i come from a long line of men just like me.

florida wasn't as awkward as i'd predicted. i actually managed to have fun, partly because not having to wake up at six in the morning for nine days straight was a pleasure. one of my uncles that lives there let me use his candy apple red convertible thunderbird remake. eight cylinders of sheer force and acceleration, the ability to stop without having to floor the brakes...it was hard to believe i was driving a ford. when the weather was nice i'd put the top down to further stress the baller status of the vehicle. it has to be in park for it to go down, though, and i felt like a real pompous asshole when i'd do it at a red light regardless of how many potentially stalled people were behind me. it was my vacation, i wanted to enjoy my midlife crisis mobile, and i did...though i hope that twenty-three is not the midpoint of my existence. i will always remember rolling up to the largest mall in south florida in that car while blasting zz top. hopefully no one who saw me will remember because it must have looked like i was over-compensating for something, or like my ethnic ass stole that whip.

it was good to see my two uncles and various cousins for the first time as an adult. sure, i'd seen them before when they came up to new york, but this was different. i flew down there with my own hard-earned money without my mother and finally felt independent in their eyes. (they didn't even heckle me about my new sleeve, or any of my tattoos for that matter.)

my uncle tony, a successful car dealer who makes almost two hundred grand a year, let me stay at his place. we had some amusing conversations about old family stories that couldn't be told when i was a kid and i saw my relatives in a new light, as people instead of superheros. it was refreshing. his only daughter, a budding young theatrical vocalist with a full academic scholarship to the university of miami (see, i'm not the only gifted one in the family), is almost done with her first year of college at age seventeen. he's very proud of her, and very relieved that he could finally leave his bloodsucking wife since his pride and joy is finally out on her own to some extent. my "aunt" had refused to work ever since my cousin was born, didn't even ever cook for the family, and had a maid come clean the house once a week. all she really did was mooch off my uncle and demand more and more. tony bit the bullet and hung in there with a shit-eating grin (what's that even mean?) for seventeen long years, but now he's living in his own bachelor pad and filing for divorce. he doesn't resent her, she was the only one who could have given him the daughter who means everything to him. hell, he's willing to give her half of his income, but she wants two-thirds of it and all kinds of other outrageous things. he's finally sticking to his guns on the issue and isn't going to succumb to her ridiculous demands. that's not the real reason i'm happy for him, though. it seems like there's a heartwarming love story in the works as well. he was married to one of my mom's good friends back in his mid-twenties, but was too wild and crazy to fully appreciate her. they'd kept in touch through my mother and never left each other's hearts. her asshole husband left her a few years ago so now they're talking every day and plan on getting together some thirty-odd years later. he says that they're the same person and do the same things for the same reasons, and that she always knew who he was trying to be and loved him for what she knew would shine through someday. it was beautiful to hear this vibrant, savvy, faithful sixty-year-old man talk about his recovered love so enthusiastically. maybe there's hope for all of us, maybe people see the inherent good that isn't so easy for even ourselves to see sometimes. but for now i'll settle for being grateful that uncle tony gets his happy ending. (not the kind you pay an extra fifty at the massage parlor for, either.)

