Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Steve the Betta is Dead



Long after i have been returned to the soil and stars from which i am made, and long after the lounge has been dug up or discovered in the ether by the remnants of civilization, where it will be printed out and bound, studied and debated, some will scream that these are the holy diatribes of an ancient shaman ( maybe someday i'm gonna print all this out and hand it to a shrink just for kicks) and others will vehentely disagree and argue that they are nothing more than the rantings and ravings of a drug-addled shut-in, what those in the future will say what those in the past referred to as a "basket case", this post here i'm guessing will most definitely be ammunition for the latter...

Now it's not bad enough that i'm halfway to being a crazy cat lady type, the examples are scattered through the posts of the last nine fucking years, fucking that right there should give some glimpse into my mental state, nine years of this non-sense? Sisyphus ain't got shit on me, but i'm now lamenting the loss of Nick Disaster's Betta, a Betta named Steve, if you want to know what your offspring were into at any given time just let them name the pets, dog or cat or cricket or frog or fish, but don't get me wrong, i've flushed many a fish in the last few years but Steve was different, a bright red and blue Betta, named of course for a character from Minecraft i know next to nothing about but who i'm sure Nick Disaster could fill you in on, and so it was with great sadness that i watched my trusty Betta slip slowly into the death grip over the last few days, then into the watery abyss known as the toilet...

Millenia from now as the scholars pour over these missives they will begin to piece things together, of course being thought of as the next messiah is a bit of a drag but what the fuck will i care? one of the things they will see i'm sure are recurring themes and bits and phrases from songs, like that line from "Summertime Rolls" about feeding the animals, i'm not sure how smart the average Betta is but i'm pretty sure that Steve was smarter than the average Betta, he used to get happy when he saw me (like i'm the fucking fish whisperer) cuz that usually meant he was getting fed, he'd swim to the corner where i dropped his food in and hang about, of course i know the whole Pavlov's dog thing but that's a dog and this is a fish, i didn't ring a bell and all that Steve could see was some unkept sideburns and nose hair and scruff, therefore i don't give a fuck i'm gonna believe that Steve was my friend, that he was happy to see me, and yeah i know what you're thinking, "shit, how much weed exactly does old El Kono smoke", and the answer would be more than some and less than others, he sounds like he's off his nut, prattling on about a fish...

You see i have this thing for Bettas, the fighting fish, the way the males can't get anywhere near each other without fighting to the death but how if left alone or with other happy little fish and lady Bettas they just float about all blissful and shit, there's something to be said for solitude, i used to stand and gaze at Steve and think that maybe Steve, the fucker, had it all sussed, sure one could say that he was in a cage/tank and that sometimes the water got a little dirtier than he liked but he had a plant for a bit and a fucking Easter Island stone head to swim around, nobody really fucked with him and he got fed on the regular, the only thing he lacked was a little female Betta company but he never complained, good fuckin' gig if you can get it methinks...

And of course the head shrinkers will all be gnashing their teeth and shouting that it's all some sort of metaphoric projection, that I am Steve and Steve is I, and they could be wrong or they could be right, solitude is my salvation, i prize it even though it is not in great supply and when it's most easily found i'm usually the most blatantly stoned, it ends with a sore back on a hard futon in a cold room, or is that a metaphor for a dirty tank? fuck it i don't know maybe it's nothing more than i like to gaze at colorful fish, of course Freud and Jung and their ilk would say it can't be that simple and Gautama would say it is, and the Dude would say that maybe the fish tied the room together, and taken in consort it would be an amalgamation of gibberish about a long dead fish... but in the future when this is unearthed from the virtual soil and the remnants of humankind toil over it's meaning i am hoping they realize that all it means it to be nice to each other, how fucking vanilla is that, it's the easiest to grasp, we humans are not brightest lot, just be fucking cool... and take care of the fish and cats and plants, cuz believe me, you'll miss them when they're gone...


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Goodbye Spaceboy

I was aware of him from an early age, i'm guessing maybe 8 or 9.  My big sis, who was six years older than me, had received the Diamond Dogs record for her birthday or something, it had the gatefold cover, on the one half was a drawing of a shirtless, ginger-haired Dave and when you opened it up it revealed his canine bottom half, it blew my fucking young mind, i did not even remotely understand it at that age but was most definitely fascinated by it.  And i'd never even heard a song. Though that's probably not true, i'm sure i'd been exposed to David Bowie blasting out of my big sis' room but i heard a lot of music come from that room, some i paid more attention to than others and for some reason i have a feeling i listened when i heard Davy Jones...

