Tuesday, November 17, 2009


We five are huddled around a fire that flings its embers into the dried out underbrush, making me worry that the these deadened wisps of plants will soon come alive with an angry orange glow.

Pocketknives cut open food packets; small stoves that look like torches are ignited, water is boiling, and the wind charges up and around and through the small campsite. It's been doing that since these mountains were formed millions of years ago... we're just passer-byers, the next continuation of a long line of people that have looked out over this valley while the sun dies out.

The tents get set up, and their feebleness in the face of such a wild wind is a small example of the power that we don't have.

Fleeting, fleeting, oh this is fleeting. These mountains and hills laugh at our problems, our dramas, our lives that float in and out so quickly. What else could they do?

The bright lights of the Hudson River Valley blink on and the thick night descends in a rolling fury.

The lights go out.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City

It's 12:40 a.m. on a Friday night, and the text messages start coming through, one after another and four in a minute, one worse than the other. They show all of the reasons I hate her; the other girl has taken over as soon as some semblance of insecurity strikes, and my girl is gone.

She is a great girl, one that I care about deeply... but I don't deal well with being told what to do or who to report to. Whether this works or not is in the air, but one thing I learned long ago was never trade yourself or your spirit for any woman.

I end up leaving the bar, and arguing for an hour over nothing... and I hate her, but I know if she leaves, I will miss her terribly. For all the trouble she gives me, there is something about this girl that keeps me there with her. I think it's her smile, her sense of humor, that makes me forget about all the rest of the world for a minute, and just focus on now. It's her optimism, her cheerfulness that I could never emulate myself.

But the ugliness has started, the "you don't open up to me" and the "we don't go out to dinner enough." The things that make men all over the world cringe and shake their heads. I don't want it to go that way; I've never had a relationship like that and I don't plan on it. There are many paths here, only some of them pleasant... and even then, I wonder if they will be only pleasant for her.

I've been reading a lot lately about physics and string theory, the possibility of multiverses. They say that there might be a universe that has you after every decision you didn't make, after every event that didn't happen, and shows all the roads you didn't take. Somewhere, I wonder if there's one where I am with Alex and Ryer's still alive. We would have been dating for over three years now, and who knows how things would be. And Ryer... he wouldn't haunt my dreams as he has so recently.

Sometimes I wish I was in that universe, instead of this faltering world of constant letdowns and perennial heartbreak.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Jersey

Living in this modern world of cell phones and blackberries, GPS systems and talking cars, it is easy to ignore the "Things That Have Come Before." The deeds, the fights... even the tools. A wood-handled pocketknife, a metal flask, a steel revolver- these were the blackberries and PDA's of the past, these were the things that a man couldn't leave the house without.

It was a different world, of course; much less politically correct, much more violent, and without the room for the bullshit and whining that we have now. It was simpler then: those who did not work, starved. Those who did not build, froze. Those who would not fight, died.

As a newspaper reporter, my job revolves around History. It's very nearly impossible to write about something happening now without knowing the history of what happened before, be it a sewer plan or a road improvement. But we, as a people, overlook that history far too much.

The town I cover is a small one in the northern section of New Jersey. It isn't known for much, and doesn't contain the rich and famous or the upper echelon of the state- but it does have history. So much, that sometimes I feel that it rises up and floods the streets, as if one could not walk down the main thoroughfare without seeing the ghosts rise, without watching, through some hole in time, the rolling fields and rocky slopes long since demolished and developed.

The road that leads down the center of the town dates to the before the Revolution. It was heavily valued because it ran from the banks of a main river, all the way up to a road that led to the mountainous areas in northern part of the state. During the War for Independence, that mountain road was major road that wasn't controlled by the British, thus making this small, seemingly insignificant turnpike invaluable for the Americans.

In this town, where a school now sits, Washington's troops once slept; all those centuries ago, there were lines of white tents filled with hungry, battle-torn troops trying to forge a country. In the mornings, they made the groans and grunts of an army as it awakes, made coffee in the predawn hours; in the evenings, they played cards around a fire or wrote letters home. Which ones would die at lunch... that was for History to decide.