uncle ray is essentially the opposite of uncle tony. he's messy, he's unpredictable, he's irresponsible, and he's admittedly crazy; but still a hell of a guy in his own right. whereas tony's apartment was spic and span to the point of anal retentiveness, i literally could not find a place to sit or stand at ray's. his apartment looked like a bomb went off in it. tony made fun of him for his unsightly living quarters and ray replied that it was just like his life. you have to know more about him to understand. ray was the oldest brother, the high school basketball star, the first hispanic cop in rockland county back in the sixties. he was being groomed to be the next chief by a retiring police chief who loved him more than his own son. but drugs and rage took over ray's life before it could blossom into what it should have been. he was married to my mom's best friend. it was a different time then, when even a lot of the cops did drugs. he was heavy into a gamut of psychedelics at the time. one day he came home stoned out of his mind on acid, found his young wife cheating on him, killed her with his bare hands, and turned himself in. it was a violent, horrifying experience that stunned and crippled the whole family. he wound up only doing fifteen years in prison, probably because it was considered a crime of passion and he was a cop with friends in high places. regardless, it took its toll. he didn't get to see his children grow up, he wasn't there for his family like he should've been, he suffered from manic depression. i remember going to visit him in prison with my mother and grandmother when i was three and wondering why we had to wait for those men to escort him into the room. i thought it was just the place he worked at. i distinctly remember staring at the logo on the pepsi machine in the large visiting room. funny what you remember. anyway, ray found jesus and all that jazz in prison and came out with a slightly better outlook on life. he got married and lived in the bronx and then florida with his wife for about ten years, but finally left her when she insisted on having children. she was fifteen years younger than him and he was too old to start the child-rearing process again. he sunk back into his slump and went through a series of unhealthy relationships, one of which involved some thirty-year-old south american illegal alien who is now living with another man. she got pregnant and ray found himself a father again at the age of fifty-seven. it would have been a terrible thing to happen to most people, but it gave ray a reason to live again. that girl is just as bright as uncle tony's daughter and just as radiant and outgoing. to hear him talk about her is just as exciting for me as it is to hear tony talk about his new sweetheart. his apartment may be a wreck and he may make poor decisions sometimes and he may have hurt a lot of innocent people in his time, but it was good to see him act like the big kid i remember taking me fishing when i was growing up.

ray told tony that he was looking for his notebook in his apartment, and that it was important because it was part of "the big journal" that he'd been keeping throughout his tumultuous life. i hope he finds it, from one "journalist" to another. at least now i understand that this addiction is also hereditary.

on a considerably lighter note, i had an odd conversation with a kid working at quizno's this evening. he read my shirt and asked me a question that caught me off-guard.
"you work at the newburgh rec department? when should i stop by to apply for a job?"
i didn't realize what the hell he was talking about at first because i buy random stupid t-shirts at salvage stores since that's what cool people do and all.
he points to my shirt and i realize if i try to explain my mildly amusing ironic fashion sense to him i'll just look like more of an asshole.
"i'd wait a few weeks. what's the matter?, don't want to stay in the fast food business?"
"no, i can work both jobs. money makes the world go around."
"oh, i see..."
i actually didn't.
then he compliments my tattoos and asks about them. again, it comes out of left field and i fumble for words since no one usually pretends to give a shit about the ink i've wasted so much money on.
"i want one soon, but i'm not sure what."
"i got my first one five years ago when i was still doing time in the fast food business and got addicted. be careful!"
he starts talking about piercings and says how they're not as appealing to him. i say i agree, especially when it comes to weird shit on females. that's when he makes a comment that any other pimply seventeen-year-old would have also made:
"yeah, but the tongue rings aren't bad..."
as if he knew...
"eh, they're not all they're cracked up to be, and they just kind of hurt after awhile to be honest."
his eyes lit up at my blunt honesty and even the shy, chubby kid working next to him laughed. i paid for my meal, grabbed my bag of food, and told them both to have a good one. in retrospect i should have told him that he's wrong about money making the world go around. just ask uncle tony, or if you have time for a longer conversation, uncle ray.


like a simon and garfunkel song, but with less harmonies and random percussion instruments

the sixty- and seventy-degree weather earlier this week led me to believe that spring was finally here and the blustery death of winter was over, but the foot-and-a-half of snow outside sobered me up...which reminds me, i forgot to pick up some beer before holing up in my house which made for a lonesome evening. i dealt with the boredom by starting a new book and watching the "platoon" dvd i got for my birthday. it's one of my all-time favorites, even though it's one of those manly war movies, because it deals with several moral gray (only assholes spell that with an "e") areas that make for interesting drama. i can recite most of the dialogue line for line, but i refrained for the sake of my roommate. "i think now, looking back: we did not fight the enemy, we fought ourselves, and the enemy was in us." probably the most intelligent thing charlie sheen's ever said, other than "i'm firing my agent!"

