Heap

The memory of that tricycle, abandoned on a grassy hill. For days on end, it lay in a red blanketed tumble. A perfect heap, its wheels fluttering in a lonesome song whose lyrics dreamed of painting the ground in a million years worth of someone’s childhood. Pristine in its sculpted image, nestled in between the living and the dead.

And then one day I passed that grassy hill and found the tricycle bent and broken. Its entrails spewed across the earth, its melody stolen. And I remember thinking it a tragedy of the highest order, and blaming the whole world and Jesus Christ.

I might have approached it, before it became too late. I could have turned it on its wheels and taken it home to my little sister. But then the lesson, and that image I carry to this very day would not have come along with me. Because when I remember back to that broken tricycle, I remember everything else.

They said it was a bad thing. To remember. To tuck myself into those horrible bed time stories. But I do not believe they were right. It is a gift wrapped inside a curse; A talisman whose resonance speaks to me from shallow graves and long lost stars. It helps me to understand the horrors and the beauty of this world are interwoven scriptures. I will neither concede nor abide to its testimony, but I must respect it.

The memories become a hum in the fading moonlight, a flicker in the stained glass sun. Reminding me of the yesterdays that sleep as if sunken vessels in the deep blue sea. Provoking me to close my eyes and heed the torturous lessons risen from the proverbs of Francisco Goya while Canaan sends me postcards, wishing I was there. I embrace the darkness and the light because to run from either one is to succumb to the villainy of both.

That tricycle was an angel, fallen into a new born snow. The memories are a bleeding horizon of lost and found places, whispering in the breeze from all the way back to that twisted wreck up on the grassy hill.

Promising forever, until the wolves came home.

Running Away From Home

I went for a run yesterday afternoon. It was my first time out since my toe was t-boned by a runaway shelf the other day. I’m thankful that my metatarsals suffered only topical damage, in the form of an indigo colored toenail.

Nothing is less romantic sounding than a broken toe. Think about it, if you break your foot, you’re probably a stuntman; while breaking your ankle elicits pained expressions on a three fingers of bourbon level. Broken ribs provoke theological puns about Eve getting greedy, which is snarky without being demeaning. A broken arm somehow makes us seem athletic. A broken knee cap will have your friends thinking there was some nostra to your cosa.

A broken toe is a punchline. Without the punch. Seriously, if you tell someone you broke your clavicle, they offer to make you dinner for a month. Tell them you broke your toe? You’ve gifted them a running joke that will follow you to your grave.

This was one of the many things I thought about during a particularly brisk run whose Murgatroyd was heavenly. A good run is like watering the soul with Tibetan tap water. Somewhere inside the clipped breathing and rhythmic pounding there exists this wonderfully peaceful dimension in which sight and sound possess a flavor.

And so it happened while I was taking a bite of this glorious run, that mortality became a passing thought. Ditching the tunes invites loose thoughts. As a fifty two year old man who carries an aspirin and his drivers license on these jaunts, thoughts of death are not the preferred in flight movie. Death’s name in this instance, was Jimbo.

I know right?

Jimbo was friends with my pal Big Papi. They began falling out of each other’s loops over the last year and change. This change in temperature came about as Jim got dumber about his health and Big Papi, whose real name is Duane, got sick and tired of lecturing him on it. The last straw came when Jim celebrated a successful heart procedure by going to an all you can eat buffet.

The men both suffered from myriad health problems. But whereas Duane’s are the result of a stroke he suffered as a young man that paralyzed the left side of his body, Jim’s problems were self inflicted.

Truth is, I never liked Jim. He was a caveman whose personality was vanilla ice cream. Jim wore NBA jerseys in public, which I happen to think should be illegal for fat white guys. He drank soda because he didn’t like the taste of alcohol, which was not a sin in and of itself. But judging us for doing so? Was. And the whole Jimbo thing . . I mean, unless you own a bait shop, gun shop or porn shop, there is no fucking way you should allow the bo to caboose your proper name.

Clearly, I’m shitty when it comes to eulogies. Or maybe I’m just no good at dressing things up. But I don’t like that Big Papi had to pretend away the pain since there was nowhere for him to put it now. He’s fifty six years old and he’s going to be borrowing time sooner than later as a result of all the curve balls his body keeps throwing at him.

