man smote during playoff/carwash mishap

In 1990 the Pistons played the Bulls in my driveway most days of the week.  Weather permitting of course.  Countless battles were waged between those titans.  Every game was close.  Every game was decided by a last second shot.  Every position was played by a small, red-headed white boy.

These games might seem silly to an adult reading this today but to me they were pretty serious.  Putting on the perfect game day after day was no easy task.  Each was carefully constructed, with thought put into highlighting my favorite players.  Heroics had to be displayed by each, while players who had recently displeased me had horrible nights and were jeered by the fans.  I also did the announcing and filled the ears of millions of imaginary listeners with such memorable phrases as, “This might be… the most bravest performance… by any team… ever.”  I was a dramatic kid.

One spring day I went out to the driveway with my basketball and found my dad washing and waxing his truck.  This left me maybe six feet to work with between the hoop and the truck. The show must go on.  Unfortunately there was going to be a lot less three-pointers.

Things started steadily.  Both teams were going inside more than usual leading to Laimbeer and Cartwright having better games than normal.  Because dunking was out of the question things were kind of boring, and it wasn’t long before I started mixing in some jumpers to spice things up.  I had to get Jordan and Isiah involved somehow, they were my favorites after all.  It didn’t take long before a poor bounce sent the ball off the door of the truck.  I snatched it up as fast as I could and tried to ignore the murderous glare tossed my way by my dad.  Maybe he should have kept his truck off the Palace’s free-throw line.  The game continued, once again compromised of lay ups and hook shots.

It wasn’t long before the day cooled and I tired of this confined version of my usual game.  I was going to have to tie my storyline up.  The way things had come together I needed Dumars to hit a three while getting fouled and then make the free-throw.  A four point play for the win.  Suitably dramatic I think.  I ran to the far edge of the driveway, jumped into the air, and chucked up my desperation three.  The ball bricked badly off the back of the rim and pounded into the side of the truck, disturbingly close to where my dad was waxing.  I’d gone too far.

He grabbed the ball. I froze guiltily.  I tried to say something about being sorry and it being an accident.  The words came out in a whispered jumble… meaningless. He lifted the ball in one hand and then pounded it off the pavement as hard as he could. The ball shot into the air as if from a cannon. He turned towards me, preparing to unleash his fury.  Fate intervened.  Whether it was chance, a stray gust of wind, or the hand of our lord we’ll never know.  The ball came to a halt for a split second before gravity took over and dropped it onto the slant of the garage roof.  The garage roof bounced it up and out, back towards the driveway.  I saw it all in slow motion.  My eyes locked on the ball.  My fathers eyes locked on me, an arm extended, pointing.  His mouth was opening in preparation to chew my ass.  The ball dropped towards the truck.  My hands rose to my face as if to cover my eyes or mouth.  I cringed like a beaten dog.  The ball struck the windshield of the truck and then shot like a bullet straight at my fathers face.  The sound of rubber striking flesh filled the air.

I saw confusion on his face.  I saw rage.  I saw embarrassment.  And that’s all I saw because I ran for it.  I’d decided I wanted to be in the barn on the other side of the property.  He didn’t stop me.  We didn’t speak of it later.  No one on the planet witnessed it but him and I.  But I know it was a miracle.  And I like to think, that this one time, God reached out and said, “It was an accident.  Leave the boy alone.”  Sorry dad.

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Chivalrousish

I’m well aware that when people read my posts they think, “Now here’s an upwardly mobile alpha male who’s got it all figured out.”  And your absolutely right.  But alas it wasn’t always so.   There was a time when I was small and awkward.  Sometimes I even ran afoul of bullies.  Usually I would courageously avoid the bully, or, when confronted, manfully mutter something under my breath.  When they would ask me what I’d said I’d casually respond, “nothing”.  But I had!  Oh I had.  And it was nasty.  Just trust me on this.  I couldn’t even bring myself to repeat it here.

One bully I ran into was especially terrifying.  First of all he was five and a half feet tall in the fifth grade.  Secondly, he swore.  And not just like, “crap” or “damn”, he used real swears.  Like, the bad ones.  Finally, he was mean.  Like any predator he would pick out the weak and sickly from the herd.  Then he would eat them.  Metaphorically.  I mean if calling someone queer and punching them in the stomach was substituted for chewing and swallowing then in that sense he ate us all the time.  Sometimes twice a day.

