Tuesday, May 10, 2022

LBK - Spring 2015 - May 3, 2022

 To hope against hope... to wish with little reason or justification that what you want the most will come true, to believe that somehow magic exists and that things will work out just fine... it started early Tuesday morning, May 3, 2022, when i noticed that my little beauty Sydney was acting awfully strange. I know cats. I'm the fucking crazy cat lady for all intents and when i saw her sitting on the floor i knew that something was wrong and i was hoping that it would be something simple, something easily cured by a shot or a some meds and that my Little Baby Kitty as i called her, would be okay. And so my day started... 

The morning was the usual hustle and bustle to get the boyos out the door, i had set Syd up on the couch bed i call home, a place she would always run and jump on as soon as i got up taking up residence in the warm spot i had left behind, i noticed she didn't seem to be moving as spryly as she normally did but once again i hoped... i hoped she was just a little under it and she'd be fine. Cats can get colds or the flu or even that new virus floating around and so i kept thinking... everything is gonna be alright... and so i got to work calling veterinarians to see who could see her ASAP, found one close by and then got things in order, the whole time stopping to check on my girl, petting her gently and kissing her beautiful little head. 

At the vet things went as the usually do and they took her vitals, did some blood work, took an x-ray.. and it was here that things took a turn. The doc said he could see this mass in her abdomen and that it was concerning, he also stated that her white blood cell counts were way up and that he wanted to send her for an ultrasound as there was only so much he could tell from the x-ray. Hope against hope. When i hear the world "mass" i know it's never a good thing. My first cat Sylvia had one, cancer, and it took her, something documented way back at the beginning of the lounge. Syd and Sylvia looked a lot alike, Sylvia being part Siamese and Sydney being a ragdoll, both blue-eyed and white and grey with bits of black tossed in, my girls. And so i sat and stroked Syd and listened to the doctor and then bundled her back into the carrier for a trip to the emergency vet and surgery center, even the name brings dread. 

And so i drove up I-79, talking to her the whole time, telling her how much i loved her and that hopefully things would be alright and that she'd be okay and that her mama-dada (me) would be with her the whole time, she sat and looked at me and i stuck my fingers through the carrier so i could scratch under her chin and she could rub her face against my hand. At the ER i pulled in and found a spot and called like the sign said, they explained that they'd call when it was time for me to bring her in and so i let her out of her carrier and let her sit on my lap, she crawled up on the dashboard for a bit and sniffed the air coming through the cracked windows and then i put her back on my lap where she sat while i talked to her, scratched behind her ears, kissed her head, petted her from head to her little broken stumpy tail which would wag as she would turn and look at me. If there was one thing on this day that i'm glad i did it was this... her sitting in my lap and happy, we could have been sitting at home and it would have been the same, listening to the sounds of the outside world, things were peaceful... my phone rang i and was told to bring her in. 

Inside i took her out of her carrier and held her, kissed her head and then handed her to the nurse, i couldn't go back with her and it would be a few hours while they ran the tests and did the ultrasound and so they said i could go home and they'd call me and let me know what they found and when i could see her again. I nodded and tried to keep my shit together, something i'd been doing all day by this point, and so i gave her one last kiss and whisker rub and walked to my car as my eyes welled with tears. Then i drove home and waited. 

It was almost time to pick up the boyos when the phone rang, eerily reminding me of the day my father died, i picked up and listened to the doctor, she was a very thorough and calm in explaining what they found but before she even got to it i knew, there was something in her voice that gave it away, not that she meant to but it was there. The mass was a tumor and somehow it had caused a tear in an intestine, my baby had sepsis, she needed emergency surgery that would run somewhere into the five figures just to start but the fact was it dicey at best, a coin flip to survive the surgery, a coin flip to survive recovery as the vet explained that sometimes the surgery goes great and then 48-72 hours later it goes south and they don't make it. They would need to flush her out and hope they got everything and then when that was all said and done she'd have to start chemo and radiation as all signs pointed to the tumor being malignant. I knew the score. I whispered into the phone and asked if she'd ever be a normal cat again, the doc didn't want to say no but she explained the chances where slim, it could buy her some time but most likely time being shuffled back and forth to hospitals and that was if she survived... but i had to make a decision, soon, the fact was she wouldn't make it if nothing was done. I hung up the phone... and fucking lost it. 

There is that saying about if you truly love something you have to let them go... standing in the office, the place where Little Baby Kitty would often trot in, put her front paws on my leg while i sat at the computer before jumping up and sitting in my lap and purring away, i knew what i needed to do. To say i loved Syd would be a massive understatement, she was this man's best friend. When i would come home and say her name she'd come running from wherever she was, her happy little trot, seeing her do it would make the meanest bastard alive smile, she'd follow me around, she'd lay next to me happily purring away, she'd stand there staring at me and chirp when i'd say her name, when things went to shit around here (as they often have lately) i'd go down to my room and she'd hop up next to me and give me that look that everything was fine, the "i love you mama-dada" look and i'd smile and scratch her head. At times she'd climb up and sit her little self right on my chest, she'd look at me and close her eyes and sleep. I could talk to her and she'd roll on her back, back and forth, and chirp and meow with joy, it was our dance, people who would see it would laugh at how happy we both were when we danced, she was my baby girl, her big blue eyes made everyone melt. 

Once everyone was home i told them the situation and then we all got in the car to make that drive. I was going to have to say goodbye. I couldn't let her live like that and the life described by the vet was not something any being should have to go through, to suffer needlessly when the end result is still the same. 

They took us to a room, there were couches and and comfortable chairs, they brought in Syd, and asked who wanted her first, immediately Nick Disaster said dad should take her and i did. She was hooked to an IV that they'd used to give her fluids and pain medication, i held her and kissed her gorgeous little head and then passed her around so that everyone could hold her, i took a lovely picture of Disaster smiling through his tears with her in his lap. Then they gave her back to me and we sat there, i don't know how long it was, all i knew was that it was the last time and it hurt. After i held her and talked to her for a while we pressed the button to call the doctor, when she came in everyone said their last goodbyes and went outside except me. I would stay until the end. 

