Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Archive for May, 2010

Fifty-three

Posted by ilbebe on May 25, 2010

A phrase that gets bandied about like a young person with daddy issues is The Average American. I feel it’s a very misleading notion, but if there’s any credence in it, I think the average American will agree that the average American loves a good detective story.

My old friend Tom, the fella who lost his father in October 2001, went missing in March 2009. He had left a bad situation in Arcata where he was falsely accused of crimes he wouldn’t dream of committing and persecuted for their supposed occurrence towards the end of the year before. He knew what he had to do and he did it: make the circuit and see his old friends; people he knew he could trust to hear his story and give him decent counsel. He went north, then east, and then came to see me via train on Friday, March 6. When he called me a few days earlier from the Land of Lincoln to tell me he was heading my way, I remarked “Ah, just in time for my birthday ”, and he replied “Oh yeah, yr birthday…” He’s just that sort of guy.

I told him how to get on a shuttle from one train station to another and that I would meet him at yet a third station, the one closest to my house. We met up, we walked back to my house, and a few hours later I ate mushrooms and we took the drain downtown to see my roommate’s band play. It was a blast, and as I smoked cigs and drank beer, he sipped on a glass of water. “Didn’t have any laser show in Chicago, I’ll say that much.” “Tom, I love you. Can you believe we made it?” “It’s a trip, as you wild maniacs are so fond of saying.” He grinned. He’s just that sort of guy.

In the following days, we saw a mob movie, we ate Indian food, we saw two of the many women who would love nothing more on Earth than for Tom to smile at them, we laughed, I smoked cigs. He left before dawn on a Monday, heading south, saying something about trying to live aloha if funds held out. A few weeks later, I called the last number I’d had for him, and it was disconnected. I emailed an address he’d given me a few months earlier for the first time, birds789, and got no response. I got no delivery failure message either…he’s just that sort of guy.

I probably should have tried looking for him earlier, but I had sunk into a new depression. I laid in bed all day for most of the summer and worked twelve hours on the Fourth of July to earn just enough money to feed myself while I piloted a Budget truck through the heartland with my friends Jenny and Indie at the end of the month. I got a call asking if I wanted to be promoted to manager while traversing Reno, and it washed away the pain of Rock Springs. I delivered Jenny and Indie to their new home in East Oakland off of Seminary, and used a rubber mallet to dismantle her bed frame so that we could get it upstairs. This was after backing the truck up over the curb and knocking the fence slightly askew. A passerby looked at me and shook her head, and I said I’m sorry and she said Ain’t My Fence. I got it right the second time. I’m just that sort of guy.

I thought about the birds that stay, and how our heaven has no reign. I became a manager in the middle of September. The increase in pay helped alleviate the financial worry that had been limiting me, and I started to be more social again. On a Friday night at the end of the month, Jenny got mugged called me I went to an ATM got on BART got in a cab gave a generous tip and was there an hour later. We split a bottle of Carlo Rossi Sangria and talked about being living Californians. We stayed up until Jenny felt safe, and when she fell asleep, I laid on the floor and stared at the ceiling in the dark. In the morning I washed my face woke Jenny she packed a bag made sure Indie had food and water walked past the place she’d been attacked and some scary barking unleashed dogs to the bus stop waited for the bus got on the bus heading north. Got off the bus. Walked her to my house. Gave her my phone, went to work. Had to tell some co-workers I couldn’t go to a party that night, I had to get home, and anyways, I was exhausted. I would have really liked to go the party, I’d been informed that there was a girl there that was into me, but I couldn’t possibly tell them the whole story. You are not getting nor will you ever get the whole story. I’m just that sort of guy.

I got home and Jenny was feeling better. She’d spoken to her parents and her sister and was set to be picked up in the morning. I checked my phone and saw that I had missed/was missing another party. I told Jenny I’d have breakfast with her parents and her in the morning, and wrote out detailed instructions to the spot I recommended in case I didn’t make it. I stayed up drinking and smoking weed until 5AM, and oddly enough, I didn’t make to breakfast, but they did, thanks to the directions. The power of the written word, which is no justification for the word as law. As much as I use words, I cannot submit to an authority based on them I’m just that sort of guy.

