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Hot As Hell on Christmas

2003: Time Ratio

I still liked my family when my mother first told me, ten days prior, we would be going to Florida for Christmas. I had never spent more than a day or two with my mother’s side of the family before. I couldn’t wait to play catch with my cousin Matt. I couldn’t wait to play checkers poolside with my grandfather. I couldn’t wait to drive around in my Uncle Bob’s convertible mustang in the warm sunny weather. I couldn’t wait. Just ten more days and I’d be in Florida.

Usually, we would go down to the lake house in Connecticut where my mother and her two brothers were raised. We never stayed for more than a weekend. We never felt obligated to; it’s merely a 3 hour car ride. Pleasantries don’t tend to fade in just a couple of days. Florida is different. It is a 24 hour drive to Florida without stopping. You cannot stay for just two days when it requires 2 days of travel. So we would stay for nearly 3 weeks. There are 21 days in 3 weeks. There are 48 hours in 2 days. For every day of travel, we would spend 10 days in Florida. For every hour of travel we would spend 16 hours in Connecticut. Seemed like a ratio I could live with, before we actually went.

2004: Love Sick

My girlfriend at the time had just moved to Florida. I was devastated when she told me. She was my first girlfriend and I am sure I acted overzealous. I thought I loved her. I told her I would wait for her to come back to me. I am laughing at myself now, I was only 14 years old, I had no idea what love is. I told her I would see her, I told her I would save up and visit. Well, my family decided to go to Florida for Christmas for the second year in a row. I was ecstatic.

I called Missi to tell her the good news. She told me how she wouldn’t be in Florida for Christmas. For the exact same span of time I was to be in Florida with my family, Missi would travel back to my hometown, in New Hampshire. What are the chances of such timing? I asked my high school calculus teacher years later because we were tight. We talked a lot of sports so he told me I had a better chance at meeting a Hall of Fame football player. Years later, I would meet Patriots Hall of Fame guard John Hannah. Chances of that?

I carried her picture with me while in Florida without her. Uncle Bob gave it a prolonged look that made everyone uncomfortable. The room went silent and everyone was just waiting for my uncle to say something or hand the photo back to me. My cousin Matt got a hold of it and told me she looked like a tramp. I punched him in the face. I thought I loved her. He pinned me to the ground and told me she would die early in some whorish drug-related fashion. When I got home I found out she cheated on me with one of my ex-best friend. She died a year later in a car accident in Las Vegas while visiting her sister who worked in a strip club. Chances.

2005: Naples
My Uncle Stan, with his sizable wealth, bought a 3 million dollar condo in Naples. I didn’t go to Naples, Italy. There is such a thing as Naples, Florida, and I had the privilege of spending a day there. I say privilege because the residents seem to try their hardest to keep this place exclusive. It’s the perfect place for my uncle to live. Every year the man has to show us just how much money he has. Every year, it’s a new expensive car. Every year, my uncle gives his wife, Patty, $300 dollar headphones, a high tech GPS system (back when they were new), or diamond necklaces that look as if they were made purely of diamonds because no sort of metal settings could be seen. Last year, he gave my grandparents the biggest TV he could find. Another year, he bought us all lobster for Christmas dinner. This year, he showed us Naples.

That same year my uncle also bought a yacht; he took us for a ride around the coast line of Naples. Apparently he studied some sort of real estate book beforehand; he told us the price tag on each and every house we saw, slowing down to point each one out. I knew what his real agenda was. He wanted to show all of us just how much better his wealth made him. He was clearly much better than the rest of us.

No one wanted to go to Naples; I know I sure as hell didn’t. The original plan was to go to Universal Studios’ theme park. How the plans changed to “see what you can’t afford”, I do not know. I spent the day on that boat, listening to my Slipknot, KoRn, Black Sabbath, and Slayer. I wanted to be different when I was younger. That kid that wore black and sat in the corner so no one would bother him. I would use this tactic frequently around these people.

2006: The First Girl

Matt brought a girl with him to Florida this year. Her name was Shawna, and everyone embraced her like family. I would’ve welcomed her too, but I don’t make a habit of handing out bad news. She didn’t last long, only a few more months after Christmas, and I am happy for her.

