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Tampa to Boston: One Down, One Up

The first thing you notice about Union Station in Tampa, FL on a Friday afternoon in late July is how miserable everyone looks. People are slumped back in chairs to the point where they appear to be sitting in bean bag chairs, children are glued to whatever handheld device their parents are letting them look at for fifteen minutes at a time, elderly people have their green visors pulled down practically over their noses, and then there’s me, I imagine I look miserable. It’s also extremely hot outside, everyone is huddled inside and, as it is in this part of the country, existing just a little bit slower. The air feels slow. The station is old, built in 1912. There are six tracks divided by three platforms, but I believe only one track is working, so a relatively small station. It was closed down in the 80’s and reopened in the late 90’s where it’s served a basic purpose since. There’s nothing fancy about it, it’s renovated and looks like any old train station. So that’s the first thing YOU notice.

 

The first thing I notice: I open the green wooden door, it’s one of those double doors but the one on the right doesn’t move. What’s the point of that anyway? I’d like my own choice of what door to open. Fuck the system. So, coming in from the glare of outside into a poorly air-conditioned building is one large open area filled with maybe one hundred and twenty people. Immediately at one o’clock in my vision I make eye contact with a skinny white fellow. He’s bald (shaved), maybe early 40’s, wearing a long sleeve green shirt that appears to be one of those green army jackets guys like Travis Bickle wear, upon closer inspection, it’s a shirt. He has a paper bag in one hand that’s about a foot long by four inches. “What’s he got in there?” I immediately think. A full dead fish? A box of Russell Stovers chocolates? A video tape but one of those early ones from Paramount Studios that came in a white bubbly case? A melodica? I never find out. On the glass empty counter he’s leaning against is a back pack that is so filled that if he put it over the front of himself and put an overcoat on he would look like Orson Wells. You’ve seen people with these backpacks out in the world. Usually on the subway or a bus, and they’re just out for that day. How many things do you need to have with you to exist over an entire day? I usually do pretty good with my wallet and phone. I keep a sweatshirt in the car in case a chill decides to show up. Maybe he’s a magician and he’s going to treat us all to that endless bandana trick that will go on for forty-five minutes. This entire thought process takes about four seconds in real time and I immediately tell myself I am going to have to keep an eye on this guy. He definitely has a “just getting my shit together right now” vibe about him. He’s a little shifty and if I had to describe who he looked like the closest familiar person would maybe be Maynard Keenan from the band Tool.

 

It’s a little crowded inside here, not enough to cause anxiety or anything like that. I apparently decide to change that and go outside and sit on a cement bench around the corner. I have three quarters of a joint with me that I take out and light. It’s about 99 degrees out, with the wind chill factor, about 99 degrees. After I decide I’ve had enough I put the rest of it back in the little tube and throw it in a trash barrel nearby. I have a small vape pen with me and if I feel the need to use that on the trip I will figure out where the best place to do that will be. I’m certainly not going to try it on the actual train and get thrown off (this is me saying this a month after this trip and I’m lying).

 

My journey is supposed to begin at about 5:30 pm, the train will arrive in Washington DC on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 PM where I then will have a seven-hour layover. Union Station in DC as you (may) know, is in the middle of everything so you can easily become a tourist and find seven hours of things to do. I had a bag with me that held a number of different charging cables and cords, a thin MacBook Air, an Amazon tablet, one 230-page book (softcover), one t-shirt, the usual toiletries and four albums I bought in Sarasota, FL. This bag is just heavy enough to be an annoyance around my shoulders but manageable. When I travel, especially by rail, I always keep this type of an “everything I need” bag with me. If I feel like I am going to fall asleep it’s between my legs on the floor with the straps wrapped around my legs. I barely sleep on vacation, especially if it’s a new place. Why waste your time with your eyes closed? Even if it is an endless stream of loading docks, silos, and small two-minute long towns that blur by. You’ll never remember a single one, but I like to at least see everything. The train ends up being about ninety minutes late, which is fine for me. I have now found a seat on a bench inside and I’m enjoying watching people come and go. I’ve always argued that although sometime it’s interesting to have your own soundtrack in earphones while you watch people go about their business, listening to the sounds of people is enough to keep me interested. Sure most conversations you catch are boring “Oh my cousin lives there”, “Wow so then you’re going to Wheaton College, that’s great”, etc. but I feel like I’m there. I don’t want to feel removed from anywhere unfamiliar. I never want to feel that, that’s the whole point of travel, even, quick mundane travel.

 

The train eventually boards, this trip will be relatively short, I am traveling coach. I would never be able to sleep on a train for more than an hour or two here and there, so getting a sleeper car is something I wouldn’t utilize. I get my own seat, on the left side of the car, put my big bag between my legs on the floor and am able to slide it under my seat, on the aisle seat I put a small grocery bag with some snacks, a magazine, etc. I call this a “soft reserve” If someone is coming down the aisle looking for a seat and see this little pile they might think someone is sitting there, or that I’m an asshole. The car is about half full so there’s no reason to sit next to a stranger. You know, unless you yourself are the asshole. I also have the luxury of resting mean guy face, so nobody is going to sit next to me. Well not until we hit Jacksonville, but hey this train hasn’t even left yet.

 

Sitting in my row, across the aisle is a young man, maybe 20 years old. Sideways baseball hat, laptop covered in stickers for shit I never understand, which I imagine is most likely snowboarding gear or something like that. We make eye contact and he gives me a nod for some reason. Outside to my left there are people hugging their loved ones, shaking hands and saying their goodbyes. I see an attractive young woman in her 20’s, she is dressed like a hippie. Sundress, and then just a bunch of necklaces and shit hanging off her elaborately braided hair as the hippies do. She is hugging a young man in his 20’s with a manbun, tattoos all over his body including his face, he’s got no baggage. They break apart and I watch her walk past my window and then out of view, sobbing hysterically. I’m jumping ahead but later that evening I see him cozied up with a new young lady in the next car.

 

The train eventually starts to move, and the first big stop will be Orlando, FL. Maybe fifteen minutes into the journey they announce over the PA that there is no smoking in any of the bathrooms and you will be ejected from the train if you are caught. Another fifteen minutes goes by and they make the same announcement, this time reiterating the fact that you really can’t be doing this. They also mention for the bigger stops where the train will have a longer ten-minute stop, you may get out of the train to smoke. When we hit Orlando I get out of the train and stand in an area where I use a vape pen with THC oil in it. I’m pretty sure marijuana is illegal in Florida, but I honestly don’t even worry about it a tiny bit. Living in Massachusetts and spending time in California where it is legal it seems ridiculous to me that this would even be an issue with anyone. Who walks up but my Travis Bickle buddy from the Tampa station. He doesn’t say anything to me but makes eye contact with me and then just kind of stands near me. I plan on doing this at every stop, not because I want to fall asleep but it will relax me enough to enjoy my surroundings with little stress. I immediately worry this guy is going to join me at every stop.

 

I get back on the train and notice the young man with the sideways baseball hat and his belongings are now gone. An hour or so goes by and he doesn’t show up. I see him in the café car when I get up to buy a cup of coffee. I make small talk with the woman sitting in front of me, an African-American woman with her eleven-year old son. They are traveling home to Baltimore, she is worried as she may miss her shuttle in DC to Baltimore since the train is running a couple of hours late. I hold back bragging that I am happy for the delay as it shaved a little time off of my seven-hour layover.

 

The next stop will be Jacksonville, FL. I step outside for a few minutes and get myself relaxed, it’s still really warm and the sun has now gone down. I notice Travis out of the corner of my eye just standing there doing nothing. I try to ignore him. I think too much about nothing sometimes. One thing about the train that I enjoy is the air conditioner is on so high it feels like we are outside…in Vermont…in November. This is okay to me but also, I literally have the clothes on my back with me, and one other t-shirt inside my bag. I’m wearing shorts, and my usual get up of two t-shirts and one button down black short sleeved Dickies shirt. I wear the same thing just about every waking moment of my life, and probably will continue to do so until I can’t. It’s easy and it’s one less thing to think about every morning. Some conductors will try to group travelers going to the same destination in the same cars. I imagine to make it easier to track people, so everyone going all the way to New York or Boston might all be in the same car. This train isn’t even close to being full so I imagine it’s harder to track people and how far they are going, etc. I also think there’s no real reason to do that on this undersold train.

 

I sit back down at my seat and decide I’m going to listen to a record called New Thing at Newport. It’s a record that was recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1965 featuring sets by John Coltrane and Archie Shepp. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest live jazz records out there. It begins with a gentleman by the name of Father Norman James O’Connor giving an introduction to the set. He was a Catholic priest that was also a huge jazz fan (he also introduces Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington on their respective Newport records) This Coltrane lineup is one of his many classic lineups with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on double bass and of Elvin Jones falling all over the drums. You know how when you put on Black Sabbath’s Paranoid on and War Pigs starts and you basically get immediately punched in the face? Or when Greg Ginn’s guitar opens the Damaged album and you want to throw your TV set through the window? That’s how the music hits when the band starts. If you’re into this kind of thing, you’re in for the ride immediately. When I say this record is one of the best live records I am exaggerating a little. I love the two Coltrane songs here (One Down, One Up and a fifteen-minute blown out My Favorite Things), the Shepp stuff is great but the Coltrane stuff is perfect. My plan is to put this thirty minutes or so of music on and watch the backs of buildings flash by me. I’m feeling good about this trip. On past extended train rides I’ve hung out in the café car and talked with all sorts of people. This trip feels more like a mission. I’m a patient person, but I also just don’t feel like interacting with anyone this time around.

