Tremont Arts Festival

Here lies the very first article that I wrote for an online publication. The original article can be found here. 


On Saturday September 17th and Sunday, September 18th, Tremont will be hosting their 13th annual arts and cultural festival at Lincoln Park. The park is located at 1208 Starkweather Avenue. Saturday the Festival starts at 11am and ends at 6pm. Sunday the festivities begin at 12pm and end at 5pm.

According to the Tremont West Development Corporation web site, “The mission of the Festival is to celebrate the cultural and artistic diversity of Tremont and Greater Cleveland by encouraging the artistic and cultural endeavors of its visual and performing artists”.

What you can expect is food, music, dance and poetry performances, art your children can participate in as well as art that you can purchase.

On the surface, it may seem that the goal of this festival is to raise money solely through merchandising. This is not the case. After speaking with Festival Manager Scott Rosenstein I learned about the beginnings and overall intent of this festival.

In September of 1999, Rosenstein, along with several other residents, (notably Jean Brandt, founder of the Brandt Gallery, Tremont’s longest running art gallery) started this grass roots promotion of area artists.

When questioned about the popularity of the festival over the past 13 years, Rosenstein feels that he is subjectively pious. Folks really look forward to it and Artists reactions to it have been favorable. Many of them have participated multiple times. This is with good reason, too. It is standard procedure for the artists to submit a survey regarding their experience in the festival. Over the past two years, well more than half of the artists have had positive experiences with the park layout, the amount of sales they have made and the level of help they have received from the event staff.

Speaking as a former resident, I have often wondered what it was that attracted artists to Tremont.

Initially, I thought that it was the churches. It’s the first thing that even a casual observer would notice. There are a lot of churches in this neighborhood. It doesn’t even matter which direction you from. I-71, I-90, I-490… All of them have a church within view. According to “Cleveland on Foot” by Patience Hoskins, there are 25 multi-denominational churches within 1 square mile of this neighborhood.

After speaking with Mr. Rosenstein as well as doing some research of my own, I have come to the conclusion that it is the combination of the religious presence of the area as well as the history of Tremont.

Take the site of this weekends festival, Lincoln Park, for example. In 1850, Mrs. Thirsa Pelton originally bought the site with the intention of opening a girl’s school. Unfortunately, she died before the school could be built. As a result, her heirs surrounded the park with a fence and locked the gates. In response to this action, Tremont residents repeatedly tore the fence down because they felt that this was an area that should be open to the public. Bitter litigation ensued further resulting in the city’s purchase of the park. The residents celebrated the opening of Pelton Park on July 4, 1880 with a barbecue and additional festivities. It wasn’t until 1896 that the park was renamed Lincoln Park.

The history of this community runs deeper than most people, locals included, seem to realize.

The original settlers of the neighborhood we now know as Tremont hailed from New England. These people were economically better off than most and they were in search of an area outside of downtown Cleveland to build their homes. They settled in Tremont in 1818.

In 1851, these same settlers, through a remarkably nebulous set of circumstances, decided that the area known as present-day Tremont would be the future site of Cleveland University. Initially, classes began in an off-site location due to the fact that the future of the school depended on said proposed site. It was the intent that this area was to be named University Heights. Hence, the names of the streets like Literary, Professor, College, etc.

After a full year of operation resulting in the awarding of 8 degrees, attendance declined rapidly during the fall of 1852. By 1853, the idea of Cleveland’s first university was abandoned. Supposedly this was the result of a personality clash between members of the board of trustees.

8 years later, the Civil War started.

While it’s fairly obvious where the war occurred very few people realize that Cleveland was the site of one of the largest Civil War camps. In July of 1862, Camp Cleveland was organized and located in the area that is presently known as W. 5th, W. 7th, Railway Avenue and Marquardt Ave. For three years, the camp housed visiting units, confederate prisoners, and served as the training ground for 15,230 officers. The camp closed shortly after the end of the war in August of 1865.

Facts like these seem to be easily kicked to the side when it comes to the rejuvenation of a local area. While it is good on many levels that this sort of rejuvenation happens, people become more concerned about the trend that a local area produces as opposed to the history of that area.

There really is no happy balance between the two.

Personally, I think it has to do with the fact that a lot of us had to suffer some very terrible history teachers throughout our formal education. We’ve been conditioned on some level to think that history is boring.

History isn’t boring. It, like everything else in life, is what you make of it.

Tremont is a testament to this.

With its flourishing restaurant scene, the economical growth that has been stimulated by shopping area known as Steelyard Commons, and its budding art scene, Tremont is well on its way to being a hotbed of Culture in Cleveland.


The following was an article that I wrote for an online publication. The original article can be found here. 

The Lady with 8 Kids.

I have no illusions that my place in the grand scheme of things is of little significance. What follows is something that I have been thinking about.


