousands of stars, and streams of liquid moonlight seemed to be coursing and flowing across the endless expanse of black glittering lake; the drunken scene was invested with a kind of awesome otherworldly grandeur.


The following morning I’m woken by Steve and Bryan marching down the creaky linoleum steps, the two of them bitterly contesting first dibs on the shower. I sit up in my sleeping bag and rub my eyes, waking from a dreamless, drunken sleep.

Hey Z’s up,” Steve announces as if I’m not in the room. “Wanna go to Meijer?”

How long have you guys been up?” I ask groggily, never the morning person.

Bout half an hour. We just had breakfast. Going to Meijer to get Mojito ingredients,” Steve says with his waggish flare. 

Are you guys hungover?” I ask, hoping I’m not alone in my misery.

Make it quick lardass,” Steve jostles Bryan as he enters the basement bathroom with a clean towel. “Uh, I was kind of hungover but I chugged a water and ate a bagel and I feel better now,” he says, turning his attention back to me. If only it were that easy for me.

Because it took more to get me drunk, it might have appeared outwardly that Steve, Bryan and the rest of the guys were usually playing catch up with me in terms of drinking, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. In reality I was the one struggling mightily to keep up the facade of my social drinking, to keep up the charade; Saturday morning, when Bryan and Steve wake up fresh and raring to go, I have to sneak two morning beers into the shower for consumption before I start the day, just to maintain steady hands and level out my nerves. Even then, I anxiously endure the half an hour round trip to Meijer in the next town over, biding my time until we were back in Pentwater for socially acceptable drinking hours. Fortunately, drinking was in the plans for the rest of the afternoon.

That afternoon, we wander into downtown Pentwater for the Michigan State-themed tailgate before the homecoming parade. We drink beer, snack on M&M’s, and mingle with current members of the Michigan State Marching Band, who are at the tailgate preparing to march with their instruments in the parade – many of whom Steve still knows from his time in the MSU Marching Band. Tom Izzo even gives a speech as the parade’s master of ceremonies, an event which even a Wolverine like me could appreciate being in attendance for.

Captain Dave, a sailing teammate of Steve’s grandfather, invites us to a homecoming party out in the rustic interior woods of Pentwater on Saturday night via Steve's grandpa, whom we meet at the tailgate in town. Steve’s grandfather, an avid sailor who also invites us sailing Sunday morning, is already tipsy by the time we arrive, the life of the party; I can finally see where Steve gets his gregarious charm. Later on, following the uneventful parade, he drives us over to Captain Dave's with a beer in his lap while telling us outlandish stories about his glory days drinking and carousing with summer babes at various sailing ports around the great lakes. Outsiders, the three of us casually drink off to the side of the lawn when we first arrive at the party, making frequent trips to the fully-stocked self-serve bar on the wooden deck until liquid courage motivates us to socialize.

Captain Dave encourages us to eat up: “plenty of food to go around: cajun sausage, smoked sausage, oysters – you guys ever had oysters?" he asks, chewing on one. "Oh and the crawfish boil is almost done!”

Middle-aged, unmarried, and sporting a solid beer belly, Captain Dave kisses his female companion on the cheek and introduces us to a slender red head of about thirty (a full few inches taller than Captain Dave) who seems to me to be out of Dave’s league. “This is my fiance Merideth,” Captain Dave announces, beaming, “she’s been my rock the past couple months.”

Yeah,” Steve says nonchalantly, taking a sip of his Mojito, “grandpa says you quit drinking a couple months ago.”

Yes sir,” Captain Dave mutters stoically, “I had to take it easy on the drinking for a while – I was going a little overboard on the rum."

His honest admission beguiles me. Believe it or not, Captain Dave is the first person I’ve ever met who has openly admitted to struggles with alcohol, the first person to voluntarily suggest in a social setting that he was willingly avoiding it.

Couldn’t have done it without her, though,” Dave adds, again pulling in his fiance for a kiss – this time on the forehead. I tried to picture Captain Dave on sailing trips, swigging a bottle of rum while manning the mainsail from the hull of the boat in a violent Lake Michigan storm, shouting drunken orders to the other crew. I couldn’t help but wonder how he had quit drinking – did he go to AA, or quit on his own? Had he struggled? Had he met the girlfriend through AA, or before he quit? – and I yearned to ask him, perhaps again subconsciously knowing that my own battle with the bottle was looming, but in my burning denial I had neither the wherewithal nor the fortitude to do so. For the time being, I was content to get drunk at the barbecue and watch fireworks – mistakenly (and quite ironically) grateful that I wasn’t one of those pour souls like Captain Dave who had to fool themselves into thinking fun could be had without booze; at least not yet.

