Bobby McGee

January 10, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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In the middle of December, during one of Detroit’s hospital stays, my Aunt Gloria passed away.
I’m not sure how much I want to go into this.  It’s more than just a backdrop to a story.  Aunt Gloria is one of my dad’s sisters, and married to Uncle Joe, the coolest of uncles.
About fifteen years ago, Aunt Gloria had got sick, and she had a kidney transplant.  Her brother Junior gave her a kidney.  Junior is the youngest of the group.  He passed away in 2005, due to a stroke or a heart attack.  They think it might have been related to medication he was on, but I don’t know the whole story.
Aunt Gloria had been fine for quite a while, but sometime in 2004 she had a stroke, a big one.  Uncle Joe had–just recently, I think–retired from his construction job.  And now he was on to another difficult job:  taking care of his invalid wife.
Aunt Gloria had been a vibrant, active, cheerful and alive woman until this, smart and sarcastic and warm and funny.  And now?  Now she was a shadow of what she had been.
One whole side of her body did not cooperate well, including her brain.  She hallucinated and had bizarre thoughts and speech.  Sometimes I swear she was just fine, and acting crazy to fuck with people.  I know I would.  Hell, I intend to.
Something like this completely changes your life–hers and his.  Joe never complained, that I saw.  He was strong and…maybe detached.  Maybe that helped him deal with getting her up, getting her dressed, getting her to the bathroom, getting her cleaned and fed, and keeping her cigarettes and coffee on her right side, where she could see them.
Maybe you don’t want your friends to see you like this, if it happens to you.  But if you have a friend who has known you for over forty years, I don’t think it matters.  Maybe a visit from your closest and dearest and bestest friend in the whole fucking world might be all the difference between just existing and having a bit hope left in your life.
So when I found out–and it was just hints and allusions that I had to piece together–that her friend Diane essentially abandoned my aunt, I was kinda fucking mad.  For Diane’s purposes, Gloria ceased to exist.  Ain’t that some shit?
I got out to see Aunt Gloria when I could, and it wasn’t much.  When we lived down the street from them, we saw them fairly often.  My daughter would go up to see her and spend time with her both before and after the stroke.  My daughter is sweetheart, with a heart of gold.  She really cares about people.  I’m sure she didn’t get it from me.
Diane had some kids, and one of them was roughly my age, named Bobby.  Bobby was friends with my cousins that were about my age, before I moved here.  So much so that even though I was family, since I was new in town, I was the outsider, not him.  His mom and Gloria were tight–she was like an aunt, and Bobby was like a cousin.
Years go by, and of course this happens.  And then Aunt Gloria died.  I managed to get both Mitchell and Miranda there to pay there respects.  It was a rare thing, my family seeing my son, akin to a Bigfoot sighting and drawing the same gawking looks.
I was walking around, seeing family, and reintroducing my kids to them.  Whaddaya know, Diane was there.  And her son, Bobby.
Despite the years, he looked the same.  Almost as tall as me, with a skinny build.  The years had added little to his frame.  Same dirty blond hair with a bowl cut.
I had nothing against him, so I engaged him in conversation.  Everything he said just bothered me.  Some of it made me outright cringe.  Some of it made me want to punch the mother-fucker in the face.
“Bobby.  What’s up, man?”  We shook hands.
“Not much.  Living and working.”
“Cool.  Married?  Kids?  What’s the story?”  I kids were right behind me.
“Divorced.  Happily divorced.”
He didn’t ask about me or mine.  This was going no where, then a thought occurred to me.  “Hey, I know someone, this girl I work with you might know from back in the day–”  I told him her name.  It’s this girl Kim–yet another Kim in my life–that I’ve become friends with, and at that time was giving a ride to work until she could get a car.
“Oh, *her*?”  He waved his hand dismissively.  “What a bitch.  She’s a whore.”  Again, my kids were right behind me.
“Dude, she’s a friend of mine.”
I don’t remember the exact words or order that he said them.  Essentially, his ex-wife is my friend Kim’s sister…so he knows her more than I thought.  However, being divorced from her family I’m sure hasn’t tarnished his opinion.  Not only that, but his “best friend” is Kim’s ex-husband.
He had heard, too about her different problems–from the prism of her ex-husband, she is obviously all to blame.  And he had heard that her fiance John had killed himself in August.
Bobby said, “If I was going to end up marrying her, I’d shoot myself in the face, too.”

Seriously?  Can you believe a mother-fucker would say something this callous?  What if I knew him?  What if, through her, I was acquainted with him?  We were planning to get together…until that happened.
I was so mad, but I had to maintain a semblance of decorum.  This is my aunt’s goddamn funeral, and here was this fucker, who–honestly, I was hardly more than a passing acquaintance with–was saying the worst kind of horrible shit about someone who is a friend of mine.  What the fuck is his problem?
“Dude–look, she’s a friend of mine.  I like her.”
He didn’t back off.  “Well, you shouldn’t be.  Everything she says is a fucking lie.  She’s a whore.”
I honestly don’t know how I got out of that conversation.  I think I just walked away.
Let’s dissect this a little, shall we?  First of all, in a divorce situation, there are always two sides.  I don’t know either one, actually.  But what do YOU say to someone who happens to bring up in conversation someone that you don’t like?
Unless the person bringing it up is a close friend, I’m going to just casually dust over it with a “Yeah, I don’t really know them,” and change the subject.  What I’m not going to do, because I HAVE FUCKING MANNERS, is trash talk someone right to the face of a friend of theirs.  In addition to having manners, I’m also not stupid.  What if the other person decides to take a swing at me because of it?
Because I almost did.  If we weren’t at a funeral, for fuck’s sake, I would have.
Seriously, what does he expect?  I’m friends with her and I work with her–hell, I give her a ride to work–and this is the first time I’ve seen his ridiculous ass in over 15 years.  On his word I should shun all contact with her? And then what?  Become his BFF?
Not bloody likely.

