Writing 101: Day One

2 Jun

Assignment: Free write for 20 minutes…about anything

Hum. Twenty minutes. Just wrote something for Post-A-Day. What’s left in this brain of mine? Something that has been on my mind for a long time. The downfall of society. The thing that has changed the fabric of our lives…participation trophies.

Seriously. Seriously??? I shit you not. Think about it. Used to, you were taught that setting goals and working hard to obtain them was the way of life. We were encouraged, shit, expected, to have goals and to work hard for them. We were taught that nothing worth getting wasn’t worth fighting for, and that if it was too easy to get, well, it really wasn’t worth getting after all. Pick a bigger goal. We also learned, often the hard way, that we don’t always reach those goals. Sometimes there is someone, or some team, or some entity, bigger, or stronger, or smarter, or more cunning that will win. That’s the way of the world. Survival of the fittest. Everyone doesn’t win…there is always a #1!! Suck it up, buttercup!

Here’s the important part. We were taught to deal with it. We were given the tools and skills to deal with disappointments like that. To lick our wounds, pick ourselves up, and carry on. All the while continuing to make, plan, and work for other goals and dreams. It’s what we are meant to do as humans. It’s that competitive spirit and drive that makes us great. It’s the American Way!! American ingenuity wasn’t built on crying, because you didn’t get your way! It was built on trying, failing, trying, failing, and perhaps trying again…until you succeed.

So now we introduce the participation trophy, because little Jimmy’s parents never learned how to discipline him and he cries every time he doesn’t get his way. Imagine what a fit he throws at the end of t-ball season when Billy got a trophy (because Billy’s team kicked ass that year) and he didn’t get one!! Waaaahhhhh. Right!  It starts in fucking t-ball season when they’re mere babies! These parents, instead of teaching them the lesson of losing gracefully and working harder the next year to reach that goal, start to get indignant that little Jimmy didn’t get a trophy, too! How dare they? Little Jimmy showed up for practice just like the rest of those boys! He’s so little…he really should get a trophy so his feelings don’t get hurt.

Are you fucking kidding me? Participation trophies do nothing but build kids up with false praise and handicap them for life, in my opinion.

Instead of being parents, They become his biggest crutch, and all of the parents like them who advocated, all those years ago, for the same thing. Much like “new math,” which was the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life! I was not in that group of mothers, and that movement started when my boy entered the youth rec sports arena at the age of 8 years old…the youngest you could be, to join at that time.

We are not helping our youth by handing them accolades that are not earned. We must teach them how to deal with little, but meaningful to their young minds, dramas and disappointments, otherwise we have a teenager or young adult who doesn’t know how to deal with not winning, or rejection, and then they turn into that idiot who just killed all those sorority girls in Santa Barbara. Seriously. Did you watch that video? He really believed that he deserved to win any prize he wanted. He probably got a lot of participation trophies and false praise as a kid…

 

 

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Daily Prompt: Snapshot Stories…Pork Fried Rice!

2 Jun

Prompt: Open the first photo album you can find — real or virtual, your call — and stop at the first picture of yourself you see there . Tell us the story of that photo.

I can’t even think about this story without laughing my ass off…because it could have been true! Tattoos. Ever had one? I’m a fan, but not a fanatic. I think you should really put some thought into a tattoo and have it be something meaningful to your life, because you’re going to have to live with it…forever.

Not like my dumbass son who, while in Mexico on his senior spring break trip, decided to have two nautical stars tattooed on his back…one on each shoulder blade. You know…because he’s so into sailing and just had to get that passion tattooed on his body. Are you fucking kidding me???? That kid had never even been on a boat in his entire life when he got those stupid, fucking tattoos! Oh, and here’s the kicker…his best friend at the time got one on his forearm, too! Yeah…he was really (NOT) into sailing as well! I still tease them to this day, ten years later, about their “friendship tattoos!”

