Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Silhouette

The next morning i packed the letters into my suitcase and got on with the cleaning and sorting, i was heading back home for the weekend, a couple hours of doing what i could around the apartment, a drive to Parma to see the Old Man, and then a couple of hours drive with nothing but a soundtrack to February and my own thoughts.  The head was still swimming. I didn't mention the letters to my dad and i don't really think he even remembered they were there.  He'd written them so long ago and i wondered if they weren't his own form of therapy, letters to help him move past his ex-wife.  The letter to my grandmother was probably earmarked to be sent but knowing the guy like i did he probably looked at it lying there one day and said, "fuck it." Folded it up and put it with the others and never gave it another thought.

There's that kernel of wisdom about sometimes it being better not to know. Those letters hung heavy. I spent the weekend trying to work my way through them, trying to wrap my head around just how nasty things had gotten, or more correctly, just how vicious my mother could be. I shouldn't have been surprised, i had the same streak in me whether i wanted to admit it or not. Maybe it went back to that thing every child someday realizes, that there is a whole world to their parents that they know nothing about. As you get older you understand it but even then sometimes there are things that surprise you when they are revealed. Yet that question sat like a brick in the pit of my stomach, did he have a good life? knowing that the end was coming more into focus, would he look back and think he had wasted it or would he look back and think it was alright, that it was a good ride...

And so the weekend passed and i got the boyos off  to school, i loaded up the car and off i went, back to my dad's old place to get to work again, it was my fourth week of travelling back and forth and the routine had somehow become comforting. There was a sense of purpose to what i was doing and i enjoyed the solitary nature of the work. Twice a day i'd make the drive over and hang out with my dad, bringing things he needed or asked for, we'd bullshit and watch the news and drink coffee. It was much like the old days and i could tell my dad enjoyed my visits.  I'd spend a couple minutes asking how he felt and how we was doing and then we'd move on to the usual topics, like our phone conversations but in person.  The work at his place was winding down and what i really needed him to do was take a trip back with me and give the final word on what he wanted and what was getting donated, tossed, or recycled.

For some reason i drove straight to his new place, the assisted living home, before heading to his old place. We had our usual conversation and i told him all we needed was to have him do a walk through and tell me what, if anything, he wanted. There wasn't much left at this point, i'd already moved a couple lamps, his television and it's stand, a small bookcase, the clothes he had asked for. The only other thing was to get his car moved but i figured i'd rope my sister into helping with that, then to my surprise he looked at me and said, shit kid why don't i go over today?  I asked if he was up for it and if he could drive and he said the only reason they told him not to drive was because of the painkillers which he'd stopped taking. I laughed and said, that was the fucking reason? He grinned and nodded, i drove like that for fucking years! i said. We both had a good laugh and off we went.

Back at his old place he walked through, he'd lived there for close to twenty years, the last time he'd been there was the morning of his surgery and the last time he'd ever step foot in the place was right now. He ambled from room to room, there wasn't much he wanted, he went through his clothes and told me to donate most of them, asked if i could move a chest of drawers that might better suit his television, there were memories but he was keeping them to himself... and then in the back bedroom which had become the chamber of secrets he turned to me and said, there was this picture, not really a picture, like one of those things you have done for kids.  I stood looking at him puzzled, a picture? No, he said, like a cut-out thing.  A silhouette? i said. Yeah, that's it, one of those, about yay big, and he made a motion of a small frame with his hands.  I tossed it, i said, i thought it was your brother's, figured he dumped it here and hadn't looked for it for twenty years. You sure? my dad said. Yeah, i said. Positive, he said. Yeah man, it was in this box, i didn't know who it was so i pitched it, i said.  Good, he said and turned and walked back towards the kitchen.

My dad's old place was the typical West Side duplex, built in the Rust Belt's heyday and slowly crumbling. It was five rooms, from the front door you walked into the living room which connected to a dining room and small kitchen, to the right was a little hallway with a small bedroom to the right and left and a bathroom in the middle. He was standing in the doorway of the kitchen and i was leaning on an old dining room chair.  That silhouette was a friend of mine, he said.  She was good to me. She passed away from MS. She used to bring me food and was always worried about me, he trailed off. I laughed and said, Pops, i been around the block a few times and know firsthand that no woman just brings you food and leaves.  He smiled at me.  She was married, he continued, she had a son with special needs and needed her husband's insurance and his family's help. Then she was diagnosed. Let's just say the situation worked well for both of us. She passed away a couple years ago but we saw each other for close to thirteen years, his voice trailing off again.  She was good to me though, he said. and i could tell that she was, could tell that my old man cared for her.

