“You know now, like I do…there’s no hope for any of us.”
“what you want VS what is expected of you”
My life, being as odd as it is often makes people think I exaggerate in these blogs. I do not. I don’t need to. These blogs are to clear my head, and get things off my chest. I assure you i spend more than enough time making things up…I would not spend more time making things up just to write a blog. The blogs are genuine because people want to know what a guy who does what I do for a living is like. So I have made my life an open book…if anything I say seems like an exaggeration refer you to the picture above.
I, like most red blooded American men, lived like a complete asshole through my twenties.
I’m not talking about relationships or my general disposition, there ain’t enough room in one blog for that. I am talking about day-to-day living. What I ate, how I dressed myself, the cars (as much they could be considered cars) I drove, the state of my dwelling. It goes a little beyond just eating ramen noodles daily. What I am talking about goes a bit further, and usually only occurs in men. It is the struggling to make better ramnen noodles instead of buying better food. It goes to a notion of -how and what can I adapt to be happier in this shitty life, rather than-how can I get out of this shitty life. It is the lowering yourself to accepting that level of existence and fighting it on it’s own terms.
To give you an example of what I mean …I never paid more than 500.00 for a car, so you can imagine the kinds of “cars” I drove. Cars that required you to not only know a little about cars, but keep a full tool box in the trunk…and many spare parts in the garage …spare parts like engines and transmissions. Cars that had weekly maintenance in the form of things like clamping off a brake line because the caliper is leaking and I had no cash to spend on a new one…and so clamping it off and stopping the leak, even though it leaves you with one less break, was preferable to taking a bus or …driving into a bus. You learn allot about cars when you drive 500.00 cars. You learn your front tires are NOT actually held on by four lug nuts. They are ACTUALLY held on by a 1/16 cotter pin that holds a nut in place, that holds the rotor in place, that your tire is held to by the four lug nuts. A 1/16 cotter pin…that’s all people, a glorified paper clip and the laws of physics and centrifugal force are what keeps your front tires attached to your car. You learn this when you are driving a 500.00 car and the cotter pin goes away. You find this out when your tire comes off at 35mph on a relatively busy street. NOW…some of you would go through that and say “I am not buying any more 500.00 cars”…If you would say that we would not have gotten along, because I was the kind who says “good thing that was only a 500.00 car…well, I guess I’ll walk home and start looking for another 500.00 car”.
I, like most red blooded American men, amplified my glorious decent into assholeness by associating myself with like-minded individuals. Enablers your might call them, or birds of a feather if you are less cynical. My roommate back then was every bit as devil-may-care as I was. He also had to keep a box of tools in his car, also had a spare engines lying around, also had all the tolerance of adult shortcomings that I did. Our apartment looked like a cross between lord of the flies and an episode of pawn stars. There where toys, guns, crappy furniture…things used as furniture that wasn’t actually furniture (engine blocks make nice end tables…the cylinders hold rolled magazines, and beer bottles just about perfectly). We had pets…we went from tropical fish to piranhas, to an actual alligator, to a python…then eventually back to fish. In between that we had a rooster for about a week. I can’t remember why but I can tell you they don’t sound like they do on cartoons…they sound like someone is being murdered. We had a used microwave The handle broke, somehow we figured out the bullet clip from an assault rifle fit into the handle slot perfectly and not only thought that was an acceptable repair, but that having the ammunition clip stuck into the microwave added charm to the apartment. (yes I know the difference between a magazine and a clip…this was a clip).
All this stuff believe it or not did not deter women from coming over…it in fact helped attract women…the wrong women. Two kinds usually, the kind that needs someone to try to change or the kind that genuinely thinks that stuff is cool…both kinds eventually and always had their spirits broken, As the two man childs encouraged each others downward spiral into adult supervisionless madness. We lost the python…LOST IT…in the apartment. What’s worse, we got tired of looking for it and moved on after about an hour.
We took over the basement of the duplex and made two studios. Studios that were not only used to make art, but used to break perfectly good items in order to weld them, nail them, glue them together, to make a half assed items we needed rather than buy an actual new version of what would actually work. When we finally moved out…there was so much debris…and I say debris because that’s what it was, it wasn’t garbage, or clutter, the basement floor looked like the shoreline of a city that was down stream of another city that had been washed away by a hurricane. Parts of refrigerator motors, brake drums, wood scraps of all shapes and sizes, broken records, broken VCRs, twisted pieces of metal, dr.suess like objects that where failed attempts at inventions, obsolete tools (screwdrivers that had been used as pry bars), just…just debris…so much of it that it would have takes fifteen trips back and forth with a lawn garbage can to remove it all. That’s not including the “things” that would not fit into a garbage can.
