Sometimes I wake up early in the morning, old man early. Before the coffee maker has clicked itself on, before the school bus has come to a hacking, wheezing stop on the corner. The sun just starting to announce it’s presence, still only a crimson ember burning behind the Rockies. I always feel so odd those mornings; like I don’t know where I am or how I got there. Like I don’t know who I am. I’m a lot older than I remember and I’m a helluva a long way from home and it’s the strangest damned feeling in the whole wide world. It’s not exactly frightening, it’s just….well…strange. It’s like being somebody else, some stranger, for a little while. Like your whole life happened to somebody else, somewhere else. Then something happens, some memory comes rushing back to you with a sound like a sheet of newspaper being ripped in half and a feeling like a 2×4 smashing you between the shoulderblades, blowing through your foggy half-consciousness and suddenly you’re you again. Sometimes it’s something happy, some poignant moment long ago that makes you glad it doesn’t actually belong to someone else. Sometimes it’s a dull switchblade digging into your guts like watching the girl you love dragging a suitcase behind her as she walks off into a world that is too big for both of you. But then still, you’re glad it was you instead of some other poor bastard. Then you’re right back where you started, wondering who you are now. What you’ve become. Maybe I don’t know. Hell, maybe I don’t care anyway. Maybe it doesn’t matter one way or the other.
Then I get up and nurse a cup of coffee while I watch the sun come up and wait for the school bus to go by. “It sure is beautiful here,” I think. “I’ll be alright, yea I’ll be okay. I can make through all the rest if I can just make it through today.”
It should be a firable offense to use the community microwave to heat up fish. Work is like your freshman roommate in the dorms; you don’t get to pick the people they stick you with, you may not like them and they may not like you, but in the interest of self-preservation and common decency you do your best to make the situation tolerable. Nuking a big stinking plate of sea bass is like cranking your shitty dubstep up to 11, calling over your 26 year old flunky boyfriend, breaking out the incense and having gross sweaty sex on your roommates bed while her Nanna watches because she hasn’t learned how to turn her Skype feed of. Yes, that bad. It’s socially deplorable and morally reprehensible. Not only are you eating slimy, two day old, warmed over trout like a fucking psychopath, but when use the microwave after you it makes my Hot Pocket taste like it was smuggled across the border in Lindsay Lohan ‘s period panties. So please, I implore you, if you insist on sucking down a half a Cod for lunch, at least heat it up in one of those tinfoil solar ovens from 4th grade. The normal humans will thank you.
That is all.
Once I was from California and I can tell you all about how lonely the I-5 feels at 3 o’clock in the morning. I can tell you how the cotton fields look in September, dusty and dancing to George Strait blared from a pickup driving too fast down a dirt road. I can tell you how the clam chowder smells in Pismo on a cold afternoon as it wafts up into your hoody, lingering for a moment before being blown out to sea.
Once I worked construction and I can tell you all about what a compressor sounds like when it runs out of air. I can tell you what the sawdust feels like on the back of your neck when you stop for a cold beer, tired and accomplished, at the end of a long day. I can even recite to you a few of the dirty jokes I’ve read scribbled on a port-a-potty wall.
Once I was a gambler and I can tell you about rubberband wrapped wads of $100 bills. I can tell you all about wrapped up kings and suited connectors and getting outdrawn by a 90 year old Vietnamese woman. And I can still recognize a losing hand when I see one.
Some folks, they can tell you all about music and art and fine wine. Not me. Some know about junk bonds and municipal funds and variable growth rates. Nah, I don’t know anything about that. There’s lots who have a whole catalog of sexual conquests and satisfied fetishes and black leather riding crops, but it ain’t me, babe. No, it ain’t me.
Still, I’ll take the life that I’ve been given and when the Almighty calls my number I won’t shy away. I’ve sat at the edge of my bed singing off key and clumsily plucking out Simple Man on my guitar. I’ve pulled my last 5 bucks from my pocket and laid it out for 2 slices of greasy pizza, 2 PBR’s and an afternoon spent people watching with my best friend. I’ve woken up next to someone in the morning and not wanted to Houdini the fuck outta there. I’ve laid there, totally vulnerable, talking nonsense over bad breath and drool stains and had not the slightest idea what time it was. And I’ve been truly happy.
Those other folks, I pity them.
Once I spent my days in search of what they call purpose and can tell you what it’s like to walk barefoot in the desert, lost and looking for a drink.
Once I was a gravedigger and both my hands were calloused, shaking and dirty from the land.
And now my days are numbered, like the few coins in my pocket, but it’s enough for two beers and two slices and for me that’s always been enough.
Since I’m quite sure you all wait with bated breath to hear about all the things that piss me off, here are some things that piss me off:
A.) When people act like Mr. Pibb and Dr. Pepper are interchangeable. I just worked a Hawthorne quote into my pre-order smalltalk; I’m probably the type of cat who notices when you swap syrups on me.