It is rumored that Washington himself once attended services at a white church a few hundred yards up from the site where his troops slept. It is hard to look at those floorboards and imagine the boots of the great general crunching over them once so long ago; sometimes it's hard to believe the man himself was real at all, and not just some mythical figure created so kids have someone to read about in the third grade. Some of those veterans of the Revolution are buried in that church's cemetery, which is also a final home for several Civil War veterans- even a Medal of Honor winner. They sit under tilted, barely legible headstones that vainly try to name the hero who lies beneath.

Some miles to the south, at the intersection of two major rivers, sits two bridges that connect towns and counties. They are open to car traffic now, and the river is murky and polluted. Once though, it was clear, pristine... the sites where the bridges are found are said to be old Indian fords for the tribes that lived along its banks.

Some miles to the north, another main road runs through a mountain pass. Even though thousands use it every day for their commutes, few know that the road there exists for the simple reason that it is the only way to get through the hills that form the beginnings of the Appalachians. Once, there was a fort that was designed to keep the Indians out of the plains below, where the first white settlers were gathering.

Now, all you can see is a small blue sign along the road that denotes that the fort once existed, as no footprint remains. By that sign, there is a closed down bar, an overpass for the highway, and tattered white houses with American flags on the porch.

I'm not saying that people should know everything... if they did, I'd have nothing to write about. But they should stop and take a passing glance every once in a while, and imagine these places as they once were. Look at them through the lens that history has provided us , and don't forget the monumental deeds that people no different than us accomplished. Look at a topographical map, and see why things were built the way they were- the land tells a story that you'd have missed otherwise. And if nothing else, it will put our own lives, our own time, in perspective, and tell us to enjoy those fleeting moments that we so oft look past.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

There Be No Shelter Here

Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

- Yeats, Easter, 1916


There is something terribly beautiful going on in Iran right now that I hope the world is watching carefully.

I've long been a proponent of the theory that we should never go to war in order to "spread democracy"- it is a great catchphrase that serves more to cover up other, more devious aims. No, I've always said that if democracy is so great, you don't need to spread it at the edge of a bayonet; countries will steal it from you. And sure enough, Iran is finally doing that. After their clearly fixed elections had the current President Algjanghkgbfksgb winning by a huge margin, the people have finally seen through the curtains that the government has draped over them. Not only have they seen through them, though; this time, they've lit them on ablaze.

History has shown over and over that you cannot keep a people down for too long before they try to stand back up. And if you ignore their cries, and force them back down, they will rise with that much more fury. Every oppressed people has had their time where they raised their own flag, and went to war with the Black Hundreds trying to keep the social order intact. Now, it's Iran's time.

When the government banned journalists and shut down the internet, the Iranians used Twitter to communicate what's been going on to the outside world. They used photo imaging websites to upload pictures of what the government was trying to keep secret. They went against the party. The opposition leader, Mir Hossein Moussavi, has said on his own facebook page that he is preparing to die for this cause. Green has become the color of the Revolution, and throngs of green-clad protestors pour into the streets. When the government told the roaring crowds to stop protesting, they gathered more boldly. When the cops told them to disperse, they fought back. And now, Iran burns with the furies of a generation that has never known freedom, but demands it now.

Now, the great leader of Iran, the true man behind the curtain, the Ayatollah Khomeini, has declared that the protesters "Will be held accountable." That there will be consequences for these actions; that's Iranian for "We will try to kill you all."

That means that there is but one good solution for the Iranian people: a full uprising. They must shatter their chains and cast off this weight into the sea. They must destroy this evil system of religious oppression before it destroys them, and annihilate their oppressors lest they be annihilated themselves. There are no two ways about this.

History stands with them. The ghosts of Sam Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington are with them. Frederick Douglass and John Brown look on, and the souls of every Michael Collins and Martin Luther King, every Gandhi and Guevara that the world has ever seen are with them in these tumultuous hours. These are the hours that will define Iran's future, that will delineate the road that this country of such importance takes.

There is no middle ground here. The ground will swell with blood, and this will not be peaceful. However, it could be amongst the most important things to happen in this century, an event that makes the fall of the Berlin Wall pale in comparison.

Stand with Free Iran. God help them.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn

Fare thee well gone away
There's nothing left to say
'cept to say adieu
To your eyes as blue
As the water in the bay

I've had more people die around me than I can count, but I never actually seen something die, never held something while the life leaves it.

