Posts Tagged ‘life’

The Amusement Park

June 25, 2011

I live directly behind an old amusement park. It is still a fully functioning amusement park, but old in the classic sense of Ferris wheels, friend dough, balloons, knocking down milk bottles… It always seemed a sad twist of fate that I was to be born and raised in this spot. I am an only child and this is the house that was my grandparent’s before my grandfather died of lung cancer when I was five and my grandmother was taken to a nursing home shortly thereafter. The doctors diagnosed her with some form of dementia that left her with unusually rosy cheeks and a permanent, glassy smile. There was a vacancy and yet childlike sparkle in her eyes and they found their way in my memory to the same spot where all the smiling faces at the amusement park lived.

For the last ten years of my grandfather’s life, he operated the tilt-a-whirl. He had been a welder at a local machine shop for nearly forty years upon returning from a brief and uneventful stint in France during World War II. He was an excellent welder and was responsible for all of the latticed steel trash cans around the town, in addition to countless other things that nobody noticed. He knew many of the lifers at the park and was welcomed in with an easy job to fill his remaining days. It was perfect for him – he sat on a stool all day, could smoke as much as he liked and walked through a small portion of the chain-link fence at the south end of the park to spend his half-hour lunch break at home, most often forgoing anything to eat to sit in the bathroom for the entire thirty minutes. He came from a different time. He was happy to have a home, happy to have a job and never once cursed this life that landed him directly behind an amusement park.

It is strange when you grow up next to something that is such a “special occasion” venue for most folks. Like any child, when I was young I was enamored by the lights, sounds and prizes. Walking through with my grandfather was the widest my eyes would ever get. I believe my parents saw the park as a nuisance and a brightly lit, loud, circular metaphor that they were stuck in a life that seemed to merely echo their parent’s. Perhaps on some deeper level, the park served to constantly remind them of fleeting happiness, paying for smiles and the mechanized performance of it all, but that is only my inference. But while my grandfather was still around, I saw the park as mainly two things – a giant nightlight that I could look at out my window in the summer months and feel a calming, omnipresent watchfulness, and a place to watch my grandfather as a member of the old guard in town. I could almost see him and all his friends still as teenagers.

When my grandfather died, I didn’t go to the park for the next three summers and was generally angry when it would start up and happy when it would close down. All of my cycles of grief were directed at and through the amusement park, with most of it settling in an existential stalemate of “what’s the point of it all” as I glared at the screaming kids from my judging distance beyond the fence. I cursed the way the park never changed and how my family never changed and how I feared that I would never change. But by the time I was 8, I had all but exhausted my frustrations that the park had come to embody and attended a friend’s birthday party there. Although I was a bit quiet in the beginning, I had a good time.

The summer I turned thirteen I was ordered to get job, but the wages I earned were mine to keep. I figured the park was my easiest option, as I could walk there, it was seasonal and they seemed to have no qualms about hiring young kids. Although it had only been a few years, there seemed to be no one left from my grandfather’s clique and the park had a very subtle undercurrent of adolescent sexual tension that was enough to keep me coming back. My first summer was spent doing any number of jobs – running errands for the office staff, cleaning the bathrooms, literally shoveling shit from the horses of the mounted police and manning the lost and found. The lost and found was my least favorite of my duties, as the endless stream of tear-stained faces and distraught children and parents was brutal. Most often the cases of theft, the cynicism of years before (and soon to follow) was not within me, and I took no pleasure in seeing an anticipated day of pure fun destroyed. I am not sure if I began to become desensitized to it by the end of the summer, but by the final couple of weeks, I had seen it all and had submitted to my helplessness.

I made a few friends that summer, but they were all a couple of years older than me, which seemed like a decade within that delicate span of years. I knew that if I was caught smoking I would be fired, but by late August with the nights growing cooler and the nervous anticipation of school drawing in, a few of us would gather by that southern fence and smoke cheap cigarettes under the bright white moon that pulled close to 11pm. My best friend was a fifteen-year old named Dustin. He lived about fifteen minutes from the park and rode his dirtbike to work. Dustin lived right next to the train tracks, and I felt that gave us a spiritual connection in that we lived not only next to a noisy distraction, but also a thing that brought a constant ebb and flow of people passing through life in our midst. I thought he was a good looking kid with short, oily black hair and a face that always looked like an even mixture of tanned from the sun, sandblasted with dirt from his bike and tobacco-stained from growing up in a small house full of chain smokers. He had a cool name and the girls seemed to like him, although he seemed to act a little younger than his age.

I almost had a girlfriend that summer, too. Again, the girls were older, but they really seemed to gravitate towards the safe sweetness of a boy on the cusp of puberty as opposed to a young wolf on the hunt. They liked to balance the danger of dabbling with the wolves in the evening and confiding with the lamb in the day time. It didn’t stop me from developing an enormous crush on a particularly nurturing soul named Amber. She had dirty blond hair that matched a voice that sounded as though it had been gently roughed up with a light gauge sand paper. She was probably embarrassed by the size of her breasts, and the attention they commanded, but they were the most amazing things I had ever seen and had me to work right on time every day.

Developing that unique infatuation only special to summers, by mid-August we both felt, but never spoke of, that we may actually be falling in love. It all built perfectly to one night at a party in the woods where we made out in the shadows just beyond the firelight. She was a little drunk and I was nervous, yet newly confident enough to not let the moment slip away. Part of me knew that she was doing it to be nice, but I also knew that she really wanted to, even though typical teenage social parameters (age) would never allow us to be an item come school. The following Monday at work, she made sure to take me aside and clarify a bit about our kiss. I understood and things for the remainder of the season were strictly cordial and a little awkward. I should have been frustrated, but I liked her too much. She awakened something in me and there can only be one person like that in your life.

I continued to work at the park for the next four summers in between my high school years, including the one following my narrow graduation. Every season brought a new group of friends and romances, boredom and amusement, provided mainly by those seeking amusement. An endless stream of helium balloons accidentally let loose, or forgotten, into the air. I would watch every one drift and dance sadly into the cloudless sky. It seemed that there were never any clouds when these balloons cascaded into my line of vision, so I was forced to watch their entire journey up into another world that would eventually crush them. Too far away to witness their ultimate demise, it was implicitly understood once they left our limited vision.

It saddened me to watch these objects forced, strictly by their nature, into an atmosphere that could no longer support them. I rooted for each and every one to be caught by a fortunate breeze to land far away in the hand of another child, but I knew this would never be the case. Such realizations frustrated me and left me to submit to life’s cruelty. I would wonder, “If I had a gun, would I have the guts to shoot the balloon and put it out of its misery?” But I do not think I could, on the off, one-in-a-million chance that it would survive its ascension. And finally, there is the fact that the balloon is unaware of the certain doom it faces and merely moves along as its existence dictates. In that sense, the balloon is no different from anyone around me – we are all slowly pulled towards something and ultimately unaware of how or when this will all end. These ruminations would carry me for hours as I unknowingly pushed the same half-dollar sized red and green buttons of the tilt-a-whirl that my grandfather had.

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Some Sorta Lonesome

April 13, 2011

I think it starts when I was barely out the car seat

Could hardly see above the dash

Saturdays take the trash out to the landfill

Then hardware store with my old dad

On the road with my old dad

 

And I’ve always seemed to feel some sorta lonesome

Never could stop at just one glass

The road has always been my special lady

And I spend up all my money on the gas

I spend my little money on the gas

 

My family lived on all the woods that I could play in

Never had a dog, but had two cats

I spent my youth lost amongst the pine trees

In army boots and a cowboy hat

Army boots and a cowboy hat

 

And I’ve always seemed to feel some sorta lonesome

Never could stop at just one glass

The road has always been my special lady

And I spend up all my money on the gas

I spend my little money on the gas

 

This kind of life just came and found me

Snuck on in, took me away

I may have been born in Boston, Massachusetts

With a different accent, but the story’s still the same

 

And I’ve always seemed to feel some sorta lonesome

Never could stop at just one glass

The road has always been my special lady

And I spend up all my money on the gas

I spend my little money on the gas

 

Pine

March 5, 2011

I have a burning heart

It’s calling out for you

It went up with your spark

I tried to put it out

There was nothing I could do

 

A thousand miles apart

Just seems to feed the flames

Alone here in the dark

Fire going wild

I’m wishing it would rain

 

The driest parts are the ones that burn

Just hope that when the flames die down

The spark returns

 

It’s been a lonesome year

But embers still are gold

I keep them in my mind

Check from time to time

That the ashes don’t get cold

 

How long can one heart burn

Before the fuel is gone

I wonder if forever

Or if it’s just until

Someone else comes along

 

The driest parts are the ones that burn

Just hope that when the flames die down

The spark returns

Winds will blow, skies will rain

Just hope that when the smoke all clears

The warmth remains

 

Burn, burn, burn

Through hollow and reed

If you’re the one to finally put it out

Then maybe you’re what I really need

 

When the wildfire’s done

And nothing green remains

Just give a little time

And sure before your eyes

They’ll be grass upon the plain

 

Trees will always burn

When boughs are driven dry

So hard to watch them go

New ones grow so slow

But I guess that’s just life

 

The driest parts are the ones that burn

Just hope that when the flames die down

The spark returns

Winds will blow, skies will rain

Just hope that when the smoke all clears

The warmth remains

 

Just The Same

January 25, 2011

Well, I’ve lost more fights than I’ve won

But I’ve never turned to run

And I’ve never fought for something that wasn’t true

And I’ve never stole a dime

But I’ve taken what was mine

And I’ll take a little more before I am through

 

When we head up to the sky

I think that’s just a lie

Our souls just get drawn down to the dirt

Cause everything’s got to grow

And it draws from down below

Gravity will make grist of our souls

 

Picked up my buddy at the Police station

He got busted for public masturbation

Or maybe it was drunk and disorderly? They seem the same

As guys go, he ain’t indecent

He’s just tired and angry, with good reason

Life’s got him chasing everyone’s tail but his own

 

When we head up to the sky

I think that’s just a lie

Our souls just get drawn down to the dirt

Cause everything’s got to grow

And it draws from down below

Gravity will make grist of our souls

 

And sometimes I wonder if he’ll make it

Because of he didn’t, that’d be a shame

Though the fate is just the same

I suppose it’s how you handle

Some of us are just so fragile

And others will always stand when the Wolf blows

 

Well either way it’s just the same

It just looks like a children’s game

Where the only ones who seem to win are the ones who cheat

But I’ll just keep on playing

I’ll be frustrated, but not forsaken

Because I know that the same fate awaits us all

 

When we head up to the sky

I think that’s just a lie

Our souls just get drawn down to the dirt

Cause everything’s got to grow

And it draws from down below

Gravity will make grist of our souls

 

 

 

 

Car and Driver

June 23, 2010

Here’s another one of those rhyming whinings. Vroom.

I’ve been spinning my wheels so long

There’s no tread left on the tires

When the weather goes from good to bad

It’s not safe for other drivers

I skid and slide all over the road

I howl when I make a turn

My struts creek under heavy loads

And the rubber starts to burn

My windshield is always foggy

I never quite defrost

My clothes are always filled with smoke

I blame it on the exhaust

I’m slow to start cold mornings

My engine’s been known to choke

My gasoline should always be premium

Unless, ofcourse, I’m broke

I don’t know a thing about cars

But I think this is making sense

I’m starting to feel the miles

Paint is peeling from the dents

Don’t think I’ll get traded in

Cause I was never worth that much

Probably just get left behind

Or driven into the dust

But I hope that some young lady

Or kid with fire inside

Hops into the driver’s seat

To take me out for one last ride

I’ll fill you full of stories

Make you laugh and make you cry

And tell you about all my false starts

But how important it is to try

So that’s how I hope to end

With some young blood in my veins

To know that I did some small part

To help someone on their way

And I hope they make some moments

On the road and with these songs

And I hope you got someone in the passenger seat

To help you sing along

———————————–

The Fog

May 6, 2010

It always seems to start with the same recycled thoughts, the incanted images of vaguely haunting inexplicabilities. And why to keep these thoughts? They’ve been moved from one apartment to the next. Countless cities, friendships, hours, years, have dragged these memories and their poorly lit theories around, like a letter pressed amongst books or old receipts.  And these things hold a childlike thread of explanation, attached to a spontaneous piece of art to add a depth that may or may not be there. The first of these images is dead people in the walls. An ever-thickening smell further compounding the horror of something trapped, seemingly inextricably, in the structure. Mortality and mystery, I guess, history and reconciliation. Living with what we cannot change and the struggle with the idea that it is all just a conjured metaphor.

From time to time, we find ourselves in a mist. A seemingly opaline blanket on the cold, dark stretches of route 89 somewhere between Burlington and Montpellier. It is 2:46 in the morning and you are trying to convince yourself that the whiskey you drank (hours ago) is gone and you are alert and capable. You know that you must be sharp, but you also know that you are not. There are deer and other lives at stake – more so your sleeping friends than an approaching car. Yet, you enter the fog and it is scary, but you cannot ignore its siren like quality. Despite the potential of impending doom, you are pulled along and down into a further trance. Most often people feel these somnambulistic times lasting for a week or so. This short duration in no way diminishes the reality, or even super-reality, of the fog, but in many cases the fog can last years.

The real mystery of the deep fog is that one has a nearly impossible chance of finding exactly when they entered the fog. For in most cases, the sinewy, damps strands work exactly as one imagine it should – gently kissing the tips of the toes, tenderly winding its exaggerated, milky fingers along the feet, slowly massaging ankles and calves as the tide and pull begin to rise.  By the time the engorging stream is densely packed around ones knees, years may have passed. As we start to become aware of the dangers of the thick fog, we flick on the brights (knowing full well it will be magnified by the water droplets). We try illuminating the matter to test its potency and perhaps for a smidge of perverse amusement, and such attempts to gain power over the ether prove only to reflect its greatness – its perfection as a fluid parasite that dopes us up and takes us hostage.

It may very well be the searching for the exit from the fog that keeps us there. The direction, you know, is correct, but all else is up to chance. Fog clears, but we are in a different place when that happens. Same car, same road, same type of trees, but it is later. There is so much mystery in the fog. All the infinite possibilities of what exists within that are not part of this particular moment. You don’t see these things, but they are there, and without tiring yourself with all the imaginable theories, you must concede that you will never know and life continues to move forward.

Forward has the heavy title bestowed upon it of implicit progress. However, the forward motion of time is its own deity – free from good, evil, the tangible and the extraordinary. It just is and we must accept it. It is at this point that I surmise that we never accept it, and those of us prone to the foggy limbo wage the biggest battle – the largest futile war known to man.

"Time is a river without banks" by Marc Chagall

Uncle Woody’s Yearbooks

April 21, 2010

My 85 year-old Grandmother is moving. After 60 years in and around her beloved Portland, Maine, she is moving down to Massachusetts next month to be closer to immediate family, and particularly, her great granddaughter. The moving process has been slow and methodical, with larger items being divided among family members and the lion’s share being donated or thrown out. Her three sons have made their final pilgrimages to the homestead to collect their few remaining personal items, i.e. one gratuitously patched and tremendously over-loved teddy bear, “Baby Huggy,” and to stake claim to desired functional pieces of furniture by affixing them with different colored tapes that correspond to specific brothers. My main function has been carting many vanfulls of items to the local Goodwill. I have been up twice now, and each time managed at least three full loads to the donation center. As the cargo decreases, along with my grandmother’s strength and desire to sort through the rubble of the basement treasures, things begin to get older and more significant – published books by her father, my grandfather’s State of Maine tennis championship trophy’s from the thirties, a copy of Little Women that was her mother’s (that looks like it could have been a first edition by its dismantled state), yearbooks from her husband’s high school, college, and law school days, and finally, a small lonely stack of yearbooks belonging to Uncle Woody.

There were four sons and now there are three. When I was one year old, Uncle Woody, at the age of 30, after a life-long battle with depression, took his own life. I never knew the man nor would I see the immediate effects of his death on the surrounding family. Little was recounted to me of his life other than that he was remembered as quite a troubled man. Malicious and sadistic, sad and drug addicted, Uncle Woody seems to have left little legacy other than frustration and a lingering sense of inevitability. Despite such a struggle within himself and those he caused for others, by the time I was aware of his story, questions about him were deemed morbid curiosity and red flags of dormant suicidal tendencies beginning to bud. In actuality, it was the fact that Woody was all but erased from the family’s storyline that always seemed the most perplexing to me.

I believe that Uncle Woody was closest to my father, although such a relationship seemed to be arms-length at best. As with anything to a child, the further you hide it, the more intriguing it becomes. My inquiries about Uncle Woody’s life, loves, hobbies, struggles, experiences were often met with short, deferred answers and always (as mentioned above) with a strange smoke that blurred the distinction between my father’s pain or his fears that such an illness would be repeated in me. I have settled on a combination of the two that yields a third product, which is that talking about such matters may stoke a small ember in my brain that could eventually turn into a conflagration before I snuff it, myself, out. As not to cause my father any undue pain than that already suffered, and just as importantly, to prevent myself from being institutionalized, I let my thoughts of Uncle Woody ebb over the years.

My grandmother has a fascinatingly pragmatic disposition towards memories and sentimentality. Often incongruous to the love that she shows me (usually through delicious baking), my grandmother can be overly unsympathetic when talking about past memories or people. She will speak fondly and recount stories accurately and humorously, but does not dwell on loss or sadness for even a moment. Perhaps it’s Wilde’s, “Wisdom comes with winters,” and with the wisdom we try to shake the chill by forgetting the path it took to find us. Or perhaps it is just her personality, which can be brutally frank to the unintended result of insult or ridiculousness. Such a personality trait, which is often times unleashed on yours truly, does come from a caring place and is also amplified by a heightened state of matriarchy, being the mother of four boys and having been a middle school teacher for over 30 years. I am quick to see the loving origin of her enwisened barbs, and quicker to give it right back. We enjoy this good-natured sparring, where I listen and understand to what she is saying, but will often never do it. Most other folks are less tolerant or take it too personally, where I find it a humorous and entertaining way to talk about things that we care about, but I realize that I am in the privileged position of being her grandson.

The most frequent piece of advice I receive from my Grandmother is to stop dwelling so much on the past. I wondered at times if she used this method to avoid coping with pain, or if there was just too much to hold onto as the years continue. Being stubborn and emotional, I would spill my regrets in hopes of her seeing that my position was credible and real, and while she would acknowledge my struggles and feelings, she would offer the same words of suggestion – to stop drudging up past pains, as they are done and can not be resolved. She keeps a Family Circus cartoon on her refrigerator, a serial that I find shockingly aggravating in its optimism, and it involves one older child explaining to the younger, “The past is gone, the future has hadn’t happened yet, but today is a gift and that is why they call it PRESENT.” This cartoon sums up my grandmother’s disposition, one that is achieved over many years of life and a liberal helping of her own spit and fire.

Coming to fully understand her pattern of thought and the increasingly personal conversations we have had, I was not afraid to let Uncle Woody enter our conversations if it occurred naturally. While visiting my grandmother a few months ago, I had a dream that my beloved cat Rita had come back to me. Despite all the strangeness of the dream, very real and pure, my Rita entered the room and came to me. She was confused and scared and happy, and I felt the same way. I was so shocked and overwhelmed to see her again, that although something was telling me that this can not be real, I was resolved to enjoy it for those few moments. She seemed real, a disembodied spirit wandering through shadows trying to find her way to me and ultimately to the next phase of her existence. I was so sad that she was taking this journey alone and yet so happy to have those fleeting, possibly fabricated, moments together. I chose to take such an improbability as a reality that I alone hold. When I awoke, the feelings of sadness and concern still lingered. As my worries  began to fade, I found myself overcome with grief.

That morning at breakfast I shared the story of my dream with my grandmother. I knew that this would inevitably lead to another conversation about not becoming mired in the past, which it did, but then she shared something with me that was so touching in her openness. She told me of a dream she had some years after Uncle Woody’s death where she pleaded with him not to kill himself. She said it was the only dream she ever had about him and agreed with me on how real such a thing can feel and how sad and helpless we feel when we awake. He was a sick man, and she expressed regret that such effective anti-depressants that could have possibly helped him were not yet invented. She cursed the drugs he took to self-medicate and blamed them for the eventual, irretrievable depths he fell to. All of these exposed grievances were completely new to me. I had never before heard my grandmother speak about his final days nor express sadness and regret. Her retelling of the dream and the emotions it stoked were quickly concluded in that she let the irretrievable go and would not let her mind retrace those dark paths. Despite this one dream, she remains open and honest about his life and her silence on such matters are ultimately because she feels there is not much left to talk about.

Upon my final sift through the basement, culminating in a trip to the recycling plant, she told me to include all of the yearbooks in this journey. As she napped upstairs while I loaded the car, I began to inspect these books. The first four or five I opened were clear to me that someone would want as they belonged to my grandfather, and if nothing else, my father has a spot in his library for just such old books and heirlooms. I believed the inclusion of these books in the disposal pile was to be a mistake, although it would also be of my grandmother’s thinking to assume that no one would want them and what exactly is the point of keeping such things, anyways? It is this pragmatic, unsentimental thinking that most likely informed the decision to included the remaining two yearbooks, which belonged to my Uncle Woody.

Uncle Woody left no family, and it appears that even if he were to, they might not be so interested in hanging onto his memory. Merely holding these yearbooks in my hands flooded me with questions about what is in a life? We collect yearbooks and trophies and pictures to create a timeline of our existence and remind us of our experiences, but what if that life is cut short or what if the memory of that life is not deemed worthy of remaining kindled? Such things as yearbooks may best be thrown away in time, as they only now serve to remind us of a life that was in pain and caused pain. I knew that my grandmother would not dwell long on the decision to send these things to be recycled and perhaps put their materials to a more positive purpose, yet such a moment to be involved in was very sad to me.

I opened his senior year high school yearbook. It was exactly how it should look, filled with what seemed like hundreds of notes recounting special times or funny anecdotes. Each message was personal, light-hearted and well crafted, not one, “Have a great summer.” Some were in the exaggerated, suggestive cursive of young women, others in the dark scrawl of testosterone-fueled young men. I wondered for a moment if any of his reciprocated signings were morbid or weird or inappropriate, but it seemed like he really did have friends, or if nothing else, people who knew who he was and were not afraid to take a moment to share a memory.

His senior picture was one that I had seen on my grandmother’s piano for years. This picture always served to further pique my interest, as out of three brothers with dark, thick, curly hair and rather Russian features from the paternal side, Uncle Woody was cut more from my grandmother’s parents with remarkably German attributes – straight blond hair, clear blue eyes and a tall, muscular build. He was an extremely handsome man and it seems a deeply unfortunate juxtaposition to be so mentally ill and difficult to be around. Again like my sweet Rita, physically beautiful yet mentally flawed, it seems less a cruel joke than a reminder that all of us have our blessings and curses that we have no control over. In addition to this striking photo, his small, accompanying paragraph had a dash of humor as he described himself as “excelling at babysitting.” He was a swimmer, a violinist and an eagle scout. He went on to go to the same college that my grandfather, father and later myself did, although he was forced to room with my father (a junior at that point) because no one would room with him on account of his strangeness.

My grandmother awoke to find me going down the rabbit hole of memories, stories and questions and remarked that she thought that would happen and bid me to come upstairs with the books so we could go and be rid of them. I told her that my father would want my grandfather’s and kept them there and made no mention of the other two that I brought up. We spoke casually on the ride to the plant, all the while the questions of Uncle Woody’s yearbooks, of what memories we choose to keep, of the point of holding onto to something from someone that I never knew, and of my own life’s story, were building like a growing white noise. When we arrived at the plant, I disposed of what I knew would go and when it came down to the yearbooks I could not bring myself to extinguish this person yet in this particular way. I told my grandmother that I did not know why, but I did not feel that it was right to discard these personal items. I had not resolved within myself what I should do with these books or why exactly I was so saddened to let them go, but simply stated that I will hold onto to them for a little while longer. Thankfully, my grandmother did not question me nor resist and we did not ever speak about it.

I know that no one in the family wants or sees the point in these yearbooks. With no malice towards their fallen brother, there just comes a point when such things are merely taking up space as they get shuffled from one place to another, one generation to another, until the line which binds them is so thin it breaks and such things disappear naturally. Uncle Woody did not disappear naturally, nor did he appear naturally, one could say, but he was of my blood and close to my father and I was never able to judge the man for myself. I know that my story will not have such a sad existence as his, for the stories told at this point, however few, do not paint the picture of a particularly good person. But he tried for 30 years to live with something beyond his control, and although he lost and it may have been the peace he was always looking for, I like to hold a slightly more sympathetic picture of the man. Like the messages in his yearbook, whether people really felt that way or not, others can, and often do, create our life stories. I will hold onto his yearbooks for a little while longer and think of him as a man who tried under insurmountable odds to be a normal guy, and for a few pages in his high school yearbook, was.

A Strange Reconciliation

April 12, 2010

I started playing hockey because of a girl. I believe I was around 8 or 9. This girl was a hockey player and therefore I lied and told her that I, too, played hockey. As I had just moved to town the previous year, such a declaration could well be true to the uninformed. I wanted to play hockey so I could be with her more. When I think back to this bold claim, it amazes me that I followed through to the point of joining the league, and even her team, and yet I had never played hockey before. The fact that I stepped on the ice with buckling ankles, a hodge-podge of my uncle’s old equipment from the mid 70’s and an oversized PacMan T-shirt for a jersey, is so sweet and yet so wonderfully ridiculous. This girl, who went on to play at almost the Olympic level, never once admitted the obvious that this was clearly my first time on the ice. We continued our “relationship” for many years, until the social politics and general confusion of middle school tore us apart. I look back upon those first years with a sighing fondness, a melancholy sweetness, as I went from horrible to terrible on the ice, but had an incredible girl who gave me my first kiss.

