Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Monday, July 04, 2005


Today is the 11th anniversary of the worst event of my life up until now. And even though this weblog is deliberately far less about me personally than my previous one; I don't want to let this day pass unremarked. Last year; the tenth anniversary; I made a decision not to recognise the day at all. That was a mistake and I felt guilty about it for months.

On the morning of July 4th 1994 my closest friend - my hero - and in many ways my mentor, P, took his own life in an hotel room in New York. He was 26.

Everything changed for me after his death. It signalled the end of the happiest period of my life (so far) and the beginning of a downward trend that I've only in the past couple of years managed to bring to a halt (and which I'm still working on reversing).

P was angry with me when he killed himself. His move to New York wasn't going well and he'd become isolated and depressed. I'd promised him that I'd fly across and hang out for a couple of months... we had done a lot of travelling together and he - apparently - was finding it difficult to adjust to my absence. He never made this clear to me though. It was always "Why don't you come over when you have some time?" and never anything more urgent.

But I was having the happiest time of my life. I was head over heels in love with an incredible girl, having great sex, partying and taking lots of euphoric drugs.

And everything changed.

His letter, which I received a week or so after the phonecall from a mutual friend, was the most disturbing thing I've ever read. It was five pages of pain and paranoia. Amongst many things, he believed that a black-magick coven was persecuting him. He mentioned the world trade center bombing of the previous year as evidence of this. And among the broken words and the craziness was the line "if you were only here I wouldn't be".

The immediate aftermath is all a bit of a blur now. I suspect I went on a bad-drugs bender, but I honestly don't recall. A year later though, my relationship was in tatters and just about to collapse, there was no more sex, partying or euphoric drugs. My academic career had been jettisoned and I was instead spending 15 hours a day working for an engineering company. I was taking a lot of speed to get me through the week and then spending the weekend on heavy-duty psychedelics.

I guess the only surprise is that it took me as long as 5 years to burn out.

When I first arrived in London I shared a flat with P. It was a very special time. I wrote a thinly fictionalised account of that period. It was almost 400 pages long and left out half the best bits.

I remember one cold October morning when - upon emerging from a club in central London at 3am - P decided that we needed to find out how quickly it was possible to run across each of London's bridges.

Together we devised a method of ensuring that we'd be running at full tilt, so there'd be no question that it was actually our best time. The method was to run across the bridges stark bollock naked. We'd walk up to the bridge, disrobe quickly (placing clothes in a plastic bag), note the second-hand on P's watch, peg it across the bridge, note the elapsed time, get dressed and walk to the next bridge. Start at Lambeth Bridge and finish at London Bridge.

It couldn't be simpler really.

Except that about halfway across Lambeth Bridge a police van drew up and began keeping pace with us. Eight or ten burly and tooled-up policemen staring out. One of them was pointing a video camera.

The fact that we were off our heads at the time is probably why; as the policemen bailed out of the van; neither of us had the presence of mind to check the elapsed time. But I can pretty much guarantee that we couldn't possibly have run it any faster.

Anyway, I shan't be asking for comments on this post. I just wanted to mark the day somehow. Come back soon for something more generally relevant.

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