And my friend Kim does have a checkered past–she’s been around.  She’s talked about it to me, and perhaps that’s something she shouldn’t do is be so open about her past with EVERYONE–but she is honest about it.  And she is trying to change.  She had changed, for her fiance, until his death put her life into the shitter.  I felt that she needed a friend, and I even told her that:  “You could use a friend that isn’t trying to get into your pants.”
I was just a friend to her–am just a friend–someone she can vent to, cry on once in a while, and joke and share emails.  And I try to guide her in the right direction, help her make better decisions.  I’ve seen her work through some problems and slowly try to get her life in order.  Just think of me as a freelance social worker.
Later at the funeral, after my kids and I had made the rounds and ended up in the basement where the food was, we began the process of saying our goodbyes and heading out.  Bobby was still there, standing with some other people that I said goodbye to.
I tried to avoid him, but ended up halfheartedly shaking hands with him as he gave me a parting shot.  Something about, “Next time bring some pizza for the rest of us; you seem to have had enough.”
Oh, so a jab at me about my career as well as a fat joke.  You’re a fucking prize, asshole.
And I can’t help but wonder–what kind of mother raises an asshole like that?  Oh, the same kind of mother that abandons her life-long best friend in her time of need.  That’s what kind of mother raises an asshole like that.

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How It Really Goes

December 23, 2010 at 3:20 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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Well, we usually get some Halloween decorations up.  Carving pumpkins is just messy, honestly.
We used to have a tradition–for three or four years, anyway–of going to Six Flags for their Fright Fest in October, sponsored through work so it was cheaper.  Really, though, I feel like I’m getting to old to ride some of the rides…
We never have made it to the apple orchard.  I wonder why.
We get the Candy, but I haven’t been home to hand it out.  I’m usually working my second job, delivering pizza, and these holidays that everyone gets to enjoy I just can’t take off for.  Halloween is one of the busiest nights of the year.  I’m working.
This year, Kim was just out of the hospital, so no decorations.  Just barely had candy, and I worked.
Thanksgiving usually goes okay.  If I can’t get my daughter the night before, I’ve picked her up early that morning.  Last year Mike took some of his kids, so we all went together, and Miranda rode back with them.  The food thing works out okay–but this year, I was in the middle of a construction project (Hell, I still am) so we decided to go out to eat.  Everyone seemed to like the food–but I really didn’t.  I did not have a good Thanksgiving.
Besides that, we thought there was going to be a snow and ice storm, and so we cancelled going to the parade.  Miranda was disappointed, and I was too.  We never got the ice–
But it did rain all day.  No, I don’t want to stand and watch a parade in the cold rain.
Usually we get some decorations up, but we decided not to this year because of the construction.  I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.  I do take Miranda shopping and get something for her mom and her brother.  And I do usually get something for Kim, even though we didn’t–
I did the gift exchange this year, badly.  And I didn’t bring any food in.  No Christmas parties this year.  Usually not.  But we did have a funeral, and I did make a lot of trips to the hospital.  Does that count?
We usually do find a way to meet up with my brother’s family, but I’m not sure about this year.  Not with Kim in a wheelchair.  I wanted to see other friends, too–
I did get to go to Miranda’s Choir Recital.  I wish Kim could go to those, but the ex wife is a bit of a bitch about that.  This town ain’t big enough–
This damn job is pissing me off.  I have to work Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas.  When and how am I supposed to have any holiday time?  When?  I’m going to go see my kids the day after Christmas anyway, and then come back and go to work.
New Years’ Eve I work–I usually have.  I’ve been off for just a few, and they’ve been nice.  In a way it sucks even more to know what I’m missing, versus my younger years when I always worked and remained oblivious.
I like New Year’s Day, or I used to.  I would be off, I could sleep late, have no real agenda, get up and eat some leftovers, have a drink, watch a movie–probably not even get completely dressed that day.  It was a good day.
I like the idea of Kim’s party, though.  I just hope I get to go.  I asked off for it–we’ll see if that happens.
This year we had special circumstances that got in the way of the holidays–namely Kim’s four trips to the hospital in as many months.  But I still feel that if I wasn’t working a second job, I could have–we could have–had some holiday enjoyment.

This is not a resolution, this is just something I’m contemplating.  I wonder if I can make enough and save enough throughout the year that come the middle of October I can take a leave of absense from the delivery job for about 11 or 12 weeks–and then come back in January.  I need to figure out how much money I would need, and how much to save, and how it would go when I got close to my goal–
I would take my vacation from my day job as well, in October.  So I can enjoy the weather.  I could be off on the nights and the weekends, and see people, and shop, and go to parties, and have parties, and make food, and visit, and make with all the traditions–
I think this is one of my traditions, actually, where I bitch about not being able to participate in any of the traditions.