(i had read an article by a vet who stated the hardest thing about his job was when animals were put down how they often looked for their owners and that 90% of the time the owners didn't stay in the room, he stated how he understood but how it was hard when these animals were looking for the people they loved most, after reading it i swore to never again let one of my cats go without me no matter how hard it was and i knew Syd was going to be the hardest.) 

The vet, a lovely woman who told me how Little Baby Kitty how captured everyone's heart with her sweet disposition, explained the procedure and then told me she'd wait for me to say the word. I scratched her chin and she looked up at me and i told her how much i loved her as the tears streamed down my face, i called her name like i always did and she sat staring at me and then i told the doctor she could start, i explained that before she gave her the medication that would make her sleep before the final shot that i needed a second, she flushed the IV to make sure it worked and then nodded. I leaned in and told my baby how much i loved her, how she was the best friend i'd ever had and how happy i was to be her mama-dada, how she was pure joy and how happy about our time together. Then i leaned in and kissed her head a few times, said i love you Little Baby Kitty, then told the doctor okay. 

Sydney Sweetpea aka Little Baby Kitty passed in my arms on May 3, 2022 sometime after 5pm. I'm heartbroken. As i write this last bit a week later i still struggle, there is no real cure for the heartache and grief other than time. The night is the toughest part of the day, the time when she used to curl up next to me and sleep or stare at me so that i'd rub her head and pat her butt, she'd purr and do a little circle and then plop back down content and happy. There are brief moments when i forget and look for her only to remember she's not here... and i take a deep breath and think of how gorgeous she was, how sweet, i was honored to be her human, to be her mama-dada. I'll miss her unconditional love, her companionship, the pure joy that she was... goodbye girl, you meant more to me than you'll ever know. 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Takin' a Walk

Takin' a walk... a post of two halves... or something like that. When Hump Day rolls around each week i know of two things for certain. One... i will not be humped and two, the longest 4-7 hours of the week lay ahead of me. Most Hump Days (Wednesdays for the uninitiated) i start the day with a long pull off the vape pen, usually followed by the obligatory weed pill, then usually followed by any number of hits from the weed pen depending on how much time i estimate i'll be on the clock pushing the cart in the aisles of commerce. The Breadwinner is never more at home or happy than when sashaying down the aisles of some big box behemoth and pondering all the shit to buy. 

Of course we all must make life bearable so on certain days i'll broach a subject in order to say, have a normal kind of conversation between housemates... but i've always been the foolish sort and so when i did this the other day the topic of conversation that i brought up was roundly shit upon by the Breadwinner damn near before the last little syllable left my mouth. A giant heaping shit that left no doubt in anyone's mind that this is not what the Breadwinner wanted to talk about and hence after shitting all over it some more and then flinging some shit towards me for being the silly idiot who dared to try and have a normal topic of conversation not chosen by the Breadwinner. And so it was around this point, as the shit was being flung, that i already mentally checked out. The BW then went on with her usual diatribe of pissing and moaning about her job, a tale i've heard ad nauseum for years, a tale which never changes, a tale which if the tables were turned and i told it repeatedly would be met with the curt, "you already told me this" or "yes, i know, you've only said it a hundred times" or some other such lovely barb.  The mental checkout was damn near record time this week as it only took me less than three minutes to go on full auto-pilot, to drive the car or push the cart or pump the gas, all while admiring the sky, all while daydreaming about various bits of information or memories that float through my head. It's the whole be here now principle taken to a further extreme and so while i'm ever present in the suffering of where i'm at and what i'm doing i'm also happily somewhere else all while still being right where i am... if that makes sense. 

One could say i have a rich and vibrant inner dialogue... i like to make up stories, i like to write in my head especially as it's easier than sitting down and actually banging it out and because i'm nothing if not the world's laziest bastard... of course there is the fact that sometimes i can't exactly be banging away at the keys if i'm in charge of pushing the cart a few steps behind the boss and i'll have to admit that while walking through the aisles i'll get these little nuggets of ideas, i'll ponder the seeds of the next post, the next installment of the Wilderness years, work out the timeline to make sure i have it right, make sure i have an idea of what i want to get into said post so the whole exercise isn't a complete wash... and let us not forget the free lunch. 

Walking has always done wonders for the mind, kicking ideas into my head, ideas that start in my head one way and end up completely different by the time i get it down here... but shit's gotta start somewhere... in the halcyon days of the lounge, circa say? 2010? i lived in the city and would walk to the coffee shop each night, ostensibly to help the drugs kick in and to get one of those delicious milk steamers to keep me even. The burbs aren't as conducive to walking about, nothing to look at but houses and too many neighbors wanting to be neighborly. Alas though all is not lost in the walking department as i still get to take some lovely strolls through a different part of the city these days. 

Being the chauffeur i spend a lot of time in my car at various practices. With the back still being a bit shit (but on the mend) i try not to sit in the car the whole time and these days the I-mac has been practicing at Highmark Stadium at Station Square which gives me the opportunity to take a fine walk and gaze at the city, the surroundings, and the beautiful Monongahela River... or the Mon as we locals call it and one of the few rivers in the world that run south to north. It's a great walk with the city skyline right across the river. There are restaurants i gaze into and study the patrons, gauge their happiness, their loneliness, their drunkenness, see how they interact
with their fellow tablemates, are they laughing, smiling, talking, silent, all these things observed and documented in the head of this wandering voyeur. 

