Heroes Of The Week- You Edition

This week is yours. When all the reading and the love you give to this spot comes hurtling back at you in the form of a well deserved hug. Pick up this hug, and know that you made it possible. Gracias.

Now for the Heroes you brought to Friday . . .

Image result for La La Land Kind Cafe hires foster kids

Mark over at markpaxson.com decided that Rand Paul probably isn’t going to be worthy of any humanitarian awards in the near or distant future, and he’s probably spot on in this assessment. So when I was doing my casting call, he left a comment in which he said he would get back to me. Erudite chap that he is, he got back to me in no time flat with, as he put it, “Somebody doing something about a frequently forgotten segment of our society…”

It’s a story about the La La Land Kind Cafe in Dallas Texas. The owner, Francois Reihani, hires young people who have aged out of the foster care system. So far, he’s employed nine of these kids. Because Reihani believes it’s about kindness every bit as much as it’s about coffee.

Those are some cool beans they’re brewing.

Monika at Tails Around The Ranch contributed a beauty from her neck of the woods. It’s about some local distillers (She’s quick to point out other states are doing it as well). who have retrofitted their equipment in order to . . . get this all you hand sanitizer hoarders and price gougers . . give the stuff away to firefighters and other first responders. And since I totally plagiarized her comment, I’ll let her tell you why it matters, because she does a wonderful job of bringing it all home.

The state fast tracked approval to make the switch on the equipment. This story really touched me since a few years ago the Town of Lyons flooded and resulting in being completely cut off from in-or-out access to any surrounding areas/towns. They lost their water/sewer plant. It took months for the state to rebuild roads in to repair/replace damaged homes/buildings. To be able to come back and give to their community makes them big-time heros in my book.

Could not have said it better myself, Monika.

Image result for cuban doctors go to Italy

Dale over at A Dalectable Life ain’t just a lovely connoisseur of photography and great eats. She dresses up the written word in sunshine on the regular as well. And she is a voracious hunter and gatherer of feel good news pieces, as evidenced by her many contributions to this Friday edition over the last year and change.

She chimed in with this story about how Cuba recently sent a 52 doctor brigade to Italy in response to the devastating wake of the virus. The communist country has already done the same in a half dozen other countries, as its emergency preparedness is proving to be a model of effectiveness- at home and abroad. According to Graciliano Díaz, the Cuban contingent is committed to this ‘honorable task, based on the principle of solidarity.

It would be nice if every country put its politics aside and followed suit.

John at Fiction Favorites sent me a video to share with you for this Friday edition. It’s Matthew McConaughey dishing up some much needed love for Austin, Texas . . and for all of us. It’s only a couple minutes long, but it’s a virtual hug and “We Got This” that is much appreciated inside these trying times. The dude is quirky, and you know that? That’s plenty fine with me, because underneath all that quirkiness resides a heart the size of the place he calls home.

Alls I gotta say is Alright! Alright! Alright!

Image result for Bay View Wisconsin Dino Parade

And for my last story, I paid a virtual visit to Bay View Wisconsin. It’s a throwback neighborhood sewn into the shores of Lake Michigan. The ancestral lineage of this town speaks to laborers and the community they dreamed for their children inside lifetimes so long removed from here.

That future love paradise came calling recently when the residents of Bay View got together for a parade. But not just any parade, since we’re . .  yanno, living inside the operative social precepts of a moment in time where keeping your distance has taken on a literal form.

So this parade, it took all of these things into consideration in a most prehistoric fashion sense. Their solution was to dress up like dinosaurs and march together, at six foot intervals, through the place they call home. As a way of saying that it’s okay not to be okay with all of this. But it’s never going to be okay to lose our sense of humor, or our ability to figure a way back.

Imma finish this episode off by saying thank you to all my contributors, and to let you know that this idea will become yet another new feature going forward. Because you guys are always telling me how much you look forward to this Friday post, and I ain’t gonna lie. I never saw it coming.

You did.

 

Casting Call For Heroes Fans

Image result for ted williams

If you’re a regular to this joint, then you’ve probably happened upon the Heroes episodes we dish up every Friday for your viewing feel good. You kept things going when I thought maybe it was just a phase. And by you, I mean anyone who looks forward to this little corner of the world when the end of the week comes calling.

You made Heroes a place worth coming to. I simply captained the thing into harbor thanks to your earnest chimes, which behave very much like gold on the dollar when it comes to the keeping on. So . . I don’t do this kind of thing but I figured maybe one or two or three of you might be down with it.

