Cutting it Close

Dreaming of family

Finally got a replacement car-rental service and woke up early on Monday to see my mom for the first time in months.

I’d rented a cheap Civic but because of a whole mess of issues, they gave me a BMW instead. While that was nice, there were even more issues with the BMW so I ended up leaving an hour later than I wanted to.

Made an executive decision to see my son first. Chatted a bit with Lviv on the way there.

Me: I have to keep you safe from COVID.
Lviv: What do you mean?
Me: Well, I figure I can’t make out with anyone for three days before I see you.
Her: (laughing) I appreciate it. You’re sacrificing a lot.
Me: It’s cause I care.

My mother-in-law told my son to keep an eye out for “workmen,” so he kept a watchful eye on the front windows. When he saw me, he started screaming, “Papa! Papa!”

It was really something. I can’t explain it to you unless you’re a parent.

After a quick lunch, helped my in-laws set up a new router that I brought over because their old one was giving them spotty service.

MIL: How much do we owe you for the router?
Me: I think I owe you more for childcare.
Her: (laughing) Grandparents don’t charge for childcare, Logan.
Me: And I don’t charge for tech help, mom.

The kid and I spent the day together, including going for a drive around town. He sang the Rolling Stones the entire time. He’s not a fan of Paint It Black.

Every time I leave, it seems to get harder and harder.

Him: I wish you could stay.
Me: Just a little bit longer. Promise. Once you come back, you’ll get sick of me and miss your grandparents.
Him: (nods)

Then I dashed off to see my mom and my sister and her family.

Because of the rain – and because I wasn’t feeling all that great – only saw them for 15 minutes. No hugging or anything. Goddamn COVID.

Mom: Here’s some money.
Me: What? (laughing) You don’t need to give me anything.
Her: It’s for your birthday. Buy something nice for yourself. And here are some 粽子.
Me: Man, so many carbs.
Her: It’s tradition!

I took the Belt Parkway to get home because I wanted to check in on Mouse. Her family’s dealing with stuff that I’ll let you read about yourself.

Me: Your dad ok?
Her: He wasn’t getting better and we had to get lawyers involved.
Me: Shoot, I’m sorry.

We only got to chat for a little bit, which was interrupted by fireworks going off literally 10 feet behind us and people knocking on our windows.

Stranger: Bring her to a hotel!
Me: (puzzled) We’re just talking.

She and I almost slipped into an argument before we checked ourselves. It was nice seeing her.

It was late when I headed home. Drove by BrightBea’s pad but we don’t know each other well enough for me to just show up unannounced.

Besides, I was cutting it close, returning the car.

A lotta people don’t know, but NYC’s traffic lights are timed at 25 miles an hour, which makes sense since that’s our speed limit.

Here’s me hitting every green light around Park Slope.

Got back to the garage in the nick of time and then picked up some packages from the doormen next door before calling it a night.

Him: I’m glad you finally got to see your family.
Me: You and me both, man.

Podcast Version
Location: home, cleaning and still dreaming of family
Mood: homesick
Music: I can’t resist (Spotify)
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

My Father and My Son

Same old story

I can’t think of a single holiday I like now. They all remind me of awful things. Father’s Day is no different. Although, it does have its moments.

Son: I made you a card. Do you like it?
Me: I love it, thank you!

There are certain songs that I avoid. Cat Stevens’ Father and Son is one of them. But on Father’s Day – two other days a year – I’ll listen to it once, cry, and wait until it’s time to hear it again.

Ever heard it before? I hadn’t until Alison played it once to me.

It’s about an old man trying to tell his hot-headed son to slow down and enjoy the simple things of life and a young man who thinks his dad is just trying to tell him how to life his life like he always does.

I suppose it’s a story that would resonate as much two thousand years ago as it would two thousand years from now.

