BKN @ATL: White

BKN @ ATL: White

1/12/18 Atlanta: I’d never been to Atlanta before, and I’d certainly never been staying at an Airbnb on the outskirts of Atlanta before. As I was driving down mostly empty side streets I said out loud to myself, “where the fuck am I going right now.” I approached a fork in the road at a light where I was to bear right, before I got to the light an older black guy hobbled across the street. I slowed down to let him pass, then continued on my way past a fast food triangle of Checkers, Popeyes, and Church’s Chicken.

As I made my way down the road I became hyper aware of my whiteness, I’d only seen black folks in cars and on the streets around me since the old man hobbled in front of my car. It also dawned on me quickly that I was in the fairly deep south, and I wasn’t sure what all that meant.

Back home in New York I’d be considered a bleeding heart “libtard” by racist old white dudes, and an intolerant straight white privileged male by libtards. And that was fine by me, I didn’t want to be considered a friend by either extreme. I would say I most certainly leaned left, but I really couldn’t get behind the word police and ultra P.C. movement, people who made it their civil duty to be infuriated with mankind. I really didn’t like that kind of shit, but I legit hated the extreme right, particularly the overt racism. I hated the part of me that still held those kinds of skepticisms. It had to be some form of racism, why else would I had been apprehensive to go get some groceries at the Big Shop n Save on the outskirts of Atlanta.

It wasn’t that I felt I would be in any danger if I entered the Big Shop n Save, obviously I knew nobody was going to shank me because I was the only white guy getting some produce. I think being that far south was what really made me apprehensive. I’d been in plenty of bodegas in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods back home, where few white faces were getting coffee or beef patties. But it was New York, so my libtard side could romanticize it and act like there was no racial tension; those were my fellow City-men! But I didn’t know what the fuck the dynamic was down in Atlanta, I imagined it wasn’t good. I hadn’t heard dazzling things about southern racial relations. I couldn’t help but think about the book version of “Friday Night Lights,” how there was a clear line that separated which part of town was the white part and which was black, and the only time it was crossed was when the black kids went to go win high school football games for the white people. I understood that book took place ddeeeeeeppp in Texas. Atlanta was still a major city, I’m sure it wasn’t like that, but what the fuck did I know. This part of Atlanta did not look very city like, maybe I was the first white person to come to this part of town in 50 years.

Kenny “The Jet” Smith once said on a TNT broadcast that the first time he ever hugged a white person was in his early teens during a basketball game. Larry Bird fell in love with basketball partly because he was a bit of a loner, and felt accepted by the older black guys who let him play with them, because he was good and that was all that mattered in basketball. If could you could play, then you played.

I think I was in the 3rd grade and my CYO basketball team had a big playoff game, and the opposing team had this really tall black kid who played for them. The CYO was very white washed, and this was the first black kid I’d ever played against. It was either an older family member, or a coach, or somebody, telling me this horrific account of the 5th grade team from my parish that played a predominantly black team. The black team was brutal and played dirty and intentionally hurt everyone on their team, but our white team still came away triumphant!! Now, looking back on it, there was absolutely no way that was what transpired. There was no way a bunch of 5th graders were just beating the shit out of another group of 5th graders in a refereed game, with parents on both sides, and it was just allowed to happen and somehow the whites magically persevered. But I was like 8 years old when I heard that, and it scared the shit out of me. I didn’t want to get into a brawl. I just wanted to take jumpshots and play horrendous defense, y’know, white guy shit. So the day of my playoff game I hinted to my mom about my nervousness of playing against the black kid on the other team. She gently put it that people were just people, he was just a kid who wanted to play basketball like me. She said, “sure, he’ll probably be a lot better than you, but what can ya do, you play shit defense and your handle is weak as fuck, you little bitch.” She didn’t say that last part, but it was insinuated.

The game I was attending in Atlanta was another dud on paper, and I had another ticket mishap that I can’t get into, it hurt my soul too much to think about. This was the second dud-on-paper game I was attending in a row, with a very sparse crowd and teams with records well under .500. The Hawks were like a team compiled of people I didn’t realize were still in the NBA, and the Nets were a team compiled of people I was never aware were NBA players. A large fella with a fro named Jared Allen got badly dunked on by a rookie named Jon Collins, you go figure out which guy plays for which team. It was actually a great game, and the 127 people in attendance were really getting into it, far too many of those 127 were children. I didn’t appreciate that, it was my belief that those things should be kept in a cage at home, but what can ya do. To make up for the lack of human noise the crowd of 127 could make, the Atlanta Hawks organization thought it best that the DJ-fake-organ-man just alternate between fake organ, clapping sounds, and generic hip-hop beats every 3 seconds for THE DURATION OF THE ENTIRE GAME. I now know which torture technique would get me to spill secrets fairly quickly. It was certainly unnecessary down the stretch of the game, the 127 were getting loud, but the maddening loop of noises drowned them out, and their heros fell short. The Hawks lost in the last minute when a human professional basketball player on the Nets named Spencer Dinwiddie took a loose ball the opposite way for an impressive And-1, as 3 Hawks were surrounding him at the hoop. I blamed the DJ, let the 127 live. He had one shining moment when he played Cardi B during a timeout break, and this cutsie little like 11 year old white girl was casually singing all the words, and I thought to myself that this was an amazing time to be alive.

Much like the Hawks, we lost our 3rd grade CYO playoff game in the last minute, it was crushing and I still wasn’t over it nearly 20 years later. There was some bookkeeping tomfoolery going on with the other team that allowed one of their better players to stay in the game after he was charged with his 5th foul, but I won’t get too much into that. The silver lining was that I hit an elbow jumper right in the tall black kid’s face, and wouldn’t you know it, he didn’t punch me in my face. The world started to make sense to me. As everyone was leaving after the controversial win, the tall black kid put on a Knicks jacket before exiting, and I felt a certain kinship with him in that moment. We both just wanted to play for the Knicks when we grew up. And even though I buried that 15 footer in his grill, my mom reminded me, “he had a waaayyyyy better chance of playing for the Knicks, because you just stand around on offense and wait for the ball to find you. You gotta work a little, you lazy fuck.”

I arrived at the Airbnb, and was greeted by the extremely friendly and sweet middle aged black woman who was hosting me. And of course the other people she was renting a room out to was a white girl with purple hair and her boyfriend. So not only was I not the first white person in this area in 50 years, the presence of me with my big silly tattoos and her with her purple hair signified that the area was in the beginning stages of being gentrified. As I f I couldn’t feel any more white guilt and utter shame. My Lyft driver had these brolic ass rings on every single finger, he was pretty funny. As the trip started he was talking shit about the route his GPS was taking us, so me and him talked shit about technology and how GPS’s thought they were better than us, then he went his own route and the traffic was ridiculous and he just sighed and said, “guess the GPS knew.”. The guy who whipped up my cheesesteak at a hole in the wall sandwich and wings spot was also a basketball fan. We bullshitted about the night’s matchup with the Nets and Hawks and how horrible of a game it was going to be, obviously we were both very wrong. We then both agreed that we were at the point where we were apprehensive to play because we didn’t want to turn our ankles anymore. The kids in their early teens who came into the hole in wall to get some food were fuckin annoying, because teenagers are inherently annoying, with their youth and music I didn’t understand. People were people. My conversation with my Lyft driver on the way back somehow got on the topic of natural disasters, and he scared the shit out of me when he described the sound of an earthquake in L.A. as a gigantic lion that was right in your face. The conversation then drifted towards the “changes” going on in Atlanta, i.e. lanky white boys with silly tattoos first, artisan soap shops next. But the dude didn’t even seem annoyed with my presence when we were talking about these changes, he blamed the powers that be, developers and other major gentrifying forces. He was punching up, where a lot of people from my hometown who elected a maniac into the office of president did the complete opposite. Any thought of a shift, or danger to their current way of life, and they blamed the people with less than them.

Years later, maybe by the time we were in the 8th grade, my CYO coach put us in a PAL league on the North Shore of Staten island, where we were guaranteed to be the only white kids in the general vicinity. When we stepped in the gym all the black kids were grinning and shaking their heads, they probably thought they were on one of the hidden camera shows that were very popular at the time. We won every game in that league by at least 15 points. We’d been playing together for years at that point, most PAL teams were just kinda thrown together. Basketball is all about cohesion, when you’re on the court with a consistent team-even at that young an age-there is almost telepathy happening on the court. By the end of the games the black kids went from laughing at us to giving us pounds. Because we could play, and that was all that mattered.

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DAL @ CHA: Entertainment

DAL @ CHA: Entertainment

1/10/18 Charlotte: I’m sure Charlotte’s great, ok, I’m sure it’s fine. I bet there’s good food and nice parks or something, I’m not doubting it. I never really buy into people saying, “there’s nothing to do there,” when talking about an entire city or what have you, every place has it’s charm… I’m not really sure what there’s to do anywhere, I just like walking around and looking at like old buildings or trees or some shit, so maybe my ‘to-do’ bar is set quite low. I will concede that it’s easier to come across good live music, or beautiful parks, or delicious food in some places compared to others, but there’s shit going on everywhere. Every city has fine looking humans.

But something about Charlotte, on this day, in this Airbnb… I just don’t care to find the charm in Charlotte, I just don’t care. I want to, but I just don’t.

That’s pretty much I felt about the city’s team, the artist’s formerly and currently known as the Charlotte Hornets, I just didn’t care. I got it, Kemba was good and could be fun to watch. I liked him a lot in college, but he always killed the Knicks. Batum was good, but I don’t even know how much he played anymore, it seemed like he was perpetually hurt. Dwight Howard was playing good again, but the team wasn’t very good even when they were, and I just didn’t care. I didn’t like their jerseys, and I didn’t like that they were called the Bobcats for far too long, like they were a 3rd grade after school team. And I didn’t like Michael Jordan being the owner because he always beat the Knicks and douchebags cared too much about his sneakers.

So I don’t know, I could take it or leave it, but I said I was gonna come here and I’m here. It was en route to other places I had pre-decided were better than Charlotte, so, there. Go Buzz City, or something. They were doing some Buzz City campaign thing a few years back in the playoffs when they were faux good, so, yea, that. Buzz…City…Time? Was there something about a hive or a swarm with that? Or were they just wearing “Buzz City” shirts? I think it was just the shirts, that read “Buzz City.” Which encompasses my presumptions about Charlotte, and I’m sorry.

