I used to work in a Barnes and Noble. Frankly, I’ve seen far worse in the kids’ department. Think about that while you gaze upon Kermit’s lifeless and broken body strapped to a Lego torture table. Yeah.
When I made my last post on here eight months ago, I wasn’t expecting my world to come crashing down as it did. And by crashing down I mean the holy-fuck-I-just-lost-my-job-my-house-and-my-woman type of crashing down as opposed to losing my neighbor’s wifi signal from which I was piggybacking off of at the time. It’s certainly the stuff of artistic legend right? Here I am, the lone poet/guitar player, carrying his few possessions and going from place to place, playing for change, living off of luck and stale bagels while honing his craft. It’s like Robert Johnson with a touch of Charles Bukowski. That’s all well and good but I am thirty-six now and truth be told I am getting tired of it. Being homeless fucking sucks and I am past the “romance” of living in that kind of “freedom”. It may work for some but I’ll take a bed and a shower any day of the week. I may admire Siddhartha Gotama but him I am not. I still like my few basic worldly comforts. Anyway, let me start at the beginning. Pull up a chair, pour a drink, and hear my story.
So the woman (who shall remain nameless) decided to leave towards the end of summer 2013. Matter of fact, it was three days after my 36th birthday. We’d been having problems over some remarks I made on Facebook. Believe it or not, the thing that began the end of my relationship was a debate about herb and I’m not talking marijuana prohibition laws. Specifically, it was basil versus cilantro. I made a post asking my friends to chime in on the subject and much to my girlfriend’s chagrin, I referred to her dislike of cilantro during an exchange with someone. Now the offensive nature of this seemingly trivial and lighthearted matter was not so much that I made public her absolute disgust with coriandrum sativum but rather that her sister saw the comment. To most people, this would mean absolutely nothing. I, however, in my life of infinite weirdness and uncommon experience, am not most people. You see, my woman and I were seeing each other in secret. Yes, you read that right hence the italics for emphasis. Trust me, things aren’t slanting because of that last shot of rum you took. Two adults were seeing each other in secret because her family did not approve of our relationship. They did not approve because there was over a decade difference in our age. I was thirty-four when we started “dating”, if you could call it that, and she had turned twenty-one the previous summer. The irony is that we met through her sister – her older sister by about four years – who I worked with at the Barnes and Noble bookstore I eventually was fired from. The woman and I were “in love” and both hopeless romantics who swore endless oaths of love and loyalty to each other like characters from some long forgotten melodrama of the romantic age. We even read ‘The Hobbit‘ to each other. Honestly, we had a really good relationship despite the fact that everyone thought we shouldn’t be together because they somehow knew we wouldn’t have a good one. We had our problems, sure. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not ray of sunshine. But we did okay despite the clandestine circumstances we were forced into and my hectic lifestyle. When her older sister found out about our romance, she went ballistic. I’m talking about all-out pounding fists on the walls then going around to our co-workers and interogatting them to see who knew about us. Needless to say, her sister is extremely high strung, snobbish, and paranoid to the point of jumping at shadows, usually her own. I’ve met squirrels with more cajones, granted they were from Fordham. Her attempt at raging anger conjured from her usually timid persona was really just an immature tantrum of a very frightened and confused child and garnered no reaction from our fellow workers save that they made the same observation on maturity, as well as leaving two adults to their private business. Eventually, despite the fact that her sister, her sister’s boyfriend, and her sister’s best friend all tried to talk her out of it, the woman and I prevailed, at least for the time being.
