Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Wilderness Years - England

We were quiet as we sat in the cab. Veronica had taken hold of my hand and i studied her as she took it all in as we drove through the streets, the same route i had taken to pick her up only five short days ago, five days the felt like a lifetime ago and yet passed in the blink of an eye. 120 or so hours. It sounds like a small number. It is a small number but it can be misleading, how much living can one cram into 120 hours. A lot if you try. And so with the sun shining down on us we were going home... like the minister says, for better or for worse. 

At the airport we checked in and talked to the woman at the counter about getting our seats together. Having bought the tickets separately we had been placed rows apart and the last thing we wanted was to fly home "alone". Since i had a prime aisle seat the counter lady felt it wouldn't be difficult to switch with someone especially considering Veronica was in the very last row, the one with two seats and near the shitters, not the most ideal seat for a transatlantic flight but the upside was it did have a bit more room. I could see her look of worry because she wanted to spend the last part of this adventure with me. I told her not to fret as we'd get it sorted once we were onboard. 

As we sat killing time we talked and did a dance around the inevitable subject of what would happen when we got back. She was sitting on the floor when she looked at me and said she wanted to get me something, i smiled and stated there was no need for that because she had already given me more than she could ever really imagine. Veronica insisted though and then sheepishly said, but i don't have any money and it's kind of strange for me to ask and then buy you something with your own money. I laughed, i believe that's called a relationship and handed her a few twenty pound notes. She kissed me and disappeared towards the shops. 

Sitting in the concourse i was alone for the first time in a week. I took a deep breath and tried to sort out a plan of action. There was a very real possibility that she would walk away from this... and what could i say? We had never spoke of what would happen other than her stating that while we were off our own continent we were together, a couple, but that when we got back we could not be. Of course the option on returning was to make myself available but that was a complicated situation. If there was one thing in my life i was devoted to at this point it was the business, the game, the running of my own little empire in my corner of the city. Nothing was going to fuck that up and yet here i was knowing full well that my little escapade here could easily fuck that up. It wasn't that i believed either woman involved in my own personal triad would do something to put the screws to me but then again we all know the fury of a woman scorned let alone the possibility of two women scorned. The fact was, in my mind, that i had worked my ass off to be in this position and with the money spigot turned on and the sale of gear increasing almost weekly who knew how much i could rake in. I was supremely confident in my ability to handle whatever was thrown at me but we don't need a crash course in Greek mythology to understand that every hero or anti-hero in my case, has his fatal flaw. Mine may have been a predilection for beautiful brunettes. 

I was lost in thought when Veronica came walking back towards me with a lovely little grin. She handed me the change and then lamented that there wasn't much to choose from and how she was trying to figure out what would suit me best. Demurely, she handed me the bag. I opened it up and what should i see? The most lovely pair of socks i could have ever hoped for. Socks you say? Yes socks. She had nailed it, they were colorful and striped and suited me perfectly. Oddly i had this thing for weird or colorful socks, much like my thing for knit winter caps , she said that when she saw this pair they just sort of fit me... and she was right. Yes she could have bought me a fucking snow globe and i'd have thought it was the cat's ass but this was something else, she knew me, almost intuitively, it was almost frightening how much so, and there was a part of me that knew how dangerous she was, how infatuated i had become with her. I kissed her as we stood there in the middle of Gatwick airport and said i had never gotten a better gift in my life, that these socks were brilliant. Her sparkling eyes and gorgeous smile radiating the most celestial of light at me. I was fucked. The hard man was in love. 

We boarded the plane and had a brief word with the flight attendant about sitting together. Veronica took her seat in the last row and i somewhere in the middle. It took only a minute for Veronica to charm the guy next to her, who for his part probably thought he had lucked out sitting next to a beautiful woman, to switch seats with me. Of course it probably helped that the guy she pointed out who wanted to sit next to her practically hit his head on the ceiling of the cabin when he stood up. Seats sorted i grabbed my things and made my way back towards her, thanked the kind gentleman for switching, and settled in for the long flight home. While i had dreams of joining the Mile High Club i also knew that the poor girl still needed a break and so we sat there and gazed out the window. Looked out over the island known as Ireland and then at nothing but a vast expanse of blue. We were on the last leg of a trip, an intense and passionate adventure that had left us both reeling from the beauty of it. Now it was back to reality, to the grind of everyday life, the fantasy we had created for this brief time was dissipating like so much London fog in the noonday sun. 

As we flew over the Atlantic Veronica curled up and put her head on my shoulder. She drifted off to sleep as i sat perfectly still and listened to her breath, felt her warm body next to mine, the roar of the engines filling my ears along with the roar of reality that would crystalize as soon as the wheels touched down. Each passing minute brought us closer to that. I tried to close my eyes but couldn't, sleep was not going to happen and so instead i sat and there and let Veronica use me as her pillow. When she woke up she smiled and snuggled closer to me. She didn't say a word, just held on to me as if i might slip away, as if i may have been a mirage, a dream she had that was so vivid and real she thought it was true. It was a sunny afternoon when the tires hit the tarmac. The England Adventure was officially over. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Mushroom Diaries - vol. 11

 There is a little known fact about these lovely bits of fungus i so enjoy devouring. They are excellent pain relievers, granted the caveat is you might be out of your "mind" for a bit but the relief is there and from what i've read you don't really need to take a huge dose, more a micro-dose, but what's the fun in that? Having spent two of the past three weekends shuffling the I-mac off to various futbol matches in my native state, one in Cincinnati and one in Canton/Akron, between the driving and the standing around in the rain, sitting on freezing cold metal benches, the lack of swimming for the last year due to the pandemic, my back was/has been in right shit shape. Knowing what i know about the lovely experience of back spasms the last fucking thing i felt like doing was going through that again but when you add in the fact that my gig as a modern serf means i drive quite a bit, albeit locally,  i was in a word, fucked. 