I have a vague recollection of a break rotor welded to a pole, welded to front break springs from a station wagon, with a basketball attached to the top. I remember that was there, it existed. I remember the several attempts it took to weld the metals together, the trips back and forth for different welding wire, and welders..I remember much discussion on how tall it should be and which of the box of spare auto parts should sacrifice its contents, I remember plans being scribbled out onto paper and much head scratching and deliberation …I don’t however …recall what it was for. That is just ONE of the pieces of debris in a basement full of debris. SO, what to do? How could our two heroes (assholes) remove it all and leave the basement in the state it was before we arrived in a “thing 1” and “thing 2” like gleeful dance? We fought fire with fire! No…we did not set the house on fire…we didn’t think of that …thank the lord. No, we got rid of the mess we made as assholes, with more assholery. We got an industrial tarp…we laid it in the middle of the floor…we threw everything onto the tarp ( are you getting this visual?). Then we pulled the corners of the tarp together and by tying rope through all the grommets made of it a giant garbage centered tarp sack/ball. A mammoth bean bag chair from hell. It was over 6 feet tall, I know this because I could not see my roommate on the other side and we had to stick our heads to one side or the other to communicate as we rolled up our proverbial sleeves and rolled, pushed, wrestled the thing up the basement stairs and eventually into the back of his pick up truck. There was much cursing and panicked warnings of “look out for the %$&^# pipe!” and “the red things poking through!” and of course “fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!” as it would struggle against our efforts. The bag had become a blue-green industrial canvas manifestation of our assholeness. It yowled and moaned, rocked, and fought against our growing up and moving out. In some instances it tried to reabsorb whoever was at the bottom end …drawing the person back into the gleeful glorious existence of living like a ten-year old with a bank account and no adult supervision. BUT…we persevered…we took the beast to an industrial site and left it in a construction dumpster. We left it and tried not to look back, like a child leaving behind a teddy bear, because he knows he’s too grown up for it.
The rest of the move was uneventful. We rounded up the rest of our belongings…the tools, the weapons, the devices we made that actually worked, the clothes that were not stained with blood, or engine grease, or paint, or glue, or had holes or tears. We went our separate ways to actually grow up and live with people who would not tolerate things like rebuilding an engine in your living room. As we drove off in separate paths the monster wept from it’s dumpster…for the shenanigans that would never be again. The shenanigans, that were often life threatening, and time-wasting, would be replaced with useful stable, SANE activities. The two assholes who, unbeknownst to their neighbors, almost blew up the house in search of asshole like joy found only in creating the uncreateable…and useful to only a rare few …invention in the basement, would become productive members of society. Members who could actually just buy what they needed, and own things that worked, and spend their time with adults who were not in constant danger because of their own stupidity. This seems like a bittersweet ending to anyone who HASN’T caught a piece of plywood in the gut that was spinning at 300 rpm’s because no time was to be bothered with on safety when cutting the wood on the second-hand table saw that was welded together by the same idiot who would eventually catch a piece of plywood in the gut that was spinning at 300 rpms because no time was to be bothered with…You get the idea. This all sounds fun unless you live it long enough to realize it sucks. Eventually you look around and realize that it sucks, that you live like a hobo, you are in constant danger of injury or death, will never attract a mate who needs less therapy than you, watch your friends pass you by in life because living like a grown up helps you become a grown up. Eventually your friends get their act together and own nice things and working appliances and you realize that that is nicer. So…we left in search of adult hood.
I don’t know if he succeeded, I hope he did. I haven’t seen him in years. I can tell you I still haven’t. I replaced the enabling roommate with an enabling career. My clutter, hair brained schemes, inventions that are only useful to me, and makeshift appliances are all still a part of my life under the guise of “this is how illustrators of comic books live”. If I worked in an office, or was a tradesman of some kind, I would by now feel the eye of society looking down on me. I could feel it watching in pity, and I would grow up out of sheer shame. But because my job is bizarre, no one looks down at my bizarre, and self-destructive life and surroundings. People see and just think “well…that’s how those people live”. They look at it through a romantic eye, much like they watch “fear and loathing in Las Vegas” thinking even at times that it must be glorious.
