Archive for the ‘Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae’ Category

January 10th.

January 12, 2020

There is quiet devastation that comes with depression, it is insidious and even the word depression brings about a plethora of connotations, most of which can cause others to recoil, roll their inner eyes and sigh. Sometimes the other person will recognize this feeling but at this point of meeting on the subject both may quickly change the subject as two depressives are always going to try to feel better so humor is the most frequent response.  Melancholy is a much more beautiful word, and perhaps is giving more leeway for acceptance.  Two depressives will laugh together more than they will ever cry together. The tears they birth will come from joy not from pain. Those they will hold for when they are alone.

There is a park near where my ex-in-laws live in Tilburg, a medium sized city in the Netherlands. It is situated just a block or so from their house, behind a large apartment building and it has llamas, deer, and horses. There are ducks and swans, who all swim around a pond that extends the length of the park, a few small bridges and a fishing area. They paddle and shake their wings, walk awkwardly around the bank of the pond, dip their heads deep into the green water and slide back in. I could watch them for hours. Every trip we took I would do a daily run, which started with me running out into the country, through a small village, past a farm that raised miniature horses and then into the park where I would circle the pond and maybe stop and stare at the llamas. In the summer the Dutch heat can be overwhelming, and it has gotten hotter over the past twenty years with the temperature rising into the 90s and over 100 degrees the past few summers. These runs would leave me drained and covered in sweat but always revitalized, there is something about the Dutch air and light that is invigorating. There are theories on how this inspired many artists and great thinkers of the Enlightenment. For myself, the runs pulled off layers of sadness that I had not known were there, with periods of my life spent with the silent attachment of sorrow surrounding me although I was one was unaware of it. Drinking, music and the cast of characters I hung around with helped deflect any feelings of bleakness I may have had.

We collect things, comics, records, books are all a part of my culture, insular as it is. Others collect different things, stamp collecting is dying—killed by progress, Longaberger baskets—perhaps too killed by progress in the form of tote bags, Matchbox cars, vintage postcards, trinkets. Every trinket tells a story. Some collect memories, the cobble them together, splay them out in textures, a fabric of the past in the form of stories. I am guilty of this, and my memories have holes like a well-worn tee-shirt. Every missing piece has its untold story. In some ways, there must be a reason to collect the past, to make the present easier—to lessen the impact of now, the present. But in looking back, there are memories that are built in stones constructed of suffering. I see this in my job, when I am talking with someone, trying hard to listen—to be present to their story, a story for many of them they have never shared. They have kept the past at bay, from their earliest days of living, when childhood should have been filled with riding bicycles, forming friendships, they were instead, succumbing to horrendous abuse of (until they tell me) that lay dormant for decades. Some memories are deadly.

I plan memories for the future, simple ones of making someone dinner, of feeling white sand under my toes and my children as adults. These things, in some ways could otherwise be described as hope but I like to feel, although they have not happened yet, they are the seeds of future reality.

My friend Jerry died nineteen years ago this past week, left for dead on the side of the road just a block from my house he would die shortly after arrival at the hospital. Sometimes I think of him, silent on the cold asphalt, unable to move or yell, staring up at the cold January sky, waiting for the sirens to help him. Waiting for help. The moon and fuzziness of the city lights, frozen above him. Was he in pain? His neck was broken so was his pain knowing he was dying; he could not cry out. He was helpless. These are some of the things I think of on January 10th. The adult me, the father in me, the lover in me wants to go back in time, get up out of my deep sleep and run to him and hold him in my arms. I want to comfort my dying friend Jerry and let him know he is not alone dying on the side of Hudson and Summit streets, that even if he dies, he will be thought of every day by many people, that his cackle and his pointy teeth and the utter ridiculous of him, of Jerry Wick will last for so long after this miserable moment of his slipping life. It seems every January 10th, I am offset emotionally, and this one was no different. I had, for the most part a terrible day, I was anxious, cranky and it wasn’t until someone sent me a message reminding me of what the day was did, I realize. Trauma changes people on a cellular level, in fact people who suffer from depression and addiction tend to feel the environment around then much more acutely than others, which makes someone explaining depression or even unexplained sadness difficult. Once I realized what the day was, I was able to regroup, and eventually get what I needed.

There are two photos I have in my small apartment, one of Bruno aged three, walking on a broken pier, where the sea reclaimed the audacity of fisherman leaving only wooden poles sticking out of the sand and water. He is naked, a bag of chips in one hand and his other arm outstretched. Bruno Swallowing the Sea. On the same trip, I have a photo of him, naked staring straight into the camera, folding a piece of pizza in his mouth. What Every Man Wants. The other photo is of Saskia, head wrapped in a scarf, staring out into the Dutch countryside, she is beautiful. The Dutch Girl. My memories of the Netherlands, built over years, are perhaps my favorite memories of all. If I could only remember them.

Laughter is the sunshine, although it only peeks out at times, some of us seek the absurd because it is the only way to manage the inner and outer environment around us. And we give, until the feeling of giving is replaced by the nature of us, our brittleness. Constructed by doubt, shhhhhh, we say to ourselves. And we laugh. And we dance.

Christmas 2019.

December 21, 2019

The sound from the boiling water pot has the same tone as the violin playing, they combine and for a few moments I sit and listen to them meld together, a small hymn of sadness—one announcing it is ready to be added to the coffee and, the other a mournful ache of sound that was birthed from the mind of the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli. After a minute, the music moves on, more instruments come and chime in while I rouse myself up, walk slowly into the kitchen, a kitchen that smells of burnt toast and departed smoke and pour the water into the French press. If anything, I drink coffee like I used to drink beer, or whiskey or wine if that’s what was available, that is, I drink in in mass quantities in spite of an insomnia that has choked the sleep out of me over the past year. As I pour, I think of my friend Liz in New York describing to me the intricacies of making a cup of coffee while she was in fact, making me the best cup of coffee I ever had. Maybe it was the knowledge she was imparting on my while she made the coffee, slowly grinding the beans, explaining the importance of the correct temperature of the water (I believe it is 207 degrees) and that if the water is too hot it can burn the coffee beans or it could be that the cup of coffee is so memorable as I had not seen her in several years, and she is such a lovely person—to be in her house and meeting her friend old friend Derek that elevated a great cup of coffee to the best cup of coffee. Nevertheless, it is a fond memory, one I always think about when I make my French-press coffee, and I just pour the boiling water in—it’s ok as I know I will never make the perfect cup of coffee. It is similar to when I make a meal, someone may say that it tastes wonderful, but all my cooking tastes the same to me, a bit like my Hungarian grandmother’s with some of my own ADHD thrown in.

I took the last of my things from the house I had lived in about a month or so ago, well except for my bicycle which for some reason has becoming difficult to pull out of the garage. Perhaps it is the memory behind it as she had bought me the bike when she was poor, a grad student and was horrified that the one I was using was stolen off her porch one night as we slept. I had drunkenly leaned it against her porch, and she thought it would be safe, it wasn’t and soon she had sacrificed a part of her meager salary on buying me a new bike. Yet, another memory that comes up whenever I have the physical act of engaging the item that stems from the remembering. The move out took over a year, in small phases where I may take a load here or a load there, the big move came with me hiring movers nearly a year ago, the bed, books, records, two small couches, more records. Then the rest, some months were more difficult than others and the wall of depression that engulfed me during the spring was, in hindsight, much thicker and deeper than anything I had known. If there is a fear of anything it is a fear of knowing that one’s owns feelings are trying to kill them. It was brutal and left me reluctant to do much of anything regarding retrieving belongings I had very little concern with.

