Monday, September 28, 2009
As in past years, I was going to post this sometime in October. I can't wait, though, as retailers are putting Christmas merchandise on the shelves NOW. In September.
It was bad enough when they encroached on Thanksgiving. Now it's happening before October.
I'm just this side of going postal.
I am seriously giving thought to destroying the next retail Christmas display I see. I mean it. Words just aren't doing it for me now.
If, in the next few weeks, you read a news account concerning a man from the Boston area being arrested for kicking over some shelves in a store...
If you'd consider helping in the ways outlined within the body of what follows, I'll be extremely thankful. You may be saving not only Christmas as it should be, but also my sanity.
When I was a kid, Christmas was magical. The lights were colorful and amazing, making the night a warm, bright, wonderful place to be, even if it was 20 degrees outside and the snow was up to your waist in drifts. If you're old enough, you'll recall that Christmas carols gave you the same sorts of butterflies in your stomach that would be associated with love at a later time in your life. Cities and towns put up decorations on the main streets, with the larger municipalities erecting lovely Christmas trees in central spots.
All of the above worked, on a spectacular level, because it happened at an appropriate time. No retailer (or city or homeowner) dared breach the unofficial line of demarcation – Thanksgiving. It was an unwritten rule that one holiday would play out completely before another was allowed to be spoken of.
Now? Nobody cares. Whatever you can peddle, whenever you can peddle it, is the mantra. It matters not a whit how many people’s memories are trampled, nor how irreligious your displays and advertisements. The only thing that counts is that you get into the black. Restraint and taste are passé. The more outrageous the spectacle you make, the better for your bottom line.
Make no mistake about it: I’m a capitalist. I believe in a system wherein the market regulates itself. I’m all for everybody making as much money as they can, as fast as they can, in whatever way they can, so long as nobody is physically hurt in the process. I’m not looking to enact laws against early Christmas advertising, nor am I in favor of jail terms for such nebulous concepts as greed. What I am in favor of is standing up and being counted. If you decry this incursion upon our holiday ground, I hope you'll join me in raising a slight ruckus. My hope is that we'll make enough noise to affect the situation. If we can’t, then I suppose we deserve this despicable state of affairs.
I’m going to give it a try. I hope you'll help.
If you believe, as I do, that Thanksgiving should play out before Christmas; that Christmas carols should not be heard on the radio before at least Thanksgiving evening; that advertisers who dare to encroach upon Thanksgiving - or, God help us, Halloween - with their hideous advertisements should be told in no uncertain terms that you will not shop at their establishments; that malls who put Santa Claus on display before Veterans Day should be made ashamed of themselves; then please consider doing what I'm going to ask of you.
Should you be as incensed as I am concerning Christmas schlock, please post a "Thanksgiving Comes First" entry on your blog. Write from the heart. Everybody who visits your blog will know how you feel. Perhaps they'll also write about it, and so will their friends, and so on. I hope that, if enough of us do this, we might make some small impact.
Please title your post "Thanksgiving Comes First". If we all do that, it will make a bigger impact. If you wish to reference this post, or other posts with a similar title, please do so. It isn't mandatory. I'm not looking to drive people to my blog; I'm just trying to make a difference concerning something that truly rankles me.
If you wish to use the snazzy graphic at the top of this page, either on your blog entry or as a semi-permanent graphic on your sidebar, I'd appreciate it. Having a visual symbol that folks might see repeatedly would be a big help.
Following are my most personal reasons for wishing to see something positive occur.
I'm a Christian, so I have more than an annoyance factor at work here. I think that cheapening the holiday, by expanding it beyond reasonable bounds, does a world of disservice to my religion. It gives people a false view of it, by making it a greed-fest. However, if you aren’t a Christian, your take on matters may be even more so than mine. If you're Jewish, for instance, it might make you mad to see some of your own festive holy days being given short shrift because of this overkill. If you're an atheist? I imagine it doesn't make you happy to be bombarded by this stuff. Whatever your reasons, please consider telling the world that you've had enough.
(I'm not encouraging obscenity, but I won't discourage it, either. Make it funny, or use it to emphasize a point, but I’d prefer that you don’t be gratuitous just for shock value. Obscenity always works better when it is an organic part of the whole. Be creative.)
(Here's my latest idea: I think a good value, given to merchants who forgo early advertising, would be a nice and proper thing to offer. For instance, Nordstrom's was a retailer that specifically advertised, last year, that they would NOT be filling the aisles with Christmas merchandise until after Thanksgiving. God bless them! We should, at the least, patronize folks like that.
Better yet, offering the combined readership of ALL OF OUR BLOGS as a potential source for retailers who agree not to give the short end of it to Thanksgiving would be nice. If we could give FREE ADVERTISING ON OUR BLOGS to those who solemnly swear to hold in abeyance the tinsel and trees and carols and other such stuff, until after Thanksgiving, that might carry some weight. Just a thought. I've always considered it nicer to offer incentives than to promise punishments.)
So, to reiterate:
If you believe as I do, that Thanksgiving Comes First, then please let your readers know where you stand.
If you post a "Thanksgiving Comes First" entry to your blog, please let me know by leaving a comment here. On Friday of next week, I'll write about this again. If we can get this thing rolling, it will be a joyous post detailing all of the successes and pointing folks to all of the other blogs, including yours, that have decided to fight the madness. If it turns out to be a dismal failure, I'll write about that, instead.
I would suggest, if you are unable to blog about it, that you send letters to the editor of your local newspapers, to other media outlets, as well as letters to the offending merchants. As a matter of fact, even if you DO blog about it, this extra step will go a long way. I had a couple of letters published last year. I'm betting you could have similar success.
(Image courtesy of Thanksgiving Corner)
In order for this thing to have any real effect, it has to keep spreading via others. While I truly LOVE anything you do in response, we have to ask others to do the same. If we don’t, then we’re just ranting. While that might certainly be fun, it doesn’t accomplish nearly as much as making our feelings known and also getting others to make their feelings known.
I firmly believe – and I’m sure you do, too – that the great majority of people are sick to death of the way Christmas has been commercialized. I’d be willing to bet that whenever you talk to anyone about this stuff, they almost always say, "Yeah, me, too!"
