The Sum(mer) of its parts

This is part one of a series of articles that I have completed for AltOhio. In it, I detail the things that you could do in Cleveland at that time. A copy of the original article, as well as the rest of the series, can be found in the included links. 


Summer time is upon us! We have finally been granted a reprieve from the days when we are hermetically sealed in our homes in an effort to not freeze our asses off. The thirst to be outside and to be inhaling fresh air by the bucketful is thick in our throats. As a father of three children, this is a feeling that I know all too well. This summer, like all summers in Cleveland, promises not to disappoint. But there’s something that I have noticed especially since I have gotten older; certain parts of the city (and the surrounding area) get compartmentalized. One area is favored over the other for whatever reasons. What makes this worse is that the older a person gets, the harder it is to appreciate the city as a whole.

Over the next couple of months, I will be highlighting some of the more interesting happenings going on throughout the Cleveland-area as well as including a few polite reminders of why this part of Ohio should be appreciated as a whole.

Marc’s Great American Rib Cook-Off 

It would not be May in Cleveland if there were no Great American Rib Cook-off. Spread out over the course of Memorial Day Weekend, the Rib Cook-off is that one event in Cleveland that officially heralds the arrival of summer. There are ribs and there is live music (specifically from likes of Buddy Guy, Rick Springfield and Brett Michaels). It doesn’t get any more “summer” than that! Starting Friday May 24 at 12pm and ending Monday (Memorial Day) May 27, Marc’s Great American Rib Cook-Off promises to be an event that is suitable for the whole family. Something to ponder while you sate yourself on the fatted calf? “The flats are actually where Cleveland began. They served as the landing site for Moses Cleaveland and his survey party when they traveled from Connecticut in 1796 (Grabski, 2005).

Cleveland’s Theatre District

No one ever said that you had to spend your entire summer outside. There’s going to be one of those nights (or possibly, days) when the thespian urge strikes. Why not make a trip down Euclid Avenue to see what all of the fuss is about?

Starting May 1 at Playhouse Square is the fan-favorite Guys & Dolls. Based on a story by Damon Runyon with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, Guys & Dolls is a “musical fable” of Broadway that is set in mid-20th century New York and is about “gambling men and the strongwilled women who love them”. Hailed as an American classic, Guys & Dolls is a musical comedy that is sure to entertain.

As an historical aside, it should be noted that given Cleveland’s layout, Euclid Avenue was the only logical choice to serve as the location of the city’s theatre district. Back in the day, there were 5 theaters that started this new theater district: the Allen Theater, the Ohio Theater, The State Theater, the Palace Theater and 2 Loews Theaters (Becker, 2004).

For further information (or if Guys and Dolls isn’t your thing) visit playhousesquare.org Around the same time that the theater district had begun to assemble, the first indoor shopping mall in the United States had opened. The Arcade officially opened its doors to Cleveland’s residents in 1890 (Becker, 2004).

Also on Euclid Avenue this summer is the One Nation Under a Groove Gala. This funk and soul music revue will be performed by Cleveland School of the Arts (CSA) students. The school itself is a specialty arts school that focuses on music, theater, dance, creative writing & visual arts. The gala will honor David LaRue, CEO of Forest City Enterprises Inc. Mr. LaRue is the former President of the FCSA Board of Trustees and has been instrumental in achieving the goal of a new school building for CSA.

The gala will be held on Friday, May 3, 2013 from 6:30 – 10:30 pm at the House of Blues, 308 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44114. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.clevelandschoolofthearts.org or by calling 216.421.7690.

Cleveland Metropark Zoo

When in doubt, my default source of amusement and merriment has always been the zoo. It’s a very little known fact that Cleveland Zoo actually began on the East Side. Originally, Jeptha Wade (one of the founding members of Western Union Telegraph) donated land to the city for the establishment of Wade Park. Because of residential development and the addition of other animals, the zoo was gradually moved to (the then) Brookside Park, where it currently resides (Van Tassel, Grabowski, 1987).

From now until Halloween, Discount Drug Mart is sponsoring Photo Safari. This is the zoo’s annual photo contest that is open to all amateur photographers. All photos must be taken between April 1 and Halloween of this year.

Also happening is the Wild Ride at the Zoo. This is an after-hours event that will give visitors the opportunity to skip the tried and true Tram ride to the top of the hill and elsewhere in favor of riding their bikes!

