Monday, August 3, 2009

Beer,Fear and Fish in Chicago

I've been really caught up lately in my world. I can't say it isn't unlike myself, in fact I would say it's pretty on point. Even when I have had my spells of existential bullshit, it still really is about how I fit into that existential bullshit. I am feeling lately for lack of a better term, extra stupid. My thoughts have been strictly point A to point B, and I hardly even think twice about the hardships of others. I think I am bitter. For an absolute multitude of excuses that I could give as to why, I will leave it at that, bitter. I remember, not too long ago when I was idealistic. I also remember when my idealism occasionally gave way to cynicism in the shape of predicting my age and the "wisdom" it brings...cynicism. Well, pat myself on the back, its happening. I'm letting it happen, and that's what is bugging me lately, I don't know why I am so apt to just rollover. I think it's laziness, again, I could theorize forever about why, but that's not what this is about.

Last week I took a vacation. I went to visit my friend Sean in Chicago. He goes to grad school there and is by far not only my best friend, but as close to family as any of my family members are, maybe closer (I do admit that with embarrassment, but admit it I will). Flying into Chicago from back home in Columbia, was also a very good friend of mine, Nate. The two of them combined are possibly some of the smartest people I have ever met, or will ever meet. But besides that point, they are genuine. Possibly knowing someone for that length of time dissolves any illusions, or maybe that's what makes them special to me to begin with. In any case, we were all to be in the Windy City together for 5 days. Unlike past trips with these guys, this was abnormal. Usually trips consisted of long car rides, playing board games while camping out under the stars, or simply hanging out in college dorms or parents living rooms as kids. For the first time, we had decided to meet in a location not common, to do one thing, enjoy each others company. There is only one instance where this occurs in my lifetime, trips of this nature. And that is what I eluded to earlier, family. With that being said, I was in a certain mindset.

A few days into the vacation, veins flowing with long nights of spirits, head swimming with jokes and stories, and eyes bulging from short turnarounds before we did it all again, the trip came to a crossroads. Like many people not of our age and generation, lost as to what our "purpose" is, we are no different. Some as Nate would like to say "hide it better than others". That point is still in debate, however, the validity of purpose is something never to be overlooked.

The night seemed to winding down like the ones before. 3am, we were ready to stumble a few blocks to Sean's apartment after a failed attempt to wrangle a band of degenerates together to play a game of pool. Many had already broken off from the pack to scatter into the safe confines of the Chicago campus scene. We stopped for a snapshot in front of a firehouse with the local heroes and went on our way. It was then, a black man came from behind our wobbly group and struck up a conversation. After a few jokes about race and murder, only blocks from Barrack Obama's Southside digs , he humbly invited us into his own house for a nightcap of imported beer, shrimp, and lobster tail (The latter still as yet to be seen). The majority of us, in a one for all attitude, accepted with a bit of tension and alot of crazy. We began walking down an alley when two from our group said enough was enough and left us to be butchered, on vacation none the less. We proceeded onward, continuing the pleasantries, all of us stopping every block or so to admire the lattice work and water neighborhood trees. We all eventually arrived at the residence, bleary eyed and ready to call it in before stepping inside the unknown. In we went though, and with that decision, a chain of events unfolded that would change my perspective, or at the very least, make me look at all of my friends and loved ones very differently.

Immigration! This is the tasty fare being served up with cheap beer and frozen pizza? Fine, pass me the danish, I begged inside. Peeling away the sweaty icing from the plastic shield, I looked on, a fly on the wall. A very nice wall to all of our surprise. Furniture and fixtures and appliances, oh my! This 30...err..40.. something bachelor was living a "comfortable existence". A restaurant manager we later learn, preparing to move to his new Camelot on the gulf coast of Texas. With pictures in hand, we moved away from immigration, right into materialism, veering off into intercourse and back on track with abortion. My intellectual heritage class didn't touch on as many taboo subjects as this "Kevin" did. He was as fresh as a daisy and seemed to be ready to run a marathon. Me however, stupefied, exhausted and drunk, was at my end. I was physically, and metaphorically done, finished, spent. In short, to call me apathetic at this point would be to call Somali kids hungry, I get it. Something happens to the mind at times like these, it kicks into a gear you didn't know you had. I was unaware however that I wasn't the only one feeling this.