Add in the fact that i'm still houseboy and receive little to no help in the domestic department only compounded the fact that i was walking a tightrope between pain and agony. It sure would be swell if the Breadwinner recognized the fact i could use some help when the back goes to shit or even give me a day off from riding in a car, something i still have to do as adult-sitter on her weekday off, but as we know that is not in her plans. As previously documented after being chastised for my back issues i no longer talk about it and do my best to get through it while trying to take care of it the best i can. The boyos actually understand now but it's still a laugh to be busting my ass with a sore back while someone takes a nap or sits at the kitchen table scrolling the Iphone and sucking the e-cig. Luckily Jah has provided me the bread, namely cannabis and psilocybin. 

But enough pissing and moaning, these missives are about joy, the joy of laying on the couch and wandering the universe that is you and me and everything in between. What's lovely about shrooms is that if you keep them cool and dry they last damn near indefinitely. In one of the bags i acquired there was a specimen that was absolutely perfect. To be honest they're all perfect but this one was such a beauty i actually took a photo of it, set it aside in it's own bag and waited for a special occasion to take it. Apparently any random Friday night can be a special occasion and so with the back screaming and a weekend off the soccer circuit i decided it was time to become one with my special friend. 

One may be asking themselves right about now how far gone is this tall and wasted man hiding in his downstairs lair in some suburban enclave who is claiming to be friends with a bit of fungus? My reply would be to smile. You see i respect these plants and their properties because of the wonderful things they can do. As Terence McKenna said, the mushroom speaks to me, and this particular mushroom had told me all along that she would be a fine dance partner when the time came. Usually because of my trouble downing said fungus i grind them up to make them easier to ingest but this perfect little beauty i could not bring myself to grind, i had to eat it, albeit dipped in peanut butter to help mask the taste. So i stood in my little room and gazed adoringly at my friend who would soon be me and me it. Alan Watts was once asked about eating meat and the animals involved in it. Alan of course responded in the way only Alan could be stating while one could debate the facts and merits of carnivores the truth was that animals tended to eat each other and that if this cow or chicken or pig or what have you has given it's life for my sustenance then i should honor it by preparing, cooking, and eating it in the best way possible. Relish it and respect it for you and it are now one. Alan then reminds us that as some point we will be the nourishment for something as well. My hope is that i can be firmly planted under a young fruit or food providing tree where the physical part of me can go back into the universe in any number of ways. Seems about right. Let me feed the plants, birds and animals as they have fed me. 

And so i ate my mushroom, followed by a two pinches of dust. Once again i wasn't sure how much i'd taken but i sat back and waited for the stars to rise... and rise they fucking did. My gorgeous friend did not take long to kick in and when she did she was absolutely glorious in her wisdom and beauty. I was laying on the couch grinning and the only word that really came to mind was Wow! As the mushroom took hold there are times when i take these deep breathes, not consciously mind you they just sort of happen, it's a bit like the universe flowing through you and the whole body is tingling and the mind is doing what it does and the body feels as if every synapse and nerve is vibrating in glorious joy with the universe at large. The best way to understand it is to experience it. It really is an amazing thing. 

In my, i guess you'd call it more serious exploration of the fungus, i've become adept at letting it take me where it wants. Sometimes it takes me into the beautiful nothingness and sometimes it lights up the mind like a carnival midway. It casually strolls and drifts from thought to thought to memory to nothingness before doing it all over again. That was this trip. The mind was at ease and drifted to thoughts of women, of Veronica in particular but others as well came and went, i understand why seeing as that's been at the forefront lately but it wasn't planned and there was no conscious effort to do so. In between there would be those exquisite moments of nothingness which i have come to love so well. When it all becomes clear that so much of this modern world is rubbish and that the only thing that matters is love, for the people, animals, plants that occupy your brief existence. Call it sappy, call it naive, i call it the truth. 

Of course being human can't all be about philosophical musings and there is a definite physical component to these forays. There are times when i'd like nothing more than to be laying naked with a woman while this is all happening, of course i'd be a gentleman and bring her a dose as well, so we could lay there naked and add to an already intense and blissful experience, it's been a long time since i've been tripping and fucking and as one gets older it does seem a bit more difficult to find a partner in this exercise. Yes i'm sure i could join a "dating" site and state that i'm a lover of psychedelics and would like to find a partner who would like to experience/ partake in said activity but i'm not sure what sort of response that would get. I don't know many people my age period who are still into this sort of thing except of course for the lovely humans who periodically stop by the lounge for a visit. But there is always hope as they say. There is karma and dumb luck and cosmic accidents and so i will keep my antenna alert because one never knows when the universe will turn your way and grin... (actual photo of my dance partner.)

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Wilderness Years - Come Morning

 After the giant hash filled joint we all sat back and giggled at what a time it had been. It being our last night Gulfboot let us have the bedroom so that we could get a decent night's kip before leaving. My voracious sexual appetite had necessitated a break in the festivities, Veronica had told me she needed a rest and i understood as since she had landed that Saturday morning we had been going at it in almost porn star like pace and fashion. So on our final night in Inglaterra we lay in bed like a normal couple, or at least as normal as the situation would allow. Again she talked of what would happen when we got back and again i said we could worry about that soon enough and the conversation turned to all we had done and seen. 

