Friday, November 16, 2018

The Hundred Foot Waves

Today it has been six months to the day that my father died. It seems like both an eternity and the blink of an eye. To say he has dominated what i've thought and written about in the last six months is an understatement and easily proven by just looking back through this little exercise in futility which i've dubbed "the lounge". Sometimes i wonder if there is an hour in the day that i don't think about my father. I'm sure there are a few that pass where he doesn't cross my mind in some way but those are more the exception than the rule. What i do know is that i miss him and that the last six months has been spent trying to deal with the loss of the person who knew me the best and who, in simple parlance, was my best friend. Then again i'm not sure he was my best friend as he was more than that, he was my dad but to simply call him that would understate the human being he was. He was a fucking gem.

This situation i'm in is not unique and i understand that everyone goes through it at some point. If things go as planned the boyos will one day deal with it and i'm doing my best to leave some kind of blueprint or guide into how to go about it. I'm not sure it's the correct one as i'm easily prone to bouts of silence and brooding away in my own thoughts, though i make sure i talk to them often about their grandfather (and every other topic that comes to mind.) I also know that what i miss the most is our long and meandering conversations that would touch on everything from politics to philosophy to strip clubs to the Cleveland sports teams to his grandsons and his ex-wife, to his only son's not so upstanding past, and to the mistakes and triumphs of this whole living thing. I miss his rational way of thinking and the inflections in his voice when he was railing against the right wing or talking about  or to his grandsons. Mainly i just miss him and that's okay. I'm supposed to. I'm also supposed to get on with things and so i have to the best of my limited ability.

The internet is a vast and useless wasteland used mainly for commerce and influencing elections, (Pops would love that sentence) but every now and then one stumbles across something that somewhat reminds us that the human race is just as capable of great beauty and compassion as it is violence and hate and destruction. And so it was one day while perusing the wasteland that i stumbled upon something written by an elderly man, it was a response to someone young who had just lost a loved one and in it was some of the wisest words i had ever come across. If i had any technical ability i would have copied and pasted or something but fuck all that non-sense as it's difficult enough for me to post a simple blog entry let alone figure all that shit out. Luckily i've read it so many times i about have the damn thing memorized.

This anonymous man wrote about the one-hundred foot waves that will wash over you when you lose someone you love. How in the beginning they come fast and quick and you wonder if you're ever going to make it out or if you're going to drown in the force and strength of the waves but rest assured he says, you'll make it. Of course once you get past high tide it doesn't mean the waves will stop, they'll keep coming and they will have the same effect. In fact they'll always keep coming at you but that will just help to prove how much you have loved and been loved and even as the time passes and you can see the waves coming from far off, you can feel them wash over you just as they did in the beginning, you'll still come up for air, you will still get through it. It may not hurt any less but you will understand how to cope and survive. He wrote of how those waves leave scars and how you should be proud of those scars. How if you are lucky you will have many. How those scars are proof of the love you have had for those in your life. How he, as an old man now, has many scars. How most of his friends and his family are gone and that each day he wears those scars proudly, not to forget them or the ones who he loved and that if we are lucky those waves really never stop as in those waves are a reflection of you and the people you loved the most. I'm sure i don't do the actual letter justice but that's the gist of it.

And so now i deal with those waves. Now i usually see them coming from far off. I've learned how to breathe and not drown as they wash over me. I've learned to wear my scars, i've learned to show them to my sons and to tell them that they too will one day have them and that it will be alright. That it will be a sign that their old man did more than just wander around the house muttering to himself but that he passed on something just like his old man passed on something to him. And if i could find that old man who wrote that letter i'd give him a great big hug and ask him about the waves and his scars. I'd buy him a cup of coffee and sit and listen to those stories, the stories that cause those waves, the stories that leave those scars, cuz in those stories are more than words and memories but that intangible thing we call love. For a guy who grew up in the Rust Belt my father loved the ocean. I tend to think he'd enjoy that letter and also agree with it. I miss Pops.