Holiday Traditions

December 23, 2010 at 3:17 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I realize that nothing lasts forever, and traditions are subject to change without notice, but I like to have some stability in my life.  My personal culture.
When you’re life is in order, these are the kind of Holiday traditions you should have.  Or–these are they kind I would like to have…

Around the beginning of October, we put up the Halloween decorations, including lights.  You don’t put the pumpkins out yet, though.
Some weekend in October, we go to the apple orchard.  Get some cider.  Pick up some pumpkins.  Go on a hayride.
Sometime in October, we go to a haunted house.
There is the fall festival in Old Town Florissant.  I like to go to that.
Closer to Halloween, we carve the pumpkins, and buy the candy.  We try to watch some scary movies that month as well.
Maybe we get invited to a Halloween Party.  We come up with a great couples theme and work on it halfheartedly in our spare time, and then the day before the party we put in several stress-filled hours trying to finish it up.
The party is either before Halloween or Halloween night after trick or treating, so it doesn’t interfere with us giving out candy.  We go to the party, have a good time, meet some different people, and have a few drinks.  We never seem to win the contest.
For trick-or-treaters, we sit in the driveway with a fire pit and a cooler, and chat with people as they come by.  The children I tease, or I quiz them before giving them candy.  I hit on the moms.
We always make sure we have some candy left over for ourselves.

By the next weekend, in November, the Halloween decorations come down.  A few fall and Thanksgiving-themed items go up.  Some day in November is Closet Day, when we pull out the winter coats and other clothes, find the hats and gloves, and arrange the closet so we can use it for the winter.
The week before Thanksgiving is the dreaded Shopping Trip to the grocery store.  List in hand, we buy everything, just like everyone else.  During the week before Thanksgiving, we make stuff–deserts and side dishes and appetizers and things–and put them in the spare refrigerator.  I buy some nice liquor and a few good cigars.  The house gets a good cleaning, and the table and chairs are arranged.
Wednesday night, I go get my daughter and maybe a friend, and maybe some grandkids, and they spend the night, sleeping on the floor.  Thanksgiving morning, we get up and go to the parade.  We bundle up and dress warmly, and get in the van.  I stop at the convenience store, and we get donuts and hot chocolate, and I make them all go to the bathroom.  At the parade, I take some pictures and buy some trinkets for them as we watch.  Once the parade is over, I trek back up to my ex wife’s to drop off the kids, and then come back home.
By then, someone has gone to pick up my fiance’s sister, and my sister shows up as well.  Dinner is almost ready.  We eat and talk and sit around, and maybe play a game.  I take a short nap, and then it’s time for desert.  My sister leaves, and we drive Kim’s sister home.
Back at home, it’s time to eat again, some leftovers–this time with a big bourbon and coke.  We watch a movie and enjoy the quiet time.  Actually–why don’t we go for a walk–at least around the block?  Or drive down to St Ferdinand Park and walk around the lake?  But then later, yeah, we do enjoy the quiet.
The day after Thanksgiving, we don’t–we probably don’t go shopping.  Maybe, unless there’s something we really need to get for someone, in the midst of all the sales.  But we do get out the Christmas decorations, because it’s time.  It is time.  I’m putting up lights on the outside of the house, and a few yard things, while Kim puts up the tree and other things inside.
And we do the holiday thing.
I have a gift exchange at work.  Kim bakes cookies.  We do some shopping, and wrap presents.  We buy little things for friends and co-workers.  We have a Christmas slush fund that we get into, just for this.  Someone, somewhere, is having an adult holiday get-together.  If not, we’ll have one.  Just a cocktail party type of affair, holiday themed.  With appetizers and alcohol.
Some evening we take a nice drive and just look at houses with Christmas lights.
I go to my daughter’s Christmas choir event.  When she grows out of it, I’ll go to my grandkid’s.  If not, I’ll go to one locally, with kids in the neighborhood.  The Christmas pageant is the true meaning of Christmas.
I take my daughter shopping, so she can buy something for her brother and her mother.  I need to find small gifts to give the adults, and then figure out something for the grandkids.
Whenever there is a big office day for food, I bring in my world famous deviled eggs.
Make some calls to some friends and family, and see how they are this holiday season.  Be merry and bright with people I meet.  Sing Christmas carols.
Closer to Christmas, we always have to figure out what the schedule is going to be.  Ideally, for me, it goes like this:
Christmas Eve, we either go to my brother’s or they come up here.  Christmas Day, I spend at home.  I’d like to get up and make a breakfast on Christmas morning.  Later, we do the presents.  I guess we go over to see Kim’s sister, or we bring her over.  Christmas night, mayhaps we go over to Kim’s house.  The Day After Christmas, I go see the kids.
The Christmas Tree stays up through New Years’.  It just does.  That’s how it is.
Sometime over Christmas is a good time to go to the movies.  I also want to go visit some other friends and things–even a short trip out of town.
For New Year’s Eve, we go to either a friend’s house that is having a party, and arrange to stay the night, or go out with friends to a party at a hotel and get a room.  Or stay at home and have a few drinks, and some fancy food.  It’s supposed to be seafood time.  Shrimp, of course.  Some king crab would be nice.  Even that imitation crabmeat, with melted butter, and then other appetizers and finger foods.
We stay up til after midnight, set off fireworks at the appropriate time, then go to bed.
New Years’ Day, we wake up, and find our way home.  It’s a lazy day–eventually we make it to Kim’s house.  That’s what she said.  Casual hang out and Cajun jambalaya.
The first chance AFTER New Year’s is when the decorations come down.