Last month I finished the garage that was filled mostly with my dead grandmother’s mementos, they had been untouched for nearly thirteen years, some were damp and dusty much like they were when they were in her basement for thirty years. From one unforgotten place to another. And there were records and compact discs, all made with the hope of being listened to, a gamble intended not for money but for people to hear something that is important. At least important in my ears, an investment made by many that sat in cardboard boxes, the compact discs now relics of sound not unlike 78” records or cassette tapes. And there were boxes of fanzines and photos, I have very few photos from the 90’s—some but not many. These boxes were carried to my apartment and put in my basement. There is a photo of Jerry that curls up from the side of one of the boxes, I eye it every time I bring up my laundry, and he is wearing a white shirt, the rest of the photo is covered up but I remember where it was taken. It was taken at Christmas time, at Jenny Mae’s house, there were a lot of people there and Mark Eitzel showed up with his sister. Jenny was floored he was in her apartment as she loved him especially his “60-Watt Silver Lining” record that had come out that year. She kept saying “Fucking Mark Eitzel is in my house” later she turned on her fog machine for some reason. Her green painted house, filled with smoke, choking out the conversation of the partygoers, and Mark would flee the house as the smell of vanilla smoke became too much for everybody but Jenny. She could tolerate a lot of herself.  But the photo will stay in the box, unmoved as I enjoy this memory and I would easily forget it if it wasn’t for that picture of Jerry peeking out of the box.

She had wanted to make sure I got everything out of the garage, and when I asked her to look and see she wept, “just get it all out, you know what’s yours!” Which, in fact I didn’t know. How does one split up something that grew together? Everything Flows as the song goes. She went out to the garage after some coaxing, and looked at the large yellow wooden shoes, “Why aren’t you taking them?! My parents bought them for you!” A part of me died, I had forgotten, I thought they were our daughter’s and then I remembered one-time drunking-ly modeling them for her parents out on our old patio. A wave of loss and guilt enveloped me, “I’m sorry, of course I want them.” They now sit out in the open, Bruno clogs around my dinky apartment with them, small clonky-thuds followed by his laughter.

Christmas is just around the bend, just days away and alongside it, the holiday lugs around not just personal memories but generational memories and customs. There are memories from my childhood that were not mine but those of my ancestors, who carried them from Germany, to Hungary to Venezuela, to Columbus, and then I added my own—like a box of ornaments that continuously, somehow, has more every year. A lot to unpack. I talk Christmas trees with the kids, Saskia says “dad, you don’t need one, mom is getting one,” Bruno on the other hand says, “Dad, just get a Charlie Brown tree.” In fact, all my apartment could handle is a very small-ish tree or more like an evergreen branch. It can barely handle the Charlie Brown angst that shudders around the creaky wooden floors. “Maybe, let me see how this weekend goes.” Christmas is just a few days away.

The kids are older, much of the magic has gone out of their lives as shifting priorities and the understanding that miracles are things that are as simple as the smell of a homemade meal, a sudden instantaneous smile, or the pull of a melody but don’t come from fairly-tales or the myths passed from generation to generation.  Soon the miracle of their lives will be first loves and true friendships. This has made the loss of having the family they have known for all their lives into something else, something more organic, something that has in some ways pushed them towards adulthood or into the reality of the world.  In the car I hear them snickering, playfully teasing one another about supposed crushes, perceived slights and who gets to ride shotgun; the one status of teenage years the displays coolness. Their worlds are impenetrable to adults, with aps, websites and even music that is constructed for be foreign for adults, and yet they wear my old punk and indie-rock shirts. I operate on the periphery, by choice-this is their world, the memories for them to make for themselves, my role as a parent is to help lay the fabric out for their future to be filled with a past that is full of love, joy and laughter and the harder lessons to be something that fuels growth and have eyes wide-open to the reality of the world.

“Dad, can you take me skating?” Bruno asks just as I tell him not to ride the skateboard in the apartment, “yeah, let me finish up” I answer as I send an email thinking how the internet has robbed so much time from my life.  Outside small bits of snow flutter down, they swirl in little circles, the wind pushing them to and fro, “hey, are you sure you wanna skate, it’s fucking cold outside” I ask as we make our way to the car. “Yeah dad, it’s not bad. Besides it will stop when we get there.” And it does, he skates with his best friend, they talk amongst one another and with a few older skaters who offer tips. I look at my phone, tuck it away feeling a bit of guilt as I don’t want him to look up and see me on it. It goes back in my pocket, I realize that my own father missed out on much of what my brother and I did throughout our childhood, especially as we moved into our adolescence years. He just never gave a shit. I don’t wanna be that guy. After 40 minutes it’s cold outside, there is no denying it, “Five minutes buddy,” he flashes me a thumb’s up, and soon climbs back into the car. After I start the car, the snow starts again. “I told you it was cold.” “We aren’t cold, dad, we just went skating.” He then asks me for a Dinosaur Jr. skateboard for Christmas.

The other day I played “Johnny Come Home” by the Fine Young Cannibals that I first heard as a senior in high school, was shimming across the floor and Saskia came down and danced with me. I realized that I probably got that first FYC record on cassette for Christmas in 1985. Saskia and I glided across the slanting dining room floor of my apartment. I should dance more.

Cardboard.

November 10, 2019

There are routines and holes to fill, one by one, or in some cases trying to flood all the holes with certain behaviors only to find that underneath the holes is a subterranean canyon that is waiting to swallow you whole. I have been in my apartment nearly a year, but for the first three months I was a ghost trying to unpack boxes that should have been tossed away fifteen years ago or even longer. Some had grown damp over the years of sitting, it was if all the memories that were stuffed inside the cardboard boxes had slowly started to weep over the years, encased in dust the must and yellowing of the pages of the magazines, the fading photographs were dying from neglect. Hidden in the garage and basement after being hauled a thousand miles from Florida, and prior to that a thousand miles from Ohio to Florida, all the while never being looked at. Given the attention they were once thought to have deserved. This time, years later as the boxes sat in an old-new living room I sorted them out, a keep, a giveaway and a throwaway pile. Knowing that all three piles would most likely be forgotten about and as such there was a need to be planful, I kept repeating “somebody must want some of these.” But who really wants to hold onto someone else’s memories?

Over the past eleven months parts of me have died while other parts have pushed themselves up from the parched soil of myself, small growths that without care could be crushed to death with neglect. Recently, I pulled the rest of the boxes from the garage, a garage that rarely ever held cars but was only used as storage for an old unvarnished life. Some never made it to the apartment, I dragged them out to the dumpster, pitching them in and not really knowing what old memories, what old successes or failures were being tossed into the garbage. Many of these boxes contain old fanzines, magazine, flyers and photographs. Some are of bands and musicians I knew and worked with over the years, I would get these things in the mail, and toss them in a box. They were rarely read, and the plan would be to give them to the bands and artists who were in them, but going through them I realize that many of them have died and others have moved on with their lives, the days of huddling together once a week with friends to pluck songs out of their lives and minds while smoking weed and drinking beer had long been replaced by taxiing children to soccer, to school and minding the responsibilities  of work. The inspiration of newfound love had grown into something, hopefully, deeper and more meaningful than scribble words on a folded bar napkin but in many cases these electrical relationships had turned brittle over the years. Neglected like the boxes of memories. Jenny died and all the magazines and photographs I have of her don’t really have a home to go to, nor do the ones of Jerry, or Jim Shepard or Jack Taylor, so what to do with them?