As with most things in my life there was a soundtrack to this trip, very Anglo-centric to say the least. The Masterplan by Oasis and the new record from this little Irish band called U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind, were in heavy rotation. In his youth Gulfboot had moved to Dublin, he was living off the dole and loitering about the places he heard the band might be hanging. One day as he sat drinking who should walk in but all the members of U2, he laughed as he told me he had gone full Bono back then, cultivating the look from the Joshua Tree/Rattle and Hum period, long hair and all. As he sat at the bar he approached the Edge and asked if he could buy Bono a drink. I told him i found it hysterical that a kid on the dole was buying a millionaire a drink. The Edge looked over and said, Paul.. this lad here would like to buy you a drink. Paul smiled back and said Guinness. 

Oddly enough the Joshua Tree record, probably like many my age, was a massive record in the story of my youth. I was 16 when it came out dating Wendy the Wabbit, dubbed so by the concerned mothers of my working class burb due to Wendy's appetite for sex. Of course i believe it lasted all of two months but this record was huge at the time and provided some lovely background music for the sex in her blue Chevy Caprice. Fast forward to October and One-eyed Bobby's dad, a radio station bigwig, procured us tickets to see U2 at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. I had just turned 17 and it was the first day of basketball conditioning for my senior year of high school. After practice i raced home and showered, donned my army jacket with all it's writings and markings, scraped together the last of my weed and ran out of the house and hopped in my friend's car. Little did we know we'd be somewhere in the first ten rows, are jaw steadily dropping at the ushers kept pointing us forward. Being kids we couldn't score any booze and we had raced through the weed on the ride down but luckily the brother and sister next to us were smoking a bowl and upon seeing my puppy dog look passed the pipe to me periodically through the night. Ironically Bono had fallen off the stage in my now adopted city a few nights before and played the gig with his arm in a sling. It was a beautiful October night on the shores of Lake Erie meaning that it started to snow at one point during the show which to this day is etched in my memory. 

On this night though it would be the other band that would set the tone. Veronica had been exposed to the lads from Manchester but in her short time in London she'd been given a crash course by various members of the entourage. Somewhere down the line i'd be standing in her apartment and notice that she'd bought the CDs of The Masterplan and All That You Can't Leave Behind, which were lying on a coffee table. As with most things in this life little did we know that this would be the last time we would sleep in the same bed. We talked about the trip, we talked about going home, we talked about the intensity of the past month or so, about the race to get her passport, about how we actually pulled it off and of course, like previously stated we talked for a minute about what would happen when we got back. The truth was neither of us knew. Veronica stated that before the trip she was set on going our separate ways, not socially but intimately, but now she wasn't so sure she could do that. I added i hoped she wouldn't but the facts were easy to understand and the situation complicated. I lived with someone, was marching towards East End kingpin status and in my mind nothing was going to derail the business. Oddly it was the one of the rare times in my life where i actually gave a shit about my job. 

As the effects of the mega-joint began to take hold i could hear her breathing change as she slipped off to sleep. I lay in bed, arms wrapped around her, thinking. I had a lot to sort out but at the time i felt i was fucking invincible, bulletproof, i was on my way to becoming the King of North Oakland, or kono, as those in the know would call me. There was no stopping the rise now. I had worked my ass off, i had hustled to pay down student loans and stash some money and was now getting into the position to really make some bank. How much? I didn't know. On my first trip over i had scraped and saved and budgeted, i had a firm grasp on my finances and while i had a cushion it wasn't much, enough to see me through a crisis for a few months until i could hopefully get something sorted but i wasn't loaded. Now almost exactly two years later i had tripled that nest egg with the money rolling right in and a rock solid connection. Supply and demand were no longer something i worried about. I had gone from the guy buying shitty quarter pounds of dirt weed from the uptight accountant, to half pounds and pounds from Hippie Jack, to one or two pounds at a time of good midi from Max and Ruby with the occasional foray into shitty brick weed when needed from Pizza Joe. Now? I was picking up twenty pounds at a time and that number was most likely going to increase. Now i had enough spendable cash to fly a girl to hang with me in England, not a bad second date really. I had the cash to buy all my friends tickets to a match and countless pints. The business was king and having watched too many gangster movies i intended to keep it that way. 

So while i lay in the dark and listened to the peaceful breathing of a young and beautiful woman i knew i had shit to figure out. Come morning we would pack up the last of our things, take a cab to Gatwick and be back in the States by mid-afternoon. I listened to the sounds of South London deep into the night. Sometimes you gotta run on adrenaline. Sometimes it's sheer will that gets you through, the belief in your plan no matter how fucked up or flawed it might be. Sometime between dusk and dawn, i shut my eyes and went to sleep. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Wilderness Years - Coldharbour Lane

 And so the sun rose on our last full day while the elation of the match and fun at the kebab shop supplied a beautiful sheen to the day there was also a sublime melancholy that was beginning to creep in. I could see it in Veronica's eyes, there would be questions and dilemmas when we returned to our lives and stopped living in this fantasy we had created. The best course of action i felt at the present was not to worry about it until faced with it, why worry about what can be put off? And so i went about being the easygoing and cheerful chap i had been for the whole trip. Though subconsciously it was there and Veronica and i spent a good deal of the day in close proximity to each other, holding hands or wrapped in frequent embraces, we walked up the street together talking in the morning sunshine as Gulfboot did some work around the flat. He would be leaving for the States a few days after us and instead of getting things in order he'd been entertaining and partying, in other words, being the most gracious host one could imagine. It's a rare day when you can find a friend who you trust completely and in Gulfboot i had found just that. 

