One day when I am living in the hole under the house, we get a call from a relative. I believe she was the daughter of one of the brothers of my grandfather, William Berner Tingle, Sr. She wasn’t calling from Georgia where she lived; she was already here and on a terrible mission.
It turned out her son had been in the Navy and had served a year or so over in the area of Vietnam or the water thereabouts, and while he had been over there everything had been fine. When he got back he still had time to serve and maybe too much time on his hands because he got into drugs as they say and also joined a motorcycle gang.
I never did get clear on the detail, like what happened exactly, did he hit a wet spot or whatever, but he was rounding a corner and the bike slid out from under him and he hit his head on the curb. That was about it. He was in a coma in the VA hospital near Balboa Park and it did not look good at all.
But she, his mother, had come out to sit by this bed. The father didn’t come. I don’t know why, but I think the whole thing might have been a financial strain because my parents talked me into going to pick her up several times at this cheap motel where she was staying and drive her to the VA hospital. It was the family thing to do.
So I would park out in the back lot behind this big old, depressing, 10 story building that was the VA hospital while she went in. I never went in. She didn’t invite me and I didn’t invite myself. I never knew how long she would be. Maybe an hour usually, sometimes more. Then she would come out and I would drive her back. What could I say? I don’t remember having spoken with her, but I must have because one day she said she was upset because the members of her son’s bike gang had come and hung their colors all over her son’s room.
I would sit there smoking one cigarette after another staring at that big depressing building. I would try to read something. I remember, maybe it was just the circumstances, but one day I read some of Nietzsche’s Will to Power. I remember trying to figure out why he said Buddhism was nihilistic. Because, I guess it was so other or unworldly, maybe. Because I associated religions with morality I hadn’t thought of them as being nihilistic exactly….but of course Nietzsche was arguing that some so-called moralities, especially the Christian slave morality, is nihilistic.
So there I sat smoking one cigarette after another, waiting for my relative’s son to pass on, as he did after a couple of weeks, in my beat up 59 Plymouth station wagon, with springs that came up right through the front seats and would stick into your butt if you didn’t watch out and thinking about nihilism. It was all pretty fucked.
The son’s mother gave me the bike because they never wanted to see it again. It was a Harley, a hog in fact, with those long old extended forks up front and a tiny, dinky little handle bars. I sat on it once, started it, and the damn thing scared me to death. So I sold it to a friend who, at that time was driving a trash truck, and he fixed it up quite nicely.