Fast forward a decade or so... i'll freely admit that my sister and i had very little in common. She was six years older, never played sports, was done smoking pot at 16, was and is incredibly intelligent, she was pissed i was born cuz after almost 6 years of being an only child the last thing you wanted was a fucking little shit brother... of course i was younger, male, a hot-shit basketball player, started smoking pot at 16 (and never stopped), part idiot part maniac, and loved to annoy my sister, the one thing we did and still do share is music, she introduced me to New Order, Blondie, Devo, and of course David Bowie... Somewhere in the mid 80's she was dating this gigantic asshole, for some reason i think there's a post about him somewhere, but back then he and his brother ran a tire and towing business, it just so happened Bowie's tour bus broke down and they were called in to fix it, GA mentioned how his fiance loved Dave and was gonna be thrilled to hear that he fixed his bus, the manager then paid for the work and handed GA two tickets, told him Mr. Bowie thanked him and would love for him to bring his fiance to the show... the tickets ended up being right on the side of the stage and at one point while the band jammed Dave snuck back for a cigarette, my sister about passed out and as she stood staring at him he looked over, then smiled and waved, i believe she then did pass out...

Now in June of 1990, David Bowie played the Richfield Coliseum for two nights on the Sound + Vision tour, i had been home from college for a few weeks and had procured a job at Hills Dept. Store across from Parmatown Mall, i was a cashier, later they'd train me to catch shoplifters, i was your typical broke wastoid and the night before the second of Bowie's gigs i had gone to see UB40 and the Smithereens thus blowing what little cash i had, thus when i heard Bowie was playing i was gutted, in the pre-internet days one had to be up on this shit and this stoned 19 yr old was not, my sister looked at me and said you NEED to see David Bowie, she then offered to buy my birthday present a a few months early, she'd give me the money for the ticket but i had to take the money and go straight to get it, i was floored, i grabbed the cash and hauled ass to the mall and bought my ticket in the bottom of the May Co., i didn't even know May Co. had a basement until that point, i stood on the white tile speckled with gold clutching my ticket like that Charlie kid...

I picked up One-eyed Bobby (who also bought a ticket) at his house and drove straight to the beverage store where our friend worked, i bought a pony case of the Queen city's finest, Little King's Cream Ale, i had rolled the last of my stash into a couple of joints and we headed out to Richfield, i parked the '78 mint green Olds Cutlass Supreme and One-eyed Bobby and i started downing beers and smoking the joints and when we were properly fucked up we went in, we were in the nosebleed section, straight back from the stage all the way a the top but it didn't matter, we were gonna see Bowie. And so we sat down...

The Sound + Vision tour was to retire the hits, Dave said that after that tour he would play those songs no more and move on to his new material, as we sat in the rafters of Richfield the house lights fell except for a single small spotlight, from the darkness you could here the opening strums of Space Oddity, sauntering and strumming an acoustic he walked towards the light and started singing, as the band began to kick in and the song build from nowhere came a giant leg, a leg that looked a lot like Bowie's, same suit and all, and the real Dave, the one singing, deftly jumped out of the way as the well clad leg came down right where he had been standing, it was fucking brilliant, it was both understated and grandiose at the same time, huge gauze projection screens, sometimes the band would be in front, sometimes behind, Dave the same and working with the images projected, it was cutting edge shit for the time, no pyrotechnics or gimmicks, it was art, music and film together and working as one and it was quite impressive...

And he played the hits as they say, the couple next to us had taken a shine to us and shared a joint, at times One-Eyed Bobby and i were singing and laughing, other times damn near in tears from one tune or another, be it a favorite or just us being on our way to wasted, it was great to be nineteen, it was great to be seeing fucking David Bowie!!, a 43 yr. old Bowie if my math is correct, and then at the end of the night he smiled and talked about how the song he was about to do was written by a Irishman and it'd be best song with an Irishman, out walked Bono and they broke into Gloria and then The Jean Genie, One-Eye and myself nearly pissing ourselves, 3 years before One-Eye's dad, a radio hot shot, had helped us score 8th row center tickets for the Joshua Tree tour at old Cleveland Stadium (i had just turned 17), now Paul Hewson was here to check out the cutting edge stage stuff Dave was using for what would be the first of the utterly over the top U2 tours, but that night? it was perfect...

The rest of the summer was spent drinking and smoking and chasing girls, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane and Hunky Dory played on boomboxes and in station wagons, it was all fucking gravy, i've on more than a dozen or so occasions told my big sis that that ticket was the best fucking present i've ever gotten... Dave meant a lot to me, the first person i called when i found out was my sister, i thanked her again but this time i joked she had impeccable taste in music for a girl from the West Side, as for Mr. Jones? i wouldn't know where to begin or end so i won't try, he was different things to all of us, i don't need to make any profound statements, it is an odd phenomena missing someone you've never met, being bummed at the passing of a stranger, sad because there would be no more new music or ideas, sad because artists with the guts and smarts to do what they want and not worry about the consequences come along so infrequently... maybe just a simple thank you... goodbye Spaceboy...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Random Notes (Suburban Surrealist Edition)