what kills me is that the harder i try the harder it is to make it work. i wish it just came naturally. i know life's no storybook (thanks to mr. oberst), but throw me a freakin' bone once in awhile. sometimes it just feels like i'm wasting my time and there's something else out there for me, and i'll never know unless i take the dive; but i'll ride it out and take the chance. i've worked this hard for it for this long, it must be worth keeping. their advice is what frightens me, the stuff about people not changing and enjoying life while i'm young. am i really enjoying much of anything?, other than escaping reality in books and downing some liquid therapy now and then? it's times like this i wish i had a real father to talk to, or some sympathetic coworkers. i've noticed that i've always tended to become fond of some of the people i've worked with in the past. we develop a working relationship based on understanding our roles, start to divulge information about our personal lives when things are boring at work, and go from there. it seems like the type of person i usually gravitate towards in terms of making friends at work is the kind, jovial, easily approachable type whose been around the block enough times to be considered savvy: the kind i wish my own dad could've been. not that he isn't a nice guy with a(n awful) sense of humor; it's just that he's out of his mind in so many ways it's impossible to understand without spending a few hours with him. just ask my roommate. he got a crash course in charlie 101 when the three of us mistakenly drove to florida last thanksgiving. by the end of the trip he knew how to cope with my old man's ways, but also wanted to strangle him at times. i've never seen anyone so happy to be home in my life as my roommate was after those five long days, but at least it brought us that much closer together. he doesn't have any trouble imagining what's bugging me when my father comes up in conversation during our nightly cigarette. he knows now, and probably respects me a little more for putting up with my dad for so long and promising myself not to turn out like him. that's one of my greatest fears. don't ever tell anyone you love what those are, though. they'll throw them back at you during a heated argument when ammunition's running low and the effects last much longer than the endorphins released after the make-up sex.

i'm supposed to be going to florida for a week tomorrow, but i'm worried that my flight might get delayed or canceled because of all the snow. i haven't flown in six years, why's there have to be a blizzard the one time i really need the weather to be clear? i had a few errands to run today so when the snow started accumulating and we found out that the paychecks were no good i voted to leave work early. i was not alone in my sentiments, we all wound up going home shortly after lunch break. my foreman offered to loan me some money for my trip since we were told not to cash the checks until monday, but i respectfully declined his offer. a few other guys on the job have taken him up on it before. i don't borrow money because i don't want anyone to ever hold anything above my head or feel they have to pick up my slack. i have it in the bank and could always withdraw some cash if a check is no good (as they've tended to be every other week as of late), it's the principle that irks me. later on my foreman approached me while i was walking alone and said he really respected the fact that i never take him up on his offers even though he's always sincere about them. he started out poor in life and worked his way to where he is, he admires anyone who knows how to squeeze a dime when times are tough and won't take handouts just because they're available. it meant a lot for him to say that, considering i'm less than half his age. i guess that's why i stick around at work: i may fuck up sometimes, but i try to stick to my guns when it comes to my integrity. yeah, laugh it up.

anyway, we left work and i took my allegedly bad check to the boss' bank since they'd only be able to cash it if there was money in the account. sure enough it went through. the roads were getting pretty shitty with all the precipitation, but i had already loaded my passenger seat with scrap copper from the job in case the check didn't cash and i wanted to get rid of it. called the scrap yard in newburgh and managed to make it there before they closed, though it took a lot longer at twenty miles-per-hour. it was worth the forty-five bucks, though. like i said, the one thing i forgot to do was pick up a case of brew to keep me occupied this evening. it hit me as soon as i pulled into the driveway and i didn't feel like going back out and risking an accident. the package on my doorstep instantly raised my spirits at least. it contained the two pairs of sneakers i'd ordered the other day; at least now i'll be able to look sharp while i'm hopefully walking the warm streets of sunny southern florida. i say that, but part of me doesn't even want to go. the same part that knows better than to see how long i can hold my breath for underwater. i'm just going to try to make the best of it, it got me this far.

