Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Graduate

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Stretch

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Yah Mon

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Father's Day

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


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

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

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


(What my dad was reading when he passed away)


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Disaster est nueve


This dude turned 9 last week, i won't go on and on about how fucking cool this kid is cuz that would just bore everyone. Let's just say i'll have to watch this one cuz in the old apple and tree theory he reminds me a lot of his father and we all know what that fucking guy got into. Kid's got a killer jump shot, plays a mean midfield, like to swear (when he thinks no one can hear him) and has some sick dance moves. Don't let the sweet face fool you, Pops had dubbed him Little Mac because he carries on the fine family tradition of the world class smart ass, so happy birthday boy, don't do anything crazy on that new bicycle of yours- love your old man. 

( Baby Nick, Pops, and his great grandmother)

Friday, June 1, 2018

Drinking in a Suburban Bar the Night After my Father Died

The prospect of getting any rest was not looking good even if a feeling of exhaustion had settled over me, i had spent the day cleaning out my dad's little apartment at the assisted living place. Earlier in the day i bagged and donated his clothes and after a quick trip to my mom's (the house i grew up in) for dinner i was back with a bin to remove any food that might be able to be donated. It had been just over 24 hours since he passed. Going through his clothes i had found his money clip, thirty some odd dollars. I put it in my pocket and continued to look for the dugout i had bought him, a little wooden box filled with grass and a pipe that looked like a cigarette. He had wanted to get his medical marijuana card and until he did i told him i'd keep him sorted. It wasn't in the inner coat pocket where i'd hid it originally and now i was wondering if one of the staff hadn't found it and pocketed it. I had just about cleared out his closet when i found it. It was hidden away on a back shelf, up high and in a plastic bag with a thin foam packing around it so you couldn't tell what it was. He hid it like i did when i was 16. I smiled and wiped the tears from my eyes. He never used it.

Thursday night i sat in his room alone, i sat in the lift chair we had bought him and turned on his television, i watched ESPN and MSNBC like he would have. I wandered around the place as the sun turned his room from bright orange to a lovely gray-blue. I didn't want to leave. I sat on his bed and clutched his pillow and tried to wrap my head around what i'd been preparing myself to wrap my head around. I cried. I drove the streets of my youth smoking the one-hitter i bought for my dad and listening to music. I pulled in the driveway to my old house and took in the bin of food. I needed to get out. My mom was sorting through her own feelings at the demise of the father of her children, there was a guilt that this had fallen on my sister and me, earlier in the day she went with me as i met with the funeral people to make arrangements for my father's cremation. Her new husband (of 20? years) doesn't own a shirt that doesn't have some slogan about Jesus on it, the bumpers of his cars plastered with stickers trumpeting the same, a lover of NASCAR, Fox News, and the NRA he despised the last president because of his skin color though he'll make every excuse to say it was his policies, of which he can't name one, he is the polar opposite of my father. We don't have much in common. The thought of hanging about was not an option and so i pulled up the local pubs on the phone and looked for a close one that might serve a decent pint. One of the things my father said while he was in the hospital back in February was that he would've liked one more pint of Guinness. He rarely drank but as we know you always crave what you shouldn't have. I was set on taking that money clip to the pub and getting that pint. For him and me. So i set off.

North Royalton is not the most happening place on a Thursday night particularly without any of the local teams playing, an off night for the Cavs and the Tribe and the locals are all staying in. The place was the typical suburban roadside shack, a bar and grille, most likely an old diner back in the day, you walked in to a large square bar with a seating area and tables to the right, if you walk past the bar and hang a left there is the dart board and a pool table, another door leads to the outdoor smoking section behind which is the parking lot which i'm sure occasionally sees the odd bit of powder zooted off the dashboard of a pick-up truck. Though i grew up maybe three miles from here i rarely ventured this way in my wasted youth, back then it was open space and hicks to those cultured youths of Parma who thought the end all be-all was Lakewood and Coventry. About the closest i came to this direction was an old bar, now long gone, at the corner of Ridge and Pleasant Valley where they weren't all that concerned about how old you were, if you could lay the money down you could get served.

