Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Tall Man in a Suburban Bar


I drove home for Turkey Day, much like i used to when i was still a floppy haired youngster in the halls of higher education, see there was that time frame from the years 19-22 when Thanksgiving Eve was the ultimate night of the year, guaranteed to start with drugs and end with strange women or maybe familiar women you just haven't seen in awhile, but a long night that usually ended with the sun coming up, a night spent hanging in the olde "alternative" clubs, before techno ruined things and songs still had words and you could candy flip and listen to the Stone Roses until the cows literally came home, so i drove, through the same gray and misty dusk and into night, listening to the satellite radio First Wave station and hearing many of those same songs i used to jump around to in those clubs and then of course i turned on the Smiths cuz nothing says "Welcome to Cleveland" like me listening to the Smiths, the group i spent nights with dreaming of girls in Dr. Martens with those black and white striped leggings, the ones with asymmetrical haircuts that were dyed black, the ones who had a predilection for blood red lipstick and eyeliner, ah yes the sweet wine of my youth, but now those clubs are gone and i wouldn't know the first place to go, so i drove and re-lived the memories in my aging head and listened to the babbling of my boys as daddy plowed on through to Grandma's house, the house i grew up in, the house of Late Night Maudlin street, i was born here and i was raised here and i took some stick here, ladadadida...

But it had been years since i had been out on Turkey Eve so i decided to round up the girl and drive around the old neighborhood for a bit, have a smoke and look for a place to have a drink or two and i ended up at place near York and Pearl that had a nice round big bar and a horrible live band playing, but it was close to home and inexpensive so i figured what the fuck, entre vous, now it must be disclosed that i was once a high school basketball star, cue Glory Days, a big white kid who could shoot with both hands and drive to the basket with an array of off balance shots that was somewhere between Pistol Pete and Larry Legend, though i wasn't as big as either of those guys but at 6'4 i was big enough and rarely do you find a guy my size who could play point guard and shooting guard in high school, i played on the what may be the last and only all white team to go to the big school Final Four for the state of Ohio, a public school near an auto plant that was full of working class white kids but on this year it just so happened to be filled with a bunch of fearless freaks who didn't know that a bunch of undersized white guys shouldn't be this good, a collection of motley playground players so frustrating that our coach actually scrapped the offense cuz he said we wouldn't or couldn't run it and didn't seem to have much interest in learning, needless to say we finished 23-4 after starting 5-3 and ended up 3rd overall falling to the state champs in the semi-finals, i was a young senior at 17 and went out to Wyoming to play at a Jr. College, sent there by some large university cuz they didn't have a scholarship for me yet, but that is superfluous, see the reason it's important at all was i was the best player on the best team to ever come from my suburb of C-town and while most of the guys have come back over the years i sorta disappeared into the ether, i mean when you walk into the Wilderness you don't really expect anyone to follow you now do you?

So it was 20 years and when i walked in i noticed the guy by the door looked alot like the kid who sat on the bench behind me, spelled me when i needed a rest, a consummate team player who used to tell me that if he had to play more than 10 minutes we were gonna lose so i better get my ass in gear, when i tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he remembered me a big smile crept across his face, he said he couldn't believe it, that when i walked in he looked at me and wondered but wasn't sure through the shaggy sideburns and graying beard, bear hugged me and said what the fuck happened to you, no one knew where you were, i just sorta smiled, maybe i should have told him to read the lounge, maybe i shoulda told him that i went looking for something, the same thing Bill Murray did in the Razor's Edge and that in the end i may have found it or misplaced it or lost it or never had it, that i was a criminal, a poet, a grunt, a junkie, a drunk, a dad, a chronic reader, a rogue, a post modern light bulb changer but instead i smiled and said i been around and shrugged my shoulders, he proceeded to tell me about the guys i played with, a high ranking military officer, businessmen and himself, now a high school basketball coach, i smiled when he told me cuz if there was anyone who was born to coach it was this kid, he was coaching me when we were still in high school and this was a kid who never played on the varsity until he was a senior and i had started every game for the varsity since the fifth game of my sophomore year and then he said i needed to stay, that someone was coming down and that really needed to see me...

