[I just changed and added to it. Most of what is new is just at the bottom, which I highlighted.]
This is most of what I could remember
from Monday, which was completely off the cuff, by the way, as well
as thoughts I had after the fact to bring it all together.
My father, Raymon Lee Bushong, was
born on February 6th, 1936. . .in a log cabin. . .that he built
himself. He grew up in a time when life was harsh and the world was
in black and white. He told me stories about his dad, my
grandpa, whom I had never met; but the stories he told painted a
picture with vivid color and detail of life during that time.
He worked hard, shoveling coal and
hauling ice with Grandpa. Grandpa was a tough man who never backed
down from a fight, and neither did Dad. Dad told me lots of stories,
many of which I’m not sure of the truthfulness contained within them.
But he said he raced cars. I believe him. He said once he wrestled
a bear. I can believe it. He said he sparred with Sonny Liston—but
didn’t beat him. I believe him. He said he was a mercenary in
Korea, and I believe him.
He said he spent time in a Mexican
jail, and described it vividly. He said he and Grandpa got into a
fight with most of the cops in Mount Vernon–all at once. I got
surprising corroboration of that story from Uncle Junior, who,
although very young at the time, described looking out the window and
seeing Dad pounding a cop’s head into the ground while Grandpa fought
with several at once. So, I kind of believe it.
My dad even said he drove a truck for
a living. I’m not real sure if I believe that or not. It might have
just been a cover for his secret CIA job.
My dad knew alot of people and had
alot of friends. I remember being young and riding with him to go
visit his friends. They were everywhere, and there were lots of
them. Even on trips, we would run into people he would know. We
were on vacation in New England, and more than once just ran into
people he knew.
And so it is perfectly logical, when
I was young, for me to think that when we were on vacation in
Washington DC, that we would swing by the White House and meet
someone he knew. But though I expected it, we never did. I assume
it was because we ran out of time.
And through Dad’s Teamster’s
affiliations and others, he knew some bona fide gangsters, mobsters.
Dad knows what happened to Jimmy Hoffa, but he never told a soul.
We moved from the city to the
country, and Dad continued to do the things he wanted to do. He
hunted, he traded, he worked on old cars. He built a barn, even.
The things he traded? Guns . . . dogs . . . and stories.
He became accepted in this small,
entrenched society that didn’t cotton well to outsiders, and
eventually became a member of the town board of trustees. He was
endeared to them, as he was to so many.
He made friends with some of the old
German old-timers, and those old men were my surrogate grandfathers.
All over town, I was "Bud’s little boy." I remember their
names: Hiram, and Otto, and Adolf, and Old John. And Moose, of
course. And of course we knew Dad was accepted by them when they
shared with him the secrets of German wine making.
And Dad made some wine.
We moved back to the suburbs to be
closer for Mom and Dad to go to work. But there, in the suburbs, Dad
still lived in the country. He did what he wanted to do: He bummed
around with his buddies, made new friends, and still worked on cars
and tinkered with things and always–always–took time for us. Not
just us kids, but all of us. And all of you.
He accepted my step-kids as his
grandkids, without question. And my grandkids are his
great-grandkids, just like that.
I know one regret he has is that I
never met his father, but I feel like I have. And I am grateful that
I had kids for him to see, and be a part of their lives. And another
thing I know, because I am alot like him, is that he enjoyed his
life. He enjoyed everything.
I know I’m not a hard man. Not like
Dad, and certainly not like Grandpa. But I lived with a hard, hard
woman for eighteen years. You have no idea how tough that makes you.
I know Dad was proud of Carl. He would tell me his side of their
arguments, which I was supposed to take, but in there with it I heard
a gradual respect and pride for his boy growing up and raising a
family and doing good. And I know he was proud of Judy, and glad
that she went back to school on her own, and happy that she was there
to–well, no body takes care of Dad. Dad takes care of himself. But
she was there to be with him, and remind him of things, and read
things that were to tiny for him to read, and make calls, and remind
him to take his oxygen with him, and take care of the animals, and
things that he could do by himself, with no help that he would ever
And I know he was proud of me. He
told me so. I left school disgraced and I know that was hard on him.
But I took a crappy little job delivering pizza and worked my way up
to the top, and that job allowed me to raise a family. And I did go
back to school, and finish my degree, and get a new job, and that
made him proud.
My whole life, my Dad has always
helped me work on cars. It was never something I wanted to do, I
never thought of myself as a mechanic. But I enjoy it now, and the
times we spent doing it together I will always remember. Like I
said, I’m not a mechanic. But I can change an engine. I’ve done it.
I’ve learned more about cars from my dad than I ever thought I would
want to know.
