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It just kind of sneaks up on you like a shadow on glass, there and gone, age and change that is. There really isn’t any warning. It’s just kind of happens while we’re not paying attention. Age is the universe getting even with us for all the aggravation we have caused it. Change is its way of shitting on us for having shit all over it. It seems the two like to tag team us hiding in the same dark recesses of our mind at the most inopportune time. It robs us of what little left we might have been saving for that special one, in my case there isn’t much left to save for the “special one”. I’m sort of a ‘what you see is what you get’ kinda guy. But age and change will steal take whatever it can get, not quite like a gangbang but close enough that you feel as though you’ve been unduly violated when it’s done with you.
The age old ‘what’s it all about’ question has been gnawing at me as of late. Shit, truth is it’s always gnawed at me, way back ever since I was a kid. I have always been the inquisitive type. You know, that kid sitting in the corner who knew just too much for his own good. Yeah that was me. Ever since I was a kid I’ve had questions, all kind of questions, questions that no one ever seems to have answers to. I’ve always wanted to know where it all starts and where it all ends like it really matters anyway. Still, I have questions for which it seems no one has ever had answers. Or maybe I’m just asking the wrong questions. Or maybe the people I’m asking are just too fucking stupid to know the answers. In any case, I find myself questioning a lot of things these days. Partly it’s due to the fact that I recently had to put my old man in a nursing home. That one was a real bitch, no easy job. It’s hard watching a guy who was once a thick, strapping, rough kind of guy, who saw more than his share of fist-to-cuffs, well read and of superior intelligence, reduced to a mumbling shell of his former self. The uncomfortable truth is he just couldn’t be alone to take care of himself anymore. The other uncomfortable truth is, if it could happen to him it will eventually happen to me. But we’ll get to that later. So of course naturally the ‘what’s it all about’ went into overtime trying to bust my balls more than they already do.
There comes a time in life when you have to stop … and ask yourself, “just what the fuck am I doing here”. It’s a question that has no age limit on it. Chances are you’re probably not going to get a response from the universe but ya gotta ask anyway. I mean hey, one would have to be brain dead or at very least socially retarded to not wonder what they are, what we are, what anyone is doing here stuck in the middle of this shit show of a deal called life. I mean if the universe has an asshole, we are directly right smack dab in the friggin’ middle of it. It’s time to put up or shut up. It’s come to Jesus time. Simply put it’s fuck or fight time. Fuck or fight, a term that came from a time in my late teens when I sat in stir in the Cook County Jail for too long a period of time. It the kind of thing when two guys meet, alpha dog types, who don’t look each other directly in the eyes, just as you never do a pit bull, they just kind of talk around each other only making eye contact when necessary. The only real time you stare each other down is when you’re either going to fuck or to fight. That’s that. I’ve asked myself this very question on several occasions going all the way back to the ripe old age of who knows when. Admittedly I was an old soul from the start, generally more inquisitive than most of my peers owning a tendency to question everything around me, albeit on the down low, so naturally this was a question that came up fairly early in life.
My overabundance of youthful inquisitiveness also seemed to cause me as well as those around me a great deal of grief. Yeah, I managed to get into a lot of trouble. One episode is the time I got pinched trying to peel a back safe that was tossed into the gangway of a building between a bookstore and a bank. Yeah, I was just walking by minding my own business licking on my ice cream cone when, BAM, there it was, right in front of me staring at me like the pullout centerfold of a playboy magazine (yeah, I liked those too, masturbation has never been an issue for me). Being the inquisitive kid I was had to stop and check it out.
