Latest Entries »

The Blue Zoo, part one

800px-F-4_Phantom_II_Collings_Foundation

Darkness had not yet released the quad from its frosty stillness as the 18 -year- old cadet surveyed the close- cropped turf below. From his vantage point, he could see the vague outlines of the decommissioned  fighters that were parked on all four corners of the center square as the first hint of morning sun brushed the towering peaks of the Rampart Range.

On one corner, closest to his squadron quarters was the stout shape of his favorite fighter. One that had nicknames like “Rhino”, or “The Lead Sled”, but the first time Matty had seen it in person, during his initial days at the Academy, he had been awed by the sheer power the airframe implied. He fell in love with it and its anointed name, the F-4 Phantom. And so, on many mornings, he viewed it on  the center quad and dreamed of the day he might command a beauty like that. The deep shadows of the early morning made it all the more mysterious.

The young cadet’s gaze shifted to the northeast corner where another stalwart was parked. This one a warrior, that the F-4 was quickly replacing in the current struggle in Southeast Asia. The ‘Thunderchief’, as it was called, was equipped with a sleeker- looking fuselage than its nearby sibling, but looks aside, it was still a deadly fighter bomber, capable of supersonic speeds and heavy payloads. Matty could barely see the outline of the F-105 until the flickering lights of a patrol car ricocheted off the nearby dorm and briefly illuminated its background.

Air police. Matty shuddered. It had only been three weeks since the incident, and it had all turned out well, but his heart beat faster to recall the situation, and what could have happened.

To his left, the boy’s roomie suddenly stirred in his bunk,  turning onto his side, still deep in sleep. Matty glanced at Billy, trying to see his face, but could only make out some vague features. It was enough. His breathing alone indicated that he was still in the grasp of the Sandman, probably deep in the woods of his native Kentucky, or perhaps even at the Paducah moviehouse where he had worked  and fondly described time and again, as the boys sat side by side in Arnold Hall, watching movies that were screened there for snowbound cadets. Matty smiled, recalling how Billy simply couldn’t help himself when there was a ‘reel change’ during the movie and it was just a bit sloppy. Imprecise. Apparently, he had proudly honed his skills at that little cinema and would never again watch a film without counting down as the time approached for one projector to take over for the other. Reel changes. Something the young cadet from Connecticut had been mostly unaware of, until Billy came into his life.

There was no doubt that living with other people had opened Matty’s eyes to many things. Some that were comforting, but others that confirmed his worst fears. Billy had fallen into that first category, thankfully. The two young men had become very attached to each other in a short time. There was a strange simpatico born of something indiscernible, that the blond cadet struggled to define, because it bridged differences that might have made the boys incompatible. For one thing, Billy was straight, or appeared to be. And, while Matty enjoyed their closeness, he had quickly shrugged off any sexual feelings about the wavy- haired boy from Paducah.

Billy was handsome in a simple way, if that makes sense. Medium to tall in height and built like an athlete, altho he had only participated in a few sports and not as seriously as Matty. His real interests lie in the world of all things aeronautical. There was no single person the tall cadet had ever met with the deep knowledge that Billy possessed. He might seem ‘backwoods’ and casual, but there had never been a question about an aircraft that he couldn’t answer, and, in great detail.

He was like an encyclopedia.

Matty recalled one such conversation.

“Hey Matty boy…”

“Yeah, Bill.”

“What -alls your favorite World War II fighter aircraft?”

“Uh… Well… I’d say the P-38 Lightning. Probably. That, or the P-51. The ‘Mustang’. But, I guess if you’re talking about the coolness factor, I’d say the Lightning. I always thought the twin engines and the way the central cockpit looked, flanked by those engines, was crazy- cool! There’s just something about it…”

Billy’s face lit up. “Y’all got good taste… Y’know, that beauty had two 1,000 horsepower, turbo-supercharged Allisons in those pods! Top speed of 450. Not bad. Not great. But Bong and McGuire shot down a hell of a lot of Zeroes and Oscars in those babies… Did you know that they had counter-rotating props?”

“Yeah. I kind of remember something about that…”

“Yeah. That was t’ kinda balance the engines… y’know, so that the torque from one engine balanced out the torque from the other. And the way they had the cannons mounted in the nose meant that they could hit targets a fair bit further than most. Great idea! Slicker’n pig snot on a door knob!”

“Huh?” Matty turned to look at the grinning boy. “How slick is pig snot?”

“Slick!” Billy chuckled. “When those guns lit up, things happened faster ‘n a knife fight ‘n a phone booth!”

“Oh my God”, Matty groaned, feigning bewilderment. “You’re such a freakin’ hillbilly! I can’t believe you got an appointment here!”

Billy cackled at that, completely enjoying the back and forth. He was a real character. Down home. Loyal. And probably one of the most genuinely funny guys Matty would ever meet. To the tall young man from Connecticut, he had become a third brother. In their brief quartering together, they would rescue each other in completely different ways.

           They both yearned for the places they called home. Billy for his little movie house and the girl he left behind, Matty for the rolling farmlands and the boy who had saved him from himself…

_____________________________________________________________________

tumblr_l71sw1yz6P1qcwqx2o1_1280

{Summer, 1970}

         “Damn, Koles! That freakin’ gol- durned fly is gonna die!” Bobby exclaimed, swatting wildly at the darting horsefly that had appeared suddenly from the deep woods to the boys’ left. What had been a tranquil stroll down the grass farm path to the northern fields, had now deteriorated into a hectic battle against a relentless demon fly for the two friends. Neither boy was immune, as the brown- colored pest buzzed them both, searching for exposed areas to feast on. And, there were several, as the boys had earlier shed their sweatsoaked shirts and were now clad only in cut- off jeans.

          “Crap! Don’t send him over here!” Matty laughed, pirouetting and waving his arms wildly as the fly ricocheted off his face. “RUN!! Head for the pond!”

            With that, both boys started the sprint for the sheltered pond in the low lying pasture beyond the treeline. Bobby cackled hysterically as Matty’s long legs carried his taut upper body in uncharacteristic panic down the uneven terrain that was pock marked with tractor- created pot holes. One such hole almost sent him sprawling, and Bobby didn’t help! instead of helping the stumbling boy, he added a little nudge along with a hysterical laugh as the race to the pond intensified.

            In typical fashion, it had become a competition, like many other things in the boys’ friendship. An innocent jog became a race; a simple goosing became a game of dominance that often ended in trampled meadow grass, flushed faces and heavy breathing.  These were the things that Matty would remember forever. The passion borne of a sacred connection, when the world hunted “their kind”and found nothing redeeming in their love.

               Bobby reached the pond ahead of his blonde 15 year old cohort, and ran full tilt into it, diving after two or three steps. Matty was on his heels and dove atop his silk skinned back, laughing so hard he inhaled a mouthful of murky water. He came to the surface clinging to Bobby’s shoulders, choking and gasping for breath. Sputtering, and still laughing.

                 “You ain’t supposed to drink it, Koles! Cripes! ” Bobby turned, grabbed the thin boy by the shoulders, and slapped his back a few times, but it only made things worse, as Matty’s face turned red and he struggled to catch his breath..

                  “Good God, Matty! You OK? Whattid you do? Swallow the horsefly?”

                   Matty waved his hand at the grinning boy, gesturing him to stop, because he knew what was coming and it was only prolonging the situation.

                    “I told you not to swallow! Bad enough you took the whole thing…”

                    This was all part of the dance… If Bobby had swallowed the water, Matty would have been compelled… expected to give him a hard time as well. Outsiders often looked at their relationship with puzzlement but that just made it all the more entertaining. After all, their world was one of furtive glances and mind reading. Something the Others would never understand…

                      At long last, Matty recovered and was able to speak. He looked at his best friend and trying not to laugh, replied. “Jerk!”

                      “Jerk? Me ? How dare you call me…” With that, Bobby leaped at the tall boy, knocking him backwards into the shallows and landing atop him, more or less, tho he remained upright. Matty was not. Upright, that is. He found himself sitting in the sandy shallows, looking up at the bulging denim cutoffs inches away from his face. It was obvious that the warm waters of the pond had done little to tame what was desperately trying to escape those shorts !