At various points of my life, I have occupied various forms of employment. The majority of this employment has required me to wear an ugly, ill-fitting shirt, put things on shelves, and to care for/be nice to people who don’t seem to understand that I am getting paid far too little to care about their petty and boorish needs.

I don’t take my employment for granted, mind you. Some days are just harder than others. And when you get to be a certain age, you have to wonder if your perpetually sore feet and always aching joints are worth the small paycheck and the hassle of having to show up on time. To be clear, it’s not bad work to be associated with. Overall, it provides you with a sense of purpose.

During one of my shifts, I had observed a pack of gingers heading my direction. It was night time and I was in the toy department. I was reasonably worried. You would be too if you saw a gentle sea of redheads threatening your flower-like exterior.

Riding this wave was a small woman carrying a baby. A quick glance and I had determined that the rest of her pack were actually her children. They all, even the baby, had the same shade of hair, and all of the children generally had the same facial features that the mother had.

Maybe they’re all shirttail relations. There are families like that. But I can’t shake the idea that this lady had birthed 8 children. And she was out in public with all of them, without the father.

The absence of the father is also a bit of a mystery. Is he as involved with the kids as the mother is? Does he buy her toys? With the amount of children between the two of them it’s fairly obvious that she stays at home for the kids while he’s working all sorts of hours so that they can keep the lights on.

To the mother’s credit, all of her children were fairly well behaved, even the baby. What I found the most remarkable was the fact that all of the children seemed to get along with each other. You’d think, with a household that size, that “turf warfare” in public would be a regular occurrence. How could it not be? Kid’s are genetically encoded to act like assholes at all of the wrong times.

Whilst I was finishing up my rounds, I stole some extra glances of the mother. She looked like a mom, put upon and often ignored. There was also something a bit different about her face.

It was hovering around her eyes. Trepidation, maybe? Her children were behaving remarkably. Maybe all 8 kid’s had earned a trip to the toy department? She was tired for sure. She is the matriarch of a village after all, and it was 8pm.

This woman is a career parent. She is going to die as a care-giver. There is nothing wrong with that but I can’t help but wonder if she ever wanted more than children out of life?

In the end, I guess that I have always known what the look on the mother’s face really was. It was resignation. Her life will not get any better than it was, that night when I saw her in the toy department.

Jesus Saw My Mother’s Tits.

One

I wasn’t home much as a teen. At that point in my life, home was a rest stop, a place to regroup, refuel, and exit as soon as humanly possible. Any time that I did interact with my mother, it was usually in passing.

Like most children of the 1980’s, I grew up with my mother during the week and my father on the weekend. Throughout all of my childhood my mother was a commanding presence. And why wouldn’t she be? Her entire career as a parent was based off of her own childhood. She was 1 child out of 4. My grandmother stayed home with the children while my grandfather brought home the bacon. Her mother needed to be in charge and a presence as well. So in essence my mother was parrotting what had worked for her mother. On top of that, my mother had the added handicap of being a working, single mother for all of the 1980’s and most of the 1990’s. When mom wanted my attention, I had to give it to her, regardless of how full of shit I thought she was.

When Jack, the man who would become my stepfather, started becoming more of a presence in the house that I shared with my mother, it didn’t faze me. I did what most teens did when their single parent tries on significant others: I ignored the hell out of him until I absolutely had to interact with him.

It seemed to work well for the both of us. I had school, a social life, and a part time job that was practically a full time job. And him? He had my mother and he sold cars in a shitty part of town.

It didn’t take long for Jack to transition from boyfriend to fiancé, and then eventually ‘husband’. In fact, it took no time at all. Courtship to marriage, lasted about a year and a half. On top of that, they didn’t have a traditional wedding ceremony. They opted to elope and get married in Las Vegas.

Regardless of what the exact motivations were behind my mother’s elopement she was a happier and, dare I say it, more tolerable person to be around when they came back home.

A handful of years had gone by and in spite of of my own inability to comprehend what they saw in each other, they balanced each other out nicely. The thing that made Jack exceptional was his almost preternatural ability to be liked by most of the people that he interacted with on a regular basis. The thing that I had found the most jarring but ultimately grew to appreciate was that my mother actually listened to Jack. For me to have another male presence in the house, that could tell my mother that she was being an ass about any given thing and then, get her to laugh at her own silliness, it was akin to seeing the Big Bang.

What made the new household configuration all the more bizarre was the fact that my father actually liked Jack.

Point of fact? My father would routinely and unannounced stop over at my mother’s house in order to shoot the shit, if he knew Jack was home. More often than not, my mother wouldn’t know until well after the fact that my father had stopped by.

Two.

No one from my immediate family eulogized my father when he had passed away. At the time of his passing, I was about to be 22 years of age and he had seen fit to name me the executor of his estate.

In his 6+ decades of life, my family and I didn’t really know who the ‘real him’ was. When it came to communicating on a personal level, my father had a habit of riding that line between ‘tall tales’ and telling people what he wanted them to know. He seemed to favor this mode of communication as a matter of self-defense.