Send me a story that hits you in the feel good and I’ll post it on Friday. You can simply provide the link in your comment and I’ll make sure it gets pub love. Worst case scenario is nobody contributes and Heroes still shows up in the regularly scheduled programming. Best case scenario is I get all the stories I need through you for this week, and if it’s more than five? Well . . I ain’t presumptuous like that, but a boy is allowed to dream.

As for writing, I was practicing my short game this morning. I hope you like.

He remembered back to those nights inside the dusty wings of a very forgettable March. Back into the hopeless design of bad news gone caterwaul in episodic bonfires that left Caesar’s ghost to hemorrhage in its eternal playpen.  The days painted themselves in a haphazard chaste whose vicious prongs were sinking empires across the globe. And so he peddled elixirs in the recitations of Angelou, Wilde, Cummings, Morrison and his personal favorite, Kinsella.

The spoken verses were akin to candles in a church, sacred vows left behind by masters and mistresses of the written word for the sake of prayer. Each syllable a testimonial to the peaceful resistance of words inside a chaotic world. The stories were plush to his fractured brain, and the sound of each word tasted like fruit as it trespassed his lips. And he went on like this, plucking a snippet here and a paragraph there and joining them together in a brilliant quilt whose song redeemed the shadowy fates.

It went like this from March into April and then with May came the first idea that life would begin to take its traditional place setting back. Only now, he had ashes to confer to the winds of change. The world, his world, would prove to be extraordinarily different with each step into whatever came next. Oh sure, it was easy to promise such a thing when the end of the world had seemed an abject patent. All the same, he was aligned to a different star from here on out. And he knew it was impossibly difficult to comprehend, but he had seen the beginning inside the merciless clench of the end.

So it was that a June day found him tucked into a box seat along the third base line, holding to a foot long as his beer lost its froth. The sun shone down like a promise from Jay Gatsby, full of a million different promises. The field was a stained glass portrait of emerald fusing with ivory and caramel. How could he have ever taken such a beautiful thing as an early summer day at the ballpark for granted?

He cried at the thought.

In The Darkness Came A Light

Kim Kardashian called. She wants her first world problems back.

Okay, maybe it’s not quite as dreadful or hopeless as Vladimir Putin was hoping it might turn out. Unless you hang out on the Twitter or Reddit sites, which I do not recommend you do unless dystopian soap opera plots are your jam. And just so you know, I’m not saying Vlad the Impaler of Hope had anything to do with this virus. His powers are limited to horse back riding without a shirt, eating cinnamon encrusted beef jerky without need for water and fucking with our elections.

Europe currently has a “Do Not Disturb” sign up as it has been hit especially hard. Tom Hanks and his lovely wife Rita are literally castaways as we speak. The Utah Jazz have gotten more pub than if they would have won the NBA title simply by having a couple of players test positive. Americans of all stations and status from coast to coast are providing an ever expanding face to this virus.

You know things have gotten serious when sports get shut down, because nothing gets in the way of our sports. Not two World Wars. Not the assassination of a President. Not even September 11th. But the dominoes which began with the cancellation of March Madness has crept into the NBA and NHL suspending play while the MLB has scrapped spring training and is moving back opening day.

Without benefit of games, ESPN has had to rely on journalism. Which is another way of saying that ratings have plummeted. Casinos are closing. Retailers are posting limits on toilet paper and hand sanitizer purchases. Web MD is currently a more popular site than Porn Hub.

If you’re young, consider this a vacation from the every day. Your immune systems are assembly line peach in comparison to us folks of a certain age. I’m in that notoriously provocative middle earth population of peeps who consider sneezing a four letter word. And if this tunnel doesn’t start giving us a little sunlight, we may have to resort to punching anyone who coughs inside our bubble. Nothing personal, of course.

And really, that’s the whole thing right there, isn’t it? This isn’t personal, unless we really want to make it so. Because right now, as a species, we still have the ability to stoke that fledgling spirit inside us that believes humanity is a pretty okay place to be. Even on its shittiest days, the world usually gives us something to latch onto. Hope really is riding shotgun, idiomatically speaking. And now more than ever, this is happening if we extricate ourselves from dark web searches for toilet paper and hand sanitizers. If we just let ourselves consider that human beings have been through a hell of a lot worse than this. Hell, we somehow survived the election of 2016, after all.

