Sunday, March 04, 2007

Fatherhood: A Memoir of Sorts

Originally posted at http://jakev.vox.com

When I was little my father used to pick me up every so often and take me to his house to spend the weekend. The memories I have of my time with him are small but now that I look back I guess there is something to them.


He would show up driving his white Pontiac Grand Am. I remember thinking it was an amazing car. My father had worked for General Motors most of his life and all of mine so I would sit during the three hour drive assembling a Rube Goldberg style factory where my father had built this car himself. I would sit in the passenger seat and play with the automatic door locks. My mothers car was nearly as old as I was and had the metal plunger locks at the top of the door. The locks in the Grand Am had a bright orange strip at the bottom so you knew if they were locked or not. I'd play with them on and off most of the ride and my father never yelled at me to stop.


The two of us would always stop at some dirty corner market where I was allowed to pick out any type of pop, some candy, and some chips. Now that I'm older I realize this was just his way of keeping me occupied for the drive. I don't think he realized how much of a treat this was for me. He would let me get whatever junk food I wanted, stuff that kids typically love. The difference was that he never told me not to get something because it would make me fat or that eating junk like that was the reason I was already fat. He just let me be happy with pop and candy without any shame or nervousness.


As he drove us past the sprawling middle class Michigan lives that lined the highway I'd look at all the billboards. I was captivated with what they said, always waiting for one of them to be addressed directly to me. I would ask how far away we were from his house every fifteen minutes or so. I wasn't trying to bother him, I was just always trying to memorize the route to his house. After years of taking the same roads over and over again I was never able to remember it. I do remember some of the billboards, especially the ones for strip clubs.


Our conversations in the car are hard to remember. The only one I remember was about a girl I liked named Laura Hutton. I lied to my father and said she was my girlfriend. He laughed and said I wouldn't know what to do with her if I had a chance. What I do remember about the rest of our talks was that I was always completely fake. I had this idea that fathers and sons should have things in common. That they should naturally be bonded. Whenever he would start talking about something I would pretend that I knew all about it and agreed with whatever opinion he had on the subject. I always wanted to tell him about the abuse I was suffering at home from my step-father but I never did. I didn't understand how the whole father and son thing worked I guess.


On Friday night we would get to his house and there would be a meal prepared for me in the fridge. I'd sit at the table and eat, then play with my brother Rick who was not my actual brother but the son of my fathers girlfriend. Once it got later my father would be sitting in his chair and turn on HBO. I remember watching Eddie Murphy's Raw while sitting on the floor by my fathers chair. I didn't understand most of the jokes but the things I did get made me laugh until I almost passed out. Sometimes the shows we watched weren't as funny but I would laugh when my father did so he would think I understood the jokes.


When I woke up on the Sunday mornings it was always the same. I could smell shower running and my father using his shampoo. I'd wait awhile and then get up and go out into the living room. He was always sitting there in his chair wearing nothing but his underwear. On the television he would be watching the old World War II movies on TNT or TBS, I don't remember which channel. I never liked the movies, now they remind me of Sundays. After the movie was over we'd get into the Grand Am and start the drive back. The pop and candy, me trying to connect with him on some superficial level, and reading the billboards.

Once I became a teenager I moved away from my father so I didn't see him for years at a time. Bi-annual phone calls to connect on Christmas and my birthday and that was about it. When I began living on my own and later bouncing around the country contact between the two of us was even more infrequent. I would call him to let him know what state I was living in and he would ask me what the weather was like there. Thats how we conversed, an update of the situation and then talk about the weather. After five minutes the conversation was over and I wouldn't have to do it again until I moved it was holiday time again.


A few days ago I found out I'm going to be a father. The woman I love is pregnant and we're going to have a baby. I decided to call my father and tell him. I was hoping it would go to his answering machine but it didn't.


“Hey it's Jake. I've got some news.”


“Oh hi, what's that?”


“You're going to be a grandpa. I'm having a baby. Ashley is pregnant.”


“Oh a kid huh? Well that's cool.”


“Yeah we just left the doctors office, figured I'd give you a call and let you know.”


“Alright well cool.... So how's the weather there?”


“It was real cold, then it warmed up a bit but now it's snowing and stuff again.”


“Yeah we got some cold stuff headed our way too.”