Don’t you think we hold the majority opinion on this? If there were some way we could vote on it, wouldn’t we win easily? I sure think so. I think that for every person who loves hearing Christmas music at the beginning of November, there are ten of us who want to blow up the radio it’s playing on. I know that’s the way I feel. And I really, truly LOVE Christmas music. I honestly do. I own some 35 or 40 CDs full of Christmas music. But it has its place, and November (or, God help us, October) really isn’t it.
Are we tilting at windmills? I’d like to think we're not. The response in previous years, from all of you kind folks, gives me hope that it’s a winnable battle.
Can you imagine how sour the pusses of some corporate execs would be if they received printed-out copies of blogs that say "Thanksgiving Comes First"? What if all of us called or wrote some radio station, telling the programming director that we decided to stop listening? If we all wrote a 'letter to the editor' at our local papers, we could definitely expect some to be printed. Last year, mine was - and I’m not nearly as eloquent as some of you. Who knows how many good people might see something like that and decide that they, too, would like to reclaim the season from the merchants?
If we were to flood retailers with e-mails saying that we won’t shop at their stores – giving them the idea that it will cost them actual profits - they’ll listen. Profit and loss is what they judge by, so if we speak with our wallets and purses...
Sooner or later, if we all do one or two of these things, I honestly think we can have some effect. I’m not saying that we’ll bring the corporate world to its knees, nor would I want that. This isn’t a power trip. But, if we can get them to ramp it down a bit, that would be an accomplishment of which we could be proud.
What this is all about, truly, was brought home to me while I was watching Mister Rogers the other day.
You may already know that I consider Fred Rogers to have been an actual living saint. He really was a nice man, as I detailed in a previous post. Anyway, on one of his shows that aired recently, he was explaining the concepts of noisy and quiet. In order to illustrate the difference, he took his television audience to see a musician friend of his.
Fred had the musician, a percussionist, play his many instruments. Some were very loud, while others were soft and gentle. Afterwards, Mister Rogers looked into the camera and spoke. I have to paraphrase, but it will be close enough. He said, “In music, the silences are just as important as the loud parts.”
That’s a very profound statement. The silences are just as important as the loud parts. It’s true, isn’t it? Without the silences, it’s just noise. The silences – the pauses, the gaps, the unfilled spaces – are what give the notes their power and meaning. And when it comes to a holiday, the silences – the quiet times preceding (or even within) the holiday – are extremely important. They give the celebration its power and meaning. That’s why I care so deeply about this. We all need some silences. They’re just as important as the loud parts.
Please keep writing, as well as asking your friends to write. Send off a letter or two, and let us know what sorts of responses you receive. As promised, I’ll list (and link to) all of your blogs a week from Friday.
For now, Google the phrase "Thanksgiving Comes First" and you'll find many past postings. That simple act, in and of itself, also helps to spread the message. Getting many hits on Google, for the phrase, will bring it to the attention of some more good people.
Thank you for listening. God bless you if you help.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
There are coming of age stories. This is a cumming of age story.
(If you have any sort of brains – and I give my readers credit for having the biggest brains on the planet, which means you’ll all be in deep doo-doo when the zombies arrive – then you’ll be on your toes for a quick getaway. Some of you will find the following deeply disturbing, radically gross, and entirely too much information. On the other hand, some of you will just find it revolting.)
This is the story of my first orgasm. Last chance to bail!
Okay, you’ve been warned. If you feel the need to make some sort of comment like "Ew! Ick! Yuck!" then I can only assume you have no reading comprehension skills whatsoever.
A boy’s favorite toy resides between his legs. Yes, it’s a bicycle! No, it’s not. It’s his wiener, of course. Even when the only thing it’s good for is peeing, a boy will still spend an inordinate amount of time pulling at it, twirling it, shaking it, and whatever else can be done with a stretchy thing and two hands. It is his crotch taffy.
(I owe that expression to a woman. To her everlasting relief, I won’t name her. However, she has a spot in The Male Euphemism Hall Of Fame, one of the few female inductees. Crotch Taffy. Hee!)
I was your normal sort of a boy, which means I spent as much time playing with my dick as a Buddhist monk spends in meditation. And, really, it is a sort of meditation, just a more hands-on type. I have no idea what girls do with all that extra time. You’d think, as a result of having that extra time to study, they’d be the ones who were statistically better at math and science, but, then again, many of them have been trained to believe that 6 inches is actually 7 inches, so most of their calculations are off.
Of course, boys have the advantage of having all of their junk easily visible. Girls have to use a mirror, or be contortionists, or otherwise employ unnatural aids. Boys do that, too, but we don’t need to do so. We do it because we’re naturally curious. Also, we’ve seen what dogs can do and we figure why not us, too? Most of us end up sorely disappointed in that regard, of course, but it’s not for lack of trying.
Anyway, when I wasn’t playing baseball, I was finding out what my bat and balls were capable of.
(Testicles are… well, unless a boy is privy to early health classes, all he knows about them is that they’re there and they hurt like hell if you get kicked in them. Otherwise, they seem to serve no useful purpose. Being as obsessed as we are with our dicks, though, we don’t really care. We just chalk it up to life being strange and then get back to the business of inspecting the meat.)
I’m of the firmly held belief…
(Hah! Firmly held!)
(Okay, you’re right. If I stop this thing to comment on every double entendre, we’ll be here for a week. Let’s just plow ahead. I’ll leave it to you to make up whatever obscene asides you might find entertaining.)
I’m of the firmly held belief that all guys - outside of those destined to be Buddhist monks, perhaps – play with themselves about as often as I did. Of course, there are precious few of them getting up on a soapbox and shouting about it like I am. Nevertheless, here you are reading me, so maybe they should have thought of it first.
Before puberty, of course, all of that playing leads to nothing much. Boys get hard-ons, but they’re just a curiosity and serve no real useful purpose. While going from, say, one inch to two inches is an impressive parlor trick – unless you actually do it in the parlor, in which case you should expect a beating – the only real joy exists in giving you a bit more toy to play with. There is no true ultimate goal.