Before continuing on with details of the break-up, I’d like to mention something. Of course, it’s never been a secret: I am attracted to younger women, usually in their early twenties. This has been the case since I was myself in that age range. I just never stopped dating that way despite growing older. I suppose it has to do with a number of reasons. One is that I wasn’t very good with girls when I was younger. These days I seem to attract women a lot easier. A lot. In a way, I feel like I’m trying to make up for lost time, so to speak. Also, for a man my age, I certainly don’t live like a man my age. I live like a college kid. I usually rent rooms, work low wage jobs, I have no kids and I can out-drink and out-smoke a frat boy any day of the week. On top of that, working the retail jobs that I do brings me into contact with mostly younger people. These days I’m usually one of the older staff members – making it harder to find a job when I need to – especially with the economy being the way that it is. Another big reason is that I am still very young at heart. I mean my ideal night is ordering out and playing a good round of video games. Throw in a bottle and a bag of smoke and I’m in heaven. My time on this earth is precious and it will be spent slaying dragons and fighting aliens. I’ve had enough of the “adult” stuff or rather the juvenile mediocrity that passes for being an adult. Humans have an extraordinary ability to get people around them involved in their problems – usually a petty jealousy or some such thing – and I have no interest in being a party to anything like that. I have my own problems and being that I make minimum wage in a land of millionaires, I fight for every scrap I get and I make sure I use it as I see fit. At least puzzle solving works the brain. I’m not so sure what talking shit about others or debating mainstream politics really does other than inflate ego. Now, dear reader, you are probably wondering what all this has to do with me dating younger women and in secret, no less. It means that I don’t give a shit about what anybody thinks. I live my life, my way. I’m also mentioning all this because like so many of my friends, I can hear you muttering to yourselves, “Well, that’s what happens when you end up with such a young girl.” If I lived by what others wanted me to be or do, I would have jumped off of a bridge ten years ago because I’d have been some miserable banker or lawyer. I’m still miserable now, it’s just that at least I’m doing it on my terms. Yeah, I know. The old anarchist hasn’t completely faded from my spirit.
The woman and I lasted for a couple of years. Our rendezvous mainly consisted of me seeing her at Lehman College, where she worked and studied, and of diner gatherings with her circle of friends; the usual crew that consisted of her sister, her sister’s boyfriend – also a high strung, snobbish twit who fancied himself some sort of victorian gentleman to the point of dressing the part, ascots and all – and finally her sister’s best friend. From the social connections here, I’ll bet the really sharp reader can tell who dominated this group. I guess since she was so afraid of the outside world, this was the sister’s own little world where she could be the focal point, the leader. Being the alpha male that I am and having the strong personality that I do, a person like that feels very threatened when a person like me is around. Another example of the sister’s paranoia: despite having two degrees, she refused to go on job interviews that would elevate her from her lowly position as a sales clerk at Barnes and Noble. Why? Because she said she was “afraid” to go anywhere. Her father drove her back and forth from work. She never drove or took public transport. Being sheltered is an understatement with her! The only time she got courage was when she’d throw a temper tantrum, usually over something like not being able to see her boyfriend or having to work twenty-five hours during the week instead of her usual fifteen or twenty, and that was only with the little circle and family. She mainly just cried and cried with everybody else, making them feel sorry for her. I had enough of it after the one hundred-first crying episode. I’m pretty sure the woman and her sister can cry on demand and they’ve truly elevated crying over the slightest trivialities to an artform. Y’all know the saying ‘there’s no use crying over spilled milk’? Well these girls will turn on the waterworks before a drop of milk hits the floor. They’ll cry just because the milk carton got taken out in the first place. You get the idea. Now, the woman also had a thing about being honest and always telling the truth. An admirable quality, for sure, but one that ate away at her as time went on. She simply didn’t like lying to her parents about our relationship. She tried to approach them about it but to no avail. They rejected any idea of us being together and threatened to kick her out of the house. They also forbade her from seeing me, not even on a social level with friends. That reaction put a heavy burden on our already strained relationship. Certainly we still tried to make it work, still tried to be even more secret and stealthy in our meetings. It wore on me too. I despised having to sneak around like a whimpering fool. I felt I was a good man who treated this woman good, that I didn’t deserve that kind of treatment. I didn’t like that the sister was keeping tabs on us, making sure that the dictate of their parents was being upheld. I started to not care, growing more vocal at my displeasure, and thus the previously referred to offending remark was made on Facebook and the sister saw it. She saw it and snitched. Then all hell broke loose. The parents confronted the woman about it and again strictly forbade her to have any contact with me. You’d think it was the Capulets and the Montagues over here. I made a status stating my displeasure at being deprived from the woman I loved. Next thing I knew, I got a call from her father threatening to kill me. Classic, I’ll tell ya. Well, I should have figured it was over at that point but I didn’t. I really loved this woman and I trusted in that love. Unfortunately, it was too much for the woman. It had been too much for a couple of months at that point, according to her. She told me this in an email explaining why someone, a mutual friend, told me that the woman had a new boyfriend for the past couple of months. The woman was explaining this in an email because I had been trying to call her for a few days. I knew she had been purposely ducking me. Then the mutual friend broke the news and I confronted the woman with the information in a written email. The cat was out of the bag now. The woman told me she couldn’t take the lying and sneaking around anymore and that her new boyfriend had been a great comfort during her troubles. She said that we were toxic for one another and that she was not as happy as she was before she had met me. She said she had led me to believe “a different version of reality” because she didn’t know how to let me off. So I got second-hand news and an email. Nice parting gift after two and a half years of working on building our relationship against all odds. Do I sound bitter? I was, I guess. It’s been almost a year and time has healed the wounds. We had some good times, her and I, but alas it was not meant to be. Oh, and the new beau? Her sister’s best friend. I know the sharp ones out there saw that one coming! The circle was now complete and I was out, certainly in more ways than one.