The reason he needed the silhouette disposed of was because of his current lady friend. Apparently the two women were friends and the old guy must have been making some notes when that young son used to hang around his place, his son not being the most faithful of companions to his teenage girlfriends, somehow they didn't know about each other. I remember years back when my dad had mentioned how if these two women ever found out about each other he'd be in deep shit. At the time i was just glad to hear he had women in his life because since the divorce he'd never really spoken of any relationships. Now it was out there and that cloud began to lift. His life was okay, in fact it had been more than okay. He got over my mother. There is no way he would have ever gotten married again so it was probably for the best that the Silhouette woman's situation was what it was. Like he said, it worked. We finished up with what would need moved and hung about the old place for a bit and then he got his car keys and walked out of the place that i realized had some fond memories for him.The black cloud was gone.

Epilogue-
The last room to get cleaned out was my dad's bedroom. I was now staying in it when i was up there but now that he'd done his walk through and moved his clothes it was time.  There was a an old cigar box in his dresser drawer. It was filled with old business cards and receipts, loose change, lost buttons, and one small press clipping, an obituary, for a woman named Ellen, she had passed away from MS.  I studied that clipping for a long time, looking at the grainy black and white photo, now i knew her name. He worked with her for a time. Looking at her picture brought a smile to my face, sitting on the edge of my dad's bed i held the clipping and whispered, thank you Ellen, thank you for looking after him while you could and thank you for helping him heal. Then i kissed the clipping and placed it into the shredder.




Thursday, March 29, 2018

Letters Never Sent


My father's handwriting is neat and clean, it's what the cultured man would call elegant, you see he grew up in an age where they taught penmanship, the boyos are growing up in age where they teach keyboarding and i grew up in an age caught somewhere in the middle. I've been living out of a suitcase for the past month, going back and forth to Cleveland to help get the old man settled in his new place and charged with the task of cleaning out his old one. My father wasn't exactly thrilled about giving up one iota of his autonomy but the situation dictated he must.  His old West Side apartment was falling apart with a landlord who had become to busy to do anything other than pick up the rent, the rotting wooden front steps, the tricky steps into the basement, they were not what a 70-something year old guy coming off major surgery needed to navigate (or his kids worry about his navigating) and so my big sis got to work and found him a place and i got to work cleaning out the old gaff.

If there was a glass half full side to this situation it's that i've gotten to spend more time in my hometown than i've spent in over 25 years, my last real stretch in Cleveland being the summer of 1990 and my job at Hill's Department Store. I spent most of my time at that gig getting stoned before, during, and after work all while attempting to woo the girl in the fabric department to sleep with me, (and yes she did, just in case you were wondering and there's a story behind that as well).  There was a strange symmetry that i had now become the main occupant of my dad's old place for 3 or 4 days every week, like him i spent all of my time alone, the drone of the television, the clank and pop of the furnace, in the morning's i'd walk to the restaurant at the corner or drive to the Circle K for coffee.  Then i'd get to work.

I have the funny feeling that old accountants save every fucking financial statement they ever get their hands on.  I can't be positive but i know this one did, of course he spent the last 20 odd years working the graveyard shift unloading trucks and stocking shelves.  He did taxes for a decade or so and spent his spare time investing and reading the financial section of the newspaper and various other publications. Needless to say there was a lot of shit to sift through, sort, determine if it was needed, decide if it should be shredded, it was probably a task for three people...

It was in a box in the tiny back bedroom, the bedroom with the broken bed that wasn't used, the one i used to stay in years ago when i'd breeze into town long before the boyos were around, when i was stomping through the wilderness, they were letters, handwritten in ink in my father's handwriting, a letter to my maternal grandmother and a couple written to his ex-wife, my mother. For the scholars who will study this refer back to the Late Night Maudlin Street posts (yes that's a fucking joke), they might need revised, for the rest of us i'll continue. There was a moment when i examined them that i wasn't sure what they were. Then it struck me and i wondered if i should read them? Did i really want to know? That divorce was rough on everyone but it was particularly tough on him, i did my best to help him get through it, i remember the night i found him sleeping in the basement, on his office floor, it was the last night i ever spent in my old bedroom, i went down and told him he needed to take my room, of course he protested but i said there's no fucking way he was gonna sleep on the basement floor of the house he fucking paid for and that if he did i would too. He smiled and went up the steps and into his new room. My mother wasn't home. She was out fucking her new boyfriend. I didn't know it then but i know it now. I'm sure my dad felt like he'd been kicked in the teeth and then the gut for good measure.

The letters were a tough read. There have been certain subjects in my life that i've always wanted answers to and these elegantly handwritten letters gave me some of what i needed.  I understood that it was only one side but there were things cited in them, specific examples of things said.  My mother possessed a level of cruelty and vindictiveness that i had not been aware of, she went right after him, insulted and belittled his manhood. My father came of age when a man's job was what defined him, she went right at the jugular, at his losing his job (in the great middle management purge of the early 90's), at his sexual prowess, if the man had a weakness it's that he loved her too much.  He admitted as much, laid out how the one who cares the least holds the power and how he was powerless when it came to her. How she wielded her love and approval like a hatchet, her ability to cut him down whenever she wished, how she used it to control those around her. He wrote the letters two years after the divorce, around the time of what would have been their 30th anniversary, he spoke of how even now, all this time later, he still felt like an unsure and nervous 17yr old kid, the age he was when he first met her, and how he would get a lump in his throat and his heart would race and he'd try and affect an air of coolness.  He laid out that he understood she got married because she was pregnant, a fact he was not privy to until three weeks after the ceremony, he understood that this fact weighed heavily on her decision to marry a man she said she never really loved. And even when he tried to get a dig in, to counter punch, he couldn't, three years after she left him and he still loved her too much.  Who wouldn't have a hard time picking themselves up off the mat with those kinds of shots thrown?

