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In the past minute or three I’ve been trying to determine what it is that so distinguishes one month from another. What is it that transpires from January to February? For comparison, I’ve thought of June and July as baseball and football, respectively (all of this purely subjective). March and April and I have a poetic, historic wealth: the cruelest month and Eliot, the ides of March and Caesar. Historical dates and poetry: Dickens — Oh, God, you name them...spring, you see? Poetry! Don’t care for it? Well, go to hockey, if you know what I mean. October and November, those two months during which I often find peace and aesthetics, are far gone and I’m not certain what

I’m left with here, and with age, I fear the cold.

Irrational it may be, but as T.S. Eliot wrote, “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” Just so, to me, and possibly anyone my age when the temperature drops. Possibly your circulation is not what it once was; 64 degrees can be the intimation of death in the wings.

Fridays, Friday nights — once an occasion for leisure activity...activity anyway, entertainment, and in my case, near or literal debauchery — they are now simply for leisure and possibly entertainment with a book or film. Trepidation remains at hand as it has during the week, even during sleep, in dreams. The winter retains its aesthetics, but I will show you fear in a thermometer. And, Lord, that is pathetic. This is Southern California.

This is one of the last columns in which I will speak so much of myself. I have had a humbling experience in a seizure and have been informed of my lack of remarkability. I will say only this, and you may or may not care. That is all right; turn the page. The dead of winter is the suffering provided when needed for me. It tells me the coachman is in the neighborhood and is too happy to hold open the door with a grin.

Doubt and indecision plague me at this time of year. You? Those still with me? Do I go out? Will the jacket be warm? My mad son threw away my very warm one, I reflect. “It was bad luck for you. You had multiple heart attacks in them.” He means the withdrawal seizure, not heart attacks at all. He will not hear of the truth. He has his own skewed, desperate, and magical thinking. And aside from the cold, there is now more doubt — for some reason of which I am unsure — about work. Am I losing it? Has any propensity for the craft fled now with age and the new season?

The pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization of which Alcoholics Anonymous speaks is with me now, whether I drink or do not. It is not unusual at all if I do. I may not do so to excess, but I am just as likely to do just that. In this way the winter months I speak of have much in common with August. That is the month I always feel as if I am in some god-forsaken colony of the 18th Century British Empire and despair. Have I sufficiently depressed you? My apologies, but I must go on.

Certainly there are comforts, compensations, even joys during January, February. Friends, contact with family, even frustrating ones, particular meals or passages in books, a play of light. But spring now takes on the characteristic of that which is no longer promised. A literal light at the end of a tunnel that can be withheld like an allowance when one was a child.

Friday nights are no longer associated with license but responsibility, and I am acutely aware that my mother was correct: I am an irresponsible bastard. In January and February, I mean — oh, August as well. I reread that and see how much it resembles self-pity. But no, that is not it, that is not it at all. Indeed I am excellent at the stuff, self-pity, but here I speak of self-observation. Oh, and again, I assure you — for the last time. For the very last time.

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Comments

EricBlair Jan. 14, 2009 @ 3:15 p.m.

Dear John:

When I was particularly down, many years ago, you suggested I read "The City of God" by Augustine, along with Merton's "The Seven Storey Mountain." I wasn't sure why at the time. I do now, and I thank you for those suggestions in 1989.

There are many words by far wiser hands than my own. But you are not alone, and the only reason that darkness seems so stark is because of the contrasting Light.

Hang on, as Winston Churchill urged. You have many, many more friends than you expect.

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MsGrant Jan. 21, 2009 @ 2:42 p.m.

John - you are not that old. You suffer the affliction of the musician who never made it to the big time, the young man who inhabits a mature man's body but whose mind does not want to mature at an equal pace. We think, I squandered my youth. But. What fun we had, back then! It's not that bad, it just sucks getting old, when you no longer fit into the crowd at the bar, or the band, or the group at the office going out for happy hour.

I wanted to be a writer, I have no talent. I wanted to play guitar, I can't. Imagine to want something and have no talent for it whatsoever. You get to write because you do it well. You got to play in a band and publish a book because you have a gift. Stop living in the past and the future. Be here now.

And FYI: I like you. I think you are one of the most interesting people I have ever met.

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