Thursday, August 9, 2018

Halcyon Summer Redux

This time thing is a strange concept, as i sit here in the suburbs and look back it's hard to fathom that these things all took place twenty five years ago, it's like an sifting through a box of old Polaroids, some of the names and faces have begun to fade and discolor and yet some are as bright and fresh as the day they were taken. Of course all it's just a fucking dream now and the if it happened or not it doesn't make any difference as the it's the experience that has shaped and influenced the last quarter century. Oddly enough, in what i'd term getting back to my roots, i've gone all organic in my chosen substances much like i was back then, and much like i was back then i've been reading at a good clip, and much like i was back then it seems to be the titles of the madmen and mystics i didn't get to in those days, so instead of Burroughs, Bukowksi, and Celine it's Anton Wilson, McKenna, and Watts.

So now of course i'll quote the words of Bobby Frost and mumble something about the road less traveled and how it's made all or maybe some of the difference. You could probably say hallucinogens did the rest... to recap, the year of 1993 saw the legal dissolution of my nuclear family. I can still remember the day my father sat in the kitchen wearing his grey suit with the final papers in his had, a look of sadness on his face and the words, "well, that's it." It saw me graduate from college and turn down three jobs in the advertising industry so i could go be a half-assed surfer/poet. There was my drawer full of drugs, specifically two ounces of grass, a half ounce of mushrooms, one vial of hash oil, and ten strip of acid... and one cannot forget our brief dalliance with the mistress Angel Dust, thankfully just a dalliance. The grass would help feed me as i smoked up the guys from the pizza shop across the street and the other stuff helped me have a damn fine time as well as attract some female company.

Oh yes and who could forget the female company. Two of the most influential women i ever had the pleasure of knowing waltzed through my life in those four months and change. It wasn't how long those relationships lasted but the intensity and  living that was crammed into them. It's a mix of lust and emotions smashing together like atoms that creates an unsustainable paradise, like heroin, a high so beautiful you don't think or want it to end but it does, what i've come to call the fool's gold of young lust.

Some eight? odd years ago the post titled The Marriage Proposal attempted to capture the tragic and comic stint that i spent with Audrey. A marriage proposal based on the consumption of four hits of acid, a shaved kitty, and an agreement where we would take turns supporting the other for three years at a time freeing the other to "make art". What a lovely fucking scenario.. of course all i really wanted was to take Audrey to bed because i had lusted after her since i had met her briefly the summer before. She was the Art School Girl from Hell that summer her who had transformed into a stunningly beautiful young woman, she had refined herself yet not lost any of the wild-eyed and reckless abandon. The proposal was made in the dim light of the whorehouse sitting room (the rooming house i lived in was on old brothel)  as we drank cheap beer and smoked stolen cigarettes sometime after midnight. We spent a lot of time in my hot and tiny room listening to Jane's Addiction and Pavement and smoking specials, (specials were a joint with hash oil spread on the paper and then given a chance to dry, they possessed the ability to floor the five or six people who crammed into my tiny living space). Yet oddly enough when i think of Audrey and i, i frame it in terms of the Stones, it started Wild Horses and finished Dead Flowers, her staring blankly and chasing me with a hammer. She never seemed more beautiful than that night.

Why was she chasing you with a hammer you ask? Because i had left her to chase another girl. I was a bit ADHD when it came to women. Maybe too it was the fact Audrey wasn't a full time denizen of the Zoo, our loving term for the cesspool that is downtown Ocean City, Md. She would come in on the weekends to see me and then leave. And you see there was this other girl who worked the t-shirt shop right in front of where i lived, she always wore a Yankee's cap pulled down low to hide her eyes, i can remember how she'd tilt her head back to look at me when i'd walk by and smile. Elise. She knew i was looking. She liked that i was looking. One day we started talking, she knew where i lived and went to school with the Pizza guys across the way who traded food for weed, she apparently had asked them about me, they told her i was a good guy. They lied. And so it began.

