Monday, October 31, 2011

The Honda Chronicles 2

January, 2010

Hope none’a y’all mind, but I’ma take it from here. First off, I wouldn’t trust a compact car with a screw driver, let alone to tell a story right.

Hey there, name’s Double Bogey. Lotta folks got to callin’ me “The Blend Bus”, but my formal is “Double Bogey” or “DB”. Was a name given to me by Toussaint and Spencer. We had a rough outing from Sioux Falls back to the Cities, and after all the mechanical work I’d needed, the fellers went with a self-depricating-but-regal title for me. Double Bogey, fits just right.

Aside from sittin’ here in the great hereafter, I served diligently as transportation for the St. Cloud public school system, and then onto my later, and final, years as the bus for the band The Blend.

Yes, I said “hereafter”. My days as a functional vehicle are long done and over. I’ve been passed along to the scrap heap, and- in so many words- am dead. I don’t like to use the word “dead” much, but seems to be a term thrown around us mechanical folk all our lives. “My car died”, “Tried turnin’ the key, but it’s dead”, etc. Either way, I’m gon’ tell it like it is for the next chapter of this here story ‘bout Toussaint, his old lady Dana, and that heap ‘a trouble Honda.

I saw it all. I was around the corner from Dana’s apartment as Toussaint pulled up in Honda to rest it at it’s potential final public parking destination. The hood was tore to shit, got damn bumper almost hangin’ off the damn thing, and a cracked windshield… probably already there, but hell- gotta give’er the full picture here.

A broken man of sorts, less than half the man- if anything at all, Toussaint stepped outta the wreck. Feller could barely pull himself to Dana’s apartment. Think the guy had thoughts of takin’ that car off’a cliff. It ain’t a thang to fix, and definitely wasn’t a life-endin’ situation. From the looks of it, what seemed to be the trouble was a combination of two things: 1. How do you explain a hood dislodgin’ from a car while doin’ 55mph on the highway? Ya can’t. The audience and/or person hearing you out would have to have the rocks and patience to respond, “… welp. Let’s get a hammer and fix’er.” I’m pretty sure Toussaint knew Dana’s parents weren’t the easy-goin’ type when it came to stuff like this. Hell, I’d met Dana, and sure as hell knew right off the bat not even so much as a sneeze could get by her. The woman had cat-like senses, bitched like the dickens, and never forgot. And then 2… welp, I forgot where I was gon’ with that, but however Toussaint stayed up in that apartment for what seemed like a few hours. The man walked out like he’d been to hell and back, but never left it in his head. He and I drove elsewhere for the da y… just to return back to Dana’s apartment to meet up with her mother and sister to go over Honda’s damage.

I’ve seen some shit in my day. Winter breakdowns in the midst of nowhere, a trailer almost detach itself from my rear-end on the high way of the bible belt, multiple arrests outside’a clubs betwixt the armpit of rural America and the wrong side’a town- I wanna say I seen it all, but I ain’t the braggin’ type, nor am I the one to claim I know it all. I will declare I’ve seen a lot of what compels people to define this country’s greatness, and I’ve seen potentially just as much that compels a man to kill himself. If the big man upstairs is keepin’ a stat list, I’m purdy damn sure Spencer and Toussaint have eluded the ol’ final note more times than Gaddafi, that being the fact both of’em err still alive at this moment- but that’s aside the point. This situation no where near the means of suicide or greatness, it was most definitely an all time low. It was the final year of my life on the roads of earth, and the final year of Toussaint’s denial. A certain denial, but no means of the last for’em. I can’t say when a man has come to terms with the truth, but the Dead-Man-Walking pace Mr. Morrison drudged at towards Dana’s mother and sister, there was no denyin’ the man had come to terms with his circumstance and lousiness. Like I said, I’ve seen some shit, but to watch a man walk towards the mother of his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend through 20 below zero temperature was damn near the saddest memory of my life. There’d only be settling at this point… no victory.

Seen there mouths movin’, but somehow that f*ckin’ Honda wasn’t startin’. If Toussaint or Dana’s family knew a damn thing about a thing, they’da seen the alternator was older than the 35w bridge that went down, and easily wasn’t the end of the world for the car. Alternators are replaceable- ain’t nuthin’ like an engine, exhaust manifold, intake manifold, blah blah blah- point bein’ the car wasn’t startin’. Toussaint and the ol’ gals left for a moment and returned to try and put engine coolant in the gas line. F*uckin’ hell Jon… First off, you put engine coolant in the engine coolant valve, UNDERNEATH THE HOOD- not the f’n gas line. Sure fire way to mess the damn thing up even better. The lack’a garage know-how will blind a man in this country.