When Mom got sick, Dad took care of
her. I never knew till afterwards how hard that had been on him. He
never complained about it, ever. I get that from him. After she
died, I’m glad that Dad had a few years to really enjoy himself, and
do what he wanted. He got to build his garage, which he always
wanted, and it made him happy. He got to have a girlfriend, and I
know that made him happy too. And. . .well, when my wife and I split
up, I’ve heard from several people that that made him happy as well.
In fact, that may have been the thing that made him say, "At
last, my kids are okay, and I can go."
I wanted to add a little story here,
two quick ones. Back in 87 I was 21, living with a 40 year old
woman. We broke up, and I came back home. Then I was missing again,
going out a lot. My dad comes to me and says, “Your mother—“
and I know he meant him, but he said it like that: “Your mother
wants to know if you’ve gone back to your old girlfriend.” And I
said, “No. In fact, I think I have a new girlfriend.” Dad
didn’t have much faith in my ability to choose, so all he asked
was, “Is she white?”
And now, my new girlfriend, Kim, has
only known my dad for about six months, got to know him, got attached
to him. She said that once when they were talking, he said to her,
“I bet you never thought you’d have a—“ and there he stopped,
about to say “father in law.” But he said, “Know a guy like
me.” But that’s what he meant. And I knew that he loved her,
accepted her, and was glad I had her.
And I’ve told my Kim that I love
her too much to marry her. But I may have to, just so she can say he
really is her father in law.
He told me once or twice that you are
never *really* fully grown until your parents are dead. And now I
know what he means. Not only because I don’t have him to go to for
things I always went to him for: answers, help, support–I am truly
on my own, in charge of myself now–but also for this little reason:
I was over at Dad’s house when my son
was very young. Mitchell was perhaps four or five years old, playing
on the floor in front of us. My dad turns to me, and, pointing to
Mitchell, and says, "You know, you will never be any older than
this to me, in my eyes."
Monday, March 26, was the wake for my
dad. He wanted to be cremated, but that did not preclude us from
having a visitation first, with a viewing. He didn’t specify when
we had to cremate him.
So the viewing was from 4 to 8 pm on
Monday, followed by a brief service that evening. My brother would
officiate, my sister would prepare a eulogy, and we would ask a few
people to get up and tell stories about my dad. Everything was set,
my sister had her work prepared.
She forgot to bring it with her.
I said, “Look, don’t worry. I can wing it.” And I did.
I fully, completely intended to play
it straight–and then that first line came out of my mouth. It just
snowballed from there. With an audience of almost 100 people. . .I
killed. I got laughs, and lots of them, and it was completely off
the cuff, improvised. And at the end, I got applause.
Laughs I get. It’s a way to
relieve the stress, and most of the jokes I said were completely
inside, things you would have to be in the family to get. I guess I
knew my audience. But to get applause? At a funeral, for Christ’s
sake? As I sat down I thought to myself, “Well, I may have been
funny, but to get applause is completely inappropriate, so we are ALL
going to Hell.”
Then Saturday the 31st, we
had a graveside memorial to bury the ashes with the family. Probably
not what he had wished for, but then again, that’s what you get
when you don’t leave a freakin executor or a goddamn will laying
around somewhere for us to find, Dad. At the graveside, I read the
above text, trying to remember what I had said on Monday. So this
was a little more poignant, and had a definitive beginning and end.
But the humor—was it appropriate?
Well, this came to me as I was thinking about the stories everyone
told about Dad. This is one I wish I had remembered, so I could have
told it, so people would know that Dad did appreciate the humor:
I was a teenager, not exactly sure
how old. Dad was in his bedroom, and he called for me. I get in
there, and there he sits, on the edge of the bed, in his underwear.
His pants lay on the floor in front of him. He says to me, “You
know that expression, ‘I’m a normal man, I put my pants on one
leg at a time like everyone else’?”
I had heard of it. Seems a little
obscure now, but I’ve heard it. “. . .Yeah. . .”
Still seated, he puts his feet in the
pants, bends over, and pulls them up as he stands up– both legs at
the same time.
Yeah, that was my dad.
I wake up about 430 am to the phone ringing.
No foreshadowing, no literary imagery here. Just the straight scoop: When the phone rings in the middle of the night, it’s never good.
My dad is still in the hospital, and getting worse. ICU. My sister is handling things, but this is alot for her to handle. I need to be there. I call Detroit, and she manages to get off an hour early, and we make the drive in.
My dad has always been big, strong, and virile. Tough. Lately he’s been frail and small looking, and it scares the hell out of me. I was trying to tell myself it was just a phase, an illness. But my sister says he has been steadily declining over the past few months. Seeing him, lying in the hospital bed, tube down his throat to make his lungs breath, all manner of modern medical technology hooked up to him was a breakdown point for me. His false teeth removed for the breathing tube only added to the image of him being frail and broken. He was unconscious and sedated, because the tube is an aggravation. His chest heaved unnaturally, mechanically, at being forced to take in air and push it out.