Being pre 9/11 we weren't required to be at the airport five hours early so i made the arrangements for a cab as Veronica and i got our things together for the return trip home. The thought of missing the flight crossed my mind and i even laughed and mentioned it to her but she smiled and said though she'd love to just stay, to never go back, we couldn't. She was learning the art of the duck and dodge quite well and while she mentioned her dog and wanting to see him she also left the right things unspoken. 

She was a wise girl for her age, she was mature and self confident with just a hint of vulnerability tucked like a few loose strands of hair behind her ear. She had come from a big family from the wasteland of northwestern Pennsyltucky. She grew up in a town not very far from Podunk U. A county seat in counties that were mainly deer and forest with a few remnants of the western Pa. coal and oil boom. The boom had long gone but the towns carried on, old and weary, like movie sets from the 50s you could almost smell the mustiness when you entered them. There was still old money in these towns but she was not from it. She grew up on a small farm and counting her there were half a dozen children. She left for the big city shortly after graduating high school at the tender age of almost 19. She knew a couple of people and ended up in the East End, my stomping grounds, working as a waitress until she fell in with Lil Blonde one night at a club and tried her hand at stripping. She was young and a natural beauty in a place full of plastic surgery, drug problems and women on their last stilettos, hanging on in one of the last places that would employ them. For some of the dancers the next stop was tricking, rehab or Wal-Mart. The meat grinder never ceases. 

Veronica, to her credit, didn't get sucked in though early on i wondered if she would turn into another tale bandied about by the lonely and sad men who sat at the bar waiting for lightening to strike. I watched quietly from my seat at the stage still quite unaware of my status among the dancers. She danced long enough to bank a little money and get out of debt but still lived hand to mouth. Her hoodrat boyfriend was more hindrance than help and was hitting above his weight when he attracted this girl but once she found her footing it was a matter of time before he was giving his walking papers. He had a tendency to get drunk and act like a fool and while she may have thought he was a cool kid when she met him the luster quickly dulled and he became just another hoodrat destined never to wander much further than the neighborhood or city limits. In fact by the time Veronica had dumped the hoodrat and transitioned to bartender she was trying to get Lil Blonde to get out of the stripping game. Problem was Lil Blonde was a lifer, her two kids spending most of their time with granddad as she plowed through mountains of coke and pondered how big her breast implants should be. Word is she never made it out of the game but just went further down the rabbit hole with tricking and porn being mentioned by those same sad and lonely men. 

On this day the sun shone down on South London, there was a smile on Veronica's face but her eyes showed an inherent sadness of what was waiting on the next sunrise. This was a dream to a small town girl from northwest Pennsyltucky, whisked away all expenses paid to England, and intense and romantic trip with a man who was known back in the East End as a ranking criminal, for lack of a better description. While to the outside world of North Oakland i was a hot shit weed dealer, professional and reliable, a guy who was equally at home with ranking hoods and accountants and engineers, what she learned on these South London streets was that underneath the guise i was a bit more sensitive to the world than i let on. We were on the street outside the local pub near a phone booth when she said it, "I'm in love with you... you know that." I nodded. "I was in love the first time i saw you" i replied. 

It was our last night in England as we hopped on the bus and headed to Brixton. It was a gorgeous late September night, the air unseasonably warm as we rode along in silence and looked out at the passing neighborhoods. All those people, all those lives, to steal from a certain Mancunian. When he jumped off in Brixton i felt like i was home, in both the metaphorical and literal sense. It reminded me of my stomping grounds back in the Burgh and it just felt right to be walking these streets. Needless to say it was a early doors and a slow night in my favorite hood in London. I had been here on my previous trip and loved it and we wandered from place to place, most of them empty or damn near, places playing dub and jungle, quieter pubs where the jukebox would play anything from Northern Soul to the Stones to the Stone Roses. We walked along with no place really to be just taking it all in, Gulf talking about the places and history of the neighborhood while Veronica held my hand and listened intently with wide and earnest eyes. It was a mellow and relaxing way to spend our last night in town. 

Having ambled about for hours it was a bit north of midnight and time to head back to the flat. I had run out of weed and asked Gulfboot about the possibility of scoring some since this was Brixton after all. He said he could go down to Coldharbour Lane where certain spots were damn near an open air drug market. We grabbed a cab and headed to the spot, Gulfboot insisted on scoring the gear but as i pointed out to him that was not going to happen. He would be leaving to join his wife in a few days time and the US being what it was, if he got popped for some reason he'd be banned from entering the country over a dime bag. Me on the other hand? well if i got popped they'd just ship me back in the morning most likely on the flight i was going to be taking anyway. Besides, i told him, this if my fucking specialty. We pulled to the curb and i hopped out. 