My father was born in 1938. When he was growing up, he lived in a single parent home. Of course, this is unremarkable by today’s standards. But during the 1940’s and 1950’s, being a child in a single parent home was practically unheard of. And when it was “heard of” the fractured family was treated like some newly discovered species of lizard: a thing to be observed, but not interacted with.

To make matters all the more weird for my father and his brother, their mother, who had to raise my father and his brother, swore off men for the rest of her life.

Completely.

That is to say, she felt that she had such a miserable marriage; she gave up physical, intimate contact all together.

Given his mother’s voluntary emotional detachment, I don’t think my father could be blamed for being as tight lipped as he was. Still, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated. In spite of his obvious emotional handicaps and projected parental insecurities, I did like my father as a person. I only wish I knew him as the person that he was, instead of the person that he wanted people to think he was.

Having to plan a funeral is no easy task at any age. An item that I had working in my favor were the level of services that the funeral home had provided.

One of the services that they provided was oration. They had someone, either on staff or in a freelance capacity, who was qualified to eulogize your dearly departed in the event that no one wanted to, or felt up to, the task. Given that I was barely out of my teens, my level of life experience was practically nil, and the fact that I was going through a major trauma, I felt more than justified when it came to taking advantage of this service.

I regret it to this day.

To be fair to the Orator, my family and I screwed him. About a week and a half had passed between the time that my father had expired and the night of his funeral. In that time, the orator had reached out to me on three separate occasions. On all three times, I didn’t have much to give him. I petitioned family members but even they had a hard time trying to summarize who my father was. Being youthfully ignorant and in charge of closing out someone’s life gave me enough to contend with. And, selfishly, I didn’t want to engage in anything that remotely resembled having to think about the person that I had just lost. I had a job to do and I was having a hard enough time as it was.

Looking back on that part of my life, and the night of the funeral in particular, is like being shown a photo of yourself that you don’t remember being present for. You have a dim recollection of what led up to the photo, and, as you stare deeply into the photo, examining every aspect from the lighting to the look on your face, you can guess what you were thinking about as the shutter captured that moment of your time. But, as it is, you can only guess.

For what it’s worth, the Orator, in my opinion did a good job. As I am a grown man recalling a span of time from my younger days, I can’t say that I find the Orator’s success very surprising. Even though he didn’t have a lot to go on (which doesn’t help when you are trying to sum up a stranger’s life), he was a trained professional. If there was one thing that I do recall with absolute certainty, it was the amount of times that he locked eyes with me, as if to say “Jump in here, anytime, pal!”.

What I did find the most surprising about that night was the amount of people that had turned out to pay their respects to my father. Family, people he had worked with, people he hadn’t spoken to in a decades, even people he had impacted by dislocation, they had all showed up. He might have been equal parts tight lipped and storyteller with me but who he was, was certainly in that room that night.

Three.

A year and a half after my biological father had passed away, Jack was diagnosed with cancer as well. From diagnosis to death, he was gone in the matter of a summer. Having someone leave in that manner, who had such a huge impact in your life, and then have them leave as quickly as he did, creates a vacuum that takes years for the surviving family members to regulate.

After Jack died, the thing that I found the most shocking was how small and brittle my mother had become. In the span of two years, she lost the person she knew the longest (my father) and then the person she thought that she was going to spend the rest of her life with. To have to go through that amount of loss in such a short amount of time and then have to eventually wrap her head around having to live by herself for the first time in her entire life was a hard thing to have to watch.

My mother wasn’t the planner that my father was. When it came to planning Jack’s funeral, she was tying off loose ends as they popped up. One of the loose ends she needed to take care of was finding someone to eulogize Jack.

I knew she was going to ask me. Instead of just answering in the affirmative, I pretended to be surprised and gave it an ounce of consideration before I had said ‘yes’. In my defense, I was barely 23 and I wasn’t about to have a repeat of what had happened at my father’s funeral.

For the record, I have thought about this whole event at least once a month it happened. And yes my stomach turns every time.

After I had gotten over my own revulsion at my behavior when I had accepted the task eulogizing Jack, the eulogy itself was a piece of cake.

The night before the funeral, my mother had requested that I spend the night at her house. She wasn’t ready to start adjusting to solitude and having someone else in the house gave her a sense of security. Given her emotional state, declining would not have been an option. My only request was that my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, stay as well as she had wanted to be supportive to both my mother and myself. After my mother had turned in for the night, my wife and I had gone for a late night walk in my mother’s neighborhood. The two of us had been living together for nearly a year at that point and this was the first time that I had been back in the neighborhood since I had moved out.

The thing that had struck me was how small the neighborhood had looked. Perhaps that’s an unspoken facet of leaving your childhood home: once you leave, it’ll never look the same again.