Friday, October 12, 2018

How to Die

It was the morning of December 10th when my father first told me about his cancer. It was a long conversation that covered many topics from treatment options, to possible outcomes, but most importantly it was a discussion on mortality and life in general and a lengthy discussion about death.  From that first discussion the old man and i were under no illusions as to what the outcome was going to be, the same outcome we all face sooner or later my father just had a better idea of when that sooner or later was going to happen. As i've stated before, his surgeon called him the most rational patient he'd ever had. Staring down death my father never blinked. We talked about it extensively in those last months and he was fine with it, it was an inevitable part of life and i think knowing he had lived life as a decent and honorable human being helped. He had raised children who were independent and intelligent people (my sister anyway) and was appreciative of every minute spent with his grandsons, his three boys as he called them. He didn't bitch and moan about his plight or fate or whatever you want to call it, he accepted it and prepared for what came next. His biggest worry was being a burden to his children, to his last breath he was selfless.

The day after my father passed as i sat in his room and cleaned out his stuff i noticed the answering machine blinking. It was his special lady friend, a phrase pulled from the Big Lebowski as my dad often called me Dude. I called her to see if anyone had notified her about my dad. My big sis had and we had a conversation. She told me that she felt as if she knew me and my sons, she said my father would light up when he talked about his grandsons and how that boy of his was a never ending source of amusement and wonder to his old man. It was one of the themes that kept popping up with my father, his unconditional love for his children and grandchildren and his immense intellect. To say i think about my father a lot would be an understatement. I also know that his passing has had a profound effect on me and how i view things and deal with people. My father used to laugh at how as a child i was not one to tolerate injustice, a trait he himself possessed and a trait that i realize has been passed down through generations on his side of the family. In my youth the battle with the injustices of the universe would drive me mad, i wore my emotions a bit more on my sleeve than Pops did, of course as i've gotten older i understand the universe is a cold and cruel mistress not much interested in things like justice and the like. Now and then though i still have my issues with it but much like he taught me how to live my father taught me how to die, with a grace and a dignity and the thought that it's too late to correct things when the clock strikes midnight so you best live and love to the best of your ability while you have the chance. Which in turns leads me to the shit show.

The shit show started Labor Day weekend when the Posa, aka the Breadwinner's father, was admitted to the hospital. He hadn't been feeling well but when one cries "wolf!" so often no one really takes it seriously after a while. After some blood work and the like it was determined he had indeed had a mild heart attack which necessitated another procedure which in turn led to him being scheduled for triple bypass which in turn led him to being shipped from CenPenn, as the Pennsyltuckians call it, to the VA here in the Burgh. This of course meant that my humble abode would soon be turned into a motel and much like my recently dear departed little Claudia i do not much like when my house is invaded by strangers... well maybe not strangers but you get the idea. My whole little routine would be thrown off and frankly i like my little routine, it gives me time to daydream and pull tubes and spin records and generally fuck off while being the domestic handmaid that i am. And so it began.

With the Posa being shipped west the audible delight from the Breadwinner's big bro was palpable. Big Bro aka The Captain of Industry, is a 45yr old man who thinks daddy owes him something and hence uses him as a cash machine. A quick list of the Captain's fuck-ups would read something like, massive credit card debt at 24 (which daddy bailed him out), tossed out of the army after spending six months in the clink for "possession" of MDMA (for which daddy provided the lawyer and flew to Germany to cry in front of the judge), knocking up his girlfriend in daddy's house (who he subsequently did marry but not before finding out he had knocked up his other girlfriend in the army), moving his new family into daddy's house, being pissed that he didn't get a lavish wedding, his bride being even more pissed, and of course the list could go on but i'd run out of fucking room. Needless to say the Captain now runs his own business, signed over to his wife due to that little felony thing and consistently is in debt to his daddy for six figures, an amount he has no intentions of paying back and would shed crocodile tears on his father's demise until of course he saw the will which has apparently been changed to short the Captain of his debt... and that's just the first sibling.

