Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Wilderness Years - Here It Comes

Timelines are over-rated as a means of telling stories and for this particular story they always seem a little fuzzy, the proper dates, it seems, come drifting into my mind sometime between the hours of 3AM and 5AM where i really can't be arsed to get up and write shit down. Yes i know all those Beat writers kept a notebook by their bed but i'm more in the "hope this comes back to me when i wake up" school then the i better get this shit down school, the Buddhist in me says it's all impermanence so don't worry about it, it'll come back... or it won't.  And so here we are. A bit of a rewind to go forward. 

Back in the straight world of legit jobs i was on the hunt for a new gig. As noted previously my current boss didn't want to pay me the whopping $7.75/hr and hand me the title of assistant warehouse grunt. Of course the facts are that i was usually good for a call-off every week or two at this point, the real gig of slinging providing me more than enough money to live off but of course with the square gig providing a paycheck that covered the bills the fact was that if i lost one or the other the money would get tight pretty quick. So after four years of being able to walk or ride my bike to work i began looking for a new job. Not any career type gig mind you but another warehouse gig that paid more, this time in an HVAC/plumbing supply place over on the North Side. My $400 car giving me the mobility to actually take a job i had to drive to and my commute being a gorgeous early morning trip through me favorite barrios and stomping grounds before a brief stint on a highway and then exiting into the hood. The new gig was in one of those industrial zoned wastelands, home to trucking companies and light industry, gay bars and the odd strip club. It was the kind of place that most people didn't know was there unless you had to know it was there. 

So after four years at the party store warehouse i gave my notice, threatened to beat the shit out of the owner (which i regretted later on) and was on my way, not exactly upwards but you know somewhere. This gig was to last almost 18 months but let us not get too far ahead of ourselves. When i had taken on this gig i was winding down my run with Max and Ruby. Of course the real business of warehouses everywhere is the drug trade. There is usually someone in every joint that, back in the late 90's early aughts, had access to weed, coke, pills and anything else you might want. Granted the level of fuck-ups involved was high but depending on what you were looking for you could probably get it. The blow would be heavily stepped on and the weed would be brown brick but it could be had. Usually it was over-priced and sometimes resulted in bruised feelings or fist fights along with accusations of being ripped off but alas after all that you'd see the same guys doing the same deals a week later. The warehouses of the world are not usually known to be home to the intelligent working stiff although they can be found and are usually greeted with wariness by the den of thieves and scammers roaming it's aisles. When guys heard i was a college educated weirdo who sometimes dropped strange words into my sentences the craftier ones knew something was probably up. And they were right. 

And here's were the haze comes in. The new job coincided with the end of Max and Ruby and the new deal with Stiv. With the need and opportunity to move more gear it seemed like a good time to add new clients.  I gave it a couple weeks but seeing how after the first week i would come in with the remnants of a hangover and usually stoned it didn't take long for those kindred spirits to start talking. When the topic of weed came up it would be the usual hushed query in a back aisle, "you burn?", then of course the talk would turn to could you get any? was it good? how much? Being the enterprising young man i was i usually kicked a dime bag, or as i called it, my sample bag, to my potential new customers for free. They'd smell the goodness and be giggling with excitement most of the time, by the time they came back in the next day i'd have to tell them to be fucking cool and we'd talk, fact is they didn't know how professional i was and when they'd ask when they could get some i'd tell them "today". I have some with me. The hook, the line, the sinker, you've just been added to my payroll my dear co-worker. And so it began. 

Within about the first month or so i had taken over warehouse weed sales at the new job. There was an older guy who worked at the sales counter out front named Barry, i could tell Barry partied and he seemed to be a pretty cool guy. One day while we were standing in the same aisle when he looked over and said, "you're the guy who stole all my customers." I grinned and feigned ignorance, he laughed and  continued, "don't worry man i'm cool, i was just wondering if i could get in on the action, i heard the stuff is pretty good." No problem i said and we exchanged numbers. Things were moving right along. When i met Barry at the bar a few days later he grabbed an ounce and told me how he moved stuff so he could smoke for free, maybe make a little extra cash. He laughed as he told me he usually bought stuff from his son but that his kid liked to gouge him and so we talked weight and price. Barry was interested in quarter pounds and wondered if i could do that? I sure could i said and when i told him the price he smiled and said that was a lot less than his kid's and that we had a deal. To save a him a quarter pound for early next week and we'd go from there. Barry was a fucking nutter. I liked him. 

Physically the new job could be demanding. It was the usual lumpen-prole grind of semi-mindless drudgery and i was placed into the receiving department where we'd unload trucks and put up the stock. It fit me more than the order fillers who ran around like mad to make quotas and earn bonuses. Of course the receiving department played second fiddle to the order fillers. The usual corporate edict of get as much product out as fast as possible hence we had to wait if the order crew were doing something and we needed to be in that aisle. I'd be on a Cherry Picker, a piece of machinery that lifted you 30-40 feet in the air, tossing 50-75 lb. boxes of metal pipe fitting onto shelves while the whole contraption swayed. It wasn't exactly enjoyable but it got you in shape. Looking back i realize that my scoffing at overtime was probably a bit of a tip off that this wasn't my main source of income. Most everyone else in the place loved overtime while the manager did his best to limit it as best he could. Overtime in the receiving department was rare but when it cropped up i usually made up an excuse as to why i couldn't stay. If i was forced to i'd give them an hour tops before punching out and heading to the real job. How do you explain to the squares in management that the whopping extra $13.50 that i would make per hour and be taxed on was nothing to me? That i could make ten times that in the same amount of time sitting at home or in a bar? 

