michael's communiqué #17
04/28/2005

So it rained and rained and I watched on the television as thousands and thousands gathered in Vatican City to acknowledge the death of a flawed Pope. And I couldn't help but wonder what was bringing about this rare, outpouring of feeling in a time of definite spiritual and emotional deficiency and apathy. It reminded me of the death of Princess Diana...which also moved/befuddled me. I tried to sort it all out while eating gummi bears.

It's sort of obnoxious for me to call John Paul a 'flawed pope', since being a flawed Pope is still a million times more profound than being a deeply flawed obscure songwriter. Whatever I disagreed about with this Pope (and there were many, many things,) I...as many did...saw him as a man of profound belief, in a time of profound guile. And I think it was that yearning for a non marketed/corporate sponsored/logo branded belief that drove people to Vatican City who may have not even been inside a church for ten years. Some things matter. Even if we are not sure what they are. And some things don't matter, even if we can't help but watch them late at night. And The Pope believed that more than us, or at least more than we were able to. And thus now we wanted to be near him. To believe it was possible to die with something solid tucked under your arm. No one wants to be buried with, or in, a Bloomingdale's bag. Perhaps belief was like radiation...and if I pressed my face to television...as the crowd pressed up against the funeral slab...Paris Hilton would cease to exist. In this moment we all want to believe.

I think in her own messy way, Princess Diana manifested some of the same 'belief'. Her refusal to accept a marriage of convienence/wealth/status in place of love and friendship and passion was a very warm blooded working class sense of belief...that most of us could relate to. Her pretensionless holding of african aids babies, of land mine victims came off somehow as remarkably un-cynical. Almost naive and childlike...and that is in essence...perhaps the state where belief is born...or at least from where it is eventually lost. Diana believed that some things mattered. And some things didn't. She probably couldn't have explained it to save her life. And it probably wouldn't have....even if she could've.

In my life I've been blessed/troubled by infrequently occurring, deeply vivid and moving dreams. In fact they're the only dreams I ever have or at least remember. If I called them visions...I'd be being grandiose, and perhaps narcissistic...and I didn't spend two years on a leather coach for nothing. But they definately come with a whiff of the ether.

I remember one I had a few years after Princess Diana's death which caused me to begin a never finished song called "Princess Diana Awaiting Ambulance" or "Diana alone with her thoughts." In the dream I was some kind of detective or journalist...in the outskirts of Paris...where I had come for love and lights...but where I now found myself descending alone into a cold damp tunnel towards the wreck within which Diana rested. And when I came upon it, I saw her there...beautiful, yet torn... but still alive...bright eyed in the grayness which surrounded us. And I laid down beside her in a gesture which was part son/part lover...and the warmth of the engine felt like it would be the last warm thing ever. And it was as if I didn't want her to die there alone or unloved, but in typical fashion it was probably I...in the midst of a car crash of a life...that feared dying alone and unloved in it's destruction. And perhaps it was her 'belief' I feared the death of most, and why I clung to her and it...like an orphan to the first thigh that passes. We believed in love...didn't we? We believed that children shouldn't be blown apart....didn't we? So why were we here...together in our loneliness, in the wreckage of a car I wanted to drive her to Graceland in? Why were we alone and bound to be forever more? And what was there to believe in...after the wheel fails you?

But I think the paramedics pulled me off, and I think someone sung to me in triage. I made my way back to New York in bad need of a shave. And I couldn't find my camera. I think I left it in the tunnel...with her. I woke up.

In the years since...I have tried to nurture own my belief...my strength...or at least my capacity for it...to make it a living part of me, and not the ornate mausoleum of adolescent desire. Belief as the opposite of longing, not a panacea for it. I've tried to find belief as a road to faith. Believe in Godard, believe in melody, believe that no one should die for oil. Believe...

Oh and try to stop being so damn morose. In that, however, I have had less success.

I did not snicker at housewives from Slough lighting candles outside Buckingham palace. I do not snicker at those bearing flowers in Vatican City.

I wave at them....or I guess the television screen...and say...ciao papa...and disappear into dreams.

-Michael Grace Jr.