I attempt to change the subject in my head by assembling a poem on the fly. The cold air is a weep of bricks and the sky feels like a Caravaggio and my run deteriorates from bounding to sodden. The thoughts sometimes, they play for keeps. And death, its real name is time. I’d rather think of nothing at all, but its too late. Barbarians at the gate, the nasty little fuckers. So I push harder now, if only to hurt somewhere else, and it makes me feel as if I have something to lose. I find my rhythm inside the purpose of those twenty minutes.

I’m running away from home.

 

Sunday Morning Post

My pal Jen called me yesterday, out of the deep blue sky of forever since we last spoke. It’s been like, almost an entire calendar year and none of it mattered once we got down to giving each other shit. We somehow became solid friends in spite of ourselves.

Last fall, me and Jen engaged in some horizontal shenanigans. I blamed it on my inability to untangle myself from a married woman who chose her sides based on which social media platform she was using. Jen blamed it on the wine. We both agreed that the holidays would play our foil.

So when the gal I once played human Rubik’s Cube with dialed me up almost an entire calendar year later (Read: More than nine months hence), my mind wandered to a place no dude wants to be entertaining on a lazy Saturday. Until she hit me with the what’s what of her matter of fact.

“I’m engaged!” She coughed.

“What in the blessed fuck girl?! You? Miss . . . I’m never getting married again?”

“I changed my mind, okay? Jesus!” She laughed.

“It’s a damn shame because you were worth WAY more on the market,” I laugh. “But seriously, congratulations,”

“Yeah well . . the market is depressed,” Jen laughs back.

“So I’ve heard,”

“And get this, he totally understands dipping pizza in Nutella,”

“Oh shit, he’s retarded?”

“Fun,”

“As long as you’re both retarded, you will live happily ever after . .”

“Hey, what’s doing today? Wanna grab some coffee and I can show you the rock?”

“Hey . . yeah! Maybe we could go for manicures and chat up The Bachelor too!”

“Fuck you, seriously though. Coffee?”

“Let’s change it up a little bit. I wanna see Aquaman, so bring coffee and I’ll get the tickets,”

“Ooooooh! Jason Momoa, mama likey! Okay . . you got a deal. But they’re not gonna let us bring coffee in . .”

“First of all, you and I both know that some pimply faced ticket attendant is no match for your sweet talking ways . . and besides, not a concern if we get there early and catch up. That way we’re not being those people who chatter over the movie, yanno?”

“Those people suck,”

“Exactly . . .”

So we met up with plenty of time to spare. Jen gifted me a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup hot chocolate, which is way more sinfully stupid than it sounds. After she showed me the ‘rock’, we got down to the business of giving each other shit.

I asked her if Ryan has any kids, and she said he has one son from his previous marriage. “But he’s fifteen, which is kind of a big deal for me since every time I hear some bratty six year old throwing a tantrum in public, I think there’s no way . . .” Jen said.

“That’s very mature. I usually just think that dad’s penis was evil and mom’s vagina was broken,”

“I am at peace with being a selfish bitch,”

“You know what I’m at peace with? The idea of a meteor crashing down to earth while the world is sleeping,”

“Well more than half the world would not be sleeping, and it would be kind of horrible . .” Jen said.

“Yes, and I am at peace with the idea that I would be on the sleeping side of the planet when it happened,” I said.

“I would want to be awake, and at a Dave Matthews concert or something,” Jen said.

“Oh my fucking God,”

“Why do you hate Dave Matthews?”

“I don’t. Because to hate infers an emotional investment, and I don’t invest myself in pretentious monkeys who believe their lyrics should be amended into the ten commandments,”

“Nope, no hate at all . .”

Jen’s phone chimes and it’s Ryan. She puts it on speaker so that introductions can be made in the new old fashioned way. The dude sounds just like a movie star, and Jen’s eyes light up when he speaks.

“My man, first of all . . . condolences. I would like to tell you things will get better but I’m a horrible liar . . .” I say.

The two of them crack up in unison, like little kids who share a secret no one else in the world is privy to. Jen’s face scrunches up and when it irons itself out I can see the little girl she used to be. The one who believed in fairy tales and princes and happy endings. And inside this wonderful moment, flowers are blooming in the middle of winter and the world is making sense. I am smitten with these two, and it turns me into a ball of mush and it steals my snarky retorts.

I hate when that happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Morning Post (A Prompt Challenge)

Happy Sunday kids. I’ve got a prompt post that was issued by yours truly. I shared it with the two other members of the Holy Trinity, The Notorious Q at A Dalectable Life and KC Sunshine at Table For One, so’s they could join in the fun if they feel like it. It’s simple as Simon, really. Take yourself back to the year 1985 (Yes, it’s a hat tip to Zemeckis) and explain to someone from that time what 2018 looks like. My post went in an entirely different direction than I was expecting it to go, so there’s not as much in the way of details as I imagined there might be. This post became about perspective, and how valuable a thing it truly is. 