Today (now two weeks ago) i drove through the really wealthy neighborhoods and looked at the X-mas lights, the kind of houses that Blaine and Steph lived in, as if they had stables out back or bowling alleys in the basement, then i drove home and got stoned, and then baked peanut butter cookies while listening to the Smiths, it was as if Duckie had moved out to the suburbs, and he's doing alright, he's blissfully melancholic, one could call it not happy or not sad, but the Duckman was smiling as he sang the words and rolled peanut butter dough into balls, rolled them in sugar, and dutifully criss-crossed them with a fork, Mozza would've been proud, they're damn near fucking vegan peanut butter cookies, completely unintentional, more a happy accident...

Of course the other day as i left the man's house, my pockets emitting the aromatic scent of the finest indica, i drove the loop, a semi-quiet suburban street that runs sorta circle-like through my neighborhood, pleasantly stoned and creeping along, once again looking at the x-mas lights and listening to the new Deerhunter record which had crept into my psyche, i once again felt as if i was in a movie, it was a bit Edward Scissorhands, a strange Burtonesque ride, i took my time and gazed at the mostly dark houses adorned with the bright and twinkling lights, wondering what the residents were doing in the houses with the lights still on,  mine the only car on the street, it's something i do alot, having practically abandoned my old temple, aka the bar, i cruise along and like Steven Patrick i ask myself, are they happy? i think to myself, are they fucking? (what else would i think first) does it smell like dinner? are the towels folded? is the garage in order? are they fucking? are there cobwebs in the corner? is there a ring in the toilet bowl? does it smell like dog or cat? are they fucking? these things float through my mind as i pass the occasional deer at 15mph...

In sticking with the Mozza thread, i watched the Importance of Being Morrissey again the other day, i won't mention how many times i've seen it, an abnormal but not unhealthy amount of times i'd say, i'm not going to lie i love the man's music both solo and Smiths, as a nearly 40 old man i nearly jumped four rows of seats to attempt to touch his hand, that's not fucking normal behavior, of course i'm not the only one, i will say that every time i watch the documentary it amazes me at what a fucking twat the man is, i guess one of the lovely things that comes with getting older is the ability to appreciate the art even when the artist can be a fucking knob, hell if i started only reading, listening to, or admiring the work of morally upstanding artists i'd be dealing with a real short fucking list, isn't that why one gets into it anyway? the art, real or imaginary gives one the right to be a bit of a fuck-up, it's like being a born again christian, they ask Jesus to forgive, the artist writes a story or sketches something, writes a song, it's absolution in the name of something or the other...

And so last year i wrote about the Hobo Motel that currently resides next to my humble abode, i'm the star witness for the prosecution, subpoenaed and all not once, not twice, but thrice, after two postponements we will tango rain or shine, hell or high water next month, seems the starting shortstop for the world's dumbest criminals has quite an impressive rap sheet, i wondered why he didn't just pay the fine but it turns out Muppet Boy will go down for a short stretch if he's found guilty, enough for him to miss his new child's first birthday or two, lately i've been in a (more) contemplative mood, by lately for the last six/nine months, it's what i call devising and refining a philosophy to live out the rest of my days in relative peace, to loose the pissed, to do good instead of pummeling the shit out of some moron, basically good works instead of evil, an impartial judge would surely say i've perpetrated much of the latter, and so i'm writing a letter to read to the judge or hand to the judge and basically it says that i don't want him to go to jail, that while what he did was technically a crime, a minor one at that, what good would it do to take this guy who works, from what i can tell quite hard, for his family, basically kicking his wife and kids onto the dole, his main crime was stupidity and while i hold that be a more grievous offence than petty theft we've all been guilty of it, what he needs to do is think next time and if he's dumb enough to end up back in front of a judge at any point in the future then they can do what they will to keep the privately owned penal colonies at capacity... i know some may say i'm a dreamer but surely i'm not the only one?

So where are we? ah yes the blogosphere, for shits and giggles when i'm not wanking or watching Mozza documentaries (i'll let the reader decide if i do both at once) i sometimes peruse the vast wasteland that is blog universe, seems there are many reasons and motives for these little sites of we lumpen-prole, seems there is a whole fucking cottage industry that has sprung up around them, i learned that people actually try and drive traffic to their sites, that there are new terms for old terms that basically mean someone is trying to sell me shit, trying to make money, it always fascinates me how what looks like a deep pool of water is nothing more than a puddle on a blacktop, i do this for the sake of doing it, for fuck sake if i actually took it as seriously as these wankers i believe it would become something like a job, and as we barflies, whores, and drug addicts know, the last thing we want here at the lounge is a career... in anything...