2.) When a dude is wearing a particular sports team’s memorabilia, but looks at me in utter confusion or like I’m an asshole for attempting to chat him up regarding a player or current status of said sports team. My bad there Chief, I was under the impression by looking at your beard that you were a man. Nice outfit, it matches.
3.) Justin Bieber. Not so much the fact that he exists, but more because I have to be acutely aware of it. This kid blasted a portrait of former Pres. William Jefferson Blythe Clinton III with bleach in a NY hotel, THEN he calls him personally on the telephone after the TMZ video drops. I can’t even imagine how that little exchange went down.
-“Sup Bill, it’s the Biebs.”
-“What the hell did you just say?”
-“Ermm uh…This is Justin Bieber. Is this Bill?”
-“It’s President Clinton, to you son.”
“LOL (literally, I picture him actually saying the non-word lol) OK. Well my publicist told me I should call and…”
-“You can just shut the hell up! I’m a world leader son, I don’t need any apologies from a little snot nosed panty waste like you. I was breakin’ Lewinsky’s hips over my desk in the Oval Office when you were in Pampers. I heard what you said, come say it to my face and I’ll beat your ass like a rented mule. Bet you won’t say it again. Ooooh I wish you would come say it to my face…. Hillary, guess who I got on the phone? No… No… No it’s not… OK shut up nevermind…. Bieber you still there? Hey man, I made a career on pretending I was black, so take it from me when I tell ya’ it ain’t workin’ for ya. Tweet that. Bitch.” *click*
4.) People who can’t spell
Dude on line in front of me: “Babe why you need to go to (store that rhymes with Jane Tyrant)? Isn’t that for fat ch-” wifes head snaps, hands on hips, scowling “-uhhh fatsion models? They’re too skinny.” Wife walks away… Hey slick, take it from someone who has made a career of pissing women off, sometimes you just gotta know when to stop talking, cut your losses and take your lumps… And since we’re on the topic. Ladies, we fellas fully appreciate “baby weight” and what bearing our inevitably hateful spawn does to your body. BUT if you’re a breakfast burrito shy of a buck sixty five at 5’3″ it’s time to check into that Curves membership. Especially if your baby will be a freshman at Gonzaga next fall… You know the only thing hotter than a girl with tights on under her skirt? Everything…. The presidential race has long ago been decided, but did anyone else find it funny that it boiled down to Barrack and Mitt. What the fuck ever happened to like Bob or Mike or even Henry? I hope they both lose…. Argyle is only OK when used to make knee high socks for tattooed, swaggy, blue eyed goddesses. If I see one more douche bag sporting a beard and argyle cardigan, I’m going to start bombing Toms shoes and Minus the Bear concerts. Why not just wear a sign that says “I smoke weed and I occupy things” hippy…. And finally, a new study shows that O’doyle may in fact not rule AND scientists in Switzerland have discovered a link between divorce and things that are so worth it… War America, Chipper Jones and Cam getting a book deal. BOOM!
I awoke sweaty and out of breath. Like I’d been saved from drowning at the last possible moment although I had no idea why or by whom. For the first time in months my first thoughts weren’t of anyone in particular and I was filled with an ambition that dragged me out of bed and into the day. I threw my rod in the truck, turned the dial until I found R.E.M and set out. The days first beer promptly turned to ash in my mouth and I dumped it along with the rest. Thank you God. I drove on. Drove like a kid on his dads knee; I was at the wheel, but didn’t really feel in control of my destination. Turns made themselves, REM turned to Pearl Jam to Gin Blossoms to OLP like a playlist from my soul, houses began getting farther apart and I headed into the sun like it was some attainable destination if only I made good time. Somewhere, a trout is sipping Caddis flies, a place that hasn’t changed in a thousand years. There’s no cell phones, no Facebook, no heartache, no static, not even time. It just is; as I am you and you are me and we are all together. That’s where I need to be. The fate of the world depends on it
Life is a lot like drinking. The present only a hangover from the past and the future a head pounding nauseation of things we swear we’ll never do again. Miscalculations. Embarrassing moments. Bad haircuts. Love. As time passes, however, you get thirsty. The terribly sad or the wonderfully joyous situation occurs and you find yourself back at the bar saying to yourself, “Just one.” Then, “Just one more.” Then Thriller comes on and you’re out on the dance floor with one in each hand doing your best impression of a break-dancing werewolf. That’s how it happens. Life is a constant cat and mouse with the completely unexpected situation. You puke and you hurt and you hide. Then you throw on some shades and try to face the world. Hoping nobody else can smell you and wondering how much you’ll have to pretend to fight back if someone tries to throw you in front of a bus. Eventually though, inevitably, we all get thirsty. We pull up our favorite stool and order a double of whatever it was we swore off for good the last time…. And in the morning the only one who’s surprised is you.