The welcome she received from each family member varied greatly. My Uncle Bob gave her a hug that lasted just a second too long. My uncle was 55 and single. Katie was meeting her brother’s girlfriend for the first time. She pouted and stormed out of the room as if she regressed back into childhood. She claimed it took her too long to meet this girl, but I claim jealousy as the true culprit. Matt and Shawna had only been dating a month out in Iowa, Katie lives in New York. Kate’s jealousy stems from the fact she couldn’t get a guy to stick around for more than a week, an actual personal record of hers. Matt’s father, Stan, couldn’t stop wrapping his arm around his son with pride. “Good job son you nabbed a pretty one,” the expression seemed to say. My mother, the queen of awkward, asked Shawna questions she had no business asking. “Does he still have that scar on his pelvic bone?” Classy, Mom. My sister, Lauren, just pretended that Shawna didn’t exist, as she did with all new people. My aunt Patty wouldn’t stop talking about how old she had gotten when the prospect of children came up, because god forbid she is old enough to be a grandmother. She got a facelift that year. My grandparents made innocently awkward comments you would expect from the elderly couple on a TV sitcom like Marie and Frank Barone from Everybody loves Raymond.

Shawna’s presence made life easier for me, however. Usually I am the brunt of questioning.

“What college are you looking at?”

“Wentworth, Norwich, and Northeastern.”

“What are you going to major in?”

“Architecture.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

“No.”

Typically, I didn’t inform them about the happenings of my life willingly, so they drilled me. Not this year, though. Shawna stole the show. I got to sit in blissful silence as everyone else dissected Shawna’s life and her relationship with my cousin. I felt bad for her, for a second. Just a second. I am not proud of the human being I became around these people. They aren’t entirely to blame.

2007: The Second Girl

Matt brought a second girl with him for Christmas. My first thought, would there be a new girl every year? It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility, I did hear things turned bad with Shawna after meeting the extended family. I guess this family just changes people. My uncle Bob sure seemed to be enjoying it, though, as he did the year before. This one was Kayla, and she was shockingly similar to the first. She had an infectious smile, with typical country girl social etiquette, and was all around beautiful. Why was she there?

2008: Irrational

I woke up to the smell of vomit. The Florida warmth gave the odor even more pungency. I found myself on the floor, still surprised with my predicament. I was afforded no place to sleep. The exact words I was given was, “I don’t care, sleep wherever.” I took the couch cushions off the pull out bed someone else was using and pushed them together like a makeshift raft. If only I could have used it to escape my fate. I was the first one up, and probably one of the few who wasn’t hung over. I headed to the bathroom; the smell of vomit grew so strong I could taste it. I found my cousin’s new wife, Kayla, asleep, again, on the toilet rim. She didn’t drink the night before; she was just pregnant. Every morning there, I had woken up to find her face first in her morning sickness. I helped her up, cleaned off her half-conscious face, and brought her back to bed.

I heard a scream and hurried to find the source. One of my uncles had woken up, and he tripped over my makeshift raft. Vulgarities followed:

“Who the fuck left this pile a shit here?! What kind of retarded fucking pissant did this?!”

He was screaming so loudly the next door neighbors began to stir and wander outside; trying to determine what was going on. I didn’t bother explaining why I hadn’t had time yet to dismantle my escape raft. He wouldn’t care; I had seen the way he looked at my cousin’s new wife while I sat with him unbeknownst to him. I had seen the look before when he took me to a car show as a child instead of Disney World. It is a long drawn out stare, examining every part and detail. It is a stare that says, “Check out those headlights! Look at that tailpipe! That’s a fine body!”

The tongue lashing had woken up my father, who entered the room and did the only thing he could, shot me the look of understanding we usually shared there. I didn’t hold it against him for not defending his only son against his brother-in-law. Laying down his gauntlet would only exacerbate things. So I just stood there, listened to the incredibly hypocritical, vulgar, ignorant, and insensitive statements my uncle spewed at me and said nothing. Afterwards I joined my father in the kitchen and we had our breakfast together. We looked at each other and I know the same thought crossed our minds: just 10 more days and I’ll be home.