Ol’ gals and Toussaint left the car. He hands over the keys along with his dignity to the women and rolls back to me. He and I head back to campus where critical maneuvers are to be made.  The kid had several options: 1. Give up on the relationship with Dana & tell’er parents to go screw themselves all together, 2. Try and maintain the relationship, & tell’er parents to go screw themselves all together, 3. Give up on the relationship and take every last financial responsibility for the car, and lastly 4. Try and maintain the relationship while take every last financial responsibility for the car.

Dana’s father was quick with the altercation. The man was the 2nd coming in his small hometown, owner of several properties throughout it, and had a cadence that’d rob you of your self-confidence the second he shook your hand. The next day, he’d sent Toussaint an email that laid out two options. I understand you’re asking yourself how I know this- I’m a bus, I get it. If you’da taken a picture of the inside of me around this time, you’d hear just about every phone conversation between Toussaint and his trust-worthies and nabbed every paper of reported student loan debt and/or writing the man had ever came about. People talk about privacy… I was the lock & key of it to The Blend, and unfortunately to Toussaint. The two options can be summed up as such: Either pay me 2200 dollars and you can have the title to Honda- yes, the broken down Honda, or 2. You can pay me 1900 dollars for what the Honda is worth in scrap metal, and it gets trashed. If you haven’t smelled the bullshit yet, then clearly you don’t know the worth of an alternator and/or a junker car… and it ain’t above 1800, let alone 800. Sweet Christ on a Baptist- I nearly dropped my lugnuts and lost ma belts when I heard the likes of this!

Read back, think about it. You have a shitty hand, none but your fault… and now, you’ve just received word from the asshole lookin’ over your shoulder that you have a shittier hand than you thought. Where Honda could’ve just laid in peace, died a diligent death- Where Toussaint could have simply walked away from Dana and Honda, left it all in the past and chalked it up as a lesson learned- neither was an option. Of all things to retain when departing a debacle, I believe it’s a human’s natural instinct to salvage one thing in that tenure of heat and trial… that one thing being self-respect. Fortunately, Toussaint had become a kin to clinging to self-respect, and pride, and self-righteousness, in any situation that threatened it (If you’re saying “idiot” in your head, then we’re on the same page).

Toussaint had planned to spit in the eye of the asshole whispering over his shoulder- the guy that negated a civil discussion, the guy that was telling him and not asking, the guy that was trying to sell him a broke-down car for 2000 dollars. This would be difficult, just like anything involving a break-up and a car.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sid Did It #4

“I don’t wanna hold your hand! I’m mad at you- gah!” Sid said marching down the stairs to the bus. It’s partially policy we hold the kids’ hands when they walk down the stairs, for balance, safety, etc. At this point in the day, Sid’s had enough coddling and doesn’t want the help. Barely at 5 years old, you’d think he’d need it, but trust him- he doesn’t. Sid has a core body strength that would put Pacquiao in jeopardy, let alone an innocent teacher trying to hold his hand. I’m not a teacher though. I’m a paraprofessional.

Last year went swimmingly. I was introduced to Sid, who’s been diagnosed with Emotionally Behavior Disorder (EBD), as a one-on-one paraprofessional. We worked well in the beginning of the tenure; the road got expectantly rocky, but soon found a balance throughout the year. Back to the school with the kids and a cast of new characters as well, I had long found my niche and repoire with the new school year of Pre-K students. On the brink of leaning towards shows and modeling for spending & saving money, I received a call from Sid’s school saying they would need a paraprofessional for the school year up to December. “Perfect!” I thought. A woman left on maternity leave, and the shuffle of staff wound up leaving a paraprofessional position open. I immediately agreed to the position. No hesitation, I had two days notice before I was back in the classroom chasing down 3 year-old escape artists, and tending to young genius minds. Truly loved the job… but, as they say “all good things must come to an end”.

What Sid doesn’t know, is that I won’t be coming back after today. Last school year’s last day of school had an appropriate goodbye, adieu, and hug at the end. However, for this- the end is so impromptu, I don’t even know how to say goodbye to the kid. Hired as a general para for the entire classroom, Sid and I still had a connect that fostered from last year. So, when he doesn’t want his hand held, I simply do not pursue it and keep the conversation going. Since Sid had been doing so well from his entrance to the school, his willingness to be vulnerable had gone up. That vulnerability lived in the listening, the cooperating, building some kind of relationship and accountability with the teachers.

Stepping on the bus, looking out from the dim tint of the window, he frantically waved his hand to me. The end of the school day. I waved back, pressed my hand against the window… and there it is. It’s over. Somehow the shuffle of the woman on maternity-leave got derailed. A series of staff shifts later… and I’m out. Not ideal and anything but what I expected.