The letter to his ex mother in law, written to her for some closure, expressed his anger over how my mother's family basically disowned his children and how my grandmother in particular disowned her grandchildren. How my mother had placed the blame for the fractured relationships she had with her children on us, my sister and i, how she manipulated the situation and played the victim. It talked of her own admission of being a brilliant actress, how she laughed about it and used her ability to work people over. I know it hurt my sister, whose wedding went from being a celebration to a day at the courthouse. I, of course, had been my mother's prize, stated as much in the letters, the son she and her father had always wanted, i was well aware of my familial status and place and used my power with the same cruel and cutting precision she had against my father in the few words i would direct her way, the rest of the time was icy silence if i bothered to even see her at all. It was a lot to digest, even all these years later and it was all i could do to stifle the old anger that i could feel slowly beginning to burn.

I walked back out of that back bedroom and made a cup of green tea, i plopped down on my dad's worn, old leather couch. I stared at the television and heard the pinging off tiny ice balls of the siding of the house, heard the roar of the planes flying overhead on their way to Hopkins, my mind ran and formed questions and vacillated between angry and sad. Thinking about the letters only one question kept coming to mind, did he have a good life? it's all i kept thinking. Did he have a good life? was he okay with it? there had to have been some good times? it can't all have been a lie could it? once again i could feel the sadness coming on and all i could think was did he have a good life?  did he have a good life?









Saturday, March 3, 2018

Sitting with the boyos at Denny's

There were three high school kids, juniors or sophomores, at the table next to us, they were actually conversing, no faces glued to phones, they discussed a myriad of topics from playing cymbals (in the marching band) to tubas, the social ramifications of skateboarding, the quality of stereo headphones (Bose won), a friend they had mildly screwed over, if Goodwill was still open, investing in a good drum kit and the merits of real drums vs. electronic drums, the I-mac who is probably only 5 or so years younger than these boys was rapt, they were big kids talking about big kid things...

Then one of them dropped a little tidbit about Bob Marley, he said in earnest amazement that Bob Marley died of cancer because he wouldn't cut his toe off because he loved soccer so much, he then went on to say that if you ever saw a picture of Bob's house that he had a huge field in front of it so that he could play soccer and that he'd play with anyone, homeless people and strangers walking by, whoever he could find before getting back to his original thought... i was grinning as i ate my Moons Over My Hammy, we were crammed in the corner on  busy Sunday night and these kids were right next to me, i could have leaned over and explained that Bob actually hurt his foot playing soccer but that his religion forbade him from mutilating his body and so it was a crime against god to amputate a toe, i could have told them he died because he didn't believe in modern medicine until it was too late and used a shaman/medicine man who prescribed herbal remedies, i could have told them that Bob did love soccer and even had his own pro in his entourage who he would play and train with, i could have told them to just go and watch the documentary Marley and that Bob wasn't just about weed but about fighting social injustice and oppression, of course the I-mac could have told them the same thing cuz he's heard it all from his old man, i've heard the boy walking around the house singing Three Little Birds... i didn't say a thing though, i preferred to listen, it was damn entertaining and refreshing to hear teenage kids actually talking and not just mono-syllabic grunts between texts...

Denny's holds a strange and mythical place from my suburban youth, i wonder if it survived? the mall it sat across the street from didn't, bulldozed in the name of commerce and progress, the Hill's dept. store (where i worked) and Gold Circle and Best didn't make it either, defunct purveyors of fine junk, i'm sure they've been replaced by other purveyors of equally fine junk, the Denny's on Day Drive was the only place open for those of us chasing the myths of John Hughes, as a 16yr old i once drank 8 Mickey's Big Mouth's sitting in a parking lot at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, i was supposed to be inside watching the Tribe but instead i was in the parking lot getting fucking ripped on a Tuesday, a school night, at one point i passed out on the lawn in front of that Denny's until my friends got me upright and tried to ply me with coffee, it didn't end well as my old man was none to pleased when i stumbled in the door, it was the place my friends and i would go when there was no place left to go, drinking coffee or milkshakes and splitting orders of fries cuz we spent all our teenage money on weed, now i live a short five minute ride from another one and spend what little forty something money i have on weed, fucking life and it's big circles...