So, I had been thinking for some time about what kind of tattoo I wanted, because I did want one. I ride a Harley Davidson and it kind of comes with the territory. 🙂 I thought about a lot of things, but nothing really “spoke” to me, until I took a trip to Laconia Bike Week in New Hampshire in 2000; the country’s oldest motorcycle rally. I went with my BFF, Amy, to research going there as a vendor with my business. Man, did we wish we had our bikes with us on that trip! We flew in just to do R&D there, and being biker chicks – since before there were many of us on our own bikes – we were so bummed not to be riding there, because the scenery was AWESOME!! Mountains, oceans, forest, and beaches…you had it all! Even in the cage it was a beautiful drive.

Amy, who already had several tattoos at that point, decided that she wanted to get another one to commemorate our trip there together. Seeing how we were BFFs, and this was a trip to remember, I decided to join her…I would boldly make that move! She had a biopsy scar on her right breast in the lower right cup area. Amy was really into turtles so she decided to have a turtle tattooed right over the scar with the scar being the shell of the turtle. It was fucking magnificent! The artist had the turtle kind of at an angle with his head turned looking up toward her nipple. Believe it or not, it was actually really cool and cute and not “dirty”. The cool part was the raised shell from the scar made it look really 3D.

Here’s the thing…Amy is a really, really tough girl. That’s why we get along so well…she’s no sissy. She had assured me that tattoos don’t hurt much at all and she had gotten them in places that traditionally are tough, like around the ankle where there isn’t much fat. So, much to my surprise, Amy really struggled with that tattoo. She was hurting! I took a picture of her and got the death stare…so I quit taking pictures! It was the scar. We hadn’t anticipated how that scar tissue would feel getting tattooed, and according to Amy, it hurt like a mother fucker. You’d think I would have been more nervous to get mine done after that, but I wasn’t. I was actually feeling pretty zen about the whole thing.

While Amy had been discussing her tattoo with the artist, I was looking through the volumes of art as inspiration for my own tattoo. I was feeling a little stressed and nervous, because like I said, I think that a tattoo really needs to be something meaningful to my life.  I thought about doing something for my son, but just couldn’t find anything that said, “Here I am!” I turned each page expectantly hoping to find “the one”. Flipping one page after another, book after book, still looking and searching when I came upon Chinese symbols. They were so beautiful. The symmetry of them so artistic and flowing. Suddenly my gaze stopped. There it was! I felt it! Courage. The Chinese symbol for the word Courage. PERFECT!

That word really resonated with me. I was widowed at 25 years old with a 22 month old son. I had a business to close and a house to try and save. I also had a full time, corporate job that I had to keep, and sanity that was very hard to hold intact. It was a little bit of Hell on earth…for a minute. I’m not one to live in a pity party. I took about two months to cry, feel sorry for the bad turn in my life, miss my husband and the father of my child…horribly…, and then I knew that I had to find the courage to get up and start to put my life back together and live…because my son needed me to do that. How was I ever to give him a chance at a “normal” life if I was perennially stuck in my own little pity party?

I summoned every single bit of my Norwegian ruthless courage, spirit, backbone, strength, and fortitude of mind to pick myself up, wipe myself off, realize that, that was only one chapter of my life, and now on to the next chapter! What else is there to do with one’s life at such a crossroads? Either you pick yourself up or you live in misery. I’m not a misery kind of chick. I prefer optimism and happiness. Even if you have to force yourself to think that way sometimes. I began to find my way back to living life again.

That one word explained the way I saved my life…through courage…and I knew that whenever I needed to find courage again in my life I need only to run my fingers across that tattoo at the nape of my neck to be reminded how courage had thus far served me well, and would continue to serve me as long as I choose to be courageous, because it is a choice, you know. Not only did the word mean something to me, but the artist in me found the symbol to be quite visually pleasing. That was it. I was going for it!

I have to be honest. It really didn’t hurt at all. I would describe it as uncomfortable, but not unbearable. Of course it wasn’t a huge piece either, but being a needle virgin, and actually a hater of needles in general, I didn’t find it bad at all and would do it again. The fact that I have a super high pain tolerance probably would have something to do with that, too, but that’s a story for another day! Here’s another cool fact…in the end, it ended up being a little raised, like Amy’s scar. Turns out I was allergic to the red in the purple ink, so the whole thing was really raised for some time. It almost looked branded, which I have to admit, I thought was choice and really tough looking! It isn’t as raised now, but it still isn’t smooth like other tattoos. I like it that way. Gives it more character!