With the groundwork laid the new job became not just a gig but a place where i'd do business. It didn't take long before i was moving a couple of ounces a week while i was at work and that wasn't even counting Barry and his quarter pound. Barry was damn near giddy as he told me how people loved this shit. He was moving it so fast that he had a giant head stash and was making a couple extra bills a week. Even better, it pissed off his kid to no end that his old man now had a better connection, that had better weed, and at a better price. Barry explained that his kid wanted to meet me. I told him that shouldn't be a problem. He than said he was going to wait for a bit longer, after being gouged by his kid he enjoyed having the upper hand for once. I laughed and bought him another beer. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

June 19, 2016 (Believeland)

I'm from Cleveland. Doesn't matter where i happen to be living, if you ask me where i'm from i'll always answer Cleveland. My hometown has always been the whipping boy for the rest of America, a rust belt relic, the butt of jokes about a river that caught on fire and the fact that for a very long time the professional sports teams in Cleveland won fuck all. We'd come close but we somehow always managed to end up on the wrong side of things. The other day, as i did my best to do absolutely nothing other than get stoned and listen to the rain, i sat and watched a documentary, one i had seen before, called Believeland. For a native Clevelander it's a bit like therapy.

There is this ritual that takes place among those of us who grew up on the shores of Lake Erie. It's a discussion of where you were and what you were doing when the heartbreak set in. The Drive? I watched it with my old man and we both sat in stunned silence when we lost. My old man was one of those guys who didn't own any team apparel and refused to buy a ticket to a game (at least after i grew up) but was extremely knowledgeable about every team in Cleveland. I can remember him listening to Browns games on the radio in the garage and the "god dammits" and "Jesus Christs" that would issue forth as those mid-70s Browns bumbled their way to another loss. Red Right 88? I also watched with my dad, a bitter cold day where the last of the straight on kickers couldn't make a fucking extra point. A short field goal would have won it and we were right there but the fact the guy paid to kick the egg through the yellow posts couldn't do it on that cold and blustery day meant we'd try for the touchdown. Instead the ball was intercepted in the end zone... game over, dream over. The Fumble? I was underage drinking in a bowling alley, the beloved Dawg Pound Beer aka colon cleaner, the cheapest and shittiest swill around, One-Eyed Bobby and i were jumping up and down as Ernest Byner was racing towards the end zone to tie the game, we didn't know he fumbled until we realized we were the only ones celebrating and the place had gone quite. Ernest Byner played like a monster that day and the images of him laying on the field will bring tears to my eyes. I love Ernest Byner. The Browns were such shit in the first half of that game we'd have lost by 30 without him. It was one of the cruelest moments in sports i've ever seen. The guy played the greatest game of his life and all people remember is the one mistake. 

The Tribe you say? Well in 94 we had the best team in baseball and then the season ended with a labor dispute. In 1995 we finally win the pennant with the added bonus of eliminating the Yankees only to loose to the fucking Braves, the team that went to the World Series i don't know how many fucking times but only ever managed to win that one against us. In 1997 i drove home for Game 7 against the Marlins, jumped in my $400 rattling brown bomber and drove to my dad's place, took a train to the Flats, watched us take a 2-1 lead into the 9th inning, before Jose Mesa came in to close out the game while giving up his obligatory run. Game tied, we lost in the 11th. I was sitting at a table with some people who invited me to watch the game with them, i was 11 beers and 4 Scotch and waters deep when i got up to leave, a woman at the table turned and said to me, you can't leave now! and i responded, you don't want to see a grown man cry like a baby, thanks everyone... i walked out and watched the winning run cross through a window of another bar. 1000,000 plus people in the Flats and it was like the walking dead. Silence and shuffling except for the occasional shouts of "FUUUUUUUUUCCCCKKK!". Then it started to rain. I wandered into a gay bar that i thought was the old club i used to hang out at but that is a story unto itself. 
The Cavs you ask? I was just a kid when our lovable band of misfits finally made the play-offs with our star player named World B. Free. When he finally had a championship caliber team some guy named Jordan came along to kill that dream and then we won the lottery and drafted some kid from Akron. I remember sitting in my apartment watching the draft lottery and as the envelope opened i let out a yell that probably woke the neighborhood. Finally! Something had gone our way. Then that kid took us to the Finals only to get swept but Spurs but hey man we weren't even supposed to be there so the future looked bright. And then it didn't. That kid left to win some titles someplace else and we Clevelanders sat and pontificated on why we had such shit luck. And then the kid came back. 

June 19, 2016. Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Cleveland was considered done when we went down three games to one. No team in the history of the NBA had ever come back from that deficit in the Finals and we had the added bonus of trying to do it against the team the had the best regular season record EVER. While we may have been resigned to another "almost" the once kid, now man, from Akron was not. And before we knew it the series was tied. 