My favorite part of these walks is where i turn around and walk back. In the never-ending quest to gentrify certain areas the powers that be have built a complex of swanky apartments called the Glasshouse. I like to stroll by the place and watch the goings on, the people moving about, the flickering of televisions or the glow of computer screens, the dogs on the balconies, the neon lights in some apartments, the outdoor lights strung across bannisters. They really are beautiful buildings and as i walk by i wonder what it's like for the people who live there, i wonder what they do to afford such places that run anywhere from $1600 a month for the one bedroom junior apt. all the way to $4200 a month for the two bedroom deluxe edition (yes i looked up rent out of curiosity). I daydream about what it's like to live there, what it would be like to gazing out at the city, about how immaculate they look from the street... and then of course there is my favorite bit...

Often times on these walks i allow myself the guilty pleasure of a fantasy... wandering about to this point, about ten or fifteen minutes into my journey, it took me by surprise one day as i looked at these places to suddenly be daydreaming about living there... with Veronica... a daydream that brought a melancholy smile to my face with the impractical thoughts of things like... but how would we afford it? As anyone who reads the lounge knows gainful and lucrative employment is not my strong suit, yes i was a master at slinging weed but even that game isn't what it used to be with the advent of legal rec. and medical cannabis. I wonder how we would manage though that's a strange thought to be worried about money in a daydream and then i go back to the less practical side and image us lounging around the place, listening to music, maybe having a drink, sharing a spliff, i imagine the way she'd look at me and me at her and it would be pleasant and peaceful and happy. Yes you can tell a lot about someone from their daydreams i surmise. I look forward to this part of the walk each time i take it as i pick up that daydream every time i stroll by. I wonder which place we'd like best, the top floor? a corner unit? pipe dreams really but they provide a certain sustenance to the solitary daydreamer. And then i turn around and walk by them again to start my walk back....

At the end of the row of buildings i make a left and wander back through the heart of Station Square, an old rail station now turned into offices and dining, a hotel, and of course at the very end of it the stadium. In the distance the stadium lights glow like some alien vessel and i make my way back. The place is not nearly as bustling as it used to be pre-pandemic, granted most of the time these walks are taking place around 8:30 or 9 at night and the offices are empty and the restaurants are slowing down. I look across the river at the city skyline, i watch trains go by on the tracks next to the walkway, i watch barges pushing coal and slag down the Mon and toward the Ohio River, i listen to the sound of traffic from the various bridges and highways leading into the city, criss-crossing the rivers in every direction. I stroll and take it all in, alone in the middle of it all... and then i walk back and sneak peaks at the I-mac as he practices before heading back to the car to read or listen to music... and in that solitude and that walk i'm reminded that the world is a beautiful place... even when it's not...

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Wilderness Years - Afterglow

 When we last saw our hero (before our detour into the Tale of Veronica) he was walking out of the club with a different woman as Veronica walked the other way with Franco. He had awakened after a brief snooze naked and grinning in a strange place, dressed, then crept like a cat out the front door. He was standing at the top of Mt. North Oakland, the king of all he could see, a bit like Yertle the Turtle, the grey and dirty streets were his, this was his territory, his barrio, his fiefdom of ganja and he was now approaching the height of his powers. A seemingly endless supply of weed, money flowing like water, two bars to work out of that protected him from Johnny Law and various other asshats, and what seemed like a never-ending parade of strippers who had taken a shine to him. The only thing that still seemed off was the fact that five days a week he had to get up and drive to work, slog his way through an eight hour shift, usually hungover, with the first part of his break spent in his car smoking his one-hitter. Granted he had three guys from the warehouse on the payroll so going to work did have some advantages but not enough to offset the fact he didn't have to work anymore. 

The holiday week was a strange one at the warehouse, relatively slow but just enough to do while still leaving ample time to bullshit among the lumpen-proles. By now it was common knowledge among my co-workers, those who weren't complete dickheads or squares at least, that this job was nothing more than a front for me and that i could really give a fuck about it. Of course Kenny was left out of the loop but he was always asking questions when not prattling on about the double-wide and his "old lady", who apparently was about a decade older than Kenny with a kid who wasn't much younger than he was, needless to say when Kenny started talking most of us tuned out. On a normal week the crew usually hit the bar for lunch on Fridays but since this week was so mellow we hit it a few times. The GM was relatively cool about our extended lunch breaks, meaning if we took 45 minutes to an hour he didn't give a shit though still adding that after this week things would return to the status quo. We lumpen-proles understood and i give the GM credit for knowing how to be cool and kick a little joy to the crew. I could give a fuck cuz he could have fired me at any time and i'd have been thrilled. 

Back at the real job the weed business never slows down and this week was no exception except instead of the steady stream of customers it was more feast or famine. An hour or two of craziness followed by a distinct lull or a nickel-dimer or two. I spent most of the yuletide week hanging out in bars, drinking under the Xmas lights, bullshitting, regaling my trusted compadres with my recent adventures, ah yes ego was king back then and i did my best to subtly let the minions know that i was most definitely the alpha in the pack, even young T-bag, who i could tell always had these visions of challenging my authority had to acquiesce that if not for the King of North Oakland he would not have been banging some stripper ten years his senior, that it was i who got him into the club when he was still underage and that it was i who introduced him to the ladies of the club. I walked the streets of the East End like i was fucking Superman, invincible, still knowing the whole time that one wrong move, one pooh-butt shithead gets caught and runs their mouth and i'd be the new Queen of Cell Block A. It was a never ending game of chess. 