My brother drove into town as well, and I made another trip up to the hospital, to see him, and to see Dad. Carl and I had a talk, and then, when we go to my dad’s house (my sister lives there as well), we all three had a talk. The Meeting.
Basically, we had some decisions to make, and among them was who was going to make them. My younger sister Judy lives with my dad, and has been taking care of him, and knows most of the quirks and details of what was going on, feared Carl would come in and try to take over and make all the decisions and turn her out. I knew it wasn’t so, but she had these fears. I discussed it with Carl beforehand, and so when we all met, he managed to get out an apology for past wrongs to my sister. It was a .. .good moment. He had said some things in grief when our mom died, and Judy, in her grief, took them too hard. The closure was necessary.
And then we talked about Dad. It seems he is dying. Maybe soon, maybe not for a while. But we will need to deal with it. He has emphasyma, COPD, a spot of some type on his lungs, and he is just in general tired of fighting. Carl said he would support whatever decisions we made regarding him, but it should be us two who take care of it, and it should be me who leads the way, takes charge. Judy agreed, saying she was out of her element dealing with this. Well, hell, so am I. But it has become my burden to bear.
My brother lives a ways away. Further than I do, but also–he’s my half brother. Dad isn’t his dad. Well, as he said, he’s not his father, but he is his dad. I am the oldest blood child. I told him, "My oldest kids aren’t mine–they are Linda’s. But they call me Dad. When my time comes for this, I want them to be there for my kids, Mitchell and Miranda–to help them through this. And that’s what I want you to be for us. . ."
And so we agreed, and settled, and cleared the air, and had assured ourselves that we would work together for what was best for Dad. Then we discussed other things, such as the house and belongings and so forth. It was amazing to me, and made me glad in a bittersweet way, that we each came to the same conclusion separately about how things should be done. We are not all that different from each other, not really.
My brother left, and I . . . well, I went to work for a few hours. Not alot else I could do, I was close, and Detroit and Judy could take a nap. I didn’t cry much at work, and I didn’t let anyone see me. Three hours, and I leave. Go back to Dad’s house, and me and Detroit and Judy talk about just things. Detroit and I finally head home. We get in, and here I am at the computer, in my underwear. Mortally tired. Tired to the bone, to the soul.
The weather was perfect today. The best day, weather-wise, I can remember in years. It’s usually too cold or too hot or too wet or too something. I feel like I haven’t been home in days. Maybe I haven’t. What day is this?
I don’t think–I don’t remember if I told my sister I love her.
My granddaughter Jessica asked me about a month ago if I could go to her choir performance. On a Thursday. ~Sigh.~ Well, of course I don’t mind going. But I have to get off work to go. Fine. This Monday she calls me, says Grandma (The Storm) isn’t going if that woman is going. Detroit.
Sounds like a win-win to me. But I discuss it with Detroit, and she is willing to go but will sit this one out, be a good sport. Be a better sport, obviously, than The Storm. I never told my granddaughter either way, however. I figured we would just go. The Storm does not own this town, or even the middle school.
Jessica, my granddaughter, calls me again today, am I going? Well, yeah. I took off work for it, and she asked me to go, so I’m going. I may be childish, immature, and selfish (thus sayeth The Storm), but I know that this evening and the performance are not about me. It’s about Jessica. She says this time that Detroit can go (and how did she know that nickname?), she wants her to go, The Storm isn’t going.
Okay, it’s starts to get a little complicated here, and I just drank some vodka and I’m probably going to have some more.
Detroit says, well no, cause she only has ten minutes to get ready, which is enough time for me to change clothes twenty times but not enough time for a woman to get ready even once. But she appreciates the offer. I go. I get there and I see my older son Mike, who is Jessica’s father, and his other kids. Mike tells me that after I left, The Storm called my phone (which I left on the charger) and then called the home phone. Detroit answered. Here is the transcript, in Detroit’s words:
03/15/07 7:50 pm
"Linda called the house and threatened me. Told me to stay away from her daughter, grand daughter, whole family. Told me if I went to Jessica’s recital and she saw me, she’d kick my ass. I told her she was a friendly woman and too bad we can’t be friends. Her reply: ‘Fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you.’ Then she went on to tell me what a terrible piece of shit Bryan is and how she’s glad that I ‘took him off her hands.’"
So, this is stuff I have to tell my lawyer about, obviously. When I talked to Mike after the recital, he told me after she got off the phone, Linda went ballistic, yelling and screaming at everyone, chasing the kids, trying to hit them. He gathered them up and left for the recital. He said sometimes he just feels like leaving. I know how he feels.
But I hope he doesn’t, because someone has to take care of her psychotic ass.