2009: Ludicrous Sorrow and Impending Death

The door had a crowd of ears hovering above its surface, trying not to miss the faintest whimper. Shock wouldn’t be the right word to describe the scene of people crowded around the bathroom door listening to my cousin Katie cry. The incident must surprise in order to shock. Crying in the bathroom garners no surprised looks when I consider her unstable nature. Sympathy wouldn’t be right either. Sympathy requires some sense of understanding. There is nothing to understand here. I can’t speak for the other people there who had their first drink at 10am, but I can speak for myself. I was ashamed. Katie had the attention of everyone present, exactly what she wanted. My extended family crowds the bathroom door, asking her what’s wrong, why she didn’t like her gift. I would’ve asked her why she has to find new roommates for her apartment in New York City every year. I would’ve asked her why she lives in an apartment she can’t afford and forces my rich uncle to pay. I would’ve asked why a 24 year old adult would cry over something as trivial as getting the wrong Patriots jersey for Christmas. Then I realized, I already know the answer to these questions. She was a wildly inconsiderate human being, her father continuously spoiled her, she described the jersey she got as that of an “ugly player.”

Meanwhile, in the corner of the room next to the scantily decorated Christmas tree placed on the backdrop of Florida palm trees outside the window, sat a very old man. He could not get up. His muscles had atrophied so much, he looked as if he had already been reduced to a skeleton and a clay molder adorned him with a new face and skin but forgot to finish. He had a pouch sitting next to him, filled with his own excrement, for he could no longer control himself. He had lost control of nearly every organ but his brain. This man was fully aware that he was dying. He knew exactly what was happening to him. Most of the people here would never see him again after this day, and he knew this too as he sat in the corner alone.

I sat in the same room as my grandfather. I have continued opening my gifts, unperturbed by the ludicrous sorrow of Katie and impending death of my grandfather. I got the book I wanted, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. The novel chronicles the events leading up to an apocalypse. I began to read it to escape my current reality. I am no saint.

2010: Home

My grandfather was dead. It was expected, prepared for, and revolutionary. Things would be different without him in this world. My grandmother would live in my father’s house in New Hampshire. The house in Florida was put on the market to be sold. No longer was there a reason to go to hot as Hell Florida on Christmas. Instead, we stayed home and no one bothered to come. My cousin Matt and his wife Kayla stayed in Iowa with their newborn girl, Ava. Uncle Stan and Aunt Patty spent their first Christmas alone in their new 57 room mansion on Cape Cod. Uncle Bob went to a special Christmas car show in Connecticut. No one was quite sure where Katie was that day. I was home, though.

Snow was everywhere in New Hampshire, whiting out the world around me. Still freshly fallen, it inhabited the trees, clinging to the branches like a child too scared to fall off his bike for the first time. The air outside was crisp, cold, and thin. Upon breathing in the winter air, my whole body felt a cooling sensation, refreshing and revitalizing. This was home. Inside, the rooms are warm and vacant. No one was on the floor, trying desperately to sleep uncomfortably. No one was out of place; only where they feel most comfortable. Another Christmas was upon us, but no one had come to join us on this special day. Presents adorned the tree with only 5 names scribbled on the tags instead of a dozen. Here five people could sleep in their own beds. My father came down with a genuine smile on his face. He knew as well as I did, a special day doesn’t have to be different. He knew as well as I did that a special day is even more special when you spend it in a special place, home.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Non-Fiction

 

Followed

It is incredibly dark out tonight, a strange occurrence in a bustling city such as this. I suppose that even in a crowded city the lights still go off at one point or another. I couldn’t figure out why I was out, just walking. I walk aimlessly, without purpose, and without a destination. Even surrounded by buildings being flooded with heat, the city is still as cold as ice on a mid-fall night in Boston. Again, I had to ask myself why I made the decision to leave my room to wander on such a night.