As some of you know, my last full-time job was working as a porter for a Barnes and Noble store in Yonkers, New York. I was fired in May of 2012 for coming in drunk. My manager didn’t want to do it, he said I was pretty mellow and worked twice as hard when I was liquored up but people were complaining and he had no choice. Oh, well. Being elbow deep in human piss, shit, blood, and whatever other fluid the human body could eject was not sober work but apparently those customers and co-workers who were so greatly offended by me did not realize this. As always, people only think of themselves and not what it means to be in someone else’s shoes. I wish all those people who complained could see the consequences of their careless actions. I never hurt anyone, never got out of line, yet they deemed it necessary to judge me. I am just a man who was trying to earn a paycheck that could scarcely pay for rent, for food, and I definitely couldn’t afford health insurance. I literally had to be drunk in order to properly function and do my job without going nuts and shooting the place up. So to those who want to wag that self-righteous finger at me and say that I was responsible for my troubles, I ask: was it not better to “self-medicate”, as it were, rather than going bezerk? I realize that getting drunk on the job was probably not the best solution but it was what I had at the time. I invite anyone out there to try cleaning shit for forty hours a week, living in an illegal basement apartment with no bed and no heat and one they could barely pay for, and stealing sandwiches from the local market in order to feed themselves. I invite them to live in my shoes like that and see if they didn’t have a craving to be numb from the toil. I have not held a steady job since then but I did have a short lived part-time position selling bean bag chairs at the Westchester mall, which I landed right around the time the woman and I broke up. The company was completely horrible to work for. For starters, they sent my first paycheck to the wrong store which was nowhere near my area. Not good news for a guy that lives paycheck to paycheck and has twelve cents in his pocket. When I found out, I flipped out on payroll, who didn’t seem to concerned about the matter. However, they assured me that they would have the store manager send it out via next day air. Did that store manager do this? Nope. He sent it regular mail. Did the mailman drop it in our store mailbox at the mall? Nope. I had to track the damn thing down to the local post office. Upon calling to confirm that it indeed was there, the lady told me she’d be happy to give it to me as long as I showed her my work ID. I said, “Excuse me, ma’am. I work in a small retail store. We don’t have ID cards. We don’t even have name tags.” Fortunately the lady was really cool. She told me to just wear my work shirt, which had the company logo on it, and specified a time when she’d be there. It’s good to know working class solidarity has not completely died in America. My manager let me go on the clock, thereby risking a lawsuit if an accident should happen, but I raised enough hell to the point where he would not dare delay things any further. I went and got my check, thankfully without delay. That was until I went to go cash it at the check cashing spot. The lady at the window took it but then handed it back to me right away. I asked what was wrong and she informed me that nobody signed the check. I had to wait another two days to get a signed copy of my check. It was ridiculous. Another example of this company’s shoddy methods of operation was the fact that I couldn’t get the proper sales support. I lost a thousand dollar sale because a tag had one product code printed on it but the computer had something else entirely different. I called my manager and he couldn’t be bothered. I called managers in other stores and they didn’t know. I literally couldn’t ring up the sale without that product code because instead of keeping them in stock, they were drop shipped directly from the warehouse to the customer. I tried to get some kind of help for nearly a half hour (I was the only clerk in the store because, as I mentioned, it was a small place). The customers waited patiently but their patience wore thin. They called the place a joke, walked out, and I lost a fifteen percent commission sale. I eventually got fired because I missed a sales training meeting with the owner of the company. I had taken cold medicine the night before and overslept on the alarm. He was left waiting and decided to fire me as a no call/no show.