Nate was restless, he became overly animated, boisterous, and almost belligerent to a man we still weren't sure had white kids in pieces in his freezer. It was time to go. Nate however, always one to skip formalities in this instance, just left. 2 hours into our nightcap, we set off to find our comrade and bid Kevin a good evening. Not expecting where to even find Nate, we stood outside the house, only to discover he hadn't gotten very far. A mischievous laughter crept over the brick stoop and we discovered him crouched on the side of Kevin's house waiting for us. A good laugh and some more thank yous (mainly for not eating our brains and raping our eye sockets) and goodbyes and we were off. We made it back to our female companions place to ensure she was safely inside. Another set of goodbyes and finally, I could feel the comfort of a college sofa under my head, heading its call like a great beast.

The sun was afoot as we drove back to Sean's, when we (Sean and Nate) decided to watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan. Not having the energy to object, off we went, into the sunrise, which I admit isn't quiet as dramatic. Pulling up to the lakefront, I became energized, or delirious and agreed this was a good idea. The three of us, pretty sober by this point, made our way down to the waterfront. We watched, just as men, women, plants and animals have for an eternity with a breathless anticipation. There is something about sunrise and sunset, when for that brief moment you think to yourself, will it happen today? It isn't even a perceivable doubt, only one that becomes more clear upon reflection. Like most of our un-perceivable doubts. Nate began, he had alot on his mind, and in his eyes. I had never seen him this vulnerable. I had taken for granted that I have cried in the past in front of my friends, for reasons I had always felt validated. But when I initially saw it in Nate, I turned away. I didn't want to be his friend, I hated him, I hated myself. He was speaking and his words were garbled, and voice shaking, and he referenced archaic cliches that I had already cleansed from my mind, forcefully, some years ago. Yet the more he spoke, the more I understood. The more I sympathized. The less I could say.

Nate wanted a purpose, he thought he did not have one, and wanted validation for the way he was feeling. He sounded like a man who knew what he wanted, he just didn't know if it existed. Sean and I listened, Sean mostly talking. He saw through me. He saw through Sean, although Sean was not nearly as guarded. He saw that I was just faking it, that I had convinced myself that I knew what I wanted, found it, and got it. He didn't directly call me out on it, but he knew. I knew he knew. I didn't hate him, I wanted to but I couldn't, he was the one of us who had captured his doubt. He had his doubt in a stranglehold and was in an epic wrestling match where no winner could yet be identified. Sean and I, we let doubt win. We ended up paying for its rent to live in a nicer apartment than we ourselves live in. It eats better than us, it fucks better than us. Our doubt goes out with his friends and makes fun of us, sometimes sets flaming sacks of poo on our doorstep as a practical joke. Our doubt is a douchebag, dickhead and he doesn't care who knows it!

The sun was up now, blazing across the Chicago skyline, making a trillion lights dance on the water and waking up rabbits and fish all around us. The Rabbits and Fish were awake, but I wasn't. This needed reflection. I left Chicago, said my goodbyes to my good friends. I went back to New York, were my Doubt lives. I have decided to put on a pair of shorts, get a few stretches in, and start to wrestle. I wasn't sure if Nate was winning of loosing next to the lake that morning, but he was fighting. Something I haven't done in some time. Thank you

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spilt mammary gland lactation