I was scared to leave my room the night before. It was Election Day, and Barrack Obama had won, becoming the first black president in the history of the United States. The streets went wild; you would have thought the Red Sox had just won the World Series. I have never seen this much wide spread excitement before. People were drinking in celebration and taking to the streets. It was so crowded you’d be hard pressed to fine the lines on the road. All you could hear were cries of, “Obama! Obama! Obama!” It was a party, no doubt about it.

Why throw such an impromptu party? Why was this guy so damn important? He is the first black president. Why does that make a difference? Was history really made? I could’ve sworn the point of Martin Luther King’s speech was equality. If it were really equal, the history books wouldn’t even acknowledge Obama’s race. I don’t know about you, but in my middle school textbook, it didn’t say Abraham Lincoln, the 16th white president, was assassinated. I guarantee that Barack Obama will forever be introduced as “the first black president”. I thought it wasn’t supposed to matter?

That is the idealism of course, race shouldn’t matter, it shouldn’t make one lick of difference. I am not quite sure Obama would’ve won if he wasn’t black. For all the disadvantages for minorities, for once I think it was the advantage. A lot of people voted let alone voted for him simply because he was black. The poor black community I was walking through cared about the election simply because he was black. There was a party in the streets simply because he was black.

Broken glass interrupted my thoughts, sudden and yet subtle. No matter, the sounds of a city. The lights may eventually go off but the commotion of the city never really ceases, only becomes scarce. Back to my thoughts, however, my mind is now lost.

That’s right; Obama. I have no idea what to think about it all. It’s funny how the mind and body work in unison, since I don’t know what to do either. My life is such a haze right now. I’m just going through the motions without thought. I go to work with disdain rather than enthusiasm. Everyone around me is living while I feel like I’m already dead, just waiting for it to become official. I am waiting for Obama’s HOPE to kick in.

I stop, in the middle of a square. No stars out tonight. It was overcastted all day today, typical. As I stare up I see the buildings as if they are about to converge. One of those tricks of perception. It is almost as if they want to trap me, close in upon me. Lord, listen to me, talking nonsense.

More city noises and my train of thought is lost again. There is absolutely no movement anywhere. It’s time to go home. My steps echo through the alley ways. My steps continue to echo as I stop for breath. I have never heard a reverberated sound like this, it was strange. Almost seems like a completely different source.

I was too wrapped up in my own head. Something is going on. Someone is following me. I yelled out, “Who’s there?!”

“Dude, wait up!” My stalker came into view. It was a friend, Patrick Lockwood, who is so Irish it surprises me he doesn’t have the accent.

“Why are you out here?” I asked.

“Why the fuck are you running?” Pat asked, always answering a question with another question. He’s fucking jeopardy.

“We are in the middle of Southie in Boston and I heard footsteps at 2 o’clock in the morning, what would you do?”

“After last night? Don’t you think everyone needs 24 hour recovery time?” asked Pat, or should I call him Trabek?

“I need recovery time from last night, and I watched it from my 4th story room.”

“Besides, Southie is like 99% black, they all in a good mood.”

He had a good point. I have never seen anything like what I saw the night before. It was the exact opposite scene of this night. Everyone flooded the streets. You couldn’t hear yourself think. Everyone was chanting. “Obama, Obama, Obama.” It was mardis gras just with “hope” and not tits.

“You know what the funny thing is?”

“What?” Question with a question.

“I think a lack of hope is why I am out here.”

“What the fuck is this hope?”

“Good question,” I said to Alex Trabek.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Flash, Non-Fiction

 

Swing Away

 

I was still enduring the Curse of the Bambino. The curse started in 1920 when the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth (The Great Bambino) to the New York Yankees. Now before this happened there are three things you must know. The Red Sox won the first World Series and amassed five total championships shortly after. The Yankees were a complete shithole of a team. Finally, the Sultan of Swat (Ruth) was still a pitcher. Four things happened after the sale. Babe Ruth became a hitter and went on to be the greatest baseball player of all time and the name most synonymous with the sport. The Red Sox didn’t win a championship for 86 years. The Red Sox owner used the one hundred thousand dollars to finance a Broadway musical in New York, no less. The Yankees became the most successful sports franchise in North America and won 27 World Championships, including one in 1999.