Once the first days of January hit it was back to the usual grind. Of course as stated running a kingdom always comes with it's fair share of hassles, the occasional crisis, the chasing down of money. On the flip side it was exactly those problems that also led to the exorbitant amounts of cheddar rolling in. By now i was an expert money counter, counting $20s out in stacks of 50, rolling them up and wrapping them with a rubber band. Some nights, usually after a Tuesday morning run where i'd see all the members of the Weight Crew, i'd be sitting in my room, money on the bed, double counting and taking my cut. I'd then put the cash going to Stiv in one safe and the money i earned in the other. At times i'd pull out the earnings safe and count the stacks of cash. I remember on the trip with Veronica, we were standing outside Selhurst Park as i explained to my mates that i had the tickets covered, they hemmed and hawed and then i explained about the little box in my room, it currently had just over 20 grand in it. Hood Rich and Hood Famous. Here i was just a few months later and that box was now overflowing, three times as much crammed in, the thoughts of another safe being purchased all while roaming the streets and never being short of cash. 

One of my first nights back in the club and there on the board was Red's name. I grinned and sat down at the end of the bar. When she walked out of the dancer's room and saw me she smiled, she was due up on stage and so i sidled over and took a seat. I watched as she danced and made her way over to me where she proceeded to spend almost half her time in front of me while i tipped heavily, which in turn put a stop to the grumbling of the other patrons due to the fact that it was the unwritten rule that if you tipped like a player you got treated like a player. There was always confusion with me seeing as i didn't walk in wearing shitloads of bling or pull up in a BMW. I was in thrift store corduroy pants and flannels and drove a $400 car. Keep 'em guessing. 

When her songs were over Red motioned me to the steps that led off the stage. It was the first time we had seen each other since that night and we were both a little shy, which is strange for two people who were last rolling around naked for a couple hours. She said hi and i said hi and we smiled. She said it was good to see me and i stated the same. Then she told me that she didn't know i had a girlfriend and i laughed and said, sorry about that and that i hoped she didn't think i was an asshole. Not at all, she said, and then shyly she leaned in close and said, i had a really great time with you and wondered if we could do it again some time. I grinned at her and whispered in her ear, of course we could, i was going to ask you the same thing. She put her arm on my shoulder and told me she needed to get dressed and that she'd be back out. I took my usual seat at the bar and commandeered another stool and she came back out and sat down. There were curious eyes but i didn't give a fuck. El Kono run fucking Bartertown. But alas the weather is always changing and as we all know the January sun only warms so much, there were always storms blowing in and this would be no exception. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Mushroom Diaries - Vol. 19

 Can you write your way out of the darkness? Can you trip your way out of the darkness? These questions have been rolling around in my brain for years. The simple answer is yes i believe you can (science is actually beginning to back me on the latter) and if i was a more clear and concise writer i could end this post right now and get on with whatever it is i planned on doing today. Mainly organizing my record collection cuz for all my hippie talk about meaningless possessions i sure do possess a lot of records (and books). But back to the question or questions at hand, questions that seem to have always gone hand in hand with my so-called development as a human as well as my existence. 

So let us go back to the origin of the species known as El Kono, when this young and earnest man-child was in the early stages of his development as both half-ass writer type and full blown psychonaut. The beginning of both my writing and my love of psychedelics traverse a rather similar timeline and believe coincide with a certain event in my life. It's a subject that i'm surprised there hasn't been more research on because the more i hear about ex-athletes and what happens to them after they stop playing the more i think there should be some kind of help for them even if they weren't at the highest levels because even to get to a certain level, say college athletics, it takes commitment and focus which tends to skew the other areas of one's life. 

Roughly less than 10% of high school athletes will go on to play college sports and way back in the late 80s i was one of those less than 10%. I was a Division 1 basketball recruit who unfortunately was a little late to the game so that i had to wait to see if the 6'10 kid took the last scholarship available at a certain school in Oklahoma. The word i got back was that (pre-internet) i had signed with a Division 2 power in Michigan hence why a lot of schools stopped recruiting me when the reality was i hadn't signed anywhere. When the 6'10 kid took the scholarship the assistant coach of said Div. 1 school called me and said not to worry as they already had a place for me to play and that they wanted me to go there, get bigger (meaning hit the weight room) and then transfer in after two years. I was banished to the northeast corner of Wyoming where my culture shock rating was off the fucking charts. Needless to say i could write a whole series on my year in exile and most likely will (or have?)  but for now will just gloss over it. After adjusting to my new surroundings, teammates, etc i settled in as well as i could. The biggest adjustment is going from being the hot shit star of the team to one struggling to get playing time. What i didn't quite grasp was all these kids were former hot shit stars but i seemed to always have this belief that i was better and sooner or later i'd show it. It always helps to put that proverbial chip on my shoulder and once there things took a turn for the better... and so by the end of that year i was earmarked as the star of what would have been my upcoming sophomore season. I had grown up and was taking every player on the team apart, no one could guard me, my defense was vastly improved to the point one could call me a good defender and i was a 6'4 guard who could run the point or better yet be set up to run the offense through because by now i was scoring at will. 

But i was homesick... desperately so.... and my rather playboy ways had made me persona non grata among the young females of the area, my charm not being so charming once you've run through a half dozen girlfriends in my first four months. Small towns are just that, small, and word spreads quick. One could say i liked variety others could say i was a bastard who couldn't keep it in my pants. Both would be correct. But back to the point... after this year i bailed on my free ride to come back east for less scholarship money and the slow disenchantment of college athletics. Needless to say that a rather significant injury and long rehab gave me time to think and get away from the game i had spent my life playing and after realizing i wasn't much in the coach's plan after my first year at my new school i decided i'd use a medical redshirt to keep what little money the hoop team was still kicking me and then tell them i was done playing at the end of the year. And here's where things get strange for the newly christened ex-athlete...

Over the years i've heard story after story about what happens to all of us players who don't make the big time or devote our lives to being nomads hopping countries and chasing the dream of getting paid to play. Most of the stories involve drugs and alcohol, often wrapped up with psychological issues because when one is suddenly unable to do what they spent their whole life trying to do it's a bit of a mindfuck. Hence why you see and hear stories of ex-athletes and their substance and mental health issues. There is no support system when you leave the team or graduate or get cut. You're on you own. When you're not the hot shit athlete anymore you tend to find out who your friends really are. 

