Mark Wekander
Advice about Returning to Life


      Thirteen years ago, Arthur Mammen, you died in Oakland, across the bay from your beloved San Francisco.
      Recently I found the invitation to send something to a memorial service for you, which is the only proof I have that you are dead. And that I have received no calls, letters, rumors of your lurid sex life, the mention of your name in the St. Olaf Alumni Magazine, though you left before finishing there and perhaps like Robert Bly before you, you no longer mention those years in your curriculum vitae, though I guess in your case it's a necrology.
      Arthur, do not come back.
      I'm telling you everything you loved is changed. Urban development has gone crazy and what was probably charming in San Francisco, which I just visited for the first time to my great disappointment, is now 6th Avenue, the one they changed to Avenue of the Americas, all glass and steel and hubris, the hardest metal ever known. The preciousness is still there on the outskirts and what God gave the city is hot and sexy: those bays, inlets, islands, peninsulas. But you wouldn't recognize it.
       It would take you so long to learn how to run a scanner, a DVD, a hand-held computer, and to ponder what happened to the weapons of mass destruction, and how another Bush got into the White House. You probably were the one who told me that they were related to the Windsors, formerly the Hanovers. By the way, Princess Diana and George Harrison are dead. Think of all the grieving you would have to do for people you never knew if you came back. Are you ready for gigabytes, flat screens, and Iraq as the 51st state?
      You did like to complain, or so it seemed. But even you got tired of complaining about Minneapolis winters and being a Kelly Girl employee. Take my word for it, there is so much more to complain about today than there was fourteen years ago. Everybody’s body is giving out. Even I complain about that. You would be absolutely exhausted.
      And another good reason for not coming back is that there are already too many people whom I have lost and whom I wait to write to me, call me out of the blue after finding my mother's phone number on the Internet, run into in front of an elevator at the Brooklyn YMCA after ten years of silence, send me an email with a ten page autobiography, see their name on a letter to the New York Times. At least I know where you are. And I know that some day soon 99% of the people I know will be dead, so, well why should you bother to come back? Stay where you are.