Heeding the Call of the Boho, One More Time.

For being an indoor cat, his natural born instincts have never faded. Sure, he never was much of a hunter, but other instincts manifest and took root to the point of being almost human.

“What’s wrong, bud?”

He has his long face on today, and it always breaks my heart whenever he wears it. He senses change coming. He sees boxes of various sizes take up valuable real estate on the floor, and multiply as more days pass. He notices that I leave for extended periods of time; a break in my routine of leaving for 8 hours a day and coming home for the night. He knows what’s coming next. He’ll hate me in a few days. He always does.

For years now, I’ve been trying to be the master at being a grown up. That means above all, taking responsibility and living with the outcome of my actions, be they good or bad. I try to make grown up decisions in the most grown up of fashions.

But know this, you do me wrong, don’t be surprised that I just leave and never come back….

O, beautiful slum, we had such high hopes for you, and it was unfair of us to think that you more than what you really were. The whole ruse should have evaporated as soon as I walked on the floor of our new apartment. What areas of the floor that did indeed have padding underneath the carpet, felt uneven and hastily put together; poor craftsmanship that felt funny for the feet. Yes, o golden ghetto, your early ’70s charm pandered to the side of me that still thinks its cool to live in a Three’s Company gestalt, but your rotting fixtures, sliding closet doors that constantly came off track, shoddy plumbing that your so-called super (yes, lower case “s” on purpose!) refused to fix, appliances that haven’t been exchanged since the Reagan Administration, and let’s not forget the carpet that was installed by stoned chimpanzees have given me the feeling that whomever is in charge of this place, gave up hope years ago, and in fact left their rotting corpses hanging from some light fixtures in one of the empty apartments with a note pinned to their shirts- that says, “forgive me”.

….sorry, let me reign that one in…

Previous drafts of this blog contained a long and protracted list of grievances against the place we were living in. But I’m bored with the griping and I want to move forward, so bullet points will have to do….

  • The above mentioned cosmetic disaster of the place.
  • This is a motorcycle town. Sure enough motorcycles are going to be a part of your life whether you like it or not. Not liking it because in town, there is an accredited vocational school that teaches motorcycle repair, and five of it’s future graduates live in the apartment across the way. All drive motorcycles. All have the same early morning class.
  • Having to pay for laundry. Big turn off.
  • Oh…who’s bright idea was it anyway to put CARPETING on the PATIOS?!! Two words for you geniuses: Hurricane Season. Do we have to pay extra for mold removal, or do you not care if we get sick?
  • Neighbors like to get drunk and throw things on weekend, which leads me to….
  • Cops called on a constant basis.

But all of these annoyances could be filled into a dentists’ Dixie Cup compared to the swimming pool sized loathing I’ve cultivated for our so-called super. He was a text book douche bag. More importantly, he was a gun-toting, meth head of a douche bag. A gun toting, meth head, douche bag of a so-called super, with a Peter Pan Complex. Apart from his work truck which always had tools and it was doubtful that they were ever used, he possessed a Harley. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if I didn’t have children who needed to sleep, but he liked to keep it idling forever, ride somewhere for 5 minutes, come back, keep it idling again, take off for 5 minutes, come back and start over again. After about the third month of this ritual, it began to test our nerves.

He also possessed a modified Chevy S-10. Custom paint job, tinted windows, big fat chrome rims, straight piped and lowered to the ground with the help of a hydraulic drop kit installed in the bed of the truck. The vehicle was useless. Not a day went by where I didn’t see him tinker with it in some way. It never left the property. Maybe because it was so low to the ground, it could barely make it over the speed bumps. He spent more time on that truck, his personal toy, than he did on the apartments. To the point of ignoring everything else. When asked for the tenth time to replace our dilapidated, luke-warm refrigerator, he told us, “Listen, I’ve got more important things to worry about, ” then he turns back to tinkering with his useless toy truck. This was my neighbor.