I had just moved into a new room in White Plains that previous May. Now it was October and I had no income coming in. I had to tell my landlord that I could no longer afford the room. Honestly, it was on the pricey side because I was in a upscale neighborhood in an upscale city. I was paying $750 a month, that included gas, electric, and the internet. It was worth the price though. The house was nice and well-kept. Everybody minded their own business plus there was a washer/dryer on the premises. I had a cool guy living next door on my floor named Rich. He was a recovering junkie with a really hot nineteen year old girlfriend. I had some good nights listening to them fucking in the next room. He smoked weed and played guitar too. We jammed out a couple of times. The neighborhood itself was great. Very quiet. I could go outside at three in the morning and not worry about getting my head blown off. We were also next to a historic church and cemetery dating back to the Revolutionary period. I really do miss living there. It was one of the best places I ever had the privilege of calling home. I had to scramble quickly and try to figure out what to do. At the last minute my drummer and best friend, Franky, offered to let me stay with him and his family. Our mutual friend Jay offered to give me a ride over with my stuff. My friend Malone, guitar player for legendary NYHC band Billy Club Sandwich, offered to store my several boxes of books that I had. I had been slowly rebuilding my library since I came back from Florida a few years back. Its size quadrupled when I started working at the bookstore. Anybody that knows me, knows that I am a fanatic about my books and will not leave them behind. Besides my art, my books are about as close to having kids as I can get right now. I am very lucky to have the friends, family, and support network that I do. A lot of people don’t even have that. Despite my dire circumstances, it could have been much, much worse. After taking a six month break from a year of couch surfing and after being homeless several times over the past few years, I was back on the couch.
I’d been at Franky’s for a couple of months. I was scrounging to get by, doing whatever I could (legally) to earn a nickel. I applied for SNAP benefits. Actually, I’d like to talk about getting on welfare for a minute. There is a huge debate about that now and I’d like to share my experiences for the edification of my readers. I applied for SNAP in December. Within a few days, I got a letter saying I was approved and I could expect to receive my card soon. I never got the card. I called them to see what was up. I was told I had to speak directly to my case worker. A message was dispatched by the phone operator and I was told my case worker would call me back within twenty-four hours. I didn’t hear from him for a few weeks despite repeated calls to the welfare office. When he finally did call me back, I was informed that my case had been closed because I didn’t submit enough documents proving I was homeless. Of course, nobody had bothered to inform me of this in any way whatsoever. Ah, the bureaucracy. My case worker said to fax the documents over and he’d reopen my case. I did as instructed. A month went by. I called almost everyday to find out what the status of my case was. It wasn’t until I literally threatened to come down to the office and cause a ruckus that my case worker called me back. I’m not proud that I had to do that either but at one point these people were insisting that I had previously been dealing with a female caseworker instead of the male one I knew I had been dealing with. The welfare people had the nerve to say that I was mistaken. When a person is starving, going crazy from being in a destitute situation, do they need the bureaucracy telling them they are crazy? These are the kinds of things that send people over the edge. At this point in time, my case has been reopened and I’m still waiting for my card. I am now into the fourth month after having originally applied. Apparently there is not much support or concern for single, white males as far as the state of New York is concerned. Now, y’all should know that I never applied for welfare or any kind of assistance before. I’ve made it this far because, as I previously mentioned, I have a great network of friends, family, and supporters. I’m not a freeloader by any means. I may not be too proud to accept help from someone in my circle but I sure as shit won’t abuse that or be ungrateful in anyway. At least I try not to. I’ve fucked up on it before. The truth of the matter is I don’t want to be a burden on them so I figured I’d just go it alone and seek help from the State. Then again, thinking about it now, since that state support comes from the their tax dollars, I’d be a burden on them anyway. One way is simply a more direct approach, I suppose. Well, at least the politicians won’t skim from it before putting what’s left back into the system for us great unwashed masses. At the same time, the Mitt Romneys of the world should know that not all of us in the “lower classes” are lazy parasites who exist merely to feed off the system. I never believed in welfare even though, growing up, my own mother was on it and it sustained us for a long time until she finally found work after graduating school. I do not like the idea of relying on the State for anything. Its system is not designed for people like me and I will not scramble for the few crumbs tossed out by those blowhard, egotistical rulers people so uselessly vote for or keep in business. I will not bow down. Again, the old anarchist, though having hung up most of his active political shenanigans, still has something to say about these things. Welfare is simply another tool of domination and control, used to divide the working classes. I believe in mutual cooperation. I suppose that’s why I don’t feel completely bad when relying on friends or family for help of any kind. I always return the favour. Sometimes I can’t do it immediately but I always do. Mutual cooperation and exchange, the most dangerous idea of all to our ruling classes. Chaos and lawlessness? I think only for those very privileged few who want to use chaos and their law to control the rest of us. I’ve seen more than enough evidence that humans can work together despite their consciousness being chained to to an obscured reality. However, I digress. I’ll save the political and sociological observations for another post. Back to our story…