There I stood in the five foot wide gangway and asked myself, ‘self; why would any schmuck just leave a safe in a gangway for another schmuck to find’? Now I had no clue what a safe cracker was, well maybe a little. I had been privy to the barroom chatter of my old man, uncles and their friends and I had a good idea of what safes were kept for and what was kept in them. I also knew that this must be my lucky day! So I set about to make a score before even really knowing what a score was. After close examination and instinctually casing the surrounding area, I returned the following day after closing time with a myriad of tools, i.e . hammer, screwdriver, pick, wrench etc. intent on breaking down this ‘pete’ (another barroom term I had picked up in my youth). The long and short of it; I spend two days and several hours wedged in that narrow gangway trying to peel this ‘pete’ only to get caught by some lowly bank security guard doing his rounds. Naturally he ratted me out to the bank officials, who by the way had no idea that the safe had been dumped there, who in turn ratted me out to the cops, who essentially laughed at me. The cops took it nowhere near as seriously as the suits at the bank did. Finally, they opened to gangway safe to show me what all my blood, sweat and tears was for. You guessed it, a bunch of worthless outdated bank statements and miscellaneous paperwork. Needless to say I felt bamboozled, robbed even. I mean who in their right mind leaves worthless papers in a safe sitting in a gangway? Not to mention in full view of an inquisitive kid such as myself. What kind of people were these anyway? Had they no ethics? These were bankers dammit! I felt an entrapment case brewing. But in the end they called my ma who picked me up from the bank, made a good show of it, then took me home and nothing more ever came of it except that she swiped the last of my cigarettes for herself. I may not have made a score that day but I learned a valuable lesson, never leave your money in a bank they have no fucking idea what they’re doing. It also opened my eyes to the possibilities of a whole new career the current one, stuffing the weekend Chicago Sun-Times was getting old. I needed to spread my wings.
Little did I know at the time, I was my own worst enemy. It seems everyone but me knew this. Little did I know that one day most of those guys would be dead or in jail and I would have to admit one of those guys I so admired into a nursing home. So even now I ask myself, just what the fuck is it all about?
From the time we were no more than the dribble that survived the big swim of a sperm race, all the way to becoming a miracle of life living long enough to actually talk about all the shit we’ve caused and got away with, or thought we got away with, we’re in a constant state of change even if we don’t notice it. Its life’s big fuck you! A laugh in our face as if we actually believed we had something to say about our own past, present of future.
I’m from the school of thought that we don’t stray too far from the core of who we are on our journey of life. We might tweak a thing here or there, even have an epiphany or two that saves us from complete self-destruction. But at the end of the day we are who we are at the core. Change is the ultimate equalizer, which along with age as unwelcome as they may be, are two of this life’s givens. When they do arrive at your door they are neither gentle nor kind about their arrival kind of like an ex love giving you the bad news that she had it, didn’t know it and now you have it too. Yeah, I’ve been there and done that already you can keep that shit. Thankfully that’s what meds are for. Except you can’t take antibiotics to cure this shit. Change and age definitely make no mistake about letting you know they have arrived with a swift kick in the dick. The two, freeloaders that they are, stick around until they’ve extracted their revenge and caused you the damage you’ve caused them. Change ranges in pain from slightly uncomfortable to downright tear you a new asshole kind. Then there is the kind of change that is ‘fuck me’ scary. The kind where the past and paths taken in one’s life intersect just where we wish they would not and at the most inopportune time. Those paths you never intended to meet on any level much less intersect, at least not in a perfect world, which mine has never been. It’s a world of which I have had very little control over as much as I like to believe otherwise. I’ve always had the fuck or fight mentality so I thought I would be ready for it, how wrong I was.
Sometimes the balls out trajectory one’s life is on can collide with the past and believe me, it ain’t funny and it ain’t pretty. It’s everything you can do to not eat the proverbial bullet. In some cases the literal bullet. You’re cast down with emotional pain and turmoil so intense you awake uncertain if you can make it through another day. You look for a place, someplace, any place to hide only to realize you’re fucked. I haven’t had a drink or drug in over seventeen years so that obvious option is off the table. They don’t make a big enough bottle for me to hide in anymore. Yes, there was a time I found my hiding place at the bottom of a bottle, nose at the receiving end of a straw and kept a pocketful of pills on hand for every occasion. I didn’t mind being poured out of a bottle so much, I didn’t even mind fucking my life off but at the end of the day, I wanted to stick around for some other people, people I loved and wanted to be there for when the time came. I suppose I figured if I stuck around long enough I might even get to the point I wanted to stick around for myself.