The following Friday, Jenny’s grandpa died. If she hadn’t been mugged, she would have been back in Chicago for a friend’s wedding when it happened, but as it was she was at home with her mother, and when they got the call, they were able to head straight to his house. Jenny got to talk to him a last time. The following Friday I went to the memorial service for him, and heard dozens of testimonials to his character as a good friend, husband, father, and grandfather. It would be nice if more successful businessmen were like Denny. He will be missed.

The next Friday nothing happened, but the Friday following that one I got mugged. That’s a different story. A month later, Jenny and Joe and Aaron and I went to the horse track a month later and Aaron played foolish for Jenny. We went back to a bungalow in Berkeley that had been benevolently boarding Jenny since her beating. Aaron started laying it on a bit thick, and neither me nor J was sorry to see him leave. A few weeks later I rented a car with an old friend/sleeze, crossed a bridge with one man, one woman, one cat and several boxes, and exited on Silliman. Unpacked the car, went into the Mission, ran into Joe and Aaron. They were broke and on their way to a chic pet grooming salon to beg for work. I gave ‘em a ride and then headed towards SOMA, where Jenny wanted to buy a temporary bed. I dropped Jenny off at her place, me and the sleeze headed back across the bridge, parted ways, met up again later, had drinks and laughs and cigs. I drove the rental car home very, very drunk. I’m just that sort of guy.

Aaron stabbed Joe in the back later over a woman. Joe told me about it the last night he was in town, and I can’t say I was surprised. Joe left on a Wednesday morning for chillier climes, and I wished him well and knew he’d be fine. When I printed the first copy of the last section of this work I had last week, the first copy went to JWDN on Humboldt Street in Brooklyn NY. Bless ya Joe, don’t know where I’d be if not for you. Might not even find the floor. Joe, you’re my kind of guy. Love ya.

I had at that point in the middle of December started into what would become the most corrosive relationship of my life with C. Don’t really feel like talking about that now, but it colored my winter more red than anything else. I started spending more time in SF with Jenny and my sisters, subtly for the purpose of avoiding C. Jenny started talking about finding Tom. No one we knew had any contact info, and a google search of his name didn’t come up with anything useful. Jenny and I spent a lot time re-hashing how strange the past six months had been, and how good it was to be in California. Tom faded in and out of these conversations.

I finally broke free of the bad situation with C and took my first vacation in nine months in the middle of April. San Diego was just what the doctor ordered. I went to a Padres game with my youngest sister, and spent most of the rest of the weekend with my friend Justin. During one conversation, I mentioned the Tom Question, and he whipped out an application on his phone that did background checks. It came up with no results for Tom, but several for relatives of his, and ultimately what was gained that day was a sense on my part that a little leg work was all it would take to find Tom. I’d been so mired in worry that it hadn’t really occurred to me that I could do some further investigating.

After returning to Oakland, I made a directory assistance call, called one number, called another, and got Tom’s uncle on the phone. He said Tom was alive and well in Ventura County, just kinda spinning his wheels. He gave me a number I could reach Tom at. I called it and left a message. I called the number again ten days later and it just rang and rang. On a Saturday morning a few days later, I received a call from an anonymous number. It was Tom. We talked for an hour, and I was able to tell him how good it was to hear from him.

There is warfare, and there is peace, and there is everything in between and beyond those notions. Dunna let yr mind be clouded by warfare and y’ will find peace or something close to it. The sound of an old friend’s voice through the phone…

Peace.

5/25/10, Oakland, home. Happy. On my way to play music of profound volume, hatred, and love.

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Fifty-two

Posted by ilbebe on May 19, 2010

It is you. With a little bit of luck, you will never stop being yourself, and unless yr mistaken, you’ll never become someone yr not.

Sometimes we feel that our bodies are cages. When you shed this mindset, and acknowledge that you are you, and it is you, you’ll feel that pressure drop.

Two nights ago, for the first time in eleven years, I kissed a girl without first asking her if I could. I’d forgotten how good it felt. I slept on her couch, curled up in a modified fetal position. In the morning she drove me to the train station, and we discussed when we’d be able to kiss again. We agreed we didn’t know, but we’d figure it out. Early that afternoon, I realized I could simply invite her to the concert I was going to be attending that evening. She said yes. At 3:30 I took the train back to the city. I met my sister at her work to give her spare keys back. I ate a sourdough bread bowl of broccoli cheddar soup. It was delicious. I ate slowly; savored the flavor.