If this were a Tarantino film this chapter would be titled, Seven and a Half Weeks, that's all it was. How can roughly 50 days impact a life so much? Call it young idealistic nihilism. Call it chemistry at it's finest, a reaction so strong that it left both participants reeling. Of course when i finally asked her to hang out on the infamous porch she said she was wondering when i was going to get around to it. I smiled. Later that night as she bounced up the stairs in her little blue skirt with the white flowers, white t-shirt, and that same fucking Yankee's cap i couldn't help but be smitten. I told her i hated the Yankees, she said she liked winners, we were a bit like fighters feeling each other out, neither wanting to give away too much, each trying to project an air of toughness, each wary of the other, maybe because we both sensed how dangerous this could be, that there was risk involved.

In the end she stayed the first night. It ended how we both wanted, naked in my sweltering room. In the morning as she dressed i wondered what she was thinking, as she put on the Yankees cap she crawled into bed and kissed me, turned and said, "I'll be back," then grinning added, "good sex is hard to come by." And with that she went out the door. The rest as they like to say, is history. Torrid wouldn't do the next few weeks justice, we were actually making deals with each other not to have sex while we were undressing, that it would be the last time and we'd take a few days off, we could barely walk but yet we couldn't stop. Pleasure junkies, adrenaline fiends, young lust in heat, i don't know what it was other than intense, an intensity that any normal person knew couldn't last. She was studying art of course. Seemed to be a common thread with the women i met that summer. School took her away and i though we gave it a try the magic dissipated almost as fast as it had appeared. But man the imprint we left on each other, to this day...

By September i was on my fourth job in four months, washing dishes in a breakfast place. I got free grub and was done by 2PM, the season crept to a close and those of us left had money and time. I read and wrote and called Elise, i hung at the bar and shot pool and made it home early so i could get up the next day to wash dishes. I did whippets in the walk-in cooler with a couple waiters, burned joints with the owner, it was a great way to end the summer. Hell i even had two days off a week. Then on the 23 of September, 12 days after turning 23, i headed for the deep wilderness of those years i write about. A month of being homeless and couch-surfing and relying on the kindness of women until finally landing in the Burgh and my second gig as the local weed dealer, living in the infamous White Trash Pleasuredome apartment, it was hand to mouth and it was fucking grand and it all started in that sweltering room on the third floor of an old whorehouse... i wonder if it's still there...

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Pilgrimage (other edition)

It was called the Reggae and Culture tour but it could have been called the Get Ripping Fucking High at Bob's Grave Tour. It was $80 and included a swell lunch at Scotchies on the way back which was perfect because by that time, if you did it right, you'd have some serious munchies. And so we filed onto the bus, i was the only person by myself, and the ages and races of my fellow pilgrims were a beautiful mix. A woman who was born in Jamaica but now lived in London and her grand-daughter, an African-American woman in a wheelchair, going to get the ganja tea as a cure for pain, with her sisters and husband, a brother and sister from rural Tennessee, a young couple ready to party, and a Colombian couple and their toddler son. I could tell when they got on the tour guide, Annabeth, was less than pleased that a baby was on board but it all worked out. How could it not?

And so off we went, into the hills of St. Ann's Parish to the town of Nine Mile. I had eaten my man Junior's ganja cake for breakfast just to get me off on the right foot and was feeling pretty good by the time i got on the bus at 8AM. The ride itself was an adventure as we traveled up the side of a mountain with steep drop-offs and little to no guard rails, blind turns where the driver was honking the horn to alert anyone coming the opposite way on the other side, of course those turns usually involved the steepest drops but luckily the road wasn't busy since this part of Jamaica was pretty much void of tourism. Alone, i got to think as i watched the gorgeous Jamaican countryside slide by, i listened to Annabeth talk, she told us the average wage in Jamaica was $52 a week and that most people lived off tips, there is almost no welfare and no unemployment benefit, people scrambled for jobs that tipped because that was the best way to earn money even though taxes were relatively low. She talked of how the banks were a scam (seems to be like that everywhere) and the reason you saw half built houses everywhere was because Jamaicans didn't take out loans or mortgages (interest rates could fluctuate to upwards of 60%), they built the kitchen, bathroom and one room to sleep in first and built the rest as they could afford to, which did make for some interesting looking places. She told us about the Corner Shops, the little shacks we saw where she explained that you could get everything from motor oil, to eggs, to thread. You bought only what you needed or had money for, say one egg and a slice of bread and possibly a sausage to take home and make for breakfast. She was also pulling for Argentina in the World Cup