The weather was mild that night. What we talked about, my wife and I, if we talked, is lost to me now. I had all ready written Jack’s eulogy the previous week. Maybe we had talked about how our day went. She was a bakery manager at the time, and I was a salesman presently on bereavement leave. Which is a nicer way of saying that I had spent the day, along with my brother, helping our mother finalize funeral arrangements and clean her house in the event that anyone had wanted to stop over after everything had concluded the following day.

Whatever we had talked about, it was dwarfed by the fact that a block into our walk, my wife and I had come across a home that had every single light on and every single window covering drawn open. Not completely out of the ordinary. Maybe they were having a dinner party and burnt the roast? Maybe the homeowner’s house was robbed and they were presently looking for clues? These are reasonable things to think of and I would not be surprised if past me had thought them as I examined the oddity of that house along with my wife during our stroll.

Everything had become clear as we drew level with the front room windows. The house lights were on for an obvious reason. And the homeowner had made a point of doing so and opening their living room curtains after nightfall so that all passersby could their fireplace-sized portrait of Ty Pennington.

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The summer that Jack had passed away was also the summer that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was popular, reality-tv show viewing.

The next day was Jack’s funeral.

In one of my mother’s more lucid moments, she had decreed that she was going to wear white to the funeral. Purity jokes aside, her reasoning was that Jack’s funeral should be a celebration of his life and wearing black would be the antithesis of that. What she didn’t account for was the dress that she had in waiting, she had bought when she was two sizes smaller. She was able to fit into it and she looked good. But it was obvious that she wasn’t comfortable.

The funeral itself was a church funeral. My mother and Jack being the Christian’s that they are, my mother choosing this venue wasn’t entirely surprising. What she seemed to disregard was the fact that unless you’re recreating the church scene from the Blues Brothers celebrating someone’s life in a church always falls flat. The color scheme is always dark, the seats are uncomfortable, and you’re surrounded by pictures of a skinny guy being tortured to death.

Four.

When thinking about Jack, the type of person he was, and the affect that he had had on the people he interacted with on a regular basis, the following scene had come to mind.

It was two Christmas’s before my father had been diagnosed with cancer; I was working in a local grocery store. After working the Christmas shift, I had come home to my mother’s house, exhausted and unaware that she was having Christmas Eve dinner. Sitting at the table, chatting like old friends were my father and Jack while my mother finished up dinner in the kitchen.

The gravity of that scene spoke volumes about the two men who had recently moved on from our lives. And it was something that I had conveyed to those who would gather to pay their respects to Jack.

When I sat down next to my mother, she had leaned over to thank me and give me a hug. As soon as she leaned over, her top had popped open and her brassiere-d bits were on display for the the priest, Jesus, and the rest of our seatmates to see.

To this day, I consider my mother’s inability to wear right-fitting clothing, and seeing something so wonderfully bizarre as a portrait of a semi-forgotten reality television host, so close to my mother’s home as an indication that belief is a matter of circumstance where death is concerned.

Dying is a thing that happens to everyone, what matters is that the people who are left behind are still able to appreciate the life that they have left and the odd things that are yet to come.

“The” Short Story.

            Springtime: that part of the year when the cold fingers and desolation of winter have been shaken off in favor of the warmth and hope that spring brings with it. That hope is a gift to the youth. It is with hope that people start new chapters of their lives. Hope gives power to the creators whose ideas are nearly realized. Hope is what bonds two lovers together. What the youth doesn’t realize is that this gift won’t last forever. Lives end as easily as they have begun, ideas fall apart, and love doesn’t feel lovely enough.

            It was one of the first warm days of spring. The Young Man sat on the steps of the promenade in the park. With his long, dark mane of hair gently flowing in the spring breeze and his haute couture, he was the picture of youth and virility. Nearby, a Willow tree beckoned, offering comfort and shade.

            Days like these were made exactly for what he was doing: enjoying nature, listening to the birds and letting his thoughts wander while absorbing the sight before him.

            Something moved a few feet behind him. A smile bloomed on the Young Man’s face.

            She was attempting to sneak up on him.

            She was all blonde hair, blue eyes and her Sunday best clothes. He knew at first glance that this was a girl who’s been fought over more than once. 

            After that first glance, he unequivocally knew that there was something strange about her. Her presence was like when you’ve misplaced something very important and you have the inkling that what you are looking for is right in front of you. Whatever it was, the Young Man knew it had something to do with her eyes. He knew that there was something there, something that was swimming just below the surface of those cold blue pools. 

             He was a fly in those Venus flytrap eyelashes. 

            In those few moments that they had observed each other, a dull haze had started to seep in through the Young Man’s mind. Time seemed to hold its breath, waiting for one of these two people to make their move. Before he realized what his legs were doing, he was following her. 

            Laughing and talking like they were meant to love each other, and only each other since the day that they were born, they held each other in the waning sunshine. The Young Man had never done that with just anyone before. For some reason, things felt “different” with her.

            “You know, my mother never told me not to get into strange cars, with strange women”, he said from behind a blindfold.