I knew that a goal existed. I had read about it. My father had a somewhat steamy paperback hidden (poorly) in his sock drawer. The more lurid passages of that work of art described, in great detail, the emission of some sort of fluid. It was variously described as spunk, goo, jizz, and cum. I had no idea whatsoever concerning the composition of these liquids, but I gathered that they were supposed to explode, gush, shoot, or otherwise violently exit from a penis (although THAT word certainly never made an appearance and, as a result, I never cultivated a fondness for that descriptive, it seeming much less robust than it’s more earthy cousins.)
The idea of explosions from my dickhead seemed slightly troubling, but I experimented nevertheless. No luck. All of the yanking and tugging resulted in no more than a slight bit of soreness, an accompanying minor friction rash, and perhaps a heightened need to take a pee. I persisted as the opportunity presented itself, since I am nothing if not a hard worker, but no resultant fireworks accompanied my amateur rendition of the 1812 overture played upon my organ.
Then, puberty happened. And, to the best of my recollection, it all happened overnight. I don’t recall much of a chance to wonder at just what in hell was going on. All I knew was one day I went to bed smooth-cheeked and small, the next I woke up needing a shave and bigger underwear.
This was not without it’s gratifications. I had always wanted to shave. And, yeah, the other thing was pretty cool, too.
Still nothing in the explosion department, though. I know some guys have their first in a wet dream, but I didn’t. With my hands-on approach to the situation, the odds were good that I’d be wide-awake to experience my first orgasm, and so I was. It was where I experienced it that I didn’t expect.
Boston Latin School is the most prestigious high school in Boston, perhaps in the entire country. It was founded a year before Harvard. Its graduates include four Massachusetts governors and five signers of The Declaration Of Independence. Its most famous dropouts include William Lloyd Garrison, Benjamin Franklin, and Louis Farrakhan (which puts me in pretty good company, and them in worse company than they might have imagined once this gets read by anyone of import.) Letting me in was the biggest mistake they ever made. The only thing I ever did of note there was to have my very first orgasm in the boy's bathroom.
Before I go on, I feel that some plumbing lessons might be in order. Some women may not be aware of how a man takes a piss. Sure, you know we stand there and it all seems mighty easy, but there is a technique involved. Or, really, a few different techniques, with some or all being used at any one time depending upon how artistic a mind a man was born with. There is shaking, pulling, sliding, contracting of muscles, DE-contracting of muscles... well, basically, just about anything that might be considered masturbatory in a different setting is used as an aide to getting the last of the urine to exit your body. These gyrations are expected and normal in the mens room, as long as you aren’t too flamboyant about it.
Well, one day, between History and English, I had to take a whiz. I went into the lav, waited my turn at a urinal, and then took care of business. While I was finishing up, the bell rang for the next class. I squeezed and pulled, getting that last drop out, and was just about to flop my guy back into my pants, zip up, and go learn the difference between adjectives and adverbs, when I noticed that the squeezing was feeling mighty pleasurable. I was getting an erection. I decided that finding out the cause of this pleasure might be more worthwhile than attending a class about gerunds.
The bathroom emptied out. Everybody else (that is, those interested more in an education than playing with their willies) had gone to class. With the coast clear, I resumed the manipulations that had brought me such recent joy. It kept feeling better and better. And then...
Well, if I go into great detail at this point, it will become raunch rather than reminiscence. Lord knows I’ve been teetering on that brink since the beginning of this piece, but I’m adamant about not going over the edge. Suffice to say that one of those explosions I had been reading about occurred. And quite an explosion it was, too! All things considered, I’d have to say it was THE most gratifying moment of my entire academic career.
Unfortunately, I learned rather quickly about what is called the refractory period. There comes a point (comes a... never mind) when the entire process switches from being a supreme manifestation of all that is right with the universe to an endeavor that, if not painful, is certainly not a great pleasure. I was rather disappointed. I was hoping I could just keep going and make a career of it. I thought I had found my true calling.
I could tell you about my second and third and fourth orgasms, but I don’t suppose there’s any need for that. The first one was important for you to know about. It was responsible for my missing English class that day, so every dangling participle, mixed metaphor, awkward construction, and otherwise unfit-for-human-consumption phrasing you may have been subjected to, by me, can be blamed on that day, including the fact that I use such an obvious illiteracy as my sign off.
Soon, with more better stuff.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
My Cousins - Joey, David, and Joan (Joey's sister) - are in the foreground with Pa, our Grandfather Sullivan. I'm the one in the suit.
Before he died from the drug overdose (see HERE, if need be) my Cousin Joey started writing the story of his life. He wrote it when he was allowed access to a computer while in jail. What follows is the largest chunk of it I have available to reproduce.
Joan, Joey, Me - Christmas, 1967
Joey appears to have made three different starts at writing his story. I have three manuscripts, the largest being eight pages. Some of the same thoughts and stories show up in each manuscript. What I've done here is to combine all of the manuscripts, leaving out the duplicated parts. Other than that, I have not edited it in any way. All I've done is scan the pages I have in my possession, delete the duplications, and insert the pieces left in a somewhat logical order. All of the misspellings, grammatical errors, and other blemishes are intact. My intention in doing so isn't to make Joey look stupid. I think the mistakes actually add some power to the story. They show Joey as he was - a man with demons, grown from an abused boy; not tremendously well-educated, but still with an apt turn of phrase. The story itself is compelling, putting aside any stylistic complaints.
Joey's Mom (my Auntie Ba, known to some as Retzie, others as Loretta), Joan, and Joey - Easter 1968. I'm not certain who the man is. I believe he may be my aunt's boyfriend of the time, someone who was between Joan and Joey's father and their stepfather.
I know he didn't consider these pages finished, by any means. He might not have put this version out in public, had he lived longer, but this is all he left behind. I think he deserves to have his story told, in his own words, after three years in the grave. I hope I've put the pieces together in a way that would have pleased him.