She informed us that when we got to Nine Mile the bus would stop and we could buy joints or bags of weed, brownies aka ganja cake, and ganja tea (which could be made mild, medium, strong or extra strong, which got my wondering who bought the first three). The tea would be given to you when you left and was brewed there while you took the tour. Since joints were $15 each or two for $20 i went with two, Bob's favorite sensimilla and a fine purple skunk plus a fat slice of ganja cake that lasted me two days.  Nine Mile is a typical Jamaican village. The young boys swarm when the bus stops all begging for dollars, the Marley place has easily become the town's economic engine and is run by the local Rastafari. The site of Bob Marley's birthplace and tomb are the only places in Jamaica where it was currently legal to smoke weed, that said in Jamaica the plant has been decriminalized and it's legal for a family to grow up to five plants.

There is a heavy local Rasta presence inside, the guide told us you couldn't buy weed in the compound but every time i turned around someone was offering it. A particularly menacing fellow offered my some pineapple kush, by this time being as blasted as i was i politely declined but now and then he'd shoot me a look and i about bought some just to make him happy. Another Rasta held a half dozen stalks of the Blue Mountain sensi in one hand and a machete in the other, he smiled and in patois told us it was fresh from the mountain as he pointed with the machete towards the hills above the place, i have no doubt it was harvested from up that hill and the stalks were a sight to behold for an old head. Bob had moved back to this place for a bit after stints in both Kingston and the States, he built the little stone house and wrote the lyrics to Talkin Blues from a stone that was right behind the place, i laughed at the fact everyone kept sitting on the stone and facing the wrong direction, i immediately took a step to see what Bob was looking at, the opposite direction that opened up to the hills and valleys, a sea of green bathed in sunlight. After he became the world famous singer it to this little house where he would come to escape and think. (His main residence being at Hope Road in Kingston.)

While outside i had begun eating some of the ganja cake, Annabeth was laughing at me as she told two women from Philly to hold off on eating it until the tour was over, as i stood grinning at the guide and putting a nice chunk in my mouth she said, somehow i think you'll be alright though. Inside i started on the gigantic joint of sensimilla, a strong and heady strain, i listened to the Rasta and studied the photos and hand written notes from his children and grandchildren, from Rita and his mother, we filed into his tomb one by one, the once huge joint dwindling, i walked slowly around the cold marble, a lit candle to honor the Rastafari religion, the smoke drifting up, at the door you blow out your candle and leave it.

By this time i was so high i was lost in my own thoughts. I think everyone was as the bus ride back down was quiet. I gazed out the window at our descent from the hills and towards the lowlands and beach and nibbled at my piece of cake. The bus pulled into Scotchies and we got out for our lunch of jerk chicken and red beans and rice. There was no need to process the day, as the man once sang, he who feel it/ know it, it was a feeling that i took away, some might wonder how a man with such a cloudy head could see things so clear but that's how it was, things came into focus, things felt in focus... soon we were back on he bus for the short ride back to the resort, i kept my sunglasses on and couldn't wipe the grin from my face, the first two people i saw were the boyos who came running up the beach to give a saltwater infused hug... and that grin spread into a big smile...

Pilgrimage (photo edition)

Some go to Mecca, some go to Rome... i go to Nine Mile...

 Into the hills

Further into the hills...

 The walls of Nine Mile

 Murals of the Cedella Marley Booker school

 View from the Marley home...

 Nine Mile as seen from the hills near Bob's childhood home..

 In the house he was born in...