She was on the ground in the bathroom, a huddled mass of red fur, breathing heavily in a final attempt to beat the cancer that had taken over her lungs. She had fought like hell, and never compromised the dignity that she had that was so strange for a dog to possess. But this fight was over. She knew it.

I rubbed her soft fur between my hands, and felt the time between her breaths expand. She gasped several times, tried to raise her head but couldn't.

"It's alright old dog. Go where you go," I said. She gasped in response.

Her breathing slowed, and the life began to slide out from this once irascible animal, this protector of families. Her mouth opened slightly, and the strong fangs could still be seen under the gray snout, and, as if whispering, took her last breath. I lifted her up, and brought her out of the house one last time, the house she'd lived in for sixteen years.

She's gone, gone to whatever fields dogs roam when they die, pleasant pastures where cancer does not exist and the streams and woods are rife with life.

It's the same fields, the same heaven, where the old man is, where Ryer is, and so many others that have passed on and out of this world, leaving withered, meaningless husks, simple reminders of the once fearsome fire they possessed...


Monday, May 04, 2009


I walk into the kitchen, and see her on a makeshift bed on the floor. She is sleeping soundly, with a blanket tucked around her to keep her warm.

"Hey my old dog..." I say as I rub her head, the red snout long since turned gray. She barely stirs, looks up at me with old tired eyes. She was healthy up until about a four months ago, when we believe that she had some kind of stroke that has affected her attitude as much as her gait, which is now a sad, gimping sideways thing that keeps her from going near stairs.

Sixteen years ago, this golden retriever with the deep red fur of an Irish setter was a pint-sized dynamo, with endless energy matched only by the sheer destructive force that she brought with her.

She was a puppy when my old man was remodeling our second floor, and it was, as far she was concerned, a giant playground. She would grab the the torn edges of the paper that wrapped the stacked sheetrock and run, tearing it down the length of the piece. She would eat every screw and nail that she could find, an odd habit that led to us feeding her massive amounts of bread in the hopes that it would ease her semi-digestion of the metal she inevitably crapped out.

During Christmas, she decided that she had a taste for the glass ornaments that festooned our tree, and would eat them directly off the branches. This led to feeding her more bread, and the two decade moratorium on glass ornaments in this house.

She abused the shit out of me when I would wrestle with her- she clearly had some physical advantages over me, namely a low center of gravity and some viciously sharp teeth.

She is the only dog to have met my long since dead grandfather, and the first dog that started a habit of groaning and bitching whenever she laid down (which has been subsequently passed down to my other dog.)

She saw the Bills lose three Super Bowls, and then watched the Giants win last year's. She has been the first dog in generations of dogs to see the Red Sox actually win a World Series. She saw Bill Clinton's presidency, Nixon's funeral, and the election of Obama. She has seen much for a dog, probably more than most dogs should.

She is not the nicest of dogs, having always been fiercely protective her family and anti-social in a way that makes my family compare her to me. But she is a loyal old thing, and realizes who loves her.

And now she sits on that bed, her head only rising when I go to grab the bag of bread for a midnight snack. I throw her a slice, and she devours it, her red collar shaking as the tags bang together.

I know that it is all too soon that that collar will be hanging on the stairs to basement. It will hang their in silent memorial to a life once lived, like how the hats of the Cardinals hang in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.

When she gets up to go out, I have to lift her down the stairs, and wait for her to come back in from the yard. She takes a spill trying to get back up, resilient to the end, not wanting help on stairs she once bounded effortlessly up. When I get her back inside, I walk over to the bed and kneel, patting it as if to say, "Come lay here." Eventually I will lift her back onto it, but she won't lay down.

She stands, with her skinny paws out straight defiantly, looking at me. It's as if she knows that if she lays down, she will not rise. She's not ready for the deathbed yet... not ready to see that reaper who looms silently above us all.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

When White Boys Go Wrong

I hear'em call my name, a voice out of my old days.

"Hey yo Irish!"

I turned around and saw him sitting at the bar with four or five of his boys. He has small features, a tiny head and a thin frame punctuated by a voice that all the cats who smoke to much pot get. He was always nice to me.

"How you been? You still over there (at the stone yard)?" he asked.

"Nah man. Been a long time. I write now."

"True, true. Good."