 Coltrane – One Up, One Down

So maybe two minutes into the first song of one of my favorite albums of all time I see a person out of the corner of my eye walking up and stand facing me. He is walking direct, he’s not looking up at the numbers of each seat like someone would do when directed to a specific seat. This is an important detail that justifies my immediate paranoia and dread. It’s Travis Bickle guy and he’s motioning at my “soft reserve” and me at the same time. I remove my earphones and say “what’s that?”

 

“Hey the conductor moved me to this seat”

 

I’m completely caught off guard and now immediately filled with confusion.

 

“This seat? Oh okay”

 

I move my stuff, he thanks me and sits down next to me. Most people I would immediately ask where they are going and maybe introduce myself. I put my earbud back in and stare out the window. The music is still playing but it’s now been snapped in half and opened. I don’t know where I was. I hate confrontation, especially from people I get a vibe from. He now has a flip phone out and is texting with it (like that, “hit a key three times to get a letter” style texting) Is he sending in the coordinates to the white power militia group he heads? “I found the man with the Agnostic Front lyrics tattooed on his forearm, blow the train up when we get to Savannah, he’ll be long asleep, he’s been hitting the weed vape at every stop now” After about ten minutes he gets up and leaves. I leave at one point to get something to eat in the café car and he is sitting by himself with a cup of coffee and his flip phone. He returns to the seat a few minutes later and I say

 

“Hey you know that kid over there left over two hours ago I bet you could sit there…this way we’ll both have more room too” He says “works for me” and now I’m pretty much never going to sleep on this train as I am convinced he is going to slit my throat in the middle of the night.

 

The woman in front of me I was talking with earlier in the night is having trouble getting the leg rest thing up and asks me to help. I am now kneeling in the aisle with my head essentially between this woman’s legs helping her lift the thing up, hoping her young son does not wake up. He doesn’t and I go back to my chair to watch the orange lights pass by my window. Neil Young Tonight’s The Night, Miles Davis – Dark Magus and Cocteau Twins – Treasure all get spins on this overnight journey. Perfect sounds to fade in and out of, waking up to different landscapes and colors. At some point I end up dozing off and eventually wake up in one of the Carolinas. I watch the grey sky slowly turn orange, eventually filling parts of the train with sunlight. Most people are awake when the sun comes up on the train. Every single person you see looks like absolute shit. Thankfully this train isn’t so full so the bathrooms have no lines and the café car is empty. I get myself coffee and a better than expected microwaved breakfast sandwich. We reach a bigger town in North Carolina and I see my creepy friend who really wasn’t that creepy leave the train and walk down the platform. That’s the last I see of him.

 

The remainder of the ride to Washington DC is uneventful, and long. A few more delays, as freight trains have the right of way, and now the good news is my seven-hour layover in DC is now a four and a half hour one. This seems much more manageable to me. The slow crawl into Union Station is showing me a side of DC I am not familiar with. I see the Washington Monument , the Jefferson Memorial and the Capitol Building in the distance, but all in quick bursts in between a bunch of ugly office and apartment buildings.

 

My original plan when this was going to be a seven-hour layover was to maybe grab some sort of public transportation or a ride sharing car and explore some of DC, maybe hit a museum or seven. I essentially would have an almost full workday of nothing to do. I even had a nice friend put a list of potential places together for me to check out. Me being me, I immediately feel bad she put the effort in and I didn’t even use the information. I would have though, and it was obviously appreciated. The plans were immediately crushed when I stepped outside of the train station. It was hotter than it was in Tampa when I left the night before, and way more humid. I could see the Capitol Building at the end of the street, but walking their seemed like a hell of a task. I took a picture or two and went back inside to search for dinner. I tend to have an extremely spotty track record when it comes to meals when I am traveling. Some trips I spend checking out small local holes in the wall people recommend, or places Guy Fieri visits. Say what you will about him, but some of the places he essentially gives free advertising to are pretty great. Even if he looks like he went to a stylist and said “Ummmm, give me ‘the date rape’ look” Other trips, if I’m feeling miserable or just needing to put something in my body I make extremely bad food choices. Today was no exception. Union Station is pretty much a shopping mall that trains come and go from. The basement level has a food court with a couple of curious places I’ve never heard of. Me though, I decide I am going to eat at Johnny Rockets (yeah, I know). If you’re not familiar with this establishment, it’s basically modeled after a 50’s diner, with burgers and fries, milk shakes etc. I think at some point if a certain song comes on the stereo the wait staff have to do this choreographed dance, at least they did in the 90’s when I had a friend who worked as a waitress at one. On a scale of 1-10 of chain restaurants I’d vote it a 4.5. There is one other customer in the restaurant, and she is sitting in a booth. I sit in the booth two away from her, facing her. I don’t know why I do this but I immediately hate that I did this and also am filled with anxiety about getting up and moving to the other side of the booth so I just stay put. This move was essentially the same move as the guy who uses the urinal right next to you when there are seven more open ones (Speaking of this, this is a real thing, “shy bladder”, I should know as I have it. Especially at work, where the men’s room has one urinal, and then three stalls to the right of it, he third being the luxury suite of the public restroom, the handicapped stall. If I walk in there and there is one person in there in a stall I will usually just turn around and walk out. Often times someone is walking in as I am walking in and I will walk up to the urinal and basically stand there with my thingy in my hand literally thinking in my head ‘they must hear that there’s nothing going on here’ – or as is most times, they will want to hold a conversation with me from the stall or the sink. If all of them men I work with knew how many conversations they’ve had with me while I’m just standing there with my hands on my dick that is doing absolutely nothing they might be horrified. I wonder if anyone has noticed me leaving the bathroom and then immediately walk back in six minutes later. I mean I could always say I have a bout of diarrhea) I order a burger and onion rings which are okay. I am only really in this restaurant for about twenty minutes.

 

Four hours to kill, I should go outside and get high on marijuana. It’s legal in DC. It’s now around 6:30 pm and my train leaves at 9:20 PM, to arrive back in Massachusetts at 8:30 am or so. I walk around looking for a store to go in or anything remotely interesting and find nothing. Instead of wasting money or eating more I grab a cup of coffee and sit on a bench among the other travelers. It’s a busy hot summer weekend day in the dead of summer. There is a large group of mostly teenagers and some adult chaperones all wearing the exact same t-shirt. They appear to be from some sort of Christian choir group on a field trip. They make a lot of noise and are running around acting like typical kids who are out of their normal situation. At one point in my life I would be annoyed with this but nowadays, it’s just kids being kids, I’m not really supposed to care about things like that. There’s better things to waste energy on.

 

Sometimes my ignorance gets me into trouble, sometimes it’s an innocent thing that doesn’t hold any significance to anything and sometimes it’s just me ignorantly stereotyping a person. A shorter, disheveled looking man is heading towards the seat to the left of me. He is wearing some sort of NASCAR shirt under a flannel shirt (remember the weather here), dirty jeans with holes in the knees, his light brown hair is lightly feathered under a faded baseball cap that I can’t read. He’s missing a tooth, not right in the front, but on the side. Despite his look and whole vibe I do note he has an attractive face, and upon closer look he has a tiny diamond stud in his left nostril. Dirty shaven with an emphasis on a mustache, but one of those light ones that guys named Dave who sold you weed in 1979 had. There’s another younger guy with him that sits down next to him. Between the two of them they have about five suitcases. I am sitting here with my bag on the floor between my legs, my coffee on the floor to the right of me and my phone is put away. I’m in people watching and listening mode. No music in my head, the soundtrack of a Saturday night in July in this busy train station in Washington DC has enough life in it to keep my eyes and ears darting around like a crack head. As soon as this man sits down we make eye contact and say hello, and he starts

 

“I’ve been battling with Amtrak customer service over there trying to get them to put us up. We missed out connecting train and now we have to wait until five-thirty tomorrow afternoon for the next one. That’s twenty-four hours away. I can’t stay in here, I have metal rods in my arm and we forgot my pain meds…”

 

He goes on and tells me he is a registered nurse, they are from South Carolina, he thinks his arms will start to hurt once night falls (he shows me scars on both forearms) and doesn’t want to resort to going outside and trying to buy drugs on the street, for fear that he could lose his nurses license. Not because that’s just a pretty fucked up thing to do. It’s still unclear how staying in a hotel would change that whole aspect of this situation, but I’m trying to at least listen. I have a few more hours to kill. Sometimes I enjoy talking to strangers, if I get a bad vibe or think they want something from me I’ll move on. I don’t get this from him. A tiny bit but the idea of money never comes up in any part of the conversation and that’s usually how scammers work. Maybe even something as small as mentioning the price of something they just had.

 

I now get a better look at the other guy with him, he’s much younger, maybe in his 20’s. Where the guy I’ve been talking with is a classic “Scrawny redneck” looking fellow, the younger guy who I assume is maybe his son or nephew is much bigger. His mouth just kind of hangs open and his wide eyes (one is crossed a little) are sort of just staring at nothing in particular. He seems like that guy in the group of friends you get to do crazy things like smash a TV set in front of a police station or light an alligator on fire. Those kinds of things.

 

I ask original guy where they are headed and receive a surprise I did not see coming.

 

“My husband here and I are heading to see his mom in Wisconsin, she is sick and he wants to spend time with her…” This is where I feel ignorant, or prejudiced. The fact that I was surprised to learn the relationship of these two men is ridiculous of me. Not that I am ever actively thinking of what the relationship of two random people is. Being blind to the idea that the only gay people are the ones I know who are musicians or writers, DJs, etc. There’s no social or economic background that changes anything, so silly of me.

