roadside reckoning

I got out on the motorcycle yesterday.

NH, like most states, is under a Stay-at-home order but the details on riding aren’t clear so I took it out. Worse case scenario, a cop will turn me around. But not before I ask him, without being a smartass, is there any better “Social Distancing” than a motorcycle?

I needed to get out. I needed to turn off the news. The constant flow of bad news was wearing on me. Wind Therapy was the only answer. My bike called to me.

I was reluctant to take her out. The tires are worn, the oil is old, it’s not detailed to my satisfaction. My appointment for the yearly service is Tuesday, a dialysis buddy is a bike mechanic that works from his garage, and I really should have waited until it is serviced to ride. I already dropped the new tires, oil and filter and air filter to him. But I figured a quick 50 miles would be ok. I checked the oil level, tire pressure, turned the key and my baby roared to life. After a sufficient warm up I was off.

One thing I love about where I am is my proximity to Maine. I am twenty miles from the border in two different directions. From a riding perspective this is a beautiful thing. New Hampshire and Maine are incredibly scenic. The views of the distinctly New England style homes and farms is complimented by the barrage of fresh, fragrant air in your face as you roll the roads. NH is nice, Maine is even nicer.

I drove a familiar route yesterday. I first passed through the town that borders NH. It is a bittersweet experience, driving through it, parts of it reek of abject poverty evident in the crumbling houses and broken down cars in the drive. Then you come upon the beautiful restored farm house with a imported car in the drive. A town that resists the influx of gentrification yet quietly acknowledges its need of their tax dollars.

The route provided ample supplies of both the rundown and the restored and I can say that the view hasn’t changed much since last year with one wonderful exception. People.

The people were out. Families were together. Sitting around makeshift campfires. Burning brush. Raking leaves. Playing games. Riding ATV’s. I even saw one family having a picnic by the side of a river, cliché’d red and white blanket and wicker basket and all. People waving to me, the kid with the fishing pole and waders signaling for me to rev the engine.

I don’t remember EVER seeing that before.

I can’t explain it in any other way, it’s the Coronavirus. For all of the bad it has created the forced togetherness is bringing people together. That is a beautiful thing that I could write about for volumes. But I won’t, I’m just going to leave it right here.

When I got home I was sufficiently refreshed in both body and spirit. Sure, part of it was the motorcycle. It always refreshes me. But the scenery; the wondrous sights of family, community, dare I say normalcy that I was blessed to see refreshed me in so many other wonderful ways.

Fuhgeddaboutit

I once worked with a guy that claimed he was “Connected.” I said “What, like Cable?” He said no, the Mafia. I told him he was full of shit. Anyone who was connected would never brag about it to a guy like me. He thought I was a rube. Anything but, I’ve seen as many if not more Mafia movies and shows than anyone should have the right to. The mob. Mafia. Gangsters. Wiseguys. Goodfellas. Made Guys. Whatever the name, I can’t get enough and I know my shit, so to speak.

As a law-abiding citizen with no interest in changing that anytime soon, I have an unhealthy fascination with organized crime. The Godfather 1 and 2 (not 3) Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco, Once Upon a Time in America, The Soprano’s, the list goes on forever. I can watch them over and over again.
And I have.
And will continue to do so.

What is it about the Gangster that captures our fascination? For me, I suppose it starts with the history. In this country, and in NY in particular the Mafia, or La Casa Nostra was integral in protecting Italian immigrants and their fledgling families as they established themselves in this country. “Protection” cost them a fee but if someone crossed them there was someone to act on their behalf. Failure to pay for that protection of course cost them more than money, disrespect equaled swift old-school justice. Police, judges, and non-Italians largely looked the other way. It was common folklore that if you didn’t cross or disrespect the Mafia they would never bother you. But if you were asked a favor, you were wise to grant it. The words tossed around were honor, tradition, respect. Call it what it is, it’s fear based on power.