Before i know it the boyos will be teenagers spending their weekends hanging out with their friends and doing the same type of shit i once did, well i'm hoping they actually don't because i was a bit of a juvenile delinquent, i was just good at not getting caught, i'm sure though at one point they will be cruising the sleepy suburban streets and listening to music and they'll end up at this Denny's, they might find that their old man is sitting there in a back booth, a view of the traffic and a cup of coffee, a half eaten omelet, a book and a notebook, not the kid looking for action more a guy who couldn't sleep, one of those people who like to be alone in a crowd, who will leave conversation to chance or speak to no one at all, just a guy observing as he takes stock of what's rolling around in his head...

I wonder if they'll remember the lonely guy who sat at a booth behind them one day, he was intermittently breaking down, he was overweight and lonely, a man struggling with his sexuality under the burden of family and religion, i gleaned all this from his talk with the waitress, he was a regular, someone you could tell the staff sometimes got irritated with, but this is where he came when he was sad, this was a few years back and the I-mac, even at that young age wanted to help him, the Breadwinner handed me some money and i clandestinely paid his bill, then as we were leaving i stopped, i asked if he was okay? he began talking, i listened as the guy poured out his problems, i knew i wasn't going to solve them for him but i understood that i didn't need to, i just needed to listen, before i left i quoted Jean Genet and the cruelty of families, he smiled and had me repeat the name, i mentioned some of his books, then i smiled at him and went to catch up with the boyos...

The fact is there could be any number of names plastered across the front, just so happens this one pops up where i seem to be, there's been other names, but the names aren't as important as the places, a place to go for restless old men, for those whose minds won't shut off, for teenage kids looking for action and chasing some myth wrapped in music and lust, for the twenty-somethings eating off part of their drunk, it is magic and it is misery but in the wee hours, when a cup of coffee is the last thing i need, there is strawberry jam for the toast, there is a place to sit and listen to the murmur of night, there are damp streets and the faded ghosts of people real and imagined that have brought me to a booth to daydream away the night and admire the light of the stars...

* (This post was written before my father's diagnosis - photo of the actual Denny's where i passed out on the lawn- taken from my car. Pops is now living right down the street.. life and it's damn circles, huh?)



Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Longest Day

It really began on Sunday night as i lay on the couch and could feel it coming on, the boyos had both had a version of the 24hr kiddie crud the previous week, Nick D. had it the worst, losing his dinner as he lay in bed, it was only twice but i had to clean it up and i was hoping to stay healthy, the Breadwinner of course claimed she couldn't clean it for some reason, the fact i had to drive my father to the hospital in one week seemed insignificant to her, if i got i'd be fine by then she said.  On Thursday the I-mac got it, a different version, just sort of knocked him down for the day but there it was.  So when i felt it coming on i just kept thinking "no fucking way man, not now, please."

I was supposed to stay at my dad's house Monday night, the night before his surgery, after battling through a restless sick night i drank enough fluid and packed a bag of pretzels and headed to Cleveland, to a hotel near the airport, i didn't want to risk getting my dad sick before major surgery, he had enough on his mind though i could sense his disappointment and he could sense mine, i was supposed to spend that night at his place, like we used to in the old days of Xmas with my Father, me and him bullshitting and trying not to think about the impending day ahead, instead we talked on the phone and spent the night alone and thinking between fits of sleep.

At 4:07am, after the best 40 straight minutes of sleep i had all night my alarm jarred me awake. I showered and packed and headed out into the frigid air, pulling up in front of his place i could see his front room light was on.  He was waiting for me. He's thinner and gaunt and slightly jaundiced. I gave him a hug, tossed my bag in his place, grabbed a water, made sure he had all the paperwork and whatever else he'd need and then we went down his steps, both of us telling the other to be careful because of the ice, we drove through the city, past my beloved downtown and the night skyline, the Terminal Tower bathed in red light, the Q, Progressive Field, i love that fucking view every time i see it, a concrete representation of some dream that exists in my mind, of a youth and a history and a story...

The Old Man and i navigated our way through the halls of the just waking Clinic, found the floor and area and got him checked in.  Then we sat and waited. I drank green tea and my father dozed and i watched him, this man, my dad, a common man with more dignity and grace than all the royalty combined. I tried to read. I tried to sleep. Three hours later they called his name, the same one he gave me, and took him back, i said see you in a bit and went back to waiting in the lobby. Once again i tried to read. Once again i tried to sleep.  After another hour they called me back to wait with him. We sat and talked and my father once again dozed off and on. I told him to rest and not worry about me. My big sis and her husband and son arrived.  My nephew is in his late teens and on the ASD spectrum, my sister and her husband have worked tirelessly with him and he is the sweetest kid you'll ever want to meet. My dad adores the kid.  We all know how hard these situations are on him.  They told me to take a break, i'd picked up my dad at 5am and it was now slightly after 11am.