"Where's your boy at?" I asked. "That cat you always used to be with, fuckin... Miller?"

He smiles. "Oh him? Oh man he's doin' good. Real good."

His friends begin to laugh. I'm missing the joke.

"Where's he at?"

"He's locked up bro. Armed robbery. Two years. Some jail down the shore."

"Get the fuck out."

"Nah really bro."

"What drug?"

"Crack bro."

"Get the fuck out."

"Nah really."

"Well... at least you're not in jail man," I said. "Cheers to that, uh?"

"Yea man. Yea."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Paint It Black

When The End of the world came, it struck God with a furious irony that it had actually was going to happen in 2012. It was not, of course, because of some ancient prediction made by some civilization that made cave drawings and howled at the moon, nor was it because the date had really been set in the first place.

No, it was simply the way it worked out. It was all a matter of numbers, really. When He had constructed heaven, he had only put so many tables and couches in the place, and he was truly worried that overcrowding would lead to a problem should a fire break out. Plus, after a certain number, it becomes damn near impossible to keep track of who’s coming or going.

He had set the number years ago, sometime after World War I, and it was to be 7,453,536,026. He had hemmed and hawed over it, and considered changing it at least a dozen times.

“What if there’s still really interesting people to be born yet? What if I end it all, but I don’t realize that 31 years later, someone would have been born that was going to write a song that I would have loved? I would miss out on a great song because…why?”

But still, the same problems arose. A fire, a computer backfire, some other unforeseen trouble, and the whole thing would be thrown off and at that point, He may as well throw everyone out and start all over again. And after this long, going back to square one would be like trading in a Hemi for a steam engine.

The final death was somewhat innocuous, and very disappointing. He had always hoped the world would go out with an intensely loud, shattering event that would be worth commemorating on a coin or the back of a dollar bill, but it was not to be. It had actually happened when an older woman from New England who was somewhere in her mid-50s slipped down her cement stairs and hurtled onto one of the large chunks of decorative granite that she had placed at the corner of her garden. Oh, it was bloody and disgusting, but not quite the bang He’d been looking for. Either way, she was it.

He sat down at His desk, lit a cigar, and looked around his office. It was littered with newspapers, books, the occasional porno magazine (He always told visitors that they weren’t his, but he knew no one believed him and so he never made a move to dispose of them.) He fingered the brown fedora that lay on his desk next to him, thought about how He had truly hoped they would come back into style before The End. They gave a man some dignity when he wore a hat, as opposed to baseball caps, which made every man seem like he was walking out of a John Fogerty song. Another thing that was not to be…He shook his head.

He gazed out the plate glass window, looked at the tremendous line at the entrance that he knew wrapped around the building. People were showing ID’s, and getting hand stamps before they walked in. He had thought about using those green bracelets to mark entries and keep count, but He knew how much he hated things rattling on his wrists, and so He had bagged the idea.

On the CCTV was Earth, floating beautifully in the blackened night of space that He’d built so long ago. He always had the cameras on the night side of Earth, for he thought it gorgeous to see the trails of golden white lights emanating from the cities and towns, stretching and winding their ways into the interior of whatever country he was looking at.

“Truly a work of art,” he thought, and even He had to admit that it dismayed him to see the lights blinking out, first in twos and threes, then it great swaths.

He turned to the computer, and began playing Solitaire again.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Prompted Writing

I've never tried it, but I still need practice, so here it is.

The question, from some blogger website, was, "You’ve just been given at time machine. You can only use it once, to go back to day in your past and relive it or change something. What day would you go back to, what would you change and why?"


We had been working on this site for about a month. It was a structure, something like a greenhouse, that had to be partially torn down, and we had been more than willing to work on it because we knew in the extreme cold, the bosses wouldn't come anywhere near us. Sure enough, they never did.

We had the same kind of green Carhartt jackets back then, with the only difference being that his had a hood on it. He was an elfish-looking guy, with a red goatee and thinning hair that he was overly sensitive about. He stood about 5'10", with 225 lbs. of solid muscle packed onto a large frame that outright intimidated most people he met. He had various tattoos; one was the standard tough-guy tribal band around the arm, the other was a huge, stony version of the word "Family" written down his spine in Viking runes. There was also a horseshoe-shaped scar on his forearm from an incident with a red hot lighter when he had been drinking a bit much.