Walking in the place i could tell it was a local hangout, a few curious glances, drunks trying to place a face they haven't seen. It was a all men except for a few wives, a table of Serbian chaps all celebrating a birthday, a middle-aged father bemoaning college tuition to a childless sixty-something man, and of course a buxom and over-friendly bartender whose tits where spilling out of her sleeveless shirt. She poured my pint of Guinness and asked to many questions, i could tell she was the bar superstar by the deferential treatment she was given by every male who approached her for another round. It was hard not to look at her breasts when not watching the hockey game, mainly because there was nothing else interesting to look at.

Of course i was in a contemplative mood mainly to distract me from the last 24 hours. Some new patrons had come in and taken up seats around the bar, the big square gave one ample room yet some short Italian man named Angelo (of course) somehow decided to sit right next to me while he picked out NASCAR numbers, some form of local boozer gambling because apparently the legal Keno wasn't enough, he drank swiftly and liked to repeat himself and often lost his train of thought, i spent 20 or 30 minutes feigning attention and watching a tight hockey game between the Bolts and Caps, i wasn't exactly sad when he made his way to the exit. Across from me an aging Biff from Back to the Future pulled up a stool with his wife and third wheel. Biff had a spray on tan and was wearing a salmon colored muscle shirt, worn i'm guessing to show-off his rather horrible tattoos on each shoulder. I think his wife was using her phone to play the jukebox, a development in technology which annoys me to no fucking end for some reason, the web-enabled jukebox may be a major reason i avoid bars these days. It used to be what was on a bar's jukebox defined it, gave the place it's character, but in the name of instant gratification we can now dial up any song ever created, fucking rubbish. I sat there listening to the theme from Smokey and the Bandit and wondering just what alternative universe i had tumbled into...

Suburban Al Jourgensen and his lady friend had pulled up stools to my left. Suburban Al Jourgensen was sporting his lengthy salt and pepper soul patch to match the Euro trash football do that is all the rage these days, his shaved sides along with a wavy graying main up top, a bevy of tattoos adorned his arms replete with elbow spider web ink, his lady friend was wearing one of those expensive 70's one piece pant suit things that if i had to guess was bought at a "vintage boutique", or in more simple parlance, expensive thrift store swag. Lady Friend looked rather non-plussed while Suburban Al laughed a little too loud and easily while Lady Friend barely spoke, they too were regulars and i'm sure Suburban Al has taken some schtick in the joint for not exactly conforming to the norms of North Royalton. My professional opinion is that he's a nightmare on the few occasions he does blow. Just a hunch. The rest of the bar was littered with the typical West Side suburb array of lonely souls. Lonely men with greasy hands and their names sewn on their shirts. A table of co-workers all trying to find something to converse about. I don't think anyone really liked one another but the alcohol made them tolerate each other.

For some reason the lyrics to Cemetry Gates got stuck in my head. So we go inside and we bravely read the stones/ all those people/ all those lives/ where are they now/ with loves and hates and passions just like mine/ they were born/ and then the lived and then they died/ seems so unfair/ i want to cry... if i was more tech savvy i would have played it clandestinely from my bar stool.  I took it all in while the Bolts hung on and beat the Caps, it didn't matter, it was all just a distraction to keep my mind off what was directly in front of me, looking around as a brief wave of nihilism washed over me i wanted to stand up and explain that everyone in this room would someday be dead, that there was no meaning to any of this shit and that most of us were wasting our lives in pursuit of complete and utter non-sense, that modern life was bullshit. That maybe we should all just attempt to be kind to one another and that if we were lucky enough to have someone to love or who loved us that we should make sure to tell them... and not by fucking text message. I finished my pint and walked out the back, my shoes making a lovely noise against the gravel.

