The End Of Time

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic

-Van Morrison

I once wrote that as soon as you take your last breath, a million years will pass in the blink of an eye. The vacuum of time and space belies the tranquility those stars are painting for us inside this tent.

When you think about it, life manages itself just fine in spite of the effort so many of us put into wasting or stealing or borrowing its precious commodity. Its movement is effortless, like a parade inside the ether whose consequences are perpetuated inside one long string of granules whose beaches will eventually run to the other side of that thing called forever.

But where time is neutral, mortality is a locomotive on speed dial; a merciless fire that pulverizes everything in its wake. It does not discriminate the rich from the poor, the good from the awful, the old from the young. When it wants you, it will return you to the mystic from whence you came. Ready or not.

Each time I attempted to write about Kobe Bryant’s passing, I failed. Miserably. And I guess some of it had to do with the fact that I was never that much of a fan. My love for the Association was time stamped inside the halcyon days of Magic, Kareem, Dominique, Bird and Jordan. The last name on that list will always be first in my book. I always respected the generation that Kobe and Shaq carried into the new millennia, but I already had my mind made up when it came to the masters.

But the post was never about basketball in the first place. Oh sure, the tributes from players and arenas across the country were sporting life testimonials to the everlasting hold Bryant will always have on the game he knew and loved. For me it was different. As far as Kobe was concerned, I saw a man who always learned from his trials and tribulations- especially the self inflicted ones. This isn’t meant to sweep Colorado under the rug of idolatry that feeds much of society, because I will not. And I think it’s probably this complicated history that provided the most dubious hurdle for me when I got to writing about last Sunday.

So I remembered back to that line I once wrote about death and its timeless thrust. And this served to cancel out the narrative of a Renaissance man of the hardwood and a legendary college baseball coach. Because when you break this tragic event down to its saddest common denominator, you get nine souls whose forever got lost in the fog last Sunday morning. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. All of them, gone to the million years worth of mystic that began to unfurl much too soon.

Gigi was thirteen years worth of mighty, and she was going to play for the UConn Huskies someday. Her basketball sister, Alyssa Altobelli possessed that very same fire; she aspired to play ball at Oregon. Her mother Keri was the basketball super mama who fueled Alyssa’s dreams. Sarah and Payton Chester were the ultimate mother/daughter team; with mom coaching up her girl in all things basketball and life. Christina Mauser was the coach for the Mamba Academy team; the mother of three will not be there to celebrate her daughter’s fourth birthday this week. Because a Sikorsky S-76B piloted by Ara Zobayan crashed into a Calabasas hillside, stealing countless chapters from the stories that will forever be unwritten.

My heart breaks for the eighty years worth of living Gigi, Payton and Alyssa never get to have. And I mourn for Keri, Sarah and Christina, who never get to see their girls prom nights and wedding days. And John and Kobe . . . they never get to finish their most important jobs of all; as fathers to young girls who were their heroes.

Gone for a week now, a million years worth of it.

 

Leave the curse, bring the cannoli

Living with depression is like listening to Verdi on a transistor radio.

I’ve arrived at a place where I choose to see the blessings rather than consider myself cursed. Which gives me a fairly unique take on FOMO, the acronym for “Fear of missing out”. It’s a social media commodity and it’s a thing with kids . . of all ages. And since I really don’t get why that is, Imma guess that’s one of those blessings I mentioned a little bit earlier.

For as long as I can remember, my brain has been living independently of the societal tenets most adults tried to ingrain in my bony little ass. I pledged to their proverbs because I knew what they wanted to hear. I curled up to the narrow logistics with earnestness, even if it felt as if I was test tubing on the Upper Gauley. And when the answers to the questions didn’t make the least bit of sense to me, I simply smiled my best lie.

As a boy, I buried myself in books and curls; the former because they provided far away worlds through which I could venture. And the latter because they proffered riddles with such a furious magic. Whereas my boy pals were as nuanced as ball-peen hammers, girls spoke in balletic riddles whose mysteries soothed my deepest aches momentarily enough.

In my youth, I prospected all manner of clubs as if mining for gold. From Boy Scouts to little league, chess club to school newspaper to mock trials. I did so not because I wanted to fit in, but rather, because I wanted to see if maybe I was missing out on something. Because that’s what every adult insisted was happening when their son or daughter belonged to something I didn’t belong to. I was ‘missing out’ and it was a shame . . they insisted.