            She said she wanted to show him something back at her apartment but she wouldn’t tell him what it was and that secrecy was crucial. The Young Man was no fool. If it had been any other woman, he would have sat back down on those stone steps and resumed his enjoyment of nature and all of its offerings. But with her, he all ready knew it was love.

            “Well, fortunate for you I’m not that strange”, she said smiling with her mouth, only. Her eyes, her eyes were saying something else. A small kernel of worry began to germinate in the Young Man’s mind.

            “Said the young lady who was trying to sneak up on me”, he volleyed back at her in hopes of getting just a little bit more out of her.

             He didn’t understand until they had arrived at her apartment why secrecy was an issue at all. 

            As they had gotten out of the cab, the young lady had taken off the blindfold in favor of covering his eyes with her hands. Dropping them away from his eyes, she stood before him, just as lovely as when she first crept up on him, gesturing like a showroom model at the silent behemoth of a building behind her.

            “You… live here?”

            She nodded enthusiastically, eyes dripping with cold fire while her mouth did all the smiling. 

            The Young Man knew something wasn’t right. 

            That small kernel of fear was starting to take root. He knew that he should have been more pragmatic about the entire situation. The only thing that he could do was to look up at this building and wonder where the top ended.  

Tired of his lollygagging, she led him by the hand to the front door. Once he took one look into the frigid depths of her eyes, that fear was ripped out by the root. 

            Like turning off a switch. 

            It was the biggest apartment that the Young Man had ever seen.

            So much space. For some reason, he found elation in all of this. 

            It wasn’t long before she started undressing him. 

            “I know that this may comes as a surprise, but I haven’t been entirely forthcoming”, she said. 

            For a brief instant, there was a flicker of fear across his face. 

            “It’s ok, you can tell me”, he said. 

            “Would you believe that we’ve met before?” she said as she continued to undress him. 

            “Wait, what’s the rush?” he faltered, trying to put some physical distance between the two of them. 

            Crestfallen, she finally spoke. 

            “I’ve said too much. You just seemed so… ready.”

            For some reason it made him love her. It. just… didn’t… matter. Clothing proceeded to be shed.

            He awoke the next day feeling hollow but fulfilled at the same time. The young lady was nowhere to be found.

            After exploring the cavernous and nearly soundless apartment, he stopped to take stock of himself in a mirror. 

            “I always knew that one day my looks would get me in trouble”, he thought. 

            Even with the elation of the other day and with the overwhelming sense of unease, he still liked what he saw reflected back at him: rugged features, slim build, full mane of hair, what more could be asked for? 

            A small noise drained the self-absorption that the Young Man was drowning in. As he followed the sound, the noise grew to a full mutter. 

            That sense of dread was back. 

            Standing in the shadows of the hallway, he took in the strangeness of the site that he had found in the warmly lit room. 

            Sitting on one of the longer couches, the young lady was with four people he had never seen before. She sat in the middle of them. Everyone sat comfortably with their eyes closed and their arms outstretched before them.

            On one end of the couch sat a man who appeared to be entirely composed of knees and elbows and seemed entirely too thin to exist. On the far end of the couch sat a woman who seemed to be having trouble immersing herself as the others have. She was doing her best though. 

            On either side of the young lady sat a man and woman who were like no people he had ever seen before. The man was dressed well in bright colors and had an iridescent quality to his face. It was like the sun was being kept in the container of a human. The woman was a pale beauty, dressed in deep blues and black greens. These people who flanked his love were as opposite as night and day. 

           What completely unsettled the Young Man was that they were all talking in unison but it was unlike any language that he had ever heard. 

            A cold sweat began to filter through the Young Man’s flesh. 

            He walked slowly towards the center of the group, to his love, and knelt down in front of her. 

            As he put his hands on her knees, those impenetrable mirrors of her eyes opened and his mind went entirely flaccid. 

            She smiled, ensnaring him in her embrace. The others applauded.

            Under the applause, he heard her whisper, “Deep inside of your soul, you know it to be true: we’ve met and loved each other before. Just as sure as the sun and moon sit beside me”. 

            He knew that he should be afraid but there was something inside of him that was keeping him from it. 

            “Is it her?” he thought. 

            Eventually, everyone adjourned to the balcony. Reeling in the haze of the moment the Young Man became acquainted with these strange peoples. Try as he might, the only name that would stick in his mind was that of the thin man. He referred to himself as the Conductor. When the Young Man pressed him about such a strange name, he would only say that it was a nickname that he was blessed with given his “god-like” ability to keep things moving.

            Realizing that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with his tall friend, the Young Man went to the railing to asses the past couple of hours. There was something missing. He just couldn’t nail down what it was. It was like someone had brushed up against a part of his memories before the paint had had a chance to dry. 

            It was a cool and cloudy night. The sky looked like a window mottled with steam and streaked with condensation. When he turned around, the strangely dressed man and woman were in the possession of musical instruments and were tuning up, while the Conductor took his place amongst them.