I think I went a stretch once were I hadn't cried in over a year, maybe two. A record by no stretch of the imagination. I will ignore the occasional swell up during a good movie, I'm talking really letting it go. It has been more regular though however. Even ignoring the past three weeks. 
One of the many traits I picked up from my dad was not crying or getting upset about something. By all means it wasn't because we ignored our feelings. Hell, I think I wear mine on my sleeve in many situations. I think he honed me in the art of numbness though. More specifically, "what the hell is the point of it?" has been the attitude. Efficiency is the driving force behind my long dry spells. Before recent events, moving into my new apartment and saying goodbye to my best friend was my last outburst (of course not in front of him, what am I? gay?). Before that, early march, was cause for the waterworks again as my girlfriend and I came on hard times. I couldn't find a job, and she was tired of lending me money (like I wasn't tired of asking). That just caused a stress breakdown, which was something I never experienced before. Just let me say, if you have a choice in it, don't choose the stress breakdown, it's a bitch.
A couple of weeks ago though, my dad passed away in a hospital bed, with his family around him. Images are seared into my head of the two days I spent next to him. I'm grateful I don't have more time logged away in my head, deconstructing the mess in my head with the material that's there now is hard enough. The crying that came from this was scary. Erratic, convulsive, uncontrollable, sick to my stomach, everything you can imagine, and some things you can't. The kind of upset that makes you not want to take another breath yourself. That thought is quickly replaced with realizing not only how incredibly selfish that is to your loved ones,  but to the real person this is happening to, in this case, my dad. For the following days and weeks, at some point in the day, I cried, for two weeks straight this happened. Some were light and passing, some were strong thunderstorms that beat down on my head. Usually coupled with images of my dads last breath, sounds of him breathing, my mom echoing "We cry for ourselves, not for him", and the current environment this takes place in. Everything from at work, to out to dinner, it happens public and private. I knew the day would come were I would weather all of the storms, and I wouldn't cry. I felt guilty about that day before it even came, it's the same guilt I feel about the day months or years from now that my dad doesn't pop into my head at least once. The crying became almost a constant, something that I knew was going to happen. It was something that justified the way I felt. I started thinking that I wasn't sad or mourning unless I was crying. Also, the crying and sadness was the last thing I had with my dad. 
I wish I could have been a stronger, cooler, more hip person and thought that his passing was suppose to be a celebratory experience, all to appease the natural cycle of life. Then and now, I say fuck the "cycle of life". I don't remember when my cycle started, and I won't remember when it ends. Sorry about lashing out a bit there, but convincing myself that this is going to be for the better or mean something down the road is pointless to me. I always want to live in the now, and when people suggest this is meant to teach me something later, even if that is the case, that isn't how I want to accept it. Human beings weren't made, psychologically to accept this, if we were, we wouldn't have created a magic book full of fairy tales to make us feel better. It would have not bothered us at all if it was so natural. It bugs the hell out of other animals, and they don't have the minds to create stories and culture and, fine I'll say it, religion. But this isn't a blog on religion. It's a blog on me being a pussy and crying for two weeks, so back to that.
Now as a few days have gone by, and the attachment of crying has waned. The waves hit me less often, and are usually only triggered by something personal. The anger comes in waves too, usually separate from the crying. The anger of him being put to sleep. I think about that for me, and I know why my dad wanted it. So we wouldn't have to worry about keeping someone alive who wasn't themselves anymore, and seeing them in the state they were in for longer than we had to. He really did it for us. I don't know if I would want that though. Maybe it's because I myself don't have a wife and kids or the experience yet to make a call like that. I don't know if I'm being optimistic on what could be done treatment wise, or what is more likely to be the case, selfish.
The day I didn't cry for the first time, it felt like I was being watched, or hunted. Like it was there, ready for me, waiting to hit me again. I can't say I didn't want it either. But the hours slipped away, and I somehow managed to avoid alot of triggers that normally set me off. The day then turned into the next. Thoughts still circled my head. But the feeling of the entire event shifted. It started to feel like it happened in the past. I ended up crying on the following day, and it has been back and forth since. But the distance is starting to be created. I guess some would call it healing, I am hoping though it isn't the beginning of something just the opposite. My greatest fear in all of this IS returning to normalcy, and not enact the resolutions I have made from it. The immediacy of the emotion in the first two weeks made fulfilling resolutions, like taking better care of my family and friends, even more imperative. I just wanted to do it, and cared about nothing else. Getting back to work and the grind I fear will erode that urgency. I really hope not.
 Well, just a few thoughts today, many of them kicking around the bean for the last week. Maybe back to more constructive things soon. That's all I will be busy with after this, rebuilding myself, hopefully for the better. For myself, my family and my dad. One thing is for sure, my personal streak doesn't have anything to worry about for awhile, and I'm OK with that. After this, there definitely is a point to it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2 weeks, 2 hours, 2 minutes