I made my way down Market, towards my office. I had no sooner sat down than I heard back from my old friend Phil that he was headed my way. We met at the Edinburgh Castle a half-hour later. Phil is my oldest friend in the world’s younger brother, and in recent years, we have become friends in our own right. He was with three co-workers, in town from New England for a Google conference. Funny side note, the outdated word processing program I’m typing in is telling me that Google is misspelled.

Kevin, Jeff, and Woody were great guys, and we had a lovely talk that literally ran all over the map. Sean McAllister showed up around 6:30, and he had found a prime parking spot just around the corner. A good parking spot means so much some times…

After Phil’s co-workers bid adieu to head back to their hotel for some rest, Sean, Phil, and I had a cigarette and talked about the astounding good fortune we’ve had. The last time I had seen Phil, I had slept on his couch, and by eight AM in the morning, it was humid. I left without my sweatshirt. I contacted him the following week and asked him to just mail me the buttons back. He did, in a hilarious little envelope he’d crafted from construction paper and decorated with monsters. That envelope is hanging on the wall in front of me now. I retold the tale, and his response was a chuckle and Oh Yeah, I Still Have That Sweatshirt. Ah, a fair trade. Are you listening, Wall Street?

Phil left to get pizza and coffee and then go back to the hotel and sleep. Sean and I already had tickets for the show; he had won them on the radio eight days earlier. THAT was a hell of a day too, but I’ll save that story for later. I left the bar briefly to go get a ticket for my new romantic interest, and found one immediately, on the corner, for less than face value. The transaction was paid in cash and concluded in less than a minute. No names were exchanged, and the fellow’s parting words were God Bless. I’m not joking, Wall Street, are you listening? I went back to the bar where we had shared our table with a group of five people awaiting the pub quiz that would be starting shortly. Their group included a very sweet and friendly German girl who they had met two days earlier at Bay to Breakers. Sean charmed by calling her a beautiful snail in her native tongue. Unfortunately for him, we had to go.

We went back in and he bought me another beer. I supplied the Ronnie in Ronnie James Dio, a man who had gone to God a few days earlier and was part of the current events section of the quiz. Having given what we could, Sean and I left for the show. I left my NRI’s ticket at the door under her name and sent her a text message advising her as such. Sean and I got a couple of beers and we talked about the strength of friendship. We embraced. My NRI showed up. In later drafts of this work, I will identify her by name, but for the moment I still need to ask her permission. Sean introduced himself and told us two crazy kids to go get a drink. I kissed her in line. We got beers, and then the band started playing. The timing was sublime.

A hype man, or toaster, if you will, came out and said If You Didn’t Already Know, This Man Invented Reggae. (He originally spelled it Reggay, fun fact) Ladies And Gentlemen, Toots, and the Maytalls! I realized that the two gorgeous women who had walked across the stage a moment earlier were singers, not boobie girls, and I stood corrected. They had lovely voices. Toots was dressed in blue vinyl clothes, it looked like to me. He had a marvelous grin, and the music instantly got everybody on fine rockers. Sean advised me to dance with my girl. I took his advice. An enormous dose of kindness circulated, and the dancing got closer. Sean advised me to get my lady to the front, so I did. Unfortunately, he bumped into a woman once we got there who got upset, so my girl and I went back to the back. We danced and we danced, and the music seemed like it was getting louder. I heard some insane guitar soloing, and I knew I’d never be able to forget it.

After a while, Pressure Drop came. HOLY FUCKING SHIT, everyone deserves to feel that feeling that we felt. My NRI and I went outside to smoke a cig, and a woman advised us that I’ve Seen This Guy Like Thirty Times, And More Than Once I’ve Seen Them Have To Use A Shepard’s Cane To Get Him Off The Stage. A guy in his fifties danced with me and hugged me. Me and my NRI kissed and embraced. We went back inside and found Sean, who had moved back to the back. We danced, and the band stopped playing after their, oh, I don’t know, third or fourth twenty-minute medley of the evening. We walked out to smoke another cig, but it turned out that the front door was a point of no return, so we went back into the ballroom. The band started playing again. We resumed dancing. There was more kissing.

The band stopped and then started playing again two or three MORE times. I didn’t get to see the shepard’s cane come out, but that was fine. I didn’t think it was possible that I could dance for so long, but hey, if Toots can do it, everyone ought to be able to. That guy’s in his seventies! Man, he had some killer moves…

Sean went back to his prime parking spot to sleep it off. I walked my girl down Van Ness to the train station and kissed her good night. I took a different train home, and slept in my own bed. I dreamed about dancing and kissing.