 

I sit with these two for a few more minutes, and while they are nice people and harmless as far as I can tell, I just don’t feel like being part of anyone’s situation right now. I move on to go buy that inevitable bag of nuts that I literally will have for four months before I throw them in my garbage (Update: I ended up throwing them out just about three days ago, almost two months later) and a bottle of water. The wait for the train just about becomes unbearable when they finally board us.

 

This train is extremely empty, I have no worry that anyone will sit next to me (well until a man and his terrible son decide to sit directly in front of me and both immediately put their chairs all the way back and go to sleep – I make an audible “really?” and get up and move back one more row. Same guy as the pee next to you in the bathroom or the guy facing you in the terrible 4.5 rated hamburger and soda shop you’re in, this is him and his son. He’s teaching his son to be one of those people and I witnessed it. Have you noticed when you talk about bad driving practices with people you know 100 % of the time the person agrees with you. Are those bad people who do these kinds of things just out there having the same discussions with people “Can you believe it, I didn’t use my directional signal the other day and this guy beeped at me, what a jabroni!” These two also, before they sit have a hell of a time getting their luggage situated. All of the luggage is those hard plastic ones, they’re giant and at this point I just want to fall asleep. There is also a wife and daughter who sit two rows away from them – WTF? Right? – This family is European, maybe Swedish or German so I give them the benefit of the doubt and then I don’t give them the benefit of the doubt because what does that even mean?) and nobody does for the entire relatively short trip. I’m able to stretch out a little more. Unfortunately for everyone on this train they never turn the lights down low, so this overnight trip from Washington to Boston is basically in fluorescent light. I cure this by draping a Neurosis t-shirt over my head, occasionally a person walks by and is justifiably creeped out.

 

This hasn’t really been a long trip, or a very eventful one for that matter, but I am now a mixture of exhausted, wide awake and maybe stoned, I have no idea. Everything has a very surreal feel to it. This feeling has always been my favorite moment on train journeys. Sleep deprivation. With the right soundtrack and environment, it’s much cheaper and safer than tripping. As I sit there and peer under my makeshift hoodie outside the window and around the train, the final boss shows up. He’s short, like make fun of a person type short, but just in your head, has some sort of balding comb-over mullet Neil Diamond type hairdo. I imagine I am not the first person in the entire world that has seen this person and thought to themselves “That little fellow looks like an Oompa Loompa” He definitely looks a little shifty, he has one big bag with him that looks like it may weigh more than him. We arrive in New York City at 1:30 AM and the train is scheduled to sit here for about 45 minutes so I of course go out on the platform. We are underground now, so it’s just that heavy train station smell, it’s incredibly stuffy and hot but a relief as they have the air conditioning blasting inside. I decide to vape more marijuana, I have no idea if I even need to or should. This train is scheduled to arrive in Boston at 8:30 AM, there is then a train at 11:00 am that travels to Franklin, MA which is the town next to me. From there I will schedule a ride sharing company to drive me the six miles back to my house. I realize I can get off the train in Providence, RI at 7:45 am which is about a half hour from my house. I’ll get a ride from there, that makes more sense. That’s the best plan anyway. I don’t really want to sit in another train station and wait three hours to get on yet another train. That’s the plan, yeah. A normal person might just not get any higher at this point. Well not a normal person, but my best idea is to just stay awake the last seven hours of this journey. I’ve barely slept much anyway, what’s one other night?

 

The final boss approaches me as I stand there on the platform far beneath Madison Square Garden.

 

“Hate these long layovers, I wanna get home” he says

“How far you going?” I ask him

“Hartford, but I’m from Providence”

He has a generic Northeastern accent, part Long Island, part Boston, part Rhode Island. And then he gets into it

“They cleaned it up up there” he motions to above us

“Yeah”

“Used to take this trip all the time, Back in the day you get an hour wait here you’d go up there and get with any woman up there”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah I remember there was a half hour layover and I went up there and met a woman in an alley and she sucked my dick for twenty bucks, right then and there”

“Oh wow, yeah?”

“Yeah”

“That’s cool”

 

Is it cool? Not really, to have that done to me standing in a dirty alley with the added anxiety of missing the train if they don’t hurry up, that sounds like an experience where you’d have to pay me. I let my new friend that I’m going back inside and try to sleep. I watch him standing out there after I return to my seat, he’s swinging his arms back and forth waiting for someone to talk to, he’s not smoking or anything. This feeling of loneliness and melancholy sweeps over me, not just for him, but anyone I briefly paid attention to on this trip, and myself. When I think of people like this, myself included just going through life not really noticed by anyone. We have these stories we always want to tell someone no matter how absurd they may be, or how non-eventful they may be. Everyone has them and even when they are some sort of testosterone fueled “hey check it out just because I’m small I get blow jobs” trying to impress another dude story, it still holds some weight. How sad would it be if you went through life and never got to tell anyone a story?

 

I’m contemplating this kind of thing while I drift in and out of sleep which I am completely unaware of and finally come to and realize we have passed Providence Rhode Island and I will now be spending four hours in South Station on a Sunday morning in Boston. I could technically take a ride share from here but the idea of small talk for forty-five minutes in a stranger’s car at this mental state sounds like a nightmare. Instead I grab a coffee and find a table to sit at, I take my earbuds out and listen to the sounds of a Sunday morning in my home town. It’s nice to be home and hear the accents, and laughs and conversations. No need for me to pay much attention here. I’m from here and I know everyone’s story, the good ones, the bad ones and ones like this one where nothing happens but I felt like I wanted to tell it.

 

 

 

Woke Up Depressed

 

The first time I heard the song Flower by Soundgarden I shit my pants. I lost interest in hardcore and punk rock after I graduated high school. Nobody was doing anything new that interested me anyway (I’ve since gone back and discovered a lot of good stuff I missed in the 90’s but that’s words for another time) I had taken a break from “classic rock” and traditional metal like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc while spending a good chunk of my teenage years immersed in the hardcore scene. The first thing I thought of when I heard Flower was the intro to the song sounded like Led Zeppelin with Morrissey moaning along for a couple measures. And then it kicked in and it was all Led Zeppelin, or something. I couldn’t put my finger on what it sounded like. It was new and fresh and that was the moment I discovered this whole other world of music that started happening. Soundgarden were at the very top of this world, no question.

I can’t think of another band I have seen in so many different size venues in Boston and beyond, from The Rat, The Paradise (with VoiVod and Faith No More!), Avalon, Axis (with COC and Danzig!), Worcester Centrum with Guns n’ Roses, Hollywood Palladium with Monster Magnet, Great Woods in Mansfield, MA at Lollapalooza and probably a couple more I’m forgetting. They seemed to always be on tour in the 90’s, I never missed them. That first show at The Rat after Ultramega OK came out, Kim Thayil stood out to my brother and I. We thought he resembled Tommy Chong, and of course they then ended the show with a cover of Earache My Eye. As amazing as Cornell’s voice was, it didn’t hit me right away. The music and riffs were what I really dug. That changed when Louder Than Love was released and at the next show I saw, at Axis. They opened with Beyond the Wheel and Cornell’s voice was out of this world. That song is made for him. It’s one of those songs nobody should ever attempt to cover. If he was away from the microphone or when it went out his voice would still carry throughout the venue. And this band was fucking loud. They closed that night with one of my top three songs by them, the “doomy” I Awake. I shit my pants again. Every time I saw them after this show my eyes never wandered further away from Cornell. That voice, and even as a heterosexual male, let’s admit it, the guy was obviously pretty easy on the eyes. I never got to see Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden fast became my Led Zeppelin. A larger than life rock band that was loud, sexy, perfect in every sense.

 

Up to Louder than Love the lyrics on Soundgarden records didn’t connect with me that well, there was always a mix of humor and clever lines like Hands All Over’s environmental “you’re gonna kill your mother” line but nothing mind blowing. When Badmotorfinger came out that changed for me. The lyrics on that record connected to me, they were smart, sad, hopeful, funny, everything my 20 something Stussy hat sporting self needed. Mind Riot and Slaves and Bulldozers immediately come to mind as ones I wish I wrote.

 

I am at work and can’t really spend all morning writing about Chris Cornell and how big of a deal he was to me, but reading the number of posts from friends who also spent a good amount of their life loving this man’s music I felt like needed to get something out of myself. Every post and little tribute has been refreshing to see in a week of generally crappy things to read on the internet. It took me the entirety of their existence to figure out how and why I loved this man and his band so much. It was and still a long fruitful relationship that has aged well for me. All of their music (Okay, I never liked Spoonman, not to be that guy but) is still listenable, and the reissues they have been releasing have reawakened my interest in them. Thanks to a number of unreleased tracks on all of them you can see how Cornell put some of these songs together and why he was such a monster songwriter and top tier musician. Some of these bigger musicians dying the last few years (Bowie, Prince, etc) have been sad, but this one got my eyes watery this morning when I saw it on the TV in between stories about how sunny and warm it was going to be today and how surreal and sad the government is right now. Cornell was on a Lennon/Townsend/Jagger level for me. On a positive note I still have hours of timeless music to listen to escape to.

Woke up depressed
I left for work
You have a good day
It’s not your fault
I know it hurts

Remember, I love you, love you
Remember, I love you, love you
I love

Woke up depressed
I left for work
You have a good day
It’s not my fault
I know it hurts

Sorta Like Heaven

Whitestrat

“So did we ever…you know?”