Overheard these two gals at work talking about one of their girlfriends getting married this weekend. The conversation made it’s way to the topic of childbearing, whereupon one girl said, “So, do you want to have kids?” The other replied, “Well, I mean, yea. I feel like it’s one of those things everybody should do once. You know?” I didn’t catch what was said next because at this point my head exploded. First of all, a wedding in December? Uhhh, okayyy… Secondly, and pay attention here because this is the rub, but having kids is “something everybody should do once”?! Are you yanking me? I really hope- for the sake of your future spawn, the sorry sack you convince to put a hitch in your giddyup and humanity as a whole- that your vagina falls out. You know what everybody should do once? Go skydiving. Smoke a joint at a Rolling Stones concert. Learn how to spell. Having a kid is something you do FOR EH VERRR! It’s something you do because you want to have a family or multiply the love you share with your partner or you adopt a child in hopes of giving it a better life. Nowadays getting pregnant is bandied about like it’s something to when you’re bored; and just as flippantly. You don’t create a HUMAN BEING because they had cute headbands at Old Navy. You don’t do it because you’re afraid you fear that your significant other might be ready to bolt. You don’t do it because you have an annoying overbearing mother/mother-in-law, you don’t do it because your friend got one and you sure as shit don’t do it because you want someone to dress up. It deeply saddens me how many people treat their kid like a fucking pet, like they’re there to do tricks and say funny shit on command. Half of these can’t even take care of themselves, let alone another living thing. I could go on and on about all the travesties plaguing the innocent youth of our society, but I’ll climb down off my soapbox. Just keep this in mind: if you’re driving to the club on a Tuesday night with a safety chair in your backseat.
When I was a kid in school, the teachers used to tell us not to say things like “worser” or “more perfect”; because if something is already perfect it is, by it’s very virtue, impossible for it to be any more so. However, I have seen enough ugliness in life and known someone so beautiful to make me wholeheartedly disagree on both counts. When I think back on myself in those days it is easy for me to understand what a great disappointment to my mother I must have become. By all accounts, that was the second best version of me. Innocent and curious. Unjilted and faithful and a thousand times less the cynic. I remember feeling myself change and not having the courage nor the wherewithal to do anything about it. Of course, by then it was already too late. When you are a young man your hope is that in dying you are able to do so with dignity and for a noble cause. As a grown man my hope is to live nobly, putting forth my most dignified efforts into all the moments that come before the final one. I’ve come to believe that you can live with dignity, but you certainly can’t die with it. True tragedy would be waiting until the curtains are drawing closed to make my amends and make certain those whom I have loved know it also. Love is not a bargaining chip. It is not always reciprocal, nor is it unconditional. It is not a matter of circumstance and it cannot be caged by matters of survival or social convention. It is….welll, what it is. Yes, true tragedy would be waiting until your last chance to take one. Living without something you would die for, but having tried, I can make my peace with that. Dying without something you have lived for because you gave up, that I cannot reconcile.
I’m sorry to be the one who has to tell you this, but you’re fucked. Totally. Mother. Butt. All your life you were told that you were gonna be somebody, and eventually you believed it, but by now it’s painfully obvious that you are, in fact, nobody. You don’t have nearly as much ability as you thought you did, you didn’t make a backup plan, you’ve got no talent or education and now your staring straight down the barrel of another 30 or 40 years of doing the same goddamn thing which you already loath like a baseball hemorrhoid festering damply into butt-cancer while you watch. It’s some pretty heavy shit. And no matter how strong of character you are, how driven and determined, there are times when you sit down at the end of the day and ponder the tenets of a slow painful death or a quick merciful one.
That is one of the most confusing moments one can have. For the love of God PLEASE don’t read too far into this, but a man who wants to die feels simultaneously happy and angry. Both hopeless and full of life. Desperate and controlled. Bored and excited, mean and kind, nervous and relieved all at the same time. This man wants to curl up in the fetal position and stand up and fight and he wants everyone to know exactly how much they’ve all hurt him and let him down.
But sometimes, every once in a while, in these real introspective complicated moments, he feels alive. You pour a drink and think about Steinbeck and music and drugs and tattooed mohawk occasional blondes and the fact that you haven’t even seen Smallwood’s movie yet and you realize there’s plenty out there worth sticking around for.
My friend Scott would say “KCCOC: Keep Calm and Chive On, Cam”, but to that I would say, “IFIWDKC… I’m Fuckin Irish, We Don’t Keep Calm!” The problem with people these days is that we’ve been raised on happy endings. Everything has to be tidy and easy. It has to finish with a smile and a wave and a tear, wrapped up in recycled paper and tied with a bow. At the end everyone finds love, learns a lesson,admits they were wrong, still gets the tattooed mohawk sporting occasional blonde, discovers the hidden gems of parenthood or monogamy or familial propriety or of life itself. What happened to the real life movies where the dude gets shot at the end right after he discovers that life is dismal, shallow and short?
With all this in mind, it is shocking to me that there are still people who don’t curse.There are times during the day or things that happen or awkward empty spaces in conversation when you just have to say “Fuck”. Seriously how is this even possible? Reporters and newscasters are the most impressive of all. If it was me, I’d be like “Then the FBI found his campsite, snuck up in the middle of the fuckin night and shot this motherfucker like eight times!” How could they not drop a few disgusted, aghast, “these people are idiots” f-bombs?!