“Swing away, son!”

That’s what my grandfather used to say all the time. It was pretty much his catch phrase. The man is dead now, but I swear to the lord and his savior of a son I still hear it said in my sleep. The man was born and raised in New York City. Brooklyn to be exact, back before it was filled with, and I quote him, “Those fucking thug niggers”. Did I mention he cussed like a sailor? He wasn’t one, but he did fight in World War II and he was a fireman. He would always insist on him being called an ex-fireMAN. He would say, “I am a man and I fought fires, what the fuck is insensitive about that?” Personally, I don’t care too much about being PC, one way or the other. However, I do think risking your life for as long as the body was willing deserves some clout and the freedom to say whatever you damn well please.

“See that boy? That’s a real fucking swing. Hear that crack? You only hear that in Yankee Stadium.” He was talking about the one built in 1923, not the new one tailored made for Alex Rodriguez and his steroid infused swing. He was also talking about Derek Jeter back when he was young in 1999 and hitting in the four hole. I had just turned ten and I was and still am a Red Sox fan. My grandfather, however, decided to take me to a Yankees game because, and I quote, “you might as well punch me in the berries, spit in my face, and stab me in the kidney so I die nice and slow than go to Fenway!” (home of the Sox). Can you tell there is a rivalry?

Crack.

“There goes Scottie! Hitting Jeter in! See that boy? See him swing away? Gotta have a low stance like Scottie there. Turn your hips when you swing away, that’s where you get your power boy!”

Third baseman Scott Brosius had hit one of 17 home runs he would hit that season.  When I was a kid, I thought my grandfather hated me. Honestly, why else would he take me to see the Yankees, a team I was required by Boston law to hate? Well, like everyone, there was a lot of shit I just flat out didn’t understand as a child.

For one, those trips to Yankee Stadium taught me the game of baseball.

“Look, hes giving him the signal! I’ll bet ya grandmother’s life that that fucker is gonna go for the squeeze!” Translation: There was a man on third base and in scoring position with only 1 out. The game was in the 8th inning and runs needed to be made in order to get the win. So the hitter at the plate was signaled to bunt down the first base line where he would all but surely be out at first. However, the man at third would have an easy run at home, scoring the run. Oh, and my grandfather loved my grandmother, I swear.

These trips were more than just learning the game.

“Come on son, get the fuck up! The Yanks are gonna win! Cheer god damnit! You might as well root for a team that knows how to fucking win!”

I didn’t get up. I didn’t cheer. I sat there with a frown on my face. My grandfather looked down and smiled. I had no idea then, but my grandfather was teaching me a life lesson that day. Something that was even more important to him than the Yankees. He was teaching me loyalty. He was teaching me that even when the shit hits the fan, you stick to your guns. He was teaching me to never give up.

Fast forward 5 years. October 2004. The Boston Red Sox were facing the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Boston was down 3 games to none losing 4-3 in the ninth inning in game 4. A Boston hitter was walked and his pinch runner stole a base. That led to an RBI single to tie the game 4-4. Move to the 12th inning, David Ortiz hits a 2 run home run to win the game. The Red Sox avoid elimination and begin their road to the impossible. They continued to win, and eventually tied the series at 3 all. No one had ever come back from 3 games down in a series before. Game 7 of the series was watched at my grandfather’s house in Connecticut. The Sox won, and I looked back at my grandfather expecting a look of disgust or anger. He was looking back at me, and I was surprised at what I saw. He was smiling and nodding. My loyalty had paid off, and my grandfather’s lesson was complete.

The Red Sox wound up sweeping the Cardinals that year, winning the World Series and “reversed the curse”. They won again in 2007. My grandfather died in 2008. He left behind a legacy of baseball and loyalty. They closed down the old Yankee Stadium 2 months later.

 

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Flash, Non-Fiction

 

My Place

The room looks as if a Tetris player set it up. The furniture is placed this way and that, it is a puzzle with the pieces in the wrong spot. However, everything serves its purpose. You can see the TV from both beds and both desks. Each wardrobe garners its own privacy from the other, at least as much as can be done within a 15’x15’ box. The trash is thoroughly cut off from everything else in the room and the mini-fridge is accessible by both inhabitants without infiltrating any personal space. It looks like Van Goh, but it functions perfectly.