The Trainwreck, aka younger sister, is a morbidly obese, chain smoking mental case with a soon to be 12yr old daughter who is already looking to be a bit of a handful. Her issues are also a plenty but can mostly be traced back to her weight which in turn leads to her own wrecked self-esteem and her penchant to quit on anything that might be a tad bit difficult. She actually owned her own business at one point and was doing well until her shitbag partner somehow forced her out. Which in turn led her to moving home and living in her father's basement. Toss in the hyper-active younger brother from Denver who can't sit still and is everything the Breadwinner loves, (don't worry it's not gonna get all Greek mythology kids). Since he can't sit still he's always doing something, be it fixing things to making corn hole boards and smoking salmon to sell on the internets. He's not a bad sort but believe me when i say his hyperactivity can get on my nerves as well as his habit of filling the Breadwinner's head with home improvement projects all of which i'm somewhat disdainfully looked upon as unfit to undertake let alone complete.

And so for ten days this is what i dealt with. Of course not all of them were here all the time but at least one of them was here and usually more than one, and yes sometimes all of them. All the while i went about my usual business of taking care of the boyos and running them to practice and games and school and helping with homework with the added fun of cleaning up after adults who seemed to think my house was a motel and that the maid service (see me) would handle the clean up. But let us not forget the Posa.

The Posa, staring down his own mortality, became a quivering ball of tears. He sat and told the Breadwinner that he was scared and that he wanted to see his granddaughters get married and see them graduate and see them do all kinds of things. (Note, she has no daughters.) As the dutiful daughter Breadwinner went and saw him every day, usually multiple times and listened to him whimper about his plight. This is a man who treated her like shit her whole life. Told her when she was a child "he didn't want her." Her older brother and her are less than 13 months apart. The Posa was an emotionally and physically abusive asshole, he preyed on his wife's low self-esteem and weight problems to control and manipulate her. His idea of showing love was throwing money at his kids and his two middle kids, the Breadwinner and her hyperactive brother, received very little, and yet there she sat listening to him and taking care of him and worrying about him. He spent every waking moment on the phone calling every person he knew to drum up sympathy, to make himself feel loved. I get it, the guy was scared, it's a natural reaction. He also kept asking when i was going to visit.

Let me state that i am an empathetic and compassionate human being even if this next paragraph or so will seem to prove otherwise. While i believe all humans deserve those things i also believe some do their best to negate those things by not ever exhibiting those qualities themselves. By being self-centered, abusive assholes whose utter lack of humanity disqualify them from said feelings. I put the Posa squarely in that category, i don't mind someone being a miserable SOB but when you toss in the aforementioned traits i don't have time to be arsed anymore. I showed my compassion to him by not visiting. My utter indifference to his existence would most likely have come shining through and i wasn't going to sit there and fawn over the man as he wished. It doesn't really matter to me if he lives or dies. I know this might seem a rather callous view but it's the one i hold. Being the ever present navel-gazer it has crossed my mind that he may be just a pawn in the never ending game of fuck you played between the Breadwinner and i. Having received very little support of any kind during my father's illness maybe i'm being the selfish asshole and returning the favor. Then again this is a man who has done nothing to earn any one's empathy or compassion except for his youngest and oldest children.

My father showed me how to face the end with grace and dignity. He didn't bitch or moan or whimper about things, he looked it squarely in the eye and accepted it. He didn't want or expect sympathy, didn't want attention, he wanted to get on with the days he had left, to read and talk to his siblings and children and grandchildren and not be a burden even though every one of those people would have given anything to help him. He as an intelligent and thoughtful guy. The Posa is the exact opposite. Even though he's no longer here my father is still teaching me things. It's another in the many lessons i hope to pass down to the boyos, both spoken and unspoken and after that it's up to them what they do with this knowledge.