“Umm, no we never did that”

“Why not?”

(Are we really having this conversation?)

“Well because you said you were good friends with your landlord and felt weird having sex in her building”

(I mean also because the first time you kissed me was three minutes after we finished a half-drunk game of Yahtzee. Well, you were half drunk. I was drinking Sprite. You had your hand in a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips that you had been snacking on throughout the night. If I know potato chips, they leave behind a lot of remnants in one’s mouth. So I still have vivid memories of that first kiss, where I was transferred some of the remnants of said sour cream and onion potato chips. The landlord thing was certainly part of why we never had sex, but I didn’t want to bring up the chips while you and your friend were coincidentally sharing a basket of tortilla chips)

“Oh okay, I wasn’t completely sure”

(How do you not remember who you’ve had sex with? Also, in retrospect, that’s kind of an insult! I can remember the women I’ve been with, fooled around with once, dated briefly or for years. A good chunk of those women, are connected to The Cure and my history with that band so it was no surprise a random girl I dated for a month almost a decade ago would pop back into my head the night of a Cure concert)

My friend Michelle sent me a message a few days before this show saying she may have an extra ticket and if so I can have it, and if I’ll drive. Deal. I tend to never get tickets when they go on sale at this point. There’s no real reason to, especially with all the buying options out there, and friends on social media going. If you can’t find a ticket to a concert the week of in 2016 you’re not trying. Also, I’m never dropping however much money people spend on beer and drinks at shows so I’m willing to pay a bit more for a ticket if I need to.

Michelle and I got to the venue early and grabbed dinner nearby. We’ve been friends for a few years online, met once in person while I was working the door at a bar six months ago but never hung out so it was nice to be able to drive and chat and sit down to dinner and chat instead of meeting up at a show and not having time to talk. She is similarly minded as me I think, and is hilarious in person as she is online. It’s good to have friends like this.

There was a woman sitting to my right alone who at one point ordered two drinks. At one point I look up and approaching the table is a girl I recognize immediately as the sour cream and potato chip girl. I have no idea what her name is at this point. I struggle with the guilt of this lapse in memory later as I judge her for forgetting if she had sex with a particular person. When I realize forgetting someone you played Yahtzee with isn’t that big of a deal I move on. Emotionally. We exchange pleasantries, she even says her name for some reason, probably sensing my lapse. I introduce her to Michelle

“This is my FRIEND Michelle”

When it’s time to leave Michelle is well ahead of me and pretty much outside when she stops me and asks

“So did we ever…you know?”

We get to the venue and of course run into Yahtzee woman and her friend again who are sitting in THE SAME SECTION AS US. That’s the last interaction we have with them.

Just as that is happening the band is suddenly on the stage and you can hear some sort of noodling around on stage for a few minutes. I think it’s maybe some sort of pre-recorded thing playing and then realize they are opening with “Open” from 1992’s Wish. I posted about them hopefully opening with this on Facebook earlier in the day so that was exciting. I mean not really but it was a tiny personal victory I celebrated inside my head alone in a venue surrounded by thousands of people.

They followed Open with five songs from what may be my favorite Cure album, The Head on the Door. It was the first record I heard by them, it’s short and has catchy pop songs and just enough darkness to at least place it in the top five essential albums in their catalog. When I first heard the record I was heavily immersed in the hardcore scene, especially what was happening there with all of the new more metal sounding bands like Corrosion of Conformity and D.R.I. The Cure was a quirky thing for me at the time. I wasn’t married to hardcore and metal, I grew up loving The Beatles and later on Squeeze and Joe Jackson and The Clash so the Cure was kind of natural for me. I think this era of the Cure is right before they would get the badge of being that band you put on a mix tape for the girl at the book store, or the band you were a sad sap for listening to. That wouldn’t start happening until the next record, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.

This was also around the time I was dating my high school girlfriend I was with for about two years. After getting burned by my first girlfriend in junior high I was a slightly paranoid boyfriend. I was one of those dudes. It was early in life and I’m not even remotely like that at this point, but yeah I could get jealous.

My brother got tickets to see them at the Orpheum in October of 1985. October 25th to be exact. My girlfriend mentioned a party her and her friend were going to the same night as the show. The party they were going to was being hosted by a boy her and her friends thought was cute. I can still remember him. He was that weird quiet misfit kid. Like the one in that movie American Beauty who films the grocery bag. I was bummed she would be going to this party so I tried getting out of going to the show but couldn’t. And of course nothing happened aside from me being able to be that obnoxious guy that says things like “Oh, cool, yeah I saw them in 1985” Hanging out with that high school girlfriend years later she did admit that her and the weird quiet misfit kid had sex after she and I broke up which was a horrible thing to tell a person.

Back here in 2016 they follow the dark and brooding Sinking with three songs in a row from Disintegration (Pictures of You, Closedown [like on the album] and Fascination Street) and then on to Hot Hot Hot !!! from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (God I’m sick of typing that out over and over. Wish they played more from Wish, or Faith) was a soundtrack of a whole crush I had on a girl who turned out to be my cousin. I swear I can explain. She was a cousin as her aunt married my mother’s cousin. This would have been around a year after Pretty in Pink came out (February, 1986) The Cure album with too many words in it came out in May of 1987. Me and, I’ll call her Elizabeth became friends when my uncle introduced me to her at a family event. When I found out she wasn’t related by blood it was over. She became Molly Ringwald. Had red hair, wore those hats, may have even had “The Rave-Ups” written on her book cover (doubtful) for all I know. We spent many nights driving around Swampscott and Nahant, Ma parking and listening to that album. I was a scared baby with this kind of thing so I never made any kind of move at all. Neither did she and we just remained friends.

A couple of years later we would go to a Cure show together, it was the Disintegration tour, well “The Prayer Tour” I had seen them a couple of more times and was going to both nights. She went with me one night and I went with another friend or maybe my brother another night. The night we went at one point in the show I was yawning and my eyes got all watery. I consciously thought that if she looks at me she’s going to think I’m crying. And low and behold the next day she told one of her friends about it and they told two friends, and so on and so on…I get told by a friend “Hey dude Elizabeth said you were crying at that Cure show”

I hope I didn’t reply “Boys don’t cry”

The band bounced around their immense catalog of music throughout the remainder of their thirty-one song set. Once you get rid of any kind of disappointment you may have if they don’t play a particular song, seeing The Cure is always an amazing treat live.

I was hesitant seeing them in a hockey arena as the last place I saw them was in a nice old theater in Los Angeles (performing their first three albums and a host of other rarities) and it was probably the best time I’ve ever seen them. I was by myself at that show, thousands of miles away from seeing anyone I know, far away from Molly Ringwald and Yahtzee girl. This show here in 2016 was just as important, and if it ends up being the last time I see them it at least has an amusing bookend to it running into that girl, and spending the time with a good friend, meeting a few new people and seeing other friends.

Also, because of how we were sitting (me on the inside, and Michelle on the seat closer to the aisle, with me facing the stage and her essentially behind me) she didn’t see me get a little misty in the eyes during Just Like Heaven.

The Three-Day Snowbound Hermit Blues

(I originally wrote these over a couple of days “trapped” in the house during a snowstorm in Massachusetts last winter [January, 2015] I’ve gathered them into one thing which is a bit long. Anyway.)

  

 Blizzard 2015 Pt. 1 (Might As Well Be Spring)

January 26th, 2015 9:00 PM – Marblehead, MA

 

Since I haven’t been writing at all much lately I figured I’d document this time stuck at home since it’s currently illegal to go outside for the most part. I suppose I could take a walk and not get arrested or pulled over but why would I do that when I have a warm house, a dog, a cat and Ray Romano to keep me company?

 

Went to the supermarket straight from work and it wasn’t as hectic as I thought it would be. I needed some essentials: mushrooms, a yellow highlighter, some rice cakes, one yellow onion, corn, eggs and a loaf of bread. I imagine the girl that rang me up didn’t notice everything I bought was either yellow or a light tan color as I did. My debit card went through but then she informed me I still owed $3.48 somehow. After a brief panicked “which one of those things will I end up putting back, and fuck that woman behind me put the stuff on the belt in quite an aggressive manner I bet she’s going to be pretty angry if we start canceling items and calling managers over” incident inside my head and two other debit cards later I was free to go with my yellow and tan groceries.

 

I stopped at the empty coffee shop around the corner and the nice young man who yesterday boasted like the US Postal Service that they would be open regardless of the weather informed me they would definitely be closed tomorrow. I didn’t really plan on leaving the house tomorrow, and that sealed that for me.