When i finally hung up the sneakers i ended up in a weird place. Basketball had taken up a large part of my identity and now it was gone. Who was i? what do i do? These were things to be reckoned with and when you go about it on your own it can get a bit messy to say the least. The first thing that took the place of basketball was boozing. Not that i didn't drink before that but with my new found free time the party was always on, as well as getting stoned, between the two of them they took up most of my free time. The other activity that suddenly began occupying my time was the reading of books. So once again there sits the interesting yin-yang, a part of me one could say was self destructive, meaning the heroic amounts of booze i was drinking while the other side was now hiding out in the library reading books. Somewhere along that strange line i wandered into the university bookstore and bought myself some notebooks and began writing, spurred on mainly from what i was reading.

 Of course i have to admit that one of the reasons i began writing was what i call the Rite of :Passage of the Suburban White Boy. Basically it involved reading No One Here Gets Out Alive, the biography of Jim Morrison along with a few books of his poetry. But in that biography there were other writers mentioned and in there the seed was planted. Now don't get me wrong as i'm not here to harsh on The Doors or Jim as i do actually like their music. At this time i was listening to quite a bit of it along with my indie hipster stuff and like most suburban white boys caught in this cycle dreamt of being the Lizard King. It was after this school year that i ended up in that rooming house in Ocean City where two more major events of my life took place. Wandering into the 2nd St. book store and walking out with books by Henry Miller, Kerouac, Bukowski, Burroughs, Hunter Thompson, Jean Genet and devouring them. I'm not sure how many books i read that summer but it was well over 25 in the couple months i was there. I couldn't get enough and found that each week when i got my paycheck the first thing i did was put aside the drug money and then run down to the bookstore to buy more books. 

The second event was that fateful night where i took my first hit of acid followed a few days later by my first dose of mushrooms. In the great weed drought of the summer of '91 the one thing that was abundantly available was acid, the shrooms not so much but they were about and i grabbed my share but at this point my first love was most definitely LSD... and oh what glorious stuff it was as those who remember those days can attest that the blue peace sign tabs of that year were of the highest quality. Most of my acid adventures of that summer have been documented here on the lounge so i won't repeat them but it was those two events combined that somehow helped me figure out who i was and what i wanted to do... not that either of those things involved some sort of career or success or monetary gain but they did give me a way through, taught me that i was more than just some kid who was good at tossing an orange ball through a metal hoop. I kept on writing all that summer, the shittiest poetry one could imagine...  and haven't stopped since. Except for a few years in the wilderness where i was a bit too busy to be bothered but i often laugh and state those years were research.  

So while things in these parts have veered towards the darkness these days i understand, the universe is made of light and dark and last weekend while i huddled on my couch bed listening to music in the dark, the boomers kicking through my system, there was a slight smile stuck on my face, in the middle of the literal and figurative darkness i was currently occupying i gazed towards the starlight slipping through the shades, i got up and wandered towards the window, i stretched my aching back, and i knew, as i've always known that i was nothing and everything, not a basketball player or writer or addict or priest, i was the eternal now, just as we all are if we'd only stop and realize it. The point of life is to live it and sometimes in the process of such we will encounter spaces where we must navigate the darkness (and the light) with whatever tools we have at are disposal... and we have many tools if we choose to use them... so while the pen and the fungi (among other substances) are tools they can only be effective in combination with the self and if we choose to put them to work... though the self is nothing more than a word for the cosmic hum that we are and the tools nothing more than ways to pluck the strings so we can hear the music, so we can dance... and really? isn't that the whole point? 

Friday, April 1, 2022

My Shite Back

 When the pandemic shut the swimming pools i became a fish out of water... going back four years to the week that was the Night of the Living Back Spasm followed a few days later by Pops telling me that he had cancer, it was later that summer when i began dragging myself to the pool to strengthen my back, swimming being the absolute best thing for someone with a shite back. I spent the next almost two years improving my distance and times in the water with the goal being that on the day my father died, May 16, i would swim two miles straight. Nothing out of the ordinary for a real swimmer but an accomplishment for a reformed wastoid who had given up the booze (not entirely) and again started down the road  (though i never really got off that road, lol!) of cannabis and psychedelics. When lockdown hit and i was stuck in the house i turned to yoga and running and then slowly stopped the yoga, a mistake, but kept right on running. The result was that just last week i got on the scale to find out i was actually the same weight i was when i graduated from college. At 51 i weighed the same as i did at 22, which here in the land of fast food and cubicle living was something of an anomaly. 

When the Breadwinner decided that her fat paychecks should stop funding certain things, like the boyos athletic endeavors, though she would dispute this fact, i was (not so) gently shoved into the gig economy. Shopping for the wealthy or the elderly or the whoever, it's a gig i don't actually mind, mainly because i'm on my own and get to listen to music most of the day. It's taught me to motivate myself a bit more because it's really easy to say, fuck it!, when one does not have a boss lording over them but then again i sort of do have one of those types lording over me she just likes to go by a different name. The job was active, my lunch was often smoothies loaded with spinach and kale, yes it sounds disgusting but these things are fucking delicious, and i kept myself in pretty good shape... except of course for the back which over time i could feel was getting a bit wonky. Granted i could have cut down the running or been more diligent with my exercises but i am many things if not a fucking idiot. 