For generations Americans have looked the other way and tolerated the presence of “the Mob” in American society. I suppose there are several reasons for this. If you were a small Italian business owner in 1900’s New York you may have welcomed the link to the “Old country” and the protection. Another reason would be that many of our lives were unaffected by it; if you didn’t engage in activities that they were involved in then it didn’t matter. Maybe it was just accepted, it’s always been there. I for one don’t gamble in illegal casinos, frequent prostitutes or even live in areas where there is a presence. With the exception of a stray bullet striking a innocent civilian during a “hit”, we look the other way.

Despite the capacity to be vicious, even sociopathic criminals there is such a aura about them. I would never go so far as to say that they are role models. But there sure is a fascination with their lifestyle that has led to so many movies and shows.

Maybe it’s the suits. Those guys sure dress nice. Maybe it’s the wad of 100’s in their pockets, freely being tucked in the breast pocket of every doorman of every nightclub. People scrambling to accommodate them as if they were visiting royalty. Maybe it’s the prestige of being “known” in the neighborhood. Maybe it’s the ability to do whatever they wanted virtually unfettered. Maybe it’s the whole “respect” thing (it’s really fear). People know your name and your “affiliations” or connections and they don’t dare cross you. Swagger, prestige and respect.

That is until a bullet finds the back of your head.

“In this business you go in alive and you come out dead. And it’s always your best friend that does it. ” Lefty, Donnie Brasco

Donnie Brasco is one of the best movies or shows to present mob life for all of it’s ups and downs. I marvel at its ability of to actually create a sympathetic character. One that we relate to, like and even mourn when they die. Lefty was a tragic character. I enjoyed Tony Soprano, despite some despicable behavior, in all of his neuroses. I got a kick out of Henry Hill of Goodfellas because, at least for a while, he lived like a king and in the end lived to tell of all of his debauchery. Lefty, on the other hand was a sympathetic character and despite not being the first film project to be dedicated to the down side of the life; that is to say that it isn’t always glamorous or prestigious, that it can be thrust upon you and once in you can’t get out. Not without rolling over on your buddies and going into witness protection. Or getting that bullet in the back of the head.

“Hey Mac, have you seen ________? It’s about the mob.”
“Have I seen it? Have I seen it? Fuhgeddaboutit!”

uncomfortable silences

this is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or I would welcome you to start from the beginning, which you can scroll down to in my archives. Enjoy

“You can’t smoke in here, Mike”, Jimmy said. He watched as his partner of 5 years ignored him. Mike was staring ahead, studying the smoke of his cigarette wafting listlessly into the air. A woman nursing a coffee alternately stared at her cup and glared at Mike. Mike casually opened his jacket enough to reveal his badge. The woman returned her gaze to her coffee. “Bully”.
“Fucking Smoke Nazi.” Mike offered.
“Yea, those studies on the harms of second hand smoke, the no smoking signs on the walls, common courtesy. Goebbels is behind all of it.” Jimmy chided. He knew that egging Mike on right now may go either way but he was just trying to get Mike to talk. He wanted to hear what was going on behind that furrowed brow. And he hated uncomfortable silences.
Mike dropped his cigarette into his coffee and lit another. He could feel the heat of the glare of the woman next to him as she grabbed her pocketbook and stormed angrily out of the cafeteria.
“You know, I don’t think she is the one who drugged your girl. Why are you fucking with strangers?”
“I’m not fucking with strangers, I can fuck with you if you want?”
“Just talk to me, Mike.”
Mike continued to stare straight ahead. Jimmy knew not to push anymore. The girl reminded Mike of Sarah. Mike suddenly spoke.
“If she was raped…so help me God.”
Yup, Jimmy thought. That’s it.

A Scared New World

The world around us has changed in so many ways. Some good. Mostly bad. I’m not being negative, just realistic.

The air is cleaner. If we dare go outside.
Rivers in major industrial areas around the world are suddenly blue again. If you dare to go swimming for fear of someone being within six feet of you.
Gas is really cheap. If you have somewhere to go or can leave the house.
People are being kind to each other. A little too late, and only by phone and FB.