I woke up in the morning and drank a cup of coffee. I texted Sean to make sure he was all right. He was fine. I smoked a cigarette and called Phil’s cousin Angela. She was walking somewhere in Seattle, and apparently I caught her just in time; her phone’s going dormant next week for an indefinite period of time. She’s gonna spend the summer healing her digestive system and gardening somewhere in British Columbia. She told me to hurry up and send her a copy of the new work. I told her I just had to write this, and then I’d get something in the mail.

I wrote this on Pacific Standard Time and finished shortly after noon.

It is you.

Peace.

12:05 PM, 5/19/10, Oakland, CA. Sitting in bed, smiling.

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Fifty-one

Posted by ilbebe on May 18, 2010

I want children to be able to run in fields of flowers whenever they want.

I am typing this on my friend Jenny’s laptop, which is missing the ‘e’ key. Her apartment is above a street named Haight in SF, CA, which many people have different pre-conceived notions about. Luckily, I am writing on Pacific Standard Time.

Once there was a war on the other side of the ocean I sit three miles from at the moment. In it, my father’s father died. He stepped on a land mine. My father was seven months in the womb when my Grandmother got the news. She remarried quickly. All my father knew of his father for the first few years was from photographs.

I have always known the man who could theoretically be thought of as my step-grandfather as Grandpa. He’s a good guy, a really good guy. He raised four children with my grandmother, and all four are doing okay. He has nine grandchildren, and his first great-grandchild has not materialized yet, but there is no reason to think he won’t be able to meet that child when it arrives.

He wept when he buried his wife nine years ago today. My father wept. His brothers and his sisters wept. My sisters and I were sad, but didn’t quite know how to feel. At least we were there, all together.

It may be unrealistic to think we will see and end to war within our lifetime, but that’s certainly no reason to give up all hope. We all want children, and to see those children be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want to. Have children of their own when they feel like it, or maybe a moment or two before…

For me, the vision is fields of flowers. My friend Jenn informed me an hour ago that she had her third child five weeks ago, a boy. Her two daughters are already becoming amazing people.

Jenn’s sister Kaydee was my first girlfriend. We have always been close. Kaydee is pregnant, due in the first ten days of January of next year.

In the depths of winter, flowers.

Flowers.

-4:55 PM, 5/17/10, SF, CA

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Fifty

Posted by ilbebe on May 18, 2010

There come times, as times will come. This sounds either profound or trivial, depending on yr overall worldview and current demeanor, taking into account how willing y are to even consider such vague statements.

In July of 2006 I was on a train from Seattle to Portland, and the movie was the one where Twelfth Night is recast into a teen comedy about a girl playing soccer disguised as a boy. I didn’t have earphones to get sound, and anyways it was only afterwards that I found out that the movie was some goofy spin on Shakespeare, so I had little interest in the movie. I was reading The Know It All by A.J. Jacobs, his account of a year in his life where he read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. The narrative did an excellent job, I felt, of serving as both a reportage of what a challenge he faced completing the task, and as an inquisition into the purpose and meaning of gathering knowledge.

While on the train, I read the passage where Jacobs reads the passage on 1,001 Arabian Nights. One of his favorite stories, which struck a chord with me as well, dealt with a sultan who commissioned the smartest men in his kingdom to compile all human knowledge into a single collection. After years of work, they come back with oh, let’s say, three hundred volumes of knowledge. The king says “Too long” and tells them to condense the knowledge, they come back with a hundred volumes, the king still says “Too long”, this happens several more times before the scholars come back with a single volume. The king still says “Too long.” The scholars come back a final time with the knowledge of the universe condensed into a single phrase:

This too shall pass.

Between the previous sentence and this one, thirteen months of letting things pass through me occurred. There was a lengthy dead time in 2009 where I felt like an observer to my own life, always one step behind myself.This period was followed, as always, by a series of up-and-back down movements towards feeling good and balanced again, and I believe my return culminated when I was able to tell my Mom a week before Mother’s Day that I felt very present.

Thus chapters 25-50 finally pass into printed form.

Peace.

1:36PM, May 13, 2010, SF, CA

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