Here’s my latest essay for a book I’m working on for Blue Heron Book Works. The title is ‘Man Has Premonition of Own Death,’ which was the actual headline on a 1920s newspaper article about the tragic death of young mill worker Thomas Crooks, 23, who was my great-uncle.


There’s a novel by Carson McCullers titled ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.’ It’s one of those books — I own it, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually read it, or at least I don’t remember it. The point is that the title came to mind — even though I don’t know what the hell it means.

It came to mind because it has the word ‘lonely.’

Songs, too. The early Neil Young song about the lonely boy out on the weekend. That crappy song by Paul Anka. That great song by Roy Oribison. And, of course, Elvis, asking ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’

The answer. Yes, Elvis.

Dealing with my illness has been and continues to be very hard. The treatments are working, thankfully, but the regimen sometimes wipes me out, physically and, sometimes, emotionally.

Related problems (soon to be fixed) with my vocal cords and voice have left me pretty much unable to speak for nearly nine months — and cut off, in large part, from people.

And I’m not that kind of person.Let’s just say that I could never live the life of a hermit — unless someone was paying me a lot of money.

Part of it, too, is that many of my friends and family are scattered around the country. I do have many dear friends who live nearby and would gladly spend time with me.

But there’s also a sort of self-imposed exile. I just don’t want to intrude on their lives. What’s more, pretty much no one except my family and a few friends has seen me since I became ill  — and I don’t want them to see me until I’m better…and I look like me again.

Usually I’m fine. I go out for coffee, for groceries, for the Sunday newspaper. Sometimes I get in my car and park down by river. I watch the Yankees on YES and old movies on TCM. I read a lot. I’m working hard on my book. And I even just co-wrote a song with my singer-guitarist son.

But sometimes I feel sorry for myself and sometimes I even wallow in it.

So, when Elvis asks his question, usually the answer is ‘No, but thanks for asking.’

Other times, though, I honestly reply: ‘The heart is a lonely hunter…’



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