The Year I Ruled the World
A year of carpet burns and freedom — Chapter 8
The only time I ever listen to the radio is when the tornado sirens go off. That only happens once or twice a year. I turn on the radio to hear the emergency weather reports. I then go outside to look up into the sky. The apartment building I live in has no basement or tornado shelter so if a tornado were to hit the building I would be toast.
My neighbor listens to the radio constantly. I think the first thing she does in the morning is turn on the radio. It is going constantly until she finally goes to bed. I can hear her radio from my bathroom. Luckily I can’t hear it from the rest of my apartment. I know other people like that. They have to always have either the radio or the TV on at all times. They seem to have a mortal fear of silence.
Not me. My apartment is a sanctuary of silence. If the windows are open birdsong can be heard (especially in the morning) along with occasional traffic noise, the thrice daily sound of trains coming through town, and the 3:30 pm sound of children walking home from school. If the windows are closed the only sound is the air conditioner and the sound of my fingers typing frantically on the keyboard of my laptop.
I just don’t listen to music anymore. I have become too addicted to silence.
But recently I was out and about (I don’t remember where) and I happened to hear in the background the song, “Everyone Wants To Rule the World,” by Tears For Fears. Synapses in my noggin began firing like crazy. I used to really like that song. It has been many years since I have heard it. Many.
Fate obviously intended for me to hear that song. I try not to dwell in the past but that song triggered a mother lode of memories — memories that apparently needed review. They were memories that I had not revisited in a very long time.
Back when that song was hugely popular I must have heard it approximately a zillion times. And every time it put me in a state of quasi-euphoria. I am not sure why. I don’t think I ever listened to the lyrics. It was the music itself that entrained me and my thinking. It was playing in the background of endless events during a specific period in my life in which I was mysteriously happy.
So when I got home I downloaded the song to my laptop and I listened to it repeatedly in an attempt to get to the bottom of what I now was convinced that I needed to remember. As though the song was a time machine, I was sucked back to the mid 1980s. And I remembered some things I have not thought about in a very long time.
I thought about a specific year of my life. The year did not exactly fit into a calendar year. It actually began in September of 1984 and lasted until September of 1985. It may very well have been one of the happiest years of my life.
I had just moved from Los Angeles, California to Midland, Texas. Who in their right mind would do such a thing?
This year was the very epitome of what I now call my, ‘minimalist period.’ I was in my twenties and I had the audacity to call myself a writer even though I had nothing published yet. Everything I owned I could carry in two shoulder bags, a small suitcase and a typewriter case. I was a care-free vagabond who wandered about the country in search of the Pullitzer Prize winning experience. It was nothing to pack and move at the drop of a hat. And I never left a forwarding address.
So after an exciting and eventful year in Los Angeles I suddenly ended up in Midland, Texas; former home of George W. Bush and the official capital of Texas oil and gas. I quickly got a job as an assistant manager of a chain bookstore and I secured a nice apartment just a few blocks away from the shopping mall where the bookstore was located. I did not have a car and being able to walk to work was important.
It was a roomy, all-electric apartment with a balcony overlooking the apartment complex swimming pool. I never bothered to have the electricity turned on. Why pay money each month to an energy cartel when I could better spend that money on living life to the fullest?
It was an unfurnished apartment so there was zero furniture and, of course, I didn’t own any furniture. I borrowed two saw horses from a local construction site then I took the bedroom door off its hinges, placing the door across the two saw horses. I bought a rickety used cane-backed chair at a yard sale for two bucks. Voila! I had a desk. I needed no other furniture.
But then there was the problem of my electric typewriter. I was a writer, after all. Well, there was a light fixture on the outside of the building just above and to the side of my balcony. I bought a plug-in adapter at Wal-mart and I climbed up to that outside light. I unplugged the light bulb, screwed in the adapter then screwed the light bulb back in. I then plugged an extension chord into the adapter and ran the extension chord into my living room where my makeshift desk looked out through the sliding glass doors leading onto my balcony. This stolen electricity was all the electricity I had and I used it to power my electric typewriter — the most important gadget I owned (remember, this was before computers).
I then bought a couple of battery-operated camping lights and a large amount of candles. I also bought a battery-powered jambox. I was then able to come home after a day of work, turn on my camping light atop my makeshift desk, light a few candles, turn on some music and then turn on my electric typewriter and write. Of course, I was a hopelessly young neophyte with a lot of emotional issues to clear and not much writing got done.
But that didn’t bother me too much. After all, I was more intent on living life to the fullest than compiling a stack of written masterpieces.
Since it was an all-electric apartment the water heater did not work. For one solid year I took nothing but cold showers. I could never, ever do that now 30+ years later. No way. I do not know how I did it back then. All I can say is that I was young and stupid…. and brave.