I arrived at the arena and they were still doing the Buzz City thing, were they not aware of how fuckin’ lame that was? They had to have known how terrible that was. Michael Jordan has a sneaker empire; people care more about those shoes than they do their families. How did he let Buzz City be their slogan? And how did he let it go on for this long?

The greater Charlotte area must’ve felt the same way I did, because there were 2 people in the entire arena for this matchup, myself included. This was the first time into the trip where I felt truly stupid. Stupid like, “why am I watching the Bobcornets vs the Mavericks on a Wednesday night in Charlotte, why am I here.” I stopped off in Asheville, NC for a couple of nights between basketball games in D.C and here, and had an absolute blast. They had a gas station that doubled as a bar, which had a backyard, with cornhole, and a food truck, AT A GAS STATION. Now I was at a basketball game where the two teams were like a combined 30 games under.500.

Have you ever been to a professional basketball game with only 2 people in attendance? Ok, it wasn’t 2, but there’s no way it was more than 13. So after spending a couple of nights in the hipster paradise filled with drinking, bonfires, hiking, and some unexpected strange at the hostel, I drove a couple of hours, hungover, to be 1 of the 13 people at this shit game. And afterwards I’d go back to my depressing 8 x 12 Airbnb room, instead of a cool hippie pad.

My saving grace was the announcer guy trying to pump up the 13. How much noise did he want 13 people to make, he was putting too much responsibility on us. He would go into his whole spiel, “ok Buzz City fans!! We’re gonna need YOU… to… make… some…NNOOOIIIISSEEEE,” then there was one guy all the way on the other side of the arena who would yell, “YEAAA HORNETS!!!” or whistle or clap or something. It was ridiculous, just give the announcer guy the night off. The cheerleaders too. I’ve never seen cheerleaders asked to do so much. Aside from the usual sexified routines they had to perform a few times a game, the Jumbotron would cut to them in between a decent amount of made baskets, and as the ball was being taken up the court, they had to keep this dumb sexified aerobics like shimmy going on from the tunnels that led to the locker rooms. At one point they had this promotion from one of the local southern chains, Bojangles, and some of the cheerleaders pranced out to center court with boxes of chicken, and the announcer dude was like, “ok BUUZZZZ CITTYYYY, who..wants..some.. CHHHIICCKKEENNN!! MOTHHERRFUCKKERRRSSSS!!!” And the 13 started going nuts for some chicken, and at first I thought the cheerleaders were going to launch the boxes of chicken into the crowd like t-shirts, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. The cheerleaders on the court ran into the lower levels and started finding children to give the chicken to. The rest of the cheerleaders appeared in the upper sections, and started sexifyingly flaunting the boxes of chicken, then giving them to children. This grown man and his girlfriend were 2 of the 13, and they were seated really close to me for some reason even though we had the entire arena to ourselves. When the sexy chicken boxes were being flaunted, the grown man started flailing his arms over his head and going, “ooo me! Me! Look at me! Look at me!!” because he was really hungry and wanted the chicken, I guess. He was dressed well, he carried himself like someone who could afford a box of chicken up until that point, but maybe he was just putting on airs. Or maybe he was just a pathetic, greedy grown man who stretched out his arms and fingers, and yelled “gimme, gimme,” when something free and shiny-like a box of chicken or a shitty t-shirt-was dangled in front of him. I wondered how the girlfriend could look at him sexifyingly ever again after that display. But they took a selfie with the court and the empty arena behind them before leaving, so I guess she yearned to be a mother to a grown man.

I stayed til the end, the entire 13 did in fact. I suppose with hopes that the cheerleaders would come back to flaunt some dessert, but they never did. They just shimmied in the tunnel, I’m guessing until at least 6 a.m. The janitorial staff would need entertainment, after all.

I wondered what the players made of all this, playing in front of 13 people and watching grown men throw tantrums for free chicken. I guess at the end of the day they were still making millions of dollars, so what did they care… but I imagined it was a little disheartening when they could hear the individual pleads for chicken, and it wasn’t drowned out in  a sea of white noise from a packed crowd. It must’ve been difficult to get pumped up for games like that. What was that you asked? What happened in the game?… I don’t know, who cares.

MIL @ WAS: Asshole

MIL @ WAS: Asshole

1/6/18 Washington D.C.: I felt obligated to go on some Trump tirade, but what was I gonna say that hasn’t already been said. Guy’s an asshole, some people seem think he’s the second coming, to those who feel that way, I don’t know what to tell ya. But what is certain is that I’m not going to say anything at this point that will sway anyone one way or the other, so fuck it.

D.C. had more to offer than that asshole anyway, I felt like I was dropped into the middle of Park Slope in Brooklyn. And what more New York way to compliment a place than compare it to somewhere in New York, “yea dat Vatican wuz a pretty good spot, remindin’ me of St Patty’s in midtown, OH! Lombardi’s wuz da first pizzeria in da worrllldd!” Talk about an asshole. But anyway, yea, there was good food, fine ladies, fine fellas, the subway system was clean and efficient, friendly strangers talked to you at the bar; if you’re into that kinda thing. And above all, it was a very good game, unfortunately in front of a very porous crowd.

I planned to get to the arena early, because in my head it was less weird to be alone at the game if I was already seated by the time my row-mates got there. It didn’t turn out that way because the gal at the bar forgot to put my burger order in for ten minutes while I sat at the bar, alone, like an asshole!! Sorry, it’s not the girl at the bar’s fault that I’m self-conscience about eating alone. Anyway, so my master plan to get there early fell through, so I had to scoot down the row like this, “excuse me, sorry, thanks, sorry, thanks, excuse me, thanks, sorry, ummm I think that’s my seat, yea just the one seat, yea I’m sitting here alone, yea by myself, yea, yea, yes like an asshole, sorry, thanks.” Half the arena was empty but of course my row was jam packed. It was a shame that half the arena was empty, because there was some top notch athleticism on display.

John Wall and Eric Bledsoe were knifing up and down the court like mad men, stopping on a dime, cutting and juking at full speed, Bledsoe contorting his body like a gymnast while flying in for layups, Wall dropping perfect passes to Gortat like it was his job, and I guess it was, technically. Bradley Beal had more game than the Parker Brothers, he was Phife Dawg on the perimeter, who, as we know, was smooth like butter. But this night, like most nights, belonged to the Nigerian Greek Freak.

I was taking a stroll through a woodland area a few weeks back, and there was a pair of bucks just off to the side of the trail. One ran off accordingly, the other took a step forward and grilled me like I was a piece of meat, and I guess I was, technically. He was fucking gigantic and his antlers looked like tree branches, I nearly pooped all over myself.

If Giannis Antetokounmpo was standing on that trail with the same angry look on his face, I would’ve done the same thing I did with the buck, quickly turn, walk away, and hope a chase didn’t ensue. Giannis seemed like a nice fella though, I’m sure he would spare my life if I encountered him at Highrock Park in Staten Island. My point being, I think Giannis is the closest an athlete has ever come to embodying the thing his team is named after. Although… there is something quite Clipper about Blake Griffin, he’s got a certain Clip to him… I don’t know what a Clipper is… but then again, I don’t really know what Blake Griffin is, he’s a hodgepodge of physical features. So there ya go, they have that it common; I don’t really know what either of them is. But I digress, Giannis might actually be one part buck. He’s like a single gigantic brown muscle, he has a majestic, leaping stride-like way of running, and he grows antlers during Greece’s mating season. His gait really is buck-esque, he’ll be standing still, dribbling at the 3 point line, then out of nowhere take two huge leap-steps and be making a layup from some ridiculous angle over half the opposing team. He should be tested for deer, and thrown out of the league!!

You know who will never be tested for deer? Thon Maker, also of the Giannis/Bucks, the Giannis/Bucks backup center. Maker was subbed into the game about halfway through the first quarter, and by the time there were 2 minutes left in the quarter he had thrown up 3 20 foot jump shots for some reason, got bailed out by the ref after Wall blocked the shit out of his layup, and got another jumper blocked by the Wizards other guard, Bradley Beal aka Phife Dawg. Maker is 7 feet tall, the Wizards guards, like most guards, are not. Look, I don’t know Thon Maker, I never met him, I don’t watch every Giannis/Bucks game, but what I have seen from Maker just makes me wonder, “what’s this guy’s deal?” He’s athletic enough, he’s long, he seems to have some skills, but he’s getting blocked by two dudes half a foot shorter than him, and chucking up long 2 pointers.

I was sitting there, alone, by myself, with my one seat, hoping Thon Maker would get taken out of the game. Until, some asshole white guy who doesn’t know anything about sports, heckled Maker with the classic asshole-white-guy-who-doesn’t-know-anything-about-sports taunt, “You suck # 7!” Ugghhh, gross. Let’s make a new rule, if you don’t know the dude’s name, you can’t heckle him. Matter fact, if you can’t name the starting lineup, you can’t heckle anyone, ever, even if you’re right. Because he was right, Maker was sucking, but don’t call him #7, what is this. I’ve heard that taunt at almost every sporting event I’ve ever been to, “#20! Get out of the game!!” There’s no clearer sign that you have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. It’s a weird phenomenon with sports, men just feel the need to chime in, and I don’t get it. If you’re at a pizzeria waiting at the counter with another dude, and there’s a game of any kind on the T.V, 99% of the time the guy will ask, “what’s the score?” when it’s clear that he has zero interest in the score. It would be like me going to a car show, knowing that I don’t know shit about cars, and being like, “this thing got a steering wheel or what?” Only no one would ever do that, but with sports for some reason dudes feel the need to show up and call people #7. It was at that moment I became a Thon Maker fan, and decided to root against the home team, and I’m glad they lost. Giannis made two spectacular baseline-turnaround jumpers to ice the game. It made me smile that the young Wizards fans were leaving the arena heart broken.