As for the Posa? After quintuple bypass he's back home and on the mend. My house is back to normal just the way i like it. There was a point where i was a bit pissed that a man like my father could get the shit end of the deal while the Posa keeps on going. It was the shadow of the younger me and my problems with the universe and it's meting out of justice. It's alright though, somewhere i could here my father laughing, smiling, and saying "let it go kid, it's gonna be alright." As usual the Old man is right... and i have.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Claudia 1999-2018

It's been a bit of a shit show around here lately but i'll get to that soon enough, what i need to get to now is this, my little cat, me beloved Claudia left this world on September 7th at the ripe old age of 19. She was what i called my most cattiest of cats, a skittish little imp who wasn't fond of many people but those she was fond of had a little companion whose little motor never stopped humming away. She hated when she had to move house/apt and would usually spend the next week hiding under a bed pissed off at the notion that we had the gall to move her from her last abode. When her younger brother Zuko arrived she decided that she would live in a bedroom and not leave hence necessitating the relocation of a litter box and food and water. It's why i love cats so much, they do not believe they are your pets but that you are theirs and you will do what they ask... or suffer the consequences. When she took up residence in said bedroom she spent nights sleeping next to my head and i'd often fall asleep to the sound of her purring happily away in her cozy little spot tucked between pillows and a headboard.

And so over the last year as i watched her decline it was tough. Her descent into very old kitty age saw her develop what i called "kitty dementia", albeit mildly, or maybe she decided she was to old for this living in one room shit and she decided to come out. She had lost her hearing and had some eyesight problems related to some other health issues but until the end she was the sweetest little cat i could have asked for, she still loved her head to be scratched and like pushing her face through a little circle i'd make with my hands, the same things she had done since i got her at five weeks old. Having moved to a stiff couch for my back she no longer slept next to my head but each morning she'd come slowly down the steps and meow a few times letting me know she was ready for her morning milk. She had always loved her milk and over the last year i gave it to her multiple times a day, i wanted her to be happy and nothing made her happier than a bit of milk and a kitty treat, once again her little motor going as she watched what i could only guess was my blurry figure with her failing eyes. I nicknamed her Little Butt when she was a kitten cuz she was such a tiny thing and it was a name that stuck until the end.

That Friday morning things went south fast and i knew she was in pain and so i grabbed the carrier and made for the emergency room. I won't go into the details but i knew it was the end. Somehow i figured that her being so old, having had a good life, and knowing she was in failing health would have made it easier but in reality i was lying to myself. And so a tall man with a small cat did his best to sputter out the words at the desk while he wiped the water from his eyes. After a brief exam the doc told me what i already knew and so they gave her a bit of pain medicine and brought her back to me so i could say goodbye. As i held her she laid her head on my shoulder and i talked to her as i always do with my cats, i'm a crazy cat person, i'll admit it freely, i told her how much i loved her and that when she got to Kitty Valhalla to tell her brothers Pablo and Louie and her sister Sylvia that their old man said hi and that he loves them. I sat there for a while scratching her head as she laid in my arms, told her how much i loved her and then it was time. I had her longer than any pet i had ever had, i drove home with more than an empty carrier, through the mist in my eyes i smiled at the thought that she had still gotten her last bit of milk and a treat that morning. Each morning i find myself still waiting to hear her call for milk, keep looking for her to be sitting in the kitchen and purring away. She was the last of the original three, i'm happy i got to be her human.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Mushroom Diaries - Vol. 2 The Fearless Freaks

And so the countdown to lift-off began as my friend, his Ex, and i sat in some horrendous country themed bar across the street from the venue. The Blue Moons went down smooth and refreshing and we ordered some dinner and discussed the events that had just taken place. As if on cue, when the Ex had finished eating her new man texted and off she went, never to be seen again this night. To say i felt bad for my friend wouldn't do it justice, they've been on and off for over a decade, the usual scenario being she finds a new guy and splits and when it falls apart she calls him up, they remain friends and if she needs help he gives it. He is a decent and hard-working guy who is lonely as fuck. The product of a divorced home and a father who was both physically and emotionally abusive the psychic damage done is both great and extensive. We sat at the bar with our beers and he spewed a controlled vitriol. He told me to be nice when we met the guy (which we never did), talked about what a loser the guy was and how he couldn't hold a job and was an ex-con, repeated every third or fourth sentence that he wasn't bitter. His hurt was palpable and i just wanted to make sure he had a good night. I knew from years before that his father, who was a complete shitbag, judged everyone on the size of their wallet and make of their car. As he talked about his job and his pay i gently kept changing the subject. I knew why he did it... because their was nothing else for him to talk about, it was sad, so i did my best to make him forget.