I don't want my child to ever have to fake laughs, pretend to understand something I'm talking about, or try to memorize the route to my house in case it wants to escape the hell it's living in.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Terror and Disgust Moment on Amtrak As I Rolled To Chicago

(Note, The Strangler is a magazine in Portland I write for)

Here I am once again on a train headed across the country. I prefer train as it helps keep me under the radar of the people who want to see my mission fail. No metal detectors or drug sniffing dogs here. That's the type of thing that would bring this whole conspiracy to an end. The only thing they need is photo ID which can be obtained very easily. At least a fake one can, a real one is much more difficult to get your hands on even if you are legal and warrant free. They need a birth certificate and a social security card. What kind of archaic madness is that? Why not just have me bring the midwife who helped birth me and a copy of my family crest. In this time of retinal scanning and DNA parental tests they should be able to take a drop of my tainted semen and know exactly who I am and compile a Dostoyevsky-ish list of my various criminal trespassings.

Luckily I happen to be solid gold this time around. Heading to Chicago to complete my mission for The Strangler. I'm the man on the road, the Chicago connection. This kind of enterprise requires a delicate touch, not sure why I was selected as I'm known for my brutal methods, but hell. With how much they pay me in cocaine and unprotected sex who am I to ask?

Two hours into this lingering hell of a blank landscape and I'm standing in a night blacker than a naked Wesley Snipes enjoying my first cigarette. I'm somewhere in Washington, still too far to really begin this mission on any level other than surveillance but distant enough from Portland to not arouse suspicion. The doses of Seroquel are going to be critical on this trip. I need to make them count if I'm going to get enough rest, forget enough facts, and still wake in time to begin the mission.

Just after seven in the evening. It's naked outside and the middle class coughs rattling from ahead of me in this death trap are going in time with the rumble of the tracks. It's like the beginning of some god forsaken voodoo curse or a love song from the dark continent. Time for a Seroquel.

Chewed the pill up nice. Soon my only concern will be nothing at all. Still no phone signal. Contact with headquarters is needed soon.

The front of the car has been colonized by upper class ski bums. Good Americans who enjoy playing poker and driving moderately priced luxury sedans. Some sort of Chrysler probably, that's what I'd drive if I was looking for a nice slow suicide. Outside the window the nothingness is terrible. Any moment now I expect a rogue troop of forgotten Union soldiers to attack the train armed with muskets, although thanks to the pill I'm starting not to care.

The first dose of medicine did me hard. Twenty four hours of drunk tank style sleep that left my ass in pain. I'm going to have to be more scientific when it comes to this stuff or I might miss my stop in Chicago. Then what will become of me? A wandering, terrifying brute whose profession is to sit and wait for violence sitting in some working class bar in Ohio where everyone wears flannel? No chance in hell I'd survive that kind of creep show.

A six minute phone call to headquarters updates the situation. Infidelity is rampant and spirits are breaking. This is going to be tougher than I thought.

I'm in the lounge car surrounded by suspicious Mennonites at every turn. These bastards always fill the trains in the Midwest but this time they are staring at me like they know I'm not your typical sinner. I think they know I'd commit large scale capital murder for a drag off a Marlboro right now. I've got to keep a low profile.

I woke up outside Chicago, got off the train and walked through Union Station. The green jeep was waiting in the parking lot. The big hipped blonde was behind the wheel and the pit bull was in the back seat. Time to get this show on the road.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Near Rock Bottom

Doing lines alone in my room

Television my only conversation

thinking about where you're sleeping and with who

not enough whiskey to kill my curiosity

more forgiveness shoots up through my dollar bill

leaning back I stare at the 60 watt bulb

the closest thing to sun I've seen

except for two weeks worth of dawns

some of your shirts still hang in the closet

they smell like you and the gasoline

I brought inside after too much forgiveness

and too much whiskey


Sunday, April 30, 2006

Middle of the day . . .

I enjoy living in the solitude of the city. Surrounded by the thick madness of Sunday mornings. The street mummies gasp and wheeze in the wide eyed faces that are new to this zoo. Through my eyes it looks like an elementary school diorama thrown together by the half clumsy hands of a lonely child. Scattered glue and pieces all slightly out of place. Construction paper lives colorful and cut into disastrous shapes. People try to forget their scraps. Wastebasket days filled with a billion childhoods waiting for the day when everything comes together. We're still all looking, our colors in the sun bleaching, waiting for something to reach down and scribble the meaning of life someplace we can see it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Time passes.