After a series of VH1 behind-the-music moments on tour the past weekend, I received a call from my boss’ boss late Sunday night. She informed me of the staff shuffle, asked me to come in on Monday, but that it’d probably be my last day at the school. I haven’t even digested the magnitude of my exit until now. What the hell are those kids going to think? Where’s the accountability in the equation? What’ll they say to Sid and the rest when they ask about me? I’m at a loss. Money is always replaceable, but time is an impossibility. I’ll be gone by January, and in no spirit to think about this until maybe my return to Minneapolis. I’d assume at some point I’ll get a call from the school to cover for someone, but what of it…

When we ruled the schoolyard, the hallways of elementary school- we absolutely loathed substitute teachers, part-time youth workers in and out of the building like a restaurant, and above all held no respect for any adult that wasn’t willing to stick around. It was the ones that stood like monoliths that impacted us the most. Given the kid’s only 5, it wouldn’t be right to waltz back in there on a substitute shift. I’d like to think the time is much greater than that.

No job, several songs into a mixtape, The Blend soon to release a new album next month… I know where this is headed. I had a regiment going, a sleep plan, a schedule if you will- but now, I absolutely know where this is headed. The first thing to go will be the sleep schedule. I’ll be up ‘til 2am or later every night writing, typing, and emailing. Next, I’ll be of no use to anyone or anything other than my notebook, backpack, Jake, and the handful of people I tour with. I’ll keep in touch with people out of town more than anyone in Minneapolis, the track of time will begin to slip… and then it’ll happen: road trip. I’ll just pile into the car and take the f off. Nothing wrong with it, but when I have no reason to stay in one place, I begin to slip into everywhere else but home.

Sucks to be out of work in less than 24 hours notice, but I don’t think there’s a better candidate than myself to handle it. However, I have gathered that when working with kids either I’m there on part-time duty or I’m all in. I don’t wanna hop in and out of a kid’s life like that. Most the students have situations where police, parents, and/or professionals are rotating in & out of there life like a broken record. My long term goal is to develop a foundation of trust and responsibility between myself and the students. This past process has been anything but. Sadly as well, the trust between me and the employer has been frayed to suspect. When anyone can drop you within less than a day’s notice… there is no room for promise afterwards.

Sid buckles into his seat. The bus pulls away… There they go. The young genius’ and future of the city all in one bus headed to their respective homes and daycares. Easily I’ve learned more from them than any school that’s fostered my attention.

Kick ass and take names, Sid. The world is yours, don’t let’em tell ya any different.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Return Of The Street Fighter

I’d been working with the book(s) for some time, and for some strange reason… I lost it. Waking the next morning, realizing the black binder book was missing, I checked back to the last place I remember using it, the Spyhouse coffee house. The value of the book is a long time coming, and is currently happening. Future mixtapes are in it, and I can’t remember a time in the past two years that I haven’t jotted some kind of important work within its pages.

There is something special about the book as well, it has a tattoo. Whenever someone takes it upon themselves to write in a book of mine, make a lewd drawing, or stick a sticker to its cover- I call that a tattoo. This one had been tattooed before I’d even written in it. It’s dated to 4/21/03 “Hope you have a wonderful birthday. Thought you’d appreciate a place to write down your memories of tonight + thoughts of tomorrow. Happy 21st! <3 Gwen”.

Gwen and I dated for the span of 2 weeks, but cascaded a cold war that still hasn’t died (check the date of the book, then check your calendar… do the math). However low the temp has reached between the two of us, we can survive in the same bar together. Meh, Gwen’s not the point of importance here, the weight of this book is relative to the f’ng Book of Eli. I’d memorize the damn thing and walk the world with an AR-15 to protect its content if I had to… but I don’t, thankfully.

Rewinding my tracks back to the Spyhouse on Nicollet Ave, the barista directed me to the lost & found… and fortunately it was the latter. Found the book, tossed it into the foot rest of the passenger side of my car, Honda. Zoomed to work, parked the car in the garage section at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and leapt into action. My shift lasted for two hours, made all of 6 bucks in tips after serving one table- worthless. I returned to the car.

Upon jumping into the driver side, I noticed a mound of large magical dust in the front passenger seat- large magical dust in the shape of shattered shards of window. The gravity departed my rib cage, breath flown from me, and emptiness subsides the next seconds. Seconds to feel like minutes, to feel like an eternity stripped away from my private universe: my car. Broken glass scattered all throughout the seat and car where someone had smashed in the passenger side window.

