Friday, August 31, 2007

An Open Letter to God. Or if I should fall from Grace....

To the five or six motherfuckers that actually read this thing, I got a message for you. If you ever want to understand me, and I mean actually catch on to where my head is at, watch the show Rescue Me. Every single fucking thing that's gone through my head in the last five years is on that show. The only reason I watch that show is because it's the only goddamn thing on TV that has a brain in it, that takes on the ancient old questions that we all deal with. It ain't no fucking "American Idol".

If you don't watch it, and don't know what's going, the odds are is I'm too drunk right now to explain it all to you. The fact is, they're mostly Irish firefighters. They work in an environment dominated by guys, and they act accordingly. They've seen terrible things, and they are fucked up because of it. What they don't tell you is that it more or less emodies the cursed Irish way of thinking and the wars that each of us has with Catholicism.

It was evident in the last episode when Denis Leary's father, a WWII vet, sits in a bar after both he and his son have quit drinking, and says to Leary's character, "I know I'm never seeing your mother again. I know I'm never seeing Johnny or Connor or any of them ever again. You die, then you go in the ground, and your worm food. Makes me want to have a drink.." He's kidding, of course, and at 80 he actually wants to quit. (Good for him.)

That ain't word for word, but that's the gist. Johnny was his cop son who got shot to death, Connor was Leary's kid who got killed by a drunk driver. He isn't gonna see either of them ever again... and this revelation comes just as Leary's character has been sober for a year and started praying again.

If you're not Catholic, I guess there's no way to explain the complex. The nearest I can say, or explain it, is that when you're little, they tell you if you do A+B+C, you'll = happiness. They tell you this shit, they say it to you when you're little and ugly and your family is alive and happy and Christmas reminds you of getting presents and trying to wait for Santa. It reminds you of that big fucking tree that your grandparents used to get every year, the ten foot one that seemed like it touched the ceiling, with the tinsel glittering and dancing under the track lighting. It reminds you of the old man's cologne, and how he used to fall asleep in Church on Saturday night, and how his snoring would alert the Monsigner that he was giving a crappy speech ("sermon" always seemed to Protestant for me to use, forgive me).

"That's right you little children, you lambs of God, huddle around the alter by the pointsettas, and worship the one who gave you life, who saves you, who keeps this world running. We will read this ancient book and repeat after me, "Lord hear our prayer". The world will fall at your feet, the meek shall inherit the Earth, you will live long happy lives and sit at the right hand of the Father, for all eternity. Et Nomini patris, et file, et spirite sante".

Then you get a call.

Then your parents bring you to your Godfather's house, where the Packers and Bears play in their throwback uniforms in the driving rain in Green Bay. It was 11:28 when they woke you up.

Then they tell you the old man is dead. Then you stop believing.

Hey God, I was pretty good. I was little, you know? Not much time to sin. If I did, it was nothing serious, nothing Earth shattering and groundbreaking, nothing that made me deserve anything truly terrible. It was little things. But I was a good Catholic. I went to Church, I went to Catholic school. I listened to them, the old gray haired fuckers, talk about Jesus and his moments of doubt. I believed anyway! That's what you told us, right? Believe! And you will be saved! You are terrible sinners, but we will save you anyway! Ain't this shit great?

Well God, you'll hold this against me when I reach the pearly gates, but fuck yourself. How many more do I have to bury? Who you gonna take next? My grandfather, the old man of 55, my best friend, the young tough fucker of 22.... who's next? What trial of faith awaits me? What could have been harder than kissing my best friend's casket, and throwing a rose down there on a frigid day in January, and watching those cocksuckers lower the gray shining tomb down into the ground?

What more do you want from me? You want me to sacrifice bulls? Virgins? What does it take to sate your bloodthirst? They say you carry those when in their time of need... when did you carry me? It sure as shit wasn't at Ryer's funeral, where the booze took me down and no one carried me anywhere.

If I knew you were there, boyo, I would do anything. All I need is a sign, something to make me think that all this horror and pain is worth all the shit, that one day I'll reside in a paradise with my family and we will be there for the rest of time. But what you ask me to do is to love others, to find a wife, children, others who I care about more than I care about myself, and you ask me to trust that you won't take them from me. Oh, God, I've been around the block more than once. I know that you are not reliable when it comes to such endeavors, and I know that you are merciless at times.