The long story short, or long depending, is that the internet can turn the blandest of housewives, office drone, warehouse grunt, bicycle messenger, dishwasher, lawyer, chef, etal, into a media whore, somewhere not far from where i write this the original media whore laughs in his grave, garish white hair atop the bone white skeleton, you see i am a buffoon in the purest sense, doing or dare i say creating shit for no other reason than i like to, yes maybe i put some of what i do in a public forum but that's fine, i'm attempting to share common experiences, emotions, the fucking human condition if you will, i enjoy it, i don't expect anything from it nor want anything from it, John Frusciante, former guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers just released over 12 hours of music for free on-line, his rationale was that he wanted people to listen to his art, not to buy it, he didn't want to package it and make it a product, he wanted to give it away so people could enjoy it, think about it, fuck to it, paint to it, you get my drift, it was news that brought a smile to my face, cuz sometimes i'm still in that wilderness, a different part but still slowly and solitary marching towards the dirt nap, before i get there i want to write things down, maybe paint a few more rudimentary pictures of breasts and flowers and Henry Miller's mug, an attempt to apply meaning and feeling to an increasingly plastic coated world, i want to shoot baskets with the boyos, all around me the inhabitants of this world want to pick up more speed, want to boast of a calendar jammed with activity, i want to tell them they're doing it wrong but what do i know, chances are i'm wrong, i just prefer to sit and watch and listen, to learn, to listen to the wind and the rain, the traffic, the exuberant yawps of yard apes, to not worry about the future which doesn't exist or the past which is just a memory but to be here now, a lovely thing and simple thing to be...






Monday, December 28, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Stripper Lessons vol. 1 (cont.)

I lived a half a block from two strip clubs, one to the left of me and one to the right of me, but even closer was the dive known as Joe's Bar, i'm not even making it up, i kept the name to honor the dead, a place now bulldozed, whose drunk and drug-addled spirit now floats somewhere between a Qdobo and a Chipotle, where once you could learn valuable lessons about life and score blow now you could order a fucking expensive and shitty burrito, somewhere a man in a suit calls this progress... it was a slow Tuesday, i was bored, i didn't feel like doing anything other than draining a few beers while watching whatever sporting event i did not care about on the shitty bar television, it was roughly a 2 minute walk from my front door to Joe's... and that was if you got caught at the light to cross the boulevard, and so i pulled on my faithful old brown and blue flannel and walked out into the night...

Joe's Bar had some big, old, gorgeous windows in the front of it, otherwise it was a perfect brick rectangle painted white, a red front door, a pizza shop attached to the left of it, next to that the shittiest of fine used car sales with a couple of ghetto apartments stacked on top, out front about six parking spaces, as i walked toward the door i could tell there was barely anyone inside, a couple to my right so i immediately entered and went left, Sandy the bartender cracked a High Life and set it down in front of me, her indifference and  boredom splendidly perfect, i killed about half my beer and glanced down the bar, low and behold there was Melanie, still quite beautiful and laughing with Vic, also known as Shady Vic, a guy you wouldn't trust with your girlfriend or out of eyesight in your apartment, one of those well-fed suburban boys who was quite sure he was always the smartest guy in the room, smug and self-absorbed and highly opinionated, in short a fucking prick, i knew him through friends, he was nothing more than the asshole guy at certain parties to me, honestly i was surprised to see him on this side of town in a dive like this but then it struck me who he was with, we pretended not to see each other, but Melanie caught his glance and turned, she saw me and smiled and said Hey! and walked over and gave me a hug...

It was odd, we were having our first conversation outside the confines of the strip club and there was an awkwardness of people who are dealing with a new set of rules or lack thereof, it was idle chit-chat, Shady Vic oozed boredom and aloofness, he was doing his best to let me know my presence was less than ideal, Melanie let slip at some point that they had a stamp bag they were going to split, i shrugged, Melanie looked sheepish, Vic started in about how it'd be cool to have some blow, Melanie smiled and half-hearted asked if i knew of any around, i gave a nod and Vic began to warm up to me the best he could, she asked if it was me and i told her no, it was a guy at the bar, i left out the part about the guy also being the owner of the bar, he was up in the pizza shop and so i excused myself and walked out the door and up the steps of the shop... Pizza Jim and i had done some business together, he'd score me a shitty pound or two when i needed it, he was always trying to get me to sling blow, he'd laugh and tell me how i was perfect cuz i didn't fuck with it (of course there was a good reason for that which had to do mainly with my stupidity), i always said i'd keep it in mind, now i asked if he was holding and if so could he help out a friend of mine, he looked through the order window that led from the pizza shop to the bar, is it for her? he grinned looking at Melanie, yeah i said...