Let’s just sit back and take a deep breath, and let’s consider someone who has tested positive. Let’s think about what their families and friends are going through right now before we whine about not having picked up extra beer and chips in the event we’re holed up for a couple weeks time. Let’s just put ourselves in someone else’s head for a simple moment, and do something novel inside a time when looking out for yourself has become status. Let’s pray for them. That they make it through this thing with nothing more than a lousy t-shirt. Humanity is the only inventory we should be concerned with right now. Because to my way of thinking, the darkest of times is when the light is needed most. So it’s okay if our grocery list consists of a little humility, a little compassion and a whole lot of gratitude.

There’s a town called Siena, tucked inside a hilly region of Tuscany between the valleys and the clouds. Italy has been hit especially hard by COVID-19 and so the residents of this charming little medieval arrangement of castles and cathedrals have been relegated to their homes as a result. But rather than bemoan this solitary existence fraught with ever more daunting scenarios, the people of Siena fixed themselves on a different approach. On the night of March 13th, one of the quarantined residents let loose with a song that floated from one window to another to another . . until the entire street was draped in music.

So this one little song from this one little town, I gotta think maybe it was telling us something. Maybe it was telling us that to dwell on the bold font headlines of gloom and doom is to miss the point. Maybe instead of focusing on what we are inside these moments, maybe we should focus on something much more powerful.

What we can be.

 

Searching Paul Simon’s cutting room floor

Dogs are one of the few creatures on this earth capable of unconditional love. The rest of us are negotiating the terms daily . . . 

There are two types of romantic advice seekers: The ones who want you to talk them into something, and my friend Barry. I’ll call him Barry since that’s his name. I’ve probably mentioned the guy in a post at some point, seeing as how he sifts my brain for intel on the opposite sex. Which is akin to asking the captain of the Titanic for directions to New York City. But it’s not a paragon of valuable information Barry is looking for. He just wants someone to talk him out of his current situation. .

I refuse to be complicit in this crime of passionless. All I do is ask questions, make observations which have no basis in fact since I don’t know the woman, and supply witty banter, pro bono no less. So if you ask me, he is getting exactly what he paid for.

A top five most popular topics of conversation Barry has introduced regarding his rodeo partner? Sure why not . . . .

The Past- So it seems that Cersei Lannister (Not her real name, of course. Because I’m not crazy enough to use her real name. Barry’s one thing. He’s just a retired cop with an extensive gun collection) . . . anyway, sorry for the bloated parenthetical explanation. As I was saying, Cersei Lannister has a problem with Barry’s ex wife. To which I completely understand. I mean, if she didn’t have a problem with his ex wife, I wouldn’t trust her. That said, Cersei also has a problem with Barry’s daughter, whom he takes to dinner once a week. It’s their time and Cersei ain’t crazy about being left out.

In a word? I have a problem with this. She’s forty something and has never had kids, which only adds to the problemacy©, (My word, because I needed to amuse myself since their relationship ain’t amusing in the least). So my advice to Barry was to let Cersei know that his daughter is the only female she doesn’t get to negotiate out of his picture.

The Present- Their preferred method of communication is arguing. They argue over everything. What to eat, what movie to see, where to go on the weekend and oatmeal cookies. Oatmeal. Fucking. Cookies. (He’s Team Traditional, She’s Team Raisins). My advice was simple: When a relationship has devolved into oatmeal cookie arguments, you are Mariana Trenching© it. Sadly, the relationship has bypassed homicide as a solution.

The Future- Barry just moved into a new place, which Cersei really digs because it’s closer to her job. Barry has also been shopping homes outside of Jim Thorpe, which Cersei really doesn’t dig at all because it’s a LOT further away. And it would mean they have to argue about oatmeal cookies over the phone rather than face to face.

I told Barry this house hunting venture is lame. For one thing, even people who want to get away from it all realize they have gone too far if they arrive in Jim Thorpe. For another, he is implementing a passive/aggressive strategy in order to extricate himself from a miserable situation. Paul Simon ain’t need 51 ways to leave your lover and he’s way more interesting than Barry, so there’s that.

Imma stop at three because I’ve achieved a Christmas Carol vibe. Instead I’ll supply you with some of the particulars if you happen to be in the same boat as Barry.

1- Never discuss important shit while eating Captain Crunch. It’s impossible to be taken seriously when eating Captain Crunch.
2- If you argue whilst listening to Kenny Loggins Footloose, your relationship is doomed. Because it’s scientifically impossible to do so unless you are not meant to be.
3- Stop using the ‘forever’ template for love things. It’s why people stay in the wrong thing too long. Because they’re measuring it against forever.
4- Being “afraid” to be alone will lead to you being alone. Because as I’ve learned, the loneliest times of my life were spent in a relationship gone wrong.
5- Stop caring what others think about your situation. These are surface oriented concerns that contribute nothing to your relationship.