Cousins David, Joey, Joan, Me
Final note: Some of his surviving relatives may dispute the facts as he gives them. I wasn't there; some of those folks were. I am in no position to vouch for the absolute truthfulness of what follows. It is as Joey remembered it. If anyone else from his life has something to add, please feel free to leave a comment. Or, if you feel it's something very important that needs correction, e-mail me and I'll consider the possibility of running the comments as a separate follow-up piece.
Thank you for your patience with this introduction. Here are Joey's own words.
Joey, age 7
THE CHICKEN COOP
By Joe Bucci
MAYBE SIX FEET AIN’T SO FAR DOWN - CREED
The cellar window was easy to push open, I was small enough to squeeze my way through it. The warmth hit my body immediately as I slithered my way quietly onto the dust layered cement floor. Running away from home during the winter months turned out not to be a good idea after all. Twelve years old and on the run, breaking into a cellar to find heat, was better to me than the abuse and insane living I had to deal with in my home. I curled up next to the boiler in a fetal position, as the warmth that was so welcome began to melt the snow that covered my cold body, as I just wanted to sleep, knowing in that state I could be whoever, or wherever, I wanted to be. As I watched the snow drifting silently outside the grimy window I had just snuck through, I could not rest due to the fear of being discovered. Visions of my life flashed by me as I question my own sanity, but I was beginning to feel the warmth and knew I wouldn’t be getting a beating that night.
This is the beginning of my story; It’s been so long in the making due to my own fear of telling such a tale of hardship, pain and failure. I’ve lived a life that needs to be told, there are to many of us still suffering from the abuses of the past and we are misunderstood as well as trapped in a vicious cycle of self destructive behavior that will not allow us to break free of those old beliefs that were once our only guide into adult hood. There is a peace as well as a wonderful life to be lived for those that never really had the chance from the beginning and I will take you there because I have found the way.
My Biological father left the scene when I was two years old, my sister Joan was four and my mom twenty. He had a drinking problem, which caused him to be irresponsible. Mom made him out to be a real loser over the years but when I found him thirty-four years later he would tell me his side of the story. It’s not important to me at this time in my life.
The Chicken Coop was a place where most of the hurt at such an early age affected my life. It was a two family house located in Hyde Park, Mass. It was called the Chicken Coop by my Great grandfather who I was named after, Joe Budvits. Grandpa Joe has long sense passed away, but the love and spirituality that he taught me with has managed to help me survive the crazed years. At around the age of five or six, Grampa Joe would come rescue me from the Coop. He would call on the phone and say, "I’m coming to get you out of that chicken Coop!"
It would be some years later until I came to understand what he meant by that statement. Gramps knew what was going on at 15 Mt. Pleasant because the Father I didn’t know as well as my unknown uncles and aunts already having their dose of the Coop in the early years before my grim sentence.
We ended up living with my fathers' father and his second wife who was my step grandmother. I guess my mom tried to make a go of it before we financially were forced to seek help from my fathers' family. My father was not paying child support and my mom was in and out of court with him. He would end up in the old Deer Island Jail more than once within a few short years due to his none support. His father, my grandfather would take us in. Which gave my mom a chance to get on her feet. During these times the mental abuse would begun by my step grandmother. For some reason to took to my sister really well. Over the years my sister would be pampered and loved as I would be tormented and abused by this women. She was very sneaky and careful not to let it be known or seen for the most part. They say that we get our self-image of ourselves at an early age. I believe that to be true in my case as my step grandmother called me a jackass and a fool as well as stupid ass through all of my childhood. I was constantly left in her care as my Mom was, as I remember, not around. However, when my mom was around I would be the perfect little gentleman. That was my way of hoping she would stick around.
That’s when things became very difficult for me. I was the whipping boy for my step grandmother for many years. My earliest memory was her jamming a peanut butter and jelly sandwich down my throat with her two fingers when I was about four years old. Boo Boo, was on his way to pick me up as I would spend most of my weekends with him and Gram. He happen to come through the apartment door just as she was finished forcing the sandwich down my throat. I was crying and I remember him telling her if she ever laid a hand on me he would kill her.
Step Grandmother just hated it when the Gate to the Coop would open up for me. Getting away from that place was all of what heaven could have been. The weekends were so grand as my Great grandparents would shower me with all the love and attention in the world while they had me.
Boo would pick me up on a Friday afternoon while Great Grandmother, (Grammy) would wait patiently at there apartment waiting for us. Boo and I would make a few stops along the way before getting back to Gram. There were three bars that Boo frequented in Hyde Park. I loved tagging along with him, as he would travel from one to the other each weekend. I’d get a coke and some quarters to play pool. The smell of a bar would become such a home smell to me over the years. The sawdust on the floors and the clinging of bottle to shot glass would trap and secure a place in my mind for the years to come.
Boo would catch a good buzz before we would get back to the house so when Gram would give him hell, it wouldn’t faze him in the least. We would come through the door, I would run to hug & kiss Gram, as Boo would walk past in a hurry heading for the back bedroom for a nap. Every once in awhile they would yell obscenities at each other but it never would go any further then that. During the summer months we would spend our Saturdays going to the amusement parks. Paragon Park, Cannibe Lake, Lincon Park, Jolly Jollies. Gram an Boo would bring their own chairs, setting them up somewhere within my favorite travel areas while I ran wild going from ride to ride. Boo always had his flask full of J&B (liquor) to make the time fun for him to. I knew each one of those parks like the back of my hand before the age eight.
Sundays were very serious days with Boo. We would wake up early an get ready for church. Gram never went but Boo and I would always have the same routine. We would get to the Catholic Church in our home town of Hyde Park at eight forty five, for the nine ‘O’clock mass. Boo would pay or receive a payment from his bookie, as we would go up the Church steps. It took me years to figure it out but Boos’ bookie was the church usher, the same man who would collect the donations, as the people attending the service would put there money into the basket, he would send into the crowds during mass. Boo would constantly direct me to what page and place we would be at in the missal reading. He would sing so loud and proud during the mass always jabbing his finger in my missal booklet keeping me in sink with what was being sung or read.