It wasn’t Washington D.C.’s fault that I was seated near the #7 guy, it certainly wasn’t the young Wizard’s fans fault. There’s a #7 guy in every arena and pizzeria across the nation. But I was hungover and feeling cynical, and I had to zero in on something. Going on a tirade about an asshole president is low hanging fruit, there are assholes everywhere who are making the world worse. They’re easy to find, especially when you’re alone, by yourself, with one seat, at a basketball game, like an asshole.

DET @ PHI: Frostee

DET @ PHI: Frostee

1/5/18 Philadelphia: I was planning on doing this trip like 2 years ago, I was engulfed in one of these books which was pushing this idea that we spend all this time doing shit we hate, that we should figure a way to find the thing we’re good at it and make that the thing we do. So I did as the book said and got my money right, came up with this plan, and left my old job. I was ready to hit the road across this good nation of ours, but then my girlfriend at the time suggested that we should go break up in Thailand for 2 months, so we did that instead.

I almost completely forgot that I wanted to do a cross country tour of basketball arenas after that. I saw the book that originally sparked the idea when I was cleaning up one day and it jogged my memory. And now that I was sufficiently single, it seemed like the right time. Philly was the obvious place to start this journey. One of my oldest and goodest friends, Mike Graham, lived there, so it was a nice way to ease into it. Mike Graham was one of those people whose whole name you had to say, but when you said it fast it sounded like ‘my grandma.’ So back in the days when someone would call you up and you had to list everyone you were with for some reason, you would say, “this guy, that one, Mike Graham,” and they’d confusedly say, “your grandma?” And you’d say, “nooo, Mike Graham,” with a hard ‘K,’ and they’d go, “ohhhhh, Mike Graham, thought you said my grandma, I love that guy.” Everyone loved Mike Graham, I love Mike Graham, and so do you.

We took our lives in complete opposite directions. I was this dumb, lonesome, semi employed, half a nomad. And Mike had a wife, and a kid, and a dog, and a cat, and some smart person job. What was his smart person job? I am not really sure to this day, he explains to me like once a year and I’m still left confused afterwards. He like engineers missiles that shoot down other missiles for the government or like the navy or something. I don’t know, he’s like a rocket scientist, but with missiles and engineering… he’s something smart, something far smarter than that description. But if you talked to him, you would think he was just a regular ole drunk, like me! Which is part of why I like Mike Graham so much, even though he’s a rocket engineer secret missile government scientist, he still hangs out and drinks with the simpletons of the world.

Philly was stop one and the 76ers were team one. I was crashing with Mike Graham and his stupid cool wife and his stupid adorable son and his stupid perfect dog and the stupid cat that just lets you pet him. And prior to heading to Philly I was writing this piece in my head, assuming I knew how the game and whole experience would turn out, because that’s what I do, assume outcomes even though I know my assumptions will be wrong. I have entire conversations in my head, and the conversations in real life never turn out to be anything close to the dialogue I came up with, yet I do it again and again, never learning. That’s my small, annoying cross to bear.

As I was trying to stay ahead of the game and preemptively write this piece, I figured I’d end up writing about Mike Graham’s family dynamic in comparison to my silly, unattached existence, and somehow tie in the 76ers “trust the process” campaign as a metaphor. But that didn’t happen, it became quite clear upon arriving at the Wells Fargo Center in the brick, absolute freezing cold, that I assumed wrong again.

You may have noticed the date at the very top of this piece was 1/5/18, the first Friday in January. The date I began this trip, and the date that I arrived in Philly for the 76er’s game. You know what 1/5/18 wasn’t? It wasn’t 1/31/18, the last Friday in January, which was date on the tickets I purchased for me and Mike Graham. So after some confusion with the ticket scanner-man, he pointed out that those were tickets for a different Friday game. Also, they were tickets for when the 76ers played the Nets in Brooklyn, so I got everything wrong. I just bought the first tickets that popped up on the app, I guess they were basing it on my location since I lived in New York. Two years of planning and I bought the wrong tickets for my first game. After feeling much embarrassment and dread, I jumped back on the app, hoping there would still be tickets left, and there were! For $100 a piece. Mike Graham said the day before that he saw some for $30, but I told him that I would take care of it, because I was slick and saw some for $18. So if anyone wants to go see the 76ers take on the Nets at the Barclays Center on 1/31/18, I got a pair of tickets that I will throw your way for $19 a pop. I was ready to give up and just go back to Mike Graham’s pad and get plastered, but he insisted we just bite the bullet and pay $70 more for these seats. I couldn’t in good faith make him pay $100 for tickets he could’ve gotten for $30 the day before, so I and I alone bit the bullet, and told him to just gimme 30 bucks and I’d cover the rest, because I’m a god damn martyr.

After the ticket debacle, grabbing our beers, and finding our seats, it was about halfway through the first quarter. Halfway through the first quarter of a professional basketball game, that had two professional basketball teams participating, and the score was 20-5 in favor of Philly. The Detroit Pistons, a professional basketball team, and a decent one at that, had scored 5 points through 6 minutes of play. And this was only the beginning.

Ben Simmons was getting to the hole at will, if J.J. Reddick wasn’t hitting his first shot, an offensive rebound would get him another crack at it and he’d drill that one, and The Process himself Joel Embiid took Andre Drummond by the ear and just sonned him up and down the court for 3 quarters. Yes, 3 quarters, he did not have to step on the court in the 4th because they were up by 40. 40, that’s twice as much as 20 for those keeping score at home. And really, I don’t think he needed to be on the court during the second half at all, I think he just wanted to take it to Drummond a little more. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a 7 foot man drag another 7 foot man up and down a basketball court by the ear before, but it’s quite the sight, a little hard to watch. It was 94-54 at the end of 3, like the score of a kid’s intramural game where one team of kid’s had mustaches already.

On it’s face you would say the lopsided contest made the $200+ in tickets sting even more, and I think that would’ve been true if it was your run of the mill 20 point blowout, but 40 points? You never see that, it was such an embarrassing ass whooping that it felt like I almost got my money’s worth, almost. Especially given the nature of Embiid and Drummond’s twitter beef. I can’t emphasize enough how bad Embiid made him look, good lord. And the crowd let Drummond hear it, it wasn’t pretty.

Philly sports fans were supposed to be renowned for their shit talking, but from what I gathered it was more quantity then quality. The one drunk individual whose shit talking I couldn’t help but document was nothing if not persistent, in fact, it was nothing but persistent. He started out very slow, as he yelled at Drummond after he got his shot blocked by Embiid, “Andre Drummond?! More like Andre Trash!!.” Now, some would say that didn’t make any sense at all, and it was one of the least clever things ever yelled at a sporting event (which is saying something), and I would be one of those people. But he started to catch on to this whole word play thing as the game wore on, after one of the many stretches of Detroit bricking shots, he yelled out, “Pistons need some work!! They’re misfiring!!” Two minutes later, in case people didn’t catch it the first time, he repeated, “Pistons need some work!! They’re misfiring!!” What was amazing about this shit talking, well it was amazing for many reasons, but what really stuck out was that his friends weren’t even egging him on, absolutely nobody was laughing at these horrible taunts, but it didn’t slow him down in the slightest. Usually the friends of these drunks were enablers, but I think they were as baffled as everybody else. But like I said, as the game wore on, his shit talking baby deer legs strengthened, after another Drummond folly- a blocked shot attempt or a missed free throw- he hollered, “Andre Drummond?! More like Andre BUMmond!!” I wish I was sitting behind him so I could’ve given him an encouraging pat on the back, he was really hitting his stride. His piece de resistance came after Drummond, frustrated and sick of being dragged around by the ear, lost his cool with the refs. It was our hero’s time to shine. “T him up ref!!” he yelled in delight, “Andre Drummond?! More like Andre SCUMmond!!!” I liked to think everyone in our section was proud of his growth, I know I was, he somehow got more coherent the more inebriated he became. The Pistons continued to miss shots, so he went back to ole reliable late in the 4th, “Pistons need some work!! They’re misfiring!!” He then let everybody know, “that’s a mechanic joke,” because jokes are always best when explained.

We had a few more brews and continued to watch the train wreck in amazement well into the 4th. As we sat there Mike Graham said, “I don’t know how you feel, but  I don’t really wanna go yet,” and I agreed. Then I looked around the arena, there was about 4 minutes left, they were still up 40, and the arena was still mostly filled. Usually people tried to beat the crowd. Wendy’s had a promotion that if an opposing player missed both his foul shots in the 4th quarter that everyone at the game gets a free Frostee, so that became the new game. So of course, who gets fouled and is thrown to the wolves in this 40 point blowout? The token lumbering white guy off the end of the bench. The guy who only gets burn when the team’s starting center is suffering from a dragged ear in a 40 point ass kicking. So #8 Henry Ellson got whacked trying to get a put back to go, and now he was marching to the line. The crowd was a little animated seeing if he’d miss the first. Brick. They smelled blood, and this poor fuck who hadn’t played a meaningful minute in his professional career was suddenly propelled into a Game 7 of the Final’s-like atmosphere, it was deafeningly loud in there, and Henry Ellson was all alone at the stripe. I’ve never felt so bad for an athlete in my entire life. His second shot went up and it was further off-course than the first brick, the crowd exploded and started chanting “Frostee! Frostee!” Henry Ellson ran back on defense, there would be no moral victories for Deettrroiittt Baasskkettbaallll on this night. I leaned over to Mike Graham and said, “who the fuck wants a Frostee? It’s like 2 degrees out,” we both laughed. Those dirtbags at Wendy’s, putting poor Henry Ellson in that predicament just so it could seem like they were doing the crowd a favor. Only true masochists would go claim their Frostee.

I figured after all that excitement the crowd would start to thin out, but no, the place stayed packed up until the final buzzer. Because it was freezing out, as cold as it’d been in years, and the Northeast just got popped with a snow bomb cyclone leg drop. People wanted to be out, they wanted to be around people, and be warm. They wanted to cheer for Frostees they had no intention of eating. Nobody really wanted to go yet.

And that’s how it felt the next day at the Graham’s. Hungover and procrastinating, I didn’t want to go yet. Once I got in my car and headed down towards D.C. the trip really started. The next game I’d be eavesdropping on people alone, drinking by myself and taking notes like a weirdo. And the game after that, and the game after that. I’d be Henry Ellson at the free throw line, surrounded by thousands of screaming strangers. Winning everyone Frostees with my failures and shortcomings.