Sports was supposed to teach me all about teamwork, but of course, it didn’t work that way for me. It became a way in which I could hone my observational skills. I learned that our head coach was afforded the benefits of all the doubts he created, so long as he won. His drinking and carousing and leering at girls who could have been his daughters was time stamped for future processing: As in, when he started losing games, they became actionable. My teammates were easy to figure. The guys who constantly bragged about getting laid, weren’t. The guys who talked about gay people, were. And the guys who simply wanted to please the coaches were searching for something that didn’t exist.

So yeah, that whole teamwork thing was lost on me. I worked well within the parameters of it, and I still do. Even if I will always march to the beat of my own drum because I possess not a fig of Newton’s gravitas when it comes to the natural order of things.

I do not judge someone for wanting to be a part of something “bigger than themselves” even if I don’t understand it. I don’t outwardly defy convention even if inwardly I will not ride its coattails. I don’t swim in the ‘community’ pool because I’ve learned enough to know that being comfortable in my own skin is where it’s at. And where it needs to be at. For me.

There was a time when I would get pissed off at people who judged me for not seeing the value of some prescribed standard of living. Their rebukes served as a constant reminder to me. That from Boy Scouts to football to marriage to here, I have never been happy. Like, ever. So yanno, it’s rocket fuel personal when you add it up that way.

But I learned. To understand others, even if they do not always understand me. And it’s yet another blessing I’ve found on the way to my something else. Because I am proof positive that we may weave a tangled web, but it doesn’t mean we have to cry inside of it.

So yes, I’m missing out. On so very much, according to all those perfect lives being lived out on social media right this very minute. And I’m okay with that. Because I have what I have, and there is peace of mind attached to the fine print of that deed. And sometimes you have to count your blessings, because it’s a start. And Lord knows, life doesn’t give you very much in the way of breadcrumbs. So choose not to fear the things you do not have.

Love the things you do.

The Remedy to “It’s Not You” Syndrome

I don’t tend to suffer peeps who dish up apathy as if it’s homemade mac and cheese. Because life is unforgiving enough, and I happen to think that if you’ve arrived at an age where you can legally rent a car, you’re doing better than you probably imagined you might. So yanno, quit blaming everything and everyone else.

So it was that I was asked for my opinion on someone else’s particulars recently, and the preamble had me wishing I’d called in sick. She’s a pleasant enough young lady, pushing thirty with a vengeance. By this I mean, she’s angry at the fates for not having prescribed her domestic patent replete with matrimony and motherhood. An annual trip to the Caribbean would be peach, but she’d settle for a showplace to staycation in because she ain’t greedy.

I learned all of this over the course of a ten minute conversation, and while it’s ten minutes I ain’t ever getting back, at least I collected a post out of the deal. So there’s that.

When she arrived at the gritty of the nitty, his name was Pete. And he was many things, none of them rhyming with Prince Charming. I wasn’t able to get a word in edgewise as she recited the numerous offenses perpetrated by a guy whose crimes didn’t seem to warrant a trip to Nuremberg.

“So it was all him?”

“Huh?”

“This guy. The reason you guys didn’t work out was entirely his fault?”

“Well . . I mean . . I’m not saying I’m perfect . . ”

“Of course not, but that’s not what I’m asking. What I want to know is, did you take an inventory of your shit and his shit?”

“No,”

I proceeded to explain that it’s usually shared shit that sinks the ship. Unless he was beating on her (he wasn’t), in which case she would have had every right to take his ass out. And I’d have brought the shovels, lime and a bottle for the adjudication of the sonofabitch.

Short of that, I told her that the bogeyman application doesn’t work. Subconsciously, you’re burning your own bridge by manifesting this skewed portrait of a person who is no longer in your life. You’re actually questioning your own judgement without even knowing it, thereby stunting your emotional growth. And that kind of cycle only gets more vicious as time goes on.

“Own your shit. Be thankful for the experience and move on . . .”

It was all I could think to say, because it was evident she was going to choose option whatever else. Which is why I never understood why people ask for advice when what they’re really asking for is consensus.

I applied this same line of questioning to my friend Barry. His love thing is flickering into obsolescence on mortal coils whose romance done left the building long ago. And he suffers from the same affliction as most peeps who find themselves in the relationship checkout line. Shocked by the purchase of forever as if the individual they’re gonna Paul Simon out of their life came with a money back guarantee.

“You chose the drama you speak of, knowing full well that it wasn’t going to be nearly as adorable once you had to share basically every fucking thing,” I said.

“Yeah but I thought things would change,” Was his response.