Passersby often hear cries of death; the virtual kind of course. As any college dorm room housing young men, video games are oft the time wasters. You can hear the explosions of a laser cannon decimating an alien battalion. You can hear the clink of blades during a battle of heroes. You can year the blast of a shotgun round on the battleground of a new world war. You can hear the cheers of fans from soccer to basketball. The thud of football players colliding to the crack of a bat sending a baseball over 400 feet can be heard. Remember, everything you hear isn’t real.

The smell of the place is accosting. It is very much real, and perhaps the lack of realism that goes on is the culprit. Trash seems to build up in the designated corner right next to the door. As soon as you cross the threshold you get a whiff of just about everything you can think of. There’s stale popcorn, moldy pizza, empty beer bottles, sour milk, and the generally skunkyness of trash that would transport you to a dump. Once you bypass all that, you get the distinct smell of dirty laundry. There is no reprieve from this. Once upon a time air fresheners would be deployed, but the endeavors came back unsuccessful. Your taste buds will burn off before you can taste the air, no need to go there.

The place is homey though, not a place to be proud of, but a place to certainly be carefree. Like I said, the TV is in perfect position to be seen by all who want to lounge and need that present distraction from work at their desks. It is the disorganization that makes everything unsacred. Come on in, touch anything, grab something from the fridge, and take a seat on a bed. It is all fair game and it all just seems natural.

 

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Flash, Non-Fiction

 

Summit Beauty

The sun is always the enemy on the top of a mountain in the middle of the winter. The glare off the snow is blinding. The air is always thinner up high, colder and dryer. It is a different world up there; at the very least you see the world differently. You see everything around you as if you were on google maps in satellite mode. The colors of the trees, the snow, the lakes, and the scattered evidence of human occupation all begin to blend together and yet are oddly distinguishable. The landscape is laid out before you in grand fashion, but there is a sense of detachment from it all. See but do not touch.

While the world stretches out in the distance, you stand on the top of a place secluded from it all. Beauty lies out there, but it grabs at you right here. The snow still clings to the branches, whiting out everything. It all gleams under the clear skies exuding radiance from the sun which is ever so much closer. Fresh snows as yet untouched by any living creature in all directions, new trails are ready to be blazed.

You have to enjoy these surroundings in an instant. I am not here to enjoy the view. I am not here to take in the splendor of the world from my high above perch. The trail waits to be blazed. I shove my boots into the bindings and strap in, things may get bumpy. I cover my eyes with my goggles and everything becomes more defined. What better to see you with my dear, dear mountain? Deep breath of the cold air and I gain confidence. Turn up the tunes, crank that shit to 11 and get pumped up. This is about to get bumpy.

 

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Flash, Non-Fiction

 

Prompt: Write a Picture


Every year since I was born my family celebrated New Years in the summer. When my father was in college, he and his friends would get together in rural Vermont to go camping at Horseshoe Acres so they could celebrate New Year’s together. Up in the mountains, past the only store for about 20 miles, sits a peculiar campsite. The surrounding towns are few and far between and seem to think it is 20 years ago. Horseshoe Acres is the most urban scene for 20-40 miles with their in ground pool, mini-golf course, and high tech trailers. My father has been going to this seeming haven for over 30 years with his friends. I have gone every year of my life, but recently I have begun to bring my own friends. It’s a tradition, the only tradition my father has, and I intend to carry it on for the rest of my life and pass it down to my children.
Enter my good friend Zach, as we traverse the treacherous waters of the mountain stream. We traveled down the hasty flow of water on slippery rocks protruding the one foot depth. Enter more jokes. “You shall not pass!” I said to Zach standing on the only rock available to him. “The one… of many… stones to rule them all!” Zach said to me, standing triumphantly over a quarry of granite rocks on the water bank. We took it so far that we picked the one (of many) that would rule them all. Eventually, we came to impasse with no clear path to take.
“We cannot traverse these dangerous waters with no path!” I said, continuing our playful mock of Lord of the Rings (in case you live under a rock and didn’t get it yet).
Zach saw that I was carrying our one (of many) rocks to rule them all. So he turned to me, feigned concerned on his face, and said, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!” He proceeded to motion for me to jump on his back. I immediately obliged him on his generous offer. He fearlessly traversed the gap with me in tow, splashing through the waters. His focus was unwavering, his loyalty unflappable, and his determination undeniable. He knew we were so close to our goal (which apparently was destroying the world with our one (of many) rocks to rule them all), and he wouldn’t allow us to fail. Of course, we made it across the endless expanse of water to the other side and complete our quest. We have ruled the world together ever since.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Non-Fiction