One of the biggest culprits of my shite lower back is the car, car seats not being made for people my height and with the I-mac being run all over the Rust Belt to play the footie i spent a lot of time driving recently. So after three separate trips last weekend (brought on by the Breadwinner not wanting to spend money an a hotel which i find rather comical since i cover all travel and footie related expenses) of around four hours round trip, Fri-Sat-Sun, i woke up Monday feeling decent and headed off to the gig. I had a fat and juicy batch, not a difficult one but one that paid well and it was during this batch as i reached down to the lowest shelf to grab some tortillas that i felt it. The low back muscles pulling, the hitch that develops and the fine line i was walking before i was laying in the middle of an Aldi writhing on the floor in pain and screaming. I immediately jammed my hand into my back and gingerly made my way to the car, talking to myself, breathing and trying to relax knowing the last place i needed my back to go was in the car. I drove home, ate some weed pills, some ibuprofen, grabbed the ice pack and laid down. I was fucked. 

And here is where one finds out their worth in the relative eyes of that boss lording over you and what i found out rather quickly was my worth, in my current state, wasn't much. That i was most definitely the servant around here and what good is a servant who can't serve. With our hero down for the count the normal day to day running of this place fell to the Breadwinner and she was none to pleased. In fact i heard many a diatribe over the next few days about how much she was doing and how hard it was which was interesting seeing as all she was doing was the stuff i do every day... usually while she napped. Suddenly someone had to cook, get the boyos to school and practice, take care of pets, do laundry, do dishes, clean and go to work. Granted the BW started working 2-3 hour days and since she's the owner no one can really say jack shit. This gave her ample time to come home, get her nap, and then get on with the day, meaning doing all the shit i normally do. 

Now if we peruse back through the lounge you'll find that on the Night of the Living Back Spasm the BW tallied up the cost and decided there was no need for medical attention but that i could take the internet remedy she so lovingly found and gut it out. My how times have changed. After the first day i was bombarded with demands i see a doctor, that i get back in the pool, that i get a cortisone shot, asked how soon i'd be back to normal, all the while being regaled with what a hero she was for picking up my slack. I replied there was no need to see a doctor as i already knew how to handle it (smirk), that i wanted to get back in the pool but that was advised not to yet by my doc due to the pandemic (now it's good and i'll be back in asap) and that a cortisone shot does nothing to remedy the problem but would mask the pain enough to get me back to work and might be the hands down worst thing one can do for my current condition. In the end it hurts more than helps. My favorite comment from the boss was that i might not be able to work until next week to which i politely responded it might be more like next month, though i did add at least i'd be able to start doing more around the house, albeit gradually. 

And so a week later though the back isn't in any way in great shape it has recovered enough for me to drive the boyos to school and practice and anywhere else they need to go, it has recovered enough for me to to do a little bit around the house, and while it still isn't great i'm taking great care to keep it as rested as possible which means sometimes i say "i'm done" and lay down and rest it. At some point this week i'll go to the local fitness joint where i'll hand over the company credit card as i call it and bill the BW for my rehab in the pool. Yet the funny thing is i can see what's coming. Right now there is the general relief that i can now resume some of my normal duties around the place but i'm guessing within the next 3-5 days or so the questions about me going back to work will begin to creep into the conversation. Anyone who has ever had a back back knows that the most important thing is rest followed by the slow strengthening of it, there is no way to rush it and if one tries they end up worse off than they did when it started. I'll do my best to return to the gig and all my chores on my own schedule. At this point i'm used to the barbs and it was good to see the boyos helping to pick up the slack. 

The thing is, while one is basically stuck on the couch-bed, every movement causing anything from a dull ache to a shooting pain, one has time to think about things. There were a couple of days where those dark clouds grew so dark i wondered where the dawn went. I thought about the state i was in and how little compassion or empathy came my way... not the i deserved or needed it but it was just a Will Smith level slap in the face about just how broken things are around these parts and it really brought into stark and crystal clear view just how i'm viewed by certain people. My boy Disaster spent a lot of time giving me hugs and doing what i asked and i explained to both the boyos to help out their mother and that by doing that they were helping me as well. They got it. They know what i do around here and i saw the appreciation from both of them once it sunk in. But the truth was that as i lay on the couch-bed i was a mess, my eyes often filling with tears as i realized how fucked things are, how i really am nothing more than a personal assistant, had i been able to be fired and shown the door i probably would have been. There are truths that are never easy and we can choose to ignore them or face them even when they cause us pain and suffering. The stoic, the Buddhist, the arm-chair philosopher, we know these things are only permanent if we let them be, the reality is they are all temporary and there are always those cracks where the light gets in. 

I look forward to that feeling of gliding through the water again, i will work to improve and maintain the discipline i need to keep the back healthy. I understand that the words will be wielded but that those words are just a facade from someone unwilling to face the truth, someone who doesn't understand how to be happy. There are times when i would like to try and help but i also understand just how damaged things are and that sometimes we have to admit failure, that no matter what we do we will not be able to fix things... and it's an interesting feeling that as i began to accept these things that those tears began to dry up. Things are as they are and sometimes to just be, to do nothing, is the most noble thing one can do. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Things We Do For Lunch (a skipping record post)

 Wednesdays... never have i had such an aversion to a day as i do to this day and of course it has nothing to do with the actual day, in fact in my own warped little mind i harbor some sense of guilt for not liking Wednesdays so much but then i realize it could be any day of the week as the main ingredient to my distaste for such a day is the fact the Breadwinner is off and has declared it "her" day. It is the day that drives home my current plight as nothing more than an indentured servant, i push the cart, always a few steps behind the Breadwinner as to make sure i know my place, as the BW ambles the aisles and points at things for me to put in said cart. One may ask why the Breadwinner does not herself grab these items and put them in the cart herself? but that would be a complete mystery. It seems the answer is it's easier for me to do it. 