My beloved, Detroit, is a real trooper. I came home, and she was, first of all, still here, not flapping around in the parking lot on one wing, ready to go over there and fight. And she wasn’t pacing the floor cursing, either. Nothing had been thrown and broken. Cops weren’t here. She wrote everything down and was calm. She felt more sorry for me, getting a taste of what I had lived with for 18 years.
For the house, where my ex, my daughter, my son, my older son and four grand children live– when they call my cell, it comes up as "Family Farm." I think it’s appropriate. When She calls from her cell, obviously, it says, "The Storm."
I had a funny greeting on my cell before. In my best Asian accent, I said, "Herro. Blyan not here. You reave massage, and he massage you right back. you go away now."
It was hilarious. The Storm gets that a few times, and she says some crap about how I need to grow up. So I changed it to "Leave a message. Is that grown up enough for you?"
Detroit didn’t like it because, well, obviously, I changed it because of her. I shouldn’t let her get to me. But I let the recording stay for over a month, forgetting to change it. Just earlier this week, a Dorothy Parker quote flashed on the screen. I forget which one it was, but it reminded me of how she used to answer the phone. I changed my message to that, and I think it became oddly appropriate this week. Maybe I’m psychic. My new recording says:
"What fresh Hell is this?"
I had called several people I knew at the restaurant, and emailed about two dozen people at the bank. Surely–surely someone can make it–
Sorry, no we can’t. And don’t call us Shirley.
All these people and their excuses. Oh, I have a class. Oh, I’m under house arrest; I wear a lo-jack. Oh, I’m in labor. Oh, my father is dying…
That last one my sister used. She was planning on going, and my dad was not looking good. He’s already on oxygen, but he was having trouble breathing and he was pale. She called to say she was going to stay with him in case she needed to take him to the hospital.
Okay, forget the obvious stuff, like he’s my dad and I’m worried. Forget the fact that I guess I still have some guilt over my mother’s death.
Nothing specific, just a general feeling of guilt over time spent versus the life lived, the lack of a ceremony, and the fact I wasn’t there when they spread the ashes. (Not my fault, btw.)
Never mind the fact that my dad may feel like I moved away and deserted him after mom died. And now that I’m separated from my wife, it’s hard for him to see my kids, his grandkids. Never mind ALL of that, which is a lot.
Just keep that all in the back of your mind while preparing to go on stage and do comedy for the first time.
My sister assured me, and my girlfriend did too, that I should go ahead and go on, and that my sister was staying with him to make sure he was okay, and things would be fine.
The choice is: dedication to this potential career that may fall on it’s face, or respect and love for family and obligation. . .
Detroit said, "Would you feel better if we left and stayed with him, and it turns out to be nothing, and you miss your big chance?"
"If something happens, your sister will take him to the hospital, and they will take care of him, and then call you, and before they would know anything, the show would be over anyway. Even if he went in right now. And he’s not going to. He’s going to be okay. He’s not going to die."
But how do you know, hon? How do you know?
We were sitting in McDonald’s before the show, because we both needed something to eat. My stomach was in knots as it was, and then we get the call from my sister. The cold fries were of little comfort as I weighed the data.
I decided to go on. The show must go on, after all. I felt a twinge that, if Dad should die while I’m doing this, that it would be one of those really twisted bits of irony that God is capable of. And then what would I do? Would I stop? Would I be traumatized and never aspire to the stage again? Or would I push on against all odds, grimly determined to make him proud, sweating and toiling to eak out laughs at every turn, every street corner? Finally rising to the top after years of struggle, dedicating my HBO special to my dad? Sounds like a made for TV movie on Lifetime; God needs new writers.
A news item scrolls across the bottom of the TV screen as I sit lost in thought . . . and a joke springs to mind. It’s so funny, so current, and so obvious, I feel sure that someone has already said it. I want to slip it into my act, though–but my act is prepared.
It might even be over-prepared. I have a bit based on an old blog entry (and here and now I shall reveal a secret unto you all: most of my standup material is what I have gleamed from my blog. I have some funny stuff in here. However, it won’t ever be a straight reading; first of all, the blog is generally first run, stream of consciousness, no edit. Secondly, what sounds good in writing is not what sounds good performed. So what I perform bares the slightest of resemblence to what I have written, and the evolutionary process is interesting.)
But just the other day, a thought occurs to me, and it quickly turns into a bit. Timing is everything, however, and the nature of the bit calls for it to be performed right away. But I know my other bit really well. But I really want to perform the new bit. I compromise, and add a line to the new bit that makes it a lead in to the established bit. Now I can do them both.
It’s a win-win. And, I’m going to start off with this new joke I just wrote. Excellent! I had it all planned out.