That’s the Vegas lock response, every time.

“Did you ever think that maybe it’s your fault as much as hers?”

“Yeah . . .” He chuckled, with not even a hint of believability to it.

“Hey man, if you’re getting off the pot . . just do it. There’s nothing sadder than a grown ass man crying about how unhappy he is. Move to the Poconos and become an outdoors man and start a YouTube channel and stop whining about how some woman did something to you that you really did to yourself,”

I would’ve gone on, but I was out of liquor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Little Thing

“You have to be comfortable in your own skin,”

I offered this thought to my pal Jen a while back after she got done throwing the hammer down on love and its many splintered qualities. Jen ain’t a whiner, so her vendetta had guile and tact and verity to it. It wasn’t a rant nor an idle threat, to which the woman is averse. The diatribe was her “going to the mattresses” moment after having been done wrong. 

The emotional bloodletting was obscenely endearing in its brutal honesty. She doesn’t live her life as if she scored the script from a movie or TV show, which means to say that her what’s what is totally unfiltered, always. Because she happens to believe that parables are for dreamers but truth is for keeps. 

We went for Thai last night and ended up in the tall grasses as we sipped on our mighty fines and shared our respective anecdotes. She told me her ex had finally stopped reaching out to her with apologetic ransoms via online florists and Etsy.

“I got a shit ton of Christmas re-gifting done thanks to him,” She toasted.

And then I told her about my Halloween costume party last week in which I parceled hours of awkward domestic intrigue into a pretty fun evening. I did so with tight circled chats, drink nursing and my roundabout take on Korean BBQ that worked to sate the uncomfortable silences. The intrigue was all about young lovers figuring things out, hopefully.

“I’m erring on the side of relationship on this one . .” I said, raising my drink into a clink as Jen gawked her response in mock exasperation as if to say “You?”.

“Because they’re a unit right now, and in spite of all the vicious rumors . . I respect the sanctity of that . . defend it even . .”

“Even if you choose not to abide to such constraints . . ” She smiled.

“In lieu of is the best I can do,”

And then Jen hit me with the accident report on her most recent love thing, which she had to pull the plug on when he started wanting more. She was more than willing to take on his handsome and his dashing and even most of the debonair, but the wife? That was a sticking point to which she couldn’t travail.

“I found the perfect marriage . . his.” She bemoaned.

And then he went and changed the rules on a gal too smart for her own heels. We relate to those extramarital involvements where the fine print works in sync with discretion and language matters, soundly. We could teach a class on how it’s not what a person says, but it is what they do on Instagram.

“I’ve never met a good cheater, but I’ve met plenty of damn fine liars,” I countered.

This segue led me to a recent piece of advice I gave to my pal Barry. He’s a retired cop who is clueless on matters of consequence, namely coupling. Evidenced by his two ex wives and current flame whose DNA fits their specs to a high tea. Because nothing says insanity like diving back in to the shallow part of the matrimonial pool for a third time.

“They had enough in common to try things on for size. But the things they don’t have in common are great big meatballs. So I told him that being single ain’t a crime,”

“Tell that to my parents,” Jen laughed.

“Long story short, he told her she could leave anytime she felt like leaving. And now he’s looking at real estate up in Jim Thorpe,”

“You homewrecker,”

“Not the first time . . ” I said.

We toasted to the incomprehensible fates, whose scatter is a wickedly fine arrangement of daggers and wings that make us grateful for the tender mercies . . .  Like peace of mind, and comfortable shoes.

Especially those.

Pan Con Mantequilla

I’ve always got a million loose thoughts chasing me around, so I’ve decided to let a few of the more tranquil ones roam the grounds for a spell. This post is for entertainment purposes only, so if you decide to wager based on these results, then you have a serious fucking problem.