            The Young Man wanted to question all of this but his elation at the sight before him was clouding his judgment. All he could think about was how much he wanted to dance with his love.

            The Young Man and woman had started to dance. There was no rationality to the chain of events that the Young Man had become a part of. The only thing that he knew for certain was that he was happy.

            The others looked on and smiled.

            After the air became too cool to be tolerable, the group agreed that sustenance and libations were in order. As the food was served and conversation politely filled the air, the Young Man began to realize that something still wasn’t quite right. 

            While reaching this conclusion, the Young Man and the young lady had started to eat what appeared to be a grapefruit from their plates. The Young Man began to open the fruit with his hands. He realized that the fruit was certainly more exotic than he had surmised.

            As the juice of the fruit bled through his fingers and dripped onto the plate, he couldn’t help thinking to himself that the young lady was right: they had known each other before. Pushing the fruit’s pit up and out into the atmosphere of the dinner party, the Young Man regarded it with a feeling of regret. It sat there in his fingers; slimy and pulsating like a heart.

            All of those feelings of dread, the weight of the unease of everything, he finally felt assured as the identity of the young lady had finally dawned on him.

            He turned to face the young lady. Regardless of any realizations, the love was still there between the two of them. As he was about to speak her true name, a wave of disgust erupted on her face. Reaching up to his head, she fingered one silver strand, a gray hair.

            Savagely plucking it from his head, she turned and stomped away like a scorned child.

            Turning to read the faces of the “dinner guests” in hopes to find some clue as to the travesty that he had unknowingly brought into being, a shockwave of fear thundered through his body.

            They were all gone.

            The night had turned into day.

            It was like it had never happened.

            Was he going mad?

            The click of a woman in high heels echoed through the apartment.

            Chasing after it, he had found her at the end of a hallway. It was the woman who didn’t seem like she was to be a part of the group. A brief glimmer of hope pin pricked in the man as she regarded him, her entire being radiating disgust. 

            Turning on her heel, she walked on, deeper into the room at the other end of the hall.  

            Storming into the room after the misplaced woman, the Young Man had found her, the young lady, in the embrace of another woman. 

            “They look so… happy”, he thought. 

            They both stopped long enough to look at him. Their faces were polite but it was obvious that they were unhappy with this presence. 

            The young lady gazed at him with those dangerous pools she called eyes. 

            The Young Man heard her speak. Her mouth wasn’t moving. She was speaking to him, inside of him. 

            “Just as the moon and sun sat beside me last night, you know that I am The Dawn. I am of the oldest of the old and we have been acquainted numerous times. I bridge the gap between the days and I exist to rob you of your youth. Eventually you will be like me, Young Man. You will be no longer lovely enough for love. You made your peace with that last night when you realized my true name and yet you still had love for me. Go now, young man, you have served your purpose”. 

            His eyes began to tear. As he blinked them away, he found that he was back where he started, in the park. 

            Unaware of what happened, the Young Man still felt at ease with himself as he moved from the steps to the nearby Willow tree. Watching his son toddle around in front of him, he knew despite the feeling of unease, that things were as they should be. 

Continue reading ““The” Short Story.”

A True Recollection.

It was a warm spring morning. I was smoking a cigarette at the public bus stop, waiting for the bus that would take me to school. I couldn’t have been more than 17 years old. It had rained during the night. The only evidence was a thick layer of dampness over everything that would be burned off in a couple of hours by the spring sun. The smell of flowers and growth thickened the air.

I wasn’t the only person waiting for the bus. Peppered around the bus stop were fellow classmates, well-dressed people (presumably heading to an office job closer to the center of the city), and an older woman.

I didn’t see her at first. She must have been standing in the doorway, watching me. After some time she positioned herself in my eye line.

“Can I get one of those?” she gestured towards the cigarette hanging out of my mouth.

“Sorry: this is my last one.”

She didn’t say anything. Her face rapidly dissolved from the vagrant face of hope into the indignant face of insult. She took a few steps back from me and continued to wait for the bus.

(Really, I had four cigarettes left. Me, being an underage smoker made cigarettes hard to come by). Safe in my justification, I went back to waiting for the bus as well.

While we all continued to wait, I could feel her eyes on me, digging holes in my flesh from the safety of her doorway. Eventually the bus rolled to a stop at the corner we were all congregating on and we began to board. She stared at me the entire time.

I managed to snag a forward-facing seat relatively close to the front of the bus. The older woman had gotten a seat exactly perpendicular.

She continued to stare at me as the bus passed the local hospital. She stared at me as we passed the grocery store and a slew of still sleepy, residential homes. And she continued to stare at me as I got off the bus, at my stop in front of my high school.

I had managed to get across the street and halfway to the school entrance at the front of the building before I realized that she had exited with us and proceeded to follow me into school.

As we passed through the doors she saw me look over my shoulder. Her face hadn’t changed since I had turned down her initial request.