once every few months i get a red spot right between my eyes on the bridge of my nose. i'm pretty sure it's the result of a popped blood vessel. i'm not sure if it occurs because of mind-blowing orgasms, loaves that won't pinch easily, lifting heavy objects at work that'd give most of you hernias, or making strained faces in general. let's be safe and encompass it all by saying that it happens when i try too hard. it's time to go with the flow and let life take its course and have its way with me. i give in, in a good way (think the feather scene at the end of "forrest gump").

have a good week, folks. if you're reading this then it's for a reason and i sincerely mean have a good week. you've been my voices of reason when i've wanted to listen to the voices in my head instead. hopefully i'll have some worthy stories for you when i come back from my vacation. drink a tall one for me.

currently reading:
"death on the installment plan" by louis-ferdinand celine.


"beat a dog once and you only have to show him the whip." -solzhenitsyn

don't count on them always being premeditated. some are just diarrhea of the mouth via calloused fingertips. the biggest problem i've had before is knowing when to stop, but isn't it always? it's no different with my writing; no, that sounds too pretentious. let's call it "venting" and avoid all of those snobbish connotations.

christ, i let myself be beaten out of the habit for a couple months and all of a sudden i start writing apologetic disclaimers. one of my highlighted solzhenitsyn quotables from today's reading says "a genius doesn't adapt his treatment to the taste of tyrants." again, not saying i'm anywhere near being a genius, but the point remains the same: be wise enough to say "fuck the haters." that being said, let me stop sounding like a battered puppy and get to the (non-existent) point.

it was a good day of being a plumbing ninja at work. i feel as though i'm gaining confidence in the ridiculously inappropriate trade i'm doomed to learn, which is a plus. i find myself hating work a little less each day, a little less confused as to what's going on and why, regarding the pipes at least. as for the general state of things: the verdict is not yet in. or maybe it is, but i don't want to open the envelope the jurors have handed me. i think too much for my own good, i know too much for my own good, i'll probably live either not long enough or too long for my own good. i could throw some miserable existentialist sartre line at you, but i don't feel like digging through the damn book just to prove a point. and there i go again assuming that just because some hermit jotted some proverb down before succumbing to inevitably supplying the worm-food inventory he must be right. the sad part is that i'm pretty sure i even have a highlighted passage about that somewhere. let me end this vicious cycle before it gets any uglier. if only i could take my own advice in multiple facets of my humble existence.

aside from feeling like i could pipe a house alone at the job we're at, i'm starting to feel like my own entity on the job as opposed to just someone's bitchprentice. the guys trust me, appreciate me, know i appreciate them, and we all have our own inside jokes bust balls accordingly. i'll save boring you with work-related banter for another, more desperate entry, though. this one has a point. kinda.

he keeps talking about these "points" like he's going to actually find one.

right, so i'm doing my thing in the crawlspace yesterday and my partner shoves a pipe through the hole in the wall from outside. it jams into my ear, i yell an obscenity and take off my glove for damage assessment. not too much blood, but my ear canal is jammed with dirt. i wipe it clean, slide my glove back on, and resume finishing the drain i was working on. not so much as an "i'm sorry, i should've made sure you weren't in the way" from my coworker, though. construction guys are too macho for apologies. still, he crawled back under the house with me and commenced work at the opposite corner like a dog with his tail between his legs. i think it was because he felt guilty knowing that if i had injured him out of ignorance he would've ripped me a new one, verbally and otherwise. the fact that i laughed it off and kept working proved a hell of a lot more to him than cursing him out would have. "the kid knows how to grin and bear it, he wouldn't have made it this far if he couldn't roll with the punches. maybe i should lighten up when i'm out to push his buttons for a kick." or maybe i'm entirely wrong and he just worked on the other side of the building after jabbing my head with the pipe because he was tired of my gas.