Some things are best not kept, and a loyalty to the past can be toxic although it seems that the past we carry existed before us, that this loyalty ends up being a lodestone just because parents or family or whomever says we must carry it on for the next generation. For myself this went unquestioned, the stories I was told as a child and even later held no ground for who I should be, they were stories and as such held a fascination for who I should or shouldn’t be. As I gaze backward, over the mountaintop of fifty the realization that some of these ideas of tradition of holding on did nothing except offer cement to a life that strove in many ways to move forward. Glued to a time already lived, sometimes by somebody else, a father, a grandmother, is not always the most productive way to live a life in the present, in the future. It’s ok to toss them out but still honor whatever is needed to be honored but there is a truth in looking backwards with clear eyes, that the craziness and sadness and the pain of trauma can be used as fertilizer to move forward but not to clutch at my ankles preventing me from dancing forward.

For many years I drank to find that oh-so-perfect buzz that I had encountered so much in my late teens and early twenties but eventually, that buzz had grown so elusive it was just a myth, growing so faded in my cells and brain that it was just a foggy mist of a fable. It was as if they never happened, but they did because I could almost feel that excitement of the buzz-y feeling of swaying in front of a speaker, hands clutching a bottle of Black Label, coyly eyeing someway also swaying to the waves of feedback just a few feet away. The cool shock of autumn air at 3 am while clutching hands and sideways smiles shook the very leaves at our feet. But to pretend that can be replaced is a fool’s exercise.

The other day I asked my daughter, aged 14 how her coffee date went, and she laughed as an old soul would, “Jesus dad, we are fourteen what do you expect? We just laughed and had fun.” She talks to me in teenager code, and giggles at my perplexed responses, at twenty-first linguistic teenager play on words, the equivalent of ‘hey hey, Daddy-O” from the nineteen fifties, I don’t even try to pretend I know—this is her space, her memories, her future cardboard boxes so to speak. She doesn’t need mine to poke holes in hers, I grab another box, sort the piles and think if it would just be best to carry them out into the cold.  More than anything though, it’s not that I want to burden her future with the memories of my past, I don’t want her to encounter the canyon underneath it all, to protect her from that is of upmost importance.

 

Thoughts on David Berman

August 8, 2019

When I was a child I had a fear the struck me cold at times, choked me silent and made my skin rise on my arms. The fear was so great that I was frightened to speak of it out loud because perhaps, if I allowed the fear to take flight from my throat and into the air then it would breath the untold into life. So, I kept silent until the nightmares would grab me in my slumber and throttle me, I would awake in tears, my body trembling and run into my mother’s bed. “Mom, I dreamed the devil was after me, he is trying to possess me.” This fear stayed with me for years, from the age of ten until I was thirteen I was scared to sleep alone, and there were many times I would take my blanket and mushed up pillow and crawl down the hallway and fall asleep next to my mother’s door.

My father fed into this fear with his chilling brand of Catholicism that consisted of more dollops of hate than love; it took me some time to shake his words from my mind. To realize that sometimes, the lives of the father-the words of the father are not be given credence, that, perhaps they are just plain fucking wrong. It was an embarrassing fear, for who would believe in the devil and why would speaking of something bring it into being? It was hidden, when I told people who I trusted they would laugh at it all the while it felt true for me.

Later in life when alcohol started to steer my life in subtle ways, tiny rivers of control the bent me toward the bottle and formed watery cracks in my relationships the admittance of feeling betrayed by something that had only offered me acceptance was something that seemed impossible to do. Alcohol was as solid in my life as anything I had ever known. Meanwhile my life collapsed by degrees inside of me, the walls were breaking off by bits inside, while the people who loved me the most grew disgusted, sorrowful and most importantly disappointed in the trajectory of my life. To admit that alcohol had become a problem was to admit that I was a failure at living, the perception was that I couldn’t do life.

Couldn’t do life.

It was early spring and in Columbus that means the vestiges of winter spits out of the sky in the form of cold rain, groaning winds and a gray the clutches it’s knuckles into the sky until, finally the May sunshine pulls the gray and hurtles it deep into the ground for the next five months. The sun blinks out in a coy dance only to be replaced by the gray; it is always the gray. The news came over the phone, in a patient yet hesitant voice and the feelings of isolation that had always resided within me, came bursting out like that Ohio gray sky, the moments of relief were as brief as the sun during this time. There was an eruption of sadness that bellowed out from a past that has always existed, it seemed that while I may be moving into the future the past feelings of heartache were tethered to that future so the present was tinted with the past. Always. The drive was long, although others were in the car with me, the rolling thoughts of loss, abandonment and the filling in blanks kept me from opening my mouth, I kept silent. The wheels rolling under the car could not roll fast enough, I was ruptured. Something I was all too familiar with.

The lake was picturesque, the clouds rolling over the trees, the wind making the water dance into the shore and infrequent bursts of rain pelted the windshield. She called me, but it hurt too much, the phone was a torch in my ear. Another woman called until finally I could only speak in written words. The love they offered fell aside, because inside the feelings were torching me. I listened to music, the same song over and over, “Noble Experiment” until the tears rolled down, untouched, they danced against the shore. Sliding out of the car, leaping over the large puddle that had formed in the grass next to the parking lot, the bank of the lake was muddy. I sat on a picnic table, looking at the discarded liquor bottles in the fire pit near my feet. “Somebody had fun last night.” Candy wrappers hung in the brown arms of bushes, there was nobody around. After some careful thought, the shore was slippery, but the small embankment was easy to get down. Staring into the water, small droplets of rain dotted the surface. I slid out of my clothes and into the water, it was cold but not jarringly so, the slick mud at the bottom squeezing itself between my toes. Shaking but not from the April weather, plunging under the water. A test. Just to see. It was a subtle shock but not so very frightening. A test. Just to see. I carried the clothes to the car, darkness was floating into the everything and I found a towel in the trunk. I dried, put my clothes on and listened to the rain ping-ping itself into the world outside. I drove home.

When somebody commits suicide, it is not because they feel unloved, it is because they feel too much. They feel the world as something electric and every pleasure is more colorful and every disappointment is darker, and there is always the dark within. It may be a middling creek, a roaring river or sadly an epic ocean flowing inside of them. It is scary carrying this around and to speak of it, to speak of the fight to keep it at bay, in essence, to construct a dam against these rolling feelings grows tiresome and painful. And the pain is always acute. Some treat this with humor, at times gallows humor, its fought with laughter because laughter always works. Music usually does. Words help. Running. Alcohol, sometimes until it doesn’t. Drugs, sometimes until they don’t. Sex, but the pain of attraction can also be the wind that washes these feelings upon the inner shore of ourselves. As I’ve grown older I’ve made a commitment to speak about my own battles with my own rivers inside of me, to realize that speaking it’s name does not mean it will come true. But to drag it out into the sunshine, however fleeting I may feel that sunshine is, it is more powerful than the dark.

July 2019.