I’m speaking on the particulars with my old friend Danny, who was taken from the world in the summer of 1985. It was much too soon for him. It was much too soon for all of us. Life always seems to steal the people you can least afford to live without, and now I find myself picking up the pieces of years that never happened and piecing them back together again as if a mosaic. Thirty three years that feel like a smoky mist.

“It’s been so long . . ” I say.

“Well . . I don’t understand time the same way you do. This is eternity, the shit lasts forever . . like velcro,”

“Yeah, how does that work anyways?”

“Velcro?” Danny asks with a sly grin.

“No . . . asshole,”

Danny laughs before tapping open a box of Reds. He wrist shots his Zippo torch and takes an elaborate tug as he ponders my question.

“What? You smoke now?”

“It can’t kill me,” Danny laughs.

“Hey, remember the time . . .”

Yeah I do,” Danny says, cutting me off at the pass. “I was never so sick in my life!”

“You never forgave Joanne for that shit,”

“She gave this impressionable young pup the run of her Daddy’s wet bar and her pack of smokes. That girl was bad news, but you wouldn’t listen,”

“Hey man, that was your fucking lesson to learn. The dude who never smokes or drinks, decides Hey why not do both in the same night because I don’t know any of the girls here and maybe vomiting all over myself will make me look more appealing,

“Screw . . . you, man!” Danny laughs so hard that he spits.

“I can’t believe Patti asked about you after that,” I say.

“Marc . . it’s like this. The bad boys appealed to her, but she was in need of a good man,”

“Well played!” I say, clapping my hands exaggeratedly as Danny takes his bows.

“So . . did Patti take it hard? Me dying and all?”

“We all did,”

“I’m talking about Patti here,”

“She never married. She became a nun,”

“You serious?”

“Of course I’m not fucking serious!” I laugh.

“No respect for the dead, tell you what,” Danny smiles.

“Things went from horrible to worse after you died. There was a grand jury investigation. Me and Matt went off the deep end there for a while and Shereen moved to Florida. I followed her there for a quick minute,”

“It’s all frying pans and fires with you!” Danny says.

“Name of my game, and I’m the one to blame,”

“Okay, since I’ve been lousy with the details since I left, seeing as how they don’t matter any longer . . what’s say you give me some dope on the state of the world. Was Orwell right?”

“Yes and no. Technology is a high wire act in 2018. We use it for everything while hoping we never reach the point where it starts using us. That old Tandy computer you had . . it done made babies. There’s a thing called the internet, and now you can chat with people from around the world. And it’s all about mobility now . . we carry our computers with us and they fit in a small bag. Not that we need ’em all the time, since our phones do everything,”

“You carry your phones?”

“Landlines are antiques. Water fountains too since everyone uses bottled water now. Newspapers and magazines and pizza delivery . . you get it on your mobile devices. We even have Dick Tracy watches!”

“Who’s the President?”

“Trump,”

“Huh,”

“Yanno . . that doesn’t sound nearly as ridiculous to you as it truly is. Okay . . lemme try harder. America’s Dad, Bill Cosby is a convicted rapist serving time. Joe Paterno, turns out . . wasn’t a Saint. He was taken down in a child rape cover-up at the school.  Communism died, and then it came back as something even scarier. Terrorist attacks are happening all over the world, all the time. Kids don’t fight after school anymore, they just brings guns in and kill other kids,”

“Alright . . shit. Sorry I asked,”

“The world’s in a very shitty place, Danny boy,”

“Nah. The world’s just fine, Marc. It’s just some of the people in it who rearrange the furniture and mess up the entire living space,”

“Fucking stardust has game! You were never this philosophical on the A side of things,”

“That’s what eternity will do to a guy,”

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good. We had a black President. The internet has made the world smaller, and for the most part, warmer. And while Prince, Bowie and Freddie Mercury went much too soon, their music is still kicking,”

“See? Good shit happens if you take the time to look for it,”

“You’ve got perspective,”

“Well, I remember all the good times. There’s this one night, we were heading home. We had summer jobs waiting on us in the morning and Marianne decides that going into town is the greatest idea ever. It was closing in on midnight and it was breaking the rules, and nothing made more sense in that moment”

“Shit, I forgot all about that . .”