PORK FRIED RICEFast forward a year and we’re in the Smoky Mountains celebrating Christmas with the family. We shared a cabin with my sis and her (ex)husband and we had the best time. When Tom, my brother-in-law, saw my tattoo he said, “That doesn’t say courage, that says pork fried rice, and all the Chinese people are laughing at all the dumb Americans getting those symbols on their bodies without knowing what they’re saying!” We all had a good laugh about that, but I was sure that it didn’t say pork fried rice…or did it?

That Christmas my uncle also celebrated with us in Tennessee, and he brought a friend along with him…Lee Chen…from China. Seriously. How could it not get more perfect?! After about an hour of visiting I pulled Lee aside and asked a favor. “Lee, would you mind taking a look at this and telling me what it says?” I asked. “Sure. I will try,” was his reply. So I showed him my tattoo and he said it meant hero. What? Hero? Are you sure? Yep. He was sure. That gave me something to think about, but after I did, I realized that I was o.k. with that. After all, I thought, I have always been my own hero. I don’t expect any hero to show up. I had always depended upon only myself for anything in life, so hero was still fitting.

That night, back at the cabin, we all had a good laugh about pork fried rice and how lucky I was that it wasn’t something drastically different. We also laughed about the very real possibility that out of the thousands of others with symbol tattoos, several were bound to be wrong, perhaps not pork fried rice wrong, but incorrect nonetheless! It is now one of our best family jokes whenever someone sees it and asked what it means!

Just to be safe, I did, years later, have the opportunity to have it read by another Chinese national..and yep…still hero! Whew!

 

Daily Prompt: Climate Control

31 May

Prompt: The idea that the weather and people’s moods are connected is quite old. Do you agree? If yes, how does the weather affect your mood?

Have you ever spent a really long winter in the upper-midwest? No. Seriously. I’m talking about a long ass winter…LONG…months without seeing the sun, your lawn, or feeling a temperature above fifteen degrees?

Can you imagine what it would be like to only have 3% sunny days, of the possible 100% sunny days you could have?

I have and can, and so has just about every person living in the upper half of the country for more than twenty years. It’s fucking brutal…and depressing. So depressing that we do all kinds of crazy shit to get out of the house and try to cheer up a bit, like ice bowling. Now that’s a good time for a drunk Saturday afternoon. And really, what else is there to do, but get drunk, or eat, on a Saturday in the middle of a mid-western winter?

I suffer from seasonality disorder. I often times find it very difficult to get out of bed in the morning during the winter. I have no drive. No ambition. On the weekends my biggest triumph is brushing my teeth. Seriously.

You wonder why mid-westerners are so ample? It’s from eating away our depression all winter with shit you can bake and stew, because it’s not 8,000 degrees of summer! Like cakes and pot roasts and potatoes!

The best part about being a Yankee? S P R I N G ! ! And all the promise of summer it brings with it. 🙂 We start to perk up, come out of hibernation, and engage with the world again. Neighbors! Hey Neighbor!! Long time no see! Cocktails?

Damn we love spring. Summer is short lived, and usually too hot, but spring, ah spring you devilish matron of freshness and renewal! You tempt us so handily with your balmy days and gentle breezes, only to grab back the warmth and send us retreating back into the tundra for one more pass…or two…

The world just gets happier up north in the spring. The weather brightens up and so do we! It’s true. You can never convince this mid-western girl that climate doesn’t affect moods. I’m living proof of it and so is my environment.

The good life. 🙂

Daily Prompt: Futures Past

31 May

Prompt:  As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that vision?

Wow. That’s a good and powerful question. Funny, but I had actually been thinking about this for some time now and surprising myself with the answers. There have only been three things that I can ever remember wanting to be, well four if you count that short stint with wanting to be a child psychologist…doesn’t every little girl want to be a child psychologist at one time or another in their life? Three things…but I’ve only had ONE burning desire.