Father
It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it easy
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to know
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy
I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy
To be calm when you’ve found something going on
But take your time, think a lot
Why, think of everything you’ve got
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not

Son
How can I try to explain? ‘Cause when I do he turns away again
It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

Father
It’s not time to make a change
Just sit down, take it slowly
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to go through
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy

Son
All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it
If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them they know not me
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

I miss my dad as much as you would miss yours if you loved and lost him.

I miss my family. I miss the boy.

But, I suppose, you knew that.

Alison: It’s a conversation, between a father and son.
Me: Is it good?
Her: I think you’ll like it.
Me: (later) That was so good! Thank you for that.

Location: adrift
Mood: longing
Music: There’s so much you have to know (Spotify)
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Sticks and stones

Impromptu

Son: I wanna come home.
Me: When?
Him: Today.
Me: If you come home today, you won’t be able to see your grandparents for a long time.
Him: I want to come home.

Do you ever wonder why you see dead, or dying, animals on the side of the road, rather than the middle, for the most part?

It’s because, when an animal’s injured, it instinctively heads for safety and tries to go home.

When it makes it to the side of the road, it probably thinks, in some way, I need to get home, but let me rest first.

It knows that the middle of the road isn’t safe and that the safest place is home.

While we’re not anywhere near the middle of the road, my son and I aren’t truly home, either. He’s away, and without him here, I suppose I am also. Both of us are adrift, in familiar places that we love but are  not – in fact – home.

I had probably the most brutal video chat I’ve had in recent memory with the boy.

My bringing him to his grandparents was a spur-of-the-moment thing that turned out to be the best thing for him as I got COVID not soon afterward.

He’s been enjoying his time with his grandparents but I think he’s realizing that he’s been away from home far longer than he expected.

I spent the day in a haze. Gutted by this conversation and others.

Man, whoever came up with the line about “sticks and stones” didn’t know shit…

But, I did end up having a nice, impromptu, evening because Mouse was in town and dropped me a line.

Her: I’ll be in your area. I was thinking about getting pizza.
Me: I’m having such a rotten day, get me three plain slices, please. I have beer.

Podcast Version
Location: home, as it were…
Mood: heartbroken
Music: Oh, I miss you, you know (Spotify)
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Travelogue: Washington Rock State Park

Revisiting

Him: Will you come see me soon?

Took a train to surprise my son at my in-laws this past weekend

Several trains, actually.

Once I got there, tried to surreptitiously dash to the kitchen but he saw and ran to me.

Him: Papa!
Me: You caught me!

We had lunch together – yoghurt for him and six tacos for me (been eating a lotta tacos lately) – before my SIL suggested that the three of us go to Washington Rock State Park.

Alison last took me there years ago.

She asked that I not post a lot of things about us so I didn’t. I wish I did so I could remember it and link to it. I don’t have any pictures either.

I’ll add that to my list of ten thousand regrets.

When we got back, I gave him a gift that Mouse gave him a while back but I thought it flew so I wanted to give him when we were in green grass and shade. I was mistaken.

Him: Is she coming too?
Me: No. Sorry, but I’ll tell her you liked it.

We had dinner there and then my SIL and I started to get ready to leave.

Him: I wish you could stay. You always go away.
Me: I know. I’m sorry. Things are gonna get easier, I promise


In the middle of the day, I randomly got a text from someone, which made me laugh.

LViv: I’m going to a state park.
Me: I just came back from a state park.

My life’s fulla funny coincidences.

That is, when it’s not replete with awful luck.

Location: with the boy
Mood: alone
Music: know that you’re with me (Spotify)
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

On Children

And Now I’m Here

I wrote the stuff below the video way back in March 2013, not soon after Alison lost another pregnancy.

It was the start of all the horror we went through, long before the cancer. I don’t tell you everything because I’m not sure you’d believe it all. I mean, I barely believe it all, myself.

But, I’ve been chatting with two friends lately and I remembered that I never posted it because I didn’t want to bum myself out further. Or her.