Months ago…
A gal and I just split. Truly a horrible break, it was. Having just left the break, I couldn’t think of anything more cliché than to go to Barnes & Nobles and enjoy my new found free time. Once you’re out of a relationship, and it was clearly the right decision to be out of the relationship; you find yourself breathing with a smile, walking with a lil’ pep in your step, and responding to women after shows differently than you would while in a monogamous situation. Well, strutting into Barnes & Noble, the cover of a book caught my eye. I delved into it, vamping through page after page after page, always flipping back to the “Table of Contents”. “Several Women To Never Date” read the chapter. I laughed out loud, the way you laugh out loud with your good friends in company- nothing holding your lungs back, or volume from concern of bothering others around you. Barnes & Noble has that comfort to it. I feel everyone is legally contracted to laugh out loud as they would at a dinner party with several glasses of wine in them.

Back to the book, I dared read further into the chapter of “women to never date”. The titles were brash, offensive, misogynistic and a bit off-the-wall… except for one: The Street Fighter. The chapter describes the Street Fighter as continuance of negating anything and everything you bring to the table. Past, present, and future problems are your fault, even agreeing to disagree will do no good, the Street Fighter feeds off the moment of conflict. Their lives are in constant disarray, argument, and personal matter-of-fact opinion. The Street Fighter has life advice for everyone, instant critique of those they’ve just met, and a thirst for the- well, the fight. My jaw lay open by the end of the read. I’d just evaded the Street Fighter, the woman I’d just dated. I fashion myself a good street fight every now and then, but this past situation was war day-in, day-out. It was destined to break, weathered the very awning of my happiness, and find a daily shit storm to throw in the face of any positive outlook I’d tried to keep on the relationship. In the end, it ended the worst way. Voluminous yelling, doors slamming, after 2am texting/calling, beyond the personal and into the malicious… twas ugly. One way or another, I was happy to be out of it.

“Whatever you can do, stay away from the Street Fighter. Do not engage with this one, for even when you’ve parted ways, the Street Fighter will always find a way to partition the ongoing battle.” I laughed aloud again. “No way!” I thought to myself… “no way”, my grin & laugh dying to a slow realization and fear for the return of the Street Fighter.

Staring at the pieces of broken glass bouncing sunlight in all direction of the car like crippled disco ball… there lay my laptop beneath the rubble. “But why not take the laptop? The damn thing would have been in clear sight of the robber” I murmured like a schizophrenic in a coffeeshop. “Sweet Lucifer, thank the Gods I left the most important notebook in the foot rest”, murmuring still. All that was taken was my backpack- the backpack with the past decade of my writing in it. The iphone, the camera, the mini HD recorder in the glove left unaccosted in the same condition they were when I left them. So strange. The thief had to have been in a hurry to smash, grab, and run with just a backpack… or was it exactly as they’d planned. Was the backpack all they came for? Perhaps they knew the backpack was worthless to anyone in the world except for me and somehow knew it’d be the most sensitive vein to strike. Perhaps someone who knew I only work Sundays at the Old Spaghetti Factory, came for my most prized possession- to snatch it from my life- to hit me where it would hurt most. Who would do such a thing?

I remembered how bad things had gotten with Gwen, the sophomoric fights, the mind games, the bullshit our young voices would spear into the air to outwit the other. Again, perhaps the stolen backpack was a blessing to help me focus on the book that counted the most… the one from Gwen. But then again, what if this was the Street Fighter’s doing… and I’d truly learned nothing from any of the defunct dating I’d accumulated to now? Perhaps I should’ve seen this coming and not left a fricking prized possession in the front seat. Gah- it’s all in the past. All I have is the notebook from Gwen. That’s all.

Gwen, older now, has calmed her fangs to simple wit. Notice I said “calmed her fangs”, not “filed her fangs”. The woman will still cut a bitch. Full knowledge of her limitations and potential to murder feelings, Gwen and I pace down Lyndale Ave. She’s just moved back to Minneapolis after completing her MBA in Indiana. New job, fat paycheck, high maintenance condo, it’s fair to say Gwen’s living in the lap of luxury. It’s also fair to say her & I have barely grown beyond are spite & rivalry for each other, but still able to share a walk with each other.

I tell her about the book, we laugh. However, glancing back at the car, I couldn’t help but think if the Street Fighter had put an end to my car’s window or if I was developing paranoia for the past. Whether or not it was the Fighter’s doing, there was a larger lesson to be learned from all of this.

Walking around the city with the eldest of ex-girlfriends, perhaps my most useful work wouldn’t exist had Gwen never handed me the notebook ten years ago. Perhaps, if I’d learned my lesson from dating in the name of spite, resentment, and cold war… I would still have a passenger side window as well.