i finished the drain and moved on to a new wonderfully exciting plumbing endeavor, one that we hadn't even anticipated beginning today, while my partner dozed off on his side a few paces away. the beauty of being a union worker in an isolated crawlspace under a house is that there are many instances of utilizing a more "casual" work pace, hence his nap. another benefit is the insistence upon having a radio to listen to whenever possible. i was enjoying this perk when a song i hadn't heard yet came on: "hey there delilah." i'm a sucker for chords softly plucked on an acoustic, and the vocals didn't help matters any; the sincerity in his voice, the details of his plaintive phrasings. it simultaneously reminded me of every girl i've ever fallen for, and for different reasons. i stopped working and stared at the pipes and checked to make sure my partner was still sleeping twenty feet away since it'd be embarrassing if he saw me get caught up in the moment. i spread out on my back in the crawlspace and let one roll down and realized that it was probably the gayest moment ever in the history of construction. i seem to set a lot of those precedents. the song faded and the d.j. came back on and i snapped out of it. i wasn't sure why it happened then and there and in that pathetic way, but the rest of the day was instantly changed. i wondered if they felt the same when they heard it. i still do, in both senses.

dinner at my mother's was equally ruined. she made the steak and pasta i'd been requesting for a few weeks, and though it was delicious it didn't go over well with my stepfather. he was drunk and cantankerous as usual (two vodkas and a glass of wine a night, plus whatever beer he downs at the bar from lunchtime on). my mom made the mistake of spoiling him with her domestic skills and he's taken full advantage. for example, the only cut of steak he'll eat anymore is filet mignon. about a third of a porterhouse is filet. i was laying down in the living room when i heard it all go down in the kitchen. he ate that part, got angry, and threw the rest of his steak into the garbage. my mom flipped out on him and called him an ingrate and a bastard for wasting expensive food like that. my heart raced and i felt myself taking deeper breaths. i'd been waiting for that moment (which reminds me: "lazy eye" by silversun pickups is my other current musical guilty pleasure) for awhile now, he's been a lousy husband as of late and it's been eating me alive to think that my mother suffers as a result. she screamed that she has a son who would've taken the leftovers thankfully, that's when my hands got the loose tingling sensation you get when you think you're about to ball them into fists and bash them against someone or something. i honestly thought it was my cue; he'd lay a hand on her and i'd dash into the kitchen and give him the pummeling he's deserved for awhile. i stood up to him when i was fifteen during one of his drunken episodes, i sure as hell ain't afraid of him now that i'm fully grown and fully pissed that he can be such a douchebag to such a loving, supportive woman. my chance didn't come, though. he stormed upstairs and shut himself in the room. i felt my stomach turn due to all the emotion raging inside my gut and couldn't enjoy the satiation of the meal anymore. before leaving i asked if he'd ever hit her, she promised he hadn't. i told her to tell me if he ever stoops that low. i hope it never comes to that, but i pray i'm there if it ever does. it won't, he's too cowardly to ever start anything serious with me around. he knows better. i give him that at least.

my fellow apprentice on the job i'm at came over between work and plumbing class today. we stopped at the gas station for a few tall boys (24 oz. cans of beer, for those of you unaccustomed to the alky jargon). i downed one on the way home and managed to kill the other three with enough time to get to class before it officially started. the both of us were obviously a bit twisted; we staggered in together smiling, reeked of beer, and kept getting up to piss every half hour or so. the buzz makes the miserable three hours we have to be there two nights a week slightly more tolerable, though, so it's worth all the risk. i gave my number out to the other apprentices in my class on a smoke break and told them to give me a call if they want to post-work/pre-game at my place with us tomorrow. i live five minutes from the union hall so it's very convenient, and the brotherly union bonding process will be expedited more efficiently with the aid of alcohol. i'll gladly allow my humble abode be the catalyst for any such activity, even if it means playing host and throwing out a few empties. it's not like i haven't thrown away worse. and more. and paid for it in spades for years on end. speaking of cards, i finally figured out why they call aces and eights the dead man's hand: there's no way to get a straight of any kind in poker with those two cards because they're too far apart. again, nothing new.