The only “job” I ever aspired to, once I actually figured out what a job or career was, was in advertising. In high school, all I would answer when someone said, “What are you going to do?” was always advertising. Of course I did absolutely nothing at all about researching majors or getting into a college. It was just…”going to happen.” Right.

I also always knew that I would own a business one day. I never had a real passion for any business in particular, but I did have a passion for business in general…the art of “making the deal happen.” I loved that and especially marketing. Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, I just always knew, felt, assumed, that I would own my own business. I started young, too.

Back in my grade school days we didn’t eat lunch at school unless it was five degrees or below. On the days that I knew we would be eating at school I would load my lunchbox up with penny candy and gumpops and sell the shit out of them at lunch. I’d make a lot of money, for a kid, and would restock for the next shut-in. For the kids out there…penny candy is like getting two pieces of Jolly Rancher for a penny…it was crazy! You could go to the store with a nickel, which, believe me wasn’t easy to get off your dad and you usually had to do a fair amount of chores to get it, but when you did you could transform that nickel into ten pieces of candy. Fifteen pieces if you were as charming as me! 🙂

So that leaves the BURNING DESIRE. The one thing that I’ve known, felt I was born for…the only thing that I’ve ever wanted to do my whole life. The one thing that makes me the happiest girl on earth…the thing that lets me breath. Singing. I’ve always wanted to be a singer. I want to stand on a stage in front of thousands of people and belt out some really sweet shit that will make you cry and get goosebumps. That’s the thing I was meant to do…the one thing that brings me more joy than seeing the smile on my son’s face. Alright…now that I think of that statement I really can’t say more joy…but I will say the same amount of joy. Song. Music. The sweet rhythm and beat, sway and tap…of music. Just thinking about it makes my heart race! Since I was six years old, whenever I was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My unwavering answer has always been, “A singer!” If not out loud, always in my head and heart. Once in high school the “singer” job really didn’t go over too well with the folks!

For the longest time I was about as far away from any of those things as you could imagine. It was sitting at the south pole starting my life. Working, married, and with a baby, and all of my hopes, dreams, and passions were hanging up there at the north pole smirking down at me. Polar opposites could not describe it better. I was not unhappy at all. Quite the contrary…I loved my life. I just found different things to occupy my mind-space.

Then something huge happened. Tragic. Life changing. My husband died. I became an instant widow with a 22 month old son. Shit just got real. WTF was I going to do?

I remember my therapist telling me, “Out of something bad comes something good.” I almost wanted to donkey punch her when she said that! I know now that I just wasn’t ready to hear it. It’s true…every cloud has a silver lining and you can find a blessing in every tragedy, if you’re open and willing to seek them out. Sometimes, like in my case, it can take years until you’re ready to see the something good, but when you’re ready, and with the right passage of time, it’s easy to find. Now, after surving being widowed at 25, and having that many more years of life experience, I actively seek the good, silver lining, and blessing in every bad situation. It just makes the damn thing more bearable. What other choice do we have, really? A never ending pity party? Not my style. 🙂

My life turned on a dime. After about a year I quit my corporate job to have more time with my son. I started bartending one night a week in a local tavern that had a really, really good juke box. That’s where I found my voice. I always had a pretty voice, but I never knew of, or realized, the powerful voice I had until I worked in that gin joint. I used to love to sing Crazy, by Patsy Cline. Loved it for two reasons…one, it is such a beautiful song and so well suited to my voice, and two, there are parts of that song that can get very “throaty” and deep…to pardon the pun!…and I would work those sections of the song and look some dude in the eye while I sang it with a smile and got to those very low places. I got some really good tips from singing like that!