As i dutifully push the cart i'm am often pummeled with questions and comments that are not really meant to be answered in any other way than the affirmative. Jah forbid i pick something up that "only i like", a phrase often spewed by the Breadwinner, because like a small child i'll be told in not so many words to put it back. The Breadwinner feels no need to splash out a few bucks on my sustenance and believe me when i say they are her dollars. There are many reminders in and around the Case de Breadwinner of who exactly wins the bread. In fact with the tax bill just arriving i sat and listened to a diatribe about my little gig economy job and got to enjoy a round of veiled barbs at the fact she might have to splash out a little money to cover the tax bill. Not all of the bill mind you because i make sure to put some aside to help cover taxes but as we all know how taxes work here in Cloudcuckooland most people overpay. Of course the Breadwinner, being the successful business owner, has a CPA who handles all this shit and takes great pride in making sure the guvment gets as little as possible (i believe he's a republican type) but the simple fact is i can do math, the Breadwinner made over 12.5 times what i did last year and i was surprised at how much i actually made last year in my little part time gig. Now most of what i make goes into the household bill fund and for covering various sporting endeavors by the boyos while the remaining scraps are used to keep my life bearable. If you're thinking, books and records and weed and shrooms, you'd be right and now that shit it getting back to normal think the occasional rock show but even those are cut down because the BW refuses to drive the boyos to any type of practice unless she absolutely has to... (hence why i'm missing Parquet Courts even though i have a ticket, bought pre-pandemic, but since there is a practice and a late one at that i'd have a better chance of hitting the Powerball then getting the BW to drive.) 

But back to Wednesdays... while i can attest to things being a bit dark around here lately, our hero struggling to keep his head above water mentally, mainly because our hero tends to think about things and when he realizes how shit things are, both here at home (both the one i live in and this country) and abroad (which i'm sure is self explanatory) it can get a bit depressing yet i try to remember to sit quietly with my cat or gaze at the stars to remind myself that it's really all a cosmic accident to which i will depart soon enough but the darkness is still there. I probably need a good dose of those delectable chocolates loaded full of hallucinogenic goodness to straighten this out but currently i don't have the time. 

So while i'm well aware that this post is nothing more that a skipping a record, a pissing and moaning about the same things i always seem to be pissing and moaning about sometimes the pissing and moaning while not really getting much accomplished, makes me feel a whole lot better... and really? it's not like it's being broadcast to the world or even my neighbors it's just a forgotten and dusty corner of the interweb. 

One of the things that often strikes me on these days is just how much the Breadwinner seems to be enjoying herself as she strolls the aisles of commerce, picking things up and putting them down, smiling to herself, commenting on this and that, while if there was a film crew, after showing the BW they'd pan to the obedient servant in this game of Master and Servant, practically scowling, a downtrodden look of defeat fairly tattooed to his face which only comes off when the boss turns to instruct him whence he immediately brightens up... not much but enough to avoid the wrath and the diatribe about being a miserable bastard, in fact the Breadwinner herself has joked about how much i must loathe Wednesdays all the while not giving a shit about whether i really do or not. Seeing as the last two years i've spent toiling away in the gig economy in a gig where it is my job to shop for other people carries little weight around these parts. The funny part is back at home if anyone ever asks her to cook (see the boyos) or clean up the dishes or anything even remotely related to the restaurant business that fool is met with a resounding rebuke because she's done enough of that at work all day. (Note- as the honcho she very rarely does any of that at work at all and on the occasions she does it's usually for an hour or two to help out, the employees receive much more help than our indentured servant here ever receives.) 

Oddly enough, and in the name of brutal honesty, i can admit to daydreaming about what i call divorce fantasies. Granted i always get this pang of hurt and guilt when i think of the boyos but the dreams are still there and at times it's difficult to push them out of the mind. There are times driving around that i  wonder where i'm going to live when it happens, often knowing that after years of being in a house it will be a bit shit to move back to an apartment, and most likely a shit flat at that. At least the fantasies harbor no illusions and how fucking funny is that? They're not about me sitting on a beach and cashing alimony checks, it's about finding a place where i can be alone with my books and records and cats (still the crazy cat lady) and how i will survive when that happens, though i don't concern myself too much with that because i've always seemed to manage a way to survive. 

But back to the title... the things we do for lunch... which is really just a riff on an old 70s song by 10cc that i used to hear on the radio when i was in 2nd or 3rd grade. My reward for being such an obedient boy is that i get a free lunch each Wednesday (though we all no there is no such thing and one could easily say i earn it) where i'm told to drum up three places to choose from so that the Breadwinner can debate the merits of each before deciding on one or none of the above. Once the place is chosen i then drive there, am usually tasked with going in and ordering while the Breadwinner waits in the car (pre-pandemic we'd dine at the place but currently it's all take out) all the while playing games on her phone while pulling endlessly on the e-cig. Oddly enough my demeanor often brightens while i stand and wait, at the Mexican place i often sit with the manager and talk about the futbol, at the one deli i often converse with the counter lady about music and weed, recently finding out we both have an unabashed love of Jamaica. It's the grace period before going back home and eating in silence while the BW chats away, me knowing all the places to chime in with my brief answers so that i don't appear to be an ungrateful bastard. Ah yes the things we do for lunch... (i seem to have this odd ability to change song lyrics to fit my own warped and weird personal narrative hence the title of this post from a song that seemed to be rolling around the old head, i often do it when i'm alone and it provides no amount of joy and amusement as i giggle and talk to myself particularly when i produce an excellent bit of lyrics.) 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Buttermaker Rules pt. 1

 There was a letter the other day from my dear old mum, it contained a press clipping she had found from my junior year in high school, the first week of the basketball season and i had been named player of the week in the city of Cleveland, one of two awarded each week. Yes i was a hot shit basketball player in my youth, maybe that's hard to fathom when reading back through the pages of the lounge but i was, in fact i've probably forgotten more about basketball than most people will ever know. If there are two sports i might be qualified to coach it is hoops and the futbol, one i grew up playing and one i didn't discover until my mid-twenties but did a fine job of devouring any and every book on the game while watching what could be considered an unhealthy amount of "soccer" as we Septics call it. 

