Gutters and Strikes

A Troubadour’s Reflection on the 36th Frame (The Dude meets Raoul Duke)

by Donnie Casto II

It seems life, like the great magnet, a.k.a ‘God’, ‘Creator’, or whatever title you assign IT, operates at polar extremes. Wiser men and women than your’s truly have often said that what is evident in the seen of this rock called Earth is often a mirror image of what we can’t see in other worlds — the other world, for the sake of argument, being spiritual. One truth I have come to realize is that a spiritual door doesn’t often reveal itself without a heart and a mind opened to being aware of it. Great moments of enlightenment, happiness and inner peace often come at the expense of a mass volume of ignorance, pain and chaos.

I find myself reflecting on life at 36 today. A feat that many of you who knew me in my 20’s would have considered a large bet to hedge on. A 36th birthday is four years from 40, which to the Troubadour at 26 seemed ‘old’. While I’m no longer burning the bars down until 3am, I’m by no means set for a rocking chair or resting on laurels yet. I have found life in lane 36 of this bowling alley of existence to abide well with me, to borrow a phrase from the stage of evolution the great magnet has directed and molded me into in this moment. To properly quote Jeffery “The Dude” Lebowski, “I can’t be worrying about that shit. Life goes on, man.”

It’s been a long ride, building up experiences and processing  as much truth and life as possible, often more than my stomach would hold or my liver could process on a Friday or Saturday night. Looking back, it didn’t take watching Depp’s prototype of Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to see that I was meant to live a decent portion of my life on The Edge.

Those fortunate enough to be raised in a Bible-believing, neo-conservative, Christian environment with the mantra “If it’s not in the Bible it’s not right” are already predisposed to filtering through a great deal of man-made manure in pushing themselves from being a raw seed of talent in the world, to taking roots on their journey, to becoming a mighty oak that can stand the winds of change and storms of life. Reading about ‘The Edge,’ whatever that entailed, and living it are two vastly different experiences. I had been sheltered, I was idealistic in a naïve way that could be called “wet behind the ears,” and I wanted to taste it all! Life, I mean, before any gears got grinding in the wrong direction.

I grew up in  the early 90’s when a former singer for a Credence Clearwater Revival band named Kurt Cobain was about to turn rock music on its heels, a man in black with the remnants of an atomic psilocybin mushroom cloud named Bill Hicks was opening the collective third eye of society, and for a brief moment the vibe that the failure and shortcomings of the 60’s seemed about to be rectified in the 90’s.  With the right amount of liquid courage, a vast quantity of mind altering substances, and an attitude of moving along the highway of living at 105 MPH, anything was possible.

One thing I didn’t learn while setting the cruise control is unless you plan on keeping your eyes on the road and both hands steering the wheel, sooner or later you’re bound to smash into other vehicles in the lane, crash into the wall, or run completely off the road, through the guard rail and off the hill to tumble down the edge. Not only did I manage all three of the above, I also managed to be thrown out the windshield and barely grabbed a branch to hang on to before busting myself on the rocks below.

Paraphrasing Duke in his encounter in the desert with the cop, “I knew I was fucked.”

I hadn’t learned the harmony of flowing with the current. I was determined to fight the waves of chaos with more of my own. The consistency of a home with my kids, a redundant but stable job that I was wrongfully fired from, and the idealism of taking the ride and never paying full price for the ticket had come to a screeching stop.  My streak of hitting a strike or at worst a good spare had come to an end. In that brief moment, I was reminded by something vastly more powerful than myself that by stepping over the line and getting a pass for the foul I had broken the rules one too many times. Just like Walter Sobchak reminded Smokey, I was entering a world of pain.

A world where the pain of my poor choices and edge lifestyle no longer solely hurt only me but those I loved and cared for more than anything. I found myself stuck in a rut of memories and demons of the past I felt compelled to fight and slay. Sooner or later though, one realizes that the ghosts of the past can’t be slayed. They merely haunt your mind and memories until you exercise the power of your mind to let them fade.

I’m no longer bound or attached to the past. You really can’t progress until you let it go. Wisdom over a period of time dictates that as hard as steel and stone can be in the mind, body, and heart, only water with its fluidity can erode the barriers and flow around what stops it.

Saying “fuck it” to certain things at 36 might seem a bit immature or childish, but perhaps that’s the legacy of making a transition in life from the Church of Raoul Duke to the Monastery of The Dude. Swimming with the current, abiding with the tide, and not being afraid to push the edge and fail. Even in failure, the greatest strike in the lanes of life we make is getting back up a bloody mess to roll on one more time.


illustration by David Pratt

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About Donnie Casto II 34 Articles
Donnie Casto II is a senior staff writer for Gonzo Today. He has lived in the tri-state area of West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. Along with his work at Gonzo Today, he is also a tireless advocate for The Fathers Rights Movement in Ohio and Supporters of Ohio Equal Parenting, which promote family law reform and equal custody rights for fathers. He is the proud father of three children: Elijah, Victoria, and Michael. He has an Associates Degree in Business and is currently on break from his Bachelors Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.