Lost in the memory of that day, what the documentary reminded me of, was that game was played on Father's Day. I made sure i had the DVR set because i knew there was a good chance i couldn't watch the game. I made it through the first quarter but by that time i was an emotional and nervous wreck. I went for a drive. I hit the clubhouse and since Pittsburgh is not a basketball town i knew they'd be watching something other than the game. I hung out and drank some beers, pulled a tube or three and finally after an hour or so asked if they could check the score. The fourth quarter was just starting and the game was tight. I ran out and jumped in my car, drove the two minutes home and began watching the last 9 minutes. I paced, i'd sit down, i'd stand up, i didn't know what to fucking do. I watched the kid from Akron make greatest blocked shot i'd ever seen and then a clutch three by his running mate put us up, i watched the team with the best record ever in the regular season fall to pieces. Up by four points with 8 seconds left i thought of all the ways we could somehow lose the game. It's a habit for Clevelanders, figure out the worst, most heartbreaking scenarios and prepare yourself. It didn't happen. My city, after 52 years, finally had it's title. 

As i sat staring at the television i didn't know what to do. Stunned is what you could call me. For the first time in my life my city were champs. I heard the sound of small footsteps on the stairs, Nick Disaster had stayed up to watch and was smiling, "you crying dad?" he asked. "Just a little bit buddy," was my reply. It was 11:30 or so at night. Then the phone rang. 

When the phone rang i knew who it was. The joy in his voice brought a huge smile to my face. "Did you see it! Did you see it!" was all he kept saying. The old man was ecstatic. He had waited 52 years for this moment. The last time he got to celebrate was 1964, the year the Browns won the NFL title and my sister was born. In the years past now the title has become secondary. It was the conversation with my father that night that i remember, the pure happiness as we talked late into the night, it was our way of celebrating. Little did i know that it was the second to last Father's Day i would get to speak to my dad. Two years later and he was gone. The running joke in my house is that had the boyos been born after that title they'd have both been named Lebron. There is a bit of serendipity the way it worked out. Really i'm just glad i got to celebrate with him, even if it was over the phone, got to hear the pure joy in his voice that night. As i watched that documentary, watched the end of Game 7, watched the people of my hometown celebrate, watched fathers hug their sons, i wiped the mist from my eyes but kept the smile on my face. Believeland.

Friday, June 26, 2020

A brief conversation with an Employment Specialist

The harsh reality of the situation is that at some point i will most likely have to rejoin the workforce. The "contribution" barbs are thrown around often, like a boxer flicking out a jab at their opponent, a reminder of just how little my actual value is viewed around these parts. Now depending on the source, the average stay at home parent's value is somewhere north of the six figure mark. Of course that means fuck all to the wage earner around here and is a point of argument i wouldn't even bother to bring up lest it release a torrent of grievances about what isn't done or done properly (in the Breadwinner's eyes) or why it took so long. Hence i bob and weave and do my best to deflect the jabs. 

And so begins my foray into somehow finding some way to bring in cash while also not neglecting my duties as indentured servant and whipping boy for the Breadwinner, and while that's actually not a completely accurate statement it should be noted that my main duties of looking after the boyos is my favorite gig ever. So how does one balance one with the other especially given that there will be no help forthcoming from the Breadwinner in the household department and i'll be ridiculed and chastised if i suggest as much. The situation definitely limits the options and to be quite honest it's not like i'm clamoring to "get back out there", most modern employment is nothing more than busy work designed to keep the masses from having to the time to see just how hard they are being screwed over by the oligarchs and plutocrats of the corporatocracy. Combine that with the fact that as i approach the mid-century mark in a few months, with no apparent marketable skills, a college degree that has never been used, a resume that looks more than a bit thin and a long period where i have been out of the workforce, and the future i must say, is not bright. I'm ripe to be classically under-employed and paid the usual pittance of the lumpen-prole. Granted this will not be the household's main income but one must weigh the pros and cons. Add the fact that i don't really want to "do" anything and one can grasp my dilemma. It would be nice if i could list the skills i acquired as Weed King, see marketing, accounting, sales, distribution, loss prevention, (of which i'd want nothing to do with) but the reality is i'm probably best suited for record store clerk or working in a bookstore or likely destined for some other retail hell. 

The one gig that seemed to fit nicely into the schedule and responsibilities around the gaff was Contact Tracer. It fit my sensibilities. A job where i was actually doing some public good, that i could do from home, and that paid a decent wage. A gig where i'd contact those who'd been exposed to Covid-19 and explain what they needed to do next. To help keep them calm and go through the protocols of self-quarantine and what to do if they experience symptoms, to make a list of places they've been and people they've seen. I'm still on the hunt for this gig as the word is they'll need a lot of these people and it also dovetails nicely with the Breadwinner's gig. If it works out it'll be the sort of temporary job that lasts just long enough and when (dare i say if) the pandemic ends and things get back to relative normal i'll be able to go back to houseboy while being able to say i "contributed." Problem is to find/apply for these jobs one has to go an any number of employment web sites which gives the telemarketing employment sector your phone number. 