  • Juan Soto of the Nacionales has a dreamy swing that seems plucked out of a Kinsella story, and I am very much in love with it.
  • The Cosmo is a really tasty swim and I’m almost jealous it’s a Ladies Night particular. But that’s life.
  • I saw where the McRib is back for a limited time and for a hot second, I contemplated digging into one since it’s been a while. And then I considered what a boneless piggy might look like and decided to make my own version of the McRib. Baby backs, smothered in Sticky Fingers’ Memphis Original and onions and slow cooked till they fell off the bone. Some raw onions on top and tucked into a sesame seed roll with hand cut fries. Much better . . .20191022_175223.jpg
  • As far as pizza goes, vegetarian remains my leader in the clubhouse.
  • I’m not going to see Joker until it comes out in home release. Not because of the prospect of getting shot up in a theater but because the movie is dark as fuck. And the idea of sitting in a dark theater and immersing myself in that darkness ain’t happening. 
  • So of course, I was asked how I can love Rob Zombie flicks so much. Well, because they’re seriously fucked up cartoons. Zombie’s vision of madness and mayhem is art, to me. His characters are equal parts Warhol and Romero. And while the scenarios are rooted in true life, their embellishments feel anomalous enough in comparison.
  • Peloton comes in at a cool sixty bucks a month, whereas I utilize a wholesale method that provides remedy for my girlish figure at pennies on that overrated dollar.
  • Why is there such a stigma to renting? We live in a world where half the population gets divorced and the other half of that half feels like it. We have a reality show President running diplomacy into the ground so hard that war(s) seems likely. And society as we know it teeters over a chasm where a signature event might topple us all. The old days are over, kids.
  • Dark chocolate is always a brilliant method.
  • I think I could play wide receiver for the Dolphins . . like right now.
  • Anyone who uses ‘happenstance’ while describing a situation to me is someone I want to talk to.
  • I mean . . that word is already longer and more substantial than most anything on Twitter. Just saying.
  • Hmmm . . . so not only are we fast food nation, but now we have services that bring the fast food to us so’s we never have to remove our asses from their reclined position? And we’re willing to pay basically the cost of the food in delivery fees to get it done? Sounds like the natural progression to me.
  • Go Simone Biles!

 

 

From Hair To Eternity

I haven’t stepped foot in a hair salon since George W was arm wrestling Dick Cheney for the remote control in the Oval Office.

Cost Cutters doesn’t count. I visited the place once about ten years ago, despite the fact I was stone cold sober at the time. I was rewarded with a fast food haircut for my piss poor judgement and my daughter started cutting my hair after that. She’s one of those people who can basically do anything really well, even if she’s never done it before, and cutting hair was no different.

I used to go to Regis when I had a regular stylist. Her name was Judi and from the first time she cut my hair, I knew she was the one. The girl had my hair down to a science, and we would rendezvous every couple months in the early morning before the mall opened.

A hairstylist like Judi comes along once in a lifetime, and so when she moved away I knew my hair would never find another pair of hands that fit like hers. I got with her friend at the salon a few times after that, but it was painfully obvious that her cut just didn’t do it for me. And so I moved on.

It was sometime after this that my follicles came under attack by a rambunctious band of guerrillas that were being funded by stress and hula hooping hormones. Dames and hypothyroidism were filching my once thick mane, pushing my inner Pterelaus to what I assumed would be comb-over status before too long.

I became very introspective, thinking back to all the times when I had taken my hair for granted. Like the time I bleached it in high school and it came out Greg Brady orange. Or when I tried straightening it because, get this . . I didn’t like wavy hair. There was my Pat Riley period, where I took to slicking back my hair. And caps . . all those fucking ball caps I wore when I should have been showing off all the hair I had!

And just as I was becoming resigned to the idea of going bald, a funny thing happened. I didn’t go bald. This was “The Comeback” in which I staved off follicle elimination with biotin and less dramatic romantic entanglements; the latter proving itself every bit as useful a remedy as its B complex compadre.  The bathroom sink no longer felt like a Japanese horror flick. My hair was thinner, sure . . but it was still my hair.

And then one day I shaved my head, for the hell of it. All the angst I’d experienced in regards to going bald, and there I was, doing it to myself. The worst part was not knowing what my naked cranium was going to look like. The conversation I had with myself whilst shaving went something like this . . .

Oh what the FUCK did I do!

Hey! This ain’t so bad . . . it’s pretty okay!

This better be okay or Imma hole up in a cabin in the woods for a year! 

Oh shit, is this? 

Cool! 

I imagined it would be smooth sailing once the top was down, but I found myself shaving my head every couple days thanks to the dark roots that would show up loudly. And talk about irony, to be complaining about my hair . . . when I didn’t have any! I did the Kojak for a couple years before going back. I started cutting my own hair after this because now I had a proven contingency plan in place in the event I ever pull a Picasso whilst clipping.

Which brings me to the Halloween costume party I’ll be attending as Kwai Chang Caine from Kung Fu. So yeah . . it means Imma shave my head again. For the hell of it, again. In spite of the angst this will result in as I wonder if it will return to me, again.

Occam called. He wants his razor back.