I walked the halls and bought more pretzels and a water. I sat in a chair and stared out the window at the cold rust belt sun, i watched the noiseless traffic and the bustling mess in front of valet parking, then i went back to his waiting room. There was some explaining of procedures and what not.  If all went well he'd be in surgery for somewhere around 8 to 10 hours... if not they'd call us in two. I clasped my dad's hand and kissed his head, told him i'd see him sometime tonight, i joked how i was looking forward to sleeping on a bench in a hallway.

My sister's family left and my sister and i went to find a place to wait. I had a pager that would give me updates dangling from my neck. My dad's older brother and younger sister showed up. We talked and mulled things over, we told stories to pass the time.  My aunt is a real pain in the ass and spent a good deal of time wanting to talk about politics.  My sister is the right wing libertarian type, my dad and myself and his siblings lean far left, needless to say on this day i could give fuck all about politics and just wanted people to be civil and chill the fuck out.  I understand they wanted to take their mind off things but as i had to state at one point, "there is a time and place for this and now is not the fucking time or place."

At 1:15pm my pager buzzed and told me the patient surgery had started.  Now the grind really started. 3:15 was the magic number, make that with no more texts and we'd have a chance. We sat in a lobby and then headed to get some food. It was Tuesday afternoon and the last proper food i'd had was dinner Sunday night.  I ate like a peasant, a big hunk of bread dipped in chicken soup, a chocolate chip cookie, i kept glancing at the pager, it was 2:37pm, we were getting there, each minute feeling longer and longer.  We sat at our table and talked, 2:51pm and the same message still scrolled across, patient surgery started, soon we crossed the 3pm threshold, we had finished our lunches and began thinking about heading back up to the PACU unit, and then at 3:13pm my pager went off. My sister and i looked at each other.  It read the doctors would like to speak with you, please return to the unit.

When my dad first told me about his liver surgeon he thought he was an arrogant shit. Since that time they'd formed a rather strong bond, more friends than doctor/patient.  He stood and stated the obvious, that there was nothing more they could do, he had a transplant surgeon sit in just as an extra set of eyes and for opinions, he said they discussed courses of action but that in the end if he started working on the liver there was a strong possibility my father would die on the table.  He also didn't want to see him spend a last month in an ICU.  He said he had formed a bond with our dad. He said he really liked him and that he was the most down to Earth guy, an intelligent and rational man who he really enjoyed seeing and speaking with. He spoke of how our dad stressed quality of life as more important than quantity, of how he didn't want to burden his children, i actually smiled through my tears because that was the quintessential essence of Pops, selfless and giving.  I could see this one hurt, that the surgeon really wanted to pull one off this time, that he had exhausted every possible scenario and option but in the end there was nothing to be done. Bile Duct Cancer.  A rare form here in the states. It was the shit end of the stick. We discussed possible treatment options and outcomes, none of which are very promising.  The liver is a tricky organ, the exact word to describe the treatment was grueling. My sis, knowing i had talked at length with my dad about this stuff asked if i thought he'd do it, my honest answer was it was a coin flip but something in me said probably not. Why feel like shit when the outcome is most likely going to be the same?

So now there was more time to kill. We waited for him to get to post-op so we could take him to his room and say goodnight, he needed to rest, i think we all needed to rest.  As i sat staring at my dad with the various tubes and machines i did my best to hold it together.  His voice was weak and groggy as he said, "this isn't good, i'm back way to early," he tried to smile, to once again put his kids at ease, it was as we walked out towards the lobby as they prepped to move him that what was left of my composure cracked, the tears streamed down my face as i told my sister, that i love the guy so damn much, that he was the best friend i'd ever had. In the unit lobby we were the last ones there as we waited. Another ten minutes or so and we went to his room and settled him in. I kissed his head, told him i loved him and that i'd see him in the morning.

I drove my sister back to Parma. I dropped her off and drove past my old and now closed junior high school. Past a landscape both familiar and foreign, gone was the Sno-White Donuts and Convenient Food Mart, gone was Rockpile Records and Mama Mia's, past Tri-C where i spent the Friday nights of my youth playing basketball and messing with girls, past the park where i took my first toke, i drove over to W. 130th and then towards my dad's place near W. 140th, i took out his keys and his money clip he gave me to take home, i sat down on his couch and turned on his television, it was past 9pm, i ate cheeseburgers and watched the Cavs play the Thunder, it was not lost on me that i was doing the same thing that my father would be doing and had done over the past 15 years of living here.  The new look Cavs looked good.  Maybe we could do it this year, it's the mantra of every native Clevelander, i smiled, i said i love you dad and then fell asleep on his couch.






Friday, February 9, 2018

Waiting for Superman

December was a rough month, the roughest i've had in some sixteen odd years or so, and the back spasms were the least of my worries.  If you've hung around the lounge long enough you know that me and the old man are pretty tight, my friends have often told me that they wished they had a relationship like the one my father and i have, and so when he told me he has been diagnosed with cancer it was the rare shot that buckled my knees, colon and liver, needless to say i got worry and worried i have been for the last whatever number of weeks as i try to sort out what i can do to help...