The mobile rings a lot these days with mysterious numbers. I answer on the slim hope it may be one of the actual places i've applied contacting me... something that has yet to happen. Who does call? Well any number of get rich/ work at home scams where they teach you how to sell "their products", wanting you to sit through their presentation of how you'll be a wealthy, self-employed entrepreneur in no time, after you send them a bit of money for the training and products mind you. They also have this lovely scare tactic where they tell you they only work with the "highest caliber people" and that if you miss the video meeting and phone interview you'll forever lose this gem of an opportunity. For laughs i've watched about five minutes or so of these presentations, most so poorly done i'm amazed that anyone buys the bullshit they're selling, before logging off only to be contacted the next day about missing it but that i shouldn't worry as there's another one today and could i check that one out? Amazing, i thought i was told that i'd lose my opportunity if i missed the presentation? "High Caliber People", is business-speak for any sucker willing to buy in and to get them to buy in you gotta keep 'em on the hook. 

Other than the get rich quick scams there is the other type of call. From the "Employment Specialist", a very professional sounding title and equipped with a script that is at least a bit more well done than the pyramid schemers. Of course if you listen closely to their fast talk you'll find that in their preamble their is the little mention of how they'll receive a fee if you are placed with a company, i'm not sure who pays that fee because it's never stated. That said if you toss a question or answer at them that the script doesn't have an answer for it gets a bit comical. I'm also leery, and this has happened every time i've answered the fucking phone, when i ask exactly what job it is they saw me apply for and they never tell me. When i ask if it was for the contract tracer gig they usually mumble something and then move into their spiel. My personal favorite took place the other day. The woman called and gave her pitch, mentioned the fee, and then proceeded to do some mock interview questions to help me make myself more attractive to employers. Let me state that i despise everything about the world of business. The talk, the fake pleasantries, the utter bullshit of people pretending or actually caring about activities that in the most cases are nothing more than busy work, jobs for a jobs sake with no actual value or worth but in the shit-stem of capitalism we are all supposed to bow down to the market and rejoice in the opportunity to do something we'll probably loathe while dressing in uncomfortable clothes and even less comfortable shoes. Maybe the job i really want is tending six foot tall ganja plants in my backyard so i can take them to market but i am a man in a wrong place and a wrong time. 

But back to the phone call... After the preamble she got into the questions. It didn't go well. The first ones were easy, did i have a degree, was i available to work, what would i like to do? I stated that i was applying for a contract tracer position but since that wasn't in her script and we were on a recorded line  she just kept going. What would i like to go back to school for? she asked. Nothing, i replied. I had my degree, paid off my loans, and wasn't looking to incur more debt. She ignored my answer and continued, would it be in business, IT, or the healthcare field? Philosophy was my answer. She ignored that and in the same calm and cool voice repeated the question, was it business or IT or the healthcare field? I laughed and said none of the above, that i wasn't interested in going back to school and accruing more debt. She repeated the question again, i paused and said listening specialist, she began to perk up thinking she may have been getting somewhere and inching closer to my placement and her coveted fee, the dream shattered when i stated, a listening specialist so when you fucking people call me you listen to what i actually applied for and don't waste my time, of which i have a limited amount of in this lifetime. There was silence. She said, sir and i said have a nice day and hung up. I have the feeling i'm not going to get whatever job i was up for but that's okay. 

The most likely scenario is that i'll be a professional shopper type guy. Yes along with all the other soccer moms it's a gig i can work around the boyos. I'll be a servant but i'm already in the servant class so i'll be well suited. I'll buy the groceries, drive them to the house, drop the shit on the porch, text the shit is there, and be on my way. I get to work alone and make my own hours and blast tunes in the car. Honestly it's probably the thing i'm most suited for, i'll order some fashion face masks and be on my way. Onwards and upwards as they say. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Equal Rights and Justice vol. 2

So where are we now? It seems like years since the death of George Floyd yet it was only month ago. Now we meet Rayshard Brooks, gunned down in a parking lot by a cop who spent his life watching too many cop movies and who most likely never should have been a cop in the first place. Say what you want about Viceland but the programming they ran yesterday was stellar. The information put out about the plight of African-Americans in this country was disturbing, it was sad, it made me angry. The fuzz  make black neighborhoods their own personal playground when it comes to kicking in doors and terrorizing people. The story of Breonna Taylor is heartbreaking. A young woman lost her life when plain clothes officers kicked in the door unannounced and were shot at by a man defending his home. I don't own a gun but i'm pretty sure if someone kicked in my door and i had one i'd probably fire it at whoever just kicked in my door. Or swing a baseball bat or a pipe, throw a chair, something to defend myself. I believe that's called a natural reaction. If you want to see how disturbing it is check out the show and watch an actual raid. The family is devastated and traumatized. The people they were looking for didn't even live there anymore. The warrants and what they are issued for are tantamount to bullshit. Look up what it takes in most places to become a law enforcement officer in this country and you'll find it's about the same qualifications as being a mall guard. 