As i drove back through the crickets of a suburban Thursday night, the suburb of my youth, i kept my eyes on the road and my hands upon the wheel, i drove past the old concrete wall that once sported the scrawled graffiti that said, Rapscallion was here!, a stunt pulled by some long defunct and forgotten suburban band. Rapscallion was no longer there, the wall painted over many times in the last thirty-some years? My father was no longer here either. Someday i'll no longer be here, nor will all the people i love or my cats or everyone i don't know, we'll all be gone somewhere or nowhere. I drove into my old neighborhood and spent 15 minutes or so just driving up and down the streets, windows down, music playing low, smoking weed. I felt lost. I pulled into the driveway and just like i did when i was a teenage delinquent opened the door and crept into the house. A house i grew up in that was vaguely familiar and extremely alien. I grabbed some water and a bag of popcorn my mom had left out. I tiptoed down the hall and into my sister's old room, my old room having been converted into an office. The house my father bought. Everything felt different. He wasn't here either.








Wednesday, May 23, 2018

five-sixteen-eighteen

3:32pm, sitting in my car, half asleep, waiting for Nick Disaster to come rolling out of school when my phone buzzed in the cup holder. My big sis calling to tell me the assisted living home had called to let her know that our dad had fallen, that an ambulance had been called and that she should most likely go to the hospital. She said she'd call me back. I didn't want to tell her what my gut was already telling me, that i knew he was gone. My big sis is a highly intelligent, highly organized individual who likes to maintain control of things, she likes order and routine partly born from her teaching and caring for a son on the ASD spectrum. She called back a few minutes later, the tension and strain in her voice rising, to tell me the ambulance hadn't shown up and that she couldn't understand why and that the hospital was right down the street. She hung up again and said she'd call me back. I already knew.

Pittsburgh was overcast that afternoon and i looked towards the gray-blue sky, i'm not nearly as composed as my sister and i took deep breathes as Nick Disaster hit the car door and jumped in, his smile a light  among the gathering clouds, i kept my sunglasses on to hide the water pooling in my eyes, i told him Pops had fallen and that i was waiting to hear what was happening, i told him Pops had just gotten a walker and was having trouble walking but it probably wasn't good. There was a surreal fuzz to what was happening, to something i knew was going to happen, to something i had tried to prepare myself for even though i knew i couldn't.

At 3:47 my phone rang again, i was in the bedroom and i sat down at the foot of the bed, i could hear the breeze outside through and open window and the whir of the ceiling fan above me. My big sis said very calmly, "Dad passed away." My answer was, i know, i knew it when she called the first time. It was his heart. As we talked she mentioned that i had said it wasn't the cancer that would get him but his heart. There are questions we could ask but in the end it wouldn't matter. As my father said to me not long ago, "i'm a very sick man son." I told him what i told my sister, i know. Knowing doesn't make it any easier. What i know now is that i miss him immensely and that it's okay. His pain was increasing and his strength was decreasing and i understood. So did he.

You could say i'm biased when i state that the world lost one of the good ones that day. I am. Pops was an honest and decent human being. He loved the people he loved unconditionally and he looked out for them. He expected nothing in return. When he gave his word he kept it, a fact both his brothers stated and marveled at in my conversations with them. His greatest gift to me was to let me be me, to instruct me that it was my life to live and that i should live it however i see fit regardless of what he, my mother, or anyone else thought. It was the gift of freedom and i understand how many people never truly receive it. I plan on giving it to the boyos. There's a lot of things i learned from him i plan on teaching the boyos. As a spiritual atheist, like my father, there's not much to do now except get on with things. As my father told me during one of our many conversations over the last few months, "when i'm gone don't worry about me, i'll be dead," he said with a laugh, "worry about my grandsons and the other people you love. Look out for you sister and be nice to that mother of yours. I'll be alright, you just get on with it." And so that's what i'll do.