 

I pull into driveway and the crazy neighbors who live above garage at the end of the driveway have parked their gigantic white Cadillac in a place it’s never been before, in a position where if I park where I normally park it will be blocking them. I decide to just block them in and shrug it off. There is a note on the door

 

They say in times of stress you should bake. I think they say that. Someone does. Women? Grandmothers? Do grandmothers get stressed? They seem like they’re always pretty happy about stuff, I mean unless their husband of sixty-two years dies and they are destined for a lifetime of imminent lonely fish dinners. Well I’m not stressed. I don’t really mind snowstorms, unless of course the power goes out and I am stuck eating yellow onion sandwiches and rice cakes for three days. I’m excited at the thought of not going to work tomorrow. I have this book I’ve been reading and a yellow highlighter to highlight the important stuff to deal with tomorrow and did I say I don’t have to go in to work? So yeah, not stressed. I decided to bake when I got in, something easy: mushrooms stuffed with breadcrumbs and egg and shredded cheese and cayenne pepper and mushroom stems.  I put them in the oven around 5:30 and they were done before 6:00.  I ate the meal and watched what seemed like about six hours of news about the storm. I have this thing when I watch weather on news where I just kind of zone out and not hear anything they are saying, sort of like when I meet a new person and they tell me their name and I immediately forget it, or if someone gives me directions and inside I’m saying “okay I’ll probably just look this up on my phone as this guy is really confusing me but I’ll keep nodding and make pretend I get it” Three or so hours after I cooked the mushrooms I went into the kitchen to grab get a drink and notice a red light on the (thankfully electric) stove. “Oh, left the oven on ”Opened the oven and this wave of heat came out burning the tips of my green dreadlocks just a tiny bit. I mean heating up my face like when you step out into the sun in the August after being inside too long, not burning my green dreadlocks. I turn the oven off and remember this is now the third time I’ve done this. The first two times I did this I was high as a kite on marijuana; tonight I was completely sober. Still alive and well over here.

 

Maybe it will actually start snowing soon. I hear plows but outside looks the same as it did four hours ago. I’ll be back.

 

“I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm,

I’m as jumpy as a puppet on a string,
I’d say that I had spring fever,
But I know it isn’t spring”

  

  

Blizzard 2015 Pt. 2 (Everything Happens to Me)

January 27, 2015  8:51 AM – Marblehead, MA

 

So it’s 7:30 AM and I am looking out the window and all I see is white, which is pretty much what it’s like when you look out the window here any time of the year. Whenever I have one of these types of days off I have all of the grand ideas to clean, organize, read, write, play music, cook or do something productive. Let’s see how that pans out.

 

An hour later our new governor is on TV telling us things we already know like how it’s going to snow quite a bit today and to stay off the roads so the plows can do their jobs. This new governor, Charlie Baker, a Republican; I don’t know if it’s what he looks like or how he carries himself but he looks like your girlfriend’s dad from when you were 15.

 

“Hi Chris, what do you do?”

“Well sir I’m 15 so I go to school, listen to Iron Maiden and have acne”

“Very nice, make sure she’s home by 10:30”

“Yeah, keep calling me Chris dude”

 

I don’t think I’ve ever called anyone sir in my life now that I think of it.

 

The cars in driveway as a result of how they are tucked away between a wall, the house and a garage are pretty much completely visible thanks to the high winds and fluffy nature of the snow.

 

Three hours later and am I really watching the Maury show? I am resigned to TV the remainder of this stay in the house as I discovered a few minutes ago that I have LEFT MY GLASSES I USE TO READ AT WORK. Did I seriously do that knowing full well I would be here for at least a day and a half and have this book and the yellow highlighter? My work is currently moving, yesterday we spent the whole day moving things out of there and cleaning, and I cleaned my whole desk off and collected some personal things that I took home but left the glasses. I generally never forget things (which is why I’m a perfect target for the whole September 11/Never Forget marketing thing) and kind of look down on absent-minded people who always forget things or misplace things. So what a piece of shit I am for forgetting those. They are cheaters soI think I can handle reading without them, but Jesus.

 

Have not opened the milk I bought three days ago yet. Feeling like I will be stir crazy by 1:30 PM.

 

“I make a date for golf, you can bet you life it rains
I try to give a party and the guy upstairs complains
I guess, I’ll go through life just catchin’ colds and missin’ trains
Everything happens to me”

  

 Blizzard 2015 Pt 2 a (Karma)

January 27, 2015 12:54 PM – Marblehead, MA

Saying how I look down upon people who forget things in Part 2 has paid off well today. I was watching an hour-long program on the thing when the cat entered the room and proceeded to vomit on the floor and then go eat. Something I wish was socially acceptable for people. I decided to deal with it “whenever I get up” Fast forward to an hour later and I walk into other room and step directly in the cat vomit.

I guess I am taking a shower.

I’ve decided to do some shoveling, especially the stairs and around my car. I’m not sure I’ll be able to open the door to get outside and shovel, I did bring the shovel inside with me last night.

Oh yeah, I lost my gloves.

  

 Blizzard 2015 Pt 3 (One Room Country Shack)

January 27, 2015 7:30 PM Marblehead, MA

 

I’m convinced the neighbors downstairs have never seen daylight. You rarely see them but good lord do you hear them.  The main guy has a thick Massachusetts accent and just sounds like an asshole. I can’t make out exactly what he’s saying; he sounds like if some guy named Frank from Everett, Massachusetts did all the adult voices on Charlie Brown. I believe he is probably around 35. There is his girlfriend who is friendly enough when you see her even if I do a double take every time I see her because for a second I think it’s Ultimate Sin era Ozzy Osbourne in my driveway with jet-black hair. In sweatpants. Her son who I imagine is about 20 years old and wears baseball hats with the labels still on them also lives here. On occasion you’ll hear someone freestyle rapping downstairs. I have not determined if the freestyle rapper is the Frank from Everett, Massachusetts guy or the kid. I wonder if they know it snowed out today? Every once in awhile I smell marijuana coming up from downstairs in certain parts of the apartment and briefly get paranoid that I will fail an upcoming drug screening at work as a result of the smell, and then I wonder if I’m just being paranoid. Or am I being paranoid because I am getting high from the marijuana I’m smelling? Reminds me of the time I was driving on Lynn Beach near Red Rock one summer. The Massachusetts State Police would sometimes have the horses out there for kids to pet. Me and my buddy were sitting in the long traffic line smoking grass and listening to Rush or whatever and I told him to roll up his window as I was so high I thought that police horses were trained like police dogs and they might catch a whiff of the marijuana smoke.

 

I’ve just been informed there will not be work tomorrow. I am a little surprised and a little relieved. I did a little bit of shoveling today. Well, about fifteen minutes of shoveling my stairs before having to jump down on to the ground to start where I was waist deep in snow. Fifteen minutes was about as long as I could take shoveling without gloves on before I decided to walk down to the 7-11 and just buy gloves. I’m pretty sure I bought women’s gloves, at least there was a woman on the tag. Ask me if I give a shit that I bought gloves for women at 7-11 for $4.99. They did the job for the remaining fifteen minutes of shoveling I did. I looked at my car and there is a drift in front of it that looks like it will be a pain in the ass to deal with. Where the snow is light and fluffy I had planned to either just drive right through it tomorrow morning, hope someone else miraculously deals with it for me, or I don’t have to do to work tomorrow and the wind will blow it around and it will be easier to deal with Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

 

I told a few jokes and did some impressions and songs for the dog, he seemed unimpressed. I generally talk to myself quite a bit if I am in a situation where I haven’t spoken to a human being in quite some time. Sometimes I like to imagine I’ll get myself into some sort of situation where the FBI bugs my house or car and gets a kick out of my conversations with myself.

 

I’ve begun a game of “Alcohol Bingo” with my Facebook friends list that started yesterday. Every time someone mentions they are drinking a new type of alcohol I haven’t seen yet I mark it down on this sheet I have. I have yet to hear of anyone drinking white wine or tequila yet, but we’re still only a day into this storm thing. I also have a “Which one of my friends will die of alcohol poisoning first?” thing running for the last few years, but I kind of keep that on the down low inside my head.

 

Pretty sure there is some sort of creature or person running up and down the streets screaming so I fried up some chicken cutlets to take my mind off the terror that placed in my imagination.

 

 

“Sittin’ here, thousand miles from nowhere
People, I’m in my one room country little shack
I’m sittin’ here, thousand miles from nowhere
People, I’m in my own, own one room country little shack”

  

Blizzard 2015 Pt 4 (Un Poco Loco)

January 28, 2015  6:08 PM – Marblehead, MA

What a sad, sad day in New England. The storm has left us with no goodbye or anything. Left in the middle of the night while we were all sleeping.  Speaking of sleeping, the neighbors downstairs, I think they slept all day. At one point I ventured outside to do some shoveling. I noticed the creepy guy that lives above the garage was out there and thought I’d give him a hand. My car is blocking his, and the mini van (exactly) that the shit bags downstairs drive is next to my car. I shoveled a path out of my stairway, around their car but leaving a few feet of snow in front of theirs, and then around mine. The creepy neighbor that lives above the garage shoveled a good chunk of the driveway it was only about eight inches deep. Where I was shoveling it was a little deeper. About forty minutes into this, the woman who looks like Ultimate Sin era Ozzy Osbourne poked her greasy haired head out and said she messaged the landlord and the plow guy was on the way. Meanwhile the garage neighbor guy had shoveled their stairs for them. Both of us kind of shrugged, put down our shovels and went back inside. This was my second shoveling session. A plow showed up an hour or so later and pretty much just removed some of the snow. The way the cars are positioned it’s hard to really plow us out. A few minutes later I hear some commotion outside and see the son with the flat brimmed baseball hat with the labels still on it rushing outside with a shovel. From what I could gather his friends came to pick him up in some sort of Lincoln and got stuck at the end of the driveway, blocking traffic coming up our hill. I sat in the window and watched the ordeal as cars started lining up behind them, three vaped out 20somethings trying to figure out how to get a car with rear wheel drive out of the snow was amusing. I even snapped a few pics of it.  I took a shower and they were still out there when I came back. I probably could have helped them as I probably weigh about as much as all three of the crackhead looking kids combined, but also THE FUCKING BOYFRIEND OF GORILLA COOKIE FACE ULTIMATE SIN ERA OZZY OSBOURNE LADY COULD HAVE WENT OUT AND HELPED OR HEY MAYBE CAME OUT AND HELPED SHOVEL.