I had cats for the longest time. They are wonderful animals for so many reasons, but one thing I always admired about them was their ability to accept their surroundings (house cats, I never let mine go outside), no matter how small and they’d be cool with it. Even rule it in their own way. I would marvel at how they would sit in the window and stare at the outside world as if it were a movie. With the exception of a bird that came too close to the window they didn’t recognize that there was a great big world out there.
They were content to be spectators.

I feel like a spectator watching a game that I can’t follow. A movie goer at a bad movie. It’s just not real. It can’t be. But it is.

We’ve never lived in times like this. The lack of precedent is alarming and confusing.
People are dying while others are making jokes and making it political. I know that sometimes levity relieves stress but again, people are dying. Put the damn politics aside. Love them or hate them, they are the people that we the people voted in and we are stuck with them yet wise to support them.

People are not only risking their own lives but those of others despite teams of experts telling them of the dangers. The Spring Breakers come to mind. Arrogance and hubris have caused a lot of unnecessary death.

Those who dare venture out are as timid, as my grandfather used to say, as “A long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” I was in a small supermarket yesterday and as I ventured down the dairy aisle a lone woman who was intently studying what was left of the egg selection didn’t notice my approach. Despite my attempt at “Social Distancing” I apparently startled her and she actually jumped back. I was taken back and immediately apologized and made my way by her. I wasn’t offended.
It’s a sign of the times. And unfortunate timing at that. At a time when our humanity )for the most part at least, is peaking we are so limited in the ways in which we can express it.
I say hi to everyone. Always have. At times to throw people off because they’re not expecting it in our increasingly antisocial times, most of the time because I firmly believe that a simple hello might be just what someone needed at that particular moment of their life. Now I have to do it at a distance, through a mask. But I have escalated my check ins with as many people as I can because the times demand it.

At least we have a common topic to discuss. The unrecognizable and uncertain world that we now live in.

Time for a change

I think it’s time to retool my blog. Since I seem to have lost almost all of my original readers and I would like to offer something interesting to my new readers I think it’s time.

As you may or may not know, I began this blog as a therapeutic exercise to keep the boredom of my new life at bay. By new life of course I mean moving in with my mother in 2017 after a divorce, the loss of my job and house. All as a result of a Chronic Illness. I had blogged before on various sites but this time I stuck with it.

I initially started out by venting about how the dramatic and painful changes affected my new life. Eventually I discovered that my posts resonated with some people, mostly those with a Chronic Illness of some sort. In turn, their stories resonated with me also. In addition to posts related to the ongoing issues with my health I also told my life story in a manner that was often described as “brutally honest”. Not my words. But they are true. I held nothing back in the way of baring my soul, and occasionally my ass as I enjoyed the anonymity of the blogosphere. The blog has made me many friends and there are many out there that I can honestly say I deeply care about, some I even consider friends. Saying that about someone you’ve never met is really something, isn’t it?

But I think I’ve told my story. I’ve pontificated about major issues. I’ve sprinkled in fiction and poetry to mixed reviews. Lately I find myself staring at my screen wondering what to write about.

It’s time to get back to my roots. Talk about what’s on my mind. Write a journal that’s open on the table for all to read. Just write, casting format, concern about likes, comments, approval and agreement aside. If you like what I write, let’s have a conversation. If you don’t agree offer a different viewpoint. I welcome your comments, in fact I LOVE comments. It means you actually read it.

There you have it folks, Superman is still here. I’m still looking for a phone book. But until I find it Ol’ Supes is going to just talk about whatever comes to mind.

It’s time to loosen up the old fingers, instead of hovering over the keyboard looking for a great idea I’m just going to let them rip.

perception

“It’s all a matter of perception.” Boy, you said it.