                        “Geezz! I can’t believe you haven’t wrecked the zipper on those yet! Matty said horsely, trying to act nonchalant.

                         “Like Ma says, I’m a growing boy! ” the athletically built boy retorted. With that, he moved even closer, straddling Matty, until he had no place to go, if he was to keep his head above water. “Well… whatcha waiting for Koles? Nobody’s around…”

                       Matty reached up and suddenly pinched the inside of his friend’s left thigh. It had a momentary effect, but Bobby already knew that trick, so he gasped but quickly regained his composure. “Good try! Using that old karate trick again! Nope! That ain’t gonna work THIS time! Come on now… ” He grabbed the boy’s right hand and pulled it to the wet bulge.                 

                     

 

                 The blond boy looked up. Bobby was looking down at him, blushing. It was apparent, even on his perfectly tanned face and neck. Matty swallowed hard and fumbled with the  zipper. It was starting to come down by itself anyways, so…

 {October, 1972}

             The fall semester had been a grinding combination of tough classes and military training for the tall cadet. It had not gone unnoticed that the atmosphere on campus seemed to have soured as the pressure of academic achievement became the focus of every steel- spined, future officer at the mile high, fun- filled school in the sky, affectionately called ‘The Blue Zoo’.

                Matty had first heard the moniker as he stood in his military issued white briefs in a long line of his fellow underclassman, inches away from another nearly naked boy a half hour before taps. He was standing in a ‘brace’, like the rest of the 18 and 19 year old basic cadets, as they endured the hazing so amply doled out in those first months, even if it had been a lot worse during the summer. Now that classes were officially underway, the hazing was more focused and sporadic. It came at times deemed ‘necessary’ by the upperclass, in what seemed to be an arbitrary and mean- spirited way to keep morale and teamwork intact. To most of the 4th classmen, it seemed more vengeful than anything else. A chance for those once abused by the system to extract their pound of flesh, now that they were in charge.

                To the blond cadet from New England, this was one of the biggest disappointments he found in this institution tucked into the Rocky Mountains. It was more like a fraternity on steroids at times, than the place he had envisioned, where boys became men and the country forged the next generation of razor sharp officers. Instead, he found testosterone driven young men who might someday have their fingers on that red button in places like the nearby Cheyenne Mountain, where NORAD’s mission to protect its hemisphere from missile attack was active and disconcerting. Part of every cadet’s indoctrination to the new world they were learning about, was a visit to that facility and a tour of its most sensitive areas. There are things that he learned then that he cannot talk about even today.

                 But, in this pressure- cooker that was derisively called ‘The Blue Zoo”, there were, by necessity, venting measures. Some were devised by the upperclass so that they could escape the grind of the ever present military training. Parties at various places off campus, that the underclassmen were excluded from.

                 It was up to the imagination and daring of the underclass to create their own distractions and to establish a sort of legacy for themselves. It was during one such effort that things got a bit out of control. But then, the road to hell is paved with good intentions…

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday, October 24th, 1972  {midnight}

               There were 10 of them, dressed in black. Black sweatshirts, black sweatpants, black combat boots, black watchcaps, and camouflaged, black painted faces. …

               For all intents and purposes, the team of young cadets could have been a recon squad. They wore nothing identifiable, like the athletic jackets they often wore in formation or the dress blues reserved for formal occasions. Each were accepted forms of dress depending on the occasion, and each had attached insignia denoting rank or squadron membership. In fact, the usual outerwear during the cool months, was the athletic jacket, and on the left breast of that was proudly displayed the squadron patch. In Matty’s case, it consisted of a futuristic looking black cat with a yellow eye, standing  in the center, in front of the golden contrails of two jets, flying side by side. A leader and his wingman… Blazoned boldly across the bottom of the patch, were the Roman numeral numbers assigned to the squadron. XXV. The 25th. “Redeye Squadron”.

Picture 76

                   It was that patch that was the focus of the mission that frosty night in October. The plan had been hatched a few weeks earlier after a successful raid that the 10 underclassman had pulled off, at a nearby squadron across the terrazzo. It was in the SAR (squadron assembly room) of the 28th, the ‘Blackbird’ squadron, that the stealthy cadets had ‘reacquired’ the 400 pound, decommissioned redeye missle that had been ‘captured’ in a similar raid some years back, and held hostage, like some war prize. It had been mentioned in derisive comments during intramural sporting events, and for years, nothing had been done about it. Until the Class of ’76 made its presence known, that is. But, that is another story…

                 On this dark night, the young men of the 25th had decided to do something that had never been done before, as far as they could tell. There had been a brainstorming meeting during which the idea came to the fore, modified from its original form. Refined.

                  The original idea had been to create a giant sign made from sheets, or perhaps a flag fabricated from the same material upon which the 25th’s insignia would be meticulously inscribed. That sign might be posted where everyone on that side of the campus could not escape noticing, perhaps atop Spirit Hill, in the center quad,  famous for wild speculations about exactly why it was named Spirit Hill! But this night the young cadets schemed to emblazon their mark on the landmark, and give future classes something to remember. But what they planned, and what happened, differed slightly in results, albeit minor ones, if one considers drawn .45s and livid AP’s (Air Police) , minor distractions…

Cont’d in part 2 

Mushroom Madness

Howdy folks, it’s been quite a while… I hope everyone is doing well, and that those who celebrate today’s holiday, here in the good Ol’ US of A, are enjoying the company of friends and loved ones; feasting on some version of what has become known as Thanksgiving dinner…

I’m sure there are many of my former readers who are wondering what happened. Why I haven’t written lately, or for that matter, hardly at all in the past few years. At some point, I’ll address that more thoroughly, but right now, all I really want to do is share a few, brief thoughts with you as I prepare my ‘contribution’ to the dinner I’ll be attending in a little while.

So, without further ado, here’s tman’ famous (or infamous:P) recipe for sautéed mushrooms. I’ve brought this dish to dozens of family get togethers and parties elsewhere, and have often had attendees ask me what I did to achieve such a flavourful dish.

Well, lol, I can’t say I employed any particularly secret techniques, so the questions used to throw me, more or less, at first. But then I started to realise that with the exception of those who were simply trying to be kind, to the “confirmed bachelor” in their midst, there WAS something just a little bit different about my sautéed mushrooms. I mean, I’ve been to lots of parties and restaurants over the years, and have tasted other peoples’ renditions, and enjoyed most of them, but often I yearn for my own, especially around the holidays.

So this year, since I’ll be attending a celebration at my sister’s house for the first time in three years, I asked what I should bring, and wouldn’t you know it, “sautéed mushrooms” was the immediate response! Hmm… Come to think of it, I hope that’s not the only reason I was invited! :P I like to think that certain people have evolved in their thinking. Well, we’ll see. The jury’s still out on that…

Anyways, since this will be a small gathering, I purchased only 5 small containers of sliced mushrooms this time. What were they? Uh… I think 8 ounce containers. Yeah.

I tend to buy too much, due to my generous nature, so plan accordingly! I DO know that once you start cooking, what seemed like a lot, reduces to, ” What in the heck happened to all of those mushrooms!!!” So, buy enough realising they cook down to about 1/3 of their original mass, but also understanding that this shouldn’t be the main course! :)

Once upon a time, I didn’t ‘cheat’ and bought whole mushrooms that I then spent about an hour slicing, but lately I’ve taken the shortcut that tempted me all those years, and saved myself that extra work. To be honest, I don’t notice much of a difference in taste, and I doubt anyone else would. Besides, the mushrooms can’t talk, so…

I start out by finding the frozen chicken stock I save in my freezer from all of the chickens I roast. I pour off the drippings from my cast iron oven roasting pot once the chicken is cooked, into salvaged plastic containers from Wonton soup I buy at the local Chinese restaurant, and allow the slurry to cool. Then, I freeze it with the layers of broth and solidified fat separating the various ‘savings’. What I’m left with resembles the growth rings on a tree :P Each layer of ‘usable’ stock is separated by a layer of frozen fat, that I normally discard. I use the resulting chicken stock to enhance my homemade pasta sauces and to sauté certain things and to make the occasional gravies that I rarely indulge in, anymore. Hey, they’re delicious, but a bit fattening, so I try to steer clear. My ladders (and knees) appreciate that, me thinks :P

Anyways, once the chicken broth is deposited into a deep enough pan, I add a small (in this case) chopped onion, and start to cook that. The chicken drippings also contain flavours resulting from my recipes that I use to roast the birds, like the fruity flavours of the Pinot Grigio I use for marinating, and the salt and fresh, ground pepper I season the chickens with. So, there’s no need to add more pepper, altho I do add a little more salt. There’s something about sautéed mushrooms that cries out for salt, for some reason!