The displays for comic book conventions are fabricated by me in a garage. The banners hand painted, the dolly I used is was invented/constructed out of several broken dollys…even the giant inflatable fetus is my own design. All the assholery and scattered tools, and life endangering projects still go on. If you saw me at Comic-Con International last year you may have noticed my face looked a bit sunburned…It wasn’t sunburn actually. I welded the framework for the display together in the basement and only used goggles when welding instead of the whole mask…did you know welders wear a mask not only to protect their eyes but because the light from the welding can actually burn your skin?…me neither. I didn’t wear the whole mask because I was tired of sparks getting caught underneath it and starting my beard on fire. Why did I weld it myself in the first place…well that is the meat of the whole point…because the ten year old in me wouldn’t entertain any thoughts on not attempting it myself. I suppose you could say that now there is direction to such antics and purpose and so it is true necessity and invention that guides them, and so now it is not self destructive. But the tarp demon somewhere….is smiling. Content with the notion that I have not grown up …I have merely found justification. It grins from seam to seam content that if I have not changed my ways yet…at my age …I never shall…time and wisdom has not helped and so perhaps nothing will.
I tell you all that, to tell you this…
There are calls in your life that you dread. That send shivers up your spine. Phone calls that when they come in give you a knot in your gut as the phone is answered.
As a child it is a call from your teacher to tell your parents you did some bad thing or another at school. You get home knowing it is coming but say nothing. Instead you play…you play for as long as you still can with the sword of Damocles over your head. You play knowing that once that phone call comes in you will be grounded from whatever brings you joy.
As you get older the call is from someone who is going to break up with you. You knew something was off, and suspected it was coming. Maybe there has been silence between the both of your for a few days, and that call…even though you tell yourself it could be for any reason…can really only be for one reason.
There is the call of “I might be pregnant”…or “I think you should get checked out” depending on your lifestyle.
There is the call from a parent late at night which can only mean someone has died.
These are the standard gut wrenching calls in life…the calls that feel like a punch in the gut even though you know they are coming, and in fact are a punch in the gut as soon as you hear the phone ring and see who it is. These are the calls that make you wish you had just one more day to live before having to get that call.
I got one of those calls this week. It was my father. He had just retired a few weeks ago. My siblings and I had joked about he and my mother driving each other insane and we lamented that WE were not many states away on an army base safe from the curiosity of my now full of free time father like my younger brother is. Bets were placed in laughter over who would move out first, my mom or my dad …I answered the phone.
It was a call you don’t want. It was a call that lets you know things will be different. A call that I probably knew was coming. He said just a few words that, frankly made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. He said “if you need any help with stuff… projects or whatever, give me a call”.
He …wants to help with stuff. He is recently retired…has ALLLLLL the time in the world to do whatever…and his spinning wheel of -how do I fill my time- has landed on “Doug”.
Don’t get the wrong impression, we get along fine, he knows his way around a tool box just as good if not better than me. He was a mechanic in the army in Vietnam so he knows a thing or two about makeshift devices and cobbling things together. It’s just that …I’ve settled in nicely living like a jackass and If my Dad is coming over all the time I’m going to feel obligated to seem more like an adult. Have adult things like ..furniture, and working appliances. I’m going to feel obligated to have enough bare space on my apartment floor to walk around without looking down or at least having a mental map of where not to step. His constant visits will force me to be a grown up. What I set out to be years ago after conquering the tarp demon. Just as well…and long over due.
Then …I realized… That’s not what he wants. He isn’t coming here to do grown up things. He doesn’t just know his way around a tool box as good as me…he showed my how to use tools. He is coming here because his brief stint in adulthood is over…he’s retired. He, before he had me, probably was shoving a giant trap of stuff out of a basement of his own. He saved himself of all that by having kids and a regular job but now that is done and he is returning to shenanigans like an alcoholic drinking cooking Cherie. I am his son…his blood. This means there is no escape, no matter what I do, what job I get, what goal I reach, it will all just be white knuckled days before I get to take another drink of sweet sweet assholery. Marriage, fatherhood, home-ownership…it will all just be snapping the rubber band on your wrist every time you have a craving for a cigarette..the craving only goes away for an instant.
I see now in him, that there is no hope for me. 40 years of marriage could not break him of the urge for shenanigans…and he is a better man than I. Any responsibility I cling to, or money I acquire, that should leave me no time or need to weld two things together for the hell of it…will eventually pass. You start out as a child, if you are lucky you spend a few decades not being a child, and then return to your true nature. There is no “adulthood” there are just little life preservers like children and jobs and bills that you cling to so you don’t sink into the ocean of never growing up. He is not coming over to avoid Mom, or for quality time, he is coming over to create debris with which to fill a tarp.
a tarp we shall call “rosebud”