Another

First we thought we were going to be professional athletes, then rock stars, then artists; but of course none of that happened. So those dreams died and we started, we were kids.

It never stopped, we figured it would stop. Other people seemed to stop, but we kept going, and next thing we knew it was sunrise, and the next thing we knew we were nearing 30, but everyone else had stopped.

We always had one more and we always had one more after that, and we might as well have had the last ones, no point leaving the last ones in the fridge. We were the last ones, because everyone else had stopped.

And it wasn’t cute anymore. It was never cute, but it was funny. We were funny and cool, and we were fun to be around, but we kept going and the jokes were stale, nobody else was laughing and it was bitter.

Our palates matured and bitter tasted good, everything went down smooth. When it didn’t go down smooth, we switched things up and we went until the jokes were fresh.

We went until we ensured that the next day was misery, and that the next day after that was misery, and we regretted it all, and we said never again.

And it was never again until we didn’t have work the next day, then we started. Other people started and eventually stopped, but we never stopped, because it was chemicals and there was no fighting that. We weren’t what we imagined, and there was no stopping.

Accidents

The trees were dying, but I don’t even think that was true. The leaves were changing colors, falling off, shit like that. It was autumn going on winter I guess is what I’m trying to say. And I’m sure that means something, but not that the trees were dying, because they would presumably bloom again.

But maybe they were, I knew I was dying, maybe not actively, but I wasn’t going to bloom again any time soon. I did my blooming over 26 years ago. And I don’t know if I’m trying to be deep or whatever, all I know is that I smashed my face on the concrete or a steel bannister at the train, or something, that was true, but I don’t remember which. It was only a few days ago but I can’t remember which. I just know I smashed my face onto something hard, then I threw up in my lap on the train. It was like 1 or 3 in the morning so there weren’t many people on the train, thankfully. That I remember.

I woke up the next morning and I could feel my front teeth, like a sprained ankle, and the left quadrant of my lower lip was obese.

.

I was apartment sitting for this friend of a friend whom just had surgery. She couldn’t climb the stairs to her apartment post-op, so I was apartment sitting for her plus cooking and bringing her food at the hotel she was staying at 5 minutes away.

Before one of my dinner runs to the hotel she asked for me to grab some weed butter she had made and left in her fridge. I brought it to her, and she said there was more at the apartment and that it was nice and mellow, if I wanted to give it a try.

I didn’t really fuck with weed anymore, but I had one of those mornings where I didn’t see the point of leaving bed the entire day, and figured I needed to alter my mind a tad, and since it was mellow…

I cooked professionally for a little bit, that was my last job. So I could do some things in the kitchen, I was no slouch. When I finally forced myself out of bed that morning I made the absolute best eggs of my life, they were incredible and layered and fluffy, like stratified clouds. And they paired perfectly with the weed butter spread over two slices of sourdough bread made from my own starter, the closest thing I’d likely ever have to a child. This simple breakfast was so phenomenal that it momentarily perked me up, but it still felt like I had sludge coursing through my veins and brain.

About an hour passed and I caught myself giggling at some stupid joke I said out loud to myself, and it occurred to me that “oh, I’m a little high,” and I laughed some more because I had forgotten all about the weed butter. It tasted so good I forgot it was supposed to have a mellowing effect on me.

I decided to do some minimal exercising and work up a little bit of a sweat before taking my first shower in a few days, you know, really make it count. So I did that, and turned on the hot water and waited and waited and waited, because the hot water took like 10 minutes to not be freezing water in this apartment. It finally got warm, I went in and I was laughing at something that I can’t recall, and I realized, “oh, I’m very high and I think I’m getting higher.” I laughed at myself even more because it had probably been two hours since I’d eaten the weed-buttered toast, so that meant that this was the beginning of a full on edibles experience, this was not mellow at all. I still had to cook this intricate Indian dish for the crippled lady whose apartment I was living in. I still had to do some food shopping too, and I hadn’t been high in a very long time, and I hadn’t been high off edibles in probably 8 years. I laughed at myself more while the shower water continued to heat little by little, I was in the shit.

.

This was post drugging myself on weed butter, the face smashing that is. It was a few nights after and I met up with some friends to go to one of our favorite, dumb events of the year. A local community church thingy or what have you, put together this thing where they showed old horse races, and people paid ten bucks to enter then make $2 bets on these races, drink, and eat hot dogs. I didn’t eat any hot dogs. We pregamed by Teaing-Off and sipping on brews at the pool hall around the corner.

It was called Night at the Races, they also had this silly dice game in the corner where the dice-guy rolled these two big dice, and you bet two or three bucks whether it would be below, over, or exactly 7. Betting exactly 7 gave you 4 to 1 odds, where the over/under was 2 to 1. This was undeniably an event for old people, but we looked forward to the two times a year it popped up. You would think with the small betting structure and the non-party atmosphere that it would be a peaceful and cheap night, but you’d be wrong.

I looked in my wallet the next morning after feeling my sprained-ankle front teeth and huge lip, and discovered that not only did I not hit it big on the $2 dollar races from 1995, I only had 3 singles left. The house always wins, and the sidewalk and/or metal bannister does as well.

.

So the weed butter was in full effect, I came to at one point and realized I had been lying on the bed talking out loud to myself for what was either 10 minutes or an hour and a half. I was mostly discussing mortality with myself, going over whether I liked life or not. I came to the conclusion that life was pretty good, but that nothing really mattered and we were insignificant. So nothing new there, but it felt good to say it out loud to myself.

.

I was still living home, kinda, I didn’t have my own place. I would bounce around mostly, never staying anywhere for more than 3-4 days at a time. But this particular morning I woke up at my parents. I wasn’t doing much with my life; just traveling, drinking, writing, putting off the inevitable. I had just came home from backpacking in Europe and wasn’t working, I didn’t see the point. My parents didn’t say anything, but I imagined they were thinking, “what the fuck is this kid’s plan.” They were older and I was their youngest, and I’d never fucked up too much, so they were pretty lenient. But there comes a time where you have to stop smashing your face.

I didn’t want to get out of bed. I wanted a bed in my own place, where I could lie all day and nobody would know, but New York City was too expensive for lazy people.

I got out of bed and went to get some water, to my surprise they didn’t notice my face until I said something about it when they asked how Night at the Races was. They kinda looked at each other like, “this fuckin guy,” to my surprise they barely even pressed me for details, what a relief. They asked if it hurt, I said, “look at my face,” my mom said, “oh, yea, I didn’t even see that.” “Well it’s fuckin killing me right now.” She jokingly replied, “maybe you have to go back to Europe.” It was never good when your very nice, usually concerned mother was mocking you. I asked her, “what can I use to get blood out of my shirt?” She asked, “you were bleeding?” I replied once more, “of course I was bleeding, look at my face.” She responded, “you really gotta be more careful, I’ll get the stain out, just relax and drink water.” Those were the main components of my mom’s remedies for every physical ailment. “Just eat lite, you know, toast,” was another cure-all. She was a medical professional but wasn’t much for medicine. As the day went on she asked more and more about how my face felt and recommended some aspirin, she was more concerned than she was letting on. Me and my dad were watching football later in the day and he asked how my teeth felt, I told him. He said, “man, lucky you didn’t lose any.” I replied, “yea,” then I shook my head, “so fuckin stupid.” My dad chuckled and replied, “yea, what else can you say.”

.

I still had a few hours before I had to bring this lady healing in her hip Brooklyn hotel room some dinner, but I made pasta mixed with some leftovers for myself a little after my self analyzing death talk, and it was the hardest thing I’d ever cooked in my life. I was hoping if I shoved food into my face it would make me less high, but I was still on the way up. After I threw the pasta in my mouth, I took out some of base ingredients for the dinner, separated them on the cutting board, slowly got the skins off the cloves of garlic, and immediately walked away. There was no way I was going to be able to do anything more than that without cutting my finger off or my head head exploding.

I was teetering, going between pacing around the apartment and sitting down. I felt myself slipping deeper into the edible, but I had to fight it. If I succumbed there was no telling when I would get out, and I had a schedule to keep. An hour passed and I was still high, I listened to a podcast and stared out the window, I paced. Another hour passed and I listened to another podcast and stared out the window, I was done pacing. I could feel the edible in my toes. A couple of friends finally answered my texts that I sent when I first realized what was happening, they talked me off the edge a little bit, but told me I’d likely have to do some of this cooking high.

The cooking I wasn’t overly worried about, I had to go to the butcher shop and get some chicken. I could’ve gotten it earlier that day, but said to myself, “eh whatever, I’ll get it after breakfast,” then breakfast made me terrified of going outside and seeing or speaking-with other humans.

Another hour passed and I decided it had to happen, I had to get the chicken, I wasn’t about to half ass this dish. I went outside, and it was bright and horrifying on a mostly cloudy day. There was a group of kids at the corner, I was praying they wouldn’t recognize I was baked and harass me accordingly. I arrived at the butcher, I was rehearsing in my head what I wanted to order, “4 boneless chicken breasts, 4 boneless chicken breasts,” over and over. The guy at the counter said “next!” and the guy in front of me asked if I was next. I was baffled, he was front of me, why would I be next. So I talk-yelled, “NO YOU GO AHEAD.” I couldn’t deal with questions, why was this guy doing this to me. Maybe I didn’t yell it, because he didn’t look at me like I was crazy, but I saw him as the devil. The other counterman said, “next! Buddy?” There was no one else in line, I was his buddy. In my head it was very lucid, “four boneless chicken breasts,” but the first noise I made was, “fwahh,” I caught myself, recognizing that’s not how humans begin to say, “4 boneless chicken breasts.” I cleared my throat and rapid-fire-talk-yelled, “four boneless chicken breasts, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.” I didn’t say “for the love of god,” I was just screaming it inside throughout my entire body. He gave me the chicken and asked if I wanted anything else. I wanted to say, “what’s with all these fuckin questions,” but instead I said, “no thanks,” and quickly pushed my card across the counter. I was outside with my chicken, the kids were still at the corner, they could’ve murdered me but they spared my life and didn’t steal my 4 boneless chicken breasts. I got back into the apartment and put the bag of chicken down on the table, and I laughed and laughed. I don’t remember what happened next, I either jerked off or started dicing the onions.