Once the onions are really cooking and smelling good, I add the chopped mushrooms, all at once, and cover the pan with a lid, to contain the heat and juices. MMMM! Already, the kitchen is full of the aromas that whet my appetite and make me yearn for the final approach… Whoops! I guess I’m mixing metaphors a bit there :P But, you catch my drift, no? Time to stick the landing and get that loaded plate of goodies in front of you! Only… It DOES take another 45 minutes or so to completely cook the mushrooms to the point where they’re tender and the aromas drive you to distraction, especially of you’ve ‘saved’ your appetite like I have today, and haven’t eaten yet…

Oh! Did I forget to mention that adding a little butter to the mix makes the outcome even better?! Lol. Yeah, I know it’s fattening, but trust me on this one– you only eat like this once or twice a year, right?! Why deny yourself, or the other people who wonder why it tastes so dang good? :)

Well, I’m running out of time, so I’ll insert the pictures into this post and shock you all by posting something:P I’ll also send a shout- out to a young man from Minnesota who has been shining in my absence. I’m glad for that :P He’s turned into a fine writer, not that I ever had any doubt!

Love you all! tman<3

IMG_7434.JPG

IMG_7444.JPG

IMG_7452.JPG

Desperado

IMG_0828

           Tonight, the tumbling snow and frigid winds cut me to the quick, as I look back and try to forget.

           Just yesterday, I was but a boy, watching the same white torrent as it pelted against my window, no more than 50 yards from where I now sit. Of course, my heart was full then, of both hope and fear. I already knew the torment of being outside as the giant doors swung closed and the bitter winds reminded me that I was alone. So, what has changed, in the ten lustrum since?

            Rome still decays in arrogant pablum as the white smoke curls from the red tile pipe and rides the wind to Babylon… and beyond. To the Euphrates, once a friend, but conqueror in the end.

            And so, as the days grow short and darkness overtakes the land, I look back again, searching for the Path, unable to feel my heartbeat. My steed is winded and time thrusts its angry claws at me, mocking my resolve, as the masses strain to see,  faraway, gathered on the ancient cobblestones… searching for a sign.

            image

  December, 1967

              “Matty… Matty… MATTY!!!!”  The distant, angst- filled summons stirred the blond boy from his frozen stupor. He stopped, turned in his tracks, and squinted into the descending shadows as they stole the last warmth from the ice covered field.

              There it was again, only this time the 13 year old boy knew the voice and recognized the approaching figure with the flailing arms and the staggered, sliding gait. Even on sheer ice, Bobby was graceful. Strong. Confident.

                Matty sighed, and frowned, forcing the smile from his lips. After all, this had been a breach of sorts, he reminded himself. He waited, shifting his weight from one frozen foot to the other, as his best friend negotiated the last 50 yards across the icy tundra.

                  “Damn! Been looking EVERYWHERE for you, Koles! EVERYWHERE…” Bobby grinned, sheepishly, as he slid to a stop in his black Converses. “I… uh… thought you said… uh…”

                    “Oh,quit it already, Bobby! I was there, waiting like we said… like a jerk, for over an hour! I started to worry that something happened to you even… Until I saw Paul that is…”

                       “Paul?” Bobby said nervously.

                        “Yeah. Paul. You know, Paul! As in Paul, the guy you said you had to meet up with at his house to get your radio back from. The guy who knew nothing about that…”

                        Bobby raised his hand as if to interrupt and then dropped it just as quickly, as a look of despair crossed his face. He looked down at his sneakers and  mumbled something…

                          “Huh? I guess you didn’t think I’d run into him at the library, eh? “

                        “Damn, Matty. You oughta be a detective, or something…”

                          “Detective! Geezz… I didn’t even… Forget it. I don’t get it. I never lie to you. Why did you make up such a story? And then leave me sitting there wondering?” Matty’s voice started to crack as he struggled with the words… “Is it a girl, or somethin’?” His voice trailed off as he choked on the thought.

                           Bobby recoiled at that… “NO! It has NOTHIN’ to do with a girl! Cripes, Matty! You know me better than that! I was… Oh dang it, Matty! You’re gonna believe some crap like that? You know me better than ANYBODY! ” A bitterly cold gust of wind buffeted both lads suddenly. Bobby turned his back to it, but Matty stood his ground, searching his best friend’s face for the truth. Something was amiss. That, he knew. But, Bobby was obfuscating, and doing his best to end what had become an uncomfortable interrogation. For the 13 year old blond boy, it was too much as well. He hated the sickening feeling in his gut, at the moment. It was terrifying to even consider that something had happened between him and the one person who he trusted so much.

                        The tall boy brushed at his eyes with the back of his right hand, and swallowed hard. “OK. Don’t tell me then. It’s none of my business. Gotta get home. Ma will think I froze to death out here, and give my brother the Chicken a la King I’ve been thinking about all day.” What had started out as a statement of recrimination, ended in almost an attempt at a joke. He glanced at Bobby, and then started to turn away.

                       He didn’t get far… A strong hand grabbed him by his right shoulder and spun him around. Then, he felt the crushing bear hug of the wiry farm boy as Bobby drew him  close and refused to let go.

                      “You’re all I have, Matty. Don’t be mad, OK? . Please… OK? “

                       Matty still clutched his books under his right arm, but slowly they toppled from his grasp, onto the icy ground, as he struggled between anger and sadness, and then… A melting but uncertain joy. He cleared his throat and hugged Bobby back. ” How could I be mad at a jerk like you? “

                     A wry grin erased the sadness on his frozen face, as he inhaled the familiar scent of Bobby’s clothes and felt the velvety softness of the boy’s cheek against his .

                       Bobby heaved a sigh of relief and then he growled menacingly.  ” You won’t be sorry, Bub!  I promise!”

                     Both boys savored the moment for another few seconds until another cold blast of wind brought them to their senses. Darkness settled over the cold valley as the boys said their goodbyes and headed off in different directions, glancing back several times to catch one last glimpse, something neither one ever admitted.

                     There was only one week of school left before Christmas. And, the strengthening of a friendship that would last almost another eight years. To both boys, an eternity. At least then…

{cont’d in Part 2}

Writer’s note– written on December 15th of last year; left in draft form until now… tman <3

Perhaps

IMG_2928

 Dearest reader,

          I have to admit to a certain reluctance to begin posting here again, even if I still have many stories to share, and things to say. Actually, more than most will ever know, but that has been a theme throughout my life, so the avid reader will understand, if there are any left, that is…

       Without checking, I can’t recall the last time I posted anything, but it feels like a lifetime ago. For years, after all, I was posting at fairly rapid intervals.

         So, altho the ‘geniuses’ at the Apple store were stunned to see the worn keys on my laptop, to me, they seemed perfectly understandable, along with the chronic ache in my right shoulder; the result of never learning the ‘proper’ typing technique. You see, I am unique, or so it seems, in that respect as well. I hold my laptop in my lap, or braced against my bent knees when I’m lying in bed (like now), and reach across my body with my ‘typing hand’. My right one, of course!

         Doesn’t everybody??! No, eh? Hmm. No wonder…

        Well, it’s the way I learned, or ‘endeavored to persevere’, as it were :P

        So, I guess I could use the excuse that I was having trouble locating the proper keys to peck at, and that is actually true. The longer I was away, the harder it became to find my way.