You see, when I don’t drink and drug, which I love like a favorite ex-piece of ass, I can be a pretty all right guy to hang out with. But when I do, at very best I am the guy your mother warned you about. My mind is a bad neighborhood to hang out in on a good day so imagine it like a street corner junk stop and soaked with booze. You get the picture.
The road to sanity is a long and winding one, I know, I’ve been on it for a long time now. Just when you think you may have found your direction, there’s another fork in the road leading right back to insanity. My life has always been somewhat insane and lived on the fly, a sort of gypsy’s life really. Violence has precipitated most events in my young life so naturally violence is how I gauged life. Early on all the way back to my first memory I saw violence. From that moment on lived a life of the violent kind even talking, sleeping, breathing, eating and loving violent. It seems that just when I thought I had beaten it back I find it at my doorstep again just in another form. Eventually it always turns on you. That said, I’ve never emotionally repaired in many ways but I guess you have to work with what you have. I suppose that may be reason in part my writing has always been of the visceral kind.
Damaged goods is what I’ve always kind of believed myself to be but I’m not gonna lie, I kind of like it that way. I tend to be drawn to those who are damaged goods too. I don’t so much mind people with a lot of baggage. If I help carry some of theirs I figure it will somehow lighten my own load. Deep down I have also come to realize it’s all just part of the trip. Everyday I open my eyes to the world knowing I wouldn’t have it any other way. A huge part of me has always enjoyed the emotional, physical or spiritual pain, it tells me that I’m still breathing especially during those times when I have a hard time catching my breath. The kind of deep tear-at-what’s- left-of-your-soul pain, that if nothing else, reminds me that, fuckin’-A I’m still alive. Sometimes we need to be reminded of this, fortunately I constantly am.
Everyone has a story. Good, bad or somewhere in-between it makes us who we are. It’s the “just what the fuck am I doing here” episodes in our stories that make our lives interesting. There are stories and then there are stories and great stories are usually born out of very bad choices. Making bad choices is something I’m pretty good at. For a long period of time that I exceled at it so I have some pretty good stories. I’ve made my share of bad choices and probably enough to share with you. I’ve seen a lot and learned a lot during my short time on this earth and have learned that everything is about choices. Good choices can be boring, but good for you, just ask me now-a-days. They can also keep you alive and out of jail, just ask me now-a-days. From what little I know, and believe me when I say “what little I know” I am giving myself more credit than I deserve, I know I can say I am not sorry for a single choice I have made, what’s the point, though it may have taken time to live with some more than others. We all must decide for ourselves how much sin we can live with. Now, I don’t know if I’ve had my fill just yet but my glass is way more than half full. What would be the use of being sorry and what good purpose would it serve? I couldn’t change anything nor would I want to because I have been fortunate to learn from every single choice I made. Not everybody gets to leave this life saying that, a goal I aspire to meet one day albeit a long, long time from now, is to say just that.
In a world often clouded over by the gloom and doom and pessimism about the future force fed to us on a daily basis, I have made the choice to live my life with as much optimism and enthusiasm as I can possibly muster up every single morning when I crack open my peeps to enjoy another day. It’s that old fuck or fight mentality that I never parted ways with. The kaleidoscope of life is pretty amazing to look through once you stop and take the time to do it. Even if the unfortunate lady in a state of undress lying next to me is not always what she looked like the night before but hey, neither am I suppose. And I’m not even high on acid, diluted by booze or stoned on some other narcotic.
I woke up the other day, as I stared blankly up at the white washed ceiling it occurred to me that I’m a fifty-year old single guy who has a twenty-five year old daughter, several living addictions, a little bit of personal baggage, plenty of ex’s and a whole lot of life experience who lives between LA and Chicago out of necessity and by design. If that’s not enough to make me smile nothing is.