After mass we would make our regular stop at the cemetery in Reedvile the next town over where Boos’ mother and my biological fathers ancestors had been laid to rest. We would pray over his moms’ grave as well as tend to the grass or plants. In the years to follow we would take care of Grams as well as my grandfathers and, my step grandmother. I know now that Boo Boo, made our Sundays into a routine in hopes that when he passed on I would take over the responsibility of tending to the graves which I have failed miserably at doing as of lately but will do it just as soon as I’m able to.
There was one time that I visited the grave of grams and tried to dig up her grave. At age twenty-six in a drunken stupor with the idea that my life was not worth living, I wanted to go to sleep with Gram. So I passed out on the top of her plot and was woke up by the grave keeper later on that day. I was homeless, Jobless, friendless, as well as addicted to the daily use of cocaine and alcohol. The years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuses had finally caught up with me. For many years I escaped having to face the demons that controlled my moves through life, but now I could run no longer. The gig was up I had reached my first of many bottoms.
My first solo trip out into the world was short lived, at the time my Mom, Sis, and I were living in Brockton, Mass, in a three family house. We lived on the top floor in a seasoned three bedroom apartment. For one reason or another I realized I didn’t like what was going there, so at six years old I packed a suitcase and down the stairs I went into the world all on my own, without anyone telling me what to do. Under my mom and sisters watchful eyes I walked about three houses down the street. I can only imagine that I was getting scared as I ventured out, therefore ten minutes into my journey I decided to head back home. I snuck up into our apartment thinking that I had returned un-noticed so I slipped my suitcase and myself under the bed. Within two minutes or so my mom and sis came into my room. They sat on my bed (as I tried to be as quite as I could) and began to cry, "0" "My little boy has left me and I miss and love him so much." "What will I do without my little brother?" I couldn’t bear to hear them cry anymore so I slipped out from under the bed with a feeling of importance, love, and belonging. They hugged me, made me feel as if I was wanted which is most likely the reaction I was looking for.
So this was not the first time I had run away and it would not be the last. Before age 13, I was known as a full-fledged runner and one of the best. I was unhappy with the home life I had, which consisted of complete and constant fear, misunderstanding, as well as abuse, in all forms. At first my short blast of freedom usually, only would last a week or two but as time went on I found ways to stay away for months at a time. In the beginning I would usually end up coming home on my own after a few days. I would hide over my friend’s houses as they would hide me under their beds or in their cellars. It was really cool those first few times. My friends knew things were so messed up for me at home.
When I finally did get back home there was no beaten or punishment given to me as my mom was just happy to have me off the streets. That happiness would never last long so before long it was back out on another adventure.
Soon after this mom would bring home a boyfriend who would turn out to be my step dad as well as my punisher, spirit killer, and physical abuser.
Joey with his sister, his mom, and his stepfather
Of course he was really great in the beginning of it all but as time would continue on he would become the fear of my life, for my life. I had been with out a father for seven years so it was not an easy adjustment for me. My mom loved this man so much she would give him total control of me. He came from a very strict Italian home where his father believed in physical punishment. Throughout my child hood as well as my teenage years I would receive some of the most brutal beatings that would affect me all through my life right up to this very day. I would also witness the brutal beatings of other men by him also. My step dad convinced my mom that I needed some toughing up due to the fact that I had been without a male from the start of my life.
On one particular summer night Stepfather had been out on the search for me due to the fact that I was late getting in. I remember the night like it was yesterday because it would be the first time I would get an eye witness account of his violence. He found me wrestling with one of my friends and his brother. I was a nine-year-old kid having fun as the time flew by me. As I was getting ready to drop a Chief Jay Strongbow tomahawk chop on my friend Jeff’s neck as we were imitating the most popular wrestling moves of that time and age. I felt a sudden pull on my shirt as I found my self flying backwards through the air. There was step dad with all the anger of the world dragging me to the car yelling obscenities at me.
He tossed me in the car and started punching me in the side along with some slaps to the face. We happen to be parked next to a Dairy Queen ice cream shop in Brockton. This guy was walking by the car while holding two ice cream cones when he noticed step Dad beating the shit out of me. He looked into the caddy an said," Hey, buddy why don’t you lay off the kid?" I’ll never forget the thrashing stepfather put on that beautiful person that had compassion for a little kid getting a man size beating. I can still picture the pints of blood that sprayed out of his nose. That would not be the only nose I would witness broken by stepfather.
Someone was able to get the license plate number of our car as we burned some rubber out of there. Stepfather ended up in the courts, which in the end had him pay the guys’ hospital bill, as well as some court cost with a restitution fee. I blamed myself for what happen that night. If I hadn’t been late getting home, that poor guy wouldn’t have been hurt. That’s what a little kid thinks when stuff like that happens.
Then there was the time I played Doctor with the girl my age in the shed in her back yard. I remember us piling up stones on each other’s privates for whatever reason. Two little kids with a little curiosity about our different parts. Her brother who was a year or two older walked in on us so I asked him to swear on his Boy Scout honor that he wouldn’t tell. Come to find out he wasn’t a boy scout because when I got home mother was really pissed.
She sent in to my room to wait for step dad to come home from work. He called me down to the kitchen later that evening. When I got there he told me to stand up on the kitchen chair, which I did. Then he told me to pull my pants down which I also did, unwillingly of course. "Hold your pecker out as far as it will go," he told me. I stretched the little bugger out, as he took out the butcher knife he had been sitting on the whole time and placed it about an inch from my little pecker. He said, "I’m going to cut it off so you will never be able to do what you did with that girl." To be totally honest I really don’t know what happen after that but I still have the pecker thank God! I imagine that I went into shock after that for a while and that’s why I don’t remember.
Funny thing is word got out about what that girl and I did so two days later I was walking down the street I lived on an these two girls a couple years older then me started teasing me. They wanted me to do to them what I had done to the girl I messed with. They chased me into some woods and started pulling my pants down. I was yelling because all I could think of was step father cutting the pecker off; that bastard ruined me in so many ways.
I once became lost in that neighborhood shortly after we moved there while riding my bike. I had been exploring the new turf, as little boys will do. I started to panic because I could not find my way home and it was getting late. All I kept thinking was I was going to be beaten for being late. The next thing I know he pulls up beside me in his car with a big smile on his face while I’m crying my eyes out thinking I was going to get it, instead he ask me "what’s wrong?" So I tell him "I couldn’t find my way home." He laughed at me and told me to stop crying like a little girl and follow him home.