Coldharbour Lane is exactly as i had imagined it in my dreams. It was dark and seedy and one could get fucked up quick-like if they weren't careful, blue light bulbs casting an eerie and menacing glow, basically i was right at home. We were at an intersection and i could see the figures of men, one on each corner, in the shadows, waiting for business, i gave Veronica a quick kiss and said "wish me luck" and jumped out of the cab. As i walked into the street the figures from the corner immediately started to step out of their shadows, i pointed to a tall Rasta and said "you mate", he nodded and we adjourned to his corner and began the deal. I told him i needed some weed and he told me thirty pounds, i laughed and said you must like my accent, he chuckled and i told him i wasn't paying thirty pound for a gram of fucking weed, he countered that it was good shit and i mentioned that i was thinking of seeing what the price was across the street. My Rasta friend shook his head and "no no mon, we good, twenty pound and i toss in a bit of hash." Deal. He handed me the gear and i gave him the money. I tipped him a fiver and when he noticed he looked at me and smiled. I told him i was in the same game as he was back across the pond. We shook hands and i hopped back in the cab and off we went. 

In the cab Gulfboot was laughing and giving me the business a bit, "only you would fucking haggle with Rasta on Coldharbour Lane for a fucking dime bag." I grinned, "he wanted fucking three dimes brother, i knew he liked me accent so i talked him down and got some bonus gear, we'll see how i did soon enough." Arriving back in Streatham we filed up the steps and sat down in the living room. I broke out the gear. It was fucking top quality. A pungent odor of skunk filled the air and i then tossed the small chunk of chocolate hash on the table. "You're fucking joking," grinned Gulfboot. "Not bad for 20 quid" i said. We proceeded to roll a giant spliff of grass and hash, no tobacco, made a cup of tea, as we sat back and enjoyed our last night in beautiful South London. It was mellow and we talked about how lovely it had been, how much fun it was and Gulf told Veronica that while he had his reservations about this whole escapade before meeting her that he thought she was a "right fine girl". He was spot on. 

Now some may have heard this little ditty in the intro to some famous cable television show i never watched but Gulfboot had played it for me a few years before the premiere of said show. Gulfboot always had taste and style and i remember us sitting around the old 759 when he played this record for me one debauched afternoon. This song hit home because though at the time we were thousands of miles away from Coldharbour Lane it was also right outside our apartment door. We were living this song through our epic hangovers and days long drug binges, we knew the people who inhabited this song and we knew the feeling that it conveyed, we were living the feeling it conveyed and now as if i'd come full circle i had stood on that most holy of streets and did what to me was the most holy of acts, scored, made a transaction, hopped back in the cab with my lady and my best friend and headed back to his place to listen to this record and partake of our gear. (To this day The Old Purple Tin may be one of the best gospel songs i'ver ever heard, cuz to me that's what it is, gospel music for the maniacs of the world.)  So so long Streatham, so long Brixton, so long Holmesdale Road and Selhurt Park, so long kebab shop and so long En-guh-lan...

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Wildnerness Years - King Kabob

 A Sunday spent in the pub led to a rather wicked hangover come Monday morning. After a spliff and a cup of tea we went up the road for a fry-up. Veronica wanted to see the sights of London and Gulfboot was explaining to her about the size and immensity of the city. My head still beat like a kick drum. The last thing i wanted to do this day was look at Buckingham Palace or the Tower of London, i'd been to this city twice and managed to see neither, i was more into the Everyman Scene you could say, wandering the streets of different neighborhoods and taking it all in. On the other hand i didn't want to disappoint Veronica but the fact was i was still hurting pretty good even after breakfast and then as we ambled the streets of Streatham the grease hit the poor girl and a look of fear came over her face, she needed a toilet... fast. There was a maturity to this girl that i'd rarely experienced when i was younger. Gulfboot and i stood outside the fast food joint we'd found for her smoking a cigarette. Veronica emerged smiling and feeling better and we continued our walk. Needless to say it was a lazy day and i felt guilty for not having dragged myself into the proper tourist trap areas of one of the great cities of the world. We planned to take it easy that night so we could attempt the journey in the morning. Of course if there is one thing Gulboot and i were adept at it was debauchery and round about time the sun went down we were down the local boozing. Veronica not to be outdone took my hand and slipped another pill of E into it, she smiled and whispered in my ear that she had just taken one. She did love her Ecstasy and so i downed mine and off we went. 

We were taking turns as to who slept in the bedroom and it just so happened that Monday had Veronica and i in the living room sleeping on makeshift mattress. Of course the drugs were doing the business and on returning to the flat we giggled our way into said room and shut the door to get back to our favorite pastime. The truth was she was my new favorite drug and i was a full blown addict. All i wanted to do was to be wrapped around her in the most primal sense, sessions of sex interspersed with talking, drinking water, listening to music quietly as we stayed up to the wee hours before falling asleep naked and exhausted. All the while knowing that each sunrise brought us closer to our impending departure. There were questions of course... what would happen when we got back? Being a fine pugilist in this department i ducked and dodged and said let's not worry about that now, let us just enjoy where we're at and who we're with. You can call me this Charming Man as Veronica threw her arms around me and smiled. 

The sunlight of noon awoke us on that fateful Tuesday to the fact that we had slept in a bit too long. There would be no trip to the tourist traps instead there would be something much more important and valuable. There was a match that night at Selhurst Park and Veronica was going to get a true South London experience as our second leg League Cup tie with Burnley kicked off that evening. Veronica spent the day learning songs as Gulf and i were giddy with the anticipation of another match. Of course as the day progressed the clouds moved in and the damp and drizzle started up. A mid-week Cup tie at Selhurst between two old First Division sides was a bit less crowded than the Saturday league match and so inside the grounds we took our seats in the Holmesdale Road end and looked out over a mostly empty stadium. No worries though the 5,000 or so of us there made a wonderful racket. 