My previous post unfortunately has been resolved. The confusion I have cluttered my head with has come to an abrupt halt, and soggy clarity has gripped me.
Two weeks ago today, I received a phone call that is still ringing. I wonder to myself when I will wake up, or if this could have been avoided. Guilt and denial have stung my eyes everyday since then. My dad was in the hospital, unconscious, and no one knew what was wrong. The minutes passed by like lifetimes. Eventually, a lifetime did pass, on October 3rd. He was 52. Today has been better than yesterday, and so on. But I am unsure still what the measure of "better" is.
He is slipping into my past, and I am tugging so hard to keep him in my present. We discovered he had an asthma attack, one of the countless others he has conquered his entire life. This one was different, and the air stopped. His brain died, my dad was gone. The machines kept beeping and humming and we said goodbye. Still clouded by hope, and the chance for a false miracle.
The doctor wore cowboy boots, he showed us his brain, and he said the man laying in that bed wasn't my dad anymore. The 4 of us became one, they held me up. Their faces, different takes on the same person, I could see my dad in all of them.
His eyes watered, we were told they weren't tears. I didn't care. We jammed away, to a viking funeral being piped through tiny ear buds, his eyes watered again, and pooled heavily in the nooks on his long nose. He heard me, he knew I was there.
The man in the cowboy boots called it "posturing". He didn't explain it to us, so I looked it up. It meant damage, bad.
I stared at him for hours, he looked OK, his chest moved up and down, his heart steadily thumped in his chest, sweat rolled from his brow. He never smiled, squeezed, or winked at us. I kept wondering... If my dad isn't there, who is?
I miss everything about him. I miss the 45 minute weekly chat that I would complain about. I miss the cackle of his laugh, like he was holding it in. I miss all the things he knew, and never told me. I miss all the things I knew and never told him. I never told him I was proud of him, but he reminded me every time. I miss my dad.
They pulled the tube from him, and his chest roared. He panted, grasping for the stale air squeezing past his parched lips and tongue. I could see his tongue, purple and beaten from the abuse of his miscalculating jaw. His eye rolling back and forth with the sway of the bed. Then came the shots. I would never leave him, but the doctors said we must. I lost count of them, 3 1/2, maybe 4 1/2. It ripped through his veins and made him drunk with death. He fought off each one, like I expected him to. A gurgle and a puff and he kept ticking, kept driving, kept rocking. The last one was too much, they put my dad to sleep, like my dogs in the years past, they always called it humane... painless. All I feel now is the pain of it, the shots didn't work.
For 2 hours, he swung at the barrage, and at 10:15am, little bubbles sputtered from his mouth, and his eyelids crept open. Again, the 4 of us became one. None of us looked like him anymore, my dad was gone.
The world kept spinning that day, under my feet, I was oblivious. All of the things I questioned and feared went away. I have spent my adult life thinking outside of a box that I never spent time in. A box now with four corners, their faces like mine. I have found love, it was here the whole time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