The fear he would cause in my life would cause me to collapse into my inner self where no one would be welcome for many years to come. There seemed to be no answer to the problems that were constantly surrounding me. Why, I asked myself; why me? I felt so alone. I wondered how I was going to survive this life any longer? Wasn’t there anyone who could be trusted to help me? I wanted desperately, not to be me, as I would close my eyes on many occasions hoping to wake up somewhere different, someone different. I hated me and in the years to come I would prove that in more ways then one. I would soon learn that stepfather was a very unpredictable man, most addicts are. I could never figure out the right thing to say in any given situation. He would use this as a weapon against me as the years would go by.
The beatings at home were coming more often, as well as the feeling of not being wanted. I had a strong belief that I was not loved by those God choose me to be born to. I would spend most of my young life closing my eyes and praying that I would wake up in the home I was really meant to be in with the family he had really meant me to be with. I chalked my life up to being this great holy punishment passed on down through the generations due to some evil thing one of my ancestors had committed against God at some distant past time, which automatically gave me the impression that I was also a evil being.
It seemed like I was always in trouble; no matter what the cause, they would always say it was that Richard blood, left in me by the drunken Father that left mom, sis, and me, too fend for ourselves.
I believe my behavior was for the most part due to the fact that I had been sexually abused while age six, by a male adult friend of the family. On multiple occasions while he and his wife happen to be sleeping in the bedroom next to mine. I had no clue as to what he was doing, but it sure felt nice while he was down there doing that with his mouth. I was just a kid, so I had no clue as to what he was doing to me, but he was an adult so it must have been o.k. Besides I was getting some attention that wasn’t in the form of physical pain or verbal abuse, this was some kind of love, so I thought! He told me that what we did would get us both in a lot of trouble if anyone was to find out so it was to be our secret. He would
And that's where the manuscripts ended.
Rest In Peace, Cuz.
Joan, Joey - Easter, 1967
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Today is the third anniversary of my Cousin Joey's death. When he died, I wrote about his passing. I am re-publishing what I wrote at the time. I have some misgivings about doing so.
I'm somewhat of the thought that putting these words out here again is self-serving. It's raw stuff - some of which makes me uncomfortable in the re-reading - and the urgency I felt then is obviously not present three years after the fact. In the end, I've decided that the piece needs to be seen again, the reason being that it is the most suitable prelude to the piece I will be posting here tomorrow.
To be clearer: I have a new post, concerning Joey, that I want to publish tomorrow. It may not convey the feeling I believe it should without this re-print preceding it.
After this re-print, there's an addendum. If you've read this before, and don't wish to do so again, please feel free to skip down to the end.
I saw him on Friday and he was clean. I swear he was clean. I've spent enough time doing drugs and hanging with people doing drugs to know. He was absolutely clean. And he wasn't jonesing. He was relaxed and happy. And clean.
This morning I got the call that he was dead.
They say he overdosed. Or, at least, that he was on something when he died. It doesn't make any sense.
For all of his adult life, Joe was in and out of jail. It was almost always drug-related in some way. He had serious substance abuse issues. And if I had received the phone call at any other time during the previous 25 years, I wouldn't have been shocked. Today, I'm shocked. For the first time ever, I truly believed he might be beyond his problems; that he might have a true chance at making his life over. And now he's dead. And they say he overdosed.
I can't get my head around this at all. When we spoke on Friday, he was as upbeat as I'd ever seen him at any time during the past 25 years. He talked about his job and how much he liked it and how much money he was making. He talked about visiting his 13-year-old son and going back-to-school shopping with him, being able to buy him some nice things for the first time in years. He talked about coaching the softball team at the halfway house where he now lived, and how much he liked the responsibility of doing so, and how much fun he was having being the authority figure and a good example for the guys on the team.
And now he's fucking dead.
My cousin Joe was sweet and kind and generous and loving and beautiful, when he was sober. When he wasn't sober, he was an asshole. That's the bottom line and he knew it. I think the biggest difference between the two of us is that I was a happy high and he became depressed and violent. When we sat together in my living room on Friday night, talking, before MY WIFE got home and before my mom and stepfather arrived, he told me that he finally realized that he was a nice person. He said that he knew I'd been telling him that for years, but he had heard it from so many other people lately, he finally believed it. He said that knowledge had made all the difference recently. And he sounded like it really had made a difference.
Whenever he spoke in years past about cleaning up and finding religion and turning his life around, I always had the gut feeling - proven true in every instance - that it wasn't completely true. I always prayed that it WOULD be true, but I never fully believed. This time was different. It was the first time I had the feeling that he really was turning it around and that everything might be OK for him.
We sat together eating Chinese food on Friday night. My mom, my stepfather, MY WIFE, me and Joe. We had a really good time. We laughed a lot. Joe had just gotten a cell phone about a week earlier and it was one of those that took pictures. He took pictures of all of us and asked some other folks at the restaurant to take one of all of us together. I suppose those pictures are lost now.
He showed us all a picture he took of his son, Nathaniel, earlier that day. He's a big kid. He's 13 years old, I think, and going to be playing high school football this year. He's already an inch taller than Joe and wears a size 13 sneaker. He's playing, as you might expect, on the line. Joe was mighty proud of Nathaniel.
He has another son that he wasn't able to see because of his many problems. It ate him up. He had said that the judge in the case told him that once he cleaned up, he should come back and re-apply for visitation rights.
That was another reason for him to stay clean. It makes no sense at all. He had every reason to not fuck up. Aside from life reasons, he had to know that he was subject to testing at the halfway house and that he wouldn't be able to hide anything.
No sense at all.
The plans thus far are for no service and a cremation. I don't have a say in it. If I did, I'm not sure what I'd do, but I know that Joe talked at length about God's love for him. He was currently a member of something called The Church Of The Nazarene. I don't know anything about the organization, nor do I know where Joe may have attended services. It feels wrong, though. I understand the expediency, but I know that's not what he would have desired.