Watching last night jarred my stoner memory about standing on my friend's back porch one day in the lovely confines of Upper Larry-ville, we were playing foosball and drinking and had stepped out onto the porch for some air. It was a nice summer night. It was racially mixed neighborhood that was battling the disease known as gentrification. The back of his house faced an alley and the backs of the houses on the street below. Suddenly there was a loud bang and some shouting and at least a dozen militarized cops storming a house. They pulled out some kids, grandma, a woman, and two black men who were immediately cuffed. When i heard the flash grenade, deafening even where we were, i had ducked and ran into the house quicker than you could blink. My friends laughed but then we watched as the cops proceeded to ransack the house. As we stood and watched on the porch we could hear the one say they hadn't found anything. So why exactly were they kicking in the door and tossing flash grenades? The short answer: because they can. This shit needs to stop yesterday. 

Meanwhile in the world of Hegemonic White Butt Hurt the racist in chief is holding an ego party where a bunch of Karens and Bo-Hunks have all decided to congregate and scream and act up and disregard social justice and the fact there is a massive pandemic. To disregard the rules set up by their Orange Nero and his cronies about protecting oneself from this disease. Of course the Orange Shitgibbon and his bootlicker Mother Mike are busy running about and telling everyone just how great it's going and how all is well, nothing to worry about, don't forget to sign the waiver though, but hey ain't it great to be back spewing hate? While the number and the models are imperfect if it's even close to the 800-1000 new infections projected from just the ego stroke session, then all those people shuffle off back to their community and infect more people, this is a disaster, but one willingly and willfully caused by a giant toddler and his army of brats. The fact is i didn't sign that waiver nor did a lot of us and if it just so happens the muppets spread the infection about after ignoring the Orange Nero's own rules, by Orange Nero ignoring his own rules, i wonder what the liability is for that? I'm not a lawyer but if someone gets this horrendous disease and can trace it back to Covidpalooza 2020 i hope they sue. I can't say it amazes me that those who profess to love their white Jesus the most are the ones who ignore everything the guy said. Their level of selfishness and lack of compassion and kindness are not surprising. It's the modern evangelical way. In their book it's about "me" not "we". 

Of course back to the shit-stem and what do we have? The kids are doing it the right way now. They march and chant and sing and sit-in. Without the destruction and the looting the Shitgibbon and his minions don't have any ammo. They'll lie nonetheless but it takes the steam out of their campaign to demonize the people marching for change. Granted that won't change the minds of the mask-less knuckledraggers, they'll continue to find info that fits their worldview by finding their half-ass conspiracy sites and trading fantasies on the internet. But if they get crushed at the ballot box what'll they do then? 

Which brings me back to the racist in chief. As it's been documented here the Breadwinner's best friend came to the states from Ethiopia, granted asylum due to political persecution because her father had worked in the government. She became a citizen in 2006 but has lived here since she was 18 yrs. old, almost 30 years. When she didn't get her stimulus check she figured it would come soon enough. Then weeks passed. She wondered if it was lost. She called the IRS and kept being "mysteriously" cut off. When she finally reached someone who could tell her what the deal was she was upset. We should all be upset. The one guy who didn't hang up told her the deal, that the new administration had put in new rules and rescinded the old ones. She had been flagged. In order for her and her family (her husband is a white guy by the way born in the US) to get their checks she would have to produce a bunch of documents including her original birth certificate and send it to be verified and then they'd issue the check. Are you fucking kidding me!!! I'm sure this little scheme was put in place to keep "immigrants" from getting the stimulus and i can damn sure guarantee you that it affects people of color disproportionately. The guy told her he gets around 30 calls a day about it. This whole policy should disgust everyone. I'm sure the corporate oligarchs didn't have to produce a birth certificate to get their millions. I'm sure only certain countries were flagged. I'd like to see the list. 

Here's hoping the marches don't stop until the Orange Shitgibbon, Mother Mike, Tippy Turtle (see a shitbag named Mitch) and whole bunch of other enablers have been kicked to the curb and forced to face the consequences of their actions. That would be justice indeed. 

(after briefly glancing at the crowd at Covidpalooza 2020 Tulsa edition i couldn't help but laugh. The massive ego stroke, circle jerk, ritual mating of the Dunning-Kruger, turned out to be a massive let down for the Orange Shitgibbon. A half full arena, the overflow area empty and closed down, sales of propaganda gear down. Had his campaign really been interested in ratings they should have put a camera on the flight back. It would have been high comedy watching a 70-something year old man throw a massive temper tantrum, sulking around, screaming and moaning about fictitious conspiracy theories, how Obama did it or it was the Clintons, that Soros had paid all the protesters, the batshit would have had no end.  And for those who haven't seen it watch Dave Chappelle's special 8:46.)

Residual Effects

There is a question that keeps rolling around in this empty head of mine, a question about the residual effects of this pandemic. About the number of businesses that will close permanently, about the number of jobs lost, about the number of marriages/relationships destroyed and finally done in by the months of close proximity. In a healthy relationship this could be trying but what about all the unhealthy ones? the ones on shaky ground before all this kicked off? The unfortunate fact is, in my case every one of those questions will need to be answered. They are intertwined and difficult and could wreak havoc on the two people i love most in this world. 