 

I had a great shower and fried up some cheese sandwiches on wheat bread and fell asleep watching a James Bond movie. Tough living, these blizzards.

 

At some point I hear some more commotion outside and realize the loud boyfriend is outside talking to the girlfriend of the man who lives above the garage. Her father is our landlord. She is kind of a character and kind of looks like a cross between Randy Rhoads and Dave Murray from Iron Maiden, but like 80 pounds. She’s got a raspy voice and is one of about four people in the world who I give a pass to calling me “Chris” I never look out the window to see what’s going on. The boyfriend then comes back in house and I hear him yelling about something regarding the driveway. He’s going on and on like he usually does. One of these guys that just yells and yells constantly. I mean I imagine if I was living with that woman I would probably yell quite a bit, for instance if I woke up in the middle of the night and saw her sleeping in the bed next to me, that would be cause for alarm and I would probably cry out something. I hate people who yell, people with short fuses. I have a short fuse from time to time and I hate when it comes out. I usually recognize it and try to think at how absurd the thing is I am getting upset about. “THIS FUCKING THING WON’T DO THE THING IT’S SUPPOSED TO DO” Sort of like that bit Louis CK does pointing out the absurdity of people getting mad at their smartphones.  This guy downstairs though, I can just imagine him constantly getting heated about ridiculous things and then not doing anything about it. I don’t know what this guy does for a living, I have no idea what his sleep schedule is. My basic idea of what happens in that apartment under me is: they smoke weed, yell, watch loud TV, freestyle rap, yell, yell, make gorilla cookies with that woman’s face, smoke weed and eat all the gorilla cookies. This guy had all fucking day to come out and just grab a shovel. I even positioned the third shovel in view of their window in a snow bank. You can either be a guy that sits inside and yells at a woman all day or be a man and do some work outside. I’m not the person to confront someone or tell them what to do especially in this situation. I’ve literally never even looked this guy in the eye. I think I’ve seen him once. I’d rather just be the guy that sees something that needs to be done and just do it, especially when you really have no choice. I went out a few minutes after his yelling fit and did some more shoveling, careful to still leave that little patch of snow still in front of their horrible mini van thing. It felt good getting out there a third time with the headphones listening to Black Flag and Cro-Mags and other old hardcore music and making progress on something.

 

Anyway, tonight I’ve decided to introduce them to Slayer –Reign in Blood at a good volume. I’ll let some shithead be a shithead and be the type of person that constantly needs to yell and be abrasive while I do my thing up here.

 

Before this blizzard started I dreaded it. Probably like the neighbor downstairs did. I realized today it’s not really a big deal, snow. You go out, shovel it and that’s the worst thing about it. I mean, unless of course you lose your power or something horrible happens to your home. For the majority of us though it’s nothing. It’s tiring, but I know anytime I shovel snow I always feel better at the end, like I accomplished something. You can go stir crazy sitting in the house for multiple days as I have a little. I don’t go out as much anymore so being at home isn’t that big of a deal but when you feel trapped in like this it does something to your head which is why I needed to fix it. The guy downstairs, I imagine he just lets things heat up inside his head until they blow for no good reason. I never want to be one of those guys. I never will be. Here’s hoping their car doesn’t start tomorrow morning.

   

 

 

Adventures at the Weed Doctor

  
When I was living in Massachusetts marijuana became a luxury item. Something that was rare, something you often had to work for. A guy at your work would “know a kid that could get it, he’s gonna meet us at this parking lot at this time and oh wait he texted and said it’s not gonna happen today” Fast forward to two weeks later and you were back, texting people in their 20’s that looked like they worked at Taco Bell and wait “yeah we gotta meet him at Taco Bell on Highland Ave between 8:00 PM and 9:30 PM” Wait, I have to hang out with you guys for ninety minutes? The idea of going into a store and buying marijuana is the stuff of me and my Ozzy (baseball) jerseyed friends in 1983’s dreams. But here it is 2015 in California.

 

When I first arrived here I visited some friends in San Francisco. My friend’s boyfriend had a “card” and after dinner one night we stood outside of his car and smoked a “prerolled” which is basically a joint you buy. These particular ones he had were packaged all fancy and professional looking. He offered to get me some. The next day we met up and after using an app called Weed Maps we drove to a “dispensary” I said “just get me like sixty dollars worth of joints whatever that is” He returned a few minutes later with a little paper white bag that literally said “Pharmacy” on it. Like the bags you get when you go and get an anti-biotic because something happened to your body. Inside the bag were five plastic tubes with joints in them. I smoked part of one of these on my drive back to Los Angeles and thought I might drive off a mountain so I stopped after a couple hits.

 

When I returned to Los Angeles I decided to see how easy it would be to get one of these “recommendations” (you don’t necessarily get a “card” but what’s called a “recommendation letter” I looked online for good reviews and prices and settled on one abut twenty minutes from me and this is exactly what happened:

 

On one of the busier stretches of Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley is a tight little strip mall with tiny parking spaces and as usual an odd mix of shops: weed doctor, donut shop, cellphone repair shop, a restaurant from a country you’ve never heard of and a (closed) Mexican restaurant. Just as I get out of the car a large man is vaping outside of the store next to the weed doctor place. “Weren’t you just here an hour ago?” he asks me through a puff of sweet smoke that smells of cookies. But like shitty Mrs Fields mall cookies. “No I wasn’t” “Are you sure?” he asks again, which is generally one of the worst things a person can ask you when you are so sure of something. Ignore him and go into the weed doctor place where I’m greeted by the smell of marijuana. I wasn’t aware they have marijuana in these places as this is just where you get the recommendation letter so you can go and buy it. At the reception desk are two women in their 20’s, although I think the one I dealt with was probably in her 30’s. One of them is talking about a tattoo she got the night before, the other one addresses me. I immediately think of Fran Drescher. Hair pulled back tight, in some sort of business suit but with high heels. The other girl was wearing a blazer with what appeared to be just a bra under it. This was the first time I felt like “eww this is what LA is like in nightmares” She gave me some paperwork to fill out just like a real doctor’s office. As I sat down the vape/weren’t you here earlier guy comes in and goes behind the counter. He is apparently the security guard. I guess he didn’t do a good job. He let me in “twice” The paperwork had questions asking about what was wrong with me, if I had ever tried marijuana, if I knew it was illegal for me to buy it and then resell it, etc. As I was sitting there two men walked in and were motioned into the back from Cookie Vaping dude. One of the men had a bag with him. They left a few minutes later empty handed. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t look Eastern European.

 

I handed in my paperwork. Within three minutes Fran Drescher came out and called me in. I sat at her desk as she interviewed me for a few minutes, rarely looking up as she filled out what would end up being the recommendation letter. So it was decided before she even read my paperwork that I needed one of these recommendations for back pain. I legitimately do have chronic issues with my back but I know I’ve smoked marijuana in the past and it did nothing for my back. It made live versions of No Quarter by Led Zeppelin pretty intense though. At one point during our chat the woman even joked “it’s not like we’re doing actual doctor work here” was I somehow deemed cool enough to be let in on the joke or did she just slip up? She finally stopped writing and handed me the sheet of paper and made eye contact with me. She instructed me “you can’t buy more than eight ounces and keep it in your trunk” (I think it was eight ounces) Either way, from the time I got out of the car to the time I got back into my car it was about twenty minutes. I could now buy marijuana and anything with marijuana in it legally because I was sick and it would help me get through my condition.

 

I found a dispensary the night before near my house and as with the “doctor’s office” I was immediately hit with the smell of marijuana the second I walked in. There was a small waiting room with a young Mexican man behind a window. I could see the tattooed arms of a young woman staring at a smart phone to his right. I gave him my California driver’s license and my recommendation letter. He handed me a clipboard where I barely read a bunch of statements and agreed or disagreed with them. A minute later I was buzzed into the area. It was a little overwhelming at first, two long counters with three girls working behind there which I learned were called “budtenders” (I know…) The clientele there were about three or four young healthy looking men. Tan, dressed well in their summer hip kids clothes. No sick looking people with like glaucoma pouring out of their eyes on to their faded Jefferson Airplane shirts. Just a bunch of young kids that are going to buy high quality weed and then whip away into the hills to get high at a pool somewhere. As with any new food establishment I go into I felt immediately pressure to order something so I just found the stupidest sounding “strain” I could find and went with that. So yeah I went with the “Chuck Norris OG”

 

I guess the stuff worked. On one occasion I stopped at a stop sign and sat there waiting for it to turn green. I was there for maybe twenty seconds before I realized I had zoned out. I guess the warning not to drive is correct. The other instance I knew it worked was when for one night I liked a Drake song I heard. Now I did hear it the following day and immediately had to somehow unhear it. I don’t have it in me as a forty-five year old man to like anything by Drake, ever. A few days later I realized my back didn’t have the pains it had before. I generally would feel them after waking up in the morning. Who gives a shit about my back though really? Let’s talk about weed. When I first left that dispensary it was like that scene in Half Baked when Dave Chappelle signs for the weed at the hospital. The excitement of this whole thing has since worn off and I am currently not really using any of it since I am job hunting.