Palace had drawn the first leg away 2-2 and with the away goals in our favor things looked promising. Ah but Palace is Palace and we never do anything the easy way at my beloved club. Right before halftime Burnley headed home a corner and the live score had us crashing out of the League Cup. The second half was a nerve wracking affair, football being the cruel mistress she is had me travelling thousands of miles to see what i thought would be 180 minutes worth of scoreless football from my club. The clock ticked and the game wound down and my mates were now muttering that i may never be allowed back inside Selhurst Park... Enter Andy Linighan. 

With things looking more dire with each passing tick of the clock all one had to do was look around to see the worry and concern etched onto the faces of we Palace supporters. Veronica, in her usual way, was brilliant, it's as if she had been a supporter all her life and seemed to have an intuitive feel for the game. She was clutching my arm when Mikael Forssell's near miss had her shouting "C'mon!!". My mates looked over and gave me an approving nod. She was to engrossed to notice. And so the clock ticked and the anxiety ratcheted. As the second half stoppage time slipped away the ball fell to Mr. Linighan, on the pitch for all of seven minutes, who ripped a right-footed half volley the curled into the back of the net sending those of us in attendance into unmitigated bliss!!! There were hugs and kisses and high fives and suddenly i was now allowed to attend every game at Selhurst from here on out. But we were not out of the proverbial woods yet as the goal sent us into another 30 minutes of nerve-shredding extra time. All we needed to do was hold on as a draw would see us through. And held on we did with Burnley looking to ruin my evening it took an incredible save from our Latvian superstar goalkeeper Kolinko (yes that's a joke) to keep us in the Cup. At the final whistle we all let out a loud cheer, sang, and i looked at Veronica who was absolutely beaming. She had loved it. 

So how is it that El Kono became King Kabob? After a brief stop at an Irish pub for a pint and a warm up we made our way back to Streatham. The local Doner kebab shop at the end of the road near the pub had come to know me quite well over the past week or so. We were all starving so we stopped in to get some grub, the guys behind the counter asking us how we were doing and we relaying the story of the wonderful match we'd just seen. They talked to Veronica about what she thought and she talked as if she'd been going to matches for years. Once again the guys working gave me an approving nod as to winning the heart of such a fine woman. As we conversed it came to pass that i told them we'd be leaving Thursday morning and the Kebab Crew all talked of how they were sad to see me go. That i had been a most friendly and entertaining American and that they'd hope i'd be back soon and when i came back that i'd be sure to stop in. I smiled and said yes yes i'd be sure to stop in and that's when it happened. 

As Gulfboot would relay to me on our brief walk home, in all his years of kebab shop patronage he had never seen anything like it. On learning of my impending departure a look of sadness came over the faces of my three kebab making friends and they all began talking to each other in a language i couldn't understand before saying, we want a picture with you. Sure i said no problem, i'd be honored and then they told me to come around behind the counter. As Gulfboot told me he'd never seen them or any other kebab shop let anyone behind the counter other than employees but he laughed and said, of course they let you! They flipped up part of the counter top and had me stand in between them, the lovely spit of meat right behind us, while one of them snapped a photo who then wanted his picture with me so he switched with someone else before the drunk intelligence took over and Gulfboot said why don't i take the photo and they all piled behind the counter and arms draped around each other's shoulders we smiled for our photo. 

Gulfboot would be leaving to join the missus in the States not long after i'd left, hence it was part of the impetus for this trip, a free place to stay, a chance to see my best friend, the opportunity to pull some shenanigans of legendary proportions. Having used all my vacation back at the warehouse at a job i didn't really care about i told them i'd take it unpaid and in fact could give a shit if i was canned or not. Stiv and i were rolling right along so money wasn't really an issue. On entering the shop shortly before he left the guys behind the counter immediately asked if i had made it home safely. Gulfboot said yes he did and then they said look! Placed prominently behind the register with a few other photos of their family and such was the picture of the Kebab Crew and myself, all smiles and friendship. Hence my title of International Ambassador of Goodwill and King Kebab. As we walked down the road and up the stairs to the flat, hand in hand with Veronica, talking excitedly about the match, it was another brilliant day in a string of brilliant days. But the adventure was almost over. The clock was ticking and we had less than 48 hours to go. This time Thursday night we'd be back in the States.

Friday, March 5, 2021

The Gunnysack

 It's called gunnysacking, a term used by therapists everywhere when dealing with the fallout or impending fallout from a decaying and deteriorating relationship. I first became aware of the term and it's connotations when Pops was going through the divorce. His therapist had stated that what my mother was doing was called gunnysacking, taking all the things she didn't like and storing them away so she could pull them out and throw at him when the time came. Call me guilty as charged i guess except for the fact that i haven't thrown or thought about throwing these things out at the Breadwinner mainly because i want to raise the boyos and i know even broaching these subjects would probably not end well for me. So i avoid the conflict. Yes maybe it's not the best way to heal the wounds but after the wound festers for so long sometimes the best course of action is amputation. We ain't there yet but if i was to look into the future, something i'm loathe to do, there is a table with a hacksaw and a bottle of whiskey. 