Don’t have a bike or the means to get your bike there? No problem! The Bike Rack has you covered! Call (216) 771-7120 to reserve your bike seat! The number of bikes available for rent will be limited.

Tickets for Wild Ride are available online or at the zoo box office.

For further information visit clemetzoo.com

References

Becker, Thea Gallo. (2004). Images of America: Cleveland 1796-1929. Great Britain Arcadia Home Music Lifestyle Columns The AltOhio Story Collective Sports Page Good About Us Advertise With Us Publishing.

Grabski, Matthew Lee. (2005). Images of America: Cleveland’s Flats. Arcadia Publishing: Great Britain.

Van Tassel, David D (Ed.). Grabowski, John J. (Ed.). (1987). The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.


This is part one of a series of articles that I have completed for AltOhio. In it, I detail the things that you could do in Cleveland at that time. A copy of the original article, as well as the rest of the series, can be found in the included links. 

Tremont Arts Festival

This was my first article for AltOhio. In it, I wrote up the annual Tremont Arts Festival and delved into the history of Tremont (a neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio). A copy of 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.


This was my first article for AltOhio. In it, I wrote up the annual Tremont Arts Festival and delved into the history of Tremont (a neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio). A copy of the original article can be found here. 

The Paramedic

Once upon a time, I was contracted by a private individual to create a piece of flash fiction based on a prompt that they provided. This is that story. A copy of the original can be found here. 


“It was such a simple thing,” the thought disintegrated before it had a chance to take root.

As a paramedic, Ed had seen amazing things and helped a countless number of people. When the call came in Ed didn’t think anything of it. It was a routine car accident and he was familiar with the intersection where it happened. There was one fatality, 2 survivors, and a handful of witnesses. Another day at the office.

As the ambulance sped along, Ed remembered the things his wife had wanted him to get from the grocer’s after his shift. “Borax, milk… Fuck, there was something else,” he grimaced.

The ambulance arrived with little interference from the public. Sometimes people can’t be bothered to get out of the way. The irony wasn’t lost on Ed: some yahoo thinking that their life was more important than the one he was trying to save.

As Ed and his team exited the ambulance, they were briefed by one of the police officers that arrived at the scene first.

“Victim was a __ ___ ___. Witnesses reported that the victim blew through the intersection and t-boned the survivors.”

One of the survivors sat on the curb outside of their now boomeranged shaped car while they watched the other survivor be attended to by the members of Ed’s team. Ed and the officer continued to make their way to the Victim. They stopped in front of the Victim’s car.

The Officer continued while both he and Ed stared at the spider-webbed sea and accordion-ed steel of the car in front of them.

“Checked the car for any controlled substances. Only thing we found was the Vic’s cell phone on the floor of the passenger’s side.”

Ed looked down at the phone in the officer’s gloved hand.

“Such a simple thing…” Ed thought. The Victim had typed the word “I” in the reply field. Ed finished the text for her. “… Love you.” The Officer pushed ‘send’.


Once upon a time, I was contracted by a private individual to create a piece of flash fiction based on a prompt that they provided. This is that story. A copy of the original can be found here. 

The Best Sandwich in Cleveland You’ve Never Heard Of

This post This story originally appeared on Parachute (an online magazine owned by MapQuest). A copy of the original article can be found here. 


Part of the allure of travel is trying out new things to eat. It’s only natural. You are an explorer that is out of their normal element in search of adventure. This is not to say that this task is without its challenges. Finding delicious local food, when you are not a local, can be quite a task.

In the event that your travels take you to the greater Cleveland Ohio area, I implore you to make the pilgrimage to Alesci’s Italian Deli in South Euclid and get yourself a Grinder. Your mouth will thank you.

It should be known that for the first 34 years of my life, I lived in Cleveland. While I may currently be residing in the South, I am a Cleveland-er. Once you have that mark on you, it will never come off. Go ahead and click the link above: you’re not going to find any mention of this masterpiece on their website.

That’s how good this sandwich is. Locals know about it. Locals love it. Do they want to keep it to themselves? Who’s to say? To put it into perspective for you: when my father was alive, he had made a point of introducing his children to the wonders of Alesci’s and their sandwiches (specifically the Grinder). For locals, including myself, this is more than a sandwich: it’s a heritage.