.

I was leaving the dentist office walking back to my parents house. After a week of shame, regret, and chewing small pieces of food on the side of my mouth; my new dentist informed me that I didn’t have any breaks in my front teeth. I still couldn’t chew with them but he prescribed me some antibiotics and said they should be fine, I couldn’t believe I might come out of the other side of this with no permanent damage. I met up with my friend later on and had some celebratory beers, we smoked tobacco out of his new fancy pipe, like gentlemen. I had a few more beers than expected and forgot to take the antibiotics.

.

I got dinner to the hotel by the time we had agreed upon pre weed-buttered toast. I told her my harrowing tale and she couldn’t believe it. She said, “yea it is mellowing, but it’s also potent.” To my mind those were two opposite things, but English was her second language, so I didn’t argue. I was just happy I got out of bed, I was happy I pulled off this intricate Indian dish. She said it was soooo delicious, but she said that about everything I had made. Maybe it was.

Heirlooms, Tattoos, and Routines

“Junie,” he stopped just inside the door, letting it close, as he slightly tilted forward and gave a single, concise wave of his left hand, leaving his arm erect like a crane until she responded. Junie looked up, “oh heyyy Howie, g’morning, how are you feelin.” He let his hand drop and walked towards his seat, two away from the store’s front window. “Junie, I’m very well this morning, very well. All that rain last night, who could believe it.” She replied, “I know right, and it’s so beautiful today, who can figure it.” “You know Junie, you’re absolutely right,” he grabbed the paper from his back pocket and unfolded it onto the table so that the sports page showed. He took his seat.                                                               .
Howie needed clean clothes, his father’s washer machine wasn’t working. It hadn’t been working properly for some time, but it seemed disrespectful to get a new one, and he wasn’t sure how to fix it. He searched online, and after much deliberation decided on a laundromat, one that also had a cafe attached to it. He let out a “hmmmmmm” in approving curiosity upon reading about this feature.

After 5 or so minutes of getting situated- taking his jacket and hat off, adjusting his glasses, counting his change- Howie approached the counter. Junie smiled, “usual Howie?” Howie smiled in his serious manner, no teeth showing, “you know what I say Junie, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Junie smiled again, “had a feeling, I just like to make sure all the same.” He responded, “you know Junie, that’s customer service, that’s customer service at it’s finest, that’s what keeps the people coming back here.” “That’s why they pay me the big bucks.” Howie belted out a single, “HA. You’re a riot Junie, I’ll give you that.” She placed 3 paper cups on the counter, one 7/8 filled with black coffee, one 1/4 filled with whole milk, and one to-go espresso cup with 3-1/2 tablespoons of sugar in it. Howie was recounting his change, “you know Junie, I think I’ll have one of those mini blueberry muffins.” “Not the corn muffin, Howie?” “No I’ll have one of those mini blueberry muffins.” She replied, “you got it, no laundry today Howie?” “No, no. I washed a few items yesterday, Randall was working, nice young man.” “Yea, Randy can be nice when he feels like it.” Howie belted another single, “HA. You know Junie, I can see what you mean. Randall’s a very nice young man, but he can have an edge at times.” “He sure can, they can’t all be as nice as me Howie.” “You know Junie, you’re absolutely right, you’re always a delight.” “Well thank you Howie, so are you, that’s gonna be $2.50.” Before she finished saying the number, Howie was placing 2 stacks of 10 dimes each on the counter and 1 stack of 10 nickels in a neat line. “Thank you, Howie.” “Thank you, Junie.” Howie made two trips to his seat, first taking the milk and sugar cups, then the coffee and muffin, silently cheersing to Junie, his arm acting as a crane again before going back to his seat.

Randy walked in a few minutes before his shift started, “hey hey heyyy,” he greeted Junie. “Hello Randall.” He laughed, “Randall? Who are you my grandmother or Howie.” Junie smiled, “Howie, he was commenting on what a nice young man you are earlier.” “Hmm, that’s surprising.” Junie walked over to where Randy was putting his things away, “well just because you’re a cynical jerk doesn’t mean everyone else is.” Randy slowly walked around her, “I’ll take being a cynical jerk over being Howie.” Junie’s eyes and mouth widened momentarily, “you’re horrible. He’s a sweet, lonely guy.” Randy slowly began his beginning of shift routine, checking the levels of coffee, cups, lids, and sugar, “he’s a crazy person.” Junie replied, “he’s just… peculiar.” Randy began to make a fresh pot of drip coffee, “either way I’m tired of having the same conversations with him everyday.” Junie grinned, “I hope people aren’t this mean to you when you’re a lonely middle aged man.” “I’m not mean to him, I’m just increasingly short with him.” Junie stared at Randy in a dumbfounded manner, “yea, that’s mean.” Randy rolled his eyes, “please, he doesn’t know what’s going on… he’s in his own, lonely world,” Randy laughed. Junie’s eyes and mouth were even further agaped than before, “oh my god, you’re truly horrible.” Randy wiped down the steam wand on the espresso machine, “I’m a very nice young man.”

Howie had been going to the laundromat/cafe 3-4 times a week for about a month, sometimes when he didn’t even have clothes to wash. He couldn’t get over what a great concept it was, enjoy a cup of coffee and a treat while you run an otherwise boring errand. Hell, bring the paper if you want, make a morning of it. He decided to leave a review on the website where he discovered it. They only had 4.5 stars, and he felt it was easily a 5 star establishment. He clicked 5 stars and began to think of something to write. Short, sweet, and to the point, he thought. He went with his first draft, “it’s a great place to have a cup of tea or coffee while you wash your clothes.”

Howie finished his coffee and muffin, then brought his 3 cups and napkins over to the garbage can near the counter. “So how are you today Randall, it was pretty busy earlier.” “Yea Howie, you know, morning rush.” “You handle it very well Randall, you’re very fast.” Randy grinned, “well you know, been doing it long enough.” “That’s right, that’s right, you know what I say, practice always makes perfect.” Randy replied, “yep, pretty much.” “How long have you been here Randall?” “I try not to think about it.” Howie belted out a single, “HA. There’s that Randall edge that me and Junie we’re discussing the other day.” “That’s what they call me, Randall Edge.” “Do they now?” Randy paused for a moment before clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth, “yea.” He began creating work for himself, recleaing counters and the espresso machine, picking things up and putting them down somewhere else, then putting them back, trying to show Howie how busy he was. “So how long has it been Randall, because I remember when you first started, you didn’t have any of those big tattoos that you have now.” Randy stopped working, succumbing to the conversation, “yea I guess this place kinda paid for them… 4 years I’ve been here.” “They’re very nice, nice and colorful. Ah! 4 years, excellent, that’s shows commitment… A fella who worked with my father had some tattoos from his days serving in the navy, not quite as colorful or as nice as yours though.” Randy leaned his elbow on the counter and his cheek against a bored, soft fist, “yep, the artist’s have come a long way.” Howie pondered for a moment, “I think Jack was the fellas name, worked doing roofing and painting with my father for years, he was also very committed.” Randy clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth again, “you don’t say.” “Yep, that’s right… but my father passed away some years ago.” Randy half heartedly asked, “heart attack, right?” “That’s right, that’s right, so I’ve told you… I’m like a broken record player,” Howie grinned. Randy smirked uncomfortably, “yea I remember you mentioning it, sorry to hear it.” “He was a good man, Randall, raised me by himself after my mother passed when I was very young.” Randy made a different, more empathetic clicking sound with his mouth this time, “wow, that’s rough… he left you the house right?” “Thats right, that’s right, you have quite the memory,” Howie grinned as Randy began to reclean things again, “I’m like a broken record player.”

Howie maintained the garden in his backyard that his father kept for years. Howie always had a green thumb, and his father passed down whatever soil, pruning, and pest knowledge that he accumulated to Howie with ease. Howie grew various greens such as arugula, spinach, and lettuces. As well as tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and carrots, along with several varieties of windowsill herbs. Howie’s neighbors could always expect a bounty of fresh vegetables from April-October in exchange for some light conversation. Howie was out back one July afternoon, pruning the suckers off his prized heirloom tomatoes. He knew there was rain in the forecast, but thought he could get the pruning done before the storm clouds rolled in. The sky darkened earlier than forecasted, and the downpour muddied up Howie in less than a minute. Howie went back inside, drenched and dirtied. He figured he’d better shower and get this outfit to the cafe once the storm passed. He could bring them some tomatoes too, he smiled and said to himself, “blessing that’s in disguise.”