July 7, 2019

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Rain was coming down as if the sky had a mission to coat the world with wetness, the droplets smacked into my tee-shirt, splattered on my skin and because of the Ohio summer, caused my glasses to fog over. “Hey, hey man!” the tall neighbor yelled from his back porch, which sits at the end of my apartment building. I was on my way to my car, doing a sort of half-jog/half-I-don’t-give-a fuck and turned towards him apparently giving him the cue to bound off the porch. Suddenly he was standing in front me, trying to blink away the rain making no progress, the rain just rained away. “Hi, you just moved in huh?” His eyes were blue, and I noticed his ruddy teeth which made me think of addicts and alcoholics, the rain continued to ping against us. “Well, kinda…I don’t know if it’s that soon, I moved in sometime in December.” “What do you think of it” looking towards the brick apartment building, is it a townhouse, a row house, a what is it exactly. He was beaming at the old building as if he had just built it.  I saw the busted screen door, with the plastic window that won’t get clean no matter how much Windex its coated with, because well, it’s plastic, the small dented bottom that I “fixed” with sticky silver electrical tape. “Hey dad, you better get some heavy tape, there’s a lot of broken stuff in your apartment” Bruno mentioned while we were at the giant boxed hardware store. The one where every aisle pumps out masculinity and I’m reminded that I fix things with tape, own a single hammer and some left over Ikea silver-y screw things. If it wasn’t for tape nothing would be fixed in my life. Bruno loves the hardware store; I hate the mother fuckers.

“Yeah, I guess I like it enough. It works for me” nodding as the rain continued on its single mindedness of soaking the world over. “Yeah, I love it. Been here eleven years” he leaned back on his heels and rocked forward, I looked down at his shoes which were filled with water. “Wow, that’s a long time, ummm…I haven’t rented a place in over fourteen years, I was a homeowner, so I was used to, well having stuff kinda normal in the house. My floor is slanted, everything is crooked, it’s weird” I try to shut out the thought that one day all my records are going to break through the floor. “Yours too? My kitchen floor just dropped four inches! They had to jack up the floor” he stares at me. I think “we basically have the same floor” but just smile back at him. He stares some more, almost like a puppy, I keep smiling. Seconds tick past. Rain does its rain thing, howling down on us. “Well, I need to get to the gym” I finally say. “O.K., good luck. See you around!” and he runs back to his porch. In the car, I turn on the air conditioner and wipe my glasses clean.

Sometimes I go to the gym at ten or eleven p.m., it just depends on what I’m feeling but with that freedom there is the sigh of loss the permeates everything I do, pulling on something so deep and old within me that it doesn’t have a name. It was birthed before language but it’s there, underneath it all—clutching upwards like roots growing in reverse. It shudders inside me with every errant thought, a growling dragon asleep but so close to awakening. Slumber away cocksucker. The house is tidy, mostly, organization was never something I was blessed with, I must work at it and in the work, I lose focus, half-finished books being put away, boxes in the corner filled with old fanzines, photos and just memories that should have been tossed aside many years ago. They are in stacks, expecting to be put on shelves. Bills in separate drawers, two backpacks filled with gym clothes, and some notebooks that I scribble in. This is what like living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder looks like as an adult. When I was a kid I was just known as excited, my nickname in 4th grade was Spazz, and for the prickly teachers who had little patience for my twisting in my seat, blurting out wise-cracks and losing track of my homework, I was the pain in the ass who spent a lot of time in the hallway and at the principal’s office.  Kicked out again. But I was funny, clever to a fault and smart enough to get by and be charming for most of my educators. But those other ones, boy did they hate me, but I hated them back just as much. The shitheads. I need reminders for everything, I ask people I work with to send my calendar invites, it’s the only way I will remember to go, I look at it every morning and try to plan my day in my head knowing full well I will have to look at it hourly. Google calendar has been a godsend. Having ADHD isn’t easy although it has its pros, I can compartmentalize very easy, carry on many projects at the same time, and it has spurred my creativity and honed my humor. The choice is either to be charming or be filled with shame, mostly because of school related shortcomings and a current of anxiety that was the norm from when I was in kid. Much of the shame can continue well into adulthood, because simple tasks are not always easy but big ideas flow like a river inside my mind. In the end, I learned to work hard and be focused as much as I could and continue to work until the projects came to fruition. It aslo isn’t easy to love an adult with mental health issues, I can become aloof without knowing, pulling back from hugs in the middle of one, zoning out in conversations suddenly sidetracked by a thought of something I missed or must do. I’m late. Always. Since I could walk, I suppose, most likely I was even late for nursing on my mother’s breasts.  There is a long line of disappointed women in my past whom once I let inside, tried to temper the storm of my brain, my life and be my partner. My mind has broke things in half in its torrent.

Imagine the mind as an escalator instead of a stairwell, always moving, each thought a step moving towards a behavior, the stairwell is concrete-solid, not changing whereas the escalator is moving always moving into action, always in motion and finally it gets swallowed instead of left behind where the stairs do so perfectly on the stairwell. This is what ADHD is like, now imagine if your mind is the stairwell and the way you go about your day is organized, systematic and predictable. And then you fall in love with someone with an escalator mind, who then has escalator behaviors, combined with depression and addiction. Everything gets swallowed. Burp. When I quit drinking many years ago, a cloud lifted and some behaviors stopped while new ones began, I learned how to hone my mind—mostly through practice, 12-Step groups helped me to listen and to be more on time, the 12-Steps helped me to understand much of the motives I had and helped me to take ownership of my actions, and finally meditation helped me to not get swallowed by the escalator mind. Underneath much of it though, was the hard nugget of depression that works like a radioactive element, coloring much of my life but, at times, barely perceptible. After some years of meditation, much of the depression had lifted and the daily thought of suicide and death had subsided for years. Of course, like anything radioactive it never quite goes away and it continues to need gauged. It has glowed more often than in the days of prolonged meditation. Answers are abundant but not always as simple as they appear to be.

Past propels the future and in the end the past can devour you whole, with a million miniature bites from the inside out. The future is always there, down the road never arriving, flickers of thought, bursts of moments, like an escalator itself, never quite arriving and suddenly folding underneath itself and heading to the bottom to climb back again. How does one wrestle with the past? A mind can’t fight itself with arms, legs, or bombs, only by replacing thoughts with other ones or learning to ignore the armies of thoughts that can come in waves, disrupting life as if it were an unpaved road. Bumpity-bump. Somethings don’t live in moderation, the glass full of beer, the pangs of desire, eating one potato chip—and a mind that doesn’t stop engulfs everything in its path.

I see addicts every day of my life, ones who wear the scars of their consumption on arms that are littered with the markings of self-destruction, where needles have sucked the life out of veins, and blistering skin is pleading in its own way for a break. Their eyes are nervous, full of anxiety as the hustle of everyday living chews bits of their soul away, the hope for refuge dwindles with the oncoming dread of sickness and of whatever it is they need to do to stave off the pain of being dope sick. I am the calm one in the room, moving deliberately to help slow their world down, into increments that guides them to some semblance of solace, a lighting, a kernel of hope in an otherwise dust storm of shit. I’m trained to do it and I relish offering this hope or even some sense of order in their lives as they sit in front of me. At some point people offered it to me, at the end of the long road of liquid hopelessness there was no-where else to turn but to peer over the cliff inside my mind into the darkness that lay below.