One night a guy put $5.00 in the jukebox and played Mustang Sally about ten times. I sang the shit out of that song and had everyone in the bar going wild. Damn, I made some good money that night, too! Over the nineteen years that I bartended I was known as the singing bartender. My “infamy” even traveled to another state, where a good customer of mine was having some drinks in a bar and when the fella he was talking to found out what town he was from, he said that there was this really awesome singing bartender named Trudy that worked at the Clover, and the guy was like, “Hey! That’s my bartender!” I got a kick out of that. I really am a legend in my own mind! 🙂

I’ve gotten on stage with any band who would have me…and many have. English or Spanish…I can sing them all. One of my favorite memories is getting asked to sing with a mariachi band at a girl’s wedding. That was pretty cool. It also reminds me of the time my niece, Peggy, sent the annoying mariachi band at our favorite Mexican restaurant over to our table to “get us”. She was the one who was “got” when I asked the band, in Spanish, if they knew a particular song and if I could sing it with them. Imagine to look of shock and surprise on her face when I turned towards her table triumphantly, and with a smart-assed gleam in my eye, began to belt out one of the best songs about drinking and debauchery in a mariachi band’s repertoire! She will never forget that night!

It’s true that I’ve never sang before thousands, but I have sang before a thousand, and hundreds more. I’m older now and don’t sing publicly like I used to…but sometimes I still do, and people don’t expect this old gal to belt out a bluesy soulful tune like she still do…but she do! Singer…CHECK!

Through my son’s athletic activities I accidentally stumbled upon a business that I never expected. It grew and grew and I’ve now owned my own business(es) for 18 years…ten years, this year, with my brick and mortar store. I own Designs On You, a custom embroidery and screenprinting shop with a retail component that deals with school spiritwear and an online cheerleading store. It’s a very cute store! We sell promotional items too. You know, the stuff you get at trade shows or concerts or events with a company’s logo on them to advertise their company. Oops! Yep. I went there. Guess what? I’m kind of into advertising. We help companies promote their brand through advertising their logo on apparel and promotional giveaway items! I know…it’s cray, but true!

Advertising…Check! Own My Own Business…CHECK!

Here’s the something good from the something bad. You thought I was going to forget about that, didn’t you? Well I didn’t. I never would have found out how strong of a woman I am, if my husband hadn’t died. Believe me, I never wanted him dead for that to happen, but that’s my blessing. I never would have achieved all of the things I have in my life had he not died. I would have been a happy housewife and mother who sang only at bedtime and around the house, the only advertising I would have cared about was coupons for cleaning supplies, and the business part…well, my first husband and I did start a concrete business together. He worked in the field and I worked admin at night after getting home from my corporate job, so that part would have been realized.

In some messed up way it’s almost like the Universe said, “Hey man, we’re sorry to fuck you up like that. Here’s some good shit that’s gonna happen for you. Enjoy.” I’ll take it…what choice is there?

 

 

 

Daily Prompt…Trick Questions

30 May

Prompt: A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing an in-depth piece – about you. What are the three questions you really hope she doesn’t ask you?

Kill, marry, shag. There. I said it. I swear, how do you come up with an answer to this question? It’s like having to pick the best of the worst! I’d love if they asked something like Matthew McConaughey, Channing Tatum, and Adam Levine. Easy. Levine, McConaughey, and Tatum, respectively. Sure, I could live with that.

What if the table is turned. What if the choices are Hitler, Satan, and John Wayne Gacy? Then what? How do you choose? I guess if you killed Satan, then that would render Hitler and Gacy inept at being evil, since evil will no longer exist. Well, shit! Maybe I should hope that they ask that question! I could solve the world’s problem right there! 😉

Or it could go all creepy like George, Aviva’s dad from RHONY…man that dude is nasty…that gross, old dude from the Clippers…Donald Sterling – EW!…and Woody Allen, you know, the guy who likes to sleep with and marry his step-daugther. Then WTF do you do? That just ain’t right! I couldn’t even imagine any of that, with any of those dudes!