Randy walked into work a few minutes before his shift started. Junie was talking to a guy at the counter, “yo yo,” Randy said as he passed behind them. “Heyyy Rand,” Junie replied, “this is my boyfriend Gerry.” Randy resisted the urge to stop in his tracks, he continued to walk over to the shelf where the staff’s jackets and bags were kept, “hey man,” he put his bookbag down then walked back over towards them, extending his hand, “Randy.” They shook hands, Gerry replied, “good to meet you, I’ve heard all about you.” Randy grinned, “don’t believe Junie, I’m not as big of an asshole as she thinks.” Gerry laughed, “it wasn’t all bad.” Randy shot Junie a quick look, “I bet,” then he quickly started his beginning of shift routine; checking levels of coffee, cups, lids, and sugar. Less than a minute later Howie walked in, stopping just inside the doorway, letting the door close, “full House this afternoon,” he enthusiastically said. He would’ve given his signature wave, but his hands were full, one with a bag of dirty clothes, one with a bag of tomatoes. “Hey Howie,” Junie replied. Howie walked over to his seat, two away from the front window, set down his laundry on the floor, and took off his jacket and hat. Adjusting his glasses, then counting his change. They were silent at the counter, aside from Randy’s busying around, as Howie went through his routine. He approached the counter, smiling very seriously. “You’re back, Howie,” Junie said. “You know Junie, I was pruning my tomatoes,” he said lifting the tomatoes like a dumbbell, “and the news said I had until 2 before the storm rolled in,” Junie empathetically interrupted, “oh no,” Howie continued, “long story short, I have some very muddy clothes.” Gerry pointed to the bag of tomatoes, “at least it looks like you got a pretty good harvest.” “Thats right, that’s right, the rain in certainly good for that.” “Howie, this is my boyfriend Gerry.” Howie looked back over to Gerry, “you don’t say, very nice to meet you Gerry.” “Good to meet you, Howie.” “You know, Junie is a delightful, delightful young lady.” “She sure is,” Gerry responded, Randy continued to reclean and recheck levels. “Everyone here is delightful; Junie, Randall, everyone.” Junie smiled, “hear that Randall, you’re delightful,” he didn’t look up, “that’s what I hear.” Howie responded, “it’s true, Randall’s just got an edge, like me and Junie discussed the other day.” Gerry replied, “is that so?” They all looked over at Randy, he shot them a fake smile as if to say, “you know me, Randall Edge.” Gerry looked back towards Howie, “so, you come here a lot then, Howie?” “You know, just about every morning for at least 5 or 6 years, it’s like I say, another home when you’re away from home.” “Is that so.” “It is, it is,” Howie became very serious in that moment, “it’s a great place to have a cup of tea or coffee while you wash your clothes.” Gerry grinned, slowly nodded his head and looked at Junie then back to Howie, “yep… I can see that.” Howie smiled, even showing some teeth, “well,” he said after a moment, “these tomatoes are for all of you here, enjoy, they’re heirlooms. A little olive oil, salt, pepper, very good.” Junie beemed, “wow, thank you Howie, that’s so nice. Isn’t that nice Randall,” she jokingly looked over at Randy who was going through his bag on the shelf, without looking up he said, “yea, thanks Howie.” “Don’t ever mention it,” he smiled seriously again, “ok, so I think I’ll put those muddy clothes in the wash, then come get some hot coffee.” Junie grinned, “usual Howie?” “You know what I say, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Howie, Junie, and Gerry grinned. Randy wiped down the espresso machine for a third time.

Howie walked back over towards his seat.

Good Music and Dancing

Good Music and Dancing

​One of the younger guys… Chris? Maybe. And one of the older guys-Tim- were the only guys left by around 11:30. They’d been here since around… lets say 7, 7:30. The Yanks just came on when they were filing in, so lets call it 7. So anyways they’re a little, you know, they’re gettin’ there, but I don’t mind, better than sittin’ in this tiny shithole by myself til 3. They started talking bout work like guys like to do, especially the younger guys who are just starting out. I did it when I was working as a fireman, you know for the city, years ago. So anyways the younger guy started going off about the guy he works with.

​“So this guy goes, he goes ‘the work day don’t end at 3 pal,’ we do 7-3, he goes ‘the work day don’t end at 3 pal,’ I go ‘fuck that,’ I go ‘I’m here to do what I gotta do while I’m here, after that I’m done. I don’t take this shit home with me, think about fixin’ fuckin elevators when I get home? Fuck that,” I told him.”

​So Tim, the older guy, goes “yea but you know, you can see what he’s saying, you got a danejruss job, and I’m sure it ain’t easy, you gotta be thoughtful about it, you can see what he means.”

​“Being thoughtful about what you’re doin is one thing, bringin this shit home with you? Lettin it consume your life? That’s fuckin crazy. I agree with you, be very thoughtful WHILE you’re there, WHILE you’re workin, of course, cause it is danejruss. But stressin yourself out? Drivin yourself crazy? Letting shit get under your skin when things ain’t going exactly as planned? I can’t see that.”

​I take the guys’ glasses and fill em up from the tap as the younger guy is finishing up his point, I see what’s he’s saying to an extent, but when you’re young, you’re brash, you don’t know everything. Young guys think they know it all, so I chime in.

​I go, “what’re you 25?” I ask the young guy.

​“23.”

​“Aright,” I go, “so you’re workin under this guy basically? You’re like his helper?”

​“Apprentice yea,” he was listening intently now. Guys always think bartenders have some miraculous grasp on life, like we have all the answers. I’m an asshole just like everybody else, I wanna tell him. The wife gets mad at me all the time, I wanna tell him. But I say fuck it, I’ll give the young guy some advice. I don’t mind.

​“Apprentice, right, so don’t you think he has more to lose than you? Like, it’s his ass on the line if shit goes wrong?”

​Tim, the older guy, goes “that too, he got a lot of responsibility too, gotta think about that too.”

​The younger guy shrugs and goes “yea, I mean he does, but he takes his responsibility way too seriously. I worked with other guys at his level and they don’t take this shit that seriously, not anywhere close, they just do what they gotta do. He thinks if he don’t get a million things done in one day the world will stop spinnin.”

​I pick my hands up from my side and go, “so he’s probably a good worker, you could probably learn good from him,” and I walk to the other side of the bar to arrange some boxes of empties.

​The kid goes “there’s bein a good worker and there’s having work be your entire life. I mean I’m sure you guys liked fuckin around at work when you worked? If there was nothing to do, blast the radio and chill out?”

​The older guy Tim, goes “oh yea those were the best days, and back when you could go grab a six pack on the job, those were the best days.”

​I’m laughin, I go “one time.” I’m still laughin, I go “one time we were so bored back at the firehouse we called up one of the escort services in the paper, years ago, before all the shit with the computer,” as I typed in mid-air on an imaginary keyboard, “we called up one of the services and had girls come by and strip, jumping on the fire pole and everything,” I’m laughin, I go “ oh man, what you could get away with years ago.”

​The kid finished his beer as I was tellin my little story, then he started laughing, and I take his glass and go over to the tap and pour him another one.

​The younger guy goes “that’s great, but see that’s what I’m talkin about, there’s nothing to do, shit, that’s a good day. If there’s nothing to do this guy is crawlin out of his skin, he’s complainin how he wished there was some work to do. I’m sittin there thinkin ‘chill the fuck out,’ like this guy doesn’t know how to just relax, I don’t understand guys like that, all I wanna do is relax.”

​Tim, the older guy, goes “guy sounds like he needs a vacation or sumpinn, maybe a blow job,” he laughs to himself, “take a vacation and get a blowjob maybe.”

​That reminded me, I go “yea I learned the hard way last week in Aruba with the wife, can’t get a vacation and a blow job, one or the other she says. I says ‘I’m payin for the fuckin thing’” I look at the young guy, “the vacation not the blow job you sick fuck.” Then I grin to let him know it’s all jokes, “she goes ‘I don’t care, one of the other,’ don’t never get married kid.” The guys always got a kick out of little stories like that, they knew it was all jokes. But in all seriousness, my wife’s a great lady, love her to death, not bad lookin either. They liked that one and we were laughin and the young guy goes,

​“Believe me I’m not thinking about that shit, but that might be the guy’s problem, the guy I work with, that might be his problem. He’s in his late thirties, no kids or nothin’, so all he got is work. Fucks he goin’ home to? A dog? I don’t know, that’s a little depressin’.”

​I go, “yea so he probably got tons saved up, no kids or nothing, he can probably go anywhere in the world, whenever he wants for as long as he wants with the money he probably has saved.”

​“He doesn’t do shit, go anywhere,” the young guy goes, “I never heard him mention one cool vacation or one trip he’s taken,” he takes a gulp as if this has been weighing heavy on him.

​Tim, the older guy goes “makin all that money? For what? Workin hard? For all that money? What for? Not gonna enjoy it? I got some money from my workin days, I try to enjoy as much as possible, could drop dead tomarra, gotta enjoy it. That’s why ya know, I try to get out to Phoenix every couple of years to see my brother down there, he got a place down there, try to get down there every so often, ya know, enjoy myself.”

​The younger guy goes “exactly, but that’s what I’m ascared of, I’m gonna spend all this time workin, when the hell am I gonna enjoy it? I think about quittin’ and just goin, ya know? Just goin’, for a little while at least, we waste our lives doin’ this bullshit, that scares the hell outta me.”

Every young guy starting out has had the pickin up and just goin fantasy, and you have it for a little while, but then you come to your senses and realize… it ain’t practical. Where you gonna go? Every place is the same for the most part, I think at least, but what do I know? The young guys freakin’ out, and I understand, cause years ago, I was a young guy too, just like him. He’s freakin’ out so I get him a shot on the house and refill his beer and I go

​“Yea that sounds good in theory, you know? But,” I stammer a second, “it ain’t practical, once you settle down, have some kids, you’re gonna realize how great havin’ that job is. When you need it, you’ll realize that.” I go, “there’ll be plenty of time for vacations, like Tim said, you’ll see, you’ll have buddies and family that’ll be moved around, you know, go places with the Misses when the kids are in college, like I’m doin. You got plenty a time, and you’re lucky, not a lot of guys have a good job like this at your age, some guys would kill for that job.”

​Tim, the older guy, he’s starting to slur a little like he does when he’s been at it for a while, he goes, “yea in Phoenis, my brother’s down there, down in Phoenix, and we go out there, me and the wife and him and his wife.” Tim takes a sip from his glass and goes, “His wife knows of a few places down there, she’s from there originally, from Phoenis… So she knows a few spots down there, and they’re nice spots, got good music and dancing, got some bands that play there, you know, guys with the guitar,” Tim plays an awkward version of air guitar with stiff, straightened fingers. He goes “the guys are good too with the guitar, they play at some of the places and it’s a good time, got good music n dancing, I don’t really dance, but the option’s there, so.” Tim empties his glass and goes, “so if you’re lookin’ to go somewhere, Phoenis ain’t too bad, I don’t know, I like it down there, in Phoenis.”

The young guy nods as if he doesn’t know what to do with that information, and empties his glass as well. I reach for the young guy’s glass and tilt it towards him, the universal sign asking if someone would like another. The young guy shakes his head and starts to count his money on the bar. The bar is quiet for a minute, the kind of uncomfortable quiet that can only be experienced after an off topic tangent about Phoenix and dancing.

​I go to the young guy, “headin’ out?”

​The young guy goes, “yea I better, gotta be up at 5 for work.”

​I stick out my hand to him and go, “Aright take it easy, safe home. Don’t let it drive you crazy, that’s a good job you got.” He nods and shakes mine and Tim’s hands before leavin’ the tip and exiting the bar.