At 6:40pm i made my way to the bathroom and stood in a stall while dumping a healthy dose of  ground mushrooms into my hand, i wheeled around and made for my stool where i promptly tossed them into my mouth and quickly drank some water to wash them down. By 7:30 the tingle was in full effect and on what was now my third trip to the bathroom to pinch out a bit more i was giggling at how wonderful it felt to walk. It was then that i noticed that a gaggle of women had congregated around the mechanical bull and were attempting to ride the thing. I stared in wonderment at the absurd scene and asked my friend if it was really happening, he laughed and said, yep! you should go and try it, and i replied i'd be like Gene Wilder in Stir Crazy and ride the thing for 2 minutes, to which my friend replied, ride? you and the mechanical bull would fucking float off into the sky! As the clock struck 8 we paid our tab and made our way outdoors for public consumption of the cannabis pen and across the street and into the gig.

By now it was all systems go, i had given up the booze entirely and had switched to water, the dose was bigger than i planned, i grinned and stretched, every pain i had was gone, it felt as if i was vibrating a few inches off the ground, i ran into some other good friends and hooked one up with what was left of my stash. I bought my boy beers whenever he needed, it was the least i could do for him buying the ticket. We stood outside in the gorgeous night, partly so my friend could have a cigarette and so i could enjoy the night air.

For some reason, women kept talking to me. My boy laughed and called me a dick cuz at one point i was having a conversation with a women in the beer line when another women walked up, pointed at my shirt and started talking too, she told me i should come to the upstairs bar with her because the line was shorter even though i was next (behind the other woman i was talking to), when she finally split i turned back to the other woman who was now buying some horrible light beer and joked about how she waited in line that long for a shit Bud Light, she told me the can had fooled her because she thought it was Guinness and proceeded to give me the business for drinking water. I told her i was a special case and bought her beer and smiled. Needless to it was a recurring theme and my friend was laughing his ass off and claiming that i could have went home with half a dozen phone numbers or better yet one of them. I explained that it was the mushroom effect and that it softens the eyes and the demeanor and certain people pick up on it not to mention the fact that i'm in such a blissful state of being that it didn't much matter, i was after nothing more than a friendly chat until the show kicked off but i did admit it didn't suck.

Then of course the show kicked off and oh what a show it was, the set list being a cherry-picked bit of Lips favorites with a sprinkling in of songs off the new record which adds up to a swell night of music. Add in one of the best fucking light shows you'll find these days and the senses were gleefully overloaded with light and music. There comes a beautiful sense of peace and lucidity when you take a big enough dose, it's a hard feeling to describe other than it's a wonderful place and when you add all the bits together it was a banner fucking evening. When the show was over i hugged my friend and thanked him for what was a great day. I turned down a ride from my other friends so i could walk the North Shore streets and take the train back to my car. I had turned the corner and was on the way back down to the terrestrial world. Besides, i love the damn train while the boomers kick their way through my system, i love the ride through Downtown and under the buildings, past Station Square and then through the budding barrio, i love that by the time i reach my stop the train is practically empty, the floodlights and platform reminding me of the places south of London seen many moons ago, i walked off the platform singing Race for the Prize while the crickets sang back up and the traffic sounded like water lapping on the shore.