Well there it is. All wrapped up and served on the proverbial platter. I really hope she doesn’t ask me anything about that third scenario…

He Used To Be A Bad Ass

5 Aug

I lost a friend today…his name was Mike Furlan…known as Big Mike or 9 Toes to his friends. He was such a cool dude and a real character with a colorful past. He had a laugh that could fill a room. I wrote this story about him in 2001 and it got published. Mike got a kick out of that. I’d like to share it with you as most of it is in his words…this is the story of Big Mike…

He Used To Be A Bad Ass

“I’ll bet I’m the only guy you know who’s been shot, stabbed, hit by a car, run over by a truck, and died once,” he said to me, and he laughed that big, contagious, belly laugh that is only Big Mike’s. Even now at fifty-three and crippled by surgeries and arthritis, he is an imposing man at six foot one and 300 pounds. Ever the warrior, he laughed and said, “Everybody teases me now you know, because I don’t move the way I used to and I keep telling them, hey I still got ten minutes. I’m down to ten minutes, but I still got ten minutes.”

This once subculture warrior is now the older, gentler Mike. I look at him never guessing at the wild and somewhat shady side of his nature. The warrior he once was is now a lovable, funny, gentle giant with barely a whisper of the man who was once so deeply entrenced in the subculture of clubs, bars, and violence.

“You heard of living on the wrong side of the tracks?” he asked. “Well, I grew up on the tracks.”

Born in 1948, he grew up on the south side of Chicago, on a dead-end street, in the 400 block of Harding Avenue. At the dead end was a wall built up by about eight or ten feet of railroad ties, and over the top were the tracks. It was a small, cramped neighborhood, houses one on top of the other, and no room for anything.

“We had a little empty lot we called ‘the prairie.’ We used to play baseball there. And then we got too big for that and we had to move somewhere else, and then we got too big for that and then we had to go to the playground. And then we had to quit playing hardball because we broke some windows, so we had to use a softball. Over the fence was a home run, and then it was hit the wall was a homerun. Then it was you get it on the roof, it’s a homerun. Then it was you get it on the roof you’re out and you gotta go get the ball yourself” and he broke out with a laugh.

The neighborhood was rich in a history of mobsters like John Dillinger and mafiosos like Sammy Giancanna. “Somewhat shady, but a nice neighborhood,” he said.

When Dillinger would hide out in his neighborhood, Big Mike’s father, as a boy, would go to the store for him. A local restaurant hosted lunch for gangsters almost on a daily basis. He belonged to a community with an underworld mentality that became “normal” for him and for most others in his neighborhood. he was part of a “clique” as he calls it of local guys called the Chicago Avenue Jokers.

“It wasn’t a gang; there was no joining. There were no meetings. It just was.” If there were trouble within a six-block radius, they would show up. “The old ladies would walk down the street and didn’t have to worry about nothin’. We protect; you know it’s our neighborhood. Now you need a gun if you go into that neighborhood.”

In 1963-64, when Mike was about fifteen or sixteen the neighborhood started changing from white to black. It was during the civil rights era and he remembers vividly the riots, the burning of Madison Avenue, and the machine gun nests on Chicago Avenue. He was caught up in the prejudice that seemed part of the fabric of the neighborhood, and of the times. He was kicked out of grammar school for collecting fifty cents a week from all the black kids at school.

I asked him if he felt that way about black people now and thankfully, he said no; today he’s exactly the opposite. He now has many black friends, and with age and experience he has come to respect all people as humans just like anyone else.

“What made you the guy who took money from the black kids, instead of the guy who walked down the street with them to make sure no one kicked their ass?” I asked.

He replied, “I don’t know. It was just the way things were back then.”

He was stabbed on his twenty-first birthday, which he thought ironic since his dad had also gotten stabbed on his own twenty-first birthday. “I got into a fight and was stabbed by some black guys,” he said. “After that I kind of got away from there. A friend of mine went to prison for a long time and I moved out here on January 19, 1970. I remember the date, because I drove him to jail.”

Mike had spent summers in Lake Bluff at his aunt’s house as a boy and decided he’d move up to Lake County for a change of scenery. He started hanging out at a bar where he had been going since he was fifteen called The Mousetrap in Park City. After a while, the owners offered him a job as a bouncer. He worked there off and on for the next seventeen years.