With respect to the Grinder itself, I’m not going to tell you what’s in it. Sure, that’s kind of mean and probably doesn’t help pique your interests but to be honest, I don’t know what’s in it. When I lived in that part of town as an adult, I’d never concern myself with the ‘whys’ and ‘where-fores’ of said sandwich. My only concern was getting one and getting it in my face-hole ASAP.

If you were to do a quick search of what a Grinder is, you will see that there are almost too many ways to make one and that they vary by regionality. How Alesci’s came upon the correct ingredients, in the correct order, most likely, has been lost to time. Alesci’s Grinder is a simple, flavorful, sandwich. Paired with your favorite beverage and you have one hell of a meal that you won’t soon forget.


This post This story originally appeared on Parachute (an online magazine owned by MapQuest). A copy of the original article can be found here.

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.

download-1

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.

How I came to live in Japan.

What follows is an account of the events that led up to my family’s relocation to Japan. 

Thanks for reading!


I have never really been a fan of summer. Doubly so, since I have lived in Florida for the past couple of years. (I try not to stereotype, but there’s really no reason for anyone to actually live in Florida. Sure, a fraction of the general population leaves something to be desired, but nothing is helped by the fact that the Sun is essentially trying to kill everything that attempts to go outside between the months of March and December).
What also doesn’t help my general dislike of summer is the fact that it’s been designated as the time of year for vacations and hooliganism (e.g. kids tend to think that they should get a break from life around this time of the year).

What a load of fly-blown bullshit.

Vacations should happen whenever it is appropriate and economically convenient for the person or people involved. As far as kids thinking that they’re entitled to a break? Fuck that noise. I don’t get a break, why should my kids?

Every year, my wife and I have made a point of securing workbooks for our children for the grade that they would be entering in, in the fall. TO DATE, they have been consistently ‘better off’ for it. 2 out of the 3 children have maintained ‘honor roll’ status (the 3rd has been a solid ‘B’ student).

For the record: I’m not Hitler about it. They devote an hour a day to their workbooks and then they help out around the house. Other than that, they are generally free to do what they want as long as no one, and nothing, dies.

Point of fact? When I was a kid, my parents thought I should be able to “enjoy” my summer and “do what I want”. The following school year was always an educational nightmare for me because I retained little of what I learned the year before and no one was making sure that I was doing anything intellectually stimulating (defined as, the opposite of what I was doing: watching reruns of My Favorite Martian and playing endless hours of video games).

I digress. 

This past summer, through an unusual, but expected set of circumstances, my wife, a Captain in the USAF, received orders to relocate herself and her family to Japan.
That’s right: I am now littering the Internet from the Land of the Rising Sun. (Fun fact: while I haven’t confirmed this, I’m fairly certain that Japan is referred to as that because THE SUN RISES AT 4 IN THE FUCKING MORNING DURING THE SUMMER).

Suffice it to say, there will be more writings about Japan, our journey here, and the usual drek I tend to prattle on about.

In sum, I will leave you with how I found out that we were moving to Japan. You may get a chuckle out of it, or it may confirm what you all ready know about me (that I’m an idiot).

One day in the kitchen of my former, Florida abode, I was using our food processor to get down on some dinner prep before I had to pick up my kids from school. After I had cleaned up and was ready to leave, I go to put the food processor away and the damn thing slipped out of my hands and hit the floor.

Rather than try to save it or perhaps catch it on the rebound, I got the fuck out of the way because it’s heavy as hell and can easily break a foot when it is in a gravitationally dangerous state.

After I regained composure, I surveyed the damage.

image

This is a present-day photo.

Naturally, I was sweating bullets because my wife had bought this a while back and she had come to think of it as a fourth child. The name plate was popped out and, as you can see, there was a massive crack in the housing.

My first thought was,”Welp: I’m fucked. There’s no way that this is going to work”. After I checked the remaining integrity of the base and popped the name plate back in, I plugged it back in to see how bad it was.

It worked perfectly fine. I switched out multiple attachments and it was still fine. (ETA: THE DAMN THING STILL WORKS!).

My next move, I thought, was fairly obvious. 

I packed up everything nice and neat, put it in the one cabinet that she’d never go in, and buried it under other kitchen gadgets. All of this was done with the intent of blaming it on the movers the next time we move.

Five minutes later, I got a text from my wife saying that we were moving to Japan this summer.

“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.”