(All those photos were taken during the first song, Race for the Prize, before i went downstairs and really overloaded the senses :) 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

They Lifted Up the Sun

They say beware of meeting your heroes and i tend to agree with that statement. Of course at my age i don't really have heroes though i have people/artists i greatly admire, if i was asked to pick a hero i'd say that he passed away on May 16th and leave it at that, that said i do my best to try and avoid meeting the people i see up on stage or screen or galleries and what not. As i often tell the boyos the famous shit just like you do and really aren't much different other than many live a world that is both unreal and unsustainable.  Not all but many. So when an old and good friend of mine bought me a VIP ticket to meet the Flaming Lips and hear their sound check what was i to do? He really wanted me there and stated that if anyone should meet these guys it should be me and so he shelled out $160 to give me that opportunity. It's something i'd have never done for myself and as we get older the times someone does something for you out of love is not something to be scoffed at. My friend was just a wide-eyed kid not yet 21 when he moved in with a mass of dreadlocks and stink and weed that was a force of nature unto the world. I know i'm like the big brother he wished he had and he is one of the kindest people you'll ever meet.

And so it was that i caught the 2:37 T into town again and then sprinted halfway to Stage AE to meet my friend by 3:30 for the VIP experience kids. It was my friend, his ex-lady (who he also bought a ticket for) and myself. While we waited outside we could hear the Lips begin sound check through an open door, then a brief check of tickets, our fancy VIP passes hung around our necks, we walked in and were greeted to the Lips mid-song. After the song Wayne Coyne stopped and explained in the most Wayne-ish of ways how the afternoon would go. We'd listen to the sound check and then afterward go upstairs where there would be a meet and greet and you'd get some exclusive swag included with the ticket price. Sounds cool i thought. And so as i usually do i stood by the sound board and watched the light show and listened to the Lips run through some of their set. Needless to say the light show had me grinning for what was to come later in the evening but it was interesting to watch the band work through things and Wayne wander around the venue and listen from different spots when he wasn't singing. He told a great story about when  Nirvana opened for them long before Nevermind ever came out and how they played every song, even in sound check, as if it was the last one they'd ever play. Then he hopped down from the stage and announced it was time to meet the band and that we'd be shepherded upstairs where we'd get our time.

As we lined up by the stage doors i noticed my friend and his ex-lady were first in line, there were roughly thirty-some people who bought the package and while i figured i didn't want to be last i also didn't want to be first. It hit me that i was a bit nervous, not really star struck but what does one say given five minutes or whatever it may be to the members of a band you've been listening to for close to 30 years? Of course blasting the indica in the vape pen since i got on the train probably didn't help my mental state but still i realized i was a bit in awe. And so i slid back so that there were a few groups ahead of me, my boy and his ex-lady first, then a couple, and then what appeared to be a mother, father, and twenty-ish adult son. Then there was me, on the Jack Jones. But not having much to say? that was a lie, i had a lot to say, i just didn't know if i'd actually say it... most of it about the last 8 months and involving the Soft Bulletin...

Next thing i knew i was standing at the doorway, a minute later there was Wayne Coyne, wild hair and a blue suit shaking my hand and asking my name, inside the room was Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins, basically the permanent members of the Lips. Steven said he liked my shirt and we did the picture thing and made small talk. There was a moment when i figured i'd collect my photos and be on my way, then i stopped and began to speak... I said, "i know there's a lot of people waiting but i just wanted to tell you guys something, i found out my father had cancer in December and the first thing i did when i got off the phone with him was put on the Soft Bulletin, i wanted you to know how much it helped, i listened to it through his illness, he died May 16th, and on May 17th as i drove up to Cleveland where i grew up i listened to it in the car. I laughed, i cried, i smiled through tears. But it helps and i just wanted to say thanks." Wayne and Steve both stood there looking at me when Wayne stepped towards me and said, "damn man, can i give you a hug?" I laughed and said sure and got my hug, Steve then asked if he could give me one as well and then for the next ten minutes they both asked me questions about my father, about his illness, about him, we talked about the record, we talked about the fact that i had seen David Bowie live in 1989 (Wayne guessing the wrong tour and me telling him it was the Sound and Vision Tour, and how my sister had bought me the ticket because i had blown my dough on UB40 and the Smithereens two nights before, which brought a good laugh, had seen him on the Modern Love tour) and they had not, i actually felt a bit guilty because i didn't intend to occupy this much of their time but they kept talking to me about things. Both of them then in turn thanked me, talked about how as much as you think they hear stuff like this all the time they actually don't and how they were a bit floored by it, i smiled and told them thanks again while Wayne walked me to the door, arm draped over my shoulder, shook my hand again and said thank you, thank you for sharing that cuz it means a lot... and then off i went...