The last line of the poem’s been in my head lately; on a parent (the bow) needing to be stable so that the child (the arrow) can fly as far and as high as possible.

I hope I’m enough to give the boy flight. Suppose only time will tell.

Saw him briefly this past Sunday, which I probably needed more than he. There’s more but that’s all I wanna share right now.

Me: Are you surprised?
Him: Yes, papa! I thought it was just Auntie that was coming and now you’re here.
Me: (nodding) And now I’m here. Lemme go wash up so I can give you a big hug.
Him: OK! You have to wash for 20 seconds.
Me: (laughing) Will do.

Been thinking a lot about family lately, for reasons I’d rather not get into.

My old boss told me once, when he was expecting his first child, that when men and women reach their 30s or so, they feel an incredible urge to start a family.

He’s right. Although, for me, I was a few years behind that curve.

But I feel it now; Life itself telling me that it’s time to grow up and be an adult because there are adult things I need to do. Things that need to be done.

One of my favourite poems I’ve quoted from before is Kahlil Gibran’s, On Children.

Like he says in the poem, I feel Life longing for itself and I can’t pretend not to hear anymore.

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Here’s hoping…

I wrote the earlier entry about On Children when I was mad at my dad.

I regret every argument I ever had with him and miss him terribly. There are some things that time doesn’t make any better.

Podcast Version
Location: my empty apartment, now with even more rum. And popcorn.
Mood: sober again
Music: Trust levels went way down (Spotify)
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Some of us are trees

Keeping it up

When you see a tree, you’re looking at a zombie. Essentially, 99% of a tree is dead, only 1% of it’s actually alive.

In some ways, that’s me. I respirate, ambulate, defecate, urinate, and – occasionally – fornicate.

But being alive and living are two slightly different things.

The people that met me after May 24th, 2017 only see what’s left of me, after I was hollowed out. In that sense, it’s a shame. I used to be a fully-functioning human being.

Used to be great fun at cocktail parties.

Me: What’s your name, darling?
Random woman: I’m not your darling.
Me: Not with that attitude, you’re not.
Her: (laughs)

Speaking of attitudes, I just need to keep this up until the kid’s ready to be in the world alone. Figure trees have been able to do this for eons, I just have make about 5,000 days.

Piece of cake.

Him: I wish I met her.
Me: Sorry, man. I’m not the best company these days.
Him: Actually, I enjoy your company.
Me: I always wonder if there was anything else I coulda done.
Him: I don’t think so. (thinking) You loved her. In that sense, she was lucky. You both were.
Me: (nodding) Yeah.

Podcast Version
Location: my empty apartment
Mood: sub-optimal
Music: no music today
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Waiting to find out

A Human Shield

When Alison was pregnant, she sat me down one day.

Her: I need you to promise me something.
Me: Sure, what?
Her: If the baby and I are ever in danger, I need you to promise me that you’ll save him first.
Me: (laughing) Why can’t I do both?
Her: I’m serious. He’s more important than both of us. Promise me.

Mentioned to a friend the other day that when you hear something completely true, your very soul hears it.

I’ve been watching Ryan Reynolds ever since Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place and saw almost everything he’s been in since. He’s just a funny dude.

But he was on Letterman once talking about the birth of his daughter and said about his wife, Blake:

I used to say to [her], “I would take a bullet for you. I could never love anything as much as I love you.” I would say that to my wife. And the second I looked in that baby’s eyes, I knew in that exact moment that if we were ever under attack, I would use my wife as a human shield to protect that baby.

I remember thinking that, in all the years of hearing him on stuff, that’s the first time, I believed he meant that as pure truth. And this was before my son was born.

Mt. Saint Helens erupted forty years ago on May 18, 1980. I was seven.

There was a photographer there that day named Robert Landsberg. He was taking pictures when the eruption happened and he realized, too late, that the wall of gas and pulverized stone was coming right at him and that he wouldn’t survive.