The day of, I practice the new bit, and the lead in to the old one. Then, we get to the club early, and I read over it some more. I’m pretty sure I know it. There is a meeting in the bar next door to the club with all of the comics before the show. The guy running the thing has a list. He calls roll. He calls my name. "Yo," I respond. He doesn’t call anyone else’s name, he just looks around. He knows everyone else.
He looks at me. "First time?" "Yeah." He proceeds to explain the deal about the lights, which I don’t quite follow because I think it has to do with when you go on, but it’s actually about when you know to get off the fucking stage. The guy who actually runs the lights turns to me to explain.
It’s starting to dawn on me when Matt, the guy who ran it, said, "What is this, a love-fest? We gonna have a ten minute meeting on the lights?" I shut my mouth; I’m done. Good to know he’s a people person.
"I don’t know why I called a meeting; I don’t really have anything. Any questions?" I sure as shit wasn’t asking any.
I got the impression that there are just things about this that you are supposed to *know*, without asking. I knew who not to go to for answers. But I had some questions. Like "How do I know what order and when I go on?" "How long do I get? It doesn’t say." "What’s the deal with the lights again?" "Can I get a Bud Lite?" "Oh, shit, where’s my debit card?" "Honey, can I put my beer on your tab?"
They post a list on the door. I talked to Chris, the light guy, and he explained the list, who was before me (creepy guy) so I knew who to watch, and where to get on deck. until then I hung out in the bull pen watching the show. I would get three or four minutes. It was then I decided to just do my first, original planned bit. It was what I had prepared, I was more familiar with it.
Detroit sat with a friend of my sister’s and her boyfriend. No one, and I mean no one that I knew showed up. About 45 minutes into it, Jodi, a girl from the restaurant showed up, with a friend.
Creepy guy (what Detroit calls him) get on deck, so I know I am next. He goes up, and I take the on-deck position. Creepy guy is not that funny. Before I go up, Chris, the light guy says comes up to me and says, "Hey, we’re gonna bump you a little. This other guy is going up."
Great. Not a household name by any stretch, but in the world of amateurs, definitely on his way to pro. And I get to follow him. Chad announces me, "A good friend, a funny guy–" and he actually pronounces my name right.
The fucking lights are bright, and they shine down right in my goddamn eyes. What the fuck is that? I grab the mic stand and adjust it. "Great. I get to follow someone really funny. I love that." I decide to go ahead and start with the brand new joke I just wrote. Other people have talked about Anna Nicole, but no one said this: "I wasn’t going to talk about Anna Nicole Smith at all, but I just heard OJ say that he could be the father of her baby. Did you hear that? You believe that? I guess all dead white
chicks look alike to him–"
Some laughs, some gasps. I got the desired effect. Now on to the rest of the bit. What was the first line?
Oh, shit! What was the first line!? Fuck!
I hemmed, I hawed, I stalled briefly. Fuck it. I said, "Well, I can’t remember how my bit starts, so I have a PSA, A public service
announcement–" This was my new bit that I decided NOT to do, but it was all I could remember. "–I want to get the word out that tomorrow, March 14th, is a little known holiday. Because feb 14th is Valentine’s Day, and guys have to buy jewelry and flowers and candy and act like they care, it is definitely a holiday for the ladies. So march 14th is for the guys: Steak and a Blowjob Day!"
I’m getting a good response, but I know I’m going to fumble soon. But right in the front row is a young, very hot looking blonde chick in a white sundress. Since this is a small crowd, they are all comfortable talking out loud. She says to everyone: "It’s true. It’s a real holiday."
I can’t resist. I walk over to the side of the stage where she is sitting, and look at her and ask, "What are you doing tomorrow?" Some laughs, and she smiles. She could have been my first groupie. I think that and my opener were my two best lines. I fumbled around with that bit, and finally the beginning of the bit I wanted came to me:
"I feel the same way about Walmart. . . that I feel about my favorite crackwhore."
I do some of it, but I’m not getting all the way through this bit. The lights are in my face, but I see through the glare Chris, my savior, waving two lights deep in the background. I just stop.
"Thank God. I’ve never been so glad to see my time up. Thanks alot. I hope you all get laid tonight! Good night!"
When the show was over, I thanked Jodi and my sister’s friend for coming. I was walking out and Chad, the MC that evening, called my name. I stopped.
He told me I did good (or at least not bad; I guess the difference is subtle) and told me to keep it up, keep coming back, work it. I needed a little pep talk. We left.
I had to get Detroit home so she could get to work. I talked to my sister again that night. She asked me how the show was, and I deflected and asked about dad. I felt guilty enough doing it, I sure wasn’t going to talk about it while this was going on. She said dad was feeling better and went to bed, and he was going to see his doctor(s) tomorrow. Good. I’ll check on him tomorrow.
"Thank God. I’ve never been so glad to see my time up. Thanks alot. I hope you all get laid tonight! Good night!"