That last one counted most for me, and I doubt Barry will heed its meaning. He just wants to dance around the issue, and he’s looking for dance partners who will tell him what he wants to hear. But at the very least, he should give his relationship the Footloose test.

I’m convinced he would thank me for it.

 

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.

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!

 

 

Matters of Little Consequence

With the Gorilla dead and buried, I continued keeping her blog warm seeing as how her posts had become sporadic in nature. In the early going of this particular arrangement, I felt really good about it. But as time passed and her posts became less frequent, I felt like I was just getting in the way, so I ceased and desisted. From there, things settled into a predictability that was likely driving us mad. We were passionate people playing out the string, and so it only made sense that the end was a matter of when.

By the time 2009 rolled around, I’d started a new blog and then trashed it in short order. And then I tried another one, figuring out something that looked and felt light years different from before. Rooting for Laundry was the predecessor to Drinks Well With Others. My writing had become crisper, more poigant and poetically honest to my writing bones. The Dame was such a magnificent Goddamn writer, it was a slam dunk proposition that she would push me into these Everest-like discoveries. Her influence provided me with with the muster to quit holding back. She taught me that good writing will comfort your soul but great writing will unleash it.

On a personal level, she resented the fact that I never brought up marriage in our second go round. The truth was, our first breakup had provided me the cautionary tale to which I was in no hurry to return. It may not have been fair to her, but there was the matter of self preservation to think about as far as I was concerned. And with that fresh perspective, it occurred to me on more than one occasion that I was plenty fine being single for the rest of my life if push came to shove off. Being a man of a certain age does indeed have its privileges.

I didn’t want us to go away, mind you. I simply didn’t feel an urgency to plant our feet in concrete boots, what with all the many variables we were both toting around. Not the least of which were our respective battles with depression. She wasn’t a crazy bitch who wanted to murder me in my sleep, even if there were times when I swore it was true. She was just a small town rich girl who’d lost her north star existence to death, domestic abuse and a shattered family tree.

It wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t make me happy. In the end, I left her scavenging for tiny little pieces of me, as if scavenging for clearance bargains. What it comes down to is, when you’re never happy, then you have to find a person who at the very least gives you peace of mind.

She wasn’t that.

We drifted in and out of delirious moments interspersed with insanely provocative scenarios and corruptible silences that only served to push us further apart. We believed in something, but we stopped being so certain as to what that something truly was. We were weighted by the debt of our mistakes, we were constrained by the indifference we wore in order to protect ourselves. As a result, our rhythm listed and our swim became fractured under the strain of it all.

Our love story became a double edged sword in which every precious yin begot a forgettable yang.

For every exhilarating tennis match where she kicked my ass, there was a stone cold shoulder moment that pushed us further into the deep. For every hot date night where we got busy lighting the match fantastic, there were nights when we didn’t talk at all. And for every romantic Italian dinner at a joint we found by accident, there was the return visit where she stormed out before the entrees arrived.

If you were to ask me for a microcosm of our time together, I would tell you it came some time after midnight on Easter morning of our final spring. We’d gone Machiavelli on the friendly drinks and with her kids away till morning, we decided to cook up our feast. We started things late night and finished them sometime after who knows what in the very early morning. Drinking and smoking and dancing to Elvis Costello and Wilco, Neil Diamond and Al Green and Aretha Franklin. Bickering and laughing and kissing in between the smoke and fire and ramble of clinks. And when it was done we had roasted lamb, a museum grooved ham, green beans with pancetta, cornbread stuffing, honeyed carrots, garlic mashed and a divine asparagus/tomato/mozzarella salad. We made ourselves mussels with blue cheese and some crumbled bacon for the trouble and we dug in, toasting our dirty, rolled up sleeves whilst clinking Sams. And then we fucked like mad and fell asleep.

We did Miami in June and as great a time as the Clevelander was, that Easter Sunday was really our last great night together. Because the zip code doesn’t make up the rules on a good time, yanno?

And before we both knew it, it was late August and our forever after was being called on account of rain, again, this time for keeps. I would spend Saturday on the couch, watching Ted Kennedy’s funeral whilst keeping company with one part coffee to whatever the fuck parts vodka and a couple packs of smokes.

You have to be a writer to understand that shit.