Did Joe have a right - does Joe have a right to what he desired? Did he forfeit that?
There is going to be an autopsy. No results yet. No definitive answer. If I hear that the results show he fucked himself up again, I'll accept that because what else is there to do other than to accept a stone cold truth? But he had other medical problems. He had diabetes and high blood pressure and hepatitis. He was taking meds for all of those things. Couldn't it be that he was clean and just died from a combination of bad circumstances and bad health? I'm hoping for that result. I want Joe to go out clean. I want for him to have been on the right track. I want to believe.
Joe fucked up a lot in his life. He was also fucked with a lot. According to his writings, which he did at length while in jail and in recovery programs, he was severely abused as a child. There is no corroborating evidence; no one else saying the things he says happened did happen. Lots of people who fuck up invent circumstances to explain why they fucked up, make excuses, embellish things. I don't think Joe did. I've read a good part of what he wrote. It has the ring of truth.
And he never compromised in telling me about what he had done to land himself in jail. I asked him about his latest stint, on Friday, and he laid out how he screwed up, in self-damning detail.
True or not, an abusive childhood was no excuse for the things he did. Lots of people have bad childhoods and they lead productive, honest lives. But, a couple of bad breaks here or there, and not as good a support system, and I'm where he was. Joe stole things and lied and got into violent situations. He did drugs in volume. I'd be a hideous hypocrite if I beat him up for it because I've been there and done that. But it's because I've been there and done that, that I saw him on Friday and I knew he was clean and I finally had real honest-to-God hope for him.
And whatever I felt on Friday means nothing. Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.
When I ran for state rep, Joe held a sign for me and worked a polling place. He was a member of our wedding party. When I was in bands, Joe was my biggest fan. He had a tattoo - he did it himself - of one of my band's names. Quite a few years back, he played with me on the Bombers softball team for one year and he was a good player and a good teammate. We talked Friday about his playing again for the Bombers next year, after he finished his probation. I was looking forward to that.
He was a regular reader of this blog and he thought way too highly of my writing skills. When he left our house on Friday evening, he had a hard copy of one of my pieces to read on the train home. You'll find a couple of comments of his if you read the archives. He was more complimentary in person...
I wrote a song last month. When I wrote it, I was just talking about my experiences. I actually wrote it because someone else I know is having some problems and I wanted that person to know that I knew what they were going through. The day before I saw Joe for the last time, I was writing music to go with it and re-reading the lyric. I thought about showing it to him when he came over on Friday. As I said earlier, he was a fan of my music. I thought that he might find this hitting a place in his heart.
It's still a bit rough. It's best read as one continuous line, with the urgency and attention deficit of a rabid cocaine user. The title is "Dead End".
Line after line after line after line
After line after line after line up my nose
Wash it down in the back of my throat with
Straight shots from the bottle of vodka I chose
When I went to the liquor store moments ago
It was just after scoring an 8-ball of blow
And I know it's no good and it gets me nowhere
And I'm broke and a loser and nobody cares
If I die on the street just as long as they're paid
And I don't leave a clue and I'm starting to fade
So I open the bag again pour out two piles
And chop up a couple of powdery smiles
That I know I'll need more of that I can't afford
And I don't give a damn because I'm fucking bored
And I've traded my life for a chemical friend
And I'm running head on into a dead end.
OK, I've let out some of the anger I'm feeling about this. I feel like I should cry, but I haven't so far.
When I got the phone call this morning, from Joe's sister, MY WIFE gathered from the bits she heard on our end that Joe was dead. She came up to me and put her arms around me. I'm sure she expected me to cry then. I didn't. I came close at one point while writing this, but I still haven't. There's something inside of me that needs to hear the autopsy report, I think. Until then, it's too confusing. I still can't grasp the idea that Joe might have overdosed. I want to hear that he didn't. Then I'll cry.
I don't know what I'll do if I hear that there were illegal drugs in his system. I know I'll still be sad, but part of me will not want to validate Joe's choice to fuck up one last time.
I know that an addict's brain works in such a way as to look for excuses to fuck up. I've been there; I've done that. Being in a great place in your life can be seen as just as good an excuse to do stuff as being in a bad place. In a bad place, you figure you've got nothing to lose and fuck the world. In a good place, you figure you can afford to lose a little bit of it and it won't make a difference. You figure you can enjoy a bit and then get out with your life still in a good place.
You do not expect to not have your life, good or bad, at all.
My prayers... My hope is that Joe is in a better place. As he walked out the door Friday, he gave me a big strong hug, kissed me on the neck, and said, "I love you, Cuz."
Me, too, Cuz.
Here's the new stuff, some of which is condensed from two follow-up postings I did back at the time of Joey's death.
The autopsy came back showing that Joey had, indeed, died from an overdose. He had a wake and I cried at it. He was a troubled soul, too sweet and loving - when sober - to not shed tears for when he was in a damn box. He never did anything to really harm me, in any way, through all of whatever dealings we had together.
The photo at the top of this piece, of Joey and my mother, was taken on the night before he died (at the Chinese restaurant where, as it turned out, he had his last supper.) His face, overall, is a happy one. The eyes, however, haunt me. There seems to be pain, a small pleading for help. I may just be reading that into them knowing what I know now.
And now, having set the scene, I can post the next piece. Thanks for your patience and understanding. Please come back tomorrow for something entirely new, written by Joey himself.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Lately, there have been nothing but filthy dirty lewd vile disgusting licentious pornographic posts here. I know that some of you find that delightful, as do I, but if I ever want this blog to grow up and become a respectable member of society, I can't just write about jelly-filled dildos all the time. So, here's something to get us back on track as a normal God-fearing (or God-loving; take your pick) community of by gosh reg'lar folk. What takes the mind off of sex quicker than anything on the planet? Baseball, of course!
This is a reprint from 2006. It is clean, wholesome, family-oriented, devoid of even the slightest obscenity, and all-together totally unthreatening (except possibly to Yankees fans.) What this means, of course, is that some poor soul will read this, like it a lot, then start exploring the archives, at which point he or she will stumble upon all of the previously-mentioned filth and die from a heart attack. I'm just trying to bring joy to the world in whatever small way I can.