PS–Dad’s in the hospital. Going to see him now. Not real serious. I think.
Whatever Happened to Mesopotamia?
The streets were
relatively empty, save for the man selling his wares from a handcart, and the
old woman sweeping her stoop. The old
brick buildings and the cobblestone path made even the most subtle noise echo,
giving them life beyond their want.
is a different place now. At least this
part is. My home town. There was a time when children would play in
the streets, and adults would gather and talk, sharing the family wine or
perhaps some lager. I’ve heard, though,
that it is similar in other places as well.
Hardly anyone has children anymore.
All of us—slowly,
gradually—came around to a new way of thinking.
Do what you want. Think of
yourself. Live for today. With these selfish thoughts, our goals changed. Why have children? Burdensome and expensive, not to mention the
smell. Would we ever get a peaceful
night’s sleep again? Ever? Non.
And so, the children
started to grow up, and hardly any replaced them. Schools started to close. The very few who had a child had only one,
and schooled them at home. Mostly to
keep them from sight. Having a child
almost seemed to carry with it a stigma.
How could they do that? What were they thinking? These things were whispered in shops
amongst the elders behind the new parent’s backs. They took to hiding. And they never had another child.
I could see it in
their faces, down at the pub. All the
adults drinking and laughing, enjoying their childless life. With a twinkle in their eye—
If you look right
behind the twinkle, you could see the subliminal, collective motivation behind
it. Something even the most literate
dare not put into words.
These people made a
choice not to have more children. And
with it, they made a choice for racial suicide. They were willingly killing themselves
off. Their culture and everything would
be gone soon. Very soon.
I came from another
funeral today. The provost of this
area. Suicide. No one said it, but it was. The service was in a church, but no mentioned
god. No one has for years. The priest gave a little talk, and his
concubines handed out beer and crackers.
Ashes to ashes–?
I felt as though I
was standing on the edge of the world.
Close, perhaps; the edge of civilization. The end of the world? Some face the end of the world individually,
every day. Very seldom, does a group, a
society, a whole people feel it. Is this
what it was like in Pompeii, when the volcano erupted and thousands knew that
not only was their life over, but so was their . . .people?
Or when Rome fell? Surely there were people left, but the
civilization, the rules and order that they had come to know, disappeared
virtually over night. The new order, the
people, the new way was coming in,
taking over, spreading out, engulfing. . .everything. A thousand other times, throughout the course
I stood at the bar
in the pub. Normally loud, it had taken
a somber tone recently. The new wave,
the new people would soon overrun us, overtake us. The few with a little fight left in us stayed
quiet; we were alone. Everyone else had
a cultural death wish.
Old Man Johann sat
next to me, brooding. At times he wanted
to fight. Trouble was, he wanted to
fight everyone. Sometimes, I agreed with
him. Why did these people just give up?
he muttered. No one heard but me, and I
nodded agreement. When the time came, I
would fight. It was hopeless, but I was
going to use what dignity I retained, and go out like a man.
The marauding hordes
we could hear just over the mountains.
Taking the land, killing the people, changing the world we knew into
something else. I would fight them. And Old Man Johann, and the half-score others
who were so disgusted with their own people that we all felt like killing them
ourselves, for practice. And to prove a
When you give up,
that’s when you die. These miserable,
pathetic wags gave themselves no children, no progeny, no future to live
for. They killed themselves.
In the morning, I
woke from my bed. My Spartan existence,
that I once thought so chic and “European,” has left me with little to show for
my life. When this ground is buried
beneath successive layers of civilization and darkness, and the ruins are
revealed, will there be anything to show of what my life had been? Trinkets, souvenirs, and heirlooms…I have
none. They are gone, all gone.
Will the scientists
and philosophers know that I had loved, truly and deeply, and then love had
My bare walls betray
the paintings that had once hung. My
love had a flair for decoration, and making a statement. When she died, I made a statement and ripped
them from the wall. My bed was now a
single. The large bed we had shared I
traded to an older couple for the one their son had had. He had died in his youth, one of the last
I never saw a
funeral without tears. It was odd.
With my beloved
gone, you would think I had nothing to live for. But in my early morning café-induced
meditation, I realized that I wanted our love to never be forgotten. Whether I was remembered or she was, it
mattered not; I wanted our love to be remembered.
With somberness of
purpose, I painted. The side of the old
courthouse, long abandoned because there was no law anymore became my
canvas. I painted a picture that was a
story, a poem, a sonnet; an ode to the love we shared, that was bigger than all
I knew the savage
hordes that would come would not destroy it, because it was the largest
building in the valley. Their savage
kings and savage priests would claim the building as their new temple, as they
often did. In generations to come, it
would be forgotten that the old people had put it there, and they would claim
all credit. And the painting, the mural,
would enter their mythology, and it would be a story passed down through the
ages in their savage, barbaric tongue.