Of course my old man, Pops, as he is known to the boyos and my friends, is the most zen motherfucker you'll ever want to meet, he's a well read guy but i'm sure he's never read a book on the subject which makes him even more so, by not trying to be it he is it as Alan Watts would say, his surgeon has called him the most rational patient he's ever seen, as he stated in that first conversation, "everyone dies someday kid and it's alright, we'll see what we can do and if there's nothing? that's alright too, we'll take it from there...", the man has been teaching me my whole life and continues to do so...

One could say my mind has been on overdrive and i've been thinking a lot about any number of things when it comes to my Dad, i know the greatest thing he ever gave me was the ability to be me, did he influence the way i think? of course, but as he said to me many years ago, "it doesn't matter what i want you to be or if i like what you do because it's not my life, it's yours, and you're the one who has to live it, it's your choice what you do with it...", i understand what he gave me, call it freedom or free will or whatever, maybe what it's called is unconditional love in the purest sense, i believe it is the most important thing a parent can give to their child, he's knows his son wasn't always the most upstanding citizen, he knew it way back when, but it was my life and up to me to navigate it...

The strange thing is i've been mentally preparing myself for something like this for years, my old man has worked the graveyard shift for the last twenty odd years, he's been smoking cigarettes for over 50, he lives alone, every time he didn't answer the phone or people couldn't get a hold of him there was always that flash, of course oddly enough his lungs appear to be fine which drew a good laugh from both of us, yes the smoking didn't do him any favors in other respects but the former accountant turned warehouse grunt was in pretty decent shape for a guy in his 70's, yes he copped to the fact he could have done some routine medical things which he didn't but once again he stated there was no use moaning about it, he didn't, so we'll just get on with it...

So next week i'll drive home, alone, much like i used to, i'll stay at my dad's place and in the wee hours i'll drive him crosstown to the Cleveland Clinic where he'll have surgery to see what or if anything can be done for his liver, my big sis lives in Cleveland but i wanted to be the one to take him, i get the feeling he wanted me to take him, i understand this is how shit works, he does too, it'll be a long week but we'll get through it, it's what he taught me, you do whatever you have to do for the ones you love...

* Those first five paragraphs were written around 5am, this afternoon, after a flurry of trades by our beloved Cavaliers i called my dad to get his thoughts, he had just gotten off the phone with his doctors, seems the heart tests he had done were less than stellar, another layer of worry, another question to answer, shit ain't getting any easier, the liver has to be sorted but if the heart can't take the stress of surgery? well you get the idea, i can hear a level of frustration in his voice, i do my best to talk to him about what needs done and what i can to help and then try to get his mind on other things, tell him about the boyos and the bullshit that is the day in and day out of El Kono, i think he needs the break from thinking about all this stuff...


(this song was written by Wayne Coyne about his father when he was sick, it was one of the first things i thought of when i found out for some reason, music has always been what gets me through the day, i told Pops i'll do my best to pretend i'm tougher than i am when it comes to this, but it's getting heavy as the song says... and it's hard to type when i can't see the screen through the mist in my eyes...)








Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Second Class Citizen


It was David Byrne who once famously asked, "well? how did i get here?", and being a denizen of the lily-white suburbs i often find myself asking that question, the place i inhabit is both comical and frightening (to me at least) and disturbing.  Next to my fair hamlet there is a place which i will dub Upper Crust Snob, it's main goal is to beat my fair burb in what i call the School District Wars and it irks the residents of Upper Crust Snob that we who have been labeled Cake-Eaters, a slur that developed long ago and my not being a native have really yet to fully grasp but as an insult i find hilarious as i fucking love cake, hell i love most pastry unless of course it's fucked up with a bunch of fruit on it because a fine pastry, at least according to Kono should be nothing more than sugar and icing and delicious type pastry material, but i digress, needless to say my lovely school district smokes them every year, this year being no different... (third in the state overall, which judging from my taxes it damn well better be.)

To be perfectly honest i do my best to do nothing more than drive through the village of Upper Crust Snob, but on occasion i am forced to visit, (i once spent a comical evening at the Upper Crust Snob Country Club for an awards banquet where the Breadwinner's business was receiving an award, i was fucked on pills and booze and weed, of which i kept walking out the front door and smoking while all the teenage valets looking enviously on, all whilst sitting next to the the commissioner of Allegheny County and laughing my ass off at what a slob he was while an attractive woman across the table openly flirted with me, fine night indeed...) so we may ask? how did i get here? well the I-mac had some event at school, International Night to be exact, and well he needed the extra credit points and they teachers were offering up ten fucking points if you attended and brought a dish, (for the record the kid made high honor roll with a 3.8 his first semester but his momma worries too much) it's some gigantic potluck where an ass ton of people show up and the kind of thing i would wholeheartedly avoid in order not to attempt to socialize with people i mostly have zero in common with, which brings me to quote another fine English band, 10cc, and the things we do for love... like walking in the rain and the snow/ when there's no place to go/ or attending shit for kid...