 The room he was born in.

 A couple of my favorite records

 Bob's favorite Blue Mountain sensimilla...

 The house where he lived with Rita...

 Nine Mile ganja cake

 "we'll share the shelter/of my single bed"

 cold ground was my bed last night/ and a rock was my pillow too
-Talkin Blues 
view from that rock.

The door to his mausoleum, his marble tomb was donated by the Italian Government,
no cameras are allowed inside but you can smoke the sacred herb, 
needless to say i did...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Graduate

That guy in the picture there is a guy i used to know on the morning of his college graduation. As you can probably guess by looking he didn't exactly don the cap and gown and walk up for his degree, in fact he never even saw his degree until some two or three years later when his father laughed and asked if he wanted to see it? He had forgotten all about it by that point but he took a look and his old man told him maybe he should take it but the guy told him to keep it for now, what the fuck was he going to do with it? nuffin. On this particular morning there were many bong hits, coffee, the odd beer. In those days he was just the usual 22yr old psychonaut, ingesting large amounts of mushrooms and acid, drinking malt liquor and 7 and 7's, always with a bag of weed in his pocket, he was constantly reading books and writing awful poetry but the combination of the two somehow paid off in doing well with the ladies, his nuclear family may have been falling apart but life didn't suck, how could it? waking up next to naked women who wanted to feed him or save him but mainly just fucked him, spending his days debating philosophy and music, listening to records, doing a college radio show, dealing weed for the first time, being good a dealing weed, harassing his slumlord, and generally just living for the three inches in front of his face... and it was only just beginning, having turned down "real" jobs to be a half-ass surfer poet, it was a beautiful departure point on this road to nowhere, he had done exactly what he was supposed to do and then turned the thing backwards and upside down. So congrats graduate, twenty-five years later. The second person to attain a college degree in his family and the only one to never use it. Somewhere his old man is smiling...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


As usual this post is late but it's happy happy to Stretch, all of 12 now and only one year left until the "wonderful" teenage years, for the record i'm thinking these kids start early these days with the teenage stuff.  A year of middle school has come and gone, 4 trips to the high honor roll, a new club for the football (which happens to be the oldest one in the US, established 1898) and growing so fast that soon i'll be able to swap clothes with the kid, well maybe not yet but it's coming, the kid grew damn near 6 inches this year (and is now taller than his momma) and i may soon be taking out a loan just to help feed the beast but damn if his old man don't think the world of him, so happy birthday Stretch, keep doing your thing kid, you're old man loves you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Yah Mon

"Feeling out, feeling down/ this feeling wouldn't leave me alone/ then up came a one that said, Hey Dread/ Hey Dread, fly natty Dread and smile/ you're in Jamaica/ C'mon and smile...- RNM.

So it was that five days after Pops' send off, the boyos, the breadwinner and I and I boarded a plane to Jamaica, it was the annual getaway and the second trip to this gorgeous island dubbed the land of wood and water, this time to Ocho Rios, an hour or so east of Montego Bay on the northern side of the island. To anyone who's hung about the lounge there is one obvious reason why i love this place so much (my unbridled love of the ganja), but there's more to it than that. I love the people, the food, and particularly the music, i devour old dub and reggae, Sunday's in the summer are dubbed Reggae Sunday at my gaff and the only stuff that gets played is the music of one tiny Caribbean island, yes of course Bob gets spun but understand that i don't own a copy of Legend i own the actual albums, and it's not just Robert that gets spun but Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Freddy McGregor, Lee "Scratch" Perry, The Scientist, King Tubby, and a whole bunch of other stuff that i've dug up over the years, after the last month or so i was most looking forward to this...