 

It was a little after midnight now and it was just me and Tim. I was waiting for him to start talking about Phoenix again, I really didn’t want him to, but that how Tim was. But Tim didn’t bring up Phoenix the rest of the night, he didn’t say a single word. We sat in silence with the faint sound of me refilling Tim’s glass and the same rock songs that have been playing on the radio for thirty years.

Sleeping Alone in Different Places

   I was gonna offer the guy sitting next to me some of my Pringles, it was gonna be a long flight and we were seated next to each other, but what was the point. I mean, it was the start of a new adventure, I could’ve transformed into the guy who offers his Pringles to strangers. I could’ve been that guy, but what was the point. 

      It was true, I worked slinging coffee for a while, a good while. I liked making coffee, lattes and shit, there was an art and a science to it, and not having to pay for coffee was fantastic. What I didn’t like was other humans ordering coffee at my face. They would order then say things like, “don’t look so happy to be here,” or “you sure look happy to be here,” or “one of those days…” And it usually wasn’t one of those days until they spoke words to my face about the angry look on my face. But that was just my face, I couldn’t help it. So I’d be having a normal annoying work day until some asshole threw around their sarcasm about the level of my face happiness. Then I’d go from having resting angry face to actually being pissed off. 

   If it was a pretty girl I would’ve offered her some Pringles, but what was the point. I suppose it could’ve set me off on the right foot, new adventure, new me. But I wasn’t desperate enough to change yet. She probably would’ve declined anyway, and I would’ve felt like a complete moron for years.

   I never knew where I stood with girls. I knew that some very attractive girls from my past were attracted to me, but the vast majority of females did not seem to notice my being a human male on this planet. Was it that the symmetry of my face only appealed to a small percentage of girls whom I also found appealing, or did my angry seeming disposition raise red flags in most girls’ eyes. Were they thinking, “he sure looks happy to be here…” or were they thinking nothing, because my existence did not register with them.

    I wanted to offer the stewardess some Pringles, she was extremely beautiful. But I knew not to do that, I wasn’t that dumb, I knew how that looked. She was paid to acknowledge my existence, and just because I was becoming desperate didn’t mean I had to broadcast it to a plane full of strangers. 

   This was going to be a solo adventure, through a bunch of places where I wasn’t familiar with the native tongue. So I wouldn’t be speaking much with the general public, which was good. I was however going to make a concerted effort to smile more often, so even if I wasn’t speaking with people they’d be thinking, “what a pleasant American.” Or they’d be thinking, “why is that lanky American awkwardly showing his teeth to everybody.” Either way I wouldn’t be able to understand them, so I’d give it a go, maybe.

     I knew the Pringle offering wasn’t paramount, I knew that… But it felt like it was. It felt like if I didn’t offer anyone on that God damn plane some Pringles, then for 2 months I’d hop around from hostel to hostel unable to offer anyone a snack, or even merely say “hello” to my fellow travelers. This plane ride would set the tone, someone else had to eat some of these fuckin chips. 

Walks and Brawls

 

I was taking my daily stroll, and figured I’d swing by the bank to deposit my tax return check. A few minutes into the journey a group of kids doing wheelies on their bikes rode by in bunches of 5 or 6. They were obnoxiously going over their plans for the day, jokingly calling each other faggots, and yelling out whatever else 14 year olds yell about, as one fat kid was pleading “wait up, guys!” from a block behind. The weather was getting warmer, and these passing encounters were becoming an annoying regularity. I began to wonder, if I rocked one of these kids off their bike, mid wheelie, how many more could I take out before they overwhelmed me and fucked me up?

 

When I was about 9, me and my two sisters were sitting in the living room of our old house. It was a fairly small house for 5 kids to be living in, my oldest brother Frank was the only one to have a room to himself. It was a Saturday, so we were just sitting around watching TV or listening to music when we heard Frank’s door open, you could always hear any door that was being opened in the entire house, no matter what room you were in. Frank’s door opened around noon and we thought nothing of it, it was common practice for both my brothers to stagger out of their rooms later in the day, a lot of the times they would call for me to bring them water because they were too hungover to get up, plus they knew I was happy to help. So we thought nothing of it until he carefully came down the 5-6 steps to the living room, and his face was mangled with cuts, scrapes, and bruises. There didn’t seem to be an inch of his face that was unaffected. We slightly gasped, eyes wide, and looked around at each other and him. He closed his already half shut eyes and softly shook his head as if saying ‘don’t ask.’ We didn’t, we knew we’d hear at least some of the story when our parents got home and saw his face, anyway. “Tommy,” his voice was hoarse, “get me a water, please.” I was happy to help.

 

We were all over Frank’s new house to watch a Canelo Alvarez pay-per-view. I don’t remember who he fought, but it was over quickly. So what usually happened at such gatherings happened, the gals formed a gal circle and talked about weddings or whatever, and we talked about the fight, which in turn, got my brothers recalling their war stories. “I just remember having, I don’t even know how many people, kicking me in the face, but being on top of this one dude, and I was just choking the shit out of him and actually saying to him, as this is all happening,” Frank’s hands were now out in front of him, choking the air, “‘were both gonna die tonight mothafucka,’ cuz I really thought I was gonna die, all I could see was feet,” he said, laughing all the while. “I bet that dude still tells that story to this day, he must’ve been horrified, like how is this kid talking about killing me while he’s getting stomped in the face.” The story was being directed at me even though by now I had heard it plenty of times, it seemed to come up every couple of years. “Then finally, Al and Tim started ripping people off of me  and got me up, and they were like ‘yo you’re fucked up, get on the bus,’ but I looked over and saw Dan just taking people out with a crutch and I was like ‘nah fuck that,’” he busted out laughing at this point, “and then I went after more people and like 5 dudes jumped on me again and Dan ran over and started taking them out with the crutch, I was like where the fuck this kid get a crutch?” Dan chimed in, “I took one of Steve’s crutches, that was after he fucked up his knee.” “Yea I had forgotten at the time, I guess due to the pummeling, but yea, then Dan got me up and got me on the bus, it was fuckin insane, pure mayhem.” “Yea,” Dan calmly agreed, “there was like 30 of them and like 10 of us, and one of us was on crutches, I think we still did pretty good,” then he laughed, “but it was still bad… I think you got it the worst.” Frank’s laughing fit had died down and he calmly replied, “yea it was pretty bad,” he laughed again, “I’m just happy I didn’t actually kill that kid, I don’t need that on my conscience.”

 

I guess it all depends on if they knew this attack was happening or not. If they knew, I could probably catch another 4 or 5 before their not yet fully developed fists and feet brought me down. But if they had no idea, at least half of them are booking it out of fear and sheer confusion. So let’s say there were 20, half of them bolt, plus the initial one I took out. That leaves 9. 9 confused, adolescents, I think I could take them all before they formed a united front.

 

I must’ve been 12 or 13, me and my friends were walking back from a movie, getting kicked out of a department store, calling each other faggots, whatever else 12 or 13 year olds did. We were about 20 minutes from home when another group of kids on bikes passed us. Nothing was said but there was certainly a fair deal of glaring. When they were almost out of earshot one of my friends yelled out “HEY!” or something, then shot them the finger. This was fairly common practice amongst 12 or 13 year olds, but perhaps ill-advised since they had bikes and we were on foot. A few minutes later the messenger from their group caught up to us and said they were gonna fuck us up. My friend who initiated all of this unconvincingly welcomed a fight, or perhaps it sounded unconvincing to me because I wanted no part of it. They had bikes for fuck’s sake, with pegs. This was what it must’ve felt like to see the Mongol Army approaching across the horizon for the first time. We continued walking and they continued following on their steads, 10-20 yards behind. We kept talking a good deal to hype ourselves up. “If they follow us around the bend, forget it.” “If they’re still behind us on Stoneham, that’s it.” “If they cross Guyon, we’re fucking them up.” “Oh god, I hope they follow us all the way back to the neighborhood, they won’t even know what hit ‘em.” Somewhere in the ever shifting line in the sand between Stoneham and Guyon, they retreated, lucky them. Sweet relief. The rest of the day we fantasized of the blood bath that would’ve ensued had they followed us a little longer.

 

I woke up on the couch at my brother’s apartment after a night of boozing. After some stirring, him and his girlfriend came out to the living room. None of us were in a real rush to do anything, so we sat around bullshitting, listening to music for a while. Somehow conversation drifted towards someone from his past that he used to wreak havoc with. Dan was 9 years older than me, so we didn’t hang much during his wreaking havoc days. “So these were the kids,” he was midway through the story about how he lost 98% hearing in his left ear, “these were the fuckin kids, and they, for some reason, I have no fuckin idea why, they came down to our neighborhood, and were talkin all this crazy shit.” His girlfriend Ashley was trying to get all the facts straight, “so wait…the kids you hit with the bowling pin, who then hit you with the bowling pin, later came down to where you hung out? To do what?” “Yea…well that was the thing, I’m not sure what they thought was gonna happen…but it was bad, my god, it was fuckin bad,” he said while laughing and shaking his head. “Why,” Ashley asked, “did you beat them up?” “Putting it lightly, yea…well I didn’t do anything, the fellas, uh,” Dan laughed again, “the fellas wouldn’t let me, they said they’d take care of it. So the kid Dave, my friend Dave, this is so wild thinking back on it, so the one kid’s sitting on the curb for some reason, tryin to look all cocky and talkin shit, and Dave just goes ‘oh shit! Look out for ya boy!’ and our other friend Steve came out of nowhere with a half full 40, and broke it over this kid’s head.” Dan was still chuckling and shaking his head, Ashley put her hands over her mouth and looked over at me as if to say ‘do you believe this?’ I could, I could believe it. I’ve heard this story and many more like it a million times over. “Oh my god, what the fuck,” she said. Dan continued “so yea, they just went to town on these kids…oh man it was fuckin bad, Jesus Christ, haha.” “Why are you laughing?!” “Cuz fuck them, they almost killed me.” “Well you hit somebody first.” “Well yea, I kinda had it coming, but still, fuck them anyway. Whatever, that’s how it was… crazy times.” She was shaking her head, not necessarily in disgust, more in amused disbelief, “a gang, you were in a fuckin gang.” “God…I think about all that stuff and it really seems like a whole other life, like a totally different life that didn’t actually happen.” She looked over at me, “meanwhile you’re so calm.” I smiled, “I just didn’t want to get smashed in the head with a bowling pin, I avoided all the mayhem.” Dan jumped back in, “that’s why I don’t speak to anybody from that era anymore, it just got to a point where I was just like ‘you know what, I don’t wanna do this anymore, I’m tired of beating the shit out of people because of my asshole friends.’” “Well why the fuck were you always beating the shit out of people,” she asked. “Because… we were a bunch of degenerates,” he laughed, “but it wasn’t all our fault, dudes would always start shit with us because there wasn’t a whole lot of us-whether it was over graffiti or a girl or fuckin whatever- they would have us wildly outnumbered but we were all maniacs and happened to be fuckin huge, so we would just fuckin charge them, and they’d be like ‘ahh AAHHHHHH’ and wouldn’t know what to do, and most of the time we’d win.” “A gang, you were a fuckin gang.” “It was just different times… My neighborhood was fuckin crazy growin’ up, it was only 3 blocks, but the concentration of lunatics in that place was insane. When I was like 12, this 16 year old just blasted me across the head with a 2×4…for no fuckin reason. I didn’t go outside for like 3 years.” She laughed, “and that’s when you said you got fat, right?” “Yea, I was horrified. I just stayed inside and ate entire pizzas, for like 3 years,” he said laughing and shaking his head.

