B.B. King is gone. This was the news I woke up to this morning. Shock followed by sadness. I first saw B.B. King on The Tonight Show in my early teens, and I loved his music immediately. That impossibly gravelly voice paired with an unmistakable vibrato guitar technique. Even as I grew into my older teens and my tastes migrated to Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys, a B.B. King cassette or album was always at the center of my music collection.
Most of my childhood heroes are gone now. The writers: Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter Thompson, Charles Bukowski, and so many more. The sports figures: Alexis Arguello, Robert Newhouse, Walter Payton. Add to these countless film actors, artists, musicians, and political figures, far too many to name. Fate took some too early, some took themselves out, others just slowly withered away, somewhere in the murky background of public life, where the no-longer-media-relevant go to die.
So now there’s another hero gone, another name to cross off the list. I feel far more old and tired this morning than my forty-six years. On days like today, I find myself looking backward more than forward. Regretting the might-have-beens, the roads not taken, avoiding mirrors and cursing the wrinkling, graying present overtaking me and my loved ones, some faster than others. The sound of a clock ticking, winding down. The ominous thought of my own name getting crossed off a list.
I’m not a mystic, so the idea of a post-mortem paradise is an empty promise, a story made up for children who fear the dark. For me there’s no silver lining, just a black hole we’re all getting sucked into. The great eternal nothingness.
What to do, what to do? But what else is there to do, of course, but keep walking, keep breathing. Smile and laugh and fake it and hope your kids don’t notice the darkness lurking behind your eyes. Distract yourself with love, beer, work, hobbies, perversions. Bowling leagues, romance novels, macramé, cross fit, cross dressing, ecotourism, telling stories, reading stories, baking cakes, eating cakes, and so on. Whatever works for you, whatever takes your mind off the looming darkness, whatever distracts you (and doesn’t hurt others) from that big black hole that grows bigger every day, go do it.
Go do it right fucking now.