A Saturday of my own. My coffee sits in front of me California blonde. Two spoons of sugar and five seconds of creamer. Today will be a day of walks to the store for cigarettes, Charles Mingus, and whatever pre-suicide errands are in store for me. This will all be accomplished under the influence of little white pills provided by some faceless corporate Superfly. My neighbors can hear Pithycanthropus Erectus through the wall, they said they don't mind.


This is the first time in weeks I have sat down at the keyboard like I used to. Music at an obscene volume, no one around, and windows open to let the springtime inside.


My words are and have been mediocre at best. The half dead sighs of a man blinded by the good things he has. I'm no longer showing my side of things. I can't be the apocalyptic town crier when I have a homemade lunch in my hand. This calls for a dose of the old witchcraft. A liter of whiskey, Hank Williams, and a sleepless night on a city street.


Maybe it's my outlook on the whole thing. Barely making ends meet and having no time to spare for myself has driven me to think of writing as a financial rescue out of the nine to five instead of being a spiritual rescue out of the slums. I need a cleansing. An animalistic night of depravity. A double barreled frenzy of passion and words flying one hundred miles per hour out of mouths.


Anything to stop the bullshit writing.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Two Days Before December

I walked down the sidewalk with my cigarette lit, light headed from exhaling too much because it's hard to tell what's smoke and what's breath. Around the corner and three floors up a woman had her window open, she was riding a man, it was good sex. I stood down on the street for a minute watching. I think she saw me and just kept having sex. I didn't want to be a part of her game so I walked back to the diner.

My companion met me outside the door, she lit her cigarette, I told her about the lady in the window. Around the corner the lady was finished fucking, just sitting there with her shirt on. We walked back, not mentioning the kisses we had or the coin that we flipped to determine our fate thirty minutes earlier. She tilted her head back, resting it on the brick wall. I stood there cold and happy, listening to her sing a song only half as beautiful as she looked that night.

We smiled, laughed, and talked. The whole time knowing it was doomed.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I'm broke.



The ambiguous nature of obtaining employment in Portland is wearing on me. In the South things are cut and dry. You turn in your application or resume and then wait a day. It's a good idea to call the person in charge and ask them if they've had time to look over your submission. This shows initiative and a desire to work, the type of tenacity a potential employer seeks. Apparently here in Portland doing this type of thing is considered a form of stalking. This is hard to get used to when coming from an environment where if you don't get a phone call within a couple days for a potential employer they don't want you.

I've seriously never dealt with anything like this.

I turned in my resume and called a day or two after. The guy told me he would call me once he had looked over them and let me know if they were interested. A week and a half passed and I finally got a phone call. I show up for my scheduled interview and he wasn't there. So the next day I call and reschedule, I show up, we talk for about thirty minutes and he says that I seem like the type of guy they are looking for. He goes over pay scale, what he expects from employee's and so on. Then says that he wants me to go to another store and meet the assistant manager there and if they like me he'll give me a call either that day or the following and let me know.

I got to the other store, speak the the assistant manager. I'm shown the store layout, told how certain aspects of the job are, the whole nine yards. Now understand that if I were anywhere else this would seem like some stuff that would be told to a new hire on their first day. Apparently not the same here. After the tour I'm told she will call the other manager and let him know what she recommends. This leaves me thinking they aren't interested in me. Then she says "I'll talk to you later". I don't know what to think.

I went for another interview for a bouncing job. I was shown around the club (two clubs actually), told some details of their operation. Again, all this is stuff that normally you'd hear on your first day of work in Florida. Then he asks me when I'd be able to start working. I told him that I could start then if he wanted. He chuckled and told me that he would get in touch of me sometime next week and let me know if they are interested... but if I didn't hear from him, give him a call.

What the fuck. Why can't they just say if they want your ass to work for them or not? This poverty is not only draining because I'm constantly watching what I spend to the point of it crippling my entertainment/social life, but it's a huge drag on my mental state as well. The idea of being a perpetual bum.