All year ’round, we should always have candles lit…

The Year Of Living Dangerously

December 20, 2010 at 9:45 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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2010 has a been a rough, rough year on us here at the homestead.  I’m not complaining, I’m just going to enumerate them.  I’m not blaming anyone–whose fault would it be?  And I’m not looking for sympathy, either.  Not for this devil, anyway.
We started off in January–New Year’s weekend, in fact.  That was when our beloved dog Mac died.  That was hard.  The first dog I ever really liked, the one that showed me what it was to have a dog.
Shortly after that–and this ran all the way through the spring–Kim was having a problem with her shoulder.  She went to physical therapy, which didn’t work.  So she had shoulder surgery, and then more physical therapy after that.
I’d like to say it was an uneventful summer…oh, except I got my car repossessed.
One of my good friends had a death–her fiance committed suicide.  Worse for her, I know.  But it was a tragedy, and it continues to touch our lives, as I help her cope, give her a ride to work, and hear people talk behind her back about what a whore she is.
In the fall, we were going to go to a memorial service for one of her uncles up in Michigan.  However, that was Kim’s first Crohn’s flare-up and her first time in the hospital.
A few weeks later, she was in the hospital again.  This time it seemed worse, the flare-up.  This was all September-October.
In November, Kim’s boss died in a car accident.
In December, the same night she went into the hospital again, my Aunt Gloria died.
And now this.
Kim fell on the ice yesterday and broker her hip.  She had surgery, and she’ll be off her legs for 6-8 weeks.
Of course some little things–I started a part time job and quit, and started another one.  Always a little stress there.  My oldest  granddaughter moved to Texas.  At first she thought she was pregnant, but she’s not.  She’s still getting married.  My oldest grandson is in drug rehab.  Another grandson broke his jaw in September.
My daughter was having anxiety problems, and chipped a couple of teeth–we just got those fixed at the dentist.
I have some financial problems and some tax problems–the usual–  Hell, I had to make the decision to let the car get repo’d in order to keep the house.  I’m trying to get some answers for my sister about a judgment against her and filing for bankruptcy.  Et cetera, ad nauseaum, ad infinitum…

On the one hand, there’s not much else that can go wrong this year.  On the other hand, there’s still time left…

Old Money

April 30, 2010 at 4:34 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
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  We went to Sue’s mom’s funeral.
  Following the map directions, I managed to get out of my own neighborhood okay.  How did we ever manage before MapQuest?  I get on the inner-belt–that’s 170 for you out-of-towners–and we are immediately in a traffic backup.
  It’s early enough on a Tuesday morning–just after the morning rush hour–and it’s raining or drizzling lightly.  We’re going a direction that shouldn’t be backed up right now.  Detroit has that look on her face because she thinks I should have listened to her and went straight down Lindbergh to the Southwest corner of Fuck-All, but I know I’m right here.
  There is an accident up ahead, and it actually affects both the north- and south-bound lanes.  When we got up to it, it looked like two cars from either side slid down the grassy median and into each other.  That was my impression, and I’m sure it’s wrong.
  But before we get to that point–that glorious point in the traffic where it opens back up and the stallions can once again run free–we are inching along on our two lanes, all of us together.
  Except for the occasional asshole that comes barreling down the shoulder to get around it, because they are special.  A couple of cars come down the shoulder, and they get by.  A third car comes down, and a big SUV about three cars in front of us pulls out onto the shoulder in front of him.
  And stops.  And stays there.
  The car can’t go around him because next to the shoulder is a rail because we’re on a long viaduct/overpass.  After that, there is a steep drop off.
  The car honks his horn.  The SUV just sits there, inching along with everyone else.
  We did notice an Obama bumper sticker on the car, and we laughed.  The guy is a typical liberal dipshit fucknut, and this is a perfect metaphor for the liberal elite philosophy:  The rules and the lanes are for the masses, they must be kept in line.  But I am a special case, so these rules don’t apply to me–
  –like the libs in Hollywood who drive around in their Hummers and private jets talking about how we the little people should all conserve energy and save the planet.
  –ditto Al Gore
  –Obama appointees and other libs in Congress who think we should all pay more taxes but haven’t filed themselves in a few years.
  –any other hypocrisy you can think of.
  So it was funny to see him get thwarted.  The guy in the SUV had nothing to fear, because this Obama supporter is not going to have a concealed-carry–he’s not packing heat.  If the SUV had had a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker, that would have been perfect, and awesome.  And even more hilarious.
  Eventually the grassy side leveled out, and the car got around.  In another hundred yards, we were through the accident and we could all get through, so Har-har on him.  I know others, like us, wanted to cheer the guy in the SUV.