 

Dan: The Profile

Dan

The Profile

(Revised on 11/4/09)

 

 

By Adam LaMonica

October 20th 2009

It is early in the afternoon when the sun finally reaches his window. He gingerly opens his eyes, squinting at the light striking his pupils for the first time that day. He sits up in bed and runs his hands through his long coarse hair and rubs his rough and rugged facial hair. He stands and stretches his long lanky limbs. He looks in the mirror at a haggard image of himself, realizing he hasn’t showered in a few days. He walks over to his dresser and retrieves his favorite baggy. Skillfully, he extracts the perfect amount and rolls it to perfection. Quickly, he fetches his matches, for he knows a wooden match is always best. He lights up and takes a few puffs; his pupils go large as his day begins.

“Daniel! Stop eating those snacks, you are spoiling your supper!” his mother would always say, way back in his youth, back when he was but 12 or 13. He was, like many other Americans, overweight. Looking at him now you would never know. He was a lazy youth, sat around and watched TV. He never seemed too prone to do his homework, despite his failings at his tender age, things seemed to go his way. In his 8th year of schooling, he came home one day to his father. “Son, it is time for you to get a hobby,” Mr. – said, or so that’s how it is recalled. Dan was presented a guitar, his first. He wasn’t sure of what to make of it at first, but his father was unrelenting. “Looking back at that point in time, I now see that my father was anything but proud of me,” Dan admits. It was the look in his father’s eyes that pushed him to music.

After finishing his joint, he goes into the kitchen of his parent’s home. He is alone in the house on this mid Friday afternoon. With short steps he makes his way to the pantry to find very little. His options limited, he grabs the peanut butter and makes a sandwich. He eats it slowly, letting his mind wander as he chews. When he finishes his quick lunch he makes his way to the porch and enjoys a cigarette and again, his mind wanders. After a cigarette or two he returns to his room, picks up his guitar, and begins to play.

Music gave Dan something to strive for. As he learned to play during his 8th grade year, everything seemed right. Without any change in his lifestyle, Dan began to lose weight, almost to the point of drastic. Without any more educational ambition, his grades improved despite his lack of homework. It seemed to him, at that age, that music just made everything in life better. By the time he completed middle school at West Running Brook, he was borderline anorexic, his grades were all solid C’s and B’s instead of D’s and F’s, and his talent in music was as clear as day. He entered a high school of upwards of four thousand students at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, NH, in the year 2004. As a freshman, he joined the large music program that the school had to offer, taking Intro to Music. “It had become my passion in less than a year’s time, playing my guitar was all I wanted to do.”

Now, in his room, Dan had played his guitar for hours before he got the call. It was Peter; he had to work and couldn’t play with him that night. Dan tells himself that is fine, he will play alone. Realizing the time he quickly showers and trims his mustache, leaving the stubble on his chin and cheeks. He has another cigarette as he waits for his ride, having no license or car himself. His ride arrives and he is off. Another Friday night at the local coffee shop is underway yet again.

As high school continued, Dan garnered a reputation and some habits. Everyone in the graduating class knew of him, along with many in the class just under him. He was popular because he was something different. He was a true free spirit. “I honestly didn’t care much about anything but people and music,” Dan continues, “My friends supported my music and I supported their endeavors. The rest of the world be damned.” As he met more and more people he met more and more talented musicians. One such was a drummer named Tim. “Tim is one of my favorite people” Dan exclaimed, “He is the best drummer I have ever met. He introduced me to a lot.” One such thing was marijuana and cigarettes. While Tim was a casual smoker in every regard, Dan became more than that. Part of his reputation he garnered along with talented musician was perennial pot head.