i'm going to florida for a week on saturday to get away from it all and see some family. my mom tried to slip me a fifty for some extra spending money while i'm down there, but i respectfully declined. "it's ok, i make more than you now anyway. thanks, though." as i put my shoes on to leave her house she hugged me harder than usual. it's as though she'd been waiting for a male in her life to not take advantage of her for once and thanked me for it with a sincere farewell. who are you saving your "good hug" for?, and why are you wasting your time by reading this instead of acting on it? a female character in sartre's "nausea" (ok, so i lied about not citing an exie author) complains to an ex-boyfriend that he always blew those "perfect moments" by not saying and doing the right things at the right times to crystallize those memories that have the potential to be too good to be true. life's too short and seemingly pointless (unless we give it one, more sartre) to let those perfect moments slip through your fingers time and time again. they'll run out someday, they always do.

i'm tired from coming down from the beer buzz. sorry for wasting your time. and mine. i had better intentions, but fell short. go figure.


back in the saddle

so it's been a few months since i've allowed myself to indulge in this form of venting, entertainment, pasatiempo, whatever you wanna call it. the 'space got out of control with the stalk-factor and my brutal honesty was alienating more people than ted kennedy at a mothers against drunk driving convention so i let it go by the wayside. i found myself having a lot more time on my hands without my trusty medium to keep me company, time i filled with the other end of the spectrum: books. i began reading even more than usual: on break at work, between my shower and dinner, after dinner; basically, any time that wasn't spent maintaining homeostasis was spent with my nose between the pages of some dead bastard who thought he found some kind of truth. that's all fine and good, but what about my own search for whatever it is we're searching for? it dawned on me that for someone like me reading without writing is much like cupping the balls while ignoring the shaft, if you can pardon my crudeness for argument's sake. sure, it's important to absorb as much as i can, but what's the point if i don't filter it through my own mind and let it out somehow? what good will the highlighted passages do me if i don't bounce them around inside the walls of my skull, recycle them, make them my own somehow, and redistribute the wealth of useless knowledge that may somehow piece together to bring life's bigger picture into focus.

of all the times to quit writing for awhile i happened to pick a turbulent one; fights with loved ones, bloodshed of various sorts, estrangement from my father, job related frustrations, uncertainty in all aspects of life. it all could have been documented, if not eased, with this trusty format. i tried writing a few times during my hiatus, but could never manage to finish any thoughts because they seemed futile if no one other than myself could read them. it may sound vain, but i didn't want to expend the energy needed to create if there wasn't an audience of at least one or two. which makes me wonder if the picassos and beethovens would have painted and composed if they were the only ones on earth. probably, which is probably one of the qualities that distinguishes true artists from amateur dabblers like myself. oh well, at least i understand the functionality of my hobby, my obsession, my words.

this is starting to read like a mission statement and i'm afraid that i won't be able to live up to it somehow. let me not get ahead of myself, let me put the soapbox away. i'll try to recapitulate the main events that happened and ideas i had while i was 'gone' to fill in the gaps. selected quotes from whatever i'm reading at the time will probably pop up from time to time as food for thought. i also have a few 'fictional' ideas firing across the rusty synapses that might find their way here at some point; trite short stories, lousy poetry, but definitely not that novel that never got past the fourth chapter. understand that i didn't stop out of a lack of ideas or motivation, but out of realization: there's no need to write a book that's still unfolding and being told little by little over the course of years. this has always been chapter five, and the beauty's that it seems to write itself if i can sit back and stay out of it's way. forget the silence, enjoy the ride.

currently reading:
"one day in the life of ivan denisovich" by alexander solzhenitsyn.
d.h. lawrence's complete poems