And perhaps the
painting itself, and the story it tells, would inspire one of these savages,
and cause a turn in their thinking, ever so slightly, and down through the
ages, and perhaps be the catalyst for a renaissance for their people. Perhaps some good can come from this after
That night at the
pub, Levin told the story of his travel over the mountains. We listened with rapt attention; any clue,
any portent of things to come was devoured by us all. They are close, and closing in. We won’t last the winter here. The fall leaves crunched beneath my feet as I
ambled drunkenly home. A fitting
metaphor for our whole stinkin—
A couple of coffees
later, and I sat up listening to the news and sharpening my sword. The news always made me angry; that’s why I
listened to it. I had so little emotion
left, anger was the only one I could muster with any real conviction.
I knew I was going
to die. The other townspeople knew as
well, I just wasn’t complacent about it.
I would take some of the savage horde with me. I swear to the God who has abandon us to our
fate that I would. The price of
civilization is blood, and their civilization was going to cost them.
My sword was sharp,
and I was ready.
Detroit has a secret trunk, filled with secrets. You know the drill: If I saw what was in it, I wouldn’t like her as much.
Well, now I know what she means. If I would have written what I wrote, she may not like me very much.
And no, dear, it wasn’t about this morning. I realized that I had to be a bigger man. . .and accept your apology.
No hints, no clues, no guesses. I’m serious. I realize that I need to have a secret, one of my very own. After all, I hold secrets now for so many others. . .
But this is what this should be about: A friend of mine just died. I was thinking just a few months ago that I should look him up, too. Back in 1987, he came to work for me at Domino’s Pizza. Later I moved on and he moved on. Such is life. In 1991, I was managing the Domino’s in Blackjack, and he drove by and recognized me in the window. He stopped by. Man, it was great to see him again. He came to work for me again, part time. Later, his brother did too. Both great guys. Again, I moved on, and they did too. I haven’t seen him in 14 years.
On the way to work this morning, listening to the news: Murder suicide, and they said the names. They said *his* name. My friend had shot his new wife, then himself.
I couldn’t believe my ears. See, he wasn’t like that. What, I haven’t seen him in 14 years? So? He wasn’t like that, he wasn’t. He was upbeat, funny, intelligent– a great guy. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen him in so long; we could have gotten together for a beer and picked up where we left off. Who really knows, I guess, what secret inner turmoil we all possess? The Shadow?
My fleeting, sidetrack thought was that now I am approaching the age where more people I know will die. Friends and contemporaries. This is the part that makes me a grown-up, and adult. Hell, I never felt like an adult until about after the time my mom died… Forty? Forty and I finally felt like an adult?
Yeah, yeah–fear of death, blah blah, creeping mortality, yadda yadda–this may all have some deeper meaning. Then again, it may not.
I had a conversation with a woman at work, she said she wanted to write a book. I said, "You know what? Do it! Go for it! Get to it." She was taken aback. I continued thusly: "Listen, I’m going to tell you a secret, okay? Don’t tell anyone else." I leaned in, for effect. "I recently discovered that. . .we’re not getting any younger. You, me, any of us. You’re running out of time. Start writing. A year from now you’ll be a year older either way. Have something to show for it."
She smiled, she nodded, and her facial expression changed over the course of many moments as what I said started to sink in. "Oh my God. You’re right. I have to start now–"
I should be a fucking motivational speaker. Just write me a check for any amount.
I was walking along with my Easter basket, and as is traditional, I had it full of colored goose eggs. These were gigantic goose eggs, about the size of a Nerf football, and multi-colored. I was met by Roxor Chan, a young Chinese boy I knew.
He had an Easter basket, but it was empty. He convinced me to give him one of my eggs. I said, "Okay, pick one." Of course the one he picks is the bright red one. Not only my favorite one, but also in the very bottom. As I allow him to dig into the basket, some of the eggs fall out, and the yellow one with a blue ribbon tied on it cracks. Finally I get tired of him trying to get this one egg, the bright red one, and I hand him one that was more of a dark red. "Here. Just take this one. It’s all you get."
We walk to the house where the Easter celebration was, and I end up sitting at the table with the kids. I didn’t see any other adults around, but I knew they were there. One table was decorated with springtime flowers. My 7 year old grandson Ryan climbs up on the table, so I take him off and drop him on the floor. He cries for a minute but no one pays attention to him, so gets up and leaves.
I sit at the table admiring the center pieces, wondering where the food is.
This is typical of my dreams. Not recurring, not even similar themes, but just a series of events playing out. Whatever happened next was not apart of this dream, so this is where this one ends.
