He called it his graveyard apartment. It wasn’t in a graveyard, and he didn’t actually live there anymore. He had a nice place across town, but he kept it to visit, the way people visit graveyards. There, among the photographs, the bundles of letters and cards, the newspaper clippings, the mementos, the record albums and tapes, the books, and the obituaries, there he could feel the ghosts, the many ghosts. There, he felt them as nowhere else, the friends, the lovers, the co-conspirators and allies in the struggles. There were the ones lost in the ‘80s and ‘90s to AIDS, and now, still more gone to the infirmities of age, overdoses, suicide, and recently, COVID. He came to visit his ghosts and tell them, “I ain’t dead yet, and I’m still fighting.” They gave him strength.
Bob Wertzler is retired from almost twenty years in the mental health field in California and Arizona. There are times the title, “Recovering Therapist”, seems to fit. In 2006 he retired to move to Western North Carolina to help and become primary care giver for his father who had developed Dementia. Before all that, there was work at various times as a soldier (US Army 1967-70), community organizer, cab driver, welfare case worker, wooden toy maker, carpenter, warehouse worker, and other things. He relates to a line in a Grateful Dead song, “What a long, strange trip its been.”