         I’ve also adopted a ‘new’ device on which I spend most of my digital time- my iPad. It’s very cool, and more portable than my laptop, but I haven’t tried posting to my blog on it yet. I probably should have. After all, I originally bought it, partially to make my blogging easier. And, it does have a more functional ‘spellcheck’. More or less. But, I digress, as usual…

        You see, the worn out keys are more of a metaphor, in my mind. They became symbolic of my mental exhaustion, and the fog that enshrouds my enthusiasm. Something that got progressively worse, despite the terrible battle I waged against it.

          I won’t reveal every detail, because the battles are being fought on many fronts, but suffice it to say, by the end of last summer, I felt like too many things were happening all at once, and too many people were expecting too much of me. I had to protect myself. Both physically, and emotionally.

          I didn’t stop writing. Not ever, at least in my head. I do have 5 or 6 posts partially completed, in draft form. But, as I neared the completion of each, I realized that the anxiety I was suffering, had leached into each post in it’s own way, so I backed off. The last thing I want to be remembered for, was the negativity I felt bleeding into my remembrances.

          I also never stopped communicating with the people I am closest to, and it is for some of them that I’m back here, wondering if this is the right time.

IMG_2940

           You can see that I’ve now  replaced the worn out keys (myself)on my laptop, but every battle has not been won, so my war is not finished. Nonetheless, I’m trying to move forward, like always, albeit a little uncertain of my path, at the moment. Hopeful that my voice makes a difference, even if it is just for the few.  Thanks to all who cared, right along.

love, tman <3

    Tony7_0095

BROTHERS

Great picture, Ray! Brings back fond memories that I once thought would endure… tman<3

Breaking Eggs

photo-7

                So today,  dearest reader, I decided to stay at home to try to catch up on things. Maybe even work on relaxing a bit and pulling out of this tailspin my life has become suddenly.

               It’s been a while since I felt impassioned enough to actually take the 45 minutes or so, to make what Bobby once called, “the best damned omelette on God’s green earth”.  It makes me smile to remember that. But then, I’ve been more contemplative lately, even if I haven’t shared much of it. For that, I am sorry.

                 Anyways, I was reading the recent comments from my last post, and even replying to one (I’m sorry I haven’t been prompt with a few others, but I WILL get to them, I promise ) from a young man I really admire, who has had his share of adversity, and then some. To me, he is a hero of sorts, and one of the most gifted musicians I have ever encountered. I kid you not!  I’m sure he’ll cringe to read this, but it’s true, so I’ll say that until he finally realizes how gifted he really is… But reading that comment and revisiting the post, brought back some very strong feelings. Some good, some dark.

                    I found myself remembering some of the best times in my life, when my ‘secret’ was still just that, and I walked this earth as a shadow, looking for safe places. I was joyful in those places and careful everywhere else. Very careful…

                     But, back to what brought me here.

                     Late this morning, I decided to treat myself to something that I rarely eat anymore. It’s too time consuming in my fast paced world, to put the lovely dish together that I so enjoyed in my youth, and when I was 30 pounds lighter.

                     I used to call it my ‘masterpiece’, and altho that occasionally raised eyebrows and elicited a few rather crude responses, I never remember a lover or  friend turning down my offer to produce one. To the contrary, I was often hounded, sometimes in the wee hours, to capture that ‘magic’ as a favor or as a prelude, if you will. :P It’s quite true, at least in my experience, that ‘good food is the way to a man’s heart.’ But, I digress.

photo-6

                           So, I’ve never done a ‘food’ post, I don’t think, even though I’ve been breaking eggs all of my life. Apparently. Might as well enjoy what can’t be undone, eh?!

                         First of all, it helps to have a source for fresh veggies, if possible… Growing up on the farm had a big impact on me that I’ve tapped in my adult life by maintaining vegetable and herb gardens, as well as perennial beds that serenely greet me every day as I return from work.

                          But, if you don’t have gardens or let’s say it’s winter in your neck of the woods, find some sweet peppers, some onions, and even some tomatoes if you can. I’ve even used zucchini squash and small bits of broccoli, but a little goes a long way, believe me!  Better off using simple ingredients that don’t overwhelm the senses…

                          So, start there, slicing and dicing. The peppers, onions and tomatoes, that is!  Oh… by the way — ceramic knives suck (pretty much), so don’t waste your money buying one like I did!  lol  They chip, no matter how careful you are! I know. I treated mine like a prized possession, but it still chipped! Buy a nice utility chef’s knife, even if it costs a bit more!  I have since. In fact, I bought a specific handful of pretty expensive knives from a young man who worked for me briefly and who sells ‘Cutco’ knives as a way to make a few extra bucks… OK. I know the company might be overpricing their knives and it MIGHT be a bit disingenuous in it’s employee interactions, but they do produce fine quality knives. So…

                            Well anyways, once you get the peppers, onions and tomatoes diced, you might want to dice up some meat. Maybe some ham, or even some veal loaf, like I used this morning. I decided on veal loaf, because that was Bobby’s favorite…

                           Oh!  Don’t forget the cheese! It’s not mandatory, or anything, but to me, an omelette without cheese is like a Corvair without a fan belt! And that, is a serious matter! Trust me. There’s a story that’s just too long to go into, around that. But, shredded cheese like cheddar, or monterey jack or a combination of any that you like, really add a special texture and OOMPH to the dish.

photo-5

                            OK, once you’ve done your slicing and dicing, it’s time to start a little cooking! :)  Here’s where the aromas start to overwhelm your senses, and it’s hard not to snack on SOMETHING before the danged thing is cooked.  But, stay calm and put the diced onions and peppers into a small sauce pan, add a little pinot grigio… uh… OK, if you don’t have any white wine, just add some butter. Unsalted butter. The REAL deal:P

                             The trick here is to saute the veggies until they soften and the onions become translucent. I love this part!  It takes a while, so this is when I take an English muffin out of the freezer, defrost it in the microwave for about 25 seconds and get ready to toast it in my toaster oven. Don’t toast it yet, tho!!  It’s all about timing!  —  The goal is to have everything piping hot when you sit down to eat, or place the masterpiece in front of your beloved. The ear to ear grin will make it all worthwhile…

                             So, while the harder veggies are cooking and the coffee is brewing, crack open a few (or more lol) eggs into some sort of bowl or mixing container. I like to use a Pyrex 2 cup measuring container, because it’s deep enough and it pours easily when it’s time.  Oh, and while you’re at it, add a few tablespoons of cold water to the eggs. Yup! I said water! — It’ll turn to steam as the omelette cooks and make the omelette more fluffy, if you will.

                            About this time, Bobby would have had his chin on my shoulder, doing his best impression of a hungry puppy, so if you step back, watch out for the bare toes! :)

photo-4

                                  With the veggies now getting close to perfect, it’s time to start heating the large fry pan. I use a ceramic lined pan, which is very good as a non-stick surface, but not as good as a teflon pan, so add some butter to the pan if need be. What the heck. In for a penny, in for a pound!  Might as well enjoy yourself!

                               It’s about now that I add the extra ingredients to the sauteed veggies- the meat and the tomatoes.  If you add them too early, they can overcook and you’ll wish you hadn’t. lol Might as well add the shredded cheese to the beaten eggs now as well. I like to add the cheese before I pour the eggs into the fry pan so that it’s incorporated into the mixture and not sitting on top, but if you like to see it atop the final product, that works too, or you can do both and temp the heart attack Gods to teach you a lesson :P Just kidding…. You don’t eat like this every day, right?!

photo-2

                               OK!  Don’t overcook the add ins!  Transfer them to the sizzling fry pan now, spread them around, and then pour in the egg mixture. Looking at this picture, I can see where I didn’t mix the eggs enough, because there’s a small area of whites starting to solidify. Oh well… Very few things in life are perfect, except a baby’s smile and the love of a mother…

                           Alright. At this point, shoo all ‘unwanted’ guests out of the kitchen with a peck on the neck and a kick in the butt, and put a lid on it. The omelette, of course!  Just for a minute or two, if it’s as large as this one. It’ll help to cook the top part, because you’re gonna have a heck of a time trying to flip it, if you try, altho a large dish helps… Today, I was cooking for myself, so I got lazy, and just put a pan lid over the top instead of trying the flip technique… Now you’d better put that muffin in the toaster oven if it’s gonna be ready in time, and then get a nice plate out of the cupboard to put the masterpiece on. Something oblong works well.

photo

                   OK, you can see that I like my butter! Actually, it’s about the only thing I use butter on, except to saute things occasionally. For most people, a little dab’ll do you!