He didn’t particularly like me either.  I could tell because he didn’t smile when he abused me.  For instance, he might grin and chuckle a little while he held some other kid in a chokehold but when he looked at me it was all dead eyes and heavy breathing.  I like to think he was jealous of me.  It’s possible that he wanted to be a tiny,  goofy kid who read fantasy novels and drew pictures of the weasels from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”  during class.  It is!

Things came to a head one day when he was bouncing me off a chain link fence while explaining to me that if I ever mouthed off to him again he would kill me.  So pretty much business as usual on the playground. The conflict came when a girl stepped in to defend my honor.  I’ll take a lot of punishment but when a little girl comes to your rescue its time to draw the line. 

She came storming across the parking lot and grabbed my tormentor by the shoulder.

“Leave him alone!”, she shouted.

I saw uncertainty cross his face for a moment, which was quickly replaced by anger.

“Don’t touch me bitch.”, he growled, releasing one hand from my collar long enough to brush her away.

It was like a nightmare.  The blood surged to my face so quickly I thought I would pass out.  Now, I had always considered myself one of the good guys and this got under my skin way more than him picking on me. The mixture of her compassion and his subsequent disrespect was too much to abide.  I reacted before I knew it.

He had continued to bounce me off the fence as all this was going on. This last time as I rebounded off the fence I smashed a closed fist into his face.  Ok, that’s giving myself too much credit. As I rebounded off the fence I balled up a tiny fist and managed to thump him on the side of the head with it.  It was about then that I realized I was going to die.  I did the only thing I could do. I grabbed on to him, tucked my head into his chest and held on for dear life. I could feel him pounding at my back as he tried to get me into a position where he could beat the life out of me. Meanwhile I flailed about with my one free arm, trying to make some type of contact with his head or face.  I was saved just in time. The lady watching over recess that day finally reached us and pulled us apart, all the while blowing her whistle like a maniac. With a death grip on our upper-arms she marched us toward the office.

That march was almost as scary as the fight itself. I didn’t often get in trouble. I wasn’t that guy. I was hurt and embarrassed.  A rowdy group of my classmates followed closely, shouting and laughing.  To make matters worse the big jerk broke free at one point and  managed to get in his only good punch of the fight. I was too dazed to care.  I could feel tears coming and that was the one thing I really didn’t want to happen.  Before I knew it we were seated in front of the principal.

Then something happened that changed everything for me.  Here I was, coming off this adrenaline rush, terrified of the consequences of my actions as well as the pay back that was surely coming, when I looked over and saw the other kid.  I mean really saw him.  Tears streamed down his face, his chest heaved as he sobbed.  Blood ran from one nostril and his face was covered in red marks.  It occurred to me that I hadn’t cried.  My whole world shifted a little.  Had I beaten him up?  Was that possible?  Suddenly things didn’t seem nearly so bad.  My paradigm continued to shift when the principal started shaking him by the front of his shirt, shouting at him, “how does it feel to get picked on by someone bigger than you?!”  I actually felt really bad.  He was just a kid. Part of me wanted to stand up for him.

In the end my parents were called and he was given a three-day suspension.  I guess it payed off being the smaller, more innocent looking of the two.  My only battle scar was a swollen eye.  In the eyes of my classmates I was kind of a hero.  At least for a couple of days.  That was a lot of fun except for one incident where a couple of guys wanted to lift me onto their shoulders and trot me around the playground.  That was kind of embarrassing. 

I saw myself differently after that.  I had fought the toughest kid in school.  The kid everyone was scared of.  And I had won.  Maybe.  Kind of.  I didn’t cry at least.  Either way I wasn’t scared any more.  For the first time I felt pretty tough.  I felt good.  I never forgot that.  And I never backed down from anyone again.  Just as importantly I saw my bully differently.  I noticed how he stuttered a little. How he blinked his eyes rapidly when he talked.  How his clothes were a little shabbier than most of ours.  I saw his weaknesses and suddenly I could forgive him.  I realized that he was just a scared kid too.


