It happened again last year.
November was my worst month. In about eighteen out of the last twenty years or so, the month of November has been a time when I have been able to count on very serious illness, infidelity, deep depression, marital difficulty, and general malaise.
Somehow, November always seems to have a surreal atmosphere. Last year, for example, on Thanksgiving Day, I drove my dog Snug over to the Hobbit Beach north of Heceta Beach so that he could have some time to chase seagulls. The Deke and I had been invited to a family's house for Thanksgiving dinner and I planned on being back in plenty of time to meet our invitation.
When Snug and I arrived at the Hobbit Beach parking lot, a man was standing by the roadside, trying to find a ride south. I waved to him, we exchanged some pleasantries, and Snug and I tramped down to the beach.
We were there for about an hour or so and when we came back up, the man was still there. He had been unsuccessful hitching a ride. We talked and I said I could give him a lift to Florence.
He began to tell me his story. He'd been living at a woman's house in Medford and she kicked him out. He said things had been going really well, but some tension developed and he was on his own again, with nowhere to stay or live.
I could tell he was lying about Medford. I don't remember the details now, but the whole story made him out to be a victim and he had that exaggerating sound in his voice that liars have and he began to aggrandize himself, but I figured he was harmless enough.
And he was harmless enough. We got to Florence and I said, "Why don't I just drive you down to Coos Bay."
"You'd do that, man?"
It was starting to rain really hard.
"Yeah. I've got time."
But, I didn't really have time, not if I was going to make it back to Eugene in time for Thanksgiving dinner. I'd already had one incident earlier in the month, on the 12th, of driving around western Oregon, not coming home, and here I was, doing it again. This time I was pleading the Good Samaritan defense to myself, that this was different. I was helping this guy out.
I didn't make it back in time to eat Thanksgiving dinner with the others. They saved a plate for me. The Deke told me later my vibe was weird at our hosts' house. One of the guests had taken her aside to ask if I was all right, that I'd seemed odd lately and what was going on with me being late and driving a guy to Coos Bay. I tried to socialize comfortably, but did a lousy job. I think the Deke just wanted to get out of there. Well, get me out of there.
This is all subtle. It's not like I was tearing things up or putting on a self-centered show. I was in a November fog. One of my former students from over twenty years ago has written me recently and asked me how I was doing. She remembered me always struggling in November.
And, yes. November. When I last lived in Spokane, November of 1983 was when I flew to Boulder, CO and ended one ill-advised romance and started in another ill-advised romance that same week. I was a drunken boor and an embarrassment at the family Thanksgiving dinner table, made worse by showing off my boorishness in front of friends I'd invited to Kellogg for dinner from Spokane. In 1981, my then wife told me she wanted out of our marriage in November. In 1982, the emotional weight of the end of our marriage hit me in November and I started having terrible dreams and raged and threw things around in my generic North Spokane apartment. In 1986, in November, my girlfriend, living in London, told me about an affair she was having. It crippled me. I was an obssessed wreck. In November of 1999, I contracted bacterial meningitis.
I suppose many of us have that time of the year when things seem to go awry on an annual basis. I don't understand these cycles of life. I don't pity myself, either. It's just the way things have been. I hope to make it through this November without anything too painful happening.
We are nearing the half-way point. I'll be careful driving to Kellogg next week. I'll stay home if ice and snow is forecast. I'll not drink. I'll take my pills. I'll hope for the best when I get a physical examination this Friday. I know I won't have the same November experience I did last year: a colonoscopy.
I want to do the same thing every November: find a bomb shelter and stay in it. I want to stay out of the world. But, I don't. I go out into the world and hope I can be wise instead of foolish, lucky instead of darkly fated.