And so here is the breaking of the New Year's resolution. In a word, fuckit. Resolutions are bullshit anyway but i'll do my best to keep the pissing and the moaning to a minimum, i've got other tales to spin, infinitely more interesting and entertaining (at least i hope) than the shit show of domestic disaster. I tend to read stuff, books and articles and blogs, and what i realize, have realized for a long time, is that whatever one could call this thing it is far from a functional relationship. In fact it's more a game of Master and Servant, to steal a title from Depeche Mode, i being the latter of course. When i see how what one would deem healthy relationships work i see a give and take, i see a general concern for well-being, a sharing of household duties and the like. The question has been posed about the Breadwinner's state of mind, how she feels about the situation and i can only say from the observations made she has no problem with it. Yes there are things she is unhappy about but on closer examination those are things of her own doing (mainly her work). When you absolve yourself from ever driving your children to practice and the like you shouldn't be surprised that they're not really concerned if you come to their games or not. The boyos have both heard her complain about the expense and the boyos have both heard me say i don't care about the expense, i'll figure out how to pay. I'm quite sure that Pops would have no problem with the dosh he left me being spent to finance the boyos endeavors. He'd have done it himself if he thought it was needed the same as his mother, my grandmother made sure i got my degree by paying for my last year of school. 

So let us open the gunnysack. There have been new developments here at the lounge, the newest being what i call Point and Bag. It's been documented here before that Wednesday is my roughest work day, the Breadwinner's weekday she takes off so that we can do a few things, all things of course i could do on my own but the Breadwinner likes to "do things", so being the obedient servant i obey. Trips to get groceries are my new favorite as these days the Breadwinner walks in front of the cart lording over all the aisles, she will point to things and tell me to get this and get that while i mutter expletives under my mask. (On a side note i don't really mind the mask because it covers my muttering lips and saves me the hassle of explaining what i might have been saying. When previously caught i used to say i was singing, music saves me again.) Why she can't get said items and place them in the cart? That remains a mystery much like this next bit. Once at the checkout a new game begins. The Breadwinner likes to bag things because no one knows how to bag like she does, the thing is once the groceries are bagged she then points to the bags for me to put in the cart. Why can't she put them in the cart? Are they too heavy? No they are not. Hence Modern Serf puts them in the cart. Apparently that's in my job description. We then adjourn to the parking lot where the Breadwinner once again walks a few steps ahead of the lumpen-prole and then opens the car and gets in while the lumpen-prole unloads the cart into the car. It is Master and Servant. 

The making of daily meals is also a textbook study in the Lord and lumpen-prole association. Dinner being the main bit of theatre where the Breadwinner will announce what it is i will prepare. She then takes up her place at the table to scroll through her phone and pull on her e-cig scepter while talking at me about what's on her mind. Remember, i am not to add more than a perfunctory comment or nod in agreement as this in not a conversation but the Breadwinner airing her grievances and thoughts about the world. The fact i'm busy cooking helps and i've become quite adept at playing the fool so to speak, of understanding exactly what i need to do to avoid the wrath. Of course once dinner is over all manner of cleaning up is left to me, another shining example of the no partnership clause, and while one may say, what about the boyos? fact is usually one or both of them is then running to get ready for a practice or getting back to or started on their homework. Yes i'm guilty of letting my sons slide when it comes to certain chores much like i was allowed to slide by when i was a kid. As i explain to them, they'll learn and they do as they do have chores and tasks to complete it's just i don't feel the need to be an overbearing ogre when it comes to it. You only get to be a kid once. 

In fact just recently as i was doing about a half dozen things after dinner before getting the I-mac to his futbol practice i was chastised for not being more gleeful and engaged in the rhetoric of the Master. I was queried as to my mood and my attitude to which i replied i was busy. I was then treated to a diatribe on how the Breadwinner would do things (much like one her father would give) while being told she doesn't understand why i seem stressed. Fact is i wasn't all that stressed more just agitated by the fact i was doing a bunch of shit while someone else sat there and pontificated. Fact is whatever wasn't done would have to be done when i got home and after a long day of modern serfing, a job that she still doesn't seem to grasp the physicality of if one intends to make it a profitable gig, and after hanging out in a cold car for almost two hours while i wait for the boyo, hence the last thing i feel like doing after coming home sometime after 9pm are the dishes left over from dinner or scooping litter boxes or taking out garbage. In fact at that point i'm usually so tired that all i really want to do is imbibe my favorite plant and pass out but even that is impossible as i then must make sure the boyos don't putz around while winding down and getting to bed at a reasonable time. 

The truth is i don't mind the long days, i love doing whatever i need to for the boyos, but i don't really feel like being told how to do things or overseen by someone who spends a good deal of time sitting and scrolling through their phone or lounging in bed with her cat and an Ipad... and so here i am, flushing that resolution squarely down the shitter as i piss and moan about my plight. Do i expect some sort of sympathy? Absolutely-fucking-not. To tweak a cliche, i've made my couch and now i must lie on it. Like Dostoyevsky in that Siberian motel i watch the calendar, never thinking too far ahead, staying in the present because that's where i am and that's where the boyos are and that is firmly where i want to be. Now enough of this pissing and moaning. Back to our regularly scheduled program known as the Wilderness Years. (Enjoy this lovely song which about sums it up.)