Also, I dream in full, vivid color. I’ve heard this is unusual, especially for a man. I can’t recall ever dreaming in black and white. Some sepia tone, maybe.
I was riding with Derek, a friend of mine. He just recently became a truck driver. He was driving his truck, at night, and I was with him in the cab. I was actually behind him, which was strange. Someone else was in shotgun. I watching the road as he drove. We were in the mountains in Tennessee. I could see the reflectors in the road.
Then we stopped in this place that was in the middle of the highway, a place that I know to be between to different cities. There was a carnival, and a giant ferris wheel. It was unlike any ferris wheel I had ever seen. It was incredibly huge, and it had two wheels, together like duals on a truck. But one went clockwise and the other went counter-clock wise. I rode it. It went around once. But we could see the people on the other wheel, going around the other way. Too far away to touch. . .
But the dreamworld is not the real world. Here is the real world: I get home last night after an easy day at work, sitting at my desk making the world safe for high-speed imaging, and then a just-under-an-hour drive home, and Detroit greets me with a hug and a kiss, genuinely glad to see me. Mac is too. To be fair, the dog is a retriever, and happy for just about everything.
But Detroit is home, so she is making dinner. Not a female-wife-slave thing, but a decision she made, because she was going to be home. I cook as well (although I think she might prefer to just because for some reason she thinks I make a mess when I cook. Whatever.), but she took this upon herself.
We eat, we talk. A typical evening is watching a show or movie that we like, and talking, kissing, hugging–looking into each others’ eyes like a couple of lovesick starstruck horny teenagers. It’s sickening and disgusting how much we love each other. We go to bed, and there in the bedroom, we experience more togetherness, more closeness.
I have always thought, or always tried–or always thought I tried, anyway–to be a caring, giving, thoughtful lover. Take the other person’s needs into account. Of course, sometimes the heat of the moment gets away from you–but usually I do. Try, at least. But now I am with someone who tries also. Someone who thinks of my needs, not just their own. Trusting in me to take care of her.
All I can say is wow. So that’s how it’s supposed to be. As with so many other things, the difference for women is more complex and multi-layered. But for a man, it’s subtle, and it took me a while to differentiate. For a woman, you can have sex but not fulfillment, or fulfillment but not sex, or a wide variety of . . .satisfaction in this arena, and experience different levels of orgasm, or so they tell me. For a guy, it’s either yes or no, on or off, did you or didn’t you. Satisfaction, or not. Orgasm, or not.
But to experience it with a person, a woman I love, really and truly–one with whom we have shared so much, opening our hearts and souls, blah blah blah–I have experienced a new level of. . .satisfaction. For instance, I have a level of fulfillment, or happiness, even if I don’t cross the finish line–and being an older guy, occasionally this will happen, if I’m tired–as long as she does. It makes me feel like a woman, for crying out loud.
But when I do. . . cross the finish line (and to be perfectly clear, it is at least 90% of the time; I’m no slouch and I’m not that old. Things happen. Dig?) it is more intense, more amazing, more complete than I remember from my previous existence.
She looks me in the eyes when we make love. Right at my face. It was unnerving, unsettling at first. Threw me off my game, quite honestly. But it is a truthfulness, an honesty. You can be sure they aren’t closing their eyes and imagining you’re someone else, that’s for sure. It is you, and them, and that’s all there is, at that moment, in the world.
Unless the phone rings.
We weren’t in the middle of anything, exactly, when the phone rang. Detroit was watching American Idol, and I was on the computer. My cell rings. Caller ID says, "The Storm." As a reflexive reaction, I instantly go into panic mode, prepared for fight or flight.
"Hey. Where are you?"
"I’m at home." Home. Yes. My home, my place of peace.
"Can you come out to the car dealer here on the highway and sign the title on this car?" Apparently she was trading a car in, buying a new one.
"Yeah, I’m not doing anything right now."
I put pants on, put shoes on, and drive out there. Detroit elected to stay behind, the sissy. I walk in the dealership, and I am directed to the correct salesman’s office. The Storm just sits there. The salesman smoothly handles the procedure, producing the title. I look at it, sign it, print my name. He says, "And that’s really all we need. Thanks for coming in."
I look at The Storm. Poker face. I say, "Well, I’m glad you’re getting a car–"
Nothing. Not a thank you, a fuck you, a kiss my ass. I turn and walk out.
By the time I reach the exit, though, I am laughing to myself. I smile and wave to the receptionist as I walk out, chuckling. She probably thought I was nuts.
What a fucking rude cunt. Whatever. Before, when she would have treated me like that (Oh, and trust me, she has. And worse.) I would have been crushed. Crestfallen. Heartbroken. Beaten myself up over what I did and what I could have done to make it better. Not anymore. Now I know what love really is, and how it’s really supposed to be.
Love is a two-way street, not a one-way dead end.