                     So now I’m feeling guilty all over again… Eating these kinds of meals should be fun! Shared with the ones you love, whether you’re gay or straight. Without guilt or fear. Bobby would have told you that…

                      I DID enjoy it, at the time. The omelette on the nice dish, the perfectly blended coffee (buckskin color, like all my Godchildren know and laugh hysterically about), and even the glass of grapefruit juice, that is a holdover from my years living in the Sunshine State. BTW, if you’re feeling guilty about eating this large a meal, the grapefruit juice does help, in ways I won’t go into right now:P

                           I’m sure a certain boy is smiling and laughing right now. Forever young, but always in my heart. Every day….

love to all, tman <3

Big feet

Family_0006_2

             It’s true. I’ve had big feet for as long as I can remember. In fact, at age 13, I wore a size 13 basketball sneaker. Black converses. I had given up on the white ones because New England dirt and white canvas didn’t compliment each other the way Mom liked. Even bottles of  Kiwi sneaker white were no solution to that. God knows I tried.

               But, this post isn’t really about sneakers, or shoe polish or even big feet, although that’s what got me thinking. Looking at my feet, and remembering.

              The picture at the top of this post is of me and two of my sisters. It puzzles me a bit, because I think I’m 13 years old in the picture, but my youngest sister is apparently just receiving her First Holy Communion. Hmm…  You see, I’m 5 years older than her. I think. Or is it 6? Either way, she’s a bit long in the tooth to be just receiving that sacrament. Oh well. It hardly matters right now.

                The point is, I’m 13 years old in the picture. I searched for this picture, because it’s one of only a few that I know of, that was taken of me at that age. Actually, I may have solved the riddle! The date on the photo was when the film was processed, not necessarily when the shot was taken, so I may be only 11, going on 12 in this picture. Yeah, that makes more sense, because during my 13th year, I grew 7 inches and reached a height of 6 feet 3 inches, without shoes, or sneakers, on those sized 13 monster feet.

                   But I digress.

                     Earlier today, I was messaging a young man I’ve known for quite a while now. A young Irish lad, who has now reached majority age, seemingly in the blink of an eye. I once called him my Irish warrior poet, and have written a few posts about him as he struggled to understand his place in this world. He has inspired me in ways I can never repay, and he tells me that I have done the same for him.

                     Such is the bond of friendship between us. Forged in the caldron of truth and honed by the light  of love. He is the son I never had. I could not be prouder of him.

                     We spoke of things that fathers and sons should speak about, but not like you might think…

                     You see, dearest reader, we both share a deep sadness. One that may never be rectified, at least, in this life.

                      We talked about fathers and sons, and the responsibilities they have towards each other. Seemingly instinctive things, like the understanding a boy should have that his dad would do anything to protect him. Anything. That includes standing  between him and certain death. Anything.

                         Even if the son is not perfect in some way. Maybe he’s not as tall as his dad might have expected. Or as handsome. Or even as smart. Or maybe, it’s a bit harder to define.

                           Maybe he should feel the same, even if his son is… dare I say?  Gay.

Family_0010

                            I have another picture, as you can see… I’m 13 years old in this one. I have to be. I’m graduating parochial junior high and heading off to high school. I’m 6 foot 3 inches tall. Full of trepidation about my ‘secret’ life already. I probably kissed Bobby for the first time only a month or two before this picture was taken. I know at this point, that something is really broken inside, because the books all say that it is, and my dad just used the derogatory word for the first time in my memory.

                              ‘HOMO’. He said it in a way that made me feel so ashamed. I felt like it fit me perfectly, even if Bobby told me I was beautiful. Beautiful.

                               He blushed and stuttered when he said that, and then corrected himself and used the word ‘handsome’, which, to be honest, I never considered myself.  But then, I never felt deserving of any compliment until I left home.

                                Anyways, back to my feet. I started to tell you about them for a reason….

                                 You see, at age 13, as I sat at my father’s feet on a cold winter night, in front of the fireplace in the first picture, I realized that my feet were as large as his!  I remember that, because it’s the last time I still believed it was possible for him to love me, even if I was hiding a secret.

                                At one point, as the fire flickered on that December night, my dad glanced over the magazine he was straining to read in that dim light, and he laughed. I looked up at him and he was smiling and looking at my bare feet. Puzzled, I asked why he was so amused with my feet, and he shook his head and laughed again. I distinctly remember the tone of his voice, as he said, “Look at those clod hoppers! When did they get so BIG???”

                              It was the way he said it, and the look of pride on his face. He was beaming in a way that made me feel loved. Like he was bragging about the man I was becoming. Do you know what I mean?

                               I felt a little embarrassed, but deep inside, I felt proud. I WAS amounting to something, !  I HAD to be! After all, my dad said so…

                                That was before the word. Before I started hearing the hatred in his voice about people on TV or walking in the city, or waiting on us in restaurants. People he never knew, or cared to know, because they didn’t meet his standards. It was shocking to correlate why. But I eventually did, and my secret became fatal.

                                I’m 6 foot 5 inches tall now. I hate to admit how big my feet are. Size !5. Well, technically, size 14 and 1/2, but shoes don’t come in those sizes. At least not the ones I can afford!

                                  So, I still have big feet, and love in my heart. The same as when those pictures were taken, only now my family knows. All of them.

                                   A few weeks ago, I gave myself my annual birthday present.  This year, I told my dad that he had a gay son.

                                  I was just too exhausted to hide it anymore. Besides, I just don’t care anymore. I said it in a way that I never imagined possible most of my life. Without emotion. As calm as a dead ocean.

                                     My father barely looked at me, as he sat in the same place as that time 45 years ago.  Only this time, there was no grin. No look of pride. I guess I could best describe it as a look of pain. Shame. I have nothing left in me to alter what life has so cruelly now made apparent.

                                    I am, and have always been, the boy in those pictures, but now I understand that I was never his son. I was a ghost.

                                   It is why I’m having such difficulty in writing posts for this blog, at the moment. Like Davie, I bounce between feelings of despair and pride. I live in a strange dimension that feels more like a dream sometimes. I told Davie today that the best way to describe it may be a term used mostly to describe returning soldiers. Post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD. I think we both fit that diagnostic term right now.

                               It really isn’t surprising. A lifetime of abuse, topped by the realization that you’re not even worthy of a father’s love. Something freely given to most boys. Sons. A father’s pride, unless….

                            We’ll survive. And eventually, thrive.

                            It’s what gay boys have to do. That, or die.

tman <3

DSC01652

          Matty winced and swatted at the buzzing insect as it hovered near his sweaty face. This high in the tree usually provided some relief from the swamp’s marauding skeeters, but it had been a wet summer and an unusually hot September. The result was predictable, despite two attempts by the town to fog the marsh areas with DDT… Odd acting birds and mosquitos the size of hummingbirds.

           From the upper perches of  the old ash tree, the 13 year old boy could see for miles. He often climbed this matriarch of the shadowy forest because it made him feel safe. Invisible. Something he yearned for at times, as he watched people. Trying to understand.

           He could see the rolling farmlands to the west where he spent most of his summers and the hills to the north, near the old Mill Pond, and even the winding stream lined with cattails that fed that landmark as it made its way from the vast marshes to the south. Marshes filled with wildlife and danger. Some that should have never been there.

           Today tho, he was no longer naive. Much had happened in three short years… He had honed his survival skills and learned the art of invisibility, and now lived like the forest creatures he admired. Always on alert. Tensing at the sound of a breaking twig, or the cry of a startled jay.

           In his mind, he was only half human now. Armor on the outside, to keep him safe, until he learned the way.

           Bobby laughed when he admitted that, one night in the treehouse. But then, he stopped, and moved closer to the solemn boy. He put his strong arm around Matty’s slender shoulders and then they had sat there for hours, watching the summer moon arc across the silent sky as the lights of the distant radio tower flickered red, warning … marking the sky, for little planes that droned past at all hours of the night.