Mike has always been a worker. He has been fending for himself since he was seventeen. “How? I always had a job. It may have been a job for cash, but I always worked. I never had to steal, and I never sold drugs unless I wanted to, and we all did.”

Mike had been a drug user since early on, but never let it get in the way of going to work, or maybe it was part of the reason he went to work. “Where I went to work, there was always plenty of stuff to party with, and I got paid for doing it,” he said and then laughed. He eventually started working at three different bars at the same time. At one of the three bars where he worked Mike got shot. it’s a story I’ll never forget.

He had carried a gun every day straight for thirteen years. For some unknown reason, that night was the night he didn’t carry it. Mike and a group of friends were going to Chicago to a comedy club to do some drinking. For some reason he thought to himself, “Eh, I don’t need my gun.” So he left it at home and they went to the city.

When they returned, they went to a bar where he worked called Down the Street. It was an after hours bar open until six a.m.

“About eight or ten blacks tried to charge the door. There was a cover charge at the time. They figured they weren’t going to pay it because only pimps and whores were in there trying to hustle the sailors.” A fight broke out and they wound up outside in the parking lot. One of them pulled out a gun and shot Mike right in the chest. He didn’t know he was shot. It felt like someone had poked him in the chest. “And then I saw the blood and I got pissed off.”

He went inside and said to the bartender, “Joyce, give me a shot of amaretto.” All the while everyone was screaming, because he was a bloody mess. He downed the shot and went into action. “I went back out there and beat all seven of them. They were in the hospital longer than I was.”

In the ambulance the police officer put his index finger up to the second digit in the hole in his chest to stop the bleeding. Mike pushed his hand away and said, “What are you doing?” And the cop replied, “Well you’re bleeding.”

Mike replied, “Well , that  hurts, asshole!” And he laughed the whole time he told me the story.

He returned to work seven days to the day, after he got shot with a new outlook on life. “I got shot and I said fuck this, that’s enough. I had enough. That’s when I woke up I think. It took a few years after that to realize it and when I was about thirty-three years old I decided I couldn’t be doing this the rest of my life. So I started slowing down. Started slowing down. I took me another ten or eleven years to do it.” He still carries that bullet inside of him as a reminder.

Mike ran a strip joint for awhile. There were a massage parlor and an adult bookstore in the back that he ran as well. “Strippers live in their own minds,” he said to me. “They all think they’re gorgeous. They think they’re the best one.” He told me about the funniest things he saw while running the strip joint. Once, he heard women screaming in the back room and went to see what was going on. “Girls, what’s the problem?” he asked.

“That’s my G-string!” said the one, and the other said, “That’s my G-string.” He laughed and laughed and said, “Who the hell would fight over a sweaty, dirty G-string?”

Then there was the story of the man who wanted to know if it would be all right if he watched the movies wearing high heels. “Sure,” Mike said. “No one cares what you wear in there.” Then he saw the guy a little later wearing shorts, nylons, and high heels.

“Is this ok?” he asked again.

Again Mike’s reply was “No problem.”

He saw the guy one more time in a bra, slip and the nylons and heels. That time he told the guy, “That’s it. Get the hell out of here.”

Only he and his sister are left of his family. The man who was once young, vibrant and full of himself now finds himself as part of the older generation. I asked him how it felt, getting older and not being as bad as he used to be. “Part good, part bad” he answered. “It’s nice to slow down, but now I hurt so much with all the surgeries, broken bones, and the stab wound.”

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned, I asked.

“Well, I’m still learning, but I do know that you have to watch out for things when you get older.” He then went on to say, “I had a lot of good times, growing up , partying. I’ve had a few loves, a few disappointments. You know, like anyone else. I’d do a few things over, not many, but a few. Like not getting broken up so much.”

This statement was followed by a smile that reached his eyes, and again the laughter. “Some things in life you’ve got to let happen, and some things you don’t.” He laughed again and said with a devilish look on his face, “Yeah, I used to be a bad ass. Now look at me. I can’t even walk!”

Go with God, Big Mike. You are loved and will be missed by all.

Have You Ever Hated Doing Such A Good Job?

