Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Farewell to the Smoke

In 1993 i moved to North Oakland, a neighborhood in the city of Pittsburgh, a third floor walk-up with a hole in the ceiling, it would actually snow inside the shitty little apt. in the winter, it had a bar on the balcony and weed in the closet, if you would have told me then that i would spend the next 18 years or so living within a two mile radius of that first place i probably would have laughed at you, but life is strange sometimes and except for some summers making fries and an ill-fated stint in grad school, the East End became me barrio, my friend, my lover, i know this neighborhood as if i was born and raised here, have a secret knowledge of the back roads, know the bars and the restaurants and the back streets, can walk down the street and here my named called out from many an establishment, it is my home or more correctly was my home, see this is most likely the last post i'll be writing from my little brick house in Little Italy, tomorrow i sign the papers and move to the lily white suburbs, i say goodbye to the helicopters flying over and the endless sirens, the wheeze of buses and the clamour of the garbage trucks, i say goodbye to the action that is just steps from my front door and though i know i am moving for the right reasons i can't help but be a bit sad at what i am leaving behind...

See this is the neighborhood that gave birth to the Kono, just some enterprising young hood who needed to pay off his college loans, a drop-out with a plan and a credit card, and so in the back room on the second floor of S. Millvale he set off, set off on a long and strange journey into the underbelly of it all, learned bad habits and ran with badder people, new the strippers by their real name, scored whatever you needed, hustled and worked and hustled and worked and slowly built his kingdom, all the while paying the bills and driving around in a $400 Chevy Geo, he saw guys get run out of the game for stupidity, saw friends die from their habits, he studied human nature in all it's hideous and beautiful glory, sometimes he got burnt and sometimes he got lucky, he moved to the swanky neighborhood and his business took off, he paid off his college loans, he saved some money, he quit the game, he was lucky, he came out of it with all his fingers and toes and with some of his mind still intact, he tried to settle down but the gods conspired, he had to much free time and tax free money, he cultivated bad habits and pretended like he had a handle on it, sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't, he moved closer to the hood and the Penn Ave. Arts corridor, he got hitched and then kicked in the balls and then lost his mind for a bit, he bought a house and buried some cats and along the way became the father of a bouncing baby boy...and then another one...

Along the way he met the Limey early on and the Kid later on, the Limey by plopping down a bottle of Scotch and rambling on about his grand-dad and the Kid by dumb luck, just happened to pull up a seat at the bar next to him after almost punching a bartender and her boyfriend, the Kid was in heavy brood mode and El Kono bought him a beer, they talked books, found a mutual admiration for Celine and the rest was history, the Limey gave him courage, the Kid gave him hope, the world was not lost when you could find souls like these and he found them both a few miles from that very spot he first landed in 1993 like some drunken Christopher Columbus on acid, the world is filled with raging no-talent shitheads who want to tell you about their band or their art show or their poetry book, the Limey and the Kid were no bullshit, they never talked about any of that tripe, sometimes they didn't talk at all, they didn't have to...

And with each minute El Kono gets closer, closer to the quiet and the crickets, closer to manicured lawns and bad fashion, but it is okay, every thing's a cycle they say, the first 17 years were spent in the suburbs of Cleveland, the next 5 or 6 spent bouncing back and forth between college and home and the shore and the lonesome, uncrowded west, and then 17 or so living in the shit, so it's only right that i go spend the next 17 to 20 in the burbs, drink in strip malls and study the inhabitants of the fancy zoo, i already know what it looks like at the pound, i'll investigate the other half now that i'm somewhat intelligent enough to form some kind of half-assed opinion on the subject, of course you may beg to differ with that last statement, besides i seem to do better when i can't walk out my door and look at it, seem to be able to recall more from the recesses of my fucked up skull when it's not right in front of me, and i like it that way, it makes me work a bit and i need that, and really this move has nothing to do with me at all and everything to do with the boyos, they'll get a top notch education and then come home and learn all kinds of things from their old man, i won't have to worry as much about the stray bullets or the bums or the thugs, in short they'll be able to grow up and not worry about a lot of things, they'll be able to do more things and when the time is right their old man will point them towards the interesting parts of the city, the shady parts, the fun parts or at least he'll teach them what to look for and how to find them, cuz then it'll be their turn to learn that all you really need to know about human nature you can learn on your front porch...

So farewell to the smoke, to the all-night diner around the corner and the strip bar a block away, to the park and the bar just 67 steps from my front door, farewell to my back streets and dive bars, goodbye me barrio, i love you, you've taught me well, you've entertained me, fed me, fucked me, kept me drunk, got me high and made the last 17 plus years pretty fucking interesting, i'll miss you...

11 comments:

Jayne said...

Of course it is about the boys, to do right by them, give them some woods to shoot off the b-b guns.
I wish you the best in Wonderland, Kono, I do. It was a friggin culture shock to me when I made that move. Though I'd been raised in a city and hadn't ever really experienced suburbia and all it's trappings. But hell, there are trappings everywhere. It's what you make of it and it's not so bad when you keep in perspective--what it's all for--it's pretty damn sweet for the little ones.
Just stay the hell away from the Joneses. ;)
(And you know, you never really leave the barrio.)

nursemyra said...

I bet this post resonates with Unbearable Banishment

daisyfae said...

i look forward to the day when you are writing about taking one or both of your boys into the old 'hood on a saturday morning, hitting the diner, running into all the folks who say "hey, kono, where ya been, man?"

kid said...

yesterday: growling in the gutter about Celine and strippers over $.10/ounce beers. tomorrow: talkin gutters and mulch over the phone. today: respect and godspeed over & out.

just don't expect any lawn tips from me.

Ross Man said...

Chapter II should be:
KONO vs. The Soccer Mom Mafia

nursemyra said...

did some glitch happen with this post? I'm sure I left a comment here the other day

Kono said...

yeah my computer seems to be eating things with the move.

Jayne said...

Blogger got hungry and ate all our comments. So frustrating... I have half a mind to hightail it over to Wordpress. Anyway-to vaguely reproduce what I said earlier--you're kids will enjoy the burbs. It's tough on anyone who's loved living in the city, but the kids make it tolerable.
Good luck. ;)
(And I can attest to the Soccer Mom Mafia. Yup, it exists. There'll be lists.)

daisyfae said...

blogger ate comments at several places i visited yesterday... but i said something along the lines of:

looking forward to the day when you're writing about taking your boys back to your old stomping ground on a saturday afternoon, and they are tickled to see all the folks who say 'hi' to their old man, and want to buy him a drink...

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Take it from me...it'll be an adjustment. But you're doing the right thing. It ain't about you anymore. When I announced to my brother (who already had a daughter) that my wife was pregnant he said, "Do you know how you've been #1 your whole life?" I said, "Yeahhhh...." He said, Well, now you're #3. And be glad you don't have a dog or you'd be #4.

And he was right!

Rassles said...

Just promise me that you'll find the strippers and the smoke in the suburbs. It's there, you just have to look harder.