the Rich Kid

Life on “the Ave” was a blissful time for me when I was a little boy. My cousin Mike, like most age-appropriate cousins, was a built in best friend hand chosen by God. We did what little boys do, or at least did in the 70’s before TV became our nanny, caregiver and teacher. We played in the high grass, stomped through the mud, we hid and spied on and generally annoyed the older cousins. I learned to ride a bike on the Ave, dodging giant puddles that made the task of learning to ride a bike about ten times harder than it had to be. The first time I made the whole street, Mike and the older cousins cheered for me the entire wobbly way. We had fun. We were inseparable. For a very brief while I thought that I had tapped into what my father’s childhood was like. It would be many years, I would be practically a teenager, before I would learn how wrong I was.

I think it’s fitting that the street my father grew up on was named Railroad Ave. There really are tracks in my hometown and my dad grew up on the wrong side of them. The squalor that I saw on the Ave was a massive upgrade to what my father had as a child. And in turn the life he had created for himself was a huge upgrade from the Ave. Understanding the difference those 3 miles across town meant to my Dad would be a huge step towards understanding the man.

I always knew my father was different from the rest of his family. I suppose I should just call it what it was, his family was poor. And they acted it. They weren’t much concerned with how they dressed. Many of them abused tobacco and alcohol. They spent money as soon as it was in their hands on frivolous items like jumbo boxes of candy, cigarettes, alcohol and fireworks. We all know the habits and stereotypes of poverty, and my father, despite having been textbook poor for his entire childhood, exhibited none of those traits.  He was different and even though my young mind couldn’t isolate how so, it stood out when he was with his family. It wasn’t in such transparencies as how he dressed or spoke, etc., he just acted different. I understand it perfectly today; he was still under the effects of the memories of his upbringing, but he wasn’t carrying the lessons forward. He was setting new rules for his own family while not disrespecting his own. He wanted a better life.

As a reward for his hard work, selfless behavior and commitment to self-improvement, his family would refer to him, in muted tones, as “The Rich Kid.” They didn’t mean it as a compliment. The snarkiness and inappropriateness of that label was what I had been missing. And of course, the reasoning behind it. It was quite the Dick Slap to learn that my awesome Dad, whom I oozed respect for, was made fun of for simply wanting better for us.

the unwanted advance of Social Media

I had the great pleasure of a long phone conversation with a new friend today. We get along so well because we value “real” and are very direct people. What do I mean by direct you ask? If you’re wearing an ugly hat don’t ask us if we like your hat. We should both have tee shirts that read “are you sure you want me to answer that?” You get the point.

We got onto the subject of social media today. We discussed the pitfalls of easy access, the danger of stalkers and trolls, and the evaluation process when accepting or ignoring friend requests. My friend and I mostly agreed on what constitutes a “friend” and we shared some funny and not so funny stories about different people’s attempts to access our little online worlds. As we joked back and forth, once again I triggered myself. I really need to stop doing that.

A few years ago I got a friend request from “Sue”. I didn’t recognize her at first, the last name didn’t ring a bell. When I saw the friends list I saw my cousin Mike and I realized who it was. DELETE. A few days later I got another. DELETE. A few weeks later another. DELETE. My cousin’s ex-wife was not going to infect my Facebook. A few weeks and 2 DELETES later my cousin called. Mind you I hadn’t talked to him in months (long story). He wasn’t calling to say hi, he wanted to know why I wasn’t accepting “Sue’s” friend request. “You’re joking right?”

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“Not at all, why.”

“Because we went almost 6 years without speaking because of her. Why would I want to talk to her now?”

“Let it go.” Yeah, not my style. He doesn’t get it, he never will

It all started in the late 80’s. Mike and his new girlfriend Sue asked me to go to an amusement park in Western, MA (now a Six Flags) with them. I had hung out with them a few times before this, Mike and I were very close so it wasn’t unusual for him to invite me along. Mike was smitten with Sue, me not so much. I found her to be selfish, immature and smothering.  But it wasn’t about me, it was his life. He had a wonderful combination of good heart and low self-esteem that predestined him to marry the first girl who touched his dick.

We walked into the entrance of the enormous park, Mike looked really happy. We headed towards the largest attraction only to realize that Sue had dropped off a few yards back. We quickly found her on a bench. She looked miserable. He immediately asked her what was wrong. To which he was met by a “nothing”. He persisted to ask what happened and she continued to not answer him. A “fine” (the dreaded word to any man) would have been a welcome relief. Finally, she got off of the bench and trudged alongside my hapless cousin. I wasn’t playing her bullshit games, I ignored her. Later that day, when Sue was doing some collectible shopping, Mike pulled me aside and said “you’re not going to believe what that was about”

“I’m listening,” I said.

“We walked past a popcorn stand and I didn’t think to stop and get her some.”

Wow, I thought to myself. It’s so much worse than I thought! Always the compassionate one I said “She’s not here right now. Run, don’t walk.”

He thought I was kidding.

We got through that day and many others. He eventually proposed. She, of course, said yes. Mike and I were having drinks a few days later. The waiter had just dropped off a fresh round. Mike watched him walk off, leaned back in his chair, looked at me and asked: “what do you think about Sue?”

“What do you mean, what do I think?” I asked him quizzically. “What does it matter, I’m not marrying her.” I was hoping that I would end it there. I wouldn’t be so lucky.

“Cut the shit. Tell me what you think.”

“Don’t make me say it.”

“Say it.” He leaned in and met my eyes.

“She’s a fucking bitch and she’s going to ruin your life!” I blurted.”Happy?” Instantly relieved yet mad at myself. I was waiting for the punch. We had beaten the snot out of each other more than a few times. Bracing for a table full of drinks and a 185-pound cousin landing in my lap, I instead saw before me a perfectly calm guy.

“I’m sorry Mike, I love ya cuz. I’m just thinking about you. Not trying to be an ass.”

In the end, it didn’t make a difference. They got married, I was an usher. I slept with one of her bridesmaids (the streak was intact). I managed to keep it together until about a year later when I was visiting them and their new baby. Sue was being exceptionally bitchy and demanding of Mike. He was exhausted from trying to please her and care for the baby and she was acting like a petulant child. After watching Mike offer to make her different dinners only to be met with indifference and attitude I spoke up. In not so many words I lashed out at her for treating him so poorly. I may have mentioned something along the lines of “like I called it” which wasn’t helpful. Mike, against the wall, had to make a decision and he chose to throw me out. I welcomed the cold air in my face to the cold air coming from that bitch.

We wouldn’t speak for 6 years, when he divorced her. I had been right, but I wasn’t happy about it. She ruined the guy. Mike and I really aren’t the same but we are friendly. We have rules now, one is we don’t talk about Sue. So when he asked me to accept her friend request it brought back a lot of memories.

This ties in with the social media thing as such. Who do you have on your Facebook? I only have family, school classmates, co-workers past and present and a very select few that mean enough to me to follow their lives. I certainly have no room for someone who threw me out of her house many years ago, nor do I think it’s appropriate for someone else to advocate on her behalf. I would like to think that I have some say in whom I interact with.