I walked down the hall and took the elevator down and found my boy and his ex, i told them the story and hugged my friend and thanked him again for giving me the opportunity. It was quarter after five and we walked down the street looking for a bar. The opening band wouldn't start for a couple hours and the Flaming Lips not until 9:15 or so? i knew the venue and their schedules well. I was still trying to process how fucking surreal the whole thing was, those guys were the fucking most down to earth guys you'd ever want to meet. Good people as we used to say in the hood. We strolled down the North Shore sidewalk staring at the over-priced chain bars and deciding on one with a mechanical bull and a country theme, mainly chosen for the ease of smoking, the Ex's cigarettes and myself the pen of Punxy Punch. I fumbled with the fungus in my pocket, soon it would be lift-off time, it was clear and warm with a blue sky dotted by white clouds, it had been a stellar day, the kicker being the show hadn't even started yet...

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Mushroom Diaries - Vol. 1

The question i put to myself was, why stop at just a sunny Friday morning? Of course the steady diet of Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson as of late has probably helped influence the decision, but the decision had already been made long before and the decision involved taking it a bit further when the chance presented itself. To play with the dosage and the degree to which i wanted to travel. I've been a sucker for psychedelics since the day i tried them. I'll freely admit i'm one of those special cases who like to take them not for the light show that might take place (though i don't mind it) but for the pure joy of rambling around my own head and all the parts i don't regularly get to, i enjoy the quickness of  thought, the connections made, the way things can be turned upside down and make perfect sense. There's a reason the medicine man and the shaman have been taking these substances for thousands of years, i'm a firm believer that it provides an innate understanding and acceptance of things both pleasant and not so much, the latter not to be confused with the "bad trip" non-sense, but more in terms of coming to grips with things opposed or outside our reality tunnel... and it's a whole lot of fun.

Now let me state that this post isn't about to turn into some deep metaphysical treatise on the meaning of existence (or fuck it maybe it is). It's really about everyday adventures and the fun of riding trains. And so it goes... The first friday of August i had a ticket to see Father John Misty at a swell place called the Stage AE. AE being a purveyor of over-priced clothes made in far off lands but nice enough to build a decent sized indoor/outdoor venue which i usually hit a few times a year to see some music. It's located smack dab between Heinz Field and PNC Park in what used to be the North Side but through the wonders of progress and gentrification has been re-christened the North Shore. I've always been one to associate shores with oceans and lakes while rivers, like the one that runs beside this part of town, have always had banks, but hey who am i to quibble?

These days i like to pretend to be the responsible type, sort of, i know i know, it could be construed as a bit of an oxymoron in a post about mushrooms but since it was a Friday night and i don't like to drive far, far being 7 maybe 8 miles from the cribbo to the venue, i decided to take the T aka the trolley, which in the Burgh is just a fancy word for train. You see i could catch the train close to my house and get off a ten minute walk from Stage AE and then vice-versa on the return. I've lived in this city for over 20 years now and this was going to be the first ride (i think) on the T. What you say!! First time? Yes first time. Being the territorial sort in my wasted youth wilderness days i never strayed far from me barrio, the three neighborhoods i traversed provided everything i needed so i never felt the need to leave them. Yes i drove (or walked/biked) all over them but with a secret knowledge of back roads and a modicum of common sense it was pretty low risk. So just like Mr. Rogers, i donned my sweater and sneakers (not really) and drove the mile to the train station where i parked the car and sat devouring peanut butter mushroom crackers washed down with water with the odd pull from a newly acquired vape pen loaded with the finest indica live resin around. Then i made for the platform.