A cold panic was starting to work its way over my body. It was early in the morning. A fraction of the faculty was in the building but most of them were on the other side of the campus. I couldn’t think of anything else to do but to go about my business. So I went to my locker and got ready for the day. She stopped following me when she saw what I was doing. While I proceeded with my morning routines, I could see out of the corner of my eye that she was still watching me from the opposite end of the hallway.

An eternity passed before she came up to me and asked me a question.

“Do youuuu know what time it is?”

There were four clocks in that hallway. Two behind her, and two behind me.

I stared at her. She stared back at me. I looked at the nearest clock behind her, over her left shoulder.

I resumed eye contact with her, blinked and told her the time.

“6:45”.

She turned around and left without saying another word. I am a white male. She was an older black female.

It would be years before I realized that there might have been something more to this interaction. Maybe she saw me put the cigarette pack back in my pocket and knew I was holding out. Maybe she woke up that morning completely sour with where her life had led her. Maybe there was something psychologically wrong with her.

What really matters is the fact that I still think about her from time to time. I can still hear the dull silence and the smell of hormones between her final question and my answer. I still remember how much of an ignorant teenager I was and how easily I shrugged that whole experience off. And I can still feel the cold emptiness inside of me that I saw reflected back in her eyes.

This bird, you cannot change.

I’ve never been a fan of birds. I understand that everything and everyone fulfills some purpose when we consider things like ecology and the food chain. But when it comes to birds, short of sustenance, transmitting disease, and having a reason to take your car to the wash, they’re a nuisance more than anything else.

I blame my mother.

In the Beginning

Sometime during the late 80’s or early 90’s, my mother started to keep birds as pets. I don’t recall the species she’s had over the decades. I know that parakeets have held court in her life at various points, but that’s about it.

For a short while, one of my chores was to care for her birds. I don’t think that she had some nefarious parent card that she was playing. Like “Wouldn’t it be ironic if I made my spawn take care of the pet that only I care about?” as she steepled her fingers a la Mr. Burns. I genuinely think that she was trying to work some responsibility into me.

And for a short while, I enjoyed it. I have always gotten a satisfaction from cleaning. There’s a mindful mindlessness to the act of cleaning as a whole. More so when it came to her bird’s cage. Filling the food and water with fresh stock, finding new faces in the newspaper for the littler fuckers to shit on, knowing that I can walk away when I was done, and the birds, well, couldn’t.

I don’t remember how I got out of doing this chore. Maybe I started doing a shitty job on purpose, like most kids do? Regardless, since those sepia-toned days of yore, I have determined that the only birds for me are my wife (because she is the prettiest bird) and chicken (because it is the tastiest).

If you’re known for carrying disease, being loud at inopportune times, and randomly shitting, you don’t have a place in my life. (My children, if they read this, should take note).

Overseas Facts.

One time when we were still living in Japan, my wife and I determined that we needed a getaway. So we booked a hotel and stayed in a traditional Japanese room (tatami mats, futons, legless chairs, the whole spiel…) Because why not? Right? How often do you really get to walk a mile in someone else’s getas?

When we went to explore the surrounding neighborhood, we started to notice that there were heavy, lined nets bunched up by all of the trash receptacles that we would walk by. We could have inspected them a bit deeper than in passing but we didn’t want to confirm that we were weirdo gaijin’s who had a trash fetish.

For the life of us, we couldn’t figure out what the purpose of all of those nets were. Until the next day, when we were cutting through the park.

One of the locals had thrown a speck of some grain-based product. That’s what you’re looking at, below.

Once the speck had hit the ground, that motley bunch had apparated from their bird-y dimension and had laid waste to said sustenance. Take note of the pigeon in the bottom, right. Looks like he was making towards my toes, right? Well, he was. We didn’t stick around to see what happened next.

What is not pictured are all of the crows that were higher up in the trees.

You’d be surprised by the number of crows you’d find in central Japan. My family and I certainly were. After the jet-lag wore off and we were able to explore our immediate surrounding we were pleasantly surprised to see that we were in the middle of farmland. Naturally, all of the tumblers clicked into place and we were able to unlock the why of all of the crows. Know what else you’d be surprised about? During the summer months in Japan, the sun is all ready in the sky at 4am. Know who else knows wakes up with the sun? The fucking crows.

That’s right: The nets are “trash nets” for the waste that won’t fit in the bins because the avian population in central Japan is so gangsta that they will fly off with your shit.

Lesson learned? Don’t fuck with the birds in Japan unless you want to become the Rennfield, to their Dracula.

How Our Desert Year Started

Shortly after the wife and I got our housing in Tempe squared away, we were both pleasantly surprised to learn that children of a certain age can ride the transit system for free provided that they have to proper transportation identification. We were further delighted to find out that the Tempe Transit Center was roughly two miles from our home.

It went downhill from there for me.