God, last night my heart fluttered. Nothing else. Just fluttered. But I sat up in a start, and I realized again that I am a heartbeat, one single miss fired something, from death. One burst of one thing... and I am with the gods. And I know for my doubting, I will be in hell. All I can do is hold out, hope that I live long enough that me and you reconcile. I want us on speaking terms again, Lord, and I don't want those old voices hissing at me through the low bushed of my church, the ones that told me to leave. I was sober that night, boyo, and I know what I heard. You made your point.

Maybe it is alot for a mere jerkoff like me to ask.. but I need to know. Mother Theresa, even she doubted your prescence. I know I am not like everyone else, because I think about this stuff every goddamn waking hour, but I need to know. I cannot sleep, I cannot live, without knowing what else is out there. You tell me I've sinned? I tell you that you have. To make your people live in shame and doubt... it hurts, God.

Some people, they've got the strength to believe anyway. They think it's all going to happen eventually.. they remind me of the people who play the lottery every week. Other people, they just assume it isn't. My uncle is one of these types. I don't know that he ever stopped believing in God until my grandfather passed... but he doesn't believe in it now. Then there's the fuckers like me. We want to desperately to be happy, to lead good lives, I mean, we fucking bleed God. I can't pass a homeless guy in the street without giving him money. I don't care if he buys food or booze, but either way he needs that shit more than I do. I help old people change their tires. I feel compassion for certain people, no matter how much I shouldn't, and I act on it as best as I know how. I care nothing for money, and tears force their way to my eyes when I hear that good men have made strong stands against tyranny. When troops die in Iraq, I close my eyes and think of their wives, their girlfriends, their daughters, and hope that they find strength in something. I want the best for the world, I sincerely do. I would give my life in a second if it saved a woman from tears.

But that doesn't matter, does it? I sit here and kill myself with cigarettes and alcohol, and all I can think about is whether it fucking matters or not.

Last night, I fell asleep between 2:14 and 2:20. I thought I was awake, but passed out instantly. Is death like that? Does it fool you into thinking it will not come? Or does it simply converge on you when you aren't paying attention? Is it like sleep, where you are never sure of when you are awake and when you pass out?

Too many questions, God. Your Bible does not suffice. I believe you are there. But I don't know how much I like you.

All this shit.... it kind of make me want a drink. But see, I never quit. So I'll see you later.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Jail Stories

He's a little bit taller than me, and has a look that certain skinny guys have which makes them seem like they're constructed of steel wire wrapped around bone. His jeans are baggy, and his bright blue eyes belie his Irish heritage. There's a long scar running down the back of his shaved head, a constant reminder of the Paterson drug trade. He gives off the aura that he can handle himself in the gutter.

"Trouble's my middle name bra."

"Oh yea? Sorry brother. That one's already taken," I say.

"You ever been in jail before, Steve?"


He smiles. "Then you ain't trouble." He's right. He lights another smoke, a Newport 100 that all the guys from the ghetto smoke.

I tell him the truth. "I've been in the drunk tank. That was enough for me. It ain't my fault you get caught when you do bad shit. I'm just smoother than you."

I'm bullshitting him, and he knows it. I may have done my share of tremendously dangerous and stupid things, but he's been a dealer in heroin and cocaine, and that's taken him to a place I've never been. I've been seen my share of fights, been hit with beer bottles and what not, but none so bad that I was knocked unconscious by a brick to the back of the head.

He was in the county lockup for a spell. It's a bad place. Not quite as bad as the one in my county, but no jail in Jersey is a good one to be in. You live in Passaic, you get the bangers from Paterson. You live in Morris, you've got the Mexicans from towns like Dover and Morristown, the guys who got nothing left to lose. Hudson, Essex...Jersey City, Newark, Irvington. All bad places.

I've seen a lot of fellas like him, and they always make me feel like a wide eyed kid. There is something alluring about jail, something about being in a place that is run solely on violence and physical strength, that draws me in. Oh, I know- the only type of guy that says something like that is the type that's never been there. But if you think about it, all people are intrigued by it. There have been numerous TV shows about it; Prison Break, Oz, etc. Movies? More than you could count. I am not alone in my interest.

"What's it like?"

He sighs. He's been asked this before, most likely many times. "Well it's a lot of war stories. A lot of shit like that. Guys playing poker. Gambling with their commissary. Working out. A lot of male bonding."

I smile when he says this, raise my eyebrows. "Yea, well that's what I hear."

"Not like that, dickhead."