And the refrigerator did not work, either, so I could not keep food. Instead I ate out all the time. Nowadays I cook all my meals at home and eat out maybe only once every 5 or 6 weeks. As luck would have it, back during that magical year in Midland, Texas I lived just a block away from a nightclub that opened at 6 pm every night. On Sundays through Thursdays they offered a free all-you-can-eat buffet of appetizers from 6 pm until 8 pm. During that time they also offered one dollar beers. So I would go there and order one beer. Not only did I get that beer but I also got dinner while watching big-screen TVs playing music videos. “Everyone Wants to Rule the World” seemed to play about once every half-hour.
Quite often, my spirits lifted by that one beer and my belly full of junk food, I would then go home and not write. Other times I would stay until the place started filling up after 9 pm. I would order another beer or two and often dance as the music seemed to get louder as the evening got later. I had just come off a long dry spell after a certain girlfriend had dumped me. I was slowly trying to get back in the game, so to speak.
I learned that when I brought a female home to my apartment that they reacted one of two discernible ways; they were either repulsed by my minimalist living and ran or they were somewhat excited by my lifestyle and stayed.
I should point out that my bedroom had nothing on the walls. There was no furniture at all. In the middle of the room on the floor, aligned in a north-south energy pattern, was a sheet, a pillow and another sheet. This is how I slept. I slept on the floor. There is no way I could do that now in my advanced age but back then I slept on the floor for an entire year.
The one north-facing window was always open. Next to my sheet-bed on the floor was a small square brick atop which sat the other battery-powered camping light and an ashtray. Those women brave enough to stay may have suffered carpet burns but the post-coitus cigarette was always enhanced by the rawness of the experience. I slowly got back in the game.
I not only had no electric bill to pay but I had no phone. All I ever paid was rent. All the rest of the money I made went to pay for whatever experience happened to present itself. I made a lot of friends, had a lot of crazy and bizarre experiences, and I lived solely in the moment. I said, “Yes,” to everything that happened and the only trace of normalcy in my life was that I showed up for work every day. The rest of the time I was wild and crazy and completely free to follow whatever happened to happen. It seemed I truly ruled my world.
Thinking back on that year I realize that was the one time I threw everything out the window and just simply lived. I embraced everything that appeared before me. I never said, “No,” to an experience. I lived a minimalist life but I lived it to the max. I did crazy and stupid and wonderful and exciting things and I never thought about the consequences. I embraced life to the fullest and everything outside my experiences was almost non-existent. I never followed the news, I was blissfully unaware of politics, I was completely disconnected from family and friends from other periods in my life. I was living in a thoroughly disconnected world from the world I had been living in my whole life up to that point. And I ruled that world.
And every time I heard that song, “Everyone Wants To Rule the World,” I fully felt the freedom that I was living. I don’t know how many times I heard that song during that magical year but it stands out over every other song I heard.
It was truly a magical year that, once remembered, I have to say was a huge turning point in my conscious evolution. It was a year in which everything that I had read (and up to that point I read a lot!) and everything I had learned I finally put into practice. That was the year that I truly lived.
But then came that Friday in the summer of 1985 when a knocking sounded at my apartment door. It was a rare occurrence so I was startled. I turned off my electric typewriter and went to answer the door. Nothing could have prepared me for who stood in my doorway.
It was the girlfriend who had dumped me two and a half years before. I was speechless.
After finally regaining my wits I invited her in. My first question was, “How in the hell did you find out where I live?”
She laughed and then cocked her head to one side, “Oh, I did some detective work.”
After she had discovered where I lived she boarded a Greyhound bus in Louisiana where she was visiting her mother during a college break and she traveled to Midland, Texas to surprise the holy hell out of me.
After letting her into my minimalist apartment we talked for several hours and then we made love on the floor of my bedroom.
The next day I took her out to dinner and on the walk home we went through a neighboring apartment complex that happened to have a little duck pond and a little bridge that spanned the duck pond. Halfway across the bridge I stopped and turned to face her. I asked her to marry me.
Like a deer caught in headlights, she froze for a moment then she smiled, “Well, let’s see how the rest of the weekend goes. Ask me again on Monday.”
Covered in carpet burns from head to toe we woke up simultaneously on Monday morning. I smiled and kissed her then asked, “So you wanna get married?”
She giggled then said, “Okay.”
After another love-making session we got up and got dressed. We hailed a cab and went downtown to the courthouse. We didn’t have any rings or anything. Luckily, there was one judge on duty who agreed to marry us. After getting married we took another cab back home where I got ready for work. I kissed my new wife and told her that I would be home from work that evening and we would then celebrate.
She smiled, “Okay.”
And that was the day my year of ‘ruling the world’ came to an end.
It was that crazy song that forced me to remember all of that. I just needed to figure out why I needed to remember it all and what on earth it had to do with my life now.