“I think about it all the time. Going over the Queensboro and the city was just getting down to business, and we were listening to Queen and screaming our lungs out and chasing forever and it didn’t matter that we were never gonna catch it. All that mattered was the try,”

I don’t have the heart to tell him that the city he remembers ain’t there anymore. And it doesn’t matter, now. All that matters is the moment he’s holding onto, and all I know is this.

I want in.

 

 

 

 

Turntable

It was June of ’86 when I hopped a plane for Port Richey, Florida. My former girlfriend had moved out of New York months earlier and I was in chase despite the fact we weren’t in love with each other. Ours was the kind of relationship that wasn’t interested with being in love. Cliches kicked the shit out of you and made you old before you really got going.

For most of the year and change we were together while she was still living in New York, forever had seemed a million miles long. And then it got lost one night when we were involved in a car accident that took my best friend’s life. Everything, every single thing, changed. We stayed together out of a hopeless desperation to save ourselves from drowning. Until the winter took us to different places, and New York, it became a place full of ghosts.

We broke up but stayed in touch. She almost got pregnant to a college football player while I swore I’d found my future wife in a Hardee’s Drive-Thru, and then we kept turning into someone elses until she called to tell me to get there, just for the hell of it.

It seemed like a great idea until I was touching down in Florida and wondering why in the fuck it was that life didn’t come with annotations. And then we were there, trying to catch up on everything we had lost and not having a chance in hell of getting back to what we had been before our lives spilled out in different directions.

The time I spent with her was filled with the kind of education only experience can provide. Among the things I learned was that the girl had more of my stuff than I remembered giving her. There was a half closet full of my clothes, including winter jackets she had no use for in her new locale but took with her just so she could wear them whenever she thought of me. She had a bunch of my vinyl, to which I cursed myself for giving up so easily. Other items of note included a sweet purple and gold Magic Johnson jersey, a Brooklyn Union Gas pylon I had gifted myself after a night of partying and a football helmet.

The more salient lesson happened from the moment I touched down and she ran into my arms. It was blatantly obvious that we tended to disagree. About everything. She thought the world was flat and I knew it was round. I was a Reagan kid and she loved Carter and Mondale. I read books like No More Vietnams and she read books like Phaedo. She was Mets, Chinese take-out, screwdrivers and U2 while I was Yankees, pizza, Corona and Bon Jovi.

It had never occurred to me that we had absolutely nothing in common back when we had been inseparable. But with the passing of time and place, now it was impossible to ignore. Once upon a time, I just assumed we were passionate and fiery. That’s some interesting shit. But the idea that we were just a couple of stupid kids who had nothing in common? Not so interesting.

So we debated who the best band in the world was and we never got back to even and then we argued on everything else. Until she was telling me to get lost and then I was hopping a plane out of there. Without my Magic Johnson jersey, or my two tone leather jacket . . . or my vinyl.

Twenty years later, we reconnected thanks to an old friend. There was zero expectation of anything romantic happening, but I had to admit it was nice to hear her voice again. She told me she was back in New York and she asked me if there was any chance we might be able to catch up over drinks. We were both divorced with kids and life was flying by and drinks with an old friend felt like a chance. To just forget all the things that time had stolen.

I had to get there. If only to ask how my LP’s were doing . . .

 

 

 

 

Sunday Morning Post

I was recently reminded of something my mother used to say when I was a little boy. I was doing little boy things,  like being needy and whiny with a checklist full of all the many things I had to have, like . . immediately if not sooner.

You can’t want what you don’t have, so stop asking for it already. 

I found this to be a particularly churlish retort to my obviously childish wants. Not to mention the fact that mom was being uber philosophical without even knowing it. A simple because would’ve done, but to go all Kierkegaard on my ass was plainly unfair and wholly undemocratic.

My mother’s intent was to branch out the lesson into places my formative brain couldn’t yet reach, so that I might shut the fuck up for five seconds. And it worked. The preach was graduate level, but not in a mocking sense. More to the point, it trusted my ability to play catch up with the facts. And in the doing, it took my mind off the static qualities of whining all my many needs.

It wasn’t often that I acted my age. I was sixteen when I was six, sneaking smokes and drinking mysterious potions my friends hustled out of their parents linen closets and kissing girls. I hung out with kids who were twice my age, because they were depressing as fuck and I related to that.

Granted, my understanding of philosophy was limited to wondering why it was that Leigh Ann Dence would talk about marrying me inside one moment and then flirt with my friend Steve inside the next. But a relative understanding was plenty good enough.