Cracked glass is always cracked until it finally splinters and breaks apart, which is what life does to us every day, hold onto your life for dear life. Lines edge from the corner of my eyes like a spiderweb made of skin, gravity, frailty and experience pull their invisible ropes across my face and down into my arms, there is nary a thing to do about it. Watch what I eat, go to the gym, take care but in the end the ropes win it’s only a matter of when. When-win.

 

 

 

David.

April 20, 2019

Sometimes there are pockets in the day, small tiny bursts of nothingness where the only thing to feel is the thumping of your heart, all the confetti in your brain has tumbled to the bottom and all the static has fuzzed itself out. It is in those moments, waiting at the stop light, putting a pen in my desk at work, rinsing out my coffee cup where a hand reaches from the bottom of that void and chokes me from the inside. I shake it off, trying to quiet it, and soon begin being busy again. We make little scars in time, marking ourselves one breath, one memory at a time until all the indentations we can ever make are swallowed whole. Annihilation by slow degrees.

In the turmoil of moving from state to state, town to town and house to house, I searched for calmness, or something greater, perhaps a boundary to guide my way-to lead me forward. I was such a lonely kid at times, it wasn’t until I was in the 4th grade did I feel the lightness of friendship and discovered a well of humor that kept the lonelys at bay. At that age nobody knows what anything can be, only the moments of laughter and the crackles of fear that can clutch a child, so I found solace in comic books, records and playing outside, usually in a patch of woods or nearby houses that were being constructed, with small mounds of dirt that offered enough ingredients of imagination to keep a ten year old occupied for an afternoon One constant during some of this period was David Hartzband, who my mother  was married to, whom I spent roughly 1973-1980 with, give or take a year here or there. There. Right there.

David was from the Bronx, and he started seeing my mother when our family lived in Athens, Ohio. This was the early seventies, my mother was involved with some of the radical groups in the university town, there a photo of us children, hovering around my mom’s ankle that made the Athens Messenger. We were all protesting Nixon. Certainly, there were anti-war protests and boycotts, I distinctly remember asking my mother was “ripple” was and her explaining it was a type of wine. We had buttons “Nixon Drinks Ripple”, which was part of national boycott of Gallo wines the massive wine company that was engaging in unfair labor practices with migrant workers. David was in the background at this time, I remember he rode a Honda motorcycle, had a yellow helmet and wore a leather jacket the had a patch on the left breast. Maybe it was a motorcycle insignia. Soon we moved to Youngstown with David. He and my mother got married, I am unsure if the ceremony was in Youngstown or in New York although I recall it was in the synagogue as my brother and I had to learn the proper etiquette of being in the synagogue. Our first Hanukkah was that year and I giggled as David spoke Hebrew as we lit the candles and he told us the story of how the oil and the temple. All I knew was we got presents.

After moving to Athens to live with my father in 1977, I only saw David a few more times, their marriage struggled and eventually David disappeared from my life. Like a raindrop in the trees, he had vanished only to be replaced by another man whom was much different from him, who didn’t care about comic books, or playing records for me or explaining all the small things in nature that appear big in a young boy’s eyes. Worms. Spiders. The things that wash up on the beach. Those were gone. In hindsight, a small room that was being furnished with windows was closed off within me. Childhood was a stumbling affair, left to my own devices the escape into records, comic books, and playing backyard football was the easiest way to go.

David moved on after divorcing my mother, living in Germany he got his PhD and then went to work for a variety of tech companies in the 80’s and became faculty at MIT all the while doing consulting work. Somehow, we found each other in the mid-nineties, he came to Columbus and we had dinner and then later my wife and I travelled to Boston and stayed with him and his wife. We had reconnected, and it was as if the old tiny room had one of the windows open, although we didn’t communicate frequently it was nice knowing that he was in the world, as if you knew that your front door was locked when you go away on a trip. Security.

There is a pile of clothes at the end of my bed, on the floor, more under the bed and scattered about like leaves from a tree but the tree is me. I like to do the dishes but hate the laundry. Every day I look at the clothes and as they get mixed with the clean ones, which go unfolded the thought comes that if I don’t put them away then nobody will. The panes of glass in the bedroom are not really glass but plastic, which is fitting as the house is more of a house than a home, something temporary, something soft and not something to grasp. The only hardness of the house is that it is temporary.  The neighbors are different, more of them, which means living anonymously comes easier, I don’t have to say hello, the fellow next to me drives a kind of hybrid pick-up/El Camino and hauls in boxes of beer every weekend. The trashcans in the ally are testimonials to loneliness, if I still drank there is no doubt that they would be overflowing every week. Cascading over the sides in a fountain of discarded ache. We nod to each other when we cross each other’s paths, him with his armfuls of beer and me with my headful of ideas.

My mind doesn’t stop not even when I’m asleep, I remember many of my dreams and have a unique ability to control some of them but of course this only happens when I’m in slumber mode, in awake mode the mind doesn’t stop as much as pause for scattered moments throughout the day. Of course, there is little control over all those thoughts, which tend to blend together as if constructed with watercolor paints sitting in the rain, but there are tricks to calm them. Sitting. And. Sitting. Music. And. Music. And. And. And. So, so, many ands.

Standing on fifty the losses in the past get sucked into the whirlpool of time, an existential treadmill the slips and eats everything in its path, every happy moment, every disappointment, every loss until, at some point to be determined it will chew me up and I will slide into a vortex of nothingness. Annihilation. Life is filled with forgiveness which means that life is bursting with pain, one can’t learn to forgive if one hasn’t hurt. So, the circle is blended, and both sadness and joy are mixed with the other, nothing is pure. Even in our happiest moments as adults the thought of everything is fleeting, just movement towards something else, colors everything. Nothing stays the same not even memories.

I remember holding Jenny’s hand underneath the soft hushed voices of Christmas carols on Christmas Eve 1985, the hardwood pews forcing us to sit up straight, she passed me a note. “Only one week”, our one-week anniversary, even my fingers danced with joy. There was San Francisco, sitting in a Guatemalan diner, trying to read a book of poetry but feeling the sharp stings of betrayal that welled up from feeling so alone as a youngster, and increased in intensity through other relationships, that stinging of rejection never seems to have left from those first years of my life. There was peeking through a small jeweler’s shop window in the Centrum of Tilburg, Netherlands at two matching gold and platinum rings, feeling the unspoken said enough and we put the rings on her credit card. Even then, the joyful seriousness of the event compelled me to sprinkle humor over it, I bought a bag full of McDonalds hamburgers to present to her father as there was an old Dutch tradition of giving the bride-to-be’s father a cow. My unwillingness to face the present moment in our relationship, to be an adult would push us apart. Humor is not always funny. Flash forward twenty years, my daughter nervously reading her poetry to a sold-out hall of adults as she bravely faced them, composed and poised. Authors and business leaders walked up to our table to shake her hand and congratulate her. The memories rise up, like cigarette smoke tasting the air and then the wash themselves away, vanishing while the next one gently thrusts itself out, billowing up and becoming invisible.

David died last week, I got an email from his wife and it went to my work email, for a moment I thought it was another David I had once worked with. Sitting on one of my half-couches, together they should make a couch but since they are separated, they just make two half couches smushed together. Total fucking rip-off.  I had my morning coffee, setting it upon a small stack of books whose words were waiting to be devoured, plying for my attention but only to be used to protect a new coffee table from being scarred from a hot coffee cup. I re-read the email and felt alone. The skin on my arms raised up about half a centimeter while the blood pushed its way out of my heart. Moving to the other half couch, I looked at my phone, Anna Netrebko’s angelic voice drifted in from the other room, and I thought of how David and I talked of our love of opera last spring when I saw him in Boston. I eventually called my wife, she was in our house. Her home, my memory. I told her of David’s passing, his gentle soul touching my throat. Then when I got to saying David’s name, tears spilled from my eyes, a heave of the chest and then it was gone. It was the same when she told me that our friend Edo died, a few moments of great sadness, of the body trying to rid itself and then. just. weariness. Just weariness.

There are times when I wish I was just a note in a song, a bubble of sound whose only purpose is to pop in your ear and make your mind go a flutter with emotion. And then there would be nothing. Annihilation.static1.squarespace.jpg

 

2019.

March 17, 2019

There are cut flowers in vases, long stemmed orchids that sit on new furniture contrasting the white and purple flowers with the dark polished wood, old pictures hang on new walls while formerly boxed books line new and old shelves. The light is different as the house faces south and the morning sun breaks through grimy windows waking me up. Many of the windows still don’t have curtains, they sit in the closet, carefully folded up, still waiting to be hung. The sound of the floors is different, each floorboard creaks in its own distinct fashion, they all groan and ache with age-each step bringing forth a small bleat of age, the wooden blanks have been neglected and there is nary anything I can do. It’s a rental.

On one side of the dining room is a wall of records, nearly six feet long by six feet high, an almost literal sculpture of loneliness. The opposite wall carries the same but instead of vinyl records there are rows and rows of compact discs, just in case the records can’t placate the darkness there are a few thousand cd’s to help burnish the periods of emptiness that tend to pop up in sudden random moments. Music has always been the one reliable salve for any sort of extensional dilemma, it worked at the age of fourteen the same as it does at fifty, although the shimmy across the floor isn’t as dramatic as it was in 1982. There is a new stereo cabinet, it is walnut as well, a dark wood grain with glass doors the open wide, a line of lights run under the top that make the wood and thus the music sparkle more than it should. At times, late in the evening these lights make it feel as if there is an extra plate at the table that is still waiting to be eaten off.

I go to the grocery store, mostly at night, a few times being the last customer, wheeling the metal cart through empty aisles thinking of all the choices of food that I would never eat, in fact much of the food I buy will get tossed out in a few weeks anyway. What can one person do with ten bananas? Learning to buy just two is something that hasn’t happened yet, every time I pull two from a bunch, I feel I’m breaking up a family, ripping somebody off. They all go brown soon enough.

There is a park down the street, one we went to often to take the dog, the sprite white thing would gallop across the fields, stopping to smell and pee on patches of grass that only a dog would understand the deeper meaning of. It’s just grasses to me. There are other dogs that go there, they circle each other, crouching down on their hind legs, attuned to one’s another’s submissiveness. I have her over as well, maybe once or twice a week, the first few times she peed on the floor no doubt trying to cover the stench of cats that used to live in the apartment, layers of cat piss and unwashed floors made the place have a distinct odor but after what seemed like a billion times moping and cleaning the vents out it now gaining its own smell, mostly of coffee and flowers. The kids can walk to the park, having to be mindful of some of the homeless who make small camps in the woods but tend to be harmless. Their lives a daily battle of getting warm and walking to the nearby pantry to get fed, obtain clean socks and feel like they apart of society. Apart of something.

That is harder to find. Connectiveness. The strands of love seem brittle, they get pulled too much one way, and then get wrapped around one another in the most difficult of all manner, twisted and frustrated—they can break or just get to the breaking point. Expectations, some spoken most not, the line the path of life like thick roots just barely above the surface, small traps that trip and grab from underneath. At night, when the music is drifting from the other room, it could be Mahler or some other composer, the living room feels slowly lived in while the insides collapse, dying in short breaths. Living room indeed.

So many new things, stuff people need to fill out a space and I suppose to also fill out their lives. A new table, a new desk, a leather chair, a mattress that is thicker than a tire—it arrived rolled up like a burrito, and a chair. All new, grown up stuff. New pots and pans, dishes even new sponges and a bucket. Perhaps the most difficult aspect is to break all these new things when one feels broken. There is a big part that is whispering ‘why bother. why bother. why bother” as the morning sunlight cuts across the living room floor, splitting an unplanned Saturday in half. Why bother.

I got very sick in a matter of months, as well as a few trips to the emergency room for a heart that might have had too many pieces of pizza over the years but is all under control now. The sicknesses were brutal, one required a four am trip to the ER, the pain was so severe but after a few hours of fluids and heavy medication I was released. Stumbling towards a place to get warm, having to find a way home. Picked up by a friend, those calls are different. Asking for help. Waving in some existential field at trees in the distance, “hey, hey, I’m over here. Never mind. Never mind.” The next time was four days in bed, vomiting in a bucket off the side of the bed, fortunately I am well versed in puking in buckets from an earlier life. Sweating the sheets wet and fumbling at the grocery store, exposed in aloneness trying to buy juice and make it home in time without collapsing. Help came, but sometimes accepting it comes with inner reservations, a kind of blunt wariness that stems from somewhere within. “I’m really ok, thank you.” This is pretty normal at that this point. An aversion to being naked. Found out.

Down below, self-discovery feels like diving into the deep end of the sea, plunging off a tanker, hurtling into the depths of who knows what. But you came from the sea, so many millions of years ago, it is nothing new—it can’t hurt you. Nothing can hurt you, and I smile, dismissing it all. Perhaps is should be hurting into the depths instead of hurtling?

Jenny Mae: One Year

August 25, 2018

MI0002126908.jpgOne Year:

Unease has been settling in, a sort of emotional arthritis that has stuck with me, aches that come and go, some sharper than others. It may be at a stoplight or when folding clothes, sometimes they come when a song floats into my ears, or just when-the-fuck-ever. Lately, I want to tell you things, call you up and hear your panting voice as you pace around your apartments, fixing plants, hanging pictures, trying on a pile of thrift store finds. Your voice speaks to me then, “Oh, Bela—why do you get yourself into such things? You never learn, how can someone so smart be so stupid?” then you would tell a story, something that so normal as ordering dinner at a restaurant that had turned into the absurd, pushed by the force of your personality until everybody around was dumbstruck. I miss that the most, your non-advice advice and the laugh. Always the laugh.

Nothing was settled, it always remained a haze around your life, everything that danced into your orbit was sucked in, you were a tornado that finally kept spinning, behind you a wake of beautiful destruction, and you spun and spun until even the wind around you tired out and split. “I’m outta here” it wheezed as it fell away. For me, I staggered away the past few years, walking away isn’t the correct wording—I was worn out—from the worry, the hurt and the anticipation of your ultimate demise. Sadly, all the people I wanted you to touch failed to happen, for some time I felt as if there was something we did wrong. Me, you, everybody that tried to push you into something that wasn’t really anything you wanted, I remember you once reading your name in a magazine, flopping it down, saying “that’s cool. Where are we going to drink?” You never mentioned it again. The apartments were filled with black and white photos, torn from the pages of Life magazine and books from the 1960’s, women in dark Ray-ban sunglasses, scarves piled high around their head, naked shoulders glowing from the sun—this was who you were. A fantasy that lived in a world of your own making, where wisps of the past are now settling down around memories that have gathered and collected at my feet, they are melting into one another until, soon, they will disappear.