  Later, we arrive at the church for the mass.  We’re about the first ones there, and Detroit said that some were at the funeral home this morning, bringing the party here for the mass next, and then on to the cemetery after that, and then everyone goes to someone’s house to eat and drink.  A funeral is like an overly somber pub crawl.
  When we arrived at the church there was an old couple in front of us.  The woman looked thin, but not frail–but on the verge of it–with a classic strength.  The man was smiling and friendly, and looked liked he had had a stroke.  He slurred his speech and favored one side.
  After they talked to the priest for a moment, we introduced ourselves.  They are the Donius’s.
  If you recall, the former CEO of the bank I work at is a Donius.  That is their son.  The old man–Walter–was CEO before that.  I told them that it’s just not the same without their son around.  The culture that Walter created and his son enhanced has made it one of the best places in St Louis to work.
  Mrs D–I never did catch her name, and perhaps it was best to be formal with her–thanked me.  Detroit had just said that we were friends of Sue’s.  Mrs D said she has known Sue since she was this high–and held her hand about two and a half feet above the floor.
  We gradually drifted away, having nothing more to talk about.  I’m sure they were nice enough people.  Walter certainly is.  I have trouble hearing, and it’s hard to focus on someone who slurs, especially if I didn’t take my medicine that morning.  So, I know–the problem was mine, not his.
  Detroit noticed (as women do) the size of the rock on Mrs D’s finger.  Well, yeah.  These people were money.  The bank has been in the family for nigh on 90 years or more, and these people have a tradition of money.  The aura of Mrs D said, with understated class, "Old Money."
  We took our seats, and the ritual thus began.  I’m not Catholic, so following a Catholic Mass is somewhat foreign to me.  I recognize some of the words, but that was it.  But for Detroit, who is a…
  Christ, I’m not sure what she is.  Some kinda pagan/heathen/Earth Mother worshipper or something.  I’m going to miss her when she goes to Hell.
  Anyway, it had to seem odd to her as well, I imagine.  But as stylized and ritualized and…odd as it was, there was some comfort in it.  Comfort for me in the fact that everyone is grasping at straws as if they think they know the Mind of God and all these odd things are what God wants.
  The rituals have a purpose:  they give you time to contemplate and a soothing atmosphere and comfort in repetition, and aid with the closure.  These things are not for God, and not for the deceased, but for the living.
  We tried, Detroit and I, to keep up with the mythos, but it seemed that everyone but us knew the hymns by heart (Where were they?  In the hymn book?  What numbers?  Don’t you even want us to try?–I guess not), and when to stand and when to sit, and when to get a cracker and take a sip of wine and backwash.
  She and I agreed that we shouldn’t take the communion, probably for different reasons.  She, because she’s not a Christian; and me, because I’m not a Catholic.  It’s not as subtle of a difference as you think.  For her it was escaping an inconvenience; for me it was avoiding sacrilege.
  During one of our up-and-downs, I happened to glance back a few rows, and caught a glimpse of Mrs D.  She had a far-away look behind her red eyes, and her face seemed over-whelmed by grief.
  I had time to contemplate all of this, and some realizations slowly crept over me.
  Mrs D said she had known Sue "since she was this big."  Sue is…let’s just say roughly my age.  Mrs D and Sue’s mom have been friends for over forty years, then, by a conservative estimate.  In the parlance of our times, they were BFF.
  And how is it, then, that she is sitting behind me, when she should have been in front row–with the family?
  I thought of my friend Bunny, whom I have known for 20 years.  I want her to be…right there in the front, with family.  She is family to me.  Yeah, Detroit can be there too.
  But all of that made me think of how important Bunny is too me, and I felt real empathy for Mrs D.
  We drove to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, and there is the final service.  We don’t go to the burial site there, but instead to a small stone pavilion; the deceased get buried later.  They probably don’t want anyone watching when they screw them into the ground vertically.  It’s a large place, but space is tight.
  After the brief service, we were all clearing out, and I caught up to Mr and Mrs D.  I felt compelled, I guess, to let her know.
  "Mrs D?  I just wanted to tell you–"
  "Yes?"
  "Well, it took me a while, but I put it all together.  Like when you said you’ve known Sue since she was this tall, right?  You’ve known Sue’s mom a long time–you’ve been friends forever, haven’t you?
  A single tear. "Yes."
  I choked up a bit too, but forged ahead.  "Seeing you reminded me of my good friend I’ve known for 20 years, and how important she is to me.  I just can’t imagine it.  I can’t imagine how hard it is.  So I wanted to say to you, I’m sorry for your loss."
  She smiled somberly through her red eyes and gave me a hug.  "Thank you.  So  much.  So many–"
  And then someone interrupted to talk to her, and she was whisked away.  But we had a brief moment.  The only evidence was the faint smell of perfume and Old Money lingering in the air.

