Chapter 1

If I had gone ahead and jumped off the bridge that night, as I nearly did, I would not be stuck in this damnable fix now, trying to figure out what to do with my life. Instead of drowning myself in the river, I chose to carry on with what was left of my existence and face another day. At the time it seemed that I was doing the right thing. If you keep on reading what I have written, and follow all of these words to the end, you will be able to decide for yourself whether I made the correct judgment.

Sitting here by myself, looking out the window of my apartment on this dreary afternoon, all I can see is rain, rain, and still more rain: a ceaseless deluge that likely will continue for the remainder of the day and into the evening. It rained yesterday, too, and it also rained the day before yesterday. It probably will rain tomorrow.

Portland, Oregon, the city in which I have been living for nearly five years, is known (with good reason) as a wet city. When I say that Portland is wet, I mean that Portland is extremely wet. Portland is wet in the morning, wet in the afternoon, wet in the evening, wet from midnight until dawn. Wet for weeks and weeks at a time. Wet for months and months and months on end. Wet enough to make a person forget what it is to be warm and dry. Rainfall in this part of the state is cold and continual, soaking mountains, trees, and hapless souls. During my first six months in Portland, I saw more rain than I had seen in all my years in California, where I used to live. For most of the year, I do not go anywhere without an umbrella.

I suppose it was fitting for me to end up here, in this sodden city of mud, moss, mold, and mildew. I came into the world in Widnes, a town near Liverpool in England, in a northern region where sunny days were never taken for granted. It seems that as far as weather is concerned, I have come full circle.

Rain or shine, I am here and I am likely to remain here for the time being. Maybe even for the rest of my life. Or at least until I have sorted out a few matters that are weighing on my mind. I need to make a decision regarding my future, but I find that I am unable to choose between one road or the other. The only thing I know for certain is that I am uncertain of everything.

As befits one who happened to come of age in America during the ecstasy and the fury of the 1960s, my life has been both highlighted and stained by the secular trinity of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. My life also bears the sort of marks that usually can be found on one who has lost and failed. While seeking to be true to my own calling, such as it is, I have witnessed my generation in the filthy act of offering its honor to the highest bidder, selling off the remnants of its rebellion and bartering away the residue its cool, allowing itself to become a mere commodity.

Next year will be 2000, the closing of one century and the opening of another, and I will be fifty years old. I am not at all keen on reaching that particular milestone. I fear that turning fifty will mean closing the door on any semblance of youth, and I am not ready for anything that final. While it might be too much to say that my time in this world has been a complete and utter waste, I think it would be fair to say that I could have, and should have, done much better for myself.

It is my poor showing over the five decades of my life that has prompted my current soul-searching. My life has not entirely been a flood of tears, but as I have grown older, the occasions of laughter have not come easily. I am cursed with an unfortunate habit of always falling short in whatever I attempt. I can assure you, however, that I am not a sluggard. I have actively chased after my dreams to the best of my ability. I have never been without a supply of ambition, but I do not have any solid results to show for my endeavors.

Regardless of how one chooses to look at it, life is a chancy thing. My own life serves as a clear example of that unavoidable truth. I am now forty-nine years of age, and hurtling uncomfortably toward fifty. How was it that I, Simon Jennings, a downhearted musician and a faithful subject of Her Majesty, ever happened to arrive in Portland? Why did I end up in this capital of dankness, where raincoats and roses are plentiful? What were the random elements of fate, unseen and untoward and unmerciful, that conspired to bring me here?

I suppose my troubles all began a long time ago, when I first got it into my young head that I wanted to play the guitar. Once I got my hands on a guitar, and was able to master a few chords, my future was clear. Of course, years before I could even think of wanting to play the guitar, I had to be born, which is where my story should rightly begin.

Chapter 2