DSC02891


           On this late summer afternoon, only the skeeters and the occasional bluejay seemed to be moving about. Matty scanned the trail that wound through the quiet woods. A trail that might have been started by the nearly invisible deer that came here to drink from the slowly moving, spring- fed streams. Or, by the slew of neighborhood boys who trampled grass quite efficiently, sometimes creating trails, and other times laying waste to carefully coiffed backyard lawns. But, whatever the origin, the path was the blond boy’s best way to avoid the older boys who occasionally terrorized the younger kids. Spawn of a creature well known to Matty. Who still frequented the neighborhood when he wasn’t in jail, for one reason or t’other…

           The teenager shuddered to think about that day. It had been nearly three years, but it still terrified him. He had come to understand that he had two choices. To live each day afraid of the very real possibility that there was more evil to come, or to take up the sword and do his best when confronted with it, in its many forms.

           And so, only 6 months ago, he had taken the oath, before God, to bear that sword that had been forged long before his birth, and carried into battle when evil slithered from the darkness. The sword that carried a responsibility unlike anything else. This very afternoon, he would come to understand that even more clearly.

            It was a crescendo of muddled voices that fired the nerves in his back and neck and startled him to full alert. He pulled himself up to a better perch and strained to find the source as a nervous jay took flight and screamed the first warnings. The voices grew closer and now he could make out a few words. Rude words, and distinctly male. And underneath the words, he could barely hear the plaintive sobs of a younger person. Perhaps a boy, but whoever it was, something was very wrong…

           There was no time to climb the 25 or 30 feet to the ground, but Matty did manage to lower himself to a wide crook about 15 feet from the ground where the massive ash tree branched out in three directions… From here he felt most safe. It was an area that fit his Converse basketball sneakers well. The branches were large. Almost as large as the trunks of most trees. He could hide himself easily behind any of them, and from that roost, see in both directions, up and down the trail where the voices seemed to be originating.

            In less than a minute, his worst fears were realized. The deep voices did indeed belong to two of the worst delinquents in the area. Matty’s blood ran cold to hear the derision and taunting tone of the banter between the two. And now, he saw why. Between them was their latest ‘captive’. A young boy of perhaps 11 years of age, who had apparently been caught away from the safety of home, perhaps returning from his paper route.

            Matty recognized him immediately. Billy…Little Billy. One of the nicest little kids this side of Main Street.

             The oldest tormentor jerked him from side to side, like a pathetic little rag doll, using the boy’s balled up t-shirt as a leash. Matty winced. The youngster was crying and had been for a while, by the looks of it! His face was tear- streaked dirt, essentially. It seemed abnormal, as though he had suffered an encounter with swamp mud recently. Both boys towered over him and made him appear tiny, and powerless as his bare midsection heaved and his dirty jeans threatened to expose even more of his underwear. He had been shoved about, and was not weathering it well… From his hiding place, the blond boy shuddered. This could not end well. There was noone about.

          And now, he could make out the words, between the raucous and derisive laughter.

           “Frickin hell, Greg, what a little wimp! He looks like a little girl, ‘cept he ain’t got no tits! I KNOW he ain’t got no balls!”

            That prompted the heavier boy to yank Billy’s once clean t-shirt nearly over his head, exposing his chest. “Nope! No tits!” , he said mockingly, twisting the boy’s right nipple cruelly, as Billy shrieked in pain.

            “Shut the fuck up, you little turd! Who do you think is gonna hear you way out here?”

             Billy sobbed and slumped, and then staggered as he tripped on an exposed tree root that he might have seen normally. He landed on all fours almost dragging Greg down with him, who still held  his t-shirt twisted in his left hand. There was a brief ripping sound…

               The skinnier 15 year old exploded with laughter. “Damn! Your mama’s gonna be pissed! Look what you did to your shirt!”

               The 11 year old boy tried to get up, but as he regained his footing, his backside presented too tempting a target, and the sadistic pimply -faced accomplice kicked him viciously, between the legs, lifting and propelling him foward. Even the brawny older boy couldn’t hold onto him then! There was an audible tearing sound, and suddenly the youngster was tumbling sideways, his shirt in tatters with Greg holding what was left, like a leash.

              Matty’s heart was pounding and he almost screamed out, but his throat felt choked, as though the beast had a hold on him once more. He froze, as the incident unfolded below…

               “Fuck me!”, the lesser Martinelli brother bellowed. “That’s gotta be a first! One kick, two crushed nuts and a rag for Mama! All at the same time!”

                The tiny boy laid at the base of the mother ash tree motionless, in a fetal position. He seemed almost to have stopped breathing momentarily. Then, he caught his breath and really started to cry.

                   Matty clutched the tree and buried his face into the rough bark. He felt every muscle tighten  in his back and neck, but his legs were now shaking… trembling, as the memories flooded back. What had been a peaceful September day had quickly morphed into a nightmare. The terror he felt came from a well known place. One that his armor had protected him from. Or so he thought.

                   But, the sobs of the little boy below him, clawed at him as he remembered the words. The admonitions… “Go forth. Whatever You command me, I will do…” Matty closed his eyes and tried to pray, but it was no use. The terror below saw to that…

                 The older boys were not leaving, as he had hoped. There was blood in the water.

                 “Hey Greg, if he doesn’t care about his shirt, maybe we should take his pants, too! I’ll bet he shit ‘em anyways!” With that, the younger Martinelli took a step foward and reaching down, inserted his hand in the exposed waistline of Billy’s jeans and tugged at them violently, but he succeeded only in pulling the boy backwards through the dirt and leaves. The denim held fast.

                   Matty clutched the tree and knew then. He had to do something. For the boy in the swamp, if nothing else. If he didn’t, a part of him would be lost. Maybe forever…

                  He didn’t think. he just spun around the tree, and stepped on the stub of a branch protruding from the rough trunk and yelled, “Leave him …”

                  The last word was never spoken. Instead, there was a loud ‘crack’ as his foothold snapped  and the teenager hurtled to the ground, crashing through a nearby pine tree bough that he used to reach the climbable branches of the old ash tree. He crashed to the ground near the young boy as the older boys watched, bewildered. The fall forced the air from his lungs as he landed atop a partially rotted branch that was half buried in the forest floor.

                     It felt like an explosion, and Matty heard nothing but snapping branches and then felt the impact on his right side, mostly in his rib and lower back area. He gasped for breath as he became aware again…

                    “What the fuck !” were the first words he heard. It sounded like Greg, but he didn’t care. He still couldn’t breathe and was wondering if he ever would again! Everything else became secondary…

                        It was almost as if the first breath came from someone else. He heard it that way. A huge gasp, like the time he had  been revived after drowning… His eyes focused as he tried to move. Billy was only a few feet away, wide- eyed and looking dazed. Matty saw the terror in his eyes and tried to smile, but only managed to cough. He groaned and closed his eyes again, unsure that something, most likely his back, wasn’t broken!

                      “Where the fuck did HE come from?” Greg asked, his voice breaking.

                      “He was up there… m-must have been up there, all along,” younger Martinelli offered. “Christ! He almost landed on me!”

                      ” Goddammit… you know who that is…”

                       “Yeah… so what? He’s alone…”

                         “Cowards…” Matty managed .

                       “Who you calling cowards?” Greg mumbled uncertainly.

                        “Go away… ” the blond boy said, more firmly now, as his breathing returned to normal.

                         “You ain’t telling me any…”

                         “We’ll find you and break your leg this time…” The 13 year old boy gasped. His back was screaming as he tried to roll onto his other side to get up. He slumped back to the other side, as Billy reached over and put his dirty hand on Matty’s head protectively.

                            “We?” Greg cackled. “Big words from a skinny kid! You gonna get your mama to help?”

                           “No… Just Bobby. “

                            It was pure inspiration. He didn’t even think about the effect it might have as the words tumbled deliriously from his mouth. But, the words fell heavily. Into silence. When he glanced up, the younger Martinelli was tugging at his brother’s arm and motioning to him. Greg hesitated and brushed the hand away angrily, but said nothing. At first. He seemed to be measuring his words.