(Special gracias to Q for the tune)

 

 

 

 

 

Matters Of Little Consequence

December 31, 2009: 

“So you’re really doing this . .” Jen said, shaking her head.

“Jen, what exactly do I have to lose in this transaction? She’s obviously in a professional relationship with her husband that has provided her with much swag but precious little sway. I’m a temporary excursion, her much deserved reward for sticking to the matrimonial script,”

“And when it doesn’t last?”

“What lasts, Jen? When we stop blinding ourselves to the realities, what lasts? Marriage behaves like a cranky Supreme Court verdict on love and romance, with plenty of loopholes in the decision . . ”

“Such as?”

“Such as ’till death do us part'”.

“How is that a loophole?”

“Because we predictably assume it to mean mortal death, without considering death on a more philosophical level. There’s the death of romance, of hope, of trust . . .”

“I never realized how intelligent your penis was!” Jen laughed as she sipped at her martini.

“Laugh all you want, but I cracked the code and I’m not looking back,”I said as we toasted to the differences of opinion that provided the solvency to our friendship.

“You go Indiana Jones,” She winked as Red approached.

“What are you two conspiring on?” Red asked as she gestured for me to hand over my martini glass for a sip.

“You are creepy, reading minds like that . .”I said as I watched her lips settle into negotiations with my adult swim.

“Excuse me while I double down,” Jen said, removing herself from the confab.

“I’m a witch. Didn’t you know?” Red winked as she handed me back my martini.

“That explains the artwork,” I laughed.

“Come here, I wanna show you something,”

She led me to a hallway replete with photographs and artwork and pointed to a signed copy of David Bowie’s Young Americans album and then proceeded to tell me how it was gifted to her by a biker she dated when she was going to school in Philadelphia. I was so transfixed by her story that I forgot why I’d come to the party in the first place, and then she reminded me by leaning in for a kiss.

“Ah . . holy shit?” I said when we came up for air.

“Don’t you dare tell me you’re surprised,” She said.

“No, I just thought I’d ask you out for that drink . . after which we’d get to this,”

She leaned in for another kiss before taking another sip of my martini and then returning to the party.

“Call me,”

That call turned into drinks and those drinks turned into a five year affair that navigated some stormy times in the early going. But we figured out the math and became the kind of bad romance that didn’t ask questions. And it worked until it didn’t, and that became that.

For years, I tried pushing the Dame out of my thoughts for fear I might come to the conclusion that we had vandalized some kind of epic forever after love story. But there really was no alternate ending to our story. We were trespassers, true believers of a mighty thing whose promises were cosmically challenged from our first hello; like a tarnished pair of tapers whose wick spoke wonderfully foreign languages to our tortured souls inside the all too brief embrace of forever.

The combustible effort to the final chapter of a love story we penned in short used to defeat me. It used to make me think I was an utter failure at unlocking the secrets to the heart. But time shows you differently when your shoes are earnest and your steps abide, and so I look back from here and consider myself the better for the women I’ve loved. Well, excepting for a short lived re-union with Maria and a bizarre tryst with a girl named Rachel that led to a Cuban Missile Crisis standoff where she actually held my Drinks Well With Others blog hostage for a short time.

The truth of the matter is that the women of my life have always been the greatest part of me. They were always the better half of a clueless romeo who never had a rap, and whose only real plan of action when it came to curls and curves was to provoke a laughter that might settle my wayward soul for a spell.

Those days of satire and gin martinis with the Dame feel as if they happened inside another lifetime, as if it was all a fever dream.

In the dream we’re having dinner in the Italian restaurant we found very much by accident. It’s where we had our very best date ever, which ended with the owner of the place gifting us a wine jug the Dame had been fawning over. And it’s also where we had our very worst date ever; the one that let me know it was all coming to an end.

This is our tie breaking feast and we’re having a time of it, with big fat glasses of red wine and Sinatra tap dancing along the walls and a summer breeze that is tickling our deepest wishes into a sublime flavor. And the dying sun is clashing with an opinionated moon and they’re birthing the most wonderfully handsome children. The dusk feels as if is breathing eyelashes onto a cantilever and the words we share feel as if they’ve never been uttered by another living soul. There is no beginning and there is no end to this magical place, but only the here and now. 

“I love you,” She says sweetly between sips of her wine.  

And then she lifts herself up from the table and retrieves a snub nosed Ruger from her purse and gives me the Solozzo special with two shots to the head before collecting her glass of wine and lighting up a smoke on her way out the door.

All things considered, the dream could’ve been worse.