The village of Upper Crust Snob is on a building spree, a new plaza with a Whole Foods and a slew of high end shops, except of course for Duck Donuts which is a purveyor of fine donuts, made fresh and warm and fucking Kono approved, they're also building some mansions and quasi-mansions all i'm sure running well north of 500k, which in this part of the Rust Belt is big money, in Cali terms they'd be in the millions. Now it just so happens that one of these shops specializes in bundt cakes, yes you've read that right, it appears it was started by some well coiffed and manicured ladies whose children must be capable of taking care of themselves or more likely have a nanny or more correctly, an Au Pair.

So in order to get the ten extra credit points the Breadwinner decided it would be a good idea to get and donate one of these cakes to the big shindig, mainly because it reflected both her German and eastern Euro mutt heritage and who the fuck wants to eat haggis anyway? and so it was on the week before the event we rolled in and ordered said cake and tried the mini-bundt cakes which i'll well cop to being fucking delicious, on that day we were treated swell, or more correctly i was because i happened to be wandering around the shop with a woman who could easily fit the bill of successful trophy wife or more correctly very successful business woman, the Breadwinner is nothing if not a well spoken and polite human (myself being excluded from those courtesies of course) and has a lovely smile which disarms the best of them, i on the other hand am a 6'4 lumpen prole who is usually unshaven and wearing whatever i happened to pick up off the floor that morning... and so the cake was ordered, the extra credit points secured, and the next week i would pick it up...

Let me state that it dawned on me the other day, as i was wandering around stoned, that i could easily pass for a criminal, hoodlum, or petty thief, it's winter and my usual get up is a black Carhartt work coat, a black hat (think Randall Patrick McMurphy) and black gloves, watch any prime-time CBS crime drama and you get the picture...

And so it was that i went to pick up the cake, alone this time, and oh what fun ensued, when i arrived the woman who took the order was waiting on another customer, she looked fearfully at me as she worked on the lady's order, then two old women came and started doddering around, regulars i gathered, since it was taking a bit of time Brunette yenta called back for help and another well dressed and coiffed Blonde yenta stepped from the back room and came out to help, now if you looked at the line you could obviously tell i was the next up but the Blonde took one look at me and said, "can i help you ladies?", smiling all the while and doing her best to pretend i wasn't there, the Brunette was taking her good old time with her current customer in what i gather was hope that her partner would finish first and be forced to wait on me, the current customer then saw someone in the back, the labor/cake maker, a woman who was most likely a lesbian, (though i am loathe to stereotype or assume i've been in enough gay bars and dealt with the LGBTQ community enough to have a pretty good idea, besides she was the only one to smile and give a friendly look my direction), thus ensued a round of hugging and gabbing and what not all while i patiently stood and waited, of course Blondie was taking her good old time as it seemed it had become a contest of which the loser got me, because why would this man who looks like a mechanic or garbage man be in a bundt cake store?

And so finally it was my turn, Ms. Brunette had lost by a fraction of a second, Blondie stood back, most likely holding the mace or taser behind her back just in case i got out of hand.  I stated i had an order to pick up and Brunette looked at me as if i had a third eye though just a week earlier she had no problem taking my order or my money, she took my name and went in back to get the kid's extra credit points, when she came out she asked my name again and since somehow the last letter of my surname was cut off the tag she became confused, dare i say reluctant to give me the cake, my Scottish surname is not that common and any moron would figure out that was my cake, she of course deduced that i was there to steal someone else's cake because that's what tall men dressed in black do, we heist fucking bundt cakes yo, and then sell them on the street at inflated prices, of course while all this was happening i was reciting Buddhist koans in my head in order not to start fucking yelling at these yentas, i knew well enough that any uppity-ness on my part and the call to the UCSPD would be quick fast and that those jack-booted fuckers would take delight in fucking with me, and so once she figured out that the name on the box matched mine, minus one letter, and she found a tag with my full name stating i had ordered the exact cake she had she finally handed it over, a visible sign of relief on her face, she then thanked me for being so patient and though for a fleeting second i was about to state that i needed to be seeing as i was treated like shit because of my appearance and the place i was in, i instead smiled and said, it's a virtue now is it not? picked up my cake and made for the exit...

In the end i found it comical but in the age of the Orange Shitgibbon it once again drives home the point of white hegemonic butt hurt and the now not so veiled discrimination that seems more prevalent in this shithole country dubbed Merica, i would not want to be or witness a person of color in that shop (because then i would get in trouble), particularly an African-American male, Jah forbid the bubble that these people live in be burst lest the recognize their own shortcomings and misguided views on humanity, the cakes may be fucking delicious, but i can learn to make them myself, they've gotten the last of this hoods money...



Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Wilderness Years - Free Agent (part 2)

It's a shame that these days the kids will never know the glorious dog shit that was known as brick weed, you have to be of a certain age to have a real appreciation of it, shitty outdoor Mexican flattened and pressed for easy transport with a potency level that ranged anywhere from "this shit gives me a headache" to "it's alright if there's nothing else", if you got real lucky it might even actually have a greenish tint but most of the time it was shit brown and smelled like dirt, it was the bottom of the barrel crap and damn near the reason the blunt was invented because the tobacco leaf fucked you up more than the actual dirty brick that was inside, but progress marches on and these days the kids would scoff at this stuff... (truth is so would i unless of course i happen to be on vacation, see Republica Dominica)...

Pizza Joe made his calls, i hung at the bar and drank and watched the news and waited, sometimes the drug game involved countless hours of waiting for something to happen but the feelers were out and i needed a score, and so i sat and drank and hoped, Mexican brick, it was the catalyst for the Pizza Man moniker, of course Pizza Joe had his own weird set of rules, he refused to let me pay more than $1700 a pound, my how times have changed, 17 for a pound of shitty brick, i already knew how thin the profits were going to be, it was a a bit of a risk to make two or three hundred bucks, of course if i bought two at a time the number would drop to 16 a piece, lucky me, i knew i'd loose customers but i needed to keep things going until i could find something new and at least it was something, it was a step back and i'd have to reign my fun in a bit but at least i could still eat, and hell maybe i could use a little step back, take it easy for a little and not get too burned out, maybe even take a day or two off...

I'd have to admit sometimes the stuff was better than others, for a short time it was actually decent and those times would see a little bump in the bottom line, of course dealing with the city kid crews made me actually miss Hippie Jack and Cocaine Mike because for all their shortcomings they were still somewhat professional (some of the time), they handled themselves better, which in hindsight still set the bar pretty fucking low, the wannabe player city kids were either overly paranoid or ridiculously fast and loose, one minute flashing jewelry and rolls and pulling up in their new pimped out ride, the next minute freaking out if you so much as said hello to them because the cops were everywhere, call it bi-polar dealer disorder, call it annoying as fuck, i just wanted to get away from the scene as soon as possible, for all my soap box talk of fucking the system and living outside the laws and what not i often sounded like a fucking suit...

My favorite urban myth from this time was the Election Day Crackdown, seemed the hoodrats had convinced themselves that every election season the local law enforcement would step up its game and begin busting people left and right, there were ghost stories of a friend of a friend of a cousin who's brother got popped just two days ago, of course no one ever actually had to worry because they all stopped and sat around dive bars looking nervous and jittery, there was no coke or smack or weed or at least it was scarce and hard to come by and usually overpriced, and then like magic, the next day everything would go back to normal, oddly i've heard this urban tale from all over, passed down through the hood storytellers in the finest example of our species oral tradition, Young Bucks beware for John Q. Law lurks when the ballot box is afoot...  it was bullshit... it was Kaiser Soze... the only reason these clowns got popped was because they were just that, clowns, they got busted because of stupidity and not some fantastic feat of law enforcement, as a wise officer once stated in the city paper when talking about the local war on drugs, "the guys who are good at it? we'll never see them, maybe if we get lucky but the good ones we don't even get a sniff, that's alright though, there are enough bad ones to keep us busy..."

So i was swimming in the shallow end, each time i began to run out i crossed my fingers and hoped that a deal could be pieced together, usually it happened, sometimes it took a few hours and sometimes it took a three or four days, i'd pace my business just so i would have stuff on hand, i'd screen calls, some people had more privileges than others and i'd try to hold onto stuff for them, sometimes i couldn't fill the whole order but as every stoner will tell you as long as they got theirs it was cool, they'd smoke their friend up until i could re-up they'd tell me, they had the advantage of being the guy or girl who had the number and could get through the door, the people i saw frequently and could move a bit more usually earned the coveted spot sitting on the mattress on the floor, and it was a necessary illusion, if the impression is i always had gear than the kids would stay loyal, to keep me as their #1, like the starting fucking goalie or something...

But as it stood Pizza Joe had come through for me, i'd offer him the obligatory free eighth, tribute as they say for setting it all up and he'd never take it, i think he felt like he was a big brother or something, like he was teaching me the ropes though by this time i'd already been doing it for the last couple years not to mention a few other stints which put my resume at somewhere around three and half years of slinging, but i'd listen and learn, it's what i did, i studied the mistakes and what they did well and incorporated it into what i was doing, sometimes more in theory than in practice and sometimes vice-versa... but the object was to stay afloat and for the time i had done that, i could still pay down the student loans, i could still eat and pay rent and booze and score the occasional and varied recreational drugs, now and then i could even mosey down the street to the strip club and do my part in financing the dreams of any number of budding doctoral students and amateur masseuses, like Mr. Lou Reed said, sometimes you need a bus load of faith to get by...