7 May

I knew that it would happen…someday…but I never really did prepare myself for it fully. It’s the night before Mother’s Day and I just realized that it’s the last Mother’s Day that we’ll wake up together in the same house and it’s making me sad. I worked so hard preparing my son to grow into a good citizen. A person who knew how to act, was responsible and hardworking. I taught him the value of a dollar and how to save for the future. I taught him to be kind, polite, and especially thoughtful to older folks. Apparently I did my job very well, because now, at twenty-four years old, he is leaving the nest for the first time to go off and start a new life…without me…or so it feels to me…and it is breaking my heart just a little.

Oh, I knew that someday he would go, I guess I always secretly wished deep down in my heart that he would never leave me. I never really and truly ever contemplated a life without him here by my side; we’ve always been a team. Funny, but somehow I tricked myself into thinking that he would never want to leave. Crazy sounding, I know, but as his only living parent my life has been completely wrapped up in him and what I could do to give him a good life…most every mother’s reason for being. I must confess that I feel like it’s the end of days.

When he was eight I made him promise that he would never live more that ten miles away from me. He gave me such an earnest, little boy look as he promised that he would never, ever leave me. Over the years I’ve reminded him many times of that and his response is always, “Mom! I was only eight when I made that promise!” and my response is always, “Well, a promise is a promise, son.” Oh he would get so angry when I said that, because I’ve taught him the importance of keeping a promise! I think I must have brainwashed him, because the house he has bought is only a block away from ours and I couldn’t be happier…but it still won’t be the same.

Poor kid. The other day I just started crying out of nowhere thinking about how we wouldn’t share all those special moments together that we do…like watching t.v. together at 2:00 in the morning. He, awake, because he works a swing third shift, and me, awake, because I just never can sleep at night. A time of the day when most all the world is snug in their beds sawing logs and here we sit talking and laughing and sharing special moments. It’s in those late night hours that we share so much of ourselves…alone, just the two of us…the way it was for most of his young life. He put his arms around me, gave me a big hug and said, “Don’t cry Ma..nothin’s gonna change..I’m only moving a block away. I’ll be over all the time for dinner and to visit you.” He said it so sweetly that it made me feel guilty for feeling the way I do…but I can’t help it…I do.

I was eighteen for about two seconds when I moved out of my mother’s house. I was gone for two weeks before anyone even noticed I wasn’t there. So, when my son turned eighteen and was more than content to stay at home I rejoiced! I know a lot of the reason for this is our closeness and the fact that I made a real effort to always be a part of his life and make him a priority in my life…something that wasn’t afforded me at his age. I couldn’t wait to get out on my own, because no one really noticed or even cared, I think, what I did with my life when I was a teen…they were too busy working and running a business. It was kind of like being on a deserted island. I made a conscious effort to NEVER let my son even have an idea of what that felt like…he has always been the #1 priority to me…and he knows it.

So here he is at twenty-four, fully employed with a great job and responsible enough to have saved enough money to comfortably buy his first home on his own. He has turned into the man I raised my boy to be…and I couldn’t be prouder. Don’t get me wrong, he’s no angel, but he is a good kid.  He’s done enough knucklehead, dumbass moves to be a considered an authentic teenager at times to be sure, but who among us hasn’t? It’s part of growing and learning…the key is, do you learn from your mistakes and grow from them or keep repeating the pattern? Thankfully, he inherited the smart gene and has learned from any misstep he’s ever taken.

It’s funny, but sometimes when I think about how I’ll be missing him, I wish I hadn’t done such a good job and he’d be at home for awhile longer…because he wouldn’t be able to afford to move out! Just as quickly I kick myself in the ass and remind myself of what a great kid he is and how I know I will never have to worry about that boy not having a place to live or food to eat. How lucky I am to know that my son enjoys going to work…he’s a worker…and a saver. I also know that when he starts a family of his own that he’ll be a good provider and a hands on dad…because that’s the example he’s been given.

I did my job so well that he’s ready to go…sometimes I wish I wasn’t so good at my job! 🙂