We are now pretty much in the present and you’ve been caught up on mostly everything happening in my life. At the end of the summer, after all the heartache and drama, Franky and I decided to really get serious about our music again. We’ve been jamming with various musicians and trying to get new material together. My unemployment and his hectic home life (he works a full time job and takes care of his mother) prevent us from dedicating a lot of time to our project but we are trying our best to get things rolling again. I got a new guitar and have been practicing and writing like a madman. Another thing that really sucks is the studio time and how expensive it is. Since the days of playing in a garage are long over, unless we’re some rich kids out in the sticks somewhere, we have to go to a local rehearsal studio in Mount Vernon. They charge us thirty-five dollars an hour! I remember when I started playing it was fifteen. Oh, times have changed indeed. That’s pretty standard with all the studios around here now. The one in Mount Vernon is the most accessible for a couple of guys who don’t drive and need to lug their equipment around on public transportation. If we want cheaper, we’d need to go to the city and with the money we’d spend on transportation, it would cost us the same anyway. One thing I’ll say is that we’ve never been more confident and on point with our playing. It feels great every time we walk into a room together and play. Franky is truly the Ward to my Iommi and we’ve grown a lot together, both as players and as people. It would be hard to imagine life without my homeboy. We may have lost our record deal with Roadrunner a few years back, before we left for Florida, but we’re still in the fight. We have something to offer creatively and we are going to let the world know that. I am also still pursuing a somewhat solo side project, though I’d rather refer to it as an “affiliated” project, kind of like what Wu-Tang Clan does with all their acts. I’ve revived my Okay Is Better Soundcloud and am currently adding new music there starting with this track.
Last but certainly not least is one final bit of news. After meeting online through mutual friends, corresponding for some months, and finally meeting in person this past January, I have a new woman in my life. She had always supported me and my art, even buying my book which sold all of about ten copies. Move over Billy Collins. As our relationship grew – eventually to the point where she kicked her then boyfriend out – so did her kindness and love. I was alone in a dark wilderness and she came with light and shelter. She took me in, fed me, gave me stability. We decided to make it official in February. Now I know what my readers are wondering in light of my previous relationships. Well, let me tell you. She is twenty-five. However, she has her own place, her own car, and a decent job. I know it sounds cliche but that being the case, she is very mature for her age. She gets a lot of things about me that the others have failed to grasp, probably because she is a creative person herself. I am not overstating the fact when I say this woman has literally turned her whole life upside down for me. More than anybody else, she has helped me regain my gusto and drive. She has provided the stability for me to get back on my feet and to get things moving again. That’s why I’m writing this blog post now. I’ve been going on job interviews, even landing a gig for a few weeks at the Westchester Mall. I’ll bet you will all be absolutely shocked that I got fired from that one as well. It was a macaron kiosk. We started off on the wrong foot anyway so I should have seen a bad end to all of it. First they hired me but then tried to say it was a mistake, that they meant to hire someone else. Being desperate for a job, I read the manager the riot act. I ended up getting to keep the job, they even made me full time after a week of working there. Then I got fired because, according to the owner, someone complained that I had a cut on my hand and I was serving them cookies, never mind that it was bandaged up and I was wearing protective gloves. Of course, this was a line of bullshit. The guy was running out of money and he needed to let me go. The lady complaining about my hand was only a pretext. So yeah, unemployed once again. I am actively looking for a job and have an interview this coming Thursday. Wish me luck.
In closing this grand tale of my crazy life, I’d like to say hello to all my old friends in the blogging world and I hope to make some new ones as well. I’ll be back to posting regularly. I will bring my readers everything from my music to my writing to anything else that strikes my fancy, such as reviews and commentary on whatever the hell I find cool, unusual, or interesting. In short expect a lot of great and varied content from yours truly. I hope to have a little something for everyone out there.
Now, the blood moon has passed, the bison are gone, and The Meta Bard is back online. Won’t you join me?
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