Now one could sit back and say that i should stop my fucking moaning about shit. There is a movement going on, a call for social and economic justice, a movement i fully support with my limited funds, the power of the pen, peaceful protest and any other thing i can do to scare the shit out of the plutocrats, corporate elite and racist shitbags to affect some sort of change for the better. At the same time the pandemic has hit this particular household hard in economic terms and stress levels, and while there was a grace period where things seem to go smoothly that period has ended and the cracks are now beginning to show. As usual my role in this drama is to play the punching bag, a role i've become accustomed to over the last few years as the infrastructure of this relationship deteriorates even more. The fact is there is most likely just two things that are holding it upright along with the useful tools of denial, stubbornness, and play acting. 

If there is one thing most humans don't like to do it's look in the mirror and accept the fact they have failed. Brutal honesty is not something we are good at. Usually it is frowned upon where in reality it should be taught and accepted. The problem is we as a species don't like to face the unpleasant facts of who and what and where we are. As i've gotten older i've become much better at taking a more honest approach to the state of things even when that means i must look my failures dead in the eye and accept them. This shit here, is my therapy. 

The talk in these parts these days is about my "contribution", or in the eyes of the Breadwinner, my lack thereof. For the last eight years i've been houseboy and it's a job that i've loved. I enjoy raising the boyos, making lunches, getting them to school, driving to practices-games-tournaments, in general taking care of them. Yet the universe if filled with both the light and the dark, the up and down, the on and off. The last eight years have also brought about a shift in dynamics where i've become the whipping boy around here for the Breadwinner. I don't do things right or timely enough or ask too many questions and in general am a failed house frau in her eyes. Add to that the fact i don't actually bring in any "real" income and i'm surprised i haven't been given a Loser t-shirt as a gift. As one of those fiercely independent types (which could be construed as an oxymoron reading this post) i refuse to ask for anything and therefore i do what i can to earn a little dosh so i don't have to ask for money to see a band, or buy a record, score some gear, buy the boyos lunch without having to explain why, order a book to read, i'm not talking much but just enough to still supply me with a modicum of dignity and autonomy for a few fleeting moments. I flip records or sell old shit on ebay or do "errands" for a few people i know who don't have the connections of an ex and aging hood. I do it so i don't have to ask and be belittled and chastised. I do it to remain sane.

The restaurant business is taking a beating. The Breadwinner and her partners are well positioned to last for a while but the fact is no one knows how long this will go on and well positioned in that business these days means hopefully breaking even. There has been talk of reductions in pay and i understand the need for me to possibly get out there and do something but that something also has to coincide and coordinate with my duties as house boy. Even when the Breadwinner wasn't working it wasn't as if there was any active helping in the running of the household. Mainly is was issuing orders and commenting on all the things i hadn't gotten accomplished yet. The smallest of things are left undone. If she cooks (which she'll do for herself while leaving me to do it for the boyos most of the time) the dishes and pans are left for me. Place a bottle in the recycling bin? Nope on the counter for me. It's the papercuts that add up and when the first hour or two a day is spent just picking up and then i'm asked why i haven't started this or why something isn't done i usually mutter i'm getting to it but i had to clean up first. The boss then heads out to the deck with her e-cig and phone to talk to any number of family or friends. 

I'm not sure who would read this far but i'm sure if someone has they're thinking "shut the fuck up who moaning bastard!! all the things going on in the world and you're whining about housework?" Hell, sometimes i look in the mirror and say the same thing but the fact is this pandemic will cause more than just illness and death. It will kill some relationships. As i've stated before i've whored myself out for a decent place to live and nice vacation. My goal is to raise the boyos and when they are on their way i'll figure out what to do. Of course just recently i was ridiculed for being "too big" an influence on their lives. I understand it's a balancing act and i'm trying to raise compassionate, decent, kind, thinking and thoughtful human beings, who respect their fellow humans regardless of the color of their skin or sexual orientation or whatnot, who respect their planet and the other life on it. Who understand sometimes the right the to do it the hardest thing to do but you still have to do it. I want them to think for themselves and what i hear sometimes from the Breadwinner echoes the same allegations leveled at my father when my nuclear family disintegrated. The fact is i'm doing the best i can but i'm fully aware that the boyos see their parents sleep in separate rooms, that their parents rarely if ever show affection towards one another. I know it will have an effect and it worries me. Hopefully they can learn from my mistakes. Hopefully they understand that nothing is permanent and sometimes people go in different directions. 

What happens when you can't remember anything good about something? Is it possible to save something that has been rotting for so long even for a short time? even (to contradict myself) if it may not be the right thing to do? What happens when all the reading, the meditation, the trying to let the barbs and jabs go, to avoid useless arguments and sit silently listening, what happens when it all starts to fall apart? I know the answer. I don't need to be told. The toll of this pandemic will be more than just the  numbers on the right hand side of the screen. There will be more things lost, less quantifiable things but important things nonetheless. Now i better get my ass to work around here. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Whoop Whoop (the things that i will keep #2)

One of the things that has hit the hardest during this pandemic is the fact that the boyos have lost the entire spring football season, or soccer to us septics. As the world's hairiest soccer mom i spend most of my time driving to and from practices and games and tournaments. There is nothing more i love to do than watch the boyos on the pitch (or on the basketball court). Each week i watch as the games slip past lost to a virus and while i'd love for them to be playing i'm also not going to run out to buy a big shiny dick and storm the state capital demanding football be played. Of course come fall if they try to cancel the Hand Egg season (american football) i'm sure there will be much moaning and wailing and storming of capitals. The I-mac got in exactly one game this spring, a 1-1 draw in his national league where he picked up where he left off. He scored off a a corner, a corner he had earned. This was after leading his club (America's oldest established 1898) in goals and assists last fall but i digress.