So, he took as many pictures of the ash very thing that he knew would end his life, and, at the last moment, “he rewound the film back into its case, put his camera in his backpack, and then laid himself on top of the backpack in an attempt to protect its contents.”

And then he waited to die.

They found his body and camera afterward and developed the film. That’s his camera above.

That’s the story I thought of when Alison asked me if I would do that for her. I understood what she was asking.

There are some people that think they live. Some that wait to die. And some that wait to serve those things and people they love more than themselves.

We don’t get to pick. Life itself shows us which one we are.

The guard dies. It does not surrender

Me: (nodding) I promise.

Podcast Version: Waiting to Find Out
Location: my empty apartment, covered in machinery and metal dust
Mood: waiting to breathe
Music: it’s all better now, wait for me, (Spotify)
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Dear Alison…

Today is your birthday


Dear Alison;

You would be 41 today. I’m sure, like always, people would still wonder why you were with me. I still wonder that.

I gotta say, life’s so meaningless without you but I stay for the boy and the occasional happy moment when it comes. It does come from time-to-time, but the demons are always close behind.

They’re my main company these days again. At least you’re not here any more to worry about me. It’s ok, the boy’s away and even the Devil takes pity on me. There’s no profit in cruelty to a broken man. Plus they’re not bad company, as company goes.

Speaking of the boy, he’s doing well. He’s with your parents right now. You were right, a backyard makes all the difference. I bought him a bike and he loves it. It’s blue and yellow. Between that and the unlimited carbohydrates out there, he may never come back.

He’s been there for a while because…well, you wouldn’t believe what’s going on and I wouldn’t know where to start. I suppose we’d be debating again; I think I’d win this time, though. Humanity’s just as awful as always and getting worse by the moment.

If given the choice, I think I prefer my demons. At least I know they want to hurt me. The honesty’s refreshing.

I wish you were here. Selfishly. Because I’m lonely and alone. Without you and your optimism to keep them at bay, they’re hollowing me out again. Life without you and your hope is singularly soul-crushing. They come when I’m on my knees and I find myself there more often than not.

I’d wish you a happy birthday but, since you’ve gone, it’s always anything but.

I’m sorry you’re not here and that I am. It’s so perfectly unfair. You loved the world and I hate it and yet there you are and here I am.

What a cruel joke life’s played on our family.

I would’ve written sooner but it’s taken me three years to be able to write you this. I’ll do better. Been trying to get off my knees. Really.

I have to go. They’re back again. They’re my only lifelong companions, it seems. Another cruel joke on us.

The boy will sing you a song in a bit, along with his classmates. I can’t join him because I don’t want him to see my real face. I’m hiding it as best I can, but he’s smart like you. It’s only a matter of time.

Oh, Alison. I would do anything to trade places with you.

We’ve missed you so much.

I’ll love you until the end of the world.

The Hubs

Trading our sad stories

One man’s search continues

I saw my son the other day. I wore a long-sleeve shirt over my shirt, pants over my pants, a hat, and gloves. The only thing exposed were my eyes. I didn’t want to chance getting my in-laws sick.

My sister-in-law picked me up from the train.

Her: You’re being ridiculous, you know.
Me: Nope! If your parents are getting sick, it’ll be causea you, not causea me.

I didn’t tell my son that I was going to see him so it would be a surprise. When I finally saw him, I wouldn’t let him hug me until I got cleaned up. Then I practically tackled him.

It was the first time I touched him in well over a month. After a minute or so, he finally demanded I let him go.

Him: (laughing) Stop! Stop!
Me: Never!

It’s been raining a lot lately so when the sun broke out the other day, I continued my quest for deep-fried chicken. Kinda.

This is what I tool around with, BTW:

I went up Central Park West to West 96th Street and then across the park to 5th Avenue. Normally, there would be crowds in front of the Museum of Natural History but it was completely empty.