                            Finally, he spoke. “Screw this! I ain’t got time for this shit… I hope you broke every fuckin’ bone in your body… I’m outta here! This is getting boring anyways…”

                           Matty closed his eyes and took a deep breath, as the older boys turned and straggled away, one behind the other, Greg in the lead. He listened to the sound of broken twigs and rustling leaves as the two delinquents wandered down the winding path, back towards the south, from where they had come.

tumblr_ligo9ufH6M1qaaur2o1_500

             The tall teenager rolled onto his stomach and then onto all fours. Everything hurt, and the pounding in his head was dizzying. He slowly pushed up into a sitting position and lifted his hands to his face.  Lord, what a fall! He felt stunned that he hadn’t broken his neck! Billy moved to his right and he felt the boy’s warm arm around him.

                “Matty, are you OK? It’s like you fell outta the sky!”

                 “I did! Only I wasn’t trying to. At least, not like that!  Cripes. My back feels like it’s in a million pieces… What was THAT all about, anyways? How’d you end up with those guys?”

                   “Geezz, Matty, I wasn’t tryin’ to get caught, y’know! All I was doin’ was goin’ to pick up my bike from Tweeter’s. Me and him were gonna do my route together and then head over to Gelliss'”

                     “Tweeter? Who’s Tweeter? Do I know him?”

                       “Sure! He’s in my grade. His real name’s Mark, but we call him Tweeter, because he sounds like a bird when he sneezes… “

                         Matty grimaced and managed to get into a sitting position against the old tree with Billy helping. “Mark… I see. But how did you end up with Greg Martinelli and his brother… what’s his name?”

                          “Uh… I think it’s Henry, but noone calls him that, because he hates it. I forgot and that’s why he was so pissed… He likes to be called Rex, but I couldn’t remember.”

                            “Rex. Hmm… How appropriate! The only Rex I know is a dog. A German shepherd dog. And, he’s a lot nicer than that guy! By the way, he kicked you pretty hard! You OK, little man?”

                            “I’m OK now. ” Billy grinned. “They don’t call me numbnuts for nothin’!”

                            Matty giggled at the young boy’s attempt at humor. Billy had always had a good sense of humor. A really sweet kid… “Numbnuts, eh? Who calls you that?”

                            “Ahh, my brother. That or dickhead…”

                             “Nice brother. I never called my younger brothers names like that! Anyways, how did you end up getting caught by those two?”

                              “I didn’t see them until it was too late… They ambushed me near the bridge when i stopped to take a pee. Shoulda peed on them! Assholes!”

                                “Hey! Never mind the bad language! You’re just a kid… A good kid. You don’t need to talk like that!”

                               Billy reddened and looked down. “I’m sorry, Matty… Matty? Why did they get scared and leave?”

                               “Uh… well, Billy, let’s just say that they messed with me a few times and the last time, Greg ended up at the hospital, thanks to Bobby and his Louisville Slugger! You don’t forget those things too easily, not even a jerk like Greg!”

                               Billy looked startled and was quiet for a moment. He wiped at his dirt- streaked face with an equally dirty hand.

                                “Matty?”

                                “Yeah.”

                                “Thanks.”

                                “Don’t mention it, Billy…”

                                “No, you don’t know what they were gonna do! They’re really evil…”

                                “It’s OK, Billy. Just watch out for them next time. Sooner or later, guys like that end up in jail. Just steer clear. Tell your brother what happened. He’ll watch out for you…”

                               Matty struggled to his feet with the young boy by his side. He straightened his back and shook his legs, one at a time. Miraculously, he had survived, intact.

                             Billy looked up at the tall,blond boy and then threw his arms around his waist and held him tightly. Matty hugged him back and then patted his head and  walked him back home, through the winding trails he knew so well, as the boy in the swamp smiled. It would be some time before he would feel safe again, but he was on his way…

{Epilogue}

            A few weeks ago, as I walked down the quiet street I once roamed as a child, I noticed a car approach from the south. I walked to the side of the road to allow it to pass, but as it reached me it slowed, and the passenger window rolled down.

            I stopped and leaned over to peer inside, thinking someone was lost and needed directions.

            Inside the car was an elderly gentleman, who looked at me smiling, and addressed me by my first name. I was stunned, and told the man that ‘he had me at a disadvantage’, and that I was ‘very sorry but I didn’t know his name.’

                 He smiled serenely, and I noticed that he was wearing a very expensive watch and a gold ring with a large ruby embedded in the center.

                “I know you, tho. You’re Florence’s oldest boy, aren’t you?” He extended his hand. “I’m Pat. I knew your grandfather and all your uncles and aunts. Especially your Godfather. John.”

                 My mind was reeling as I tried to absorb the odd situation. Who was this man? I had never seen him before in my life!

                 I shook his hand and we talked, for about 20 minutes, as I leaned into that car window, my back hurting from all the years of carpentry work and the many falls it had endured, during my childhood and even into my adult life…

                   I will not divulge all that I learned in that 20 minutes, but some of it was mind boggling and some of it left me shivering. You see, I had never known very much about my Uncle John, the man I honored at my confirmation as a 12 year old boy, by taking his first name as my confirmation name. He was, after all, my Godfather.

                      But what shocked me to the core was to learn something I had never known about the man that everyone seemed to consider the ‘black sheep’ of the family. You see, dear reader, this man, who had a career as the town attorney and was a friend to my Godfather, told me that my uncle had been proud of me. That he had watched from afar, as I took on the mantle of big brother and defender of the weaker kids around me. How he knew that, I had no idea, but there it was…

                     I asked him what he remembered most about my Godfather, who had never seemed to be much of a presence in my life, and he replied, “He was ‘the catcher in the rye’. The real deal. He spent his childhood defending the little kids who were always being bullied. I hear that you took after him…”

                     I managed to keep my composure as we parted company on that April morning. And no, I never knew…. Isn’t life strange sometimes?

tman <3

Brothers

brothers1

                I’ve had a day to sort through my feelings now. To let the joy diffuse the sadness and give me a better perspective.

                 You see, as I sat by my father’s side at my uncle’s 90th birthday celebration yesterday, the echoes of the past stirred memories of places and happenstance both precious and searing to me.

                I found myself recalling the scorching summer days on Lake Terramuggus, where I learned to swim as a child and where I was reborn in the emerald depths at age 10… Reminded that I was never alone. An understanding that would soon  be tested on that fall morning in the marsh, as my tears fell into the turbid water and the creature tore into my flesh. It was the beginning of my education of all things evil and undeniable, that spanned the next 45 years.

                As my uncle’s voice washed over me yesterday, the memories triggered in rapid sequence and I found myself trying to recall his face during the happy times I spent on that lake with my family and cousins. It wasn’t hard. I had always been intrigued by him. He could be loving and cruel. A larger than life figure who commanded respect one moment, and in the next, a joking brawler who loved to drink and mix it up with the little ‘uns. He had always been a free spirit in that respect, and I suppose I inherited that part of his personality. Minus the drinking.

                 I remembered that he had blond curly hair. Muscular arms and legs. He wore a bathing suit like an athlete, and by late June, the summer sun had already left him tanned, not only because of the weekends at the lake, but because all the ‘guys’ worked the building sites shirtless in those days, once the weather warmed up. At least in my experience. Me included. When I wasn’t on the farm, that is…

                 Yesterday, I purposely sat my dad next to my uncle, where I knew they both belonged. Side by side, as brothers should be. I sat next to my dad, at the head table, while my brothers and the rest of the family occupied the other tables that had been pulled together for the occasion. There were probably 30 people at the celebration including a priest, who gave an invocation prayer just before we ate.

                    I kept my focus on my uncle and dad most of the party, purposely avoiding any eye contact with my brothers, who were seated at the other tables with their wives. It is a great sadness for me, especially at an event like this. You see, it was my intervention that reunited my dad and my uncle after 15 years of estrangement. I was a bit devious in my methods, but in the end, it all worked the way I had hoped, and both brothers have been close ever since.