There are times over the fall and spring where i take one of the boyos solo to their tournament. I've learned that it's something the boyos and i both look forward to (as the Breadwinner sometimes fails to recognize it's about them and the games not some mini-vacation) as they get to spend the weekend with their old man while hanging in hotels with their team and generally doing what boyos do. Nick Disaster being the younger brother has had to go to more than his fair share of tournaments he wasn't playing in before he got old enough to play and so now he's mighty chuffed when it's just him and his daddio. That said one of the things we used to do to wind down at these things was watch a show called Z Nation. It was basically a Walking Dead rip-off with more humor and less brooding and a great character named Doc who is an unabashed stoner. Did i mention i have an irrational fear of zombies? I do. Hence why i never actually watched the Walking Dead but since Disaster loved Z Nation so much i'd watch it with him while we chilled out in our various hotel rooms.

And so it was one day that there was an episode that heavily involved the Juggalos. For anyone unfamiliar with this phenomenon here's a brief primer. There is an absolute shit rap group, Insane Clown Posse, who has a legion of fans who dress up like clowns and have their own strange and warped culture based on the music and musings of two of the biggest morons to ever take the stage. Now while i'm aware of this world i do my best to avoid it and while i'll acquiese to taste in music being a subjective thing, i'll still say this band is absolute dog shit. Disaster was a bit baffled by what was going on and began asking questions and by the end of the show he was pretty well versed in the world of the Juggalos and Juggelettes. Apparently the Juggalo call is a "whoop whoop", belted out whenever and wherever something excites them.

Back in the days of the Old Normal, my job as houseboy entailed the usual morning duties of houseboy's everywhere. I got the boyos out of bed, made breakfast, packed lunches when needed, organized shit, made sure they had their gym clothes, their homework and the what not. This was the last year they would have different start times to the school day, the I-mac being a half-hour earlier, i would drive him while Disaster hung at home watching cartoons or listening to tunes. The ritual was that when i got back from driving his big brother i'd yell to see if he was okay. One day after the Juggalo episode i came in the door and for fun i let out a "whoop whoop!", immediately from upstairs there was a "whoop whoop" in reply. I laughed out loud and from that day forward it became my new way of checking on him as soon as i got back and not once did it fail to bring a smile to my face when i heard his "whoop" in reply.

Now that we're in the New Normal i try to make sure i maintain a bit of what could be called old normalcy when we all understand that things are far from normal. So once or twice a day for no reason whatsoever i'll let out a "whoop whoop" and wait for the response which never fails to come right back and still never fails to bring a smile to my face. It's the little things that keep one sane, the ability to smile in the midst of the daily shit show known as America. Now back to our regularly scheduled program. (No Insane Clown Posse videos will be shown here for reasons of decorum and taste in music.)

Friday, June 12, 2020

The Wilderness Years - Here It Comes pt. 3

As stated in the past, dumb luck counts too. As my stock from Max and Ruby dwindled i had my ear to the streets but it was nothing but crickets and dead-ends. The option of last resort was my man Pizza Joe but even that was in jeopardy as Pizza Joe had let his bar adjacent to the pizza shop become a hangout for a more criminal element. After the first shooting the rule was check your gun at the door. I was the only white guy who'd even venture into the place other than Pizza Joe after 9PM, apparently i was known as the Tree Man among a certain segment of the clientele who knew. The backstory was that before the place had turned into a gangsta's paradise i used to hang out and sling weed out of the place on a regular basis. At the time a guy i knew, Granola Kenny, had smuggled seeds back from Amsterdam and was growing in his closet. Of course Granola wanted to make some extra cash so he offered me the chance to move his excess. As is always the case the kids never understand the risk or the business and it took a while for Granola Kenny to grasp my line of thinking. As i explained to him, i can't buy it retail price from you and move it and make money and since i'm in this fucking business to make money and not basically do charity work so you can buy a swanky mountain bike. I stated i buy at wholesale price so i can mark it up and take my cut. Granola Kenny did a lot of hemming and hawing and chattering about how good it was and he expected to make more and blah blah fucking blah. Finally i stated, no worries than, you break it down and sell it, i'll take a quarter for myself i said and left it at that. Granola understood the rules well enough to know that growing AND selling is a bad idea, especially if you're selling out of the same place you grow or word gets out your growing in your apartment because then it is ripe to robbed. At the time i still had a connection so it wasn't like i needed to sell it, i'd be fine either way, but Granola needed me to sell it so when it all came down Granola acquiesced and the finest Amsterdam weed one could find in the burgh was mine to move. 