One night, heavily inebriated, he decided it would have been a swell idea to rev up and idle his stupid little penis enhancing, useless toy truck while cranking up some awful classic rock station. I don’t know, but I think he was trying to put the moves on a tenant that just moved in. He woke up my baby daughter. I went out to the porch. I said, “Hey! Could you turn it down? My baby can’t sleep with this noise!”

He mumbled something incoherently.

“What?!” I replied.

“Well,” he snarked through beer soaked breath, “If you can hear me, then it can’t be that NOISY out here, CAN it?!”

Curses aging, pathetic, meth head, douche bag of a so-called super of a redneck ghetto, you got me there. Your stinging wit has claimed yet another hapless soul. I guess those years at Cambridge didn’t go to waste after all. Douche bag. I hope you die of an unpronounceable venereal disease and they find you in a compromising position involving rubber appliances, face down in a pool of your own vomit.

I came to find out later from the afore mentioned new tenant, that he was showing off his gun to her; a shoulder holstered revolver. I don’t know, but I think he was trying to put the moves on her. And everyone knows that flashing a loaded concealed weapon always makes the ladies SWWOOON!

Douche bag.

I could have been shot that night. From that moment forward, my family was in danger. From that moment forward we weren’t rent paying tenants, we were inmates. Let the record show that I no longer felt safe there. Yes, we may not have held up our end of the lease, but they let us down first. The longer we stayed, the more of a prisoner we felt like. Time to move on while we still had our souls and skins.

The place we moved to is a tiny, leaky two bedroom rental house that was built in the ’50s, I think. The windows and doors need to be worked on because they are so old that they have given up the fight against years of passing thunderstorms and began weeping at the first sight of rain. As I think about it, it’s not so much of a big deal. For a moment, it makes me nostalgic for my days at Hotel Pine Street; the place was so old, and the rain was so fierce. One night, the plaster walls couldn’t stand it any more and proceeded to leak over everything I owned.

The caulk and fixtures need to be replaced in both bathrooms. I’d be willing to bet that this place was designed for people who ate out a lot. The kitchen is smaller than any apartment I lived in so far, which is kind of a drag; it puts a damper on pizza night. But, despite all of these nitpicky things, it’s a house. It’s in a quiet neighborhood; on certain nights, I can hear the ocean. The neighbors seem sane. And above all, it’s a step towards independence. The older I get, the more I’m losing my taste for communal living. As the days progress, the longer I stay under this roof, the closer to sanity I feel. Even though I know we will never own this place, it feels more like home every day.

It’s been a week, and boxes still linger and take up valuable real estate, this time on new floors. For the first few days, my furry friend has made himself scarce. I find his hiding spots, bring him out, show him around, show him love, then he goes and finds another hiding spot. For the first few days, he lost his appetite. He won’t get it back until all is still and big things aren’t making big noise. Soon, he makes his appearance. Soon, his tail will stand tall. Soon, he will find his appetite and his favorite place on the couch…curled up and purring with a full belly, next to me. Glad to be home.

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A Few Reasons Why I Think Being an American is Still Okay

Happy Birthday America, you don’t look a day over two hundred fifty years old. I know that it’s a couple of weeks late, but sometimes, I can barely remember my own birthday.
Now, I know I should be waving a flag like every other person, and that’s all well and good. But sometimes, I can’t help but wonder. I wonder if all the fighting we’re doing is honestly worth it. I mean, not so much with the invading of countries, covert and otherwise. Wait, maybe I do mean that.

Let me start over…

Every so often, I need reassurance. And not what the nightly news spoon feeds me, I’m talking about the honest to goodness, first hand witnessed accounts. I need some, any indication that we as Americans aren’t the complete scum of the universe. Spreading Democracy across the globe to the areas that need it sounds like a great idea. On paper. But it hardly translates into a ‘thank you’ when on the day they announce US troop withdrawal from Iraq, they celebrate by blowing up yet another car bomb in a crowded market in Kirkuk. Maybe it was a going away present; one for the road, as it were. Spreading Democracy across the globe to the areas that need it sounds like a great idea, like Catholicism. Democracy might be a little easier to swallow if it were offered by a true Democracy, rather than a Republic shoving it down their throats with a business end of an M4 assault rifle.