Next Week: The Epilogue

 

 

 

 

Hello I Must Be Going

Everybody wants a superpower, but nobody wants to pay those dry-cleaning bills.

Personally, I think most of them are overrated. Can you imagine the shit you’re going to be subjected to if your co-workers found out you have the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound and you didn’t pick them up on the way to work?

So forget time traveling or possessing superhuman speed. Don’t give me telepathy, flight, shape shifting or even having Catwoman’s number on speed dial. Because while those superpowers are nice, they ain’t got a thing on mine.

I rarely run into an ex.

That’s it. That’s my superpower. And while it ain’t ever gonna put Iron Man out of business, it works for yours truly. And it’s my great good fortune to have it, seeing as how I’ve got plenty of Rico but precious little Suave for these situations.

Running into Ex

This isn’t to say I haven’t experienced an awkward conversation in line at the grocery store. But more often than not, I’ve been able to avoid the calamitous “Oh heeeeyyyy!” . . which is the single dude preamble to that John Milton novel. Okay, all of ’em.

I found myself behind Red in a Starbucks drive through last week. There she was in her adorable little Fiat, fussing with her fiery red curls as I leaned down to search for something in my glove box in order to escape detection. Red was married, which is why we lasted as long as we did.

Rosemarie was my disco lemonade crush back in the ’80’s, and I really thought I was going to marry her someday, maybe. This was mostly due to the fact a Survivor love ballad always seemed to make the scene when we were skin deep in negotiations. I actually came across her a couple times over the last few years before I was certain it was her, seeing as how she chopped her mane and lost her infectious smile thanks to parenthood. And it’s even money she was thinking the same thing about me.

Ms. Borinquen gifted me an Ireland soccer t-shirt on St Patrick’s Day 2007 after we decided to double down on the merry making at her crib. I spotted her in a downtown cafe a few years back, looking as creamy as ever. After which I switched seats with my coffee pal, just in case the dude she was with happened to be her gun toting baby daddy.

I’m expert at spotting an ex before the ex spots me. As with Mel the poet at Hershey Park . . . Val the therapist at the mall . . . Diana the parole officer in a Jimmy John’s (after which I got Chinese takeout instead) . . . Lisa the perpetual saint of unemployment at a bar . . .

Awkard Ex Conversation

Which brings me to Miss What’s Her Name. She was a teacher who had worked with Red for a while, and we once ran into her at a pub near Red’s condo in town. She was several drinks south of the meridian line by that point in the evening, but she still remembered the chance acquaintance when speaking to Red a few days later. And it was somewhere inside their conversation that Miss What’s Her Name made a rather tawdry suggestion that maybe the three of us could, yanno, have a round table. Sans the table.

Discretion was the better part of Red’s game, so it never happened. And thank God for that, because this woman would end up in a 50 Shades-like scandal a few years later. Seems she had been playing bare naked Hades with several prominent names when a scorned spouse cried foul.

So of fucking course I ran into her. And it was the strangest thing, to run into someone I didn’t sleep with only because the woman I was sleeping with had more sense in her pinkie than I have in . . . umm, mine. Because you know what’s more awkward than running into someone you went Hello Dali with behind closed doors? Running into someone who suggested such an encounter to your married girlfriend.

She asked if I still talk to Red and I told her I didn’t. And then I asked her something to which I have no recollection, because I just wanted to extricate myself from the situation as quickly as possible. And I know she was thinking the same thing, because she was fidgeting like a pitcher with the bases loaded. Thing is, for someone who is locked and loaded when it comes time to find trouble, my arsenal is weaker than the french army when attempting to flee the scene.

Catwoman would have a field day with me.

Matters Of Little Consequence

By the time spring started tickling the air with a dusty fever, the eight hundred pound gorilla had lost most of its weight. Dan was writing sporadically, leaving me to pick up the slack. Meanwhile, me and the Dame were figuring it out. And, because there is no such thing as simple math, a great big matzoh ball of a mystery was being played out, the results of which I wouldn’t learn until the blog was six feet under.

Me and the boys convened at McCleary’s Public House- a river town pub whose patrons were a funky soup of factory workers, college peeps and small business owners. It was the weekend and some cover band was pissing on the platinum sage lyrics of Cobain. When you make Lake of Fire sound like a boy band ballad, you should be brought up on charges.

It was my first and only time meeting Richie, and all those first impressions I’d collected were proving correct. He talked higher than his ass, about everything. When Chris and me started riffing about our ideas for the podcast, Richie had to interject his thoughts on the blog. The dude was floating more bells and whistles than a degenerate gambler on safari in Vegas. So far, he’d delivered shit.