We had been best friends, brothers, with a bond forged from working the same hideous job for hours on end. He had dragged me out of bars, held me up when I was staggering drunk and swearing. Once, during a brawl, he had thrown off the three or four guys piled on top of me, and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, dragging me to safety.

"Good fight," he had told me with a sly grin. I could tell he was impressed, having watched me charge into a group of steroid-ridden guidos to avenge an act of aggression.

"Now fucking stay here," he said. He stalked away, looking for others to drag out.

As soon as he turned away, I snuck back into the fray, only to end up running from the police through backyards and over fences later that night.

We started by banging the walls out, ripping the sheetrock off and then sawz-alling the framework out, piece by piece. Because neither of us was anywhere near qualified to do such a project, we both nearly died a few times because of falling debris or a lack of paying attention. That, however, was how we rolled.

This many years later, I couldn't tell you what we had talked about. His girlfriend, the love of his life, had recently dumped him, so we likely commiserated about that. Well... he commiserated...I wasn't too fond of her. But I listened, because that's what people, even hardasses, need once in a while.

It was one of those nameless days that winter that he had looked at me with a confused look. The weather was frigidly cold, cold enough that the blue in your jeans stood out and your workboots glared tan, as colors so often do when its just too cold to be outside.

"I feel like shit bro," he said.

"You're a fucking vagina. Stop it," I had told him.

We were stacking pallets, waiting for a forklift to come over and bring them out.

"Nah really man. I really feel like shit. My stomach is killing me."

For such a big guy, he could truly be a pussy sometimes. He was famous for "feeling shitty" and staying in on a Friday night, or skipping someone's birthday because "his stomach hurt." Again, he was pulling this, and was going to leave me to work on for another three hours alone.

My boss had come out around that time, and started breaking his balls. But my buddy, he wasn't kidding I guess, because he walked away from the two of us, and bent over with his hands on his knees. I could hear the puking sound, and the splattering of vomit on the redstone covered ground.

He stood up, looking like pale hell.

"Fuck this. I'm going home," he said, and without another word started walking towards the time clock. Who were we to argue- when a guy pukes on the job, you don't want to be around him anyway.

My boss and I smoked a cigarette, shaking our heads and calling him a pussy, but both knowing that sometimes, shit happens. Eventually, my boss went inside and I went back to work, this time, alone.

About three days later, my boy was dead.

I could tell you that I wish I hadn't broken his balls so much that day. I could say that I should have told him how much I admired him, or how influential he was on my life, or how to this day, I hope to be like him.

I could've told him that I loved him like a brother. I could've told him how much we all would miss him if he was gone.

But what the fuck...that's not how we were.

He, and everyone else, knew how close we were. The guy knew that I would have laid down in traffic for him, or taken a sucker punch at the bar for him. He knew that I would have always helped him out in whatever he wanted to do, and that until the day he died, he would have had a couch to crash on.

He knew that I loved him, in the most non-gay way possible, and he knew that I didn't really mean anything by all the ribbings I gave him.

After he died, I found out from someone that he had talked about me when reminicising about that big brawl. He had said how well I'd done, and that I had really surprised him. He said he was impressed that I was as vicious as I was. Of course, he didn't want to tell me that, because "it would give him a big head about it."

Turns out, the fucker knew me just as well... I just never realized it.

Long Nights

"Trouble is like the tide, child; it come in, stay for a while, then go away. But it never gone forever, it always come back and it always go away again."

- A grizzled old streetfighter

Saturday, April 04, 2009

No Matta Where You Go, You Are What You Are Playa

You know, you've got this.. fantasy in your head about
getting outta the life and, setting the corporate world on its ear
What the FUCK you gonna do except hustle?

- Jay Z

A girl I used to know once compared me to Leonardo Di Caprio's character in The Departed. Not in the looks department, I mean (because I beat his ass in that), but in my personality. I forget the exact explanation, but I was initially taken aback.

"I'm not that violent," I had told her, kind of insulted.

As I reach the middle of my 20s, I look back and realize that for all intensive purposes, that's exactly what the fuck I was. I'm not going to tell hero stories because no one cares about them, but I've been in more violent confrontations than most. I never backed down and took my licks.