I’ll get right to it. I’m struggling a bit with the whole perception thing. But that’s not new, to a degree I have my entire adult life. Here’s the rub, I thought that I had finally come to grips with it and I get a shot across the bow. Not life threatening, not necessarily a game changer, not even a “hurt feelings” moment. I’d like to consider it a chance for growth.
Because that’s what adults do.

Like most great stories, it begins with a girl.

I met this girl. A friend of a dear friend. To be exact, my buddies new wife’s best friend. I had met her at a gathering they were having. She was with a guy then but in what I thought was a fortuitous moment they broke up that night. A couple of weeks after that we became friends of FB and then began chatting and before I knew it we were chatting by text during the day and talking at night until we both turned in. Every night.
I asked her out.
She was hesitant.
But she wanted to get to know me, and I her.
She said yes.
We went out and had a great time. Being out of the game for as long as I have (I hadn’t been on a first date since 1990) I thought I did ok. I think she did also. It was after that was the problem. I pushed and I scared her off a bit. The second date was not in the cards. To be worse, she told me over the phone, that I had officially entered the dreaded, cursed, never to be climbed out of “Friend zone”.
Face palm.
In the course of the conversation she decided to give me some constructive criticism to help me with my “next one”, despite my still wanting her. Not the next one. But I listened . Among the many criticisms, the one that stuck, and stung, was when she said that I was “full of myself.”
Really? WOW. That was the moment that either denial or growth would need to occur. I think I chose the right one, I went for growth. With that came the inevitable question…am I?

I have struggled with my identity for as long as I can remember. It was as if the key to who I am was a carrot on a string and I kept chasing it but it was always just out of reach. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I realized that the fucked-up, neurotic, good at a lot but not great at anything, heart on the sleeve wearing guy that hated his own reflection was as good as it was going to get. So I embraced it.
Later in life, as I took hit after hit, some my fault and some not, I finally grew up a bit. While I was still the same fucked-up, etc., (see above) guy, I embraced it and changed what I could. I really worked on myself. I looked for the lessons in every setback, I tried to find positivity in negative situations, I tried to put others before myself whenever I could. As the lessons of Freemasonry taught me, I just tried to be a better man than I was the day before. I embraced spiritualism, my compromise to rejecting atheism years before, and tried to embrace my smallness in the universe. When I got sick I adopted a persona, that of a fighter and an optimist. In the words of some, not my own, I was inspirational. All while my ultimate goal was just to be a good guy.
A guy that means well, charitable, fairly interesting and occasionally funny with something to offer the right person.
With her, I don’t think I came off that way.
It’s bittersweet actually, it wasn’t a total loss. She also told me that she thought I was incredible (not sure what she meant but I like it). We still talk every night. I’m not entirely sure where I stand with her but I still enjoy it. And I can’t ask for a second date even if I wanted to because the world is on hold. When and if I ask her out again I suppose I’ll know what zone I’m in.
Either way, I’ll be ok. I just have the one lingering problem. It really bothers me when anyone gets me wrong.

You can’t undo it. There are no redo’s in life. As my late Grandfather always said’ “You can’t put the shit back in the horse.”

It’s all a matter of perception.


misunderstandings

I’m tired
Really fucking tired
of being misunderstood
how do people not see
what I see
when I look in the mirror?
when for the first time
finally
I can look without shame

I don’t love what I see
But I can live with it
and that’s something
I’ve kicked crawled and scratched
just to be
acceptable
presentable
memorable

and of course…
respectable

and to be alive
after being so close to death
in both body and spirit
sick and weary
from trying to be strong
as it collapsed around me
bitter and angry
at the mess my life
my loveless
and unremarkable life
had become

I said to the world
here I am again
do your worst
I know who I am now!
now I’m not so sure

Is it possible that I am not
the man I think I am?

I walk tall so you won’t attack me
I talk clear so that you will hear me
I think of others to forget about me
I thank the universe for saving me
It’s not an act but it is

is it too much to ask
for a little fucking slack
and a chance for a redo
if I don’t show you
the first time
what I’m really made of

I try to be who you want me to be
while I figure out who I am