I walked back in the bar as Melanie was putting her change in her purse and handed me another High Life, she smiled and Shady Vic said, well? i told them the prices, 90 a teener, which back in the late 90's was expensive, immediately Vic began to hem and haw and piss and moan, i turned and looked at him and said, i don't give a fuck what you think of the price, you asked a favor and i helped, you either want it or you don't but what i don't want to hear is any fucking shit about what you think is a fair price, i'm getting jack shit outta this, the shit's good trust me, i was as polite as i could muster and to no one's surprise Vic acquiesced, i ran back to the shop and told Jim about this asshole whining about shit and Jim hooked up a nice chunk and i took it back and noticed that Pizza Jim was following right behind, Jim was an ex-boxer, a broad shouldered Polish/Italian boy from the hood, he walked around behind the bar and said hi to Sandy, bought me another beer and then leaned over and said to Vic, you really shouldn't bitch about prices when someone is going out of their way to hook you up, Jim smiled, Vic became over-apologetic, Jim told him to go try some and if he thought it was shit he'd give him his dough back, don't worry Pizza Jim said, it's slow in here you'll be fine, Vic hit the tiny and disgusting pisser and came out a few minutes later, he sat down and smiled and began talking faster and faster, that is good shit man, he smiled, thanks man, Jim nodded and was gone and Vic looked at Melanie and said we should head to back to your place and dig in, sure she smiled, then she turned to me and said, why don't you come too? for some unknown fucking reason i agreed...

The third wheel, and i volunteered for it, we walked out and Vic looked as if someone had pissed in his mouth, he obviously thought there was gonna be a fuck session and now he had my fucking dumb-ass tagging along... Melanie drove me up to my shitty little car and i followed her and Vic to her place, a typical East End pad, an old house divided up, a lived in smell, plants near the windows, a cat roaming the place, ashtrays full, Vic immediately took to chopping out bumps and lines, Melanie gave me one of her last beers and offered me some gear, Vic immediately chimed in that he didn't mean to be a dick but that i'd need to buck up if i wanted any powders, i didn't though part of me thought of about racking up a line just to piss him off, get the motor running and hang out all fucking night and call off work in the morning, i didn't, i politely declined as they put nostril to bill for a poor man's speedball, i hung out and watched as the gear kicked in, Vic rambled on about his one man electro-band, a pompous ass yapping about his cheeky band name and how it named checked a daddy lovin' Greek girl, yeah we all know who Elektra is i said, Melanie laughed and Vic ignored me and continued to espouse both his greatness and tortured genius, he was ahead of his time, someday the world would catch up...

So i wasted an hour or so of Vic's time, he went to piss and then his phone rang and we could hear him talking, i looked at Melanie from across the room, i motioned my head towards the kitchen where the bathroom was, what's with that? Vic? she said, nothing believe me she said slightly embarrassed, you might want to let him know that i said, i not worried she said smiling, i can handle Vic... and then we fell into silence, we were never going to be lovers, i knew that from the day i met her, she liked my weird observations, i liked her smile and those damn legs and the fact she was one cool chick, i hoped that i'd never see her again, the melancholic boy with a penchant for imaginary heartbreak would rather dwell on what might have been in a different time and place, i got up to leave and she walked over and gave me a hug, then she kissed my cheek, take care of yourself she said, you too i replied... then out the door and into the bright humming hallway lights, a couple months later word came down from the bar that Mel had moved back home with her mom, word was she was clean when she left town, i never did see her again...

Epilogue

Vic was not so lucky. I ran into him a few more times after that, usually at a party, occasionally down at a certain bar, he was always the same, one time i asked if he ever got Melanie in bed that night and he let out a part sigh part laugh and said fuck no, i tried but she was having none of it, i shook my head and tried to conceal my grin... no one ever got to hear the fancy named electro-band because it only ever played one sparsely attended show, then one fine day Vic got some good shit and took the downtown train all the way to the station, i was in said bar when someone mentioned it, a late afternoon drinking session among some of the scene's faces, another suburban kid smack casualty, the names change but the story stays the same, he didn't make 30.




Monday, December 21, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Stripper Lessons vol. 1

Sometimes in a story you gotta forgo the strictly chronological, sometimes in a story you gotta use a title to get it started somewhere even though the female lead isn't a stripper, oh she worked at the club but she was the bartender, one of those Rust Belt girls of solid Teutonic stock with a bit of the Isles thrown in, the British Isles that is, when she would walk from one end of the bar to the other none of the guys would be looking towards the stage, we would pause as if admiring a piece of fine art, she was the rarest of women in a place like this, she was beautiful and personable and down to earth, she knew how to work without making her customers feel as if they were being worked, i'd bet she made more than the girls dancing most nights...