When you add to that the drinking, the questionable morals, and the severely impressionable personality that I seem to have, I realized that thank God I have good parents, because had I lived in the ghetto and no one was paying attention to me, I guarantee that I'd be selling drugs and would probably have killed someone by now.

I'm not saying that to sound tough. But I know that aside from a great few things (like rape, child abuse, or dealing in any way with prostitution), my morals are flexible. I was prone to violence because it was accepted in school and necessary for the crowd that I run with. I am prone to drinking because its accepted. Getting arrested? Oh it's happened. Everyone I know has been.

Selling drugs? That's just on the other end of my line. Murder? Very far over. However, if I was around people for whom this was acceptable for long enough, I would very likely be engaged in it. Why? That's how I am. The farther you sink and the worse shit you do, the easier it is to do it again. That sounds cliched, but when most of your good friends are drug dealers, streetfighters, drug addicts, and drunks, you realize how quick that slide is.

The better part of my life has been about trying to find out exactly who I am, and where I'm comfortable. I've gone through phases in this; when I was young, it was the country. I've always loved Lynyrd Skynyrd, had a thing for hating the government, and dug history, so it fit for a while. I was a young, blue-collar type that had somehow sunk to a lower class than his parents.

After getting the new job that yanked me buy the neck from the rough and tumble world, I became a little classier, trying to go to nicer bars, meet better looking women, wear nicer shoes. But that's faded off too after an incident on a Hoboken balcony where I realized that I'm just not comfortable around civilized people, and I doubt they're all that comfortable around me.

I still have the classier job, but my old game has come back heavily. I don't care where I drink, what I say, or how much I swear. As it always has been, physical violence is always a possibility because I'm not the, "I'm calling HR" kind of guy. Some people are taken aback by my gruffness, but I just don't know what else I can do.

There were, and still are, a lot of similarities between me and old Leo's character. A penchant for fighting, a penchant for being judgemental, a penchant for substance abuse, and a low level anger that I just can't shake. I thought I left it at my best friend's grave, and I thought I left it at my old job. But every time I think it's gone, it rears back up again. And like Leo, sometimes you try so fucking hard to not be something, and you fight against it so hard for so long, and you still end up back where you started because you realize what you thought was a line was really a circle.

I am always toeing that fine line between being an extraordinarily good, fair person and being a very stupid, very dangerous lowlife. So far, luck, a decent brain and a struggling-but-alive half a conscience has saved me.

Sometimes though, I wonder how much I got left in the tank.

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's here

Oh is it ever. I know this, because after the Hoboken parade I found myself waking up at 9 in the morning on a Sunday next to a girl that I wasn't supposed to, with my heart pounding harder than the headache in my brain.

But oh my, do I love it.

The bagpipes, the music, and the church services should not be drowned with copius amounts of Irish whiskey, but more with the memories of all of those who have come before us.

It's for of all the sons of Erin who came over to this strange new place, covered in fleas and dying of starvation, and built this country up by the labour of their hands and the force of their will. It's for all those who stepped up and carved out their little corner of the American Experiment.

For all of them who stepped straight into the Civil War, and fought to end a form of slavery that mirrored their own oppression in the Old Country. For those who owned liquor stores and bars in Jersey City, for those who became the first Catholics elected to positions it was thought only a born American could have. For those who got on the big boats and sailed to France, and slept in sodden trenches while working the artillery in the Great War (slainte', James Lynch). For those who loaded up again 20 years later, and fought in every theater of the war that nearly ended the world.

It's for Jack Dempsey and JFK and Mickey Featherstone, the Molly Maguires and Micky Ward and every O' or Mc who ever wore a policeman's badge in any city. It's for every union leader that ever fought for his workers, and for the Paddy Murphy and the Dead Rabbits and the 69th New York. It's for every firefighter from 9/11 whose only remains were in the form of the countless claddagh rings found in the rubble.

It's for all of us who share that common ancestry, who came here long ago or just yesterday, but share the blood of that small, green island that defeated one empire and helped to build another.

To all you motherfuckers- slainte'.

And of course... some whiskey don't hurt.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My 20's suck

I go to the same bar nearly every weekend. Every single one. Why? Who knows. It's Irish, for one thing. The name is Irish, the signs are Irish, and they do everything except hand out IRA membership cards at the door. Another reason could be the amount of good looking women that frequent the place; it's still the only bar in my town where hotties are around every night of the week.