He reminds me of a good friend of mine who lived on the wrong side of the tracks in my suburban town; there's a trailer park down in the floodplain that amounts to a white ghetto. I hung out there a lot when I was younger, smoking cigarettes while the others smoked other things.

This guy was the same kind of way, with the same gritty feel; another tall, slender Irish kid with sharp teeth and blonde hair. He never had a macho attitude, just a wary, hardened feel that permeated off him, and it followed him the way cheap cologne trails on a drunk trying to hide it.

If you left him alone, he was cool with you, and if you got to be buddies with him, he'd do anything for you. He once gave me a knife that had an American flag on it, later telling me that he'd jacked it from a car because it reminded him of me. He was also always more than willing to bring me smokes when I lost my license and couldn't make it to the store. Perennially in trouble, though, he was constantly violating suspended sentences on assault charges- my boy loved to fight, and was always happy to share a good story about some incident or another.

Around people either of these guys liked or respected, they were like wolverines; give them respect, and they will do the same. Cross the line, though, and it didn't really matter who you were. It's a marked difference from the juiced up guidos in this area who think that they've got to challenge the world to show their manhood. Those spiky haired wannabes would wilt in prison like a Christmas tree in the July sun.

"There a lot of fights in there?"

"Not too many. A couple while I was there. Nothing big. You just gotta be cool in there. Don't take no shit, but be cool. Start working out, stay in shape, just in case."

My trailer park friend said the same thing long ago. "When I was in there, I looked like you- I was doing pushups and situps, pullups off the bars of the cell. When I got out, though...well, I started drinking again", he said, patting his stomach that was larger than I'd ever seen on him. "You see what happened."

Somehow, through all their troubles, the guys who have this kind of history are amiable, talkative types. They enjoy a good laugh, a good cigarette after you've busted your ass all day, a quiet drink right after work. I never understood this until it finally dawned on me: after going through a place like the county jail, how much worse could anything be? If you're not in jail, then it's a damn good day. When the bright sun sets, they do get garrulous... but they know, in the back of their heads, that the last place they want to wake up is back in the county.

At this point, I haven't seen either of them in months. I think the first guy is still out, but my trailer park buddy might be back in. Every time I don't see him ambling around down in the flood section, I wonder where he's sleeping tonight.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I miss my buddy.

Slainte boyo. See you in hell.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Okinawan Karate

I will soon be making another foray into the fighting arts- a return to Okinawan Karate may be imminent. I was going to go into boxing... but this face is just too damn pretty too fuck up like that.

It may be just because I have a mind for history, but even the word "Okinawa" seems supremely tough because of the 1944 battle there. You could say "Okinawan bunny", and immediately my mind conjurs up a rabid rabbit with fifteen fangs the size of ice picks that will rip your throat out and fly his cage into your aircraft carrier.

Maybe it's just me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Great Escape

Every summer it comes, bears down on me like a juiced up bouncer during a fight, grabs me by the throat with thick forearms and shakes me to and fro until my back aches and my neck snaps.

Last summer, Morocco was to be my great escape, an infinite trip for as long as I could afford tp a sandy, danerous oasis in a world that has been to safe for too long. Unfortunately, no one shared my zeal to travel the Dark Continent, and that plan was shelved; the money wasted on nameless nights in Irish pubs across Northern New Jersey.

The winter snows can muffle my spirit for only so long, however the heat of the sun again signals something in me to demand escape from this penitentiary that my I live in. Knowing that in a span of two months, my life will be vastly different, upended completely by a massive job search that I have undertaken in order to free myself from the eighty pound forklift chains that hold me to my shit job, to that shit life that I have forseen for myself. This time, however, it is different, and the very real possiblity of doing some freelance writing has given me something I haven't had in ages: hope.

There were dark days when I'd imagine that I would fail, and that I would be trampled into mediocrity by the natural course of life. I would wear workboots for the rest of my days, and would one day end up a blithering drunken old man who never realized, much less lived up to, my potential. I would be old and tough and bitter, cursing my own innate laziness that caused me to lead such a blackened life. My children would never forgive me for my bitterness.

But that is not to be. With every passing day, I am fanning the fire that this hope has given to me, searching for long hours on end for a job where I can finally write instead of searching for internet porn. For years I have held on tightly to the mentality of a type of reverse discrimiation, an absolute and unequicoval disdain for anything approaching a white collar job. That hasn't entirely died- I will forever be on the side of the worker, the toiler, and soldier, and the Union man. However, I have finally realized that the path they tread is not to be mine, and the pride they carry in their weathered, broken hands is not a pride that I can indulge in. My course is a different one, and the power that I have with the pen is something that is rarely replicated, and so I must use it, or be damned.