Of course the Breadwinner had informed the Posa who promptly booked the same trip for his youngest daughter and favorite grandchild. The Posa (or piece of shit asshole), is a miserable fuck who personifies the Ugly American. A dyed in the wool Trumpite who lacks any and all cultural and self awareness and can produce cringe-worthy moments by the minute. He also tends to like to be an ass and usually zeroes in on one person. Last year it was his youngest daughter and this year was no different. It took all of an hour after we got there for those two to kick off and i basically said in no uncertain terms that they could get fucked, that i wasn't even planning on dealing with it and though Breadwinner wasn't thrilled with my declaration it seemed to be effective as the rest of the week went rather smoothly. What pleased me most was that in eight days i didn't have one conversation with the man, i don't have the time or the patience to be arsed by idiots and i've lost my will to suffer fools... but forget about him he's an ass, on with the trip...

You might not believe this but it's pretty easy to score gear in Jamaica, yes that's sarcasm, but right after dinner i noticed a gentleman flicking his lighter on the beach, my spidey-sense began to tingle and i bee-lined down the steps and into the sand and introduced myself to my new found friend Junior. Junior was a thin dread-locked man who worked the beach, we exchanged pleasantries and got down to business. Tourists are marks and i've learned that a little research goes a long way, plus it doesn't hurt that i was in the same line of work as Junior for over ten years and so when Junior tried to sell me his schwag weed at kind bud prices i scoffed, i said to him, "my friend i want that delicious Blue Mountain bud that is stinky and sticky." Junior looked at me and smiled and admired my moxie, admitted he was trying to sell my some low-quality gear but that i was a man in the know, he pulled out another bag and i asked to smell it, he smiled again and said, "yah mon you know what up", this time it was the good stuff and we did a little haggling and i procured about 12 grams of fine Blue Mountain bud and a 3 gram chunk of hash for $80. I also asked about ganja cake but he didn't have any but told me he'd get it if i wanted it, i said yes and said same time tomorrow work? he agreed and told me to make sure i show up, that i needed to be a man of my word, i said no worries my friend and then asked if i could hit his joint, he smiled and handed it to me.

As promised the next night i went back to beach, of course there were two or three guy working the beach and when the first one approached i told them i was looking for Junior, he went and got him and Junior walked over and shook hands, "respek, a man of his words, i like", he produced my ganja cake and i explained i needed more of the Blue Mountain sticky wicket, (the Breadwinner's sis wanted some) handed over another $80, 30 for the ganja cake and 50 for the grass and was on my way. Some of the grass was mine because i knew what the next 8 days would be like and my cut of it was about 4 grams. All told i had over half an ounce of grass, some hash and some ganja cake. Impossible for one man to consume? Don't bet on it. There is nothing i enjoy more than a finely rolled spliff of the Blue Mountain bud followed by a cup of Blue Mountain coffee... and an all you can eat buffet.

So what did i do? not much... and a whole lot. What else would you expect?  In the eight days i was there i went in the pool exactly one time, the majority of my time was spent floating around the Caribbean Sea watching the clouds change shape, Pops loved the water and i spent a good deal of time thinking about the guy and how he would have liked this place, i spent most of my time in the water alone unless the boyos came down to hang with their old man, sometimes i just floated and watched them build sand castles on the beach, i lounged around under palm trees and listened to the wind and the rustling palm leaves and the beauty, i appreciated the warmth of the sun and spent hours gazing at the waves that broke over a reef a few hundred yards offshore, i swam and ran up and down the five flights of steps to my room, the yin of the body and the yang of the mind.

I played tourist. The Jamaican Bob Sled run at Mystic Mountain (which by the way if a fuckng blast), zip-lining, a bit of snorkeling, i drank Red Stripe and had the pleasure of watching the footie in a room full of English, South Americans, and Jamaicans, the Nigeria v. Argentina game being the most fun, i heard a brilliant version of Tainted Love by Soft Cell played live on steel drums, saw an absolutely hilarious Michael Jackson impersonator while so stoned i couldn't stop giggling, had  Space Cake Sunday where i woke up and ate space cake and continued to do so throughout the day until it was gone (roughly 7AM toPM)  and can honestly say it's something everyone should experience at least once... and of course every night i watched the beach and looked for the lighter flick, it gave me an odd bit of comfort, as if all was well, that the world would keep right on rolling and Junior would keep flicking his lighter, making his money and making the stoners happy. I find most vacation/holidays i'm usually ready to get back to the grind by the end of it but for the first time in a long time i was sad to see it end. But it did and back we came...the I-mac's birthday being Sunday... also International Reggae Day, at 12 he's developing a love for Tosh and Marley, back to reality but i gotta feeling everything's gonna be alright...