He arrives at the Coffee Factory somewhat early. He purchases a cup of coffee with the money he made tuning an old woman’s piano a few days back. He picks up a paper and takes a seat. Sipping his coffee, he elongates the beverage’s contents as much as he can as he reads the newspaper; it is yesterday’s paper.

His social life aside, high school was also a place of learning. He maintained that C average, taking the minimum classes available. However, his one exception was his music classes. In his senior year in high school, 2008, Dan took Advanced Music Theory 2, the most advanced class in music Pinkerton has to offer. He credits all he is musically to what he learned throughout his years in those courses. He used what he learned to write music. He wrote and performed at many venues all over the area. He would often play solo, with just his voice and his guitar. He would also play with others that he had met. “I love playing with Tim and Peter. We just get up there and improvise, but we are so in tuned with each other it produces some amazing stuff,” says Dan. Throughout high school, Dan had various rag tag bands such as Secretly Sixty with Tim and Peter. His musical groups were always loosely defined and never really become more than just hobbies, even to Dan.

Timed perfectly, Dan finishes his coffee as the other musicians begin to arrive. He greets them, some he knows and some he doesn’t. Amongst themselves they decide who goes when. One woman said she needed to get home to her children; she went first. One man said he needed to wake up early to go to work; he went after the mother. The next trio was in high school, and demanded to go third; and so they did. The last lady worked at the coffee shop as the store manager, claiming she needed to prepare the store for closing before the last act; she went fourth. Dan was slated to go fifth and last.

Dan’s music is very independent. He has a very unique style. “When I write, I tend to just play my guitar,” Dan says, “In the back of my mind my knowledge of notes and keys come in, but I don’t think about it when I write, it kind of just comes. It is quite transcending.” When asked what sounds near to his music he can’t seem to answer indefinitely. “His music is really something you have to go and hear, you can’t really know what to expect until then,” says one high school friend of Dan’s who is currently attending college. “Dan? Well, his music is, it’s just Dan,” one person said, quite simply.

Dan listened to all the other acts enthusiastically. After every performance he would chit chat with the performer, complimenting them, creating general small talk. He was expanding his musical resources. He had a cigarette before the next act. In the middle of the fourth, Dan got a call; it was Peter. He had just got out of work and wondered if Dan had gone on yet. Jubilant, Dan told him he was next, he would wait, and he was glad Peter was coming.

Dan has never been able to hold a job through his years. He has no drive to make money. He claims he has no reason to make money. He had a job at Shaws Supermarket during his senior year. “He had someone cover his shift every day. Eventually he just stopped coming, just stopped caring,” I was told by a co-worker and friend. His high school education was under similar duress due to a lack of motivation. Dan didn’t graduate with his class of 2008. He did, however, take night classes and got his GED. Currently, he is 20 years of age, unemployed, living at home, has no plans or thoughts for the future, and plays music every Friday night at the local coffee shop, The Coffee Factory.

Peter arrives just before the store manager finishes, his guitar in hand. Dan greets him with a hug that Peter returns. They set up for their performance. They hadn’t played together in months. They hadn’t written together in months. They hadn’t practiced or jammed together in months. They played, and it was as if they had practiced leading up to this one show at the local coffee shop. The crowd was all smiles, often one of the other musicians would chime in with a bongo beat or a harmonica. The audience got involved, the one and only act in which they did. Dan finishes only when his voice is horse and his fingers bleed. The audience claps and stands as one. Dan thanks them all, and he thanks The Coffee Shop. Peter drove Dan home that night. His pupils dilated from the car ride, Dan went to the kitchen. Finding little options he made a sandwich. He had a cigarette before going into his room. There he stretched his lanky limbs and ran his hand through his coarse hair as he sat on his bed. His pupils are large as his day ends.

 

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Non-Fiction, Profile

 
 
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