Made my way to 103rd Street and  Lexington. The thing is, I was actually heading to the White Castle on West 103rd Street and 1st Avenue.

I know, I know. I need help.

Now, I was going east-bound on a west-bound street when I found myself in front of this store: Texas Chicken & Burgers.

Well, I thought, this is kismet. I should try and stick to my low-carb, high-fat/protein diet anywho.

So, in I went and I bought an assortment of a dozen pieces of fried chix.

Treasure in hand, I went home.

Definitely the worst of the lot compared to KFC and Popeyes.

Good god, I’m now gonna be known as a connoisseur of deep-fried fowl fast food.

Seriously though: Kentucky>Texas.

Not because the Kentucky governor’s a democrat but I’m sure that doesn’t hurt.

Found out that I’ve got the COVID-19 antibodies for sure.

Because of this, I met a grey-eyed writer from Bensonhurst. In some ways, she’s my normal type, in others not so much; I always felt purely artsy people were a bit weird.

But she has potential. I suppose that’s all you can ask for in the world right now.

Her: Do you mind if I ask what happened?
Me: We only just met. (pause) Let’s not trade our sad stories just yet. There’ll be time enough for that. 

Podcast Version: Trading our Sad Stories
Location: my empty apartment, which feels a bit emptier
Mood: can’t look at another piece of fried chicken
Music: Just wanna go home (Spotify)
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Yes, really

How is anyone ok with this?

Doctor: So what do you do?
Me: I’m a high-functioning alcoholic.
Him: (laughing) No, really.
Me: (nodding) Yes, really.

I finally got my COVID-19 anti-body test. It took about 90 minutes of waiting but I got it at the local CityMD – the same one I went to when I got my earache.

Nurse: Do you have any idea where you contracted it?
Me: Yup. Here.

Just a few days ago, the amount of people in the US that died from COVID-19, 58,355, surpassed the number of people that died from the Vietnam war, 58,220.

The Vietnam War lasted from November 1, 1955 to January 15, 1973, or 6,285 days. That means 9.26 people died each day in some faraway land.

The first case of COVID-19 here was on January 21, 2020; that’s 99 days to April 29, 2020. That means that 589.44 Americans died each day here, not on some foreign soil.

This is a picture of President Johnson listening to a tape of his son-in-law, a soldier in Vietnam.

Some reports say he was just tired. Others say that he couldn’t bear knowing that all these Americans were dying. I like to think that it was the latter.

589.44 each day. Each one of those numbers was a person with a mother and father. Maybe a sister and brother. Maybe some kids.

Alison and my father are numbers too. In 2017, 600,920 Americans died of cancer.

One of those numbers was named Louis Lo. He loved his three kids and his wife more than anything. He worked chopping fish in a tiny fish store and went to school at night so his kids could have a better life. He bought himself a harmonica when he felt extravagant.

He was my dad. I loved him.

Another number was named Alison McCarthy. She gave up a high paying job in a financial institution to travel to Africa to try and help people. It was lonely, hard, and dangerous but she wanted her life to mean something. She was beautiful, in every sense of the word. She was my best friend.

She loved her husband and son, like a fat kid loves cake. The first thing she ever said to her son was, “We’re best friends for life, you and me. Best. Friends. For. Life.” She died trying to comfort her mom and me telling us we’d be ok.

I don’t know if she’s right.

589.44 families, just like mine. Every. Day.

I try not to drink. It’s hard.

My mom wanted to come see me because I was alone. I told her she couldn’t. That’s what this thing does. It kills people extremely efficiently and cruelly. You die alone. Away from every one and everything you know and love.

But, there’s always some small positive, because now, you can drink all day, every day, if you want.

I don’t know how anyone is ok with this.

I don’t know how anyone is ok with any of this.

Podcast Version: Yes, Really
Location: my empty apartment
Mood: sub-optimal
Music: She’s gone (Spotify)
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.