It has been a year today, when I  left my class to rush to the hospital as your cracked and ruined lips slowly gave up trying to suck in air, you were tired, no doubt about that. You lived harder and brighter than anyone I have ever known. There was a fear stepping into your orbit, you were big league from the word go until you didn’t anymore, you came to a bumpy-rolling stop, and the holes you have left are immense, but your songs can fill them up and your smile can still stretch across and through death and make me smile. I have so much to tell you.

JERRYJENNYCOVER

 

 

 

 

Update on Updates, new writing and book

July 14, 2018

A few updates as I have received some emails and questions about the slow going of new writing. There is actually a lot of writing and re-writing going on this past year as I have been working on a book which contains some of the writing in the blog, I have some great help from Lisa Carver and the book should be out in 2019. It is slow going, I have posted to small rewrites/additions on this update. I have also been working on a short story compilation that I may or may not post, basically finished an adventure story for Saskia (that she has now outgrown) and am in the midst of writing an adventure story for Bruno (not sure if I will post either of these).  Here are the additions from the book:

Relationship:

After Jenny got out of the hospital, she and I hovered around one another not face to face more like we were at the same party but never in the same room. This went on for a year or so, and as Jenny’s life became more precarious, a slow-motion tidal wave that just grew and grew over the years, collecting and casting off everything in its path until finally it obliterates itself, I would step back from her, my ability to converse became more strained over the years. The relationship had completely changed by the time she became homeless, I became the caretaker or even the older sibling, the protector but the job came with a toll. Jenny became defensive, like I would peel her open and discover her innards were built with lies, like a down pillow made of soft untruths. When she was drunk, during these years, it felt as if my skin was sweating on the inside. People would ask if there was temptation to drink as I had quit drinking, but it did the opposite, nobody eats a full meal after someone vomits. I felt cured of alcoholism around her, scared straight every time the smell of alcohol heaved and shuddered from her mouth. At times when the hospitalizations became routine, they had ceased being an event in the last seven years of her life, they were just normal—it was as she became a convict that keeps getting arrested, but she was in the hospital instead of jail, I would see her, talking to her and offering encouragement. “Don’t judge me, Bela” she would sneer, IV’s dangling next to her, tubes hanging from her yellowed face, “you may have turned your life around but it doesn’t mean I have to live the way you do.” These comments would spew out of her mouth, years after I had tried to get her sober and the anger had dissipated to a sense of love the was smothered in dread of what was to come. Jenny felt threatened by the secrets we held together, the truths we experienced and the hope that had burnt up like a poorly rolled cigarette. All that was left was the smoke.

 

The hesitancy Jenny held around me was palatable after I left, she was guarded and anxious, there was a part of her that was still dumbstruck that I left her and that I was able to survive with our her and in fact, that despite her predictions and even some inner belief of my own, I would find new lovers and eventually fall in love. My presence felt like Kryptonite to her, also for me as well, what an awful realization that something that helps create you, that is very much a part of the very essence of you, causes such pain. The apprehension was volatile, it came out in glares and quick exits when I was in the same space as she, “Bela, I can’t see you—just let me know when you are going to be there. I hate seeing you, maybe some day I can but you just hurt me too much” she spoke into the phone one night, I could almost feel the wetness of her tears through the twisted telephone line, it had felt like a sucker punch, “don’t say that Jenny, I want to see you—I still need you in my life.” “No, not while you are fucking some other girl.” Exasperated, “what the fuck are you talking about, you are with guys all the time.” Her voice was cold and sharp, “you know its different with me, I can’t be alone. Ever. I fuck them for a reason. You are ok to be alone, you deserve it.” She hung up the phone. Things would get said that were intentionally incomplete, like a punch-line to a joke that never came, and the joke just hung in the air until is floated into the back of a person’s mind. Confused. Annoyed. “God-damnit, Jenny.” And then I hung up the phone.

 

Jenny’s Voice:

Western Ohio is an area of transplants, perhaps the forgotten transplants of the Midwest, whereas the German and Eastern European immigrants that flooded Cleveland, the industrial complexes of Youngstown and Toledo and to the southeast the poison air of the coal mines of Appalachia. But Western Ohio, the forgotten and silent step-child is created from the steely-hard persoonia of Protestant immigrants, what-goes-on-here-stays-here, God-and-Country and a generally feeling of distrust of the outside, of difference. The accent of this area is more southern than the Norwegian cadence of say, Minnesota, or the distinct Cleveland accent where vowels are drawn out—where a person’s voice is closer to person from Buffalo or Pittsburgh than say, Dayton.

Moving from Athens and having spent a childhood rocketing from one part of the country to another, I was most startled by the southern lilt of my friends in Newport News, Virginia when I was in third grade. Where they all sounded like Hee-Haw singers, with slow drawls and language that we were taught never to speak, most specifically nigger and terms such as coon, faggot and so forth. Here the racism sat front and center, it was not subliminal as I would later discover in Columbus. So, I was alarmed to hear these terms again when I started high school in Springfield. Jenny spoke with an almost southern accent; her voice was hard—not just from her personal childhood experience, but the area of South Vienna and Springfield is hard. A struggle for survival, where scuffed knuckles and the anxiety of the next paycheck are ever present. She did not speak delicately although her knowledge of language came out in the written word, a lovely writer-her short stories were things of beauty as was her indelible handwriting, one would be surprised to learn that her course voice would blanket such beauty. As such, in Columbus, this may have affected her standing among many of the northern Ohioans and college bound academics that dotted her life. Perhaps, only the subtle West Virginian accent of Scrawl’s Marcy Mays was overlooked because of over arching power of Marcy, and Jenny always spoke of Marcy in reverenced terms.

Jenny’s singing voice could slide from a simple innocence, almost child-like in delivery to a husky pillow drenched in Maker’s Mark from one song to another. She could have easily had some of her records on K records, with it’s simplistic and bare-bones aesthetic-where Beat Happening carved a niche for anybody to parlay songs and art into words without the angst and vitriol of punk rock while some could land safely on the corner of 4AD with layered guitar and keyboards shrouding the pain she was able to slip out in an ethereal gasp. In the end, though her’s was a voice that fit nowhere, as she lacked the sophistication or polish that would provide so many female artists an avenue that may have allowed the man’s world of indie-rock provide acceptance. She was a victim of her own circumstances, to bold and outrageous in personality for those who wanted their female singers to provide solace—to not only sound pretty but to be pretty and much to pop and sing-song-y to attract the punks-she slipped on her own being, in a sexist and classist world. She sang without misgivings, at times, depending on her alcohol intake she could go tragically off-key, not unlike Bob Pollard whose vocal stylings can fall flat-footed in concert and he drowns his throat with another Budweiser, while at other times, her breathy voice could crush as evidence on her song “Ho Bitch” which could be perhaps one of the greatest songs on living with mental illness that I have ever heard.