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Shortest Month and the Ides of March

 The other day there was a dinner table discussion as to the merits of the month of February. The Breadwinner had no use for it seeing as the shortest month is usually cold and snowy mixed with the occasional freezing rain. Shit weather for sure but one can't change the weather so the stoic would say why worry about it? Disaster and his new found love of snowboarding chimed in that he loved it which brought a smile to my face as i've enjoyed watching him delight in his new interest. Of course it was three years ago that i spent the bulk of February and the first part of March living at my father's apartment. Time and all it's arbitrariness has given me perspective, recently memories of that time have come wandering through my mind like so many stray cats, pausing momentarily before trotting off back into the recesses of that mysterious place called memory. 

The month i spent in Cleveland was a simple and complicated month. There was the balancing act back in the Burgh where i would at one point be chastised for my time spent sorting through my father's place as he prepared to both move and die. That was the fact. He would die. It was always in the back of my mind and there were days spent at his new place discussing philosophy and politics and sports and any number of things. Just me and my old man shooting the shit and debating the shit show of humanity, sprinkled with bits of dark humor about the situation we had both found ourselves in, his of course being a bit more dire, though that's not really the word, maybe immediate, than mine. Pops was always my sounding board when it came to the tribulations of my slowly decaying relationship back home and while i navigated the mine field of the Breadwinner in the Burgh when i was back in Cleveland all was calm. I knew what i had to do and i set about doing it. Cleaning out my Dad's place, squaring things away, donating stuff, organizing papers, cleaning a bachelor's apartment. It was simple and pleasurable work. The drone of the television or the sound of my old tapes coming from an old stereo in the corner. The hiss and crackle of FM radio while i sat at the kitchen table sorting through papers. 

There is a mental math, so to speak, that takes place in my head, thinking about the days and going back in my mind, the travel days of Monday and Friday, the days in between where i was strangely at peace with my task and the situation. The twice daily visits to see my Dad and hangout, sitting in his place, relaxed and jawing away, watching basketball games or movies with him. The periodic knock on the door when a nurse would look in or bring him dinner. The easy way he got on with the staff and how after he died, when i was back cleaning out his new place, a number of them stopped me and told me what a great guy he was, how he was mellow and easygoing and a pleasure to be around. The woman at the front desk joked how their fundraiser was going to take a hit as my Dad was in the habit of buying two candy bars every time he went out to grab a smoke, i laughed as my eyes welled and told her i had inherited his sweet tooth and then bought two candy bars. 

The time spent driving around my old hometown, walking through the hallways of memory, remembering where old girlfriends lived, places i'd hung out, some still there and some long gone, the record stores i used to frequent, the venues where i went to shows. The change in the landscape a thin veneer of my youth which lay underneath, peaking out and easily exposed when i pulled back the curtain. I realize now i felt most at home in my Dad's place, much more so than the house i grew up in where my Mom lived. I'd stop by and see her and her husband but the house i grew up in felt like it was someone else's. My Dad's apartment was home, the place i'd come back to after the divorce and during the Wilderness Years. I was comfortable there, a mind and body at ease, as if for that month i had assumed my father's place in this world. I'd walk down the street to the same breakfast joint and eat then i'd roll back and get started on things. It was a simple and spartan way of living. 

Three years on. I remember the head shop where i bought my Dad a one-hitter so he could for the first time in his life smoke pot. A one-hitter he never used. The conversation with the kid behind the counter, the parade of hip joints along Detroit and Madison Aves. Driving past Brookpark Road and seeing the neon of Clevelands' own mini red light district, filled with strip clubs and cheap hotels where if you turned the Do Not Disturb sign backwards you might meet a new friend. The powder and pilled wasteland of the Normandy Tavern, McGinty's Pub where i'd sit quietly and drink a Guinness while waiting for a pizza from the place a few doors down. But most of all i remember the conversations with my father. I needed to know if he was okay with what was coming and in his usual fashion he knew i was worried. He was okay. And as i've said before he told me not to worry about him because he'd be dead. His wry humor peaking through, to take care of those boyos and in general be a decent human being, to do the best i could. 

The last time i saw my father alive was the morning of March 9th. 2018. Like most things i didn't know that would be the last time because the reality is we never know when the last time comes until it has gone. My dad liked movies and some of my fondest memories are watching films with him. I remember being 13 or 14 and him belly laughing in his recliner. I wandered in and he told me to sit down, that i was old enough to watch this movie now. It was Animal House. As a kid i was thrilled. After the divorce my Dad spent a lot of time going to movies. I think he needed to take his mind off shit and he wanted to get out of the house. I had come into town, i believe for Chrimbo and my Dad had asked if I'd seen Pulp Fiction. When i said no he turned and said really? You'll love this movie. He then opened up the newspaper and found a showing and we headed out the door. To this day it's still one of my favorites, partly because of the memory attached to it. The night before the last time i ever saw my Dad i went to his place. The Departed had just started and he was watching it, asked me if i'd seen it, i said i had. I had planned to do something that night but instead i sat and watched the rest of the movie with my father. At one point i joked, this is some pretty bleak shit to watch with a guy who has terminal cancer. He laughed and said, isn't it though. To this day it brings a smile to my face when i think about that night. My Dad and i just sitting, watching the film, a few comments here and there but both of us relaxed and happy to be in each other's company. 

Ask me about February? It's one of my favorite times of year, the first week of March as well. One could say it is a cold and dark month in the Rust Belt. All i know is that it keeps me warm.

 (And if you ever want to see a tall and grizzled man try to hold his shit together just play this song. It brings me a melancholic joy as to the fleetingness of it all and it never fails to make me think of my own Holy Trinity, the boyos and their grandfather.)