Monday, June 18, 2018

Father's Day

Had it gone according to plan i'd have been driving back from Cleveland right about now with the knowledge that this was probably the last Father's Day with my father. As it is i drove back Friday after attending his memorial celebration at Lakewood Park as a brilliant sun set over Lake Erie. The physical part of my father was now contained in a rosewood box, the other part is any one's guess. As i watched his siblings get up and speak, some ramble, some struggle to hold it together, it dawned on me that i was rather composed, that i guess i was doing what my old man had told me to do and to "get on with it." Part of this was because i had put a lot of thought into my father's death even before he was dead. He smoked and had for over 50 years, he worked the night shift for the last 20, he ate and lived like a bachelor which is man-speak for he did what the fuck he felt like doing, most of which probably wasn't the healthiest way to live. For a long time i lived with the knowledge that i was most likely going to get a phone call telling me of his sudden demise. Call it the fucking cancer silver lining, it gives you time, you just have to use it to the best of your ability however long that may be. The old man and i used it to the best of our abilities. That knowledge alone makes me smile now and then.

So what did i know about my father? Everything and nothing. As people spoke to me about him there were some consistent observations from various parties. He was extremely intelligent. His younger brother was in awe of the way my dad would rationally and slowly think through things, how he was capable of understanding complex subjects and maintaining his focus on said subjects while digesting vast amounts of information. I remember my father telling me his college adviser told him he should go into engineering. My dad thought he was too weak in math, (so he became an accountant, which i always told him cracked me up), the adviser told him that while he may have to work a bit harder in math he was more than capable and far and away stronger in English and had an ability to relate complex concepts in an understandable fashion. He was a smart fucking dude. I know i already miss our philosophical and political conversations that would run into hours, i know i kept thinking i needed to call him today and then remembered that i couldn't.

Today i got on with things. I woke up and made the boyos cinnamon buns and then cut the grass, i watched Mexico beat ze Germans 1-0, (i told my dad i was all in on Mexico since the US didn't make it, mainly to piss off the supporters of the Orange Shitgibbon, besides today they displayed the heart and talent that we lack, what's not the root for?) i swept floors and dusted and did laundry, i drove the boyos to various places, i traded texts with various relatives and friends wishing each other happy father's day. There was no rest or relaxation mainly because i didn't want any, the more occupied i could keep myself the better it was, because i realize it's the space in between that gets me, where the mind loosens up and lets down it's guard and i think about what i need to tell him and shake my head and wonder how many times that needs to happen before it finally stops or feels normal, doesn't make me take a deep breath to compose myself, it happens in the car or in the kitchen as i watch a groundhog eat leaves out my back door, it happens in the quiet of the night as i look in on the boyos, it happens mid-page in some book i'm reading where i wonder, what would the old man think of that?

There have been times over the last few days where i've talked to that rosewood box. I know Pops would get quite the chuckle out of it but he understood his son like few others have, he knows i talk for me, for comfort. I also know that today is the first of many firsts. It's alright, while i'm not quite the rational thinker Pops was i'm still his son and did inherit some of those traits, time doesn't stop, soon enough the boyos will be off into the world and i'll be that guy sitting in his chair reading his books and talking on the phone (or over a beer or cup of coffee) for hours to my sons, at least i hope that's how it'll turn out. There's some things i'll teach them, mostly what Pops taught me, that it's their life and they gotta live it, that you keep your word and try and be a decent human being, that sometimes you're gonna fail and that'll be okay so long as you pick yourself up off that mat and, you know, get on with things. Man do i miss that guy.

(What my dad was reading when he passed away)