It's hard to think that two years ago at this time i was coaching the I-mac's team and the whole pandemic thing was slowly creeping closer... well maybe not slowly, in a little over a month things would soon be shut down and the way we go about our daily lives would  be changed, possibly for good for all we know, but this is about the boyos and basketball and Coach Buttermaker aka  me. The strangest and most unlikeliest of coaches ever to roam the sidelines. So we will start at the beginning... going back two years to my year with the I-mac, the last time he'd play before devoting his athletic endeavors purely to the game of soccer. 

Travel associations are the bastion of self important and self righteous assholes everywhere. It is few and far between of those who actually run these entities that actually give a shit about the game or the kids. Mainly it's used to show how much they care about the community and what not... it's a facade. While i won't deny the modicum of work they put in most really do know fuck-all about the game. The I-mac's class was particularly strong in the hoops area and since it wasn't his main focus he was placed on the B-team the year before i coached and by the end of the year was far and away the team's best player, that according to his coaches. Fast forward a year and the he goes to tryouts, plays well, and gets placed on the B-team again even though those same coaches wanted him for their A-team. Word came down that the class was so strong that they had made three teams 2 A-teams and one B (all with 8 or 9 players) and to say i was less than thrilled was an understatement. As with most travel associations in the burbs it helps to have a rich daddy who tosses money around when it comes to placement on teams. Then of course came the email saying the B-team had no coach and would be disbanded is someone didn't volunteer. Enter El Kono aka Buttermaker. 

I won't go into my credentials but it was an easy sell, even the revered "skills coach" told the brain trust that there aren't a whole lot of people who played at the level i played (including himself) and i was summarily given the job, which under the circumstances seems somewhat silly as they didn't have a coach but did have a couple of "if no one else is going to do it i will" replies. Of course the Breadwinner was unhappy due to the fact she might have to help a little in the domestic area but i'm used to her being pissed or unhappy with me, in fact i call it the natural state of things. So there i was head coach again. It was wasn't my first time as i had coached my first team, a group of my old friends, in a league way back when i was 20? or so. They had never won their league and specifically never beaten this one team (who always won the league) and i was brought in to help them do just that. Give Buttermaker some time and a scouting report and i'll give you a chance Needless to say not only did we beat that team we crushed them. We were up by 30 when the ref asked if i was going to call off the press and i smiled and said no. This wasn't just about winning the game it was about breaking the other team psychologically. We did. My squad never lost to them again even after i went back to school. 

And so i took the reins of my new team... as with most B-teams we were top heavy, the top three of my eight players should have been on the A-teams, i felt i was playing with house money, i had size, i had kids who could shoot, i had the athletes to press full court, and i had the I-mac who is a bit of an athletic freak... and we went out and promptly lost our first game. We looked like we had never seen each other and at one point i called a timeout and asked the players to introduce themselves to each other, they all looked at me bewildered and i stated since they were playing like they didn't know each other i thought it would be a good time to start getting to know each other. Our defense wasn't great, the offense worse and we lost by 7. We then won our next 11 league games in a row to finish 11-1 and win the regular season title. 

Of course if there is one thing success breeds it's animosity and i was not the most well-liked coach in the league but then again i didn't fucking care. I wasn't here to make friends i was here to teach and to win. One of the local teams and it's advisors did everything they could to fuck my team over and in the end it somewhat worked though i guess the nice part was it didn't help them win the tournament either. My trusty assistant jokingly said he wanted to get t-shirts made with my face on it and "FTG" underneath it (Fuck That Guy), i told him we'd make a mint if we sold them at away games and he said he was thinking the same thing. 

We played three tournaments, one in the aforementioned township that took a serious disliking to me. We didn't make the final mainly because when you only have 8 players on the roster sometimes it's hard to field a team. I scraped together two extra bodies (because i had kids away for the xmas holiday) for our must win game against the Shitbag Township and though we gave it all we could, the I-mac dropped 22, we ran out of gas and towards the end it got a bit chippy. When one of the opposing coaches made a move towards one of my players i calmly stated he better back the fuck up and never do it again. By the end of the game my assistant and i, a couple of lads who'd been in our fair share of scraps, were laughing as the suburban dad golf set all commiserated in the corner acting like they were going to kick the shit out of us. I smiled at them all the way out of the gym. 

Next tourney we lost in the finals as it was the classic "fix was in" set up. The host team was definitely the beneficiary of some home cooking. Once again i was scraping together a team but had my core group. After playing the hosts in the round robin and noticing a bias it was even worse in the finals. In fact the officiating in the finals was such a flaming shit show that it's surprising i didn't end up in cuffs... though truth be told the parents of my team remarked at how composed i was in all the chaos. To call it a physical game would be like saying boxing is a contact sport. It was a fist fight from the start the only problem was the home team was given free reign to do whatever it wanted. At one point near the end of the first half we had just scored and set up our full court press, the I-mac deflected the ball and as he went to grab it and score the opposing player grabbed him with two hands by the shoulders and pulled him back. The ref was five feet away watching but seemed to forget he had a whistle in his mouth. It was the last few seconds of the first half and when the half ended i immediately went over and questioned  the official about it. He said there was no foul, i said you're telling me from five feet away you didn't see the defender grab both shoulders? He got extremely defensive and incensed that i had the nerve to question his judgment and ability so i finally said, so you're saying you didn't see it? He said there was no foul. I retorted, rather sarcastically, well then that's all i need to know now isn't it? 

The second half was only worse and towards the end of the game shit was really kicking off. The I-mac took a shot to the face and i pulled him off so he wouldn't get in a fight, in fact i pulled my top three players off and was tempted to pull my whole team off in protest of the nonsense but we finished the game so the real fireworks could start. My trusty assistant was ready to pummel someone and i went to the scorer's table and asked for the refs name. It was then i got to meet Scott Franklin... to be cont.