What I don't like about the place, however, is the propensity to run into people that I used to go to high school with. Now, I had a great time in high school running with my specific brand of degenerate that I have long described here, so don't go thinking that I got put in lockers as a kid. But the people that I like, I still see. The people that I didn't, or was just "ok" with, I don't, and truly have no desire to see again.

Of course, over the course of life I get stuck dealing with these things, and such was the case Saturday night when, as I stood trying to flag down my tall Celtic brethern behind the bar, I began to feel gentle tugs on the five dollar bill in my hand as if someone was trying to steal it. I turned to the side with fire in my eyes, and was about to launch into a stream of expletives before I realized that it was a cat that I'd gone to high school with.

He was kind of a loser back then, one of those guys stuck in the middle management level in a rich suburban school where your social standing was everything and your character didn't count for much more than a dead cat counts to a dog. I always liked him.

He was about my height, with reddish hair kept short, wearing a white collared shirt and red tie that made it look like he'd just been sprung from a board meeting with accounting.

I smiled at him, shook his hand.

"How you been bro? It's been a long time," I said.

"Eh. OK. What are you doing now?" he asked.

Such a funny question. I absolutely don't believe that this is a question in any way has anything to do with people being interested in what the fuck I really do for a living. It always seem like they're actually asking themselves, "How far did this waste, who was drunk and high all the time in high school and was famous for ditching classes, having the cops called on him, and getting banned from auto shop (forever), make it in this life? Am I better or worse?"

And I don't think that this specific guy was asking it like that, either, but a lot of others do. Maybe I'm cynical, but I doubt it.

"I'm a journalist now. I work for (insert paper's name here) as a writer," I said.

His eyes lit up. "Really? Wow, that's pretty cool man," he said, and it's clear that he means it.

"What are you up to?" I asked.

Now, let's be clear that exactly after I said this to him, I stopped listening, because I'm a jerk and that's what I do. So I'll recount the following as close as I can.

"Ahh, I'm in finance," he said. I'm not really sure if that's what he said or not, but you get the idea.

"Oh nice," I said.

"Well...not really. It sucks."

"Oh... ok. Well, at least you get paid alright for it."

Rare is the time that I'm trying to find a bright side, but this kid wouldn't recognize and appreciate it.

"No, not really. I mean, it's alright I guess, but I really fucking hate it," he said, with a half smile.

A good looking blond came over and sat down next to him, ignoring me completely, and started talking. I turned back to the bar. I didn't realize that it was his girlfriend until I heard him say, "Nah, this will be my last beer, I swear."

I cringed. Hates his job, and will probably eventually hate his wife. At one point, I think he even tells me that the only things he's got left are getting married and then dying.

See, this is probably the reason why I never talk to people from high school, and, as I said, stop listening nearly immediately after they start speaking. I wanted to smack him, tell him he needs a career change, make his own breaks, and get off the fuckin ritalin, but really, I don't care.

Unfortunately though, I think that one is lost, gone in the swirling maelestrom of mediocrity that swallows the souls of so many. You can watch them drop off, one by one, into dead end jobs, into parenthood, into alcoholism. Watching my mid-20s go by after the neverending wildness of my late teens and early 20s is like watching the rebellious, hopeful 1960's give way to the bombed out 70's.

Everything seems bleak. Earlier that same night, I had seen a girl who I'd gone to school with who was now very pregnant and very alone. She was a cunt back then, but I still don't like seeing the look on the faces of those who know that rough waters are coming. She had that look in spades the entire night, sad eyes knowing that soon enough this kind of fun was done. I've seen quite a few others lately that hang around the local bars like flocks of Al Bundy's, slowly losing their hair while talking about how many yards they ran for in their last high school football game.

It makes me wonder if I'm rising or everyone else is falling away and I'm just standing on a lonely island that no one else can seem to find. Other people are starting their lives, their real lives with families and responsibilities and bullshit, while I'm one job application away from hopefully being catapulted out of NJ and into the world of politics that I've grown to love so much.

The short answer to all this for you people I went to school with is Yes, I'm Doing Better Than You.

Now Kindly Fuck Off.