 

The fact that they take this whole medical marijuana thing so serious and have all the strict rules is kind of a joke. When you’re selling something called “Am-Trac” because it will make you “feel like you got hit by a train yo” (overheard in dispensary) you’re not selling medicine for someone to get better you’re selling recreational drugs so people can escape for a little while. I don’t have cancer but I imagine if I did the last thing I’d want was to feel like I got hit by a train. Whether you abuse it is your own thing but the whole culture embarrasses me so I find it hard to be a hardcore “weed guy” at this point. The fact that I can get it now whenever I want and if a friend visiting wanted it I could be that guy is great and all but really, crutches to escape always end up wearing out.

 

 

 

1313 Words About 30 Minutes in Wal-Mart

 

I don’t really have any kind of fashion sense, especially since I never go anywhere besides work, Starbucks, supermarkets and gas stations. I wear the same thing I’ve been wearing for however many years now. Jeans, never shorts, steel toed boots, two t-shirts and a “work shirt” over those. Usually one of those Dickies ones in blue or black. Even if it’s 107 out, this is the outfit I have on. Unless someone I love dies and I have to go to a funeral, I’ll probably never wear a suit or a tie for the rest of my life. I’m fine with this. I don’t care what other people wear and try my hardest not to associate with anyone who does care about trivial things like clothing. So it was with great sadness that I tore the black Dickies shirt I had owned for about five years now. (The blue one I wear has been going strong since the 90’s, really) The closest place between where I live and where I work to buy one of these is Walmart. I imagine there are other places I can buy these shirts such as THE INTERNET, but I really needed to get this shirt today if I wanted to satisfy the OCD thing in my head that was starting to make some noise at the fact I’ve been wearing the blue one exclusively for a couple of months now.

 

This particular Wal-Mart also has a Subway in it. Subway is currently enjoying a spot at the top of the fast food chain game world in the United States according to recent articles I didn’t read but saw the headlines on Huffington Post. Since I brought no lunch to work with me today I decided I’d give it another try. I hadn’t eaten at Subway in a year or so. I’ve recently lost a good amount of weight, about forty pounds, so most fast food is out of the question at this point. SUBWAY HAD THAT GUY THOUGH SO IT MUST BE GOOD FOR YOU. I figured I could find some sort of cold cut thing in there and I’m not eating chips anymore so I should be okay…but not really.

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I walk in and the Subway is on my right, I notice about five people in line so I decide to go find the shirt I need first. I panic a little as they only have the tan ones, and since I’m not about to join the Nazi Party I certainly don’t want one. Also, I don’t want to look like a walking cantaloupe. Finally I notice there is one black one left, my size on the shelf below, not hanging on the peg. I grab it and make my way to the registers which are all about a dozen people deep. I figure I can take the shirt into Subway and pay for the shirt after.

 

The line in Subway is significantly shorter now aside from some old woman and what I presume is her daughter. They are ordering…I try not watch the Subway people making the sandwiches and pulling the various meats out of the little trays as it really is disgusting. It would be what I imagine watching a video collage of yourself being conceived and born is like. While in line I am also keeping tabs on the lines out in Wal-Mart CENTRAL I guess we’ll call it. I briefly look at various escape routes and where cameras are located, and think of where I’m parked thinking I can just walk out with the shirt and not pay for it. It’s Wal-Mart, I would not feel a shred of guilt stealing from them. Sort of how you feel when you see someone young fall down on the ice and don’t stop to help them. They’ll figure it out. While I’m daydreaming about minor theft a guy steps in front of me in line, he’s apparently with the women in front of me and they were holding his space. I was pretty excited to learn this same gentleman was here to order FOUR FUCKING SANDWICHES. I briefly thought about how I joked on Facebook earlier about someone ordering three breakfast sandwiches. That story was not true at all. A guy did order one breakfast sandwich in front of me this morning, but as is often with things I post there, they are made up incidents created for humor. Most people can relate to mundane little annoyances like that and that’s where my humor and daily observations often come from. THIS FUCK IN FRONT OF ME THOUGH, NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT HIM AND HIS FOUR SANDWICHES AT ALL. This whole process adds about nine minutes to my experience in the line. I notice he is talking kind of softly when he orders each sandwich, like he knows he messed up my whole life and now I am staring at him with daggers. He is finally gone and I order my cold cut sandwich which I just ate and it was truly disgusting and I will never go there again as long as I live, but I don’t want to get into that.

 

I decide against stealing the shirt after briefly thinking I might be able to just put the shirt on over the ones I already have on. I’d have four shirts on. Maybe I could go hang out with Mr. Four Sandwiches Guy. I scope out a line to stand in. The express line at Wal-Mart by the way is “LESS THAN 20 ITEMS” What the fuck kind of express line is that? HOLD ON, LET THESE FIVE PEOPLE WITH NINETEEN DIFFERENT TYPES OF DORITOS AND BOYS UNDERWEAR AND FAST AND FURIOUS DVD’S GET IN FRONT OF YOU AND YOUR ONE SHIRT OVER HERE IN THE EXPRESS LANE. I find a line with five or six people. I look ahead and the woman checking out is putting potted plants on the conveyor thing which for some reason makes me sigh. I don’t know why I think a potted plant will take longer than say, a can of Glade to deal with but I do. Just then the dreaded happens. The lighted number above the register starts blinking and the cashier is now holding up a pair of boots. Probably not as intense as my semi-expensive steel-toed ones, but nonetheless, work boots. WHO THE FUCK PICKS AN ITEM THAT ISN’T PRICED? The cashier decides to leave us and go find the price herself. WAIT WHERE IS THE SHOE DEPARTMENT. WHAT IF IT’S ALL THE WAY IN THE BACK? WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF US NOW? Another woman shows up and rings up the rest of the boot lady’s items. Now there is one party in front of me, a woman in her sixties and a younger woman who have a carriage filled with stuff. The older woman suggests I go in front of her as “you look like you probably want to eat your lunch there” ARE YOU SAYING I AM FAT? We had a little small talk banter about the other Wal-Mart’s around. She apparently enjoys the one in North Reading. I let her know I’ve been there as I used to live in nearby Woburn and fuck I would rather be in the back of a police car on the way to the joint for stealing a $17 shirt from Wal-Mart than having this conversation with this perfectly nice lady. Just then a new register opens and I am motioned over. I swipe my card and the whole transaction takes maybe two minutes. I thank the lady who was going to let me go in front of her and now I think I am going to go stick a Sharpie down my throat and get rid of the Black Forest Ham and Turkey on Seven Grain Wheat. Perhaps I’ll write about how that goes.

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Dead Man Walking

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 I’ve now been involved in three layoffs in my life. The first one, I was laid off with a number of other folks, these last two (at the same company) I was saved.

 

At my last job, for part of my eleven years there I was head union steward. On more than one occasion I would get a call from a manager (usually that one from the warehouse with the ponytail and mustache that smoked weed and looked like a roadie for Black Sabbath) telling me they would be firing someone that day and I would have to represent them. More often than not they would have them finish working on some project and then fire them. When I say “project” I mean some menial task like emptying trash, sweeping an area or moving a bunch of heavy shit. I remember one particular employee calling him out on it once “you mean you had me do all that shit today knowing you were gonna fire me, that’s bullshit”

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Walking around work knowing someone is going to get fired or laid off that day is an awful feeling to have inside you. Even if the person was a horrible employee, there is still that little piece of empathy you carry. I heard about today’s layoff about a week ago. It is pretty slow at work right now and without getting into details and politics about my boring mundane job, they could have done things a lot different there the last few months and avoided this, but I’m just some guy that works out back, what do I know? They would be getting rid of four part time guys and one full time guy; I knew the whole list of employees that would go. Now I just had to work with these guys for a week knowing they would soon be gone. At one point last week one of them asked me if I could get a “direct deposit form” from the office. I told him I’d get it “next week, she’s out the rest of this week” (she wasn’t) I figured if I could hold him off a few days, he didn’t know he wouldn’t need a direct deposit form anyway. I briefly considered somehow talking him out of direct deposit, but couldn’t come up with any arguments quick enough. Is there a pro-paper check movement out there? Doubtful.

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In my opinion, the best way to deal with a layoff as a manager doing the firing is to do it when the employees that are staying are nowhere to be seen. The last thing you want to do is parade a bunch of freshly fired people past the employees that get to stay. From what I understood, they were going to do this at lunch today while the remaining five of us would be out of the building. In one particularly awkward moment, direct deposit dude asked me what I was doing for lunch. We often get lunch together. I had to quickly come up with some excuse and for some reason came up with “Oh, I have to call my doctor…” I have no idea where that came from or what kind of answer to “what are you having for lunch today?” this was. I don’t have a doctor. I haven’t had a doctor since I was probably seven years old. I should probably get a doctor at some point, but that’s a situation for another day. I know in my head I had the scenario planned out for him if he questioned me more. Which was basically me going to some place to get lunch and talking on the phone to my fictitious doctor while I drove. What if he had said he didn’t mind me talking on the phone while he was in my car? I didn’t have a back up plan for that. I’m a horrible liar. For whatever reason, they gathered the employees ten minutes before lunch, not informing me or anyone else. So there we were standing around like a bunch of jackasses in the hot-as-piss warehouse as their supervisor walked them out of the office with their little green folders just like I got when I got laid off that one time.

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I went through the air-conditioned office to get to my car so I could go get lunch. On my way through I walked past the desk of the manager/owner who did the laying off. On his computer screen was a website for some ultra expensive looking hotel called “The Manhattan Club” for one of his upcoming business trips. I drove to a supermarket up the road that sells premade sandwiches and meals. As I got out of my car it seemed as if the hot air outside smelled of mashed potatoes. For a moment I wondered how horrible it would be to sit in an 81-degree warehouse eating mashed potatoes. I went with something more sensible. 