We let him go on for a while since he’d sprung for the first round, but things were getting nowhere at the speed of light. It devolved into him talking about some chick from Jersey, and his businesses and his brilliant mind. His hairline was receding faster than the arctic glaciers, his paunch had more keep than a Rockefeller trust fund and his personality was a flailing strike. And somehow, Dan thought this asshole was a good idea for us.

Speaking of Dan, I couldn’t shake the feeling something was going on, to which Dan and Chris were holding tight. It wasn’t unusual to feel like the third wheel around those two, but this was different and I was pretty certain it had to do with the blog. It was doing nothing to assuage my suspicions that Chris and Dan were planning a mutiny. It didn’t matter that I was the only erstwhile scribe the fucking thing had going. By this point, nothing about the blog was making any sense. 

“So what’s this about you writing on that chick’s blog?” Richie asked me out of the blue.

The question felt like a punch to the face once I realized what he was talking about. It took a few moments to put together where this line of questioning could have come from. Dan.

“What in the blessed fuck does that have to do with getting us a website?” I asked.

“She hot?”

“She’s not pregnant or your cousin, so you wouldn’t be interested,” I said. The guys all cracked up after which Dan changed the subject quickly.

I was devoting more of my time to the Dame, sure. But that was because she’d stopped writing on the regular and without that steam vent, things could get menacingly perpendicular for us. My involvement in her writing life was equal parts wondrous fascination and self preservation. And it was nobody’s business but our own. 

At this point, I knew I had to take a breather from this catastrophe of a get together or there was going to be a scene. So I told Dan I was going out to call the Dame and gave him a look as if to say If your asshole friend has any inkling to join me, Imma need bail money. 

I called Dame, who cut our chat short because her oldest daughter was visiting, so I delayed my return inside by talking with Till Tuesday and her new friend- a construction worker who’d done work on Lincoln Financial Field. I was starting to feel the buzz of the shots, the Guinness and the smokes. It’s that peaceful, easy feeling when a certain time of the evening goes plush to necessary solutions. I was having such a good time chatting it up, I almost forgot about the miserable shit that awaited me when I went back inside. And then Dan made the scene.

“What’s wrong with you tonight dude?”

“Me? I’m listening to Richie sell us on ground floor real estate to a blog we built, and that you couldn’t care less about writing on now that we have a podcast with Chris. Never mind that it came about only because of the blog,”

“Sorry . . . It’s just, I’ve been going through it and my mind has been shit for,” Dan confessed.

“What’s going on?”

“Me and Em are fighting. I know it’s not fair to you or the blog . . . and maybe that’s what I need to do, you know? Just fucking write again . . take my mind off everything else?”

I almost felt badly for suspecting him of mutiny. Almost. But the more questions I threw his way, the more he ducked and ran. And while I knew this wasn’t about the blog, I also knew it was adversely affecting it.  So I got to pressing before . . .

“You fellas going to Haydn Zugs?”

Standing directly in front of us was a breathalyzer test’s wet dream and this asshole wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“Sorry man, but if we were going there . . why would we be here?” I asked with a straight face. The irony was lost on him.

“I need a ride there! I got a date!”

“So . . what was the plan exactly? Get drunk here, with no ride to the place where you have a date . . . ” I smiled.

“It’s not your fucking business,” He slurred.

“Incorrect. Because you made it my business when you asked for a ride, Sparky,”

“Fuck you then . . I’ll just slash your tires!”

“Hey fuckhead, get a cab!” Dan bellowed, stepping forward and opening his jacket to reveal his revolver. He had a permit to carry, but I’m pretty sure he still would’ve carried it even without one.

“I’m calling my brother, man . . . he’s a state cop!”

“Call him and tell him you’re drunk and you’re gonna slash some tires . . and then tell him to bring donuts. Chocolate glazed . . .” I laughed.

“I should fucking call him right now . . .”

“Call him . . . ” I said calmly. “Tell him that I prevented you from slashing some tires by kicking your ass. After which my friend here put you down after you reached for his gun when he was trying to pull me off you before I put you in a coma,”

“You guys are fucking nuts!” He shouted as he walked off into the night as me and Dan laughed our asses off whilst popping the top on another pack of smokes.

The episode was a microcosm of the blog: An accident of misbegotten times and places that was blatantly offensive and downright stupid. A bat-shit crazy run on sentence that was destined for nothing good.

Full of bluster and fire until it stumbled off into the night.