Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

One-thirty-one

Posted by ilbebe on July 31, 2012

The Mr T Experience was going to play at Bottom of the Hill on a Friday in late January. I was excited; MTX had been my favorite band in high school and I hadn’t seen them in a few years. The lead man, Dr. Frank, had shifted his focus to writing a few years earlier and put the band on the back burner, I can’t recall if they’d played any shows at all since 2005. But in the weeks leading up to the show, I had mixed feelings about it- was it going to be the same?

I was down on myself again. I’d been back at my pizza delivery job for five months, and I’d been living with my girlfriend and her roommates in a cold apartment that the landlord was trying to throw them out of. We had pulled the classic “move the boyfriend in without asking or telling anyone” move, and while I was grateful that none of the roommates gave much of a shit once they realized I was living there, it put me in the weird spot of feeling like I had no place to say anything about the place. One roommate had two adorable little kids that he was constantly yelling at, which dismayed me to no end. His erstwhile girlfriend, the kids’ mother, would come by every so often, and her visits almost always ended in a vicious trading of verbal cheap shots. The landlord served a rent increase on the apartment, an in response they filed for a court hearing and stopped paying rent. The other two roommates moved out in the months thereafter, leaving just me, the Dub, Arr and his kids, and the awful chill of 53rd Street.

I was happy to be back at work, and it felt good to be paying off the debt I’d incurred the previous summer, but I also felt trapped at the job. A friend’s band had asked me to go on a national tour with them as merch dude, and I said no. Going on the road to see the same band as a was the primary thrust of the trip that had recently bankrupted me, and following the crushing experience of winding up busted at my Mom’s house without a job or a cent in the world, I had built a minefield in my head around the notion of walking away from steady work to have fun. I was standing in the back of the pizza place with a heavy heart when I called my friend to tell him that I couldn’t tour with them because I didn’t want to quit my job. That MTX was playing the day after my friend’s band left for their tour was cold consolation, and I thus I had started building it up to be something much more than it deserved to be; in retrospect I realize that I expected the thrill of that one show to be equivalent to what I imagined the fun of a national tour would be. Seeing my favorite band from high school was supposed to be the same as a lifelong dream.

So I was really upset when my friend Josh couldn’t make it. When I spoke to him that evening before I left Oakland for the City, he said that his Dad hadn’t shown up for work that morning and had not been heard from. I didn’t know what to say to that, who does? I recall saying something along the lines of “Shit, that’s weird. Well, I’m sure everything’s OK. Sorry you can’t make the show. Talk to you soon.”

The show was fun. I saw an old pal I knew from Arcata days, still wearing that letterman’s jacket. ‘I Fell For You’ still made me smile.

The next day I thought about calling Josh a few times while I was at work, but I didn’t.

Sunday night I was standing around at work, waiting for an order to cook, when the usual happened: Victor asked if I could close for him. Victor was the driver who was scheduled for the closing shift on Wednesdays and Sundays, but in the preceding months it had become commonplace for him to ask me to cover him so he could knock off early and get some rest before beginning his other job at four in the morning. I never had any problem with this; I didn’t have to be up in the morning, and the longer I was at work meant less time at the dismal apartment, and thus less risk of hearing Arr yelling at his little angels like they were dogs.

The order was almost up when I got the call from Josh. His Dad had been found dead; suicide. I told him I had one more delivery to make and that I’d be over as soon as I could. Time started moving very slowly as I told Victor and my manager what was up, it seemed like hours before I was in my car heading towards Emeryville with the delivery. The address was a huge apartment complex that I’d only been to a few times, but those few times were enough to dislike the place. It was one of a handful of addresses where there was always some sort of nonsense that accompanied the delivery, so it was no surprise that it took three calls to get ahold of the person once I was waiting at the front and then another ten minutes waiting for them to come down and meet me.

I sat in the front lobby of the complex for ten minutes thinking about how helpless I was to make the person whose dinner I was delivering come claim it faster so I could jet out to Brentwood and be with Josh and his family. I thought about my friend’s band out on the road, somewhere in Montana. I wondered if there was any way the person on their way  to meet the pizza guy could know that their lackadaisical behavior was keeping me away from a friend in need, and furthermore, if they knew this, if they would tip accordingly.

I later heard that one of the foremost concerns on Josh’s Dad’s mind was money woes, and it’s sick that dough worry has the power to destroy people. As the year progressed, I got sorta tired of the job, and restless for adventure. I couldn’t stop thinking about Montana, so towards the end of summer I made an essentially stupid decision to quit my job so I could go out and have fun again. I took a train from Portland to Chicago, and woke up shortly before dawn the first day of the journey at the western edge of Glacier National Park. I recalled the photos from my friend’s band’s tour from back in January, four feet of snow around the van in Billings. Now there was nothing but green, and light, and if I’d been in Montana back in January, I wouldn’t have been around to be with Josh when his Dad died.

I recently read a great essay by Betty Smith, the author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The essay was entitled “Fall in Love with Life”, and these are the concluding lines:

“To live, to struggle, to be in love with life- in love with all life holds, joyful or sorrowful- is fulfillment. The fullness of life is open to all of us.”

It’s crushing, losing people. All you can ever do is make the most of what’s left, and there’s so much. I’ll meet you high up in your anger, of all that is waiting and hoping for you.*

Peace.

-3:15PM, 7/31/12, home, confused, ecstatic. Blind archer in the Olympics. Jeffrey Rhodes, four and half years gone, but not forgotten. Sun’s out, again. Lotsa sun this summer…

*Neutral Milk Hotel, Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone

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