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Jury Duty

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A postcard was sent to an old address I haven’t been at since August of 2009 informing me I had been selected for jury duty. I was more than happy to take a day off from work in the middle of the week. This was maybe my sixth time going to jury duty since I turned eighteen seventy-five years ago. Most people sigh when they tell you they have to go to jury duty as it usually means you end up sitting in some room for three hours with a bunch of squares who also don’t want to be there. What’s there not to like? I think of it as one of those civic duties you feel good about after doing like voting, giving blood, or wiping your ass on a piece of paper and mailing it to the Westboro Baptist Church.

 

I was scheduled to be there at 8:00 AM this morning. When I registered online after receiving the notice I put my new address in, since the court I was scheduled to appear at (Woburn) was in a different county. I’ve had four addresses since I lived in that county. Last night I received a “confirmation e-mail” that it was a go for this morning.

 

My normal social anxiety that takes place when I have to go to any kind of event that isn’t part of my daily routine would possibly be in full swing. Knowing that, I always try to dress as inconspicuous as possible. Sometimes it backfires. Today I wore all black, with a black Boston Bruins baseball hat. Halfway there I realized I was dressed like a cross between Kirk Hammett and a guy about to break into a house at night. I try to never wear anything that makes me stick out in any situation. I hate being in out with someone dressed like that as well. For instance if we were to ever meet up for dinner and you showed up wearing a yellow jacket I would probably leave. If you wear any kind of hat around me that has an elaborate brim, or has a feather in it, forget it, we’ll probably never be friends aside from on the Internet and maybe through some text messages.

 

Jury duty is generally a lot of sitting around and waiting for some adult to tell you it’s okay to go home. It’s kind of like being at a birthday party but without cake and singing. You always want to bring a book or a magazine with you. Some courts let you bring a cell phone, laptop, e-reader, etc. with you. I decided I wasn’t fucking around and brought two of those things in with me.

 

I arrived right on time, about five minutes early. Seeing security and metal detectors without a long line in front of them is always nice. I realized I was wearing steel toed boots about twelve seconds before walking in. Fuck. I emptied my pockets of everything and was reminded of the time I decided I would try smuggling marijuana on an airplane after September 11th, 2001. (I was flying a red-eye somewhere, for a brief three or four day trip. Upon arriving at Logan Airport I put a small amount of marijuana in a cigarette wrapper and put it in my mouth, like I was chewing tobacco. Looking in the rear view mirror my cheek was bulging. I decided to try behind my upper lip. Nope. Lower lip. Sorry. Looks like I wouldn’t be bringing any marijuana on my brief trip. My next best idea was to just smoke all of it, or as much as I could while sitting in the car. Maybe it would make me so high I would be high for the whole trip. Midway through that idea I realized, no, I’d be going through a security checkpoint, dealing with baggage people, and getting on an airplane. Social anxiety kicked into high gear as I made my way to the security checkpoint. Thankfully flying at night makes lines pretty much non-existent. I got to the metal detectors and emptied my pockets, placed my bag on the roller, and realized I had a cup of coffee in my hand. I put the cup of coffee in the bin with all of my emptied pockets stuff and sent it through the machine. Once I got to the other side, and one of the agents was guiding me along we noticed my coffee had spilled all over the inside of the bin, on my wallet, keys and everything else in there. The agent let me know I should have just walked through the metal detector with it. For whatever reason I thought this was the correct response to that: “Well, couldn’t someone sneak plastic explosives through like that?” The agent informed me I was not allowed to make comments like that. Now petrified of everything in the world, I made my way down to the gate.) Immediately the buzzer goes off and I’m told I am going to be checked with the wand. Just then one of the agents says “What happened to those Bruins last night?” I ignore him and then he says the same thing again. I realize I’m wearing a Boston Bruins hat yet I can’t for the life of me think of the single name of one professional hockey player even if I tried for five minutes. I don’t watch hockey. I like it, but I also like playing Boggle but I’ll probably never play Boggle again as long as I live. Wait, that’s not true. I kind of have an unwritten rule that when I am in a town other than Boston I’ll wear a Boston hat. If I’m here in Boston I’ll wear a Dodgers hat, or my St Louis Cardinals one I bought with my friend Mike from St Louis, in St Louis. Either way, it never fails, every time I wear this Bruins hat someone asks me about the game the night before. I should probably start wearing it the night they play so I look like I’m waiting to hear the outcome of the game. My boots don’t go off with the wand and I’m sent on my way.

 

Upstairs in the jury waiting room I’m sent to fill out a questionnaire to make sure I qualify. It gets to the part asking if I’ve ever been arrested and I have to think back to the few times I have been arrested more minor stuff. It was so long ago and so stupid (doing graffiti twice and driving with a suspended license once). I put the suspended license one down and made my way to the counter. The guy takes one look at the sheet “MAHBULHEAD? YOU SHOULDN’T BE HERE”, I look over at all the folks sitting there with their newspapers and looks of despair and now jealousy and I’m told to move down to this guy that will dismiss me. “You’re all set, you’re now set up for Essex County, they’ll probably call you at some point, or maybe not, have a good day” Thanks.

 

It’s 8:04 AM when I get back in my car. I should just go to work I’m only a half hour late now. I could go to a Chinese food buffet! The movies! Shopping! Nah, I’ll go home and write about my four minutes at jury duty today.

I Was a Bully, But I Also Got Bullied So It’s Okay

When I was 13 years old or however old you are when you get to seventh grade I started school in my new town of Swampscott, Massachusetts. I was fat, had gross long greasy hair, bad acne and wore concert t-shirts all the time. Ozzy, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, etc. Concert shirts back then were often “baseball style” with those long sleeves. I was also painfully shy and as I am now, socially awkward. Granted if I know the people I am with I am whatever the polar opposite of socially awkward is.

There were a group of 8th graders I could tell were just troublemakers. I mean granted I would be hanging with troublemakers pretty much a week or so later…One particular guy, his name escapes me now…his face though, he looked like a rat. Tiny little eyes, this rat nose and just this demeanor that was sneaky and shifty. Him and his group of friends were like those kids on the Simpsons, when you saw them coming down the hall you knew they were going to do something to you. So one particular day I was walking down the hall in an area where nobody happened to be at the moment and there was the Rat boy and his crew. This particular day I was wearing one of those long sleeved concert shirts and him and his crew grabbed me and proceeded to tie my sleeves to the two doors to the theater, which swung out. I was stuck there for a few minutes until someone, probably a janitor, came to my rescue.

Fast forward to couple of years after high school and I was a much bigger person, was lifting weights quite a bit and was considered “mean looking”. I was working at this small supermarket in this disgusting city called Lynn, Massachusetts. This girl started working there, and while she was a nice enough person, she may have been one of the ugliest girls I’ve ever seen in my life. She literally had a dark mustache and really hairy arms which led me to believe that whatever was happening “in other areas” was probably just as horrible of a situation. At one point she mentioned her husband would be coming in to meet her for lunch. So lunch rolls around and I am in the little lunch area and she comes in to introduce me to her husband and low and behold it is Rat boy!

So now I am much bigger and scarier than him, and he is married to the ugliest woman I have ever seen in my life. He shook my hand and we both kind of did that whole “oh hey yeah we went to school together” thing and subsequent visits to work he was always extra friendly to me.

Nowadays, this thing in the news has been “bullying” like it’s some new thing sweeping the nation. I guess with the onset of social networking bullying is worse than it already was. I don’t think it is, I think it’s less than it was. Aside from that incident tying me to the doors, when I was much younger kids were even meaner and nastier. You’d get pushed over, hit, shit thrown at you, etc. Nowadays kids get called fat on the Internet and they are killing themselves. I think the bigger problem is, parents are raising their kids to be pussies. In the summer parents are shaving the heads of their young men and sending these little shaved pussies out into the world to get taunted and made fun of. Wait, what about shaved pussy?

As a kid I bullied and got bullied quite a bit if I remember. One time, I had a paperback book with me in the bathroom and dipped it in a toilet and wiped shit on this kid Eric who later became a good friend, or maybe we were good friends already and this was some way of me showing my adoration to my friend.

In gym class in eighth grade I was playing basketball and my ball went into the area where another group of kids were playing. A tall fellow named Tom threw it back to me harder than he needed to. We got into a sort of tossing match with the ball, I’m assuming someone called someone a faggot and we agreed to “meet at 2:15” Which basically meant you would meet your new enemy and fight them surrounded by a small or large group of students cheering on whoever they were friends with. I wasn’t really a popular kid nor was Tom so our 2:15 meeting was a small affair with maybe a dozen kids watching.  It was definitely not like the Keith Roberts vs Dave Simpson fight that was such a big deal that it took place on a Saturday. I don’t remember what initially sparked the fight but I remember Dave (a good friend of mine at the time) “training” for it. Dave was a skinny pothead like me. Keith was a football player who pretty much knocked out Dave in less than a minute. My fight was similar. I pretty much won within a couple of minutes and then went on my way to smoke weed and listen to my friend’s dad’s Frank Zappa albums, smoke weed and nurse my light bruises from my fight. Quite the suburban denim clad victory parade I’m sure.

That was the last time I got in a fight. 1983. Years later I would see Tom around, and even as recent as a few weeks ago I saw him. We never acknowledge each other, he has about five or six inches on me now and is in much better shape than I am. I always imagine going up to him and asking him if he wants a rematch.

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