Of course our young, dread locked, weed slinger was smitten from the first night he pushed open the door and saw her standing behind the bar smiling, her asymmetrical haircut dyed black and red, it was as if she had walked out of a John Hughes flick, our boy fell in love much to easy back then or what he at least thought was love, i was still in the phase where i was known but not that well known down the bully as they say, i tipped well and was quiet, yeah some of the girls knew my name and knew i could find things and i had begun to help one or two of them out, one in particular but that's a post for another day, once Mel showed up i would wander down and split my time between the bar and the stage, i'm sure some of the dancers were jealous of her, not because i wasn't spending all my time passing out dollars but because alot of guys were spending more time at the bar, tipping Melanie, i made it a point to eavesdrop and listen for her schedule, on her off nights i'd ask the other bartenders when they were working and of course since i was the polite kid they'd run down the whole weeks schedule, i made it a point to come down on those nights, i made it a point to get there early, before the crowd rolled in, the pipe dreams of a low-level lovesick pusher...

For those who've ever been a regular at a strip club you'll know there's a lot of second-rate soap opera shit going on, the girls talk and the regulars talk and the regulars talk shit on each other and the girls talk shit on each other and the girls talk shit on the regulars and the regulars talk shit on the girls and well it's a never ending cycle of human bullshit, i was smart enough to try and stay away from it and i knew some of the older gents who were regulars and some of the metalhead/half-ass biker dudes hanging out weren't my biggest fans though my only crime at this point was tipping well and being polite and quiet, i was usually on my own and on the wind down, Melanie seemed to take a shine to me, not in the she was gonna fuck me sorta way but more in the i wasn't a creepy asshole sorta way, i remember her saying one time that she wondered why i hung out there, said she didn't think i had much problem finding a girl, i smiled and said i didn't really have much trouble in that department, i said i liked hanging out and studying humanity, it was a place of vice with an unwritten set of codes and laws that one either played by or was shunned, i was fascinated by it, she laughed and opened my beer and said, it's never dull when you're around you know that? i most likely blushed...

Of course over the next few months i never saw her anywhere other than tending bar at the strip club, i wasn't stupid enough to believe she had any interest, i was nothing more than a nice guy, it wasn't an original schtick, there was a whole school of thought on the subject, the nice guys who hung out at the strip club, they bought the girls drinks and shied away from the stage but still managed to tip, some heavily, but the "nice" was just an act, the angle was the hope that at some point one of the girls would be attracted to said quality, now and then this set would piss and moan about who the girls were seeing and were always ready to lend a sympathetic ear to the girls when the latest love of their life fucked them over, and while i was polite and "nice" i had still managed to cultivate an "air of mystery" as i was later told by a dancer, at least in the early days, and the early days consisted of the first few years... yes you read that right, where else do you think you can find a handful of half-assed criminals and wanna-be gangsters? a shitty strip club of course, it's where we went to blow the excess dough, at least if we were smart enough to have any , and hopefully not get sucked into the dream of g-strings and  pasties and glitter and stilettos, and i'll admit that was a fine fucking line one had to walk...

So i'd sit at the bar on the slow nights and Melanie and i would talk, what did i really know of her? i knew she was raised by a single mom and didn't have much to do with her dad, who she made sound like a bit of a lovable fuck-up, she and her mom had bounced around, Florida and Georgia for a bit, then north and into the Rust Belt, how she ended up here wasn't an accident, she had left behind an ex-boyfriend and band to get away from her bad habits, figured a place where she didn't know anyone would work, keep her on the straight and narrow, i laughed and mentioned that maybe her current place of employment wasn't the wisest of choices, she smiled... and it didn't take long, one does not have to be a particularly observant when well versed in the habits of a transient hood, Melanie had made some friends... and those friends helped her out, a few weeks later she was gone, she had quit one night, she didn't say anything to anyone, she had lasted maybe four months? she worked out a her last few shifts and then one day was gone... or at least i thought... when she pulled her Houdini there were endless numbers of questions and rumors about her whereabouts, most met with indifferent shrugs from the other bartenders, then one slow Monday night i casually worked her into a conversation, the old bartender was back to cover, she smiled at me and leaned in, she thought you were a character, she's still around, just trying to get her shit together again, you know how that goes... i slowly nodded, yeah i said, i did... (to be cont.)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tree Sap

I've always been fascinated with the rituals and routines of the human race, how they come and go in the lives of people, and so since i've moved out the great wide open the ritual at ye olde suburban home is to go out and get a live X-mas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, never near a mall, fucking hell i'm not insane, there's a couple of local nurseries close by and out of the way, cut into the forest and rock of southwestern Pennsyltucky, we wander about and pick out the tree and then toss it onto the car where it stays until this old man hauls it up a short flight of steps, and then another, and then places it into it's stand and fucks about until it's straight and then stands back a bit satisfied and let's out a pleasant sigh, yes i've done the exact same thing for four years, sigh and all, you see up until four years ago i had never had a live Chrimbo tree, as a kid it was always artificial and then came a long stretch of years where a fucking X-mas tree was the furthest thing from my mind, unless of course there was booze and blow and loose women and grass and acid and well you get the picture, and no they need not be wrapped, they would be enjoyed and consumed at will and with no regard to specific dates...