This particular lesson on wanting, it stuck. Because it learnt me a solid take on humanism and time management. Dwelling on the former demanded patience and humility and ample amounts of soul searching. It taught me that to want what I do not have was an extravagance to which the cosmos frowned upon.

Never mind that I tossed all of that hard earned perspective away as I got older. I became greedy in my wanting of things that were both illusory and damning in the sense of true appreciation. A cancer diagnosis in 2000 and divorce a few years later kicked my ass back to reality.

I teased this lesson I’d carried with me, and I teased it hard inside the aughts of 2000, once I had a few clean bills of health under my belt and had regained my sea legs on the dating scene. Each and every time I was met with a reminder, to go back to the beginning. To be okay with wanting what I had. Because for me, this lesson was a beacon.

It allows me to navigate my definition of happiness without falling into a place from which there ain’t no returning. This way ain’t for everyone, and thank God for that. Because this way comes at a cost. You’ll lose people. Because the world works on credit and all that great shit the stoics once penned is sold on Amazon now.

But I understand that judgement is nothing more than ignorance dressed in black. And on those days when I feel as if the people I trusted most done placed me inside the windows on Herald Square for everyone to gawk at, I let myself understand that anger for what it truly is. Knowledge.

Once you’re unencumbered from ideas that demand you to want- ideas like anger and hate, confusion and vengeance- you can actually fuse that energy into something more ambitious than a linear progression. As a writer, this means channeling the pulpy wrecks into vessels that float.

So goes the lesson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Value of Original Thought

Queen

From the time I was in grade school, I had come to understand the world around me in monochromatic equations. I borrowed on this hopelessness as a different way of learning the world; and in so doing, my jaded sensibilities would introduce me to books and girls and music.

Books were an escape to places the real world could not touch. I lost myself in the swashbuckling exploits of Monsieur d’Artagnan, who graduated from rags to the royal guard in The Three Musketeers. I learned the art of feminine wiles when fourth grade Tammy seduced third grade me with her Helen Reddy bob. And music bled all my anger away, replacing it with a sublime equanimity.

I’m thankful for having grown up in a time when books were tactile fascinations, girls were precocious junior members of the Steinem brigade and music was more vast and mysterious than the deep blue of outer space.

Music was a magical enterprise back in the day. New albums would happen out of thin air, without the need for reveals or months long chatter. A hit song would just show up, drop heat on a DJ’s turntable and then jailbreak to the record stores.

It seemed as if every group possessed license to its own unique way of doing business. Lyrics were the birthright and melody the sweet way home. As fans, we were hit and miss when it came to the words; swinging from the arches and striking matches to the pounding of that bass. Because the scratchy grooves didn’t matter a lick, and the right or wrong of it mattered even less than that. Music wasn’t pristine and logical, because we weren’t asking for it to show up in its Sunday best.

And really, thank God for Queen. Because theirs was a sound so original that it stood out even then, inside a world full of musical giants. Theirs was a gift so transcendent that its cosmic bloom challenged our expectations from the very first time.

So it was by the early eighties that my education had coalesced into ever more simple fixations. I loved the palace intrigue of girls who smoked and cussed and wore puffer jackets. I was fascinated at the idea that I could see Ted Williams swing simply by having read about it in so many books and magazines. And I wondered what in the blessed fuck Freddie Mercury was talking about, and the mystery of it all was blissful.

Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t so much a biopic as it is a gift, to those of us who grew up on transistor radios and record stores and turntables. Which is why my attempt at doing a movie review was never going to work. Because you can’t grade soul. You either got it, or you don’t.

For what it’s worth, I loved the film in spite of itself. Because truth be told, it comes off as erratic at times and it messes with the facts more than a politician at last call. And I don’t care, because Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury the way Sacha Baron Cohen never could have; with a graceful humility and a genuine awkwardness that belies the ultimate showman’s larger than life presence. And the music is a symphonic palette of genesis and mortality; an emphatic blend of quiet moments and glorious culminations.

Mercury wrote music for the people who didn’t belong to anything, anywhere or anyone. The band turned the monochrome into technicolor. Together, they changed the way we think about music. They spooked the words out of extravagant catastrophes and turned them into operas and anthems, ballads and rock songs.

It didn’t matter what you listened to, because Queen’s appeal struck a chord with everyone. From metal to disco to classic rock and hip hop. They simply belonged.

To all of us.