Here’s the thing, I hate feeling like this. I hate being bullied into feeling patriotic. I hate feeling that if I’m against the war in Iraq, I’m a flag-burning, dope smoking, sandal wearing, tree hugging Liberal, and that’s just not true.
I have never burned a flag.
I hate feeling like I’m anti-American as soon as I ask questions or criticize. I hate the possibility that a big black van can come for me at any minute, and I could be erased from existence in a matter of seconds. Maybe it’s because I’m a dyed-in-the-wool “Blue Stater” who is living in a “Red[neck]” state.

Or maybe I’m giving myself a little too much credit.

For a moment, I thought about not posting this part and going straight to the point of what I’m blogging about. But then I thought that self-censure is about as un-American as not taking the time to actually write about it.

On the other hand, that was never my intent. I am American. I know I am. I can feel it in my bones. I can taste it in every cheap, greasy cheeseburger I shove down my throat. I can smell it in the exhaust fumes from the piece of shit Chevy idling in front of me at a stoplight. My point is, every time I start thinking like I just spent 48 hours straight of being brainwashed by Fox News Channel, and I should feel guilty if I’m not waving Old Glory from the moment I wake up to the minute I hit the pillow. Every time I start to Redneck up, I have to pause.

I have to wonder if the rest of the world thinks we’re all Ugly Americans. I have to know how our tattered foreign policy is faring. I need some, any indication that being American ain’t so bad. So far, this is what I have…

When I was a kid, before the juggernaut afternoon lineup of Transformers, G. I. Joe and Thundercats, there were only two reasons to run home straight from school: Battle of the Planets (Gatchaman, to you purists) and Star Blazers. One of them was a hack job one-off of an original; making it completely lost in translation, the other was an epic soap opera that was required viewing for fledgling geeks like me. At the time, a lot of kids knew about it, only a few really got into it. I remember watching it over at friends’ houses and shushing meddling parents and siblings, and then conversing about yesterday’s episode on the way to school. At the time, it was some of the best Japan had to offer. It would be some time before we as Americans would respond in kind.

~***~

Many years ago, a friend of mine was waiting at the airport. Not for a ride. She was the ride. She was hosting an exchange student that year from Saudi Arabia. My friend was a Phi Beta Kappa, so as would be expected, she spent the better part of a week polishing her greeting; practicing in the mirror, familiarizing herself with custom, maybe rehearsing a greeting in Arabic. The student she was hosting was female. Not that the fact that she was female has anything to do with anything, but among the countless other attributes that my friend possessed, she was a Feminist. So that means along with an open mind and open heart, there had to have been a tiny, hidden ember of rage burning inside her. Somewhere. A tiny glowing ember being tended by the reality of oppression.

The day came. As the story was presented to me, and as predicted, she was still nervous, still reciting and practicing. Now, which airport she was being picked up at, I’m not quite sure, but it was a major hub. Since we both resided in the Northeast, I’m going with Boston International; with its expensive franchise restaurants and gleaming monuments to Capitalism like au bon pain and the now extinct Sharper Image. The day came, and she was talking to herself as passengers deplaned. Her guest wasn’t difficult to spot, she was the one whose every distinguishable feature was erased by a burka, save for her eyes. Somebody, somewhere is blowing on an ember.

There she was, fresh from the desert. Although she was standing as still as possible while her husband/father/patriarchal figure gesticulated some sort of laundry list of rules, the darting flashes from her eyes where as impatient as a thoroughbred waiting for that post-time bugle. My friend kept her distance until the man turned around and got back on the plane.

Soon it was down to business. My friend and the exchange student took their first steps toward each other, their hands extended, those first tentative smiles creeping to their lips. “Hello. Welcome to America.” Was the paraphrased line my friend wanted to tell her, but all that came out was, “Hello. Welcome toooaaaAAAHH!..” Immediately, the exchange student grasped my friend’s wrist and dragged her to the nearest GAP with the urgency of a parent finding a place to reprimand a child in a public place.

“Um. Okay. Soooo…?” The apparent confusion of my friend was not enough to deter her new guest as she tore through stacks of perfectly folded blue jeans, looking for that perfect pair. Once her quarry was found, the burka on a mission flew to the nearest dressing room. What emerged a few minutes later was no longer a shapeless apparition, but a woman. A woman of form, of shape, of flesh and bone. A woman who was beaming; tears of joy streaming down her cheek as she did a happy dance in front of a mirror, as if she hasn’t seen herself before. And more than likely, she probably hasn’t. Thank you, America, for making blue jeans synonymous with freedom in the world vernacular.

~***~

“So hey, I was wondering,” her voice squeaked while she talked. Not that she was a Betty-Boop type of character. Far from it. She towered, and if form followed shape, her alto fit. She just squeaked. It was one of those relationships where there was nothing there. I have no idea why it lasted as long as it did. (Actually, that’s not true, of course I do. She was a screaming hottie.) “if you weren’t doing anything this weekend, maybe you could come to my parents’ vacation home and hang out.” The squeaking almost became excusable, almost tolerant at the thought of a weekend full of sumpn’ sumpn’ in every room of her parents’ vacation home. That is, until she threw a cold, wet wool blanket onto my raging, red hot kinkfest by continuing with, “My sister and her fiance will be there too.” I have no idea why it lasted as long as it did. Okay, so maybe my convictions weren’t as strong back then and yeah, I did most of my thinking with another head. But I swear, this girl goes on and on and on about nothing. Every night. I don’t want another night of talking about the same old peccadilloes, let alone a whole weekend loaded with it. Sweet Jesus on a cracker I need to end it now, and do something a little more constructive (or destructive) with my life. End it now.

So I’m at the vacation home, and I’m thinking to myself that I just saw a sign post that read, “Welcome to Nowhere. If you lived here, you’d be home by now.” Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against a weekend getaway every so often, but having it in a familiar area of this galaxy would have been a whole lot better. Sure, she always seemed to me to come from Cape Cod or Hamptons stock, but the area that I’m driving in, I swear I just saw a mongoloid child in overalls tuning up his banjo.

Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be. The house was an old Victorian, beset on all sides by oceans of tall grass. Edward Hopper would have fallen in love with its perfection in solitude. Now, all of this has nothing to do with the subject at hand. I went all the way around Robin Hood’s outhouse because I’m admittedly verbose, secondly I wanted to set up a better intro to my girlfriend’s sister’s fiance. Honestly, there’s not much to this story other than the fiance is from Germany, and he looked just as bored as I did sitting around a picnic table drinking a beer while our significant others gabbled and yammered away about something. He was quiet, reserved, scraggly; his smile was kept warm under a thick blanket of a weeks growth.
After a time, there came a voice from the other room. I didn’t know someone else was there with us. Apparently, it was the fiance’s brother. The brother couldn’t make himself understood through a couple of walls, so he stood in the doorway to have a few words.
He ist es fast zehn. Treten Sie ins Wohnzimmer ein, um das zu beobachten, oder nicht?” His brother was even scruffier than he was. As a matter of fact, he looked down right slackerish.
Ist das wahr?” his brother replied.
Ja, Sie haben die ganze Woche gewartet, um das zu beobachten, so beeilen Sie sich.”
“Ah!” he continued in English to us with great delight, “Blues Brothers!” A child like smile broke free as he said the only thing that we all could understand (on more than one level, I might add).
Of course! The Blues Brothers were on that night. How could I forget the impact they and this movie had? The movie had already been out close to fifteen years by this point, and to this day it is still fresh as a daisy, still wonderful, still a blast to watch. I traveled to England the previous year, and it gave me some sort of small comfort to see Jake and Elwood posters, albums and fashion influence peppered throughout the Empire. Fifteen years on. Thank you, America, for producing the talents of Dan Ackroyd, Jim Belushi, the Blues Brothers band and Rhythm and blues revue, and of course, John Landis; the Ambassadors of Everything Cool.

~***~

Loitering was my pastime of choice before I became a father. My haunts of choice usually involved establishments that sold movies, music or books, which meant that more than likely, I wound up at Barnes & Noble. I loved hanging out in their music section. Sure, their prices were outrageous, but they made up for it by offering titles that I thought never existed, titles that I thought were out of print and of course, import titles.
Although I tried differently, I found it best to go in without a specific item in mind. If I entered this domain with a certain title, I would be sorely disappointed when I couldn’t find it, and then I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. On the other hand, if I went in totally clueless with what I was looking for, then I loitered like a kid in a candy shop. Albeit, an older kid.
So there I was, poking around in the Blues section, not looking for anything in particular, when I catch the conversation over my shoulder:
“Are you all set sir? I can take you over here.” I’m only half paying attention to this transaction. I’m not caring, yet it’s grabbing my attention more than the Blues section. The person that stepped up to the register was a rather stocky and silent Black guy with a rather tall stack of Cd’s. “Did you find everything you were looking for?” continued the register jockey. The lack of response led me to conclude that he only nodded in the affirmative. Several computer bleeps later, and she continued. ” That will be $120.36.” The man reaches into his backpack for his wallet. “Wow,” said the jockey, “you must really like Gospel music.” His response was exactly what I wanted to hear. His response influenced this blog entry. “Yes,” he said almost in a whisper, “we can’t get this music back home.”
“Oh really? Where are you from?”
“Lancashire, England.” He produced his passport to help pay with travelers’ cheque.
“Oh yes,” she said,”I see.”
“…we can’t get music like this back home“. I never got over that. Surely they have music shoppes in Merry Old England, and I’m sure if you were on the hunt for something in particular, you can find it. But imported American music? Does the extent of the genre cut off at Country Music (I wonder if Line Dancing is still popular over there)? I imagined underground enclaves of Christians in England singing Hallelujah the way it’s supposed to be sang like Eddie Izzard once pointed out. I imagined secret meetings of men and women getting together after their incognito revivals and wondering what they’ll be singing next week. Underground joy. The mind reels. Thank you America for being an influence in the best possible manner. Thank you for encouraging and manufacturing joy. Whenever possible.

Surely, it comes as no surprise as far as American music goes. The French may detest the sight of us whenever we order in their restaurants, but they’ll bend over backwards for a copy of the latest Jay-Z album. The French love American Hip-Hop as much as Germans love David Hasselhoff. Not surprising considering they’ve had a taste for American music since the Thirties and earlier, where they couldn’t get enough Jazz. Also,If you’re a band that’s set to be put out to pasture here in the states, there’s always Japan. They’ll always love you (btw Japan, you can return Tom Waits whenever you’re ready. That didn’t come out right. I didn’t mean that Tom Waits is done. Far from it. I just want this album reissued or something. Please?).

Japan and we have had a congenial trading of influences over the years as far as film goes. We make the Western, they reply with The Seven Samurai. We have Walt Disney, they respond with Osamu Tezuka. We wait with baited breath as children for the latest Star Blazers episode to come out…

They gather at friends’ houses to watch bootlegged episodes of South Park.

Journal Entry for July 1st

If I write nothing more than the date today, it would be a novel in comparison to what I have been writing for the past year. Maybe it has to do with the birth of my beautiful baby daughter. Maybe it has to do with a change in location, vocation and phone number. Maybe it’s because after a 3 year draught, I finally got cable back and I’ve been ravenously consuming network television shows at the rate of a 12 stepper set loose at the Jim Beam distillery, not to mention the inordinate amount of time that I’m wasting on Facebook on a daily basis. Maybe I’m avoiding that sense, that tiny twinge of personal failure because I haven’t written anything in so long that I just give up. Maybe it’s a combination of all those things deterring me from having a thought of any significance. In any case, there is no excuse. There is no excuse for not keeping my brain in shape.