Shamans and Holy Men

April 27, 2010 at 12:08 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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  Detroit and I are friends with Joe and Sue.  It’s funny how a chain of people know each other.  Bunny got me the job here at the bank.  Carrie works here, and is friends with Bunny.  Carrie has a friend named Sue, and her husband Joe needed a job, so through networking she helped him out.  Me and Joe work together, and became friends.
  At some bank function Detroit met Joe’s wife Sue.  We had just moved and Detroit was needing a job.  Sue got her one–and Alex, too–at school working in the kitchen.  They became friends as well.
  We don’t get to hang out much, like kids get to do–sometimes you have to set a play date.  Like the other week, when I had a birthday party–it was one big play date, with alcohol.
  The more recent play date we had with them was Friday night, after learning that Sue’s mother had passed away.  Although I had been planning on going to the studio that night, when Sue called Kim, Kim knew that the right thing to do was go over to see her.  Be with her, sit with her, comfort her.  Drink with her.  Bring some wine.
  We brought rum for Detroit and beer for me.  That way she could drink, and I could have a few beers but still drive.  I just can’t drink beer fast enough to get drunk.  We were there for about 3 or 4 hours, and I barely finished three beers.
  I felt like we were doing a good deed–Kim and Carrie kept Sue company, and I kept Joe occupied.  In the midst of her mother’s passing, they were also having some kind of fight.  About what?  Don’t know, don’t care–not my business.  I kept Joe busy, let him bitch, and got him drunk enough to pass out after falling over some shit and crawling across the floor.  He finally ran down, spilled his wine a bit, and eventually passed out sitting up on the couch.
  Then I went outside and joined the others.
  I’m basically sober, with three drunk women.  Yay, me.  They were all happy and sensitive and expressing their feelings…and talking about their wildest sex stories.  Yikes.
  But they did all agree that I am a wonderful person, more or less–aside from the standard drunkenly honest caveats that come out–so that was nice.
  Towards the end of the evening, we were trying to wrap it up.  I had gathered the stuff, hugged everyone a couple of times, and tried to extract Detroit to the van.  Then a most unexpected thing happened.
  Joe and Sue’s neighbor came over.
  Ravenwolf.  The Ravenwolf.  The one, the only.  I had heard much about him, and yet, he was nothing like I had expected.  I had heard he was a musician.  I had heard he was a hippie, and had
his own way of doing things.  I got the impression that Joe liked him
even though he didn’t quite *get* him.  I heard he did some odd things in his house, in garden.  Mystical, pagan things.
  From this and other things I had heard, I thought he would be a 60-year old grizzled-looking half-Indian and half-Scottish Nick Nolte-looking dude with moccasins and bongos and a hookah, and a pet monkey on his shoulder.  I pictured a loud and brazen blues-singer type, taking up everyone’s space, speaking in poetry and snapping his fingers.  Why a monkey?  Why, indeed.  Why not? 
  Instead, the real Ravenwolf was something quite different.  A young black man?  No, not young–but definitely not old.  Even more so than many blacks, he had the annoying ability to look much younger than he was.  He could have been as young as 28; most likely he was close to fifty, if not older. 
  He was definitely his own man, like Brother Todd.  He dressed the way he wanted, and it was unusual enough to be unique without being odd and off-putting.  In my mind’s eye I imagine dressed like a pimp in a purple suit but I know he wasn’t.  Regular dress pants of some kind, a shirt that may have been white, with a vest, and I think there were ruffles somewhere, although that may have just been his aura.  He had on a big leather overcoat, and he wore a hat. 
  Honestly–he was dressed plainly, but his essence sparkled, so it had the tricky thing of making him appear at once both more and less than he was.  It was as though…
  Okay, this will make more sense in the context into which I put it soon.  But it was as if his physical appearance was a disguise.  Not to deceive anyone, but because he wanted to live among us and this was how he did it.
  All of the above thoughts came to me after the fact.

  Sue and Carrie greeted Ravenwolf first, hugging him.  Sue introduced us.  Ravenwolf held onto Sue, supporting her, while saying that he had had a few to drink as well.  He gave her his condolences.  Detroit said to him, "I’ve heard alot about you," as he hugged her, and he brushed it off, remarking something about not being that special–
  He continued to turn the attention to other people, but in a nice way.  He was genuine, and he cared to hear and learn and know about others.  I had started to walk towards the van to put the stuff away, and then come back and begin the extraction process again.  From about 20 feet away, Ravenwolf said something to me loud enough for me to hear, loud enough for everyone to hear, and yet no one heard but me.
  "Are you a Holy Man?"
  Not much can stop me in my tracks.
  I had been walking away, but I had to go back, because I had some explaining to do.  Inwardly cringing from my own embarrassment, I answered, "Yeah, I am–although I don’t really talk about it or flaunt it because I’m not a good example."
  He smiled large at me.  "Who is, brother–who is?"
  "Well, I guess I am, then.  You know, that may be why people come to me for counsel all the time.  I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.  But I listen, and people need that."
  He didn’t ask, but stated, "You’re honest."  But more than the words he stated was the image or emotional projection behind it, something that reminded me that I’m honest but I use humor to hide it, or I write fiction and make things up but they hold a higher truth.  All of that came to me in energy from him as he said those two words.
  I laughed hesitantly, startled at the depth of our communication.  "I am that."
  All the while the three drunk women were around us, talking loudly to themselves, us, and each other, but their noise was gently blocked as Ravenwolf and I connected.  As we are preparing to go, we shook hands again, and this time–
  This time, he held on to my hand.  At first I tried to pull out of grip, and he held.  I saw his face.  I acquiesced, and held his hand for an uncomfortably long time…probably thirty seconds.  He was looking at me.
  I’ve said before my psychic ability is somewhat erratic, if I have it at all.  Despite my fiasco with the body work on the car, I really can read people.  In fact, subconsciously I believe that I knew he was going to rip me off and I let him do it anyway.
  And I while I got a read on Ravenwolf, it took me a few days to analyze it.  But at that moment of our connection, I could tell that’s what he was doing to me:  Reading me.  And going below the surface, and reading a little deeper.  Detroit later told me that we had only met for the space of a few minutes.  Perhaps.  But Shamans can bend time and space.  And while I can’t–or I can’t control it, in any event–I can certainly recognize it when it happens.  I had some doors of perception open for me briefly.  He let me see briefly the real him.  His veil was like a dark jacket thrown over him like a costume.  Under his veil, I saw his aura.  His aura was at once a dark and bright purple, with sparkles of energy coming from it.  And under his aura, I saw his Presence.  His presence was of an ancient tribal priest, dressed in loin cloth and body paint, wearing a headdress and holding a staff, performing an ancient dance to the gods of the land, and the wind, and the water, and the spirits.
  I don’t know what he got from me–truth?  The truth is over-rated, I suppose.  I am curious about what the real me looks like.
  Shamans and Holy Men–I believe he is both, because a Shaman is a special kind of Holy Man–we have to…we have a job to do.  We have to teach, and counsel, and nurture the people.  We have to guide and direct them, and give them new ways to think.  We point out new direction, and help remove blinders.
  And we all have different methods of doing it.  Mine is more direct; I grab the spotlight and say, "Come, follow me!"  Others, like Ravenwolf, do it indirectly, by example and suggestion and gentle persuasion.  But we are both–if anything else–spirit guides.