There was a half dozen or eight years? that i fucking reveled in the drunken debauchery of some so-called holy days, spent them drunk and covered in sex, taking drugs and watching it snow and listening to the absolute beautiful silence of an empty and desolate city neighborhood, the Rust Belt in winter, the bars of X-mas eve and day, they are a holy place for the dispossessed, the forgotten, the ones who don't fucking care, on those holiest of days for the barflies the music is loud and drinks bought, there's singing and laughing and tears and there is a beauty... ah but those days have begun to set in my mind, cropping up as i lay with a book on my chest and staring at the ceiling, a smile that flickers across the lips, now there are new rituals, ones i hold to tight and dear...

And so the tree goes up and gets watered and there it stands until the next day, then the lights are checked and the bulbs and ornaments (i've learned there's a fucking difference you know) brought out and the boyos begin to decorate the tree with some help from their mom and pop, of course there is much debating on the placing of certain ornaments, strategies are discussed, ornaments arranged and re-arranged, there is a history there, a history to be read on every tree in every house, one just has to see it, here there are nods to Geisel and Sendak, Looney Tunes and futbol, cats and birds, Lord Vader, the golden Steeler ornament that Nick D. bought his daddy, a gift he was so excited to give his old man, a lifelong Browns fan, how could i not smile at the serendipity of it, and now each year he brings it over to me smiling and says, "dad you have to put this one on," and then stands grinning and watching and very proud and happy when it is finally placed, looking at his grin and shining eyes i sometimes wonder why it took me so long to get here?

Standing there watching the tree glow this song came on the radio and i grinned towards the colored lights, during that stretch of X-mas pasts i was listening to a lot of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt and Wilco, a warehouse stiff slinging weed and pulling for the lumpen prole, a cliche if you will... or just a kid in a man's body making his way and trying to make sense of the the things around him, there were powders and pills, there were long legs and large breasts, there was the three inches in front of my face, at twenty-seven or eight i was a self-righteous motherfucker, now and then i sit next to that guy on a bar stool, i always listen and smile, if i was gonna tell him anything it's that while i know he's full of fists and jizz and white hot love he really knows fuck-all, and then i'd pause and let him tell me what a fucking cunt i am and i'd let him rant at me for a while and when he finally ran out of steam a bit, i'd smile and say, now if you'd have let me finish i was gonna tell you you know even less at my age...

So there it stands, every night after everyone goes to bed i bask in it's lovely glow, i drink a Guinness or stare out the window, on clear nights i pretend to ponder the stars, i scratch the cat between her ears as she sits there content and purring, i love the smell of the tree, i love the lights, i love i get to stare at it for the next month, these are things that the young guy on the bar stool wouldn't have understood, the holiday? the religious connotations? the consumer cult associated with such? it doesn't mean shit to me, the ritual of this habit lies somewhere more Eastern, a feeling of time and place and peace, of joy... and then Stretch or Disaster will run by and i'll catch my breathe... and that night as i stood listening to the song and Nick Disaster stood rambling on about the tree and Stretch went flying up the stairs in search of a book, i could feel the tears well up in my eyes, beautiful fucking tears... and then i remembered that i'm a hard motherfucker and got my shit together real quick... or at least that's what i'll put here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Musings on Death and Cleveland

It was her son that said it best, as she lay there in the last days of her life and the people who loved her and whom she loved gathered around, as they talked and told stories, someone said that when asked to describe her they said her vocation was grandmother, he elaborated by saying that while she was good to her kids there was a whole different level when it came to her grandchildren... oddly enough not hours before as i stood in my father's apartment drinking coffee he had mentioned that he hadn't been particularly close to his mother, his father either for that matter, and the world just opens up, histories unknown, glimpses into a father and a mother, and another father, and the dynamics of family and the humor and cruelty and love there within...

So her vocation was grandmother... as i sat there in my suit and tie, in a shirt borrowed from my father, i smiled and thought to myself, how fucking cool is that, as i sat and looked around the room at her four children, eight of her grandchildren, and even a few of her seven great-grandchildren, i thought that's much better than doctor or lawyer or senator, she was a grandmother, she took care of people, and though she once remarked that out of all her grandchildren i was the once she had spent the least time watching, as i grew up she used to laugh at my antics, she was much wiser and smarter than her poorsouthernchildhood led you to believe... at some family gathering one time, i was giving her the business about all the other grandkids getting shit knitted for them, it was a good-natured ribbing and my sister chimed in something about Grandma loving them more, her in particular, and we laughed and i forgot all about it, it was a few years in to a party that would stretch close to two decades, i had bombed out of grad school and set up in the old Steel City hood, my old man had an apartment in Lakewood so i went to spend some time with him over the holidays and X-mas eve we went over to his mom's, i remember my grandmother handing me a box, at this point i was too old to be getting gifts so i was a bit surprised, the hair was the beginning stage of rat's nest, a long and nappy mess, and what had Grandma given me? she had knitted a fucking gorgeous hat and scarf, damn near in Rasta colors, i was speechless, she just smiled and said "well you said i never knitted you anything, i hope you like the colors."