Jenny Mae & Jerry Wick comic + 7″ coming out via NIX Comics

March 28, 2018

Roughly ten years ago I started this blog to process some feelings and sort memories out pertaining to Jenny Mae Leffel and Jerry Wick. There was nothing more or less to it except that I wanted to have an outlet and share their stories and how they impacted me. It has been a very rewarding experience and I have been humbled by the response over the years (over 80,000 reads covering over 120 countries around the globe). As Jenny passed this past year and I am continuing to work on a much larger project pertaining to the writing. Over the past few years I have been able to partner with Nix Comics to produce two graphic comics based off several of the stories in the blog (both have been reprinted and both are available via Nix: “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Record Stores” and “Negotiate Nothing: Jim Shepard”). Nix is planning on releasing a final graphic in the comic based on Jerry and Jenny meeting as well as exploring Jenny’s struggles with homelessness. There is also a planned 7″ (limited to 300 copies) of an unreleased Jenny Mae song recorded in 2006, and the only vinyl version of the Jerry Wick song “Love, Death and Photosynthesis” from the CD compilation “I Stayed Up All Night Listening to Records”. There is nice easy method to pre-order the comic and/or the 7″ through the Nix Kickstarter for this (follow link). There is also other comics and projects planned as part of the Kickstarter. I have reposted the first entry of the blog below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nixcomics/nix-comics-2018-comic-book-and-records-subscriptio

 

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae

August 12, 2009

I sat in the corner booth, with a brown haired girl with muddy blonde streaks and when she laughed the whole world stopped for a moment.  Beer shot out of my nose and down the front of my t-shirt.  The t-shirt had a picture of a monkey riding a bike and said “R.E.M.” on the back.  She, the girl that is was telling a story about work.  Apparently she worked in a private dining club with a Chinese woman who once played for the Chinese National Basketball team; she was tall especially for a Chinese woman.  The woman spoke very little English, and my friend named Jenny had used her lack of English for a practical joke that went a bit wrong.  An older gentleman had asked the former basketball player what desserts were they serving today, the basketball player stuck her head in the kitchen and asked “Ah, Yinny, what is desert today?”  Jenny, whose wit was quicker than her mind replied, “We have pecan pie, chocolate pie and hair pie.”  The ball player turned around and answered “We have ah pecan pie, ah chocolate pie and ah haar pie.”  Jenny quickly ran to the cooler and hid for the next ten minutes while the manager looked all over the kitchen and dining room for the culprit who played the poor immigrant.  Jenny said as soon as the manager went on break she clocked out and was thankful she had the next few days off.  It was a Wednesday and we were celebrating the late afternoon in the best way we knew how, with an evening of cheap bottleneck beer and keeping one another company.

In the table just off our booth a man with a weathered thin US Army backpack laughed along with me, he turned and smiling with crooked teeth said “God-damn, that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in forever.”  He had hair just past his shoulder and smelled of pizza sauce and patchouli, not the most pleasant smell in the world.  He was drinking coffee.  I always managed to check what a person was drinking back then (I still do this today) as a way of measuring them up. I noticed him; I’d seen him in the record store I worked at part-time.  I worked in several stores at that point, I worked as a manager of a mostly classical and jazz store that catered to the University professors and grad students and on a few days a week I had the opportunity to settle behind the splinter giving worn counter of the used record store just down the block and under the sidewalk from the classical store.  I could drink beer and listen to the glories of underground and brit-rock in the safe confines of the used store. Here as I guzzled beer and coffee I would secretly plan my escape from the classical store where I wore a tie and uncomfortable poly-cotton Dockers that did not dispel any pretense that I worked as a manager in a chain record store.

I also remembered this man from some of the independent rock and punk shows I had started attending with my friend Jenny over the past six months.  I had seen him with his coffee cup at the basement bar down the street where we would watch local music for free and piss tip-toed as a way not to let the overflowing toilets flood our tennis shoes. He had a notebook in front of him with a page filled with scribbles and a small doodle of a skinny man screaming into a ball of larger scribble.  He had on a black tee-shirt.  The tee-shirt said “Mudhoney” above four half naked men, it was a take-off of a Slits album cover.  I was impressed.  He pulled his chair over just as I was rising to go get a few more drinks.  I asked him if he wanted one. He asked if I could get him some more coffee.  He was still laughing from Jenny’s story.  As he handed me his cup his slightly bent shoulders shook with laughter and I noticed his thin hands and arms; he was as skinny as a flagpole and his long hair draped over his bony shoulders like spaghetti over a mop handle.  His entire being was like caffeine come to life.  “Really, if you want a beer I’ll get you one” I offered.  “No thanks, I don’t drink.”  I was shocked and somewhat suspicious.  I didn’t know anyone who didn’t drink.  Jenny said “really, are you sick?”  “No, I just don’t drink.”

I had an immediate kinship with Jerry.  From the moment we spoke to one another my entire world opened up ten-fold.  Prior to that point much of my world revolved around Jenny and I getting drunk, playing practical jokes on strangers and pretending we were people who we obviously weren’t.  My circle would go from two people (me being one) to several hundred in a matter of months in part of my new friend.  Jerry told us he worked at the chain pizza place down the street and had moved to Columbus recently from Kent Ohio.  He claimed that Kent “grew stale, it’s a small college hippie-town filled by pretentious rich kids who wore tie-died clothes to hide from their mommies and daddies.”  I made no mention of his patchouli scent to him.  When he spoke of the things he didn’t like, his voice rose and his intensity was surgical.  I could absolutely relate to this aspect of him.  We bonded over our distaste over college kids, our hate of shitty music and our ability to laugh over the telling of events that were at most two years old but in the haze of Jenny’s and my own drunkenness and Jerry’s caffeinated hyperness appeared to be at least a decade in passing.

Jerry lived just two blocks from us on Indiana, in a three bedroom house where he happened to be an outsider.  For his distaste for hippies and all manner of pretentious rock and roll music he chose an odd place to live.  His roommates were a band that played every Tuesday evening in the basement bathroom overflowing bar, their sets were filled with ten minutes plus songs-“jams” complete with fog machine and noodly keyboard solos and they wore enough hair to get part-time jobs at a petting zoo.  A roommate of mine and Jenny’s went to go see them every week and she had managed to drag us to see them on a few occasions.  I had a complete revulsion for anything considered “art” and rock and roll which meant I wrote off a large swath of music that emanated from the late 1960’s and the 1970’s from the laborious epic song cycles of Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer to the shrill hard rock of later day Rush.  Anything with a concept and keyboard was cause for utter derision.  This was yet another belief that we bonded over, Jerry told us he couldn’t stand his roommates and fled the house whenever they practiced.  He was shocked and pleased when we mentioned that Jenny wrote short little songs on a small Casio keyboard she had borrowed from one of our other roommates.  He told us he would love to hear them and when we said that we didn’t have any recordings he offered to record her on his tiny tascam portable recorder which was just a fancy cassette recorder.  We ended up back at his house; his room was just a mattress with a bookshelf crammed next to it.  The bookshelf was crammed with whatever remaining clothes were not scattered on the floor, cassettes and a paperback books by Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut and music related tales such as “Please Kill Me.”  He pulled out a shoebox a played us what sounded like the solo from “Down by the River” speeded up and muffled under a pillow.  I was amazed.  There were no vocals.  He said it was him playing a one-string guitar and that he was still working on it.  He told us he was in a band called Black JuJu.  Like the candy.

It was late and I had to work in the morning.  Jenny supposedly had school but unbeknownst to me she had already dropped out at this point and had been keeping up the charade of a full-time college student for a while now, she would continue to do this for at least six more months.  We wobbled home on liquid legs and twisted grins.  When we got in the house I boiled a couple of hot dogs and drank three glasses of water to help stave off the headache that may or not arrive. We went to sleep in the closet that Jenny had managed to convert to a bed.  She had a fear of people out to get her, a paranoia that seemed innocent in those early twenties days but would later manifest itself in far more dire behaviors.