Perhaps there was something to promising all the people I knew on my old blog that I’d keep writing. A reasonable promise for most people, but for someone who is more communicative with his hands (Italian heritage, can’t avoid it), and who’s usually mum on pretty much everything, it’s a herculean task. I’ve always had a habit of going over my head and biting more than I can chew; kind of like Icarus…

“Hey Dad! Look at me, I can fly all the way over weeeeeeeeeee……*thud*

At present, I am at work or what’s passing for work these days. Which is to say, I’m actually writing this in a journal to be transferred later to a digital format. The job I’m currently at frowns on employees using their equipment for other than its intended use. You can’t even check your personal email. The jobs that followed since felt the same way. Actually, now that I think about it, I shouldn’t criticize my job too much…despite the application of direct digital application, I can still feel like I’m getting away with blogging at work. A few years ago, I used to do my best blogging in the daytime while my mind was still fresh and active. Unfortunately, work often interfered with that back then too. Nowadays, any writing that I do is delegated to weekends, after dinner and kids have been put to bed. Which means I type two sentences, check my email, get distracted by Facebook and porn then go to bed.

I used to blog at work, now I don’t. I would have been okay with this, except that I’m developing a habit of falling asleep during the day at my job. This job is dreadfully BORING! And what’s worse, there is nothing to aspire to, or work towards. No raises or promotions. No corner office to covet or company perks to indulge in. My job requirements are to basically fill a seat for eight hours and not much else.

Boring….

Boring…..

Boring……

….nap time…

wash, rinse…repeat.

Monotonous and redundant tasks with little no human interaction or stimulation makes Jack a drunk boy. The work has gone past the point of simplicity to where I need to find other mundane tasks to keep my hands busy and to prevent me from crawling under the desk and take a nap until lunch.

I render discarded paper into smaller pieces of scratch paper. It works, for the most part. After a while, I run out of paper and my fingers start hurting. But at least I stay awake…for a while…until I go back to staring blankly at a computer screen. And then I wait for my pulse to eventually drop and my eyes to slam shut with the force of a garage door off its track. What makes the whole situation worse; what makes it entirely inevitable that I’m going to curl up into a ball on the floor like some Kindergartner with a belly full of graham crackers, is that around the time that I would be ingesting said snackies is the time where the entire system decides it wants to take a nap and starts acting sluggish; mimicking my own attention span and hypnotizing me into nap time.

I have been losing the battle of the sleepies for weeks, until it occurred to me that I can bring my trusty, analog journal to work. Sometimes when there is no more paper to render, I write down ideas or pieces of dialogue that inspire or things I’d like to explore on YouTube, and that seems to keep me awake for a while longer. Eureka! Now I can go back to blogging at work, only more surreptitiously! Now my mind is freed up and the urge to sleep is a memory. Almost.

Ahh…Now that I have that out of the way, I’d like to put a pledge into writing.

Since I’ve made it a lifelong habit of biting off more than I can chew, I want to go on a mental diet. No more promising to crank out something that just isn’t there. No more setting imaginary deadlines for myself. Make the sense of urgency still exist, but instead of placing it on the action of finishing something, fold it into the process itself, therefore making the process more enjoyable. It should have gone to the energy of actually writing something down. Stop making promises to present something within a short window when other priorities abound, like the well-being of children. DO write down anything that comes to mind, no matter how small. Ideas need to be fleshed out. Words need to come out and play.

Current thought:

  • They should really consider getting better chairs in here. Right after they fix the AC, get a better server and train the managers on how not to pass the buck and take some initiative and leadership skills, I’m sure they’ll have the funds allocated for them and they’ll make it happen.
  • Facebook needs to chill the hell out. Specifically, some of the users need to get a life. Namely, me. Facebook is not the center of the universe. It’s just a site and most of the people on it are dead boring. Time to move on.
  • It might be time to switch to a new blog service (editor’s note: this was going to appear on another blogging service, but I have kind of fallen out of love with it, and I found this site. So far, so good).
  • It might be time to find a new job.