  And this is what Ravenwolf told me, what he communicated to me through our meeting and our clasped hands:  he was reminding me that I am a Holy Man, and I have a mission, and a function, and a purpose.  

When You Wish Upon A Cyst

January 18, 2006 at 10:45 AM | Posted in Journal | 2 Comments
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And thank all you guys for caring and responding.  Okay, both of you.
So, I went to the doctor.
My boss, my friend, Kim, came into work, stopped by my cube yesterday morning, discussing the hill climbing that is the stairs.  I agreed, saying I never take them in the morning, I have to wake up and warm up first.
She looked right at me.  “What’s wrong?”  I hesitated, then pointed to her office, which is where all private conversations take place.  I think it is amazing, and wonderful, that we know each other that well, that she can tell–or maybe I just wasn’t concealing it well.  Nevertheless, I told her what I had found.
I don’t remember the exact conversation, but she told me the things necessary to calm me down and make me feel better.  She told me about her lump, which turned to to be just a cyst, and about her spastic reaction, thinking about wearing wigs (because of the chemo) and whatnot.  I had been thinking the whole time about dying, and she was talking about the survivability.  It was coming at me pretty fast, it seemed like.  I was overwhelmed.  Then she said, “Have you called your doctor?”
Well, no.  I mean, I meant to.  I was going to, as soon as I was done freaking out enough to pick up the receiver.  “Call your doctor.  Tell them what’s going on, and they will see you today.  You may need an MRI or CAT scan, but get in today so they can take care of it.  You caught it real soon, it can be taken care of.”
So I called.  They said this morning, or this afternoon.  I went with afternoon, still don’t know why.  But I left early enough to go by school and register (late) for the class that started that night, made sure the bookstore would be open later, then went to my appointment.  I held onto the idea that, if I’m dying, I’m going to get my money back for this damn class.  I am not going to waste my time on this.  I would take an art class, instead.
When I saw him, we talked about a few different things, my diet, my weight, was I exercising, was I taking my meds.  Yes, yeah, and yea.  “Okay, good.  When do we need to see you again–” and he headed for the door.
I said, “That’s not why I came in.”
He raised an eyebrow, the way doctors do.  I explained, he grabbed the gloves and said, go ahead and drop your drawers.  Apparently, the equipment down there is more complicated than I thought.  It is definitely big.  –Shut up.  Just–shut up.  He was feeling towards the back, and I was directing him towards the front.  Finally, he finds it.
He straightens up.  “I gotcha.  That is not in the testicle, it’s in the skin.  It’s an oily cyst.  Nothing to worry about.  We can take it out if you like.  Local anesthetic and two stitches–” he saw the expression on my face “–your choice.  I want to see you again in three weeks to make sure there’s no change.  It’s harmless, but like I said I can take it out.”
I felt a couple of different emotions at once:  relief, and embarrassment over how terrified I was.  As I drove home, I reflected that none of that has really changed.  I still felt that I didn’t want to die, and I felt that being that close to it made me aware of how precious little time I have left.  Even if it’s 40 years.  I haven’t done the things I wanted to do.  It wasn’t looking like I was going to.  And it occurs to me while I write this, that I remember a movie, High Fidelity, where John Cusack made a lot of lists, like top-ten lists.  One of them was top ten dream jobs?  May be I should make a list of my dreams, things I wanted to do, and see how well I fair towards making them come true.  For this to BE a life-changing moment, I have to MAKE it a life-changing moment.  But I’m not climbing Mt Fucking Everest.
When Grow Up, I want to–
1.  Be an astronaut.  Go into space.  Go to Mars.
2.  Live a long, long, long-ass time.
Time to get real.
3.  I want to write.  I have easily 30-50 story ideas in my head, screaming at me to get out and get on paper.  Some of them might be good.
4.  I want to get back to creating my comic strip, and be confident enough to submit it for publication.  Same goes for the novels if I ever finish one.
5.  To continue with the writing theme, I’d like to publish some of my articles and essays.
6.  I want to get to a point in my job where I don’t have to work a second job.  This is actually related to the last three items, so I can spend more time doing those, or doing whatever I want.
7.  I want to take a vacation either on a cruise or to one of those all-inclusive resorts.  Like to plan this for our 20th anniversary, which is in 2 years.
8.  I may still want to try to get my blackbelt. . .
9.
10.
You know, I don’t have these finished, and I think that’s okay.  It means I still have room and space for more, new dreams.

JUST LEE

November 4, 2005 at 10:07 PM | Posted in Journal | 4 Comments
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  In 1988, I got married.  Many significant events surround that story, but I had an urge, a yearning, to tell my friend’s story.  I hadn’t seen Lee in a while, but after I got engaged I looked him up.  I wanted him to be my best man.  He was thrilled, and honored, and humbled.  Amazed, I guess, that I picked him.  I think to him I seemed more popular, and had more friends, but I never really felt that way.  Most of my time was spent alone or with him.  He was my best friend growing up, him and his brother. But at different times, because one would be their his dad, who lived in my town, and one would be with their mom, who lived in southern Missouri.  So I had alternating brothers.