Nothing portends a good night like a couple of tweekers. I can vouch for the fact that of the three patrons on the platform we were all on drugs. America!! what a country!! A guy and his girl, the guy so coked up he couldn't sit still, the girl visibly fed up with him, him carrying three cell phones, him dropping the one he was using behind a cement bench on the platform, him then wandering off into the parking lot to look for a stick to retrieve said phone, my stoned self giggling at it all and trying to figure out how to use my transit card, the girl then stating out loud "this is what happens when you do to much coke", me asking her about the card and then stating i could reach his phone, him still wandering the parking lot still looking for a stick and spouting gibberish into one of his remaining cell phones, me getting his dropped phone, the girl saying thanks and explaining to my pleasantly stoned self what i needed to do, her screaming at him that she got his phone... and all before the boomers even kicked in...

Once on the train i settled in for my half hour ride to the North Shore, the beginning of the tingling in my mind and body, i watched the neighborhoods roll by, i remembered that slow train from Amsterdam to Brussels and eating two ganja cookies and downing coffee and the strange glow of the coffee porter in the train aisle as the cookies took hold.  My current T took me under the old US Steel building, past PNC park and underground stops i didn't even know existed and then to the end of the line, where i rambled down the steps as the mushrooms began to kick harder, a pull off the pen and a 15 minute leisurely walk while Friday night on the North Shore swirled around me. By the time i hit security i was in full flight.

So what's a stoned and tripping 47yr old man on his own to do while he waits for the band? Absolutely nothing. I listened to the opening band for a song or two and then made my way to the bar for a beer and a water, i then moseyed to the outside area to watch the hustle and bustle of the North Shore on a Friday night. The Pirates were in town and unbeknownst to me so was the regatta, the place was mobbed and i could only grin at my dumb luck, parking would have been a nightmare and a twenty dollar bill at least, now that twenty could go towards liquid refreshment to help my tripping ass stay hydrated. There are monitors all over the place outside so i could see when Father John Misty was about to go on. I took a few more pulls from the pen, pissed (one of my favorite things to do on mushrooms as it's like an extended male orgasm to me, a fact i mention constantly), grabbed a new beer and water and took my spot in the back and waited.

Father John Misty is the alter ego/character used by Josh Tillman, and let me state that Mr. Tillman can fucking bring it. I just kept giggling that it was like a post-modern version of the 70's singer songwriter, 10 piece band complete with horns, trippy lights, excellent animation playing behind the songs, it's a fucking rock concert kids! Add his rather astute lyrics which lie somewhere between scathing social critique and self-deprecating piss-take and it's a night well spent. At least for this geezer. He also knows a certain segment of his fan base like more than the beer and liquor for sale at the bar, Mr. Tillman being a bit of a psychonaut himself.

Of course people watching was half the fun and just like Pat Benatar look-a-likes in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, i spotted at least a half dozen FJM"s, guys cultivating the look and persona, a fact i think Josh finds fucking hilarious and horrific. Toss in the numerous couples where it was obvious the female had dragged the male to the show and it a cultural theory paper to Jack Tripper here. My favorites were the kids next to me, out of high school but not able to drink, the girl was having a grand time dancing and kept bumping into me, which in turn made her boyfriend a bit nervous, after the tenth time she apologized and i laughed and told them both it's a rock and roll show, you should be having fun, then i smiled at her and gave boyfriend a shit-eating grin, i knew what he was in store for... and lastly during the encore of Ideal Husband i laughed as i watched a pack of women screaming and singing and my tripped out gourd pondering whether they realized this song was all about the kinda guy you didn't want to date, it's one of my favorites, i relate to it well... and then it was over and i was out the door and into the night headed for the train station... a state of bliss bouncing around the bloodstream...

There was a beauty in the floodlights of the train platform, i made it just in time so i didn't have to wait, hopped on and grabbed a seat. The car was empty until the next stop when the baseball crowd crushed in. I gazed at the city going by the opposite way, eavesdropped on the conversations of strangers, the Yinzers behind me lamenting the plight of the Buccos, kids home from college talking courses of study and assorted bullshit, i studied the neighborhoods in darkness. I know there's nothing like your first time, i was in love with the universe that night, crickets and stars, yet we all know i fall in love to easily... can't wait to do it again next week...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Halcyon Summer Redux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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