another one bites the dust

I've been trying to work through a few things again, lately. As usual, not getting anywhere with them. Like most people, i think, death is something i ponder. Not excessively by any means, and to some extent, it is an extension of something I think even more about, life. I will stay away from cliche's, trust me. I'm tired of hearing them when i talk about things, and wont put you through the same, even though i might have violated that promise already in this paragraph. So lets start a new one.
"What makes you happy?" simple question, hard answer, for some. Alot of things induce happiness, joy, a feeling of accomplishment. But in our own quiet moments, what makes you happy? As much as i love my gaby, job, choice of profession, friends, self, accomplishments to this point, one thing that keeps sticking in my head, is drinking a beer, talking, and just forgetting. I think I could leave it at that, and start to worry about my ensuing alcoholism, and call it a day. But i'm trying to get to the roots of some things. And that is so fucking hard. 
Whenever i get in these funks, and consequently try to express them, i come back to previous times I have felt this way. First time being three years old, maybe four. Just sitting there, staring at my raw fingers from biting my nails as a kid, and squinting in pain from chewing a little too far down than i should have. I have become masterful since then at the nail biting art. But that discomfort triggered something i remember, staring at my hand, with its five digits, just thinking, is my hand real. At three years old, the notion of "real" albeit is still a primitive one, but i did have dreams when i was little, like most kids... and i still remember a few of the nightmares at that age, my grasp on reality was if i thought it, it was real. My dreams, i was told, were not real. So this posed an interesting contrast as i think people can appreciate. If my dreams scared the shit out of me, and they weren't real, maybe my hand, in its throbbing agony, wasn't too.
Naturally, society chipped away at this reasoning over the years. And for good reason, a person cannot be taken seriously with fictional hands of any sort. Flash forward 20 years or so, and I'm staring at a guys shoe on a subway train, and the thoughts are still there, like a shadow. So explaining something like this gets a little more difficult with age. Much of the time has been spent framing the conversation, so people have a reference point. This is by far 95 percent of the battle. And for the most part, you get weird looks, and frustrated responses, which i can't blame. Maybe its because there are no rules for a conversation on reality, shoes, hangnails and the like when they are all mashed into one persons diluted head. How do you describe an orgasm? That's what I'm trying to do, and its always over before i even get worked up... the conversation, not the orgasm, no problems on that front. 
So what is at the root of this potential nervous breakdown? What makes me happy? Pessimistic feelings aside, which is difficult to do, I'm starting to see that I will never be. That I shouldn't be is a better wording perhaps. Environmental, personal, professional happiness are all controllable. Those are the things we all control, but its the mental that we are at the mercy of. It is a hostile, and unforgiving factor that trumps all others. For some, it is the first three that determine the outcome of the latter, for others, including me, it is what steers them. When I reach certain points of contentment, in all three of those categories, something goes off. Maybe its a warning system, or a self destruct device. I can't turn it off, never could, and dont think i want to. 
So what happens now? Do i have to gnaw at the things in my life to determine their validity, constantly? How is that fair to anyone, and in the end, I'm nobody. Being self aware has had nothing but negative outcomes so far. I'm desensitized, and i'm tired of it. I'm not even sure if i'm writing this for me. It's a terrible thing when an average person knows he/she is one. The one thing that makes me happy, I can sense is real, but cannot grasp yet. And I'm so scared that I never will, I'm more scared of not knowing what that thing is, than dying. I'm thinking to myself, this thing has to be real, because i'm thinking it. Maybe it's just one of those dreams though, maybe its just as unrealistic as my bleeding cuticles are absolutely here. 
Dying serves a purpose, and impacts life (and consciousness) all around the event of it. As a human being, life can be wasted in the fighting the struggle to outweigh the goods vs. the bads. Everyday I wake up, trying to make the goods tally one more over the bads. Where else does that logic exist in the natural order of things? Nowhere. So why are we/I trying so hard. This is without getting into where the perception of good is defined. I am weary of suggesting "balance", because I wouldn't know balance if it slapped me in the face, it probably looks alot like homelessness, or some other form of distasteful lifestyle I'm sure...
My belief in "want" fits in here, or is catalytic in some way. That natural extension of primal "want" translates poorly to the personal however. But it is a root concept, and I think I am missing another root concept which would put my minds frantic pace to ease, or at the very least, on track. I guess i'll try again soon, or whenever I can't help but to.