  He was living in the town next to the one we grew up in, a bigger town, and I lived in St. Louis, an hour and a half away.  When I went to go see him, he was living with some girl.  He had already been in the Army and given a general discharge.  Not honorable.  Not dishonorable, either, because it has become unconstitutional to tell someone the truth, apparently.  Pee dirty a few too many times, and you are out.

 

  Some girl–some woman.  Some bizarre, controlling nut-freak creature with more emotional baggage than the small mobile home they were renting could hold.  To be fair, maybe she knew what HE was like, and that’s why she was the way she was.  I mean, he was my friend, but I’m not going to make excuses for him.  He very possibly might be a loser.

  Now, I did only meet her the one time, but that combined with what I picked up about her later gave me a pretty insightful look (I thought) into her character.  She was a possessive, jealous, moody, vindictive, hard-to-please bitch.  Since he was getting laid on a semi-regular basis he could overlook these few small foibles.  I brought my fiancé with me to see him, ask him, and give the invitation.  Since I did not know that he had a girlfriend, the invitation that I had carefully made out in advance obviously neglected to contain the name of Lee’s current true love.  Linda, my fiancé, said, well of course you are invited, please do come!

  I thought the matter was settled, but like Mexican food, it came back to haunt me with a vengeance at only the most critical time.  When the time came to get suited for tuxedos, he came into town without her (she was working) and I sported him the money for the tuxedo.  Mine was paid for with a certain size wedding party, after all, so it was no problem to cover him.

  I never actually had a bachelor party, which was okay, and Lee was not in the financial position to provide that type of support.  Not that it would have taken much, but he was dead broke, not working, and living off the girlfriend.  I had hoped he would have shown up the night before the wedding, which was the rehearsal and so forth, but such was not the case. 

  The day of the wedding, and several thousand things going on, which was when I realized that having the wedding at noon was one of the top fifteen stupidest things I have ever done.  Everyone and everything was pressed for time.  Early in the morning, I called Lee.  No answer.  Being ever the optimist, I took it as a good sign.  Obviously they were on their way.

  At the church, family and friends assembled.  Eleven o’clock.  No Lee.  My dad says, I need to consider alternatives.  This, I mused in later years, is why there is such a large wedding party.  Besides the bride and groom, there is best man, maid of honor, four groomsmen, four bridesmaids, ring bearer, flower girl, and maybe a few that I forgot.

  So I have several groomsmen to choose from:  my brother, my cousin, my soon-to-be son, and a young Vietnamese guy that rented a room from us.  All that was missing was elephants and a trapeze.

  11:15.  Just as my dad was about to insist again that I need to pick a stand-in, Lee shows up.  Plenty of time?  No, we had to go get his tux.  The church was by the interstate, and so was the tux place, so it was about a ten minute round trip.  No sweat.  We bolted.

  On the way, Lee told me what had happened.  His girlfriend–and honest, I cannot re- member her name–got exceptionally pissy that she was not named specifically on the invitation.  She took this as a personal affront to her dignity and her fine name and also,
apparently, as the last straw.  Lee didn’t care, I didn’t care, nobody, obviously, cared.  She was hell-bent on the destruction of any and all of Lee’s life that did not rise and set on her and her over-priced piece of ass.

  Never mind that she was going to ruin a wedding. 

  This was about her.  She wasn’t going.
  "Will you take me and drop me off, then?"  Under normal circumstances, for a guy, a perfectly logical question.  The next step is the last straw, when you are out of options.  So to reach that point, you HAVE to explore all those options.
 
Obviously, the wrong question to ask a woman scorned.  He left hurriedly, and walked three miles to the truck stop, and his sad story eventually got him a ride to this exit, over forty miles.  Then he walked to the church.
  He says, as he finishes his tale and we are walking into the tuxedo rental store, "It’s a real bitch not having a car."  That pretty much sums it up. 

  We get the tux, get him dressed, and get back, and its 11:40.  No sweat.  I worked in pizza delivery, with a 30 minute time limit over my head constantly.  We had made it with time to spare.  Meanwhile, it’s lucky there is no history of heat disease in my family, otherwise my dad would have had a coronary.  Others thought I had left for good and was not coming back–and were very reluctant to explain this to my fiancé.  In fact, she did not know all of this happened until about six months later.

  The music starts, Lee and I are getting last minute touch ups on the tuxes by my dad, who shakes his head in disbelieve that I put all my chips on this bet, and actually won.  His parting advice before he takes his seat, “You used up all of your luck.  Now you have nothing.”

  As Lee and I take our places in front, scarcely anyone noticed, because they were all looking behind them, at the main doors, for us.  We slipped in through the side door.  The reverend stopped sweating.

  One of my groomsmen, my cousin Kevin says to me quietly, "Are you going to be late to your funeral, too?"

  "I certainly hope so." 

 

Post script to the story:  I had scarcely seen Lee after the wedding, either.  He stayed at our house for a day, and then we took him home on the way out of town for a brief getaway that my wife refuses to call a honeymoon.  I heard that he stole a bunch of tools and things from his dad, whom he had lived with, sold them, and went to southern Missouri to live with his mom.  Really don’t know what happened after that.  His younger sister got a degree and got married, she was always very bright.  His older brother Charles was my friend also, he stayed in the army.  He may even be retired now, I should look him up.  Their dad is one of the absolute smartest people I know.  I have no theories on how that affects child-rearing.

 

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