                     Of course, there was nothing remotely similar in their estrangement, compared to the nonsense I’ve endured with my own brothers since I came out.

                   And that is what put a bittersweet edge on all of this for me yesterday… There were pictures taken of the brothers. Some included me, because I have always maintained contact with my uncle. I have none to post, unfortunately, because I didn’t take them, and I didn’t have the foresight to ask anyone to use my camera for a few…

                   So, there we were. Two brothers with their arms over each others’ shoulders and me standing directly in back, with my right hand on my uncle’s shoulder, my left hand on my dad’s.

                   The uniter. The peacemaker. Me.

                   Alone, as I have always been.

tman <3

Friday’s Child

       blog picture273

         The morning sun had just topped the nearby treeline as the door to my truck swung open, groaning as though it was not yet ready for the new day.

          I groaned as well, as I rotated my legs and stepped out of the passenger compartment and onto the pavement near the Citgo gas pump. At 7 A.M. it was quiet but cold. I shivered as I reached to my collar and tipped it up to cover my exposed neck.

           $3.85 per gallon! Cripes! Just a month ago, the price had seemed to be reaching more sane levels, but something had happened, and suddenly, fuel prices were spiking, as tho we had become engaged in another Mideast fiasco! God bless the USA!, was what I was musing as I shook my head and wondered if things would ever be better. I glanced behind me as a small car pulled into the empty space, creaking to a halt. Another ‘victim’ I thought, chuckling under my breath. Better to be in this together….

            I reached for the cold filling nozzle and opened the fuel tank door. Everything was frosty cold. I thought about the gloves I never wore, that were sitting in plain sight on the front seat, and sighed. My own fault if I was cold… I was in my usual pensive mood as I strained to see the prompts on the credit card scanner and to press the unresponsive numbers on the pad to enter my zipcode… My zipcode. Why in the heck did they need that? Didn’t they know who was paying the bill? Geezz…

             The nozzle  almost slipped out of its perch as I reached over it to throw my wallet onto the front seat of the truck, so that I didn’t accidentally leave it on my rear mounted job box like I had one time! I grabbed at the cold steel handle and repositioned it deftly, silently chiding myself for the obvious  clumsiness. ‘Calm down Tony’, I thought. ‘The day is just starting!’

               It was going to take a while to put 22 gallons into the dark blue Ford, so I squeezed the lever and leaned back against the bed, glad that my jacket was insulated enough to keep most of the cold at bay… The sound of rushing gasoline slowly faded from my consciousness, as I started my mental gymnastics…. My checklist for the coming day. There were a lot of details to remember, because one job would be coming to a close and another starting. Nothing crazy hard about that, but somehow, I had been managing to forget one or two little things, here or there, so this exercise had now become something more than symbolic. It seemed, more and more, to remind me that my mind was no longer the fine tuned computer I once considered it. It still retained the most critical things,  but maddeningly and most haphazardly, seemed to discard or misplace items on the checklists that left me muttering to myself when I finally realized what I had forgotten.

              I don’t know what really startled me out of that stupor, to be honest, but suddenly I had the feeling that one gets at odd times. The one where you think that someone is watching you. lol I don’t know. Maybe it’s just peculiar to me… I grew up looking over my shoulder, most of my childhood, for obvious reasons.

               Nonetheless, I felt the shock on the back of my neck suddenly and the sound of rushing fuel returned to the forefront of my mind. As did the urge to quickly survey my surroundings, in a way that was inconspicuous. I’m usually very calm on the outside. No need for anyone to see what occasionally rises from the depths!

               So, I casually glanced behind me at the random traffic on the nearby, mostly quiet side street. Nothing there of any significance. Nobody walking on the sidewalk either…

                My eyes scanned the building entrance as the door swung open and a patron tucked her newly purchased cigarettes into her ample overcoat pocket. She walked briskly, and glanced at me briefly, but never made eye contact. I didn’t know her. Even in this little town, I sometimes feel anonymous…

                 A throat- clearing cough from behind my truck interrupted my thoughts. I turned casually to look. It was the young man who had driven up in the little Nissan. A dark colored, sporty looking car of early vintage, with a broken headlight on the passenger’s side. I winced. The car was not street legal like that! Newington cops can be real dicks sometimes. (pardon my french) I looked at the driver to assess his age, but he turned away quickly and with the hoodie that he was wearing, covering his entire head, I only caught a quick glimpse. A very quick glimpse.

                    It was enough. My heart skipped a beat, even tho I wasn’t sure. Could it be??

                    I pretended to be nonplussed but the reality was quite different as the memories flooded my brain and sent my mind into hyperdrive.

                     No! It couldn’t be! And yet…

                       I was suddenly back three years prior, in this same location, only it was nighttime. Probably nine or ten o’clock, as I walked around the back of the building, searching the shadows for the young shirtless and shoeless boy I had stumbled upon earlier. I actually recounted the experience in a post I wrote early on in this blog. October of 2009. ‘Transitions’.

http://wp.me/p1qe2i-2D

blog picture173

                Where does the time go?

                 I had spent the next few years trying to catch a glimpse of the boy, praying that he had weathered the abusive environment that had scared him enough to run from the house that cold October night, nearly naked, save the meager sweat pants/ pajama bottoms I found him trembling in…

                  I had seen him twice– once at a distance as he scurried along in a pack of teenaged boys, and once as I drove right by him on a neighboring street, as he walked along with some of his friends. We made eye contact that time, and he recognized me. He had smiled, as did I. I think. More likely I was grinning ear to ear, feeling relieved that he seemed to be all right!

                 But now… Could it be him?  My heart knew but my mind was racing, telling me to be calm. If it was him, he had a right to his privacy. My heart sank, to think that I might have to endure an eternal mystery… I glanced his way again, unable to help myself. I had to at least know that it was him! I looked at the car. A typical ‘hoopda’ that a kid from a poor family might be driving… I gave the boy a once over. He would be about 17 years old now…

               It was hard to tell, but the build was the same- slender, but taller than I remembered. Still, the last time I saw him was over a year and a half ago! I felt the handle of the gas nozzle suddenly release as the audible click echoed through the small filling station area.

                  It startled me, but more importantly, it startled the boy as well! He turned to face me and we made immediate eye contact. I was frozen in my tracks. I’m not sure what I did with the filling nozzle, to be honest, as the realization swept over me and I felt a smile break out on my face…

                    I was not alone. Justin smiled shyly and pushed the hood back off his head. Justin. I know him by that name now, because he told me as we shook hands and then embraced. I think his heart was pounding as hard as mine, because I felt it right though his thin sweatshirt- type jacket.

                    It’s mostly a blur after that. I don’t know how long we stood there, catching up, but I did understand that he was off to school after the pit stop for gas, and that his father had found a new job. Not right away, but he had finally found one. His brother had not thrived quite as well. He had been caught burgling a house and was now on probation in a treatment center/ half way house, by the way Justin described it.

                     It was all too brief, but as I talked to the handsome young man, I felt a real warmth inside. I was getting a little emotional as we finally parted, this time with a longer hug. He really put his strength into that one, and then he said something to me with his head resting on my shoulder… “Thank you for helping me that night. I was SO scared and nobody else seemed to care.”

                   I didn’t know what to say. I’m not good with words at times like that, so I hugged him tighter and told him that ‘it was OK… and that if he wanted to make me proud, he would promise to do the same thing for someone else who might need HIS help someday…’

                  We released each other and he made that promise. I swear he had tears in his eyes, but I wasn’t seeing that well myself, at that moment… He turned to head into the building to pay for his fuel as I patted him on the back and got into my work truck.

                   There was nothing more I would have liked better than to just sit there to see him get into his car and drive away, but I started the Ford and slowly turned it onto the road, and drove away. I kept looking in the rear view mirror to catch a glimpse of the young man with the old size 13 leather tennis shoes. The ones that had always been too tight for me, but had served a very important use in the end.

                    After all, a young boy had grown into a man wearing them.

                    I drove to the Falls, parked my truck, and had a good cry to get it out of my system before I headed to work.

                    I haven’t shared that with anyone until now, but I thought I should note it here… Life has a way of completing the circle, no?

love to all, tman <3

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers