Friday, July 16, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 7.1

The second thing I remember from my first day of Kindergarten was playing on a jungle gym and running full blast, I clotheslined myself on a steel bar.

My first day of high-school, I don’t think I knew anyone ‘cept a few who went to Carr School.

I was walking from my first period class to my second and I was late. I saw some guy walking to his class and I said, “That’s a cool band on your shirt.” I just wanted to see how he’d react. I gradually made gauging prime reactions the quest of my next two years.

The guy was a rare person whose reaction matched their character at such an age. We ended up being in a cooking class together, becoming friends. I learned that his name was Carter. It’s an odd thing to meet someone with a sense of honor that isn’t stunted or nonexistent. There was no shade to anything that was ever said between us and you could actually listen to his words instead of tones.

I made it to the first period, late, and met a few more of my new classmates. There were a few people I already knew, we bunched together near the center of the room over the same reasons that drew early man to seek fire.

We gradually formed bonds over plays we wrote together and ideas dawning on us that fanned flames of this newfound freedom. Growing up right before each others eyes, except for that first pixie-dusted semester, in that time we gave impressions by which our growth could be gauged.

It’s not all the pretty horses, not at all. It’s not that the pasture was green either, but it wasn’t just the pretty horses. Not by a long shot.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 6.3

We weren't kids after we laid waste to each other. We never grew up either, we remained so unsettled and convinced ourselves otherwise. On the day we finished with each other I listened to "Three Little Birds" for hours feeling like something different had been broken.

Kids no more, no havens for forgiveness. After thinking about this I realized what they really meant by “If you love something let it go”

It’s not just a line for a picture show
Oh no, oh no.
If you really love something let it go.

I might have been the right one, the wrong one.
I might have been all or none,
Or one, or ten.
There are always a million, billion things that I could have been.

The next time I hear you sing Rocky Mountain Way
I’ll sing along under my breath, or out loud
From the valleys to the clouds.
My god I loved you and nothing's left to say.

Children do this to one another? Your children maybe? What are they but humans? And oh, do humans do the worst things to one another? Or can that be denied by the same self-serving convenience with which I singed my forest of emotions?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 6.2

Everyone imagines themselves just. Vigilantes armed with words that they cannot wield properly but with which can still maim. We are peyote snake-oil ministers in every outlet for thought; You ever listen to somebody talk? Then you are too.

There is a din in the streets clamoring to be heard from the bottom to the top. Bullhorn buglers are directing the blind and the bright-eyed over a cliff that keeps everything running. Tunnel with overhead lights that claim to be sunlight, but if sun ever touched our paleness then we may be evaporated and never heard from again. Or we may already be in raindrops bound sooner or later to hit the ground. And the sad reality is that the asphalt doesn’t soften up for anybody.

Love is the case in point.

My first girlfriend was beautiful and petite and was just as eager to have me as I was to have her. We talked to each other for a couple of days and then started dating, like kids do, we broke up three or so times before we really broke up.

I was in love with this girl. I can remember teaching her how to bake in my kitchen and kissing her for any reason and no reason at all. When I could see her I smiled, when she left I was ready to see her again. It was better than being addicted.

A creek that snaked through the property, sometimes we’d go swimming and once my dog snuck up and stole some of our clothes. I’d hold her in the middle of the creek as we kissed. Something more than anything I’ve ever known.

During this my parents would be at work and held up by migraines. Some variations included.

Now I know that my mother knew that I was in love, and I know that it made her happy. Something that my girlfriend and I talked about. I finally realize that love makes for a way of happiness. I can remember thinking about being loved back for as long as life.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 6.1

What a sick feeling in my bumping, beating chest and throughout my veins. Down my arms and legs. It gnaws at my gut and it wreaks havoc on my mind. I can tell that my speech has been affected and I think that I may be going insane. Especially as I gradually lose the meticulously constructed cool-calm that I wrap about my person like a warped shawl. When this happens my mind goes inside itself while every neuron is firing off in a free-for-all. In the morning I experience a déjà vu that plays itself out like clockwork, I don’t understand this but I feel that I am becoming trapped in time, this feeling lasts only for a scant second (in the grand scheme) before my thoughts collect and rein me back in. I’m getting increasingly worried about not coming back. I’m definitely not stoned when this happens, if I were, I don’t think it would be so intensely alive inside. To be fair, I do have caffeine running amok and I would not pass a drug test. But this goes far beyond a typical paranoia case. In writing this I assure myself that I am okay for at least eight hours, during that time I will try to fall asleep. If I’m lucky I won’t be in that moment the next morning, otherwise I’ll stay sane by questioning my sanity.


It’s still February, a strange dream. I was in my house and my room was bare cepting two beds. Odd consciousness of dream states that I have experienced some kind of mental breakdown. I am transported from lucidity into my body and lay in bed talking with a girl that I was vaguely attracted to. I trusted this girl very much in this dream.

We were lying in separate beds and she was listening to me ramble scared thoughts and worries. The look on her face was one that said, “I’m not judging you, I’m listening, but you get through this on your own.” The oddness darting her countenance spoke to the fact that in waking life, I really don’t want her to know me. Sometimes I must relearn this: For a good portion of personal relationships there is no truth stringing us together. Such liaisons never speak to one another as mutual humans with mutual and actual emotions. I remained silent on the matter.

In my dream I told her that I just wanted her to lie in the bed across from me, she asked if we were going to have sex and I said “No, I just want you to hold my hand while I drift off, I’ve never had anyone do that for me and that’s what I want more than anything.” Then she just did that, I went to sleep in my dream knowing that she had me safe for the night. I thought of nothing as she held me there.

As I dreamed falling asleep I realized what a wonderful “NOW” this was.

The reason I found this dream significant is because I have never liked this person and have seldom enjoyed her company. That must be the mutual truth and an actual emotion between us.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 6.0

Enter: relationship so amazing it alters how you see them. Struck with ideas that the rest of your life will be like that one. You forget how you were before because you grew trained to feel. No initiative.

Enter: relationship that seemed to change everything, but turned out to be just a well-designed replica.

I don’t care how it sounds or looks: I’ve had my heart broken in so many ways that if I were to be happy with someone I would be as surprised as a Titanic victim. Not supposed to sink, but down we go.

It’s sometime in February of 2007, early February. I told the girl I thought I loved just about everything I could think of to tell her a couple of days ago. I think my biggest mistake (and luckiest move) was not telling her that I love her.

It’s amazing how you can get so attached to people in relative time and then one time it may be the last time you ever see them again, a lot of the youth experiences this through school friends. I haven’t graduated yet, it’s coming, it’s looming and I can smell freedom in a form of slavery.

I’m afraid that it may be too soon to adequately describe this period in my life, I’m even more afraid that this period of my life is happening the way it is. I suppose the best thing to do is to offer up an example for those with sound mind to pick apart. This is a letter that I wrote for the girl, intending to revise or deliver, though, neither happened and she won’t have read it unless she happens to find this page. I hope she knew it without ever having to read it:

I can’t be everything you want. Since the day we met, I’ve spent more time trying to be the perfect lover than trying to meet the perfect one.

I meant it, but I meant it to someone else from an earlier time. That letter seems to capture an emotion that I’ve slept with many nights of my teenage life. What that emotion is or if it is a cocktail of them. I’m not sure. I’m just assuming it’s life, that’s what all the people say.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 5.2

It seems different this time, and it is. That's why one shouldn’t fall into buying comparisons between old wars and new wars.

The worst feeling, in our newly dawned age of instant connection, is that if the disaffected refuge across the world actually talked to myself, my friends; If we talked to them we would find that there isn’t much difference in our basic dreams. The difference lays down in the straw of our day to day actions.

I know I don’t have to wake up to Iraq circa 2007, but I know in my heart that the people who are taught to hate me really don’t. The people in America who are taught to hate them really don’t. I want to think that kind of hatred is impossible. The unseemly hatred that attempted to be imparted on me made me physically sick. There is seldom enough capacity in someone to carry on the kind of hatred that we seem to believe each other possess.

The reason for the hatred is that instead of talking to new people when I get on the internet, I talk to my friends that I saw that same day, or look at videos, stupid ones and serious ones, even ones about the humans I felt this distant concern for. And I can potentially maintain a perpetual inhuman disconnect to everything that is real.

Sometimes I like that.

Sadly, I like the pixilated people more than the real ones.

But that doesn't keep their blood off of my hands.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 5.1

The bonds that made the joyous summer of 2006 possible were formed so many years ago. That little fourth grade classroom felt lives ago. James, Liam and I sat in a row and Danny sat in front of us. The first and third girls I ever liked sat behind us.

Long ago enough that we were discovering the things that make us human. Also an obsession with pushing the limits of what we could get away with. But things were different back then. I and Liam made straight A’s, barely able to understand circumventing authority.

Our grade school days and middle school days are so hazy to me now, as though they were experienced by different people. And yet without them I don’t know how we would’ve evolved.

September eleventh happened at the start of our seventh grade year during music class. Our history teacher came to the class and told us to turn on the T.V. We watched like everyone else did. We also saw the second plane hit in real time, there is no way to explain that. It’s a wreathing scar for those who saw it and especially those who experienced it, and neither of the two are holding out for it to heal, that’s for the next generation to make better, I hate that it‘s to be pawned off on them, but their perspective will help them pick up the pieces.

Yet the worst thing about that time was the sense of hope and pointed assuredness that was squandered. Not even squandered, but killed. The rest of the decade would be so damn hard to stomach. Those who were there and alive shouldn’t forget the genuine feelings. We shouldn’t have to listen to false-croon country-music stars or watch any eye-drop-tears movie that will dilute the short flash of earnestness that followed. Maybe it was all meant to burn at both ends, anyway that’s what happened and at one point or another every American would wind up against each other and forming new allegiances as they changed their pants.

I don’t know why we stuck together like we did. We were outsiders, more outside than we even realized. But there was more, what it was I don’t know, it was a product of the times but could never be bought and sold, you either were or you weren’t. It was so amazingly personal that only four guys shared the first half and five the rest, then it was gone forever. It could never be the same and probably shouldn‘t be. One day there won’t be anything of us left except these stories. It’s a weird reality at seventeen when reality is already so skewed.

I suppose the life I was living at age ten was like most kids’ lives. I played army with my younger brother, I had toy cars and action figures that didn’t make any sense. I was a Star Wars kid and was elated when they made the new movies, I couldn‘t understand why so many older people hated those movies, especially those older people who said their lives were changed by the first ones. My older brother, who was just the right age for the first set, put this into perspective for me and he did it the way it should have been:

“Those were kids’ movies, they were meant to entertain kids, I was excited to see you two so happy with something that made me happy when I was that age. Especially Kevin, I was seven when the first one came out, like him. That shit wasn’t made for thirty-year-olds who paint themselves up and camp out in front of theaters.”

But why were they so upset?

First, it should be agreed upon that generations are a creation of corporate empire marketing, be that as it may, I’m speaking of the age groups strictly in relation to their age and not their profit margin. In that I hope to get across my honest intentions in writing this. So here we go.

My guess is that Generation X never grew up. They are eternally children and lucky for that. There was no great war, no horrible war, no nation-shaking catastrophe for them. There was the cavalier, smooth-talking president who seemed like your grandfather. Then it was the good-time party-guy president. Desert Storm operations were over 100 hours after commencing and were watched on satellite broadcast at dinner, replete with commercials. I keep the tape my father and brother made of coverage of the war. I listen to the singers and I don’t hear songs of life, but references to the culture that they absorbed in their formative years. The movies read as an elongated homage to their younger pop-cultured years. So much so, that pop culture now only exists to be referenced.

In the face of what may one day be perceived as authenticity, as unearned for myself as it is, I find myself envying my brother. He was able to suspend his childhood into his teenage years and his twenties, just like most who grew up in that time. The people I know basically stopped feeling like kids after September 11, 2001. Even though we still acted like spoiled brats.

To future generations: Don’t romanticize this notion. You'll disdain life if you compare yourself to some asshole's nostalgia.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 5.0

The bonds that made the joyous summer of 2006 possible were formed so many years ago. That little fourth grade classroom felt lives ago. James, Liam and I sat in a row and Danny sat in front of us. The first and third girls I ever liked sat behind us.

Long ago enough that we were discovering the things that make us human. Also an obsession with pushing the limits of what we could get away with. But things were different back then. I and Liam made straight A’s, barely able to understand circumventing authority.

Our grade school days and middle school days are so hazy to me now, as though they were experienced by different people. And yet without them I don’t know how we would’ve evolved.

September eleventh of 2001 happened to be at the start of our seventh grade year during music class. Our history teacher came to the class and told us to turn on the T.V. We watched like everyone else did. We also saw the second plane hit in real time, there is no way to explain that. It’s a wreathing scar for those who saw it and especially those who experienced it, and neither of the two are holding out for it to heal, that’s for the next generation to make better, I hate that it‘s to be pawned off on them, but their perspective will help them pick up the pieces.

Yet the worst thing about that time was the sense of hope and pointed assuredness that was squandered. Not even squandered, but killed. The rest of the decade would be so damn hard to stomach. Those who were there and alive shouldn’t forget the genuine feelings. We shouldn’t have to listen to false-croon country-music stars or watch any eye-drop-tears movie that will dilute the short flash of earnestness that followed. Maybe it was all meant to burn at both ends, anyway that’s what happened and at one point or another every American would wind up against each other and forming new allegiances as they changed their pants.

I don’t know why we stuck together like we did. We were outsiders, more outside than we even realized. But there was more, what it was I don’t know, it was a product of the times but could never be bought and sold, you either were or you weren’t. It was so amazingly personal that only four guys shared the first half and five the rest, then it was gone forever. It could never be the same and probably shouldn‘t be. One day there won’t be anything of us left except these stories. It’s a weird reality at seventeen when reality is already so skewed.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 4.4

Damn those days were fun and we didn’t even know that next summer would be better. Some things really can’t be helped and youth should always be one of those things.

People who supposedly define something usually don’t feel much of a connection with what they somehow define. This presents a sort-of quandary, for if one with no connection to a movement can make it then what does that say about those who actually practice the lifestyle?

Maybe that they are reaching, that on some low-key level they recognize that there is no answer and so they reach out to someone who embodies what they want to be. The practitioner would not deny his or her philosophy for practical reasons and so it must be attached onto something that can hopefully change it externally.

Do you think that Jack White feels any connection to my generation? I don’t think he even cares about his generation. When the White Stripes first came up, so many tried to proclaim the clarion call of a new generation with Jack White at the bugle. Of course that was an intoxicating prospect for myself, but as time went on I came to realize that most of my friends didn’t listen to them except a few singles.

Would you want that kind of stigma? I wouldn’t, and yet I practiced it, the false generalization of a false prophet that I procured from madness and nonreason.

This was how I made my friend James represent freedom. He was tied down to a job, a girlfriend and the place he lived. But for some reason I convinced myself that he was free. I don’t know what I was lacking to make me do this because I didn’t realize I did it until now. He didn’t change my idea of freedom and that was the thing so inverted about my thoughts on him

I still have every White Stripes album though.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ashes of Youth Chapter: 4.3

Stinking from the long day, we hit it. Sipping on the vodka and yelling out the windows with the tweeters turned up all the way. Very young in a slap-in-the-face way.

Around eleven I was dropped off at my van’s parking space. I got in and we were leaving Panama, calling it a night. James’ flashed a thumb’s up at me and I did the same so he would know I was alright. I’d been feeling a bit sick. We were driving along making good time, then we came upon a red light on 231. I slid into the left lane. I looked over at them and they were already looking at me. James revved his engine and I did mine as a joke. But then he nodded at me and I nodded at him.

We turned to face the stoplight.

Green. Go! A minivan and an old S-10 drag racing on the damn highway. We started off tied then he pulled ahead, I gassed it hard, I caught him and then passed him. He gave up and I left him doing about 100 miles an hour.

I decided to not push my luck after I made a green light and he caught it red. I slowed down and just cruised along at 70. I went about twenty miles like this before I noticed a pair of headlights coming up on me fast, I didn’t think it was them until they whipped around me flipping birds out the window. I could see Liam working on the vodka.

I gassed it, trying to cut them off before they crossed both lanes ahead of me and got into the turning lane for Highway 20. I rode up on them fast and we both took the turn at about twenty five over railroad tracks. No time to think about that, they were ahead of me. I shot up to 80 and then at the first clear spot I shot around them doing 90 over a small bridge, whipping back in front of them. My speedometer was hitting 95. Then my cell-phone rang. It was Liam saying that they had to go back. I let up and watched them slow down and turn around in my rearview mirror.

I stayed pretty close to the speed limit on the way home. I was high from the adrenaline.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 4.2

“Man how can you drink unsweet tea?” Liam asked.

“Do you at least put sugar in it?” James asked.

“Nope I drink it like a man.” we all laughed and she came back with the drinks making sure to point out that I had unsweet tea, this got the required “ughs” from Liam and James.

We laughed and sat there in silence for a minute, and then I picked up where we left off earlier.

“Well you were supposed to give us food, shit, what if you didn’t? We would have starved.”

James laughed.

“Do you guys remember the JR bag that Danny had?” Liam asked us, well yeah we remembered it. We all agreed that it was awesome and we reminisced a little while longer. The food came and we ate, then paid and left.

We stopped by James’ Grandparents’ house to get a license so we could get to the pier. We visited for a while and then we went to a little fishing shack near the beach to get some lures and line.

We started up a conversation with one of the guys that worked there about King Crab fishing. I guess he liked James because he cut him a deal on the line. Then we stopped to get some ice and we were off.

Once we got to the pier we set up to get some live bait and then we chummed the water despite the people swimming right next to the pier. An older guy was fishing at the end and we talked a little while with him.

Finally it was time to break out the special water, straight vodka in a water bottle. With our drunken shark fishing the day aged and more people started coming to the end of the pier. Liam and I were hitting on some of the girls while James kept fishing. He was so determined to catch a shark he barely took notice when a really attractive older (I use this loosely because we were sixteen at the time) woman started hitting on him.

We kept fishing and after catching nothing we just dumped the bait and walked back to the truck. The sun was setting and we said goodbye to the ladies. When we got back in the truck we decided that it was time to hit the strip with our drink and James' speakers.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 4.1

It was the summer of 2005. I picked Liam up at his house early in the day, we went to meet James at a gas station on the way to Panama City.

“Damn it James!” Liam began, “I knew he’d be late.”

“I know, I know, but at least we aren’t late. . . That fucker. . . We need to gas up anyway.” I said.

We wheeled around to the gas pumps and put thirty bucks in, we were at the worst priced station on 231. The next week they had to lower their prices for price-gouging and then a few weeks later after Katrina.

James showed up and we checked out his fishing gear. We were going shark fishing off the pier. First James had to gas up then we stopped at the shop where he worked, I left my van there and we went to eat.

We all piled into his rough, old S-10 and went to some local barbeque joint. We turned his radio up loud, all he had was tweeters so it was earsplitting, I think we listened to the Gorillaz.

As we sat down we started the old ball-busting routine.

“So James, I haven’t seen ya in so damn long whatcha been up to?” I started.

“Workin” he said like always.

“That’s it?” Luke asked.

“Hell yeah, I go to school and I work. Do either one of you have a job?”

“No.” We both laughed at the same time.

“You lazy bums, at least I’m contributing to society,” as he said this we both started cracking up, he always laced into us about that. “I’m a workin man, you two just mooch, I remember when I used to be the only one who would bring Combos to school and you two and Dan used to just hold your hands out like I was supposed to give you shit.”

The waitress interrupted him to get our orders.

“Sweet Tea.” Liam said, she turned to James.

“Sweet Tea”

“Unsweet Tea” I said.

We all ordered barbeque sandwiches, she laughed and said she’d be right back.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ashes of Youth Chapter 3.1

I’ve known my oldest friends since daycare and Kindergarten, though, we didn’t become a close-knit group until the fourth grade. Bonding over shining the sun's reflections into people's eyes, Jolly Ranchers, and getting into trouble. That was a magical year that we lived minute by minute to the end.

Over the next five years we went from an odd almost-innocent rule breaking to smoked cigarettes, eaten pills, and swallowed cough syrup. During breaks, lunch and recess we did our drugs, vandalized everything we could vandalize, and one day lit a fire. The authoritarians focused on our misdeeds, rightly so, but we also became bohemian poets before we had any idea what those words meant. It was almost a scene, we had a style, bestowed knowledge on younger kids and accepted every chance to feel oppressed. We were so out there compared to what the school had ever seen before that they felt forced to underpin it with new rules.

We were an island and then we were islands unto ourselves, two of us were born on islands, and that never left us. It may have been our folly to believe that the good times would last forever, but it also may have been the only thing that made the good times great. There was that sense of unbelievable understanding, the idea that if you stood on a lake at night, the stars would become yours, the black sky was no longer black but a shade of blue and rest was just around the corner, redemption was not needed because we were the redemption.

But it was our folly in hope, the mountain we made and crumbled but never moved until it was in enough pieces that we could stuff it into our pockets and take with us. We spread the mountain, its snow melted to give water to the thirsty and the rocks provided footing for the unpaved paths. I still carry the mountain, I will always carry it, and if that means I will never walk on water again, then so be it. The knowing cannot float, rocks of knowledge will suck us down into the lake until there is only black and no rest sates us. These were our ramparts, our remnants, the mountain turned out to be a volcano and we were its lava.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 2.4

And then my eyes opened, my room was shaded by my dark drapes and yet my eyes hurt, I closed them and they still hurt. It was that dull pain that you feel in the back of your eyes, I knew it would last for awhile, but I kept my eyes closed anyway.

After what seemed like thirty minutes but was really about five, I dragged myself out of bed and made my way to the bathroom. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I was surprised to find someone that didn’t look hung-over or empty like they try to describe in movies and books. But I did look rough, my lips were chapped and obviously so, my eyes still kind of bloodshot and my hair was a squirrel’s nest. I splashed water on my face and sat down in the living room.

Liam was in the process of waking up and I was thinking about a cup of coffee. I sat there in that semi-dark room and went over last night, something wasn’t right and then a snippet of conversation came back to me.

[“Where the hell is my pipe?” I asked. As I ran my hands along the floor of the car. I was a little worried that the chanteuse might have pocketed it without my seeing.
“Don’t worry about it hon” the girl said. I tired to eye her but she wasn’t acting suspiciously.
“I think Imighta left it at the school” Liam piped up in a sickly way.
“Shit” I said, “I guess we oughta go . . . get it in the mornin’” I was trailing off because I was worried about some slack-jawed teacher finding it and then I would never get it back.]

My thoughts were run over by the slow realization that it was drizzling outside. I hoped that my pipe wasn’t laying on any sand.

At about ten Liam and I were mostly awake. I had to take him home so we decided to skip breakfast and ride up to the school. When we stepped out into the day the rain caught us off guard. My father’s truck was not in the yard and then I realized that today was a Monday and he had gone to work. He was a contractor and a damn good one.

I walked up to the car and saw that I had left the lighter on the front seat in plain view from the window, also I had locked the doors in case there was any paraphernalia in the car. Though, leaving stuff on the seat sort of defeats the purpose.

We drove up to the school and the first place we went to, the swings where we sat drunkenly smoking cigars and half-swinging, was where my pipe had been left. It was on its side on the ground and the sand had kind of lapped up around it from the rain. We turned to go back to the car and I looked to where we had seen the Christmas lights. Liam must have done the same thing because he said “What the hell was Danny thinking when he said Christmas Lights?”.

“I have no idea” I responded, “what were we thinking when we followed him to them and then stood on the train tracks? If those were really train tracks that could’ve been dangerous.”

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 2.3

We smoked some more and visited old places that still had special meaning to us at the school. At the far end of the playground Liam decided that he wanted to try some of Danny’s snuff. He pinched the nasty shit and put it in his mouth. A few minutes later he was feeling mighty sick. He was basically put out for the night so he rested and nursed his sick stomach in the van’s middle seat while Danny and I partied on.

We started driving again and it got us to “Wal Town”, south of Marianna, a stop-gap town between Tallahassee and Panama City. We were starved, the munchies had set in. We stopped at Arby’s and I stumbled out of the driver’s seat. The next thing I knew this black girl came up to me from the ether and asked me: “Can I get a ride?” in the cutest southern accent I have ever heard.

“I’m not gonna lie” I mumbled “I’m drunkashell but I can giveyouaride.”

“That would be great” she said.

We got back in the van, she was riding shotgun, trying to get to some street I had never heard of where her sister lived. She didn’t know how to get there, it turned out that she was a victim of Hurricane Katrina and hadn’t lived here for a year or two. Her story made me feel like driving until dawn. She said that she has high from some weed that she smoked earlier as I was trying to find our own sack. We rode in the wrong direction for about half a mile and then we stopped at an empty gas station, we laughed and talked about living here long enough to clear my brain. Soon after we decided to strike out and try to find her mystery road.

Luckily, our giggly loss of direction translated to Liam’s ears. Somehow he knew exactly where the street was and how to get there. He sat up in a painfully sick manner and directed me to Laramie Street or something like that. We dropped her off and I watched her walk off in the night to her sister’s house, that was the last time I ever saw her. I don’t even know her name.

We went back to Arby’s and Danny and I got some curly fries and a sandwich. After we ate that we realized that we were still hungry. I went up to the counter to get another order of fries, I didn’t notice Danny walk up alongside me at first. While waiting in line some guy in a backpack asked us if we were brothers.

We laughed and I noticed how bloodshot Danny’s eyes were and so I laughed even more and then he laughed more until we were Hyenas, stoned and tired and still pretty drunk. I made up a story about how we ran a taxi service with the van and that we were under scrutiny from the Taxi Federation.

“What is that?” he asked.

“Those assholes try to get us arrested for running gypsy taxis, claiming that we clog up the road and put union taxis at risk. Really they’re afraid to take us on by themselves ‘cause we carry pipes.”

Our food came so we left him wondering what kind of pipe we meant.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 2.2

It was great, the four of us driving around getting buzzed and as the night wore on we became drunk. We went back to the same gas station for more beer and got even more drunk. At about one our drunken driver had to go home, so we piled into my van and drove off into the night once again. We first went to our old school, our elementary and middle school and where we spent our best years together. We drank and smoked some brick and a couple of cheap cigars. We were sitting on an old bench talking for a long while.

“Christmas lights.” Danny said and laughed.

I looked at his eyes and saw him glaze-eyed staring into the dark distance. Liam and I repeated “Christmas lights.” and then we walked toward the lights. What were Christmas Lights doing at Carr School in July?

We walked toward the lights in bride-eye wonder. As we got closer reality washed over us like some token tide at the ocean, as casual as a moon ascension. The rapturous Christmas lights turned out to be trailers that reflected lighted sidewalks. Then I looked down and I swear I saw train tracks, Liam and Danny thought this was so funny that train tracks were on the campus.

This was what our old school was turning into and suddenly it made sense to be standing on train tracks. They must have led to the future because they sure as hell didn’t lead to the past, we were the past. There we were, three teenagers, friends since Kindergarten, stoned, at the height of the first half of our lives. I got high just thinking about the times we had shared together, some of them so happy that etched out, old smiles broke when we thought and spoke of them, some of them so sad and fresh that the scars still hadn’t healed. We were everything at that moment and it seemed as though the belly-button of the world had been yanked to where we stood, we led the world and it revolved to our beat. I don’t think I have ever had that sensation so strongly since. The stoned world pressed itself to the cool glass of what would become the future. We held the brick to smash that glass.

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 2.1

It was the summer before my senior year and it was the second best time of my life. There were parties that lasted until dawn and friendships that would last until death. The summers are the most important time frame of our lives, they are endless yearning and hopeless hope, there’s a certain majesty to the idealistic sun that lasts all day. So this is where you first find me, having the time of my life so far, not knowing if the best years of my life are coming or going but lapping up the waves that form and break on me.

I am indestructible and I am young.

“How much money have you got?” it was a question posed to the gang of four but really it addressed the two people who normally have money.

“I’ve got twenty-five dollars but ten of it has to go toward gas” Liam said, “so if you can pitch in ten or fifteen, then we can buy two eighteen packs.”

“I can,” I said, “anyone else?”

“No” the other two said.

We wound up with thirty bucks and then drove to the one gas station that would probably sell to us. In the car it was decided that I had to buy it because I was riding shotgun and I had the best beard. I stepped out of the car and nervously walked to the door, I went inside and said “hey” nonchalantly to the old man behind the counter. I walked to the hot beer on the floor and grabbed an eighteen pack. I walked nervously to the counter and put it there.

“Do you have I.D.?” he asked me.

“Yeah, sure.” I pulled out my I.D. and tried to just show it to him but he grabbed it. Fuck I thought, he studied it a minute and asked, “Does this say ‘80’ or ‘88’?”


He asked me if I was sure a couple of times before he sold me the beer. Here I was, looking like I was giving him the hard time on the cameras. No time to worry about that, he held his hands out for the money. I fumbled nervously in my wallet for the green.

But now my hands trembled with excitement as I took the beer and when I stepped out the door. I could hear my friends saying “holy shit” as I walked toward the car, big smile breaking over my face. Then we drove off.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 1.4

My father and I talked about politics and the world and about our water pipes. We had genuinely interesting conversations that no one observed both taking part in the problem solving. Things are much easier to figure out when there are less people contributing to the think tank. I guess this is why I don’t trust any voting system, but I'm no terrorist, I like pork chops and baseball. We knew that we knew something, and to be sure, I can say that if anyone else were to try to drop in, they would never be able to make up for the years of dialogue between my father and I. That’s the way the world works sometimes, everyone wants to be elders but only about five people you’ve never heard of have the smarts to. I don’t mind being young and he doesn’t mind admitting I’m right sometimes, we’re neither of us elders.

We talk for a while and my brother wakes up around eleven with his hair in every direction like a rose bloom. They go into the living room to watch a movie and I go outside. The wind is blowing just right and the sun is shining as hard as one would wish it to, there are enough clouds to nab the right amount of sunlight before it hits the ground. I always appreciate how the clouds can look surreal against the sky when there are just a few floating around, how they turn pink during the day if you look at them right, and then you take in the whole picture and it grows dada legs.

And this is the morning in its melancholia and beauty. I’m living the way those two feelings exist together, so much so that they don’t seem right without each other’s compliment. I like the morning and its arc so much that I don’t even long for it after it’s gone.

Then morning is gone, and I do miss it. I miss the clarity and the newness, but alas, morning becomes noon, and then afternoon. I don’t like the afternoon because I get lazy, I might nap or I might play the guitar for a while. It’s frustrating because you can never do anything to its full potential in the afternoon, except napping. I don’t get much done in the afternoon, but today I’m replaying, in my head, different conversations I’ve had. I got stuck in that quest for smart banter and interesting wordplay, which makes quick friends but doesn’t help keep them. So at the risk of sounding pretentious I’ll say that I really do have those conversations. I don’t mimic scenes from movies like most people do when they start playing witty. This makes me inaccessible in ways that are close to people’s hearts. I don’t really lack emotion or passion, I just give off that air. So now I’m stuck in a different kind of illusion.

I accept that everyone is in some illusion or another and you just play along with theirs under the condition that they play along with yours. Life is what you think, before you realize that you’re thinking. After it has been thought, there’s time to rationalize and distill it so that it may be swallowed. Regardless you are who you think you are. Or if you’re a cynic you are who you fool yourself into being.

Or, if you’re a cynic and aware of it, and that awareness hurts, then maybe you are the lump in your throat and you can’t even rationalize swallowing in the first place. How did I get inside myself(?) you ask.

I get a second wind in the evening. I may drink coffee and write a song. The evening is the second best time for lucid thinking, more so than action. I guess that’s because you have the experiences off the day to add to whatever philosophy you’re constructing for yourself. I include myself.

This is important because we are alone when we’re young and that is when the mind is supposed to be the most agile. This is true, so is the fact that we’re alone when we’re older. But in youth you have a small ego still able to conceive. You haven’t slipped off to sleep yet and it doesn’t matter to anyone else what you believe dreams are. So you can just enjoy them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 1.3

Blue and pink is everywhere. A day is born.

When I wake up I can smell the remnants of the night and have that smoky feeling. I hop in the shower and I make some coffee before my father wakes up. This is something I did nearly everyday I spent at home. Unless I’d been drinking the night before and he happened to beat me to the beans.

There are few things as lonely as talking on a phone in the morning of a Saturday. They have a certain melancholy that nothing can touch. My personal reasons behind this feeling are because I had this girlfriend a few years back and we used to leave the phone off the hook at night so we could sleep together. On Saturday mornings I would wait for her to wake up because she liked to sleep in. I would lie there for a couple hours with the radio turned low and wait for her to beep me.

Now I’m not much of a fool, I heard the blues man singing that there-is-no-true-love-blues and at first I didn’t believe it. I just liked the down and outness of the music. One day that relationship had to end. And it did, no theoretic somedays here.

Four years later, I’m staring into a cup of black coffee. I don’t even know how old I am. Feeling like a Moses, not a Methuselah so much, in actually I’m seventeen-eighteen young. It hasn’t been all bad, but it has been a hard four years. Not because of her, I wouldn't put that on her shoulders. I’ve lost my mom and grandmother, those two loses felt like twin towers pluming ashen over the timer of a downtown graveyard. I worked against the persistent forward motion of time, to my certain dismay everything still grew visible in sharp relief.

I don’t want to communicate that I feel particularly unique in my experiences thus far. Everyone has their problems and everyone deals with them somehow. Yet, if I had to attach a label to myself then I would use the word unique, because labels are easy and everyone is supposedly unique. Maybe it’s a copout and a throwback to every motivational speaker that ever filled you with hope or cynicism.

However you look at it, just don’t bother me.

I can hear the shower running from my father’s bathroom and that slowly pulls me from the introspective abyss. By the time he comes into the kitchen I am a full-fledged extrovert.

“Mornin’” I said.

“Mornin’, thanks for making coffee” he said.


“You take your medicine?”

“Not yet.” I always hated that our days started and ended with him asking if I took my medicine.

We sat there in the obligatory morning silence sipping our coffee.

“Is that boy awake yet?” he asked about my brother.

“Were you expecting him to be?” I smiled. He smiled too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 1.2

There were the words that he always used that I distinctly remember as never communicating commands. More like little challenges for us to make it quiet or to behave like a member of a societal entity. We still felt compelled to act as though we were under command. Perhaps tone inflection or voice modulation stirred unconscious visions of retribution. Most of us had parents that inflicted some form of totalitarian punishment. This is the first glimpse of how humans act that I ever experienced with wide-open-sky-brain. It was third grade and I had to cease to be a little kid anymore.

This may not be exactly how it was but it still seemed true ten years later. I retain no horrible lost innocence feelings, just difficult questions I couldn't answer turning into more difficult questions. Are challenges simply commands for the brave? And does that render the brave as mere followers, blazing trails on their deathbeds at another’s behest? If so then the weak in their wake can see this fate, but still take to the road, do they know, do they really know?

I don’t.

Interrupt the past with my present and you will find that I’m just high and it’s a minute ’til midnight. Strangely, my mind ponders the high concentration of dope labs in this area and the possibility of one blowing up near my house. Mostly I’m thinking happy-trappy about the Flaming Lips. So now my adventurous brain is potentially making me a follower. That’s just fine, I have Yoshimi and the pink robots to lead me through the motions and then present the path to break away from those motions.

I killed a man. Not really. I just like to see what people are willing to believe if presented with something hard to believe. It stretches the imagination in a bad way though and I promise to never lie again. Words and their meanings have changed for all of time, but what a lie is to a man who lives on an honest life, that’s what I mean when I say I'll never lie again.

Now that I’ve run through those initial mumblings of the medicinally altered mind I can do what I do best and that is think. I find myself thinking a lot, except when I am talking. The mouth somehow hinders thought despite communicating them. I think especially when walking the halls of my school, probably because all I see are the faces of people who have never tried to understand why they are the way they are. I feel like they have never gotten past certain events in their lives, good or bad. So now they take those unique circumstances out on themselves. I know a little bit about people who have gotten past things in their lives. I had a friend who told me that his male babysitter made him perform fellatio. He is now one the few important people who made me who I am today. So I don’t have any sympathy nor apathy toward people stuck in a moment.

It seems like I stopped believing a long, long time ago. In what I don’t
know, I forgot it back then.

Stoned I just realized why people who chew gum constantly seem so dumb. Even though they aren’t talking they are going through the motions of talking, so they’re getting double the trouble for half the pleasure. So maybe talking is healthy, it’s just the motion that eventually gives your mind lethargic gonorrhea, I have to live with the burn for now but the medicine will kick in as soon as I...

I yawn.

I go to sleep for a full eight hours.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ashes of Youth: Chapter 1.1

As a generation we learned to love and lose in a time when nothing was free and nothing was right.

I was sitting at my new desk and talking with the kid to my left. Someone I would accidentally stab in the eye later that year. "I want the top desk." he offered, referring to the cubby holes between us. "I wanted that one, but I don't really care." I ebbed back.

I recall only two things from my first day of school. We all remember events and things differently and with charged imagination. All the while zooming together on the glue highway of gravity through this universe. Over all I think we seem to not mean any harm, but we sure cause it for blue by reckless chance.

To my right was this blonde-haired angel kid wearing a purple shirt. I know this kid. He looked at me, as I did him. Before I had time to think any further we both shouted each other's names and hugged from our seats. I had known this guy in daycare, back then I didn’t speak much but we had talked some.

The first conversation that I recall with anyone since I left the Keys was in daycare with him about our different opinions of the women at the daycare. We debated until we fell asleep during naptime. James was the first friend I made in North Florida. We found a commonality to make significant both having been born in the Keys.

Right then I knew that I had no reason to fear anything. This was before I even had the chance to think that two more of the people in that room would become my best friends. Life is new and unprecedented as far as I can tell.

The people I loved would eventually be lost. For those who loved me, I would eventually be lost. We learned these things slowly and pointedly. But there was always the love. That's a victory if you need one to believe in.