It is not my duty to this world to heave lumber upon my shoulders on a dusty contstuction site, or to dwell in a dimly lit factory floor putting doors on cars. No, my calling lies in the tight winding allyways of Marrakesh, in a waterside bar in Venice, or on a mountaintop in Wyoming, at the foot of the Sphinx in the great Egyptian desert. It lies in all the spectacular places that I have yet to visit, all the events I have yet to witness, and all the strokes of the pen that I have yet to make. I will be as at home in Rome as I would be in Paterson, and the current of history will carry me to where I need to be.

When I am old, I will sit in a leather bound chair behind a great fat desk like Winfield Scott, and I will look out over the harbor of either New York City or Boston at the glowering lights of a glorious city, and I will look at my hands, those scarred, cigarette burned hunks of flesh, and I will laugh and say, "How lazy I was in my first 23 years! But what I life I led in the last 50 to make it all worth it!

Though I will rave and burn at the close of day when I know for a fact that there will be no final encore, I will have left an indelible mark on this world, and I will close my eyes and die a happy man, and my words will go beyond me and be read for a millenium, and people will know my name, as if it was shot from a brass cannon and exploded across the skies in a great final shout that grabbed everyone's attention and at the same time blinded them.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Not in good shape... like a blind man, one who was no sense of time or place, but just wanders, rapping his stick on the cold black cobblestones...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another one

"Irish Line 1"

I walk inside, a long hike in the sweltering heat that has engulfed New Jersey the last couple days.

"Hey, it's E".

"What's up man? How's the first day of vacation?"

"Not bad. Listen, I had to talk to you before I left though. You remember Rob? The big black guy that drove the Pyle truck?"

"Yea, of course".

"Listen, he died the other day".


"Yea, man. The rep came and told me... he was playing basketball with his kids and had a heart attack. I figured I'd tell you before you heard it through the grapevine, cause I know you're the one that unloads the trucks..."

"Ahh... yea, thanks man. Uh, I'll see you... when you get back I guess."

I'll be honest- I never even knew his name was Rob. He was one of those guys that you were never close to, but you knew him well enough that when he pulled that massive tractor trailer into the yard, you smiled because you knew you could bullshit with him for twenty minutes and forget that your job sucks.

When I first met him, he intimidated the shit out of me. He was a huge guy, having played semi-pro football before a back injury ended his career. However, he still retained the bearings of a bodybuilder, with forearms thick as hams, and calves that looked as though they could pound through the pavement, or dent that platform of steel on the back of the big rig he roamed, wearing his red timberlands. He was either black or Hispanic; I couldn't tell, because he had a skin tone that could lend itself either way, and a buzz cut that was offset by the small glasses he wore on his eyes. Ghetto in his actions, he had a high voice and an animated nature that would get continually louder and more brazen the more excited he got, to the point where I would have to look around the lot nervously to make sure none of my bosses could hear his wailing as he explained the intricacies of dissecting a Cover 2 defense while using the Eagles in Madden.

The last conversation I had with him was me telling him I hoped the Giants sucked this year, just so "The Big Boy" (Giant's backup quarterback Lorenzen) could get in, and how much he hated Tom Coughlin: "Y'all'll be better off if Coughlin does terrible this year, y'all can get'em out!" You remember that quote in one of my earlier blogs about how "These niggas can't handle they money?" That was him.

Rough though he may have been, he was also a family man, one with four children, from little runts to teenage. I recal that he took his children to Williamsburg this summer on vacation; we talked a lot about that, being as I had been there a couple of years ago.

What scares me is that he was maybe in his late thirties, and in impossibly good shape. Those kids he had later watched him die on some fucking basketball court... and I worry that they will grow up like him, and have to claw their way out of some ghetto now that their father is dead, the man who drove a truck every day at 5:00 in the morning and worked an honest job. Honestly... it just hurts, and it's dissapointing.

Here's to you Rob... one day we will talk about my Giants and your Cowboys again over a couple of cold Coronas, be it in heaven or hell. The next truck driver I get every day... well, I'll ask him his name this time.

"Are you going to the wake?"


"Why not?"

"Even if I knew where it was... it'd be too fucking sad. And I've had enough wakes to last me a life time."