 

The train let you off at the top of Guyon, it was about a mile and a half walk home. But it was on a downward slope, so even drunk at 2 in the morning it wasn’t too bad. Plus it was a beautiful summer night. A kid in my age range, 21, 22, something like that, got off the train a little before me. We were walking down the same side of Guyon, he was probably 2-3 blocks ahead of me. As I was approaching the main intersection at Hylan Blvd- which was about my halfway point- a car pulled up a block behind my fellow pedestrian, a kid with his hoodie up got out of the backseat, and began following him. I couldn’t tell if my fellow pedestrian noticed any of this happening, I slowed down a bit and used my peripherals to see if anyone was on my tail. Nothing yet. Before I arrived at the intersection the car pulled ahead of everybody and turned onto one of the crisscrossing side streets. Maybe I was in luck. My fellow pedestrian turned down a different street. Did he do this intentionally? I had no idea. The hooded kid jogged up in pursuit, but still appearing to keep a little distance. By the time I crossed the intersection, I had Guyon to myself, but it didn’t feel that way. I passed the street they turned on a minute later and nothing seemed to be happening, no sounds or signs of a struggle. Perhaps my fellow pedestrian escaped, perhaps he didn’t. I wasn’t sure which outcome would’ve worked more in my favor. Either way, I quickened my pace while trying to maintain a confident gait, and decided to forgo my usual shortcuts down side streets. A block before my normal shortcut, the same car slowly passed by me on the opposite side of Guyon, I pretended not to notice. I passed by my shortcut on Riga, passed Stoneham, and turned right on the next street, Mill. I gave one glance as I turned; the car had made a U-turn. Half way on Mill between the street I lived on and Guyon, another car was parked with people getting out of it. Civilians. Witnesses. The car slowly passed us all, but made the next left. My street was a one way, sandwiched in the middle of parallel running two way streets. All 3 ran about 1/3 of a mile long. All 3 were desolate, and I lived all the way at the bottom. I still had a chance if they didn’t park near the top. I jogged over, ducked behind a parked car, and peaked out. The car was stopped all the way down, seemingly right near my house. I figured this to be a coincidence, assuming these random assailants didn’t know where I lived. This would’ve been rotten luck if Dan hadn’t moved into the side apartment across from my parent’s house a few weeks prior. I ran down the sidewalk, slouching behind what few cars were parked there, until I got to an old friend’s vacant house, and ducked into his backyard to call Dan. He was home, he was awake, he didn’t really believe me, he sighed, “alright, gimme a minute.” He took a little longer than I would’ve liked. For 5-10 minutes I went between hiding and running out behind a parked car to peak my head out and see if the car was still there. And after 5-10 minutes the car pulled away and looped around to the adjacent street. I carefully jogged down towards my house; Dan appeared when I was almost all the way home. He was wearing basketball shorts and a white ginny-tee, covered in tattoos, and wielding my little league baseball bat, apparently it was his now. We met in the middle of the street, “well,” he looked around, “nobody’s here.” “They just turned the corner a minute ago, they were parked down there for like 10 minutes.” Alright,” he said, still not believing me, “and they followed you?” “Yea, maybe all the way from the train, I saw them tracking the kid ahead of me.” “Alright…you sure? You’re not just a little high? Paranoid, somethin’?” “Yea man, I’m fuckin sure, they’ve been following me since Hylan, and were parked down here and probably heard your door opening and drove off.” “Alright… guess we’ll just wait a minute and see if they come back.” He steadied the bat at the top of the barrel so it was standing on the asphalt, turned and started to piss in the middle of the street. A moment later headlights swept across the top of the block, a car was slowly coming down. “See man,” I said. “That’s the car?” “I can’t tell from here, but who else is it gonna be.” “Alright, let’s see what happens,” Dan said as he grabbed the handle of the bat. A minute later the car slowly passed us as we stood near the narrow sidewalk, staring in as they passed by. They parked in the middle of the street about 25 yards from us. We waited to see if anybody was getting out, when they didn’t Dan took a B-line for the car, my little league bat slightly shielded at his side, I followed right behind him. When we got within about 15 yards, two guys with their hoods up got out of the passenger side, the one who got out of the front seat leaned back in and grabbed something, then quickly stuck it in his pocket. They started to walk in our direction, but not straight at us. When we were a few yards out of striking distance, Dan slightly raised the bat and causally said, “hey fellas, what’s goin’ on tonight?” They put their heads down and walked right past us, opened the nearest gate, and scurried across the vacant backyards to the other parallel running street. The car peeled away, me and Dan stood in the middle of the street, watching them go. Dan looked at me and shrugged, “alright then.” We walked to his apartment and opened up a shitty bottle of wine. “Jesus man, what the fuck was that,” I said before taking a gulp. “A couple of fake frustrated tough guys cruising around on a Friday night looking for someone to beat on.” “What do you think that was the dude in the front seat grabbed?” “He grabbed something?” “Yea, he grabbed something as he was getting out and put it in his pocket.” “Really? I didn’t even see that, you sure?” “Yea, must’ve been like a Taser or some shit, it was small enough to fit in his pocket.” Dan took this in for a minute. “Hm, well now I’m pissed, I should’ve just cracked him with the fuckin’ bat if he had a Taser.” “Well I don’t know if it was definitely a Taser, just kinda looked like it.” He shook his head and looked off to the side for a second, “fuckin sweet boys. You know what, good thing I didn’t see that, good thing I didn’t see that and good thing Frank’s not here, we might be burying two bodies,” he laughed, “fuckin’ punks. That drives me nuts, it’s not bad enough you’re driving around jumping random people by themselves walking home, you need to fuckin electrocute them too. Good thing I didn’t see that fuckin pussy grab a Taser…” Dan went on about the ethics of brawling a bit more, while we polished off another bottle or two of Yellow Tail.

 

Then I started to think, what happened afterwards if I do level this group of bike riding teenagers. Say they are all sprawled out across the street and sidewalk, their bikes everywhere. It was a busy street, it might stop traffic. What happened next? There would be ample witnesses, possibly an adult who would see this heinous act and counter attack me. Even if it was someone I could normally take, I’d be tired from wailing on the children. Once I come to from my burst of fury, what’s my next move as I stood there, blood and bikes about? Do I continue to the bank? Turn and go home? Take a bike and make a run for it? It all seemed like a horrendous ending for me, so long story short, I didn’t do it.

 

I guess I was 19? 20? My friend was having a shindig in his basement apartment at his grandmother’s house, this was common practice at 19 or 20. A group of kids we knew to be douchebags showed up, and not too much later, began living up to their reputation. Well it started with one kid who I didn’t really know, friend of a friend, that kind of thing. Somebody called somebody else a faggot, and supposedly the other somebody was indeed gay. I never really got the story straight. I just saw a melee, and I didn’t really know the two kids at the bottom of the scrum, so I was just interested in keeping some order of peace for my friend and his grandmother’s sake. But once mayhem ensues, it’s difficult to retain peace. So there were kinda bodies everywhere, some trying to fight, most trying to break it up. I was one of the breaking it up people, until one of the main fighting people tried to throw a couple of haymakers at my friend whose house it was. I wasn’t sure what tunnel vision was, but that must’ve been the state I went into upon seeing these horrendously thrown punches in the direction of the party’s host. Outer body could’ve been another term, I yelled out, “YOU FUCKIN KIDDIN’ ME?” and darted in their direction, grabbed the assailant away from my friend, and rag dolled him what felt like 15 feet, across the lawn. As soon as I let him go, and he was sprawled out on the grass, attempting to get up, my other friend came out of nowhere to rock him in the face, but pulled up a tad last second and just forcefully tapped him with his fist. The first person I saw when I looked up was my friend’s grandmother, nervously leaning, half in half out, her screen door, staring at the ruckus. Thankfully nothing escalated after that, it might’ve killed her. I was replaying the brouhaha to my sisters and Frank the next day, before heading to a family BBQ. Upon the conclusion of my story, we headed out in separate cars. Me and my sisters in one, Frank and his girlfriend in the other. As we got in the car, Amy lit a cigarette and said “god, Frankie looked like he was gonna cream his pants while you were telling that little story.” Sue added, “reliving his past battles,” we laughed, “but seriously, don’t start being like them now, mom can’t handle another lunatic.” “I’m aware, it’s not like I went out looking for blood, this kid was swinging at my friend, what was I supposed to do.” “I know. I’m just saying… try to avoid it. You’re the good one, you can’t kill mom.” We laughed, and I rolled my eyes.

 

I arrived at the bank and deposited my tax return check. As I was coming out of the bank, an older guy of 75-80 was about 10 feet away. I walked through the door, waited a couple of extra seconds before leaving to hold the door open for him. “Thanks,” he said in a raspy tone, putting a little extra effort into his stride to take the door from me. “Have a good one,” I said with a smile. I nearly took a bow, what a gracious act.