Should you be new to the Tempe area, consider yourself warned: there is nowhere to park on the transit center property. On top of that, it’s not clearly marked. You’ll see the bus turnaround and the accompanying silver building. But you will not see the closet where the TC office actually is. (For the record, it’s next to the Bike Cellar).

After the wife and I had ground our teeth down to the nubs trying to suss out if Google Maps was punking us, we parked at one of the many metered parking spots that are parallel to the TC and began the Bataan Death March of shepherding our children through Downtown Tempe lunch hour traffic. Keep in mind that this was the middle of July as well. The temperature was “Screw You” hot. 

As we had begun to draw close to the TC, we had walked by the aforementioned bus shelters. Distracted by the heat and the chatter of my family, I took passing note of all of the birds hanging out, still and stifled from the heat. They looked dead and that gave my cold heart pleasure.

When I redirected my attention to my mission, one of said birds took note of me by scoring a direct hit down the length of my left forearm. Fun fact? When a bird that is heated by the desert sun shits on you, said shit is unnervingly hot.

Since then, I make a strategic point of noting where birds are in relation to my person should I find myself in a state of ambulation.

Present Day

Sometime after I was baptized by the spirit of Tempe, I had decided to be nice and get my wife an adult beverage from the neighborhood QT. It was in the early evening so it was relatively ok to walk outside.  As I crested the sidewalk and stepped foot on QT property, I saw something I didn’t think that I would see that day.

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Yes, someone who is not me, ripped the wings off of a pigeon.

Before fingers start wagging in my direction in an attempt to paint me as a sociopath with mommy issues, I’d like to share with you the one thing that Tempe has plenty of: bums.

They are everywhere.

Point of fact? It seems to be an Arizona thing. My family and I noticed a fair amount of pan handlers, and people who would openly talk about where they were going to squat that night, in Sedona of all places. Regardless, Tempe, close to the Scottsdale border seems to have the highest concentration of transients. Especially in “high summer”. I wouldn’t be surprised if some nimble fingered gypsy got desperate enough to trap a pigeon for their daily meal.

For what it’s worth, I did make an effort to locate a carcass. It was for naught. Regardless of my opinion on birds all together, you can’t not feel a slight pang of pity for the pigeon. In all likelihood, whoever did this had some sort of mental illness that they have been carrying with them for some time. It’s a common theme amongst most homeless people. For all I know, it could have been some dickhead showing off in front of their friends. That said, they probably didn’t kill the little fucker first. We can only hope that I am not right.

I know I felt a pang of pity. The pity pang lasted 5 seconds before I realized that my wife was waiting for me. Like I said, we all serve a purpose.

 

And our love become a funeral pyre.

I have learned something about myself since I’ve come to Japan. When it comes to dealing with heights that border on astronomical, “heights” and the danger that the “heights” hold, will awakes make me their bitch.

This decline in the ability to engage gravity in a round of fisticuffs actually started at my sister’s house. One day, my family and I were departing her company and I had noticed that she had some weeds growing out of the seams of her chimney. After we had made comments about it being the only house on her block with such an adornment, I eyeballed the roof, got her ladder out, and began my ascent.

Once I got on the roof, away from the ladder, I fully saw that the pitch of the roof was actually deeper than it appeared from the ground and that to ascend further would be like watching a cat ‘free-climb’ a wall using only their claws.

I was fucked.

My sister, and my wife and children, were on the ground looking up at my ample backside as all of the macho bravado was pinched out of me, like air being pinched out of the throat of a balloon.

I wasn’t really fucked.

Not wanting to back out of the “commitment” I had made to my sister, and not wanting to look like a total fool in front of my family, I began my snail-like crawl to the smokestack and decimated the offending weeds.

With respect to Japan, being on the edge of vertiginous heights seems to be a way of life. And with good reason: Japanese men and women aren’t stupid. They know where the edge is and they know what awaits them on the other side should they step in the wrong direction. That’s why they tend to live longer than us: because they don’t engage in Macho derring-do.

I’ve been to Skytree twice since I’ve landed in Japan. The first time that I went was for a field trip that had me chaperone two of my kids.

The second time was with my wife. We went all of the way to the Tembo Deck.

The Tembo Deck is the topmost part of the tower that is open to visitors. Parts of the Tembo Deck are constructed in a parabolic fashion. Meaning, you step up to the railing and you see that the safety glass is curved, giving the walkway an almost tub-life feel to it. The affect is that you get not only an unparalleled view of most of downtown Tokyo, but also a bird’s eye view of God’s asshole.

When my wife and I exited the elevator, we walked up to the rail that wasn’t choked with tourists. As she took in the view, I let out a long sigh. “That’s enough of that shit,” I said, and proceeded to hug wall until I saw that it was safe.

And thus, I concluded: If we were meant to be that far from the ground, we’d come pre-loaded with wings.

The only way that I would have been able to get the whole tower in was if I was lying on my back. I tried (my wife wasn’t having it).