And what did i learn about her? well shit, i learned my grandmother hated her first name until she found out she was named after her grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee, i learned her middle name was Eudora and that growing up people called her Dottie, that everyone back in Tennessee still did and that all her close friends always had, i learned she got married in Jackson, Mississippi and that she was born the same year as Hank Williams, Henry Kissinger, and Bob Barker, that she grew up a poor farm girl but loved her daddy Hassell, stories of which she told the last time i saw her a year before, how she knew how to ride a horse but not a bicycle (bicycles were un-ladylike), that she learned to drive in 1967 at age 44 the same time as her only daughter, that her favorite baseball players were Larry Doby and Satchel Paige, and that the first time she saw my grandfather she thought he was the handsomest boy she'd ever seen."

There is much i'll never know of my grandmother and much she'll never know of me, i do know that for some reason during my last semester of college i was denied my student loans, it was the middle of a messy divorce and any money i could have begged, borrowed, or stolen would have been tied up and so i said fuck it, it'd quit six credits short, the old man said we'd figure something out and what happened was that his mother, my grandmother, explained to him that he was the only one of her kids who had never asked for or borrowed money and that she'd pay my last semester tuition because she thought it was important that i graduate, i was the second college graduate from my family, my dad was the first, when the old man told me he had the money for my last semester i asked how? he smiled and said it's taken care of, i told him i would pay him back, he chuckled and said Junior she wouldn't take it from you even if you had it, that's just your grandmother...

And though my grandmother had far closer relationships with pretty much every other one of her grandchildren i remember what she said one rare holiday foray home to Cleveland, i was just seriously entering the Wilderness Years and what she said she had actually said a few years before, back before the dissolution of my parents marriage, she said i reminded her of my grandfather, a man she had divorced but a man i believe she loved very much, flaws and all, my mother immediately stopped her from finishing, a fact i was keenly aware of, on this day she had said it again and i asked her what she meant, she laughed in her way that was familiar in the way your grandma's laugh is and told me that i had his eyes, said i had his sly grin and that there was just mischief about me and boy if that wasn't your grandaddy when he was young, there's an old post (3/29/2010) that talks about my grandfather, a somewhat mythic figure in my life who i met exactly once...

I sat and listened as i heard parts of my family's history that i had never heard before, learned things about my grandparents and father and uncles and aunts that i never knew, was reminded that my grandparents were the only ones from their families to leave Tennessee, to move to Cleveland, a city that becomes more foreign to me every time i return, a city that's become a memory even though the things i loved most as a kid are still there, the places i loved most in my youth are still there, maybe not the same names or maybe not even physically standing but they are there when i drive down the street, cruising old neighborhoods, remembering where the Gold Circle was and how it's been two dozen different things in the last 30 years, it's that strange feeling of being half asleep and seeing these things so familiar and yet so odd, like listening to a warped record...

And so goes my hometown, i understand the nature of things and chances are at some point my physical attachment to the city will be gone, it will become a myth like my grandfather, it will be stories and songs and half-dreams whispered in a drowsy ear, it will become like the myriad of lost women who bring a smile to my face in thoughtless moments, a daydream well spent, the place where i was born, to the second son of an oldest daughter of a poor Tennessee cotton farmer and her husband, one of ten children, a guy with a fourth grade education and who grew up on a farm and did trigonometry in his head while cutting metal for industry and wars, and the things i did there will be nothing more than stories to tell the boyos as we watch the snow fall or shoot baskets, tales of a life... it was snowing as i left Cleveland two Saturdays ago, i smiled because my grandmother never did get used to the cold weather, i smiled because she had lived to be 92, i smiled at how ordinary and beautiful her life had been, another life in the billions of lives that have passed through this ball of air and water, known and loved to the few who knew her in the billions roaming around, it made me happy, it's what rolled through my head as i sped down I-480 towards the Ohio turnpike, the music blasting, racing back to my new home so i could see Nick Disaster play in his flag football play-off game, to watch the I-mac run and goof around with his friends, to see the smile of this girl who's now a woman, to remember the dead fondly, to say their names and tell the stories, and to love the living unconditionally, cuz someday i'll be just a name and some stories...



(top photo, my grandparents circa 1941-43?)