Sunday morning dawned gray and cloudy, an ugly day that mirrored the state of my soul upon waking that morning in the basement of the Pentwater cottage, the old wood box TV playing early morning cartoons from whatever channel it was left on last night during our drunken, nostalgic television reminisces; no way to hang my head that didn’t hurt, My head felt like the inside of a blender of dead brain cells and hot ice, like I might have trouble reciting the alphabet or solving simple multiplication problems. I lay awake in my sleeping bag for several minutes, listening to Bryan and Steve eating breakfast upstairs with Steve’s grandmother. Through the floorboards I overheard them mention the sailing trip we were supposed to take today. Shit; I had forgotten about sailing, and my thoughts raced to how I was going to get a few beers down before heading out.

In the bathroom I turn on the shower and attempt to swallow down my first beer, but the process moves slowly. Dry-mouthed and dehydrated, each sip of beer feels like swallowing a horse pill. About halfway through, I take a sip that causes my stomach to lurch. Gagging, I brace myself on my knees in front of the toilet and throw up.

Post-vomit I manage to get down one beer in the bathroom, but I still feel like shit. My hands are trembling and there are dark bags underneath my swollen eyes, which is to say nothing of the psychological and physiological impacts of the withdrawal. Steve and Bryan still upstairs, I dress quickly and forage around the basement laundry room refrigerator for another beer; at this point the beers we bought for the weekend are gone, and I have to take one of Steve’s grandpa's beers from the fridge; I also find a couple jello shots, which I pocket for later. Like a junky, I would take anything to quell the withdrawals when they came. Listening carefully for the sounds of footsteps emerging down the basement stairs, I take large slugs of the heavy beer, each swig bringing me ever so slightly out of my withdrawn haze, hoping I might get one more down before Steve and Bryan came down. Then, quite suddenly, the exterior door to the laundry room swings open from outside. I turn to face my best friend of almost twenty-two years, caught red-handed in the act.

I feel like shit,” I try and explain, but there’s really no explanation when you’re caught in the act of morning drinking at nine on a Sunday at your best friend's grandmother's cottage in Pentwater.




When Bryan and I finally returned to Millwood later Sunday evening, I told my parents I was going out to put gas in my car, stopped at Marco’s Party Store and bought a pint of bottom shelf whiskey. I snuck it into the basement in the pocket of my shorts and proceeded to get drunk that night, as well as most of the next day. The withdrawals from the weekend are bad, and my intentions of tapering fall by the wayside as I eventually cross the line into drunkenness, at which point I no longer care about how shitty I'll feel the next day; such are the risks of tapering as opposed to cold turkey. 

We had a lot of fun that summer, but the memory of Steve catching me drinking that Sunday morning in Pentwater sticks with me for a long time. I guiltily wonder to myself during subsequent bouts of withdrawal what Steve must have thought of me that morning, how embarrassing it was for the both of us. It represented an undeniable truth that I seemed to be skidding wildly towards -- on a collision course with: it was becoming harder and harder for me to keep up the mirage of social drinking as I became increasingly dependent on alcohol, increasingly difficult to hide it from friends and family.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Ability to Create



"Yet the only time he felt alive was when he was slogging at his work. Of personal life, he had none. He was just a mechanism, a blind painting automaton that had food, liquid and paint poured into it each morning, and by nightfall, turned out a finished canvas. And for what purpose? For sale? Certainly not. He knew that no one wanted to buy his pictures. Then what was the hurry? Why did he drive and spur himself to paint dozens and dozens of canvases when the space under his miserable brass bed was piled nearly solid with paintings?

The desire to succeed had left Vincent; he worked because he had to -- because it kept him from suffering too much mentally, because it distracted his mind. He could do without a wife, a home, and children. He could without love and friendship and health. He could do without security, comfort and food. He could even do without God. But he could not do without something which was greater than himself, which was his life -- the power, and ability to create."

- Irving Stone, Lust for Life (the Van Gogh bio)