An onion.

It occurs to me it might put my little stories in perspective if I were to tell a bit more about who I am, and what makes me tick. This task is easier said than done. I’m a complicated guy believe it or not. I’ve been many things to many people. It all depends on the timing and circumstance. Even as I write this a handful of personas argue about what to write, what to leave out, and even whether or not to write anything at all. In this post I’ll try to bring these little fellas out into the public a bit. I hope that in doing so future posts come to life more vividly for whomever should stumble across them.

My first self, which perhaps makes it the most honest self, I’ll call Child. Child is my sweet, silly, innocent self. He loves food, pets, games, hugs, etc. Child loves having fun. When I say Child is my innocent self I mean it quite literally. He is in fact my innocence. And he’s still firmly a part of me. I still love to roll around on the floor with my dogs. I love Christmas and a beautifully sang carol will bring me to tears. The idea of a pizza party will always get me excited. Child allows me to see the beauty in the world. Child could see through the illusions but chooses not to.

The next character I’ll mention I’ll call Sport. My father was a boxer, a football player, and a state police officer. He is an intense man who seemingly subscribed to the Vince Lombardi school of parenting. He tried to breed excellence in me through a strong dose of discipline and old-school values. The results were mixed. It was a little like putting a bullet-proof vest on a bunny rabbit. But it did affect me. And it did stick a little. One lesson particularly sank in. Basically it was “if someone is picking on you, you should protect yourself.” My young brain translated it to, “if you don’t like what someone is doing attack them.” This lead to lot’s of wrestling around with other boys, as well as the occasional fist fight. I remember shouting as I was pulled off another kid, “it’s ok! It’s ok! My dad said I should protect myself!” Sport is a serious-minded individual who has no time for nonsense. He judges everyone he meets and finds them lacking, especially himself. In fact, Sport is pretty much disgusted with every other voice in my head. Sport is a lot like my dad.

Because I’m so creative I’ll call my next self Trouble. As in, “you looking for trouble?” And Trouble’s answer is always yes. I’d realized early on that some level of popularity was necessary to have any sort of peace at school. Unfortunately popularity is usually gained when other people admire something about you. Whether it’s your looks, or your athleticism, or your sense of humor doesn’t matter. As long as you have something that others don’t and wish they did. I was pretty normal. So I developed a system. I would get attention by doing things others just didn’t do, but secretly wanted to. I picked up many ideas from teenage movies of the eightys. Others I just made up on the spot. Things like climbing out the window of the classroom when the teacher was writing on the board, putting a toy laser gun with the trigger rubber banded down in the ceiling (it lasted all day, beeeeooooo…beeeeoooo…beeeeoooo), and chugging hot beers out of a friends trunk at lunch time were all Trouble’s invention. Trouble doesn’t mean any harm really (though he did get me expelled at one point). He wants to be liked. He wants a laugh. He hates authority and formality. And he’s up there running his mouth to this day.

My last character I’ll call Thinky. It could just as easily be The Thinker but that’s already a famous statue. Plus Child likes the name Thinky. This is my scholar, my philosopher, my inner professor I guess. He gathers information. Then he uses that information to make informed decisions about life. Unfortunately he gets so buried in the application of facts, common sense and logic that he renders himself useless in most situations. But he stays busy. Everyday he ponders and ponders. His only goal is finding out the answers to every question in the universe, so no big deal. Thinky doesn’t just learn math. Thinky says, “why am I learning this?”, upon receiving an answer he doesn’t accept it as fact but wonders about the validity of that answer. Then he wonders what prompted the answerer to respond in such a way. Then we thinks about why that person would know the things he or she knows. He asks, “What is their background that they’re such an expert?” Thinky’s basically useless. But he’s very busy. And he’s running in the background constantly.

Now it’s important to realize that all these voices are up there getting involved in every single thing I do. No one is driving this thing that is me. And none of them are very competent. It goes a long way in describing why I’m not a successful human being. I’ll give an example. Let’s apply these slices of myself to a simple task, like waking up in the morning.

8am: alarm goes off…

Child: That noise is sooo mean!