The second amazing piece of retrospect to my hockey saga is that I continued to play for 10 years, despite breaking up with the girl when we were 11 and the fact that I was just awful. The first goal I ever scored was the result of having the puck on my stick and my teammate slapping the back of my blade to force the puck into the net.  Nonetheless, it was my number on the score sheet and my dad took me out for a steak dinner. Eventually, I switched to goalie because I had incredibly slow feet and comparatively faster hands.

Throughout middle school and early high school I balanced my love of playing music with a love of hockey. In a rare moment of two worlds colliding, the mullet was the recognized uniform for both the rocker and the hockey player. I wore a mullet with so much pride it even made my Monsters of Rock T-shirt nervous. My Zeppelin posters where paired with my Bruins ones. I dreamed about better, faster guitars, probably some Steve Vai influenced Ibanez at that point, the way I dreamed about better, lighter goalie pads – probably Vaughn Legacy’s. After we hit the neighborly curfew for jamming on Friday nights, we’d spend the rest of the evening smoking cheap pot and alternating between playing hockey on Saga Genesis and watching Rush videos.

As High School progressed, music finally became all-consuming. Despite reaching the Varisty level, I was still embarrassingly awful and it was merely my “Rudy” style of determination that got me on the team. I realized that I did not enjoy hockey, and in fact, it had always been a real source of stress for me. I continued to play because I liked my friends who played, and when I first moved to town I needed a gang. Music became my gang, and I was way better at music than hockey.

After high school, I hung up the pads and went a good six or seven years without even acknowledging the sport. It was somewhere around 2003 when my girlfriend suggested we catch a Bruins game. As we were broke (remember, I’m a musician), it was the cheapest ticket in town. We had a bunch of beers and I remembered how much I liked going to games and particularly the lore of the Bruins of old. Surrounded by the accents, beer and profanity reminded me that I am truly a Massachusetts guy. These people were woven into the fabric of my upbringing just as much as the folks I play with in the clubs and bars. Being in the Garden again reminded me that I loved being from Boston, and although I am a much different person than when I went to my first few games, this is still my home team. We would catch a couple games each year and when she eventually moved out, I sold my hockey equipment to pay some rent and let hockey go from my mind for another couple of years.

Now that I find myself single and free of the day job, I have slowly begun to follow hockey again. Over the past couple of weeks my breaks from writing have revolved around the Bruin’s schedule, and I am slightly saddened when an evening’s plans prevents me from watching a game. The added time around the apartment leads me to occasionally think about shooting a tennis ball around. When sorting through old junk in my parent’s basement a week ago, I spotted my sticks. Although I didn’t think much about them at the time, I found myself a few days later regretting not bringing one back.

There is a strange reconciliation going on here. The hockey experiences from my youth remained deep-rooted scars of desperately trying to fit in, anti-Semite kids and parents, realizing my physical limitations, and not being true to my instincts to play music. My entrance into the professional world of music was a step from which I rarely ever looked back, yet now I am finally finding myself able to reflect with the balance tipped more in the favor of humor and resignation than regret or discomfort. My decisions, or at times, lack thereof, have brought me to this interesting point, and ultimately, it is just what I’m looking for – strange and stimulating experiences to help me see the world with a little more wonder. I am comfortable with who I am and what I do, so I can finally begin to take stock of what got me here and size up what is going to get me where next. Through this journey the strangest thing to come back to me is hockey. Sure, there is a procrastination element to it and it is also playoff time and the Bruins haven’t done shit in awhile, but there is another little ember that keeps this rekindled love affair very mysterious and therefore kind of alluring.

This is the point where I reveal what exactly this ember is, but I don’t think I have that figured out yet and that may be part of what makes this so slippery and intriguing. Perhaps I feel guilty that the sport got wrapped up in so much of my painful adolescence or I feel a strange reverence for the other lover that I had to leave behind when I gave myself fully to music, but I think that it may just be that I have discovered that despite our long, strange, uncomfortable history, sometimes I just like watching hockey. I am seeing the sport through new eyes, and if the game where to be personified, I don’t think they would recognize me either. It is funny and weird and leaves me hopeful about whatever else lies down the road to find that after all of this I kind of like it. I had to grow up to enjoy a game.