I had a sneaky suspicion who it was and while he introduced me to some other people i knew, people who looked at me as if i had just flown in from Pluto, people who had never left the the town they were born in and i mean even to go on vacation, he told me about his life, how he and his wife had lost a child and how he was the godfather of six including godfather to one of the other guys on the team's son, it amazed me how close some of these guys were and while i was out running the streets and looking for some sort of truth, these guys were happy with their lives and i couldn't blame them for it, it was what they wanted and i wanted something different, alot of them didn't understand it, didn't understand me with my head buried in books and listening to strange music with my non-conformist side parted Bernard Sumner haircut in a city that was down the middle and feathered back, this was suburban 80's now wasn't it? i was their friend in high school but didn't hang out with them, yeah i went to the same parties but i had my own crew i ran with, one of whom would eventually punch me in the face over a girl but of course that's another post, this was 20 years under the bridge and then the door opened and in he walked...

Looking back on it to say i was a pain in the ass to coach is an understatement, i've always been a bit rebellious with an acid tongue and quick wit and my smart mouth has often got me in trouble, funny thing is now i realize how much the guy thought of me, my old coach, looking alot older, having lost his wife 6 or so years ago, a woman he was devoted to, now a neighbor and an assistant to my old teammate, when my friend said to Coach remember this guy, he lit up and said how could i forget that mug, he looked at the girl and said this kid drove me up the wall, gave me a big hug , asked where i'd been, told the girl stories about breaking his whistle throwing it at me one practice, talked about how he berated me one day after a loss my junior year for being an asshole, for acting like an asshole, and he was right, then he looked at me and smiled and said but man you should have seen this kid play the game, he was something else, i smiled and talked with him, talked about life and being a dad, talked about bouncing around and what i did now and i could see his smile, i was a bit different than most of the kids he coached, a free spirit as he used to say and i couldn't buy a drink for myself the rest of the night, a night that ended with exchanged numbers and a promise to come back to honor the only team that ever made the final four, a night that proved you can go home again, even if only to visit and that though many things have changed, some are still the same. The girl looked at me on the way home and said, you know what's strange? there are whole parts of your life i know nothing about, i just smiled and shrugged. The next day i sat down to Thanksgiving dinner with my two sons, the girl, my mother and her husband... and that also, is a fable for another time.


16 comments:

sybil law said...

I just LOVE this story.

daisyfae said...

speechless, baby... and i wouldn't mind running the court with you. b'ball is my ONLY game.

DiaryofWhy said...

Ditto.

twin said...

I KNEW IT!!!

(grin from ear to ear...)

Gulfboot Johnson said...

That's fucking ace!

DiaryofWhy said...

And, as starry-eyed a fanatic as I am, you know I have to take you to task for your attempt at the Frenchy; I do believe the expression is entre nous (just, ya know, entre nous).

Kono said...

Sybil- but what do you love about it? what do you hate about it?

Daisy- muchos gracias as always.

DofW- Ditto? Ditto you love it or are speechless or you want to get on my hoop squad?

Twin- Now what do you know you cheeky grinner?

Gulfboot- as i said in the text sometimes i like to surprise you, this one kind of just cropped up and the boyos been keeping my ass busy, thinking about starting that book soon.

Kono said...

DofW- i deleted the last long winded comment cuz what i meant to say is that no one ever said i was smart.

DiaryofWhy said...

'Tis a shame, that. Can I be the first?

nursemyra said...

It would freak me out to run into anyone I went to school with now

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Christ, I hate techno. Just hate it.

York and Pearl? Would that be Casa D'Barons, by any chance? I drank many a fish bowl there and a at their Southland location. It gets a mention in Drew Carey's autobio.

JMH said...

The run-on sentence is a freaking farce. There's no such thing, as long as you properly punctuate the rhythms of speech and thought.

The rhythm. It draws you in.

JMH said...

That comment was actually pretty lucid for two, three in morning and operating on a different plane. What I mean to say is good story, heartwarming holiday stuff.

Kono said...

Nurse- freaked me out a bit too.

UB- it's a joint called Flyers in Parma Hts.

JMH- don't worry i understood the first time, i operate on that plane alot.

sybil law said...

I love the imagery, the honesty, the simplicity, the shape.
It's hard to put into words.
This why I am not a writer. I used to be - anymore, I just suck.
:)

Rassles said...

Hot damn, Kono. I love this shit.