Trouble: AAaargh. Leave me alone! What the hell is going on? That noise sucks.

Sport: Get up pussy! You’ve already wasted half the day! How are you supposed to be competitive if you lay there like a pile of crap. If you do nothing, you are nothing. Make it happen!

Thinky: Why is it so hard to get up? I wonder if there’s a web-site or study that details methods for getting out of bed. I’m sure there is… let me see I slept a solid 6 hours. Technically I should be fine. I have read that some people require as little as four hours while others as much as ten. Suppose I was in the latter group and required a full ten hours to feel rested? That would greatly affect my life in the long run. Imagine all the hours wasted. It would certainly explain my troubles in school as a child. Imagine if all those problems could have been avoided by a few more hours of sleep…I wonder if there is a correlation between quality of life and sleep necessity?(on and on into infinity)

Meanwhile time is passing. Chances are I’ll fall back to sleep before I manage to get up. It’s exhausting. I do wish there was just one voice that was all, “Morning sunshine! What’s on the plate for today? Your great champ! Get out there and make things happen!” That’s just not me. I have a head full of idiots fighting with each other most of the time. Its true. They don’t get along. How the hell is that possible. They’re all up there, all me, and yet they are absolutely at odds with one another. I’m a conservative liberal traditional hippy who reads fantasy novels and follows football. I hate laziness as I sit around watching movies and eating pizza. I love myself and completely hate myself. I don’t know who I am. Sometimes people ask me a question and I think my head will explode from the eruption of personalities.

So that’s me basically. Or at least how I think. It’s all founded on a middle-class, midwestern, suburban base. Flavored with an irish heritage and a touch of Catholicism. Hopefully you’ll see these little guys pop up in my writing and understand more about where I’m coming from. If not then I just wasted your time. You’re welcome!


A light-hearted tequila tale

My first post kinda bummed me out. If it bummed out any one who should happen to stumble upon it I apologize. On the other hand its your own fault. These are pivotal moments in  my life I’m writing about after all. Sometimes a pivot is a bummer. Sometimes it’s joyous. Sometimes it pulls you over in the ghetto’s of Cleveland and tells you to leave the neighborhood because your going to almost certainly be murdered, but that’s a story for another time. On a more light-hearted note I once got really drunk on tequila.

I worked at a pizza place for a long time (I told you I was a underachiever). Eventually our owner got tired of raking in the tens of dollars and decided to sell the store. It was a bittersweet day at the restaurant. On the one hand there would be no more impromptu, late night, after bar, pizza parties (yeah that’s right, try that out on the ladies, never fails), on the other we would not have to dig into the register on a daily basis to pay off random people who came in threatening to shut off this or that, or repossess our spatulas. I almost want to make that sentence even longer. Look at it… it’s huge. Where was I? Ok. So our former owner decided to throw a goodbye/hello party. Like most formal events in my town it would be held at the local bowling alley. There’s something about thick smoke and lane oil that really sets the tone for any occasion. It’s true, even baby stuff.

The night started like most any awesome night at the bowling alley. I show up with eighty pounds of gear and scoff at the poor bastards picking through the fruity plastic ball selection. “Oh whats that? Your fingers don’t fit? The thumb hole is cutting you? That’s why I spent $250 on this! (points to awesome bowling ball #1) That’s right I brought three balls. Yes I need all of them!” On a side note I don’t really think I’m cool because I have a ton of bowling gear. I just like to pretend. I do love bowling though.

Now, it was early in the evening and I was tightly focused on taking money from my co-workers. You’d think they would be hesitant to bet the guy pulling a small trailer full of bowling balls around but they’re not exactly geniuses. They also love betting. Also they’re dumb. I was well on my way to a cool thirty bucks when our former owner arrived. He made the rounds, acknowledging us personally one at a time with a grin, handshake, or bro-hug. Then he uttered the phrase that set all our lives on a course which would not end soon, or easily. “Drinks are on me. Have fun. Get whatever you want.” I have to admit I felt a moment of panic. I had thoughts such as, “does this man not realize who he’s dealing with?” and, “why does he want us all to die?”. After all, this was a group of 19-22 year old college drop-outs. We had to go to community college because we drank too much in high school. Then we dropped out of community college because we drank too much to make 2:00 classes. Presently we made pizzas and drank every night. The only reason we stopped drinking normally was because we ran out of money. Now the old boss hands over a credit card and basically challenges us to do our worst. I think he realized his mistake when the waitress started bringing out three pitchers at a time so she would have time to help her other customers.

The night progressed in approximately the following manner:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

8-9: Beer and bowling. Much fun had by all.

9-10: Beer and less bowling. An insane amount of fun being had.

10-11: Beer. The bowling is degenerated to the point where it can no longer technically be called bowling. The fun level has reached its peak and is now on the decline.

11-12: Shots! Shots are instituted to try to salvage the declining fun level. Occasionally someone stumbles in the direction of the pins and drops a ball in whatever lane is readily available.

12-1: Triple shots! Of tequila! We now consider the bartender a close friend and he breaks out giant shot glasses for us. The fun has passed into some psychotic, otherworldly level where it’s just no longer safe. I literally love everyone I see and have to tell them about it in a most sincere and passionate manner. There is no bowling because I’ve forgotten what a bowling alley is.

1: The time has come to make our way home. We all try to figure out how to take off shoes and zip jackets. It takes a while. I regret bringing so much crap. One of my friends bends down for his shoes and just keeps going. He ends up face-down with his nose in one of the shoes. We all laugh. He stays in that position for about two minutes. We laugh harder. I gag a little…

Luckily I was able to catch a ride with one of our under-age employees who we had made close the restaurant. I’m not sure how everyone else got home. I’d rather not know honestly. I’m not really going to comment on the ride itself because I have no idea how it went. For all I know Santa gave me a ride on a magical buffalo. I do know I didn’t want to puke. I was later told that after arriving in the driveway of my rented shack I opened the door, got out, shut the door, and wandered off into the darkness. No goodbye, no thanks, not even a nod. In my defense I think I just forgot.

On most nights of binge drinking this is where I get inside, start to cook something, and then pass out with it still in the microwave or sitting in a pot on the stove. Unfortunately tonight I had reached a level of brain-damaged drunkenness which wouldn’t even allow the usual dysfunctions to take place.

I’d mentioned I rented a shack and that was very true. It was a 600 square foot house built in a small clearing in the woods. Those woods were directly behind the local grocery store allowing me all the modern comforts but with a real “Friday the 13th” feel.

 The first problem I ran into was the light was burned out by the back door. It was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Also I was too wasted to recognize my own hand so I was screwed either way. The second problem was keys are small, and keyholes are small. Trying to match one small thing with another was pretty much rocket science right then and the process was a failure. I threw the keys down in frustration. I wasn’t feeling very well so I sat on a broken chair that was sitting outside. This chair only had three functional legs and had been out in the elements for a couple of years. I managed to balance on it for a minute or two before collapsing into the dirt. As I lay there trying to figure out why the universe was mean the puking started. I retched loudly and spewed out an amazing amount of liquid. I remember thinking, “why does all this puke taste like tequila? It’s mostly beer. I wonder if people know that drinking tequila makes all your puke taste like tequila.” Then I laughed. Then I puked more.

It occurred to me as I lay there heaving that this was not a good look for me and I was making a ruckus. What if the neighbors looked out and spotted me like this?(I missed the fact that it was pitch black) Don’t ask me how I’d retained enough pride to care about appearances but I had. Blearily I looked around the yard for a hiding spot. Besides crawling into the forest my only option was the far side of the propane tank. I crawled and stumbled my way over there and lay on my back, looking up at the sky. As I lay there I went through a range of emotions. I’d laugh, I’d giggle, I’d cry a little. Eventually I just lay there humming tunelessly. That’s how I fell asleep.

I woke a short time later shivering uncontrollably. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and I was being rained on in forty degree temperatures. It was time to make a more serious effort towards entering the house. I crawled back towards the house and after a short search found my keys. I also found tequilla scented patches of wetness. With vomit slick hands I managed to get the key in the door which shows just how much my nap had done to rejuvenate me. Upon entering I immediately lay down again. This time on the carpet right in front of my dogs cages. They were barking and generally going insane after being locked up all night long.  I proceeded to have one of those classic drunken conversations no one should ever have to hear; but seeing as how you’ve read this far your getting it whether you like it or not. It went something like this.

Dogs: BarkBarkbarkBarkBBAARRKK!!!

Me: IIII know! I know… I sssucckkk! I suck you guys and your always soooo nice and I’m a baaaddd daddddy!

Dogs: bark!!!BaaaaRRRK!!whineBark!!!

Me: I can’t help you. I can’t help me. I can’t help you or meeee eeeiitherrr. I’m sorry ok? I just love you, but I can’t help you… I’m broke. I’m broken.

Dogs:barkbarkbarkbarkhowwwwwlhoowwwwwwwl!

Me: I’m sick. I’m sick. I’m sick. I’ll make it up to you. I will. But shut up now. Shut your mouths. Your killing me. I’m dying…..I’m dead. I’m dead soon.

I slept a minute or two more.

My phone rang.

Me: uhhh, hellllooo?

Girlfriend: (banging party music in background) Baybeee? I’m wasted. Can you come get me?

Me: HAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Girlfriend: what’s wrong? Are you ok?

Me: ….I was outside…I..puked… I can’t help you. I can’t help myself. I gotta go.

Girlfriend: shit. I’m coming.

She found me naked on the bathroom floor staring blindly into space. My corpselike appearance caused her to scream a little but she quickly discovered I was still amongst the living and set about nursing me. I made a full recovery.

 My co-workers all had similar stories. One of them fell down the stairs into his basement and slept where he lay. Another slept on his parents front porch. We all had a good time though. And I learned something. Tequila is a jerk. It makes friends with you and then starts being a little rude and then is like, “hey, what’s that in the gutter?” CURB-STOMP! I haven’t touched the stuff since. I’ve also quit binge drinking. Except for one time. But that’s another tale.


In the beginning.

Life was easy until first grade. Sharing. Writing my name. Getting along with my class-mates. I had it down. I was treated kindly by everyone I ever met. If only we could hold onto such joy and innocence. Unfortunately, I was small for my age, red-haired, freckle faced,  had a head like a lollypop and it was time to start grade-school.

Things started well enough. I had my little schedule. I would meet my bus at the end of the driveway, it would take me to the school. I had my class number. We would have class, we would have lunch, we would return to class. We would travel about in ragged lines with our class-mates. It was real school, and I was thrilled and terrified and everything else a kid should be on that day.

 I met the bus on time, no problem. It didn’t take long before the bus was loaded with chattering kids and I saw a potential best friend in every little face. So I struck up a conversation, or what passes for a conversation when your six, with this other kid who sat near me. It probably went something like, “i have a dog. he has curly ears. i love dogs. i have a sister too. do you have a dog or sister?”. Now, my reading people skills were small and underdeveloped. If I had this skill I would have realized this kid didn’t like me. But I had no idea, and I was going on and on.  By the time we reached the school I figured I’m set as far as best friends are concerned. We step off the bus and it’s time for me to find my classroom. It’s also time to say a very temporary goodbye to my buddy. So I shouted, “see you at lunch hour!”, and skipped off (yes, very probably skipped) into the crowd of students bottlenecked at the front doors.

A few exciting hours later I wander into the cafeteria for the first time, tray loaded with what I’m sure was a balanced and nutritious meal. My priority was finding my best friend of course. If there was anyone I could talk to about my first day at school it would be him. I heard him before I saw him. “That’s him! Lunch Hour!” Evidently he already had a group of friends. They filled one of the small round tables. I waved a cautious hello. He knew very well my name wasn’t Lunch Hour. I hear one of the other kids say, in a squeaky, nasally, sing-song, “I’ll-see-you-at-lunch-hour!”. Hmmmm. Uncomfortable. I’d received my first official nick-name. I sat somewhere else.

Though that experience was very unpleasant, and it took me months to lose that nick-name, and I lost a fat chunk of innocence and wonder, I did learn something. People are jerks and I needed a defense mechanism, or two… or three. I became cautious around strangers. To this day I sit quietly around new people until I feel they’re trustworthy.