Without any further ado - and I actually mean that this time - here's...
THE DAY I BECAME A RED SOX FAN
I can pinpoint with precision the day I became a Red Sox fan. It was Sunday, July 12th, 1964.
I was seven at the time, and my parents were visiting the home of my Great Uncle Jim. He was a bachelor who shared an apartment in Roslindale (a neighborhood of Boston) with two of my unmarried great aunts, Aunt Loretta and Aunt Pat. I remember many a pleasant day visiting there with my parents.
The apartment building they lived in has since been torn down, much to my chagrin. Looking back, I suppose it was a somewhat strange apartment. For a kid, though, it had all sorts of interesting and mysterious features. I loved the place.
When you went in the front door, you entered a vestibule populated by a love seat and side table, neither of which was ever used by anyone, for anything - but they looked nice. The vestibule led to a long hallway, from which you entered the rooms of the apartment proper on the right. The long wall of this hallway was covered with family photographs, portraits of various Kennedys, and a gigantic depiction of Jesus wearing his crown of thorns, agonized and bleeding. The rooms included three bedrooms; a bathroom (with a magnificent lion's paw tub); a sun porch with stucco walls (where I spent many hours reading while stretched out on a cane couch, most notably The New Yorker Book Of Cartoons and a tearjerker childrens book called, as I remember, So Dear To My Heart, which was about a boy and his pet black lamb); the living room (which had a grand oriental rug and a severe [the only adjective I can think of that fits] couch, with wooden arms and brass studs. It was near impossible to get comfortable on it, not in any way like the overstuffed ones I was used to from my own home or my grandparent's place); a kitchen (where everyone spent the most time, sitting around the table drinking coffee, chainsmoking, and arguing politics, and where my Aunt Loretta always had lemon Jell-O awaiting me in the refrigerator); the dining room (where a box of Candy Cupboard chocolates was an ever-present temptation, and I wasn't one to resist temptation); and a pantry (which was something that astounded me, coming as I did from a home where foods were kept in cabinets and didn't have their own separate living quarters.)
My Great Uncle Jim was an interesting guy. First off, he was stouter than any other man in the family. Perhaps I'd look at him now and think "fat", but as a kid he was just... substantial. A bit jowly, with ever-present glasses and his dark hair combed straight back, he looked a bit like Edward Arnold, who played "Big Jim Taylor" in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. He had been elected to the office of State Representative in 1945, serving one term in the Massachusetts legislature. He had also been Commissioner Of Public Buildings during some part of the tenure of James Michael Curley, a renowned (or reviled, depending upon which side of the aisle you were on) Mayor of Boston, Governor of Massachusetts, and Congressman. I don't know how my Uncle Jim got on Curley's A-List, but it wasn't surprising. Uncle Jim was a very smart fellow - so far as I know, the only college graduate from his generation on that side of my family - and a hard worker.
Anyway, on this particular day, while my parents and aunts sat in the kitchen, talking about whatever parents and aunts talk about on a summer Sunday, Uncle Jim removed himself from the conversation to go sit in his favorite comfy chair in the living room and watch the Boston Red Sox play a doubleheader against the Washington Senators. I wasn't interested in the conversation, so I tagged along.
The Red Sox and Senators were battling it out to see which team could clinch 9th place before September. The Sox were three years away from the beginning of their rise to glory, the marvelous "Impossible Dream" team of 1967. The starting infield was populated by the likes of Felix Mantilla, Eddie Bressoud and Dick Stuart. Of the regulars that year, Bressoud led the team with a .293 average. Dalton Jones and a young Carl Yastrzemski tied for the team lead in stolen bases with 6, so they obviously didn't have speed to make up for their lack of hitting. The Senators, on the other hand, had such luminaries as Ron Kline, Fred Valentine, Eddie Brinkman and Don Lock on their roster. In 1964, you would have been hard pressed to find a less-appealing doubleheader, but Uncle Jim was a seriously diehard baseball fan.
Anyway, Uncle Jim settled in to watch this thing on his black and white TV, and I settled in next to Uncle Jim, laying by the side of his chair on the oriental rug. Curt Gowdy was calling the action, such as it was.
I knew very little about baseball, so I asked Uncle Jim all sorts of idiotic and (to a knowledgeable fan) exasperating questions. Questions like, "How come when the guy catches a ball on the ground it's not an out like when it's in the air? Isn't that harder?" and "If the guy with the bat gets to first base before the other guy catches his fly hit, is he safe?".
Uncle Jim answered all of my questions, patiently and thoroughly. Meanwhile, the Sox split the doubleheader with the Senators. Over the course of the five or six hours we sat in front of the TV watching, I became hooked. I have lived and died with the fortunes of the Red Sox since then, and even had a secondary rooting interest in the Senators, until they deserted Washington for Texas in the 1970's.
The Red Sox radio and TV theme song lives on in my head to this day...
You're just in time for the ballgame
You're just in time for excitement and fun
WHDH has reserved your place
So glad you could make it; So glad you could come
Here's Curt Gowdy standing by
The voice of the Red Sox; A real nice guy...
I also learned a number of commercial jingles which will never leave my memory. For instance...
Schaeffer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one!
Atlantic keeps your car on the go, go, go
So keep on the go with Atlantic!
I could probably dredge up a couple more jingles of defunct products, but MY WIFE will read this and then say to me, as she often does when I reel off something utterly obscure and useless, "So, Jim, what are your cousin's names?", and I'll mumble obscenities and leave the room, disgraced.
My Uncle Jim died in 1969, at the age of 72. When he was 21, the Red Sox had won the World Series. He never saw them win another one. Thanks to him and his patience on that day in 1964, I had the incomparable thrill of enjoying the Sox big win in 2004. I've also played ball myself for over forty years now, which I probably wouldn't have done if I hadn't become such a big fan of the game then. All in all, some of the most spectacularly enjoyable wasted hours of my life I owe to him and his patience on that long-ago Sunday.
Thanks, Uncle Jim.
Soon, with more better stuff.