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.