Jughead was the ranking hood. A nice guy with good business sense who just so happened to also move a shit ton of coke and smack through our fair city. Jug didn't touch that shit but Jug did love his weed and when it was discovered the white boy had the finest weed in the city we became acquainted. Pizza Joe introduced us and Jug and i became pals. As the bar took a turn towards the dangerous Jug made it a point to get the hell out of the place by 7PM. He was smart that way. Needless to say he loved the Amsterdam special and became the biggest purchaser of said gear. I explained to him it was in limited supply and that i needed to spread it around a bit and he'd give a little laugh and say i'll take whatever's left, all of it, he even offered to up his price but i explained the situation and he understood. We were cool. We'd meet in the afternoon and he'd grin, you could smell the goodness from ten feet away even through the odor of stale beer and cigarette smoke. We'd bullshit, have a few beers and talk shop. Jug would sell his gear sitting at the bar and i'd marvel at the parade of speed freaks and junkies who would come through the door. The coke fiends all smiling, drinking, chattering, scoring and running to the bathroom for a blast, the junkies all sitting quietly, half sick, scoring and practically running out the door.

It wasn't long before the bar was becoming a regular stop for the police. The city had already tagged it a "nuisance bar", meaning it was on a short leash before it got padlocked. Granola Kenny's short lived run as professional grower had come to and end every now and then Jughead and i would bump into each other and shoot the shit. A mutual respect among the pros. The bar was finally padlocked after a shooting, a guy shot 3 times as he walked out the door, a clip unloaded, a half dozen or more bullet marks on the brick surrounding the door. Pizza Joe, himself a coke dealer who liked his product a little too much, disappeared owing Jug for a couple ounces of blow and the short and turbulent life of the corner bar and pizza shop was over. After one more owner it was knocked down and turned into a fucking Chipotle. I assume that's what the pols call progress. 

Back to my dwindling supply and the events leading up to Pizza Joe's demise and i was suddenly thinking i might be shit outta luck... and then my phone rang one day. It was Stiv. He wanted to talk to me about some things. He wondered if we could meet up ASAP, Stiv being the paranoid sort didn't go into much on the phone but i said sure, did i need to bring anything? i asked, no he said, he just wanted to talk about some stuff. And so i said i could meet whenever and he explained he didn't want anyone around so no business, he needed it to be confidential. I stated that wasn't a problem and agreed to meet him the next day for happy hour. That would give me time to meet up and see what the hell was going on while still being able to get home and do a little business. I had no idea what he wanted and since i had heard through back channels he had come home from a disastrous adventure out west i was guessing it was going to be a therapy session or he wanted to buy some weight, which i didn't have a the time, to make some extra money. Needless to say my expectations weren't very high. 

I arrived at the appointed time in the appointed bar. Happy Hour is great for the machinations of the shady as it brings the proper amount of noise and bustle to cover things up. Stiv and i found a corner and got down to it. In his usual brusque and anti-social manner Stiv wasted no time and cut right to the chase. I got something i wanted you to see, he said and clandestinely slid me a baggie. I understood now why Stiv picked this particular pub as the toilets were conducive to examining and/or doing drugs. I casually sauntered to the bathroom, took a quick glance and locked myself in a stall. On opening the baggie i was hit with the pleasant smell of ganja, i took out a bud and examined it, a fine green specimen that had few if any seeds, outdoor grown, well-cured and cared for, it was the midi as we called it, not only that it was on the high end of the midi, the kind of stuff that bordered on the really high end but without the high end price. Needless to say the wheels in my head were churning. I walked out and coolly sat back down. 

What do you think? he asked. I think it's good, i said. What's the deal with it? can you get this stuff? Stiv almost smiled and said yes, he could get it and then proceeded to tell me the story. He explained about the driving gig he turned down and said his friend was doing him a favor to help him out. We talked price, and his number worked for me, for a guy who barely passed math i had become very adept at doing accounting in my head, with the quality i had already worked out how the margins and as Stiv talked my antenna went up even more. It seemed that there was an endless supply if we wanted it and if we could move it. From the get go Stiv was talking about moving at least 5 pounds a week, a number in my Nickel Dimer status that i said i didn't know if i could do. Granted i said if it's always looks like this i'm sure we could get close but i told him i usually moved between a pound and change a week, on a stellar week maybe two. I did say that if it was that readily available i could sell more weight and that i always had people asking me about that but have rarely had the supply to do it. In a way these types of things are like a friendly game of poker. You don't want to show your hand but you want to stay in the game. The real bonus was when Stiv explained that credit was not a problem, or more in the vernacular, all the gear would be fronted to Stiv who would then front it to me and i would return with cash for him to take his cut and pay the man. 

We ordered more beers and shook on our new partnership. I didn't let Stiv know i was on the lookout for a connection, i had already gleaned in dealing with him one didn't want to give him any sort of advantage in the negotiating department. Luckily he was new to this and i had ample years experience. He then actually loosened up and launched into his tale of woe and heartbreak concerning his trip west. I sat and listened and said all the proper things and after another beer he asked if i wanted the pound he brought back with him. He couldn't move it, he said. A bit of useful information that i filed away. It was in his car and since he didn't want it lying about his place he figured he'd bring it with him for me to take if i wanted it. Sounds like a plan i said. We discussed our next moves, he would go up and bring back 5 pounds and i would get to work showing and selling the new product to my faithful and loving clientele. And off we went.