Things Never Said

 

I never really knew him well, even though he was always there. I suspect that he didn’t know me either. It wasn’t for lack of trying on his part, but in retrospect I don’t believe that I was able to accept what he had to offer me. I just wasn’t ready. I do know that he was a good man, a strong man, and a loving father.

I drifted apart from him sometime during my adolescent years, when rampant sex and substance abuse permeated my life, engulfing me in a protective bubble that kept everyone else out. He asked me many times what the hell was going on, but I just didn’t know what to say, or rather how to tell him the truth. Lies were strewn about like blankets on a cold man, designed to tell him what I believed he wanted to hear. And then there was another lie, and another, and on and on. The rift grew deeper and deeper, and it became increasingly easier to remove myself completely from his world. we just stopped speaking, although I can’t be sure how long ago it began.

Many years later, I received a call from one of my brothers. “Dad is in the hospital. Its not good. If you want to see him before he’s gone, I suggest you get down here now.”

The drive down to the hospital was filled with regrets and guilt. I was stopped in the hospital hallway by a brother who informed me that he was gone. I went into the room and sat in a chair, just looking at him, trying to figure out what I was feeling. I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just sat there in silence. The funeral was no different. I seemed to be empty.  I didn’t even cry.  I felt nothing, and said nothing.

It’s been 15 years since he passed, and I finally figured out what I wanted to tell him. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we weren’t closer. I’m sorry that we didn’t try harder to understand one another, and I’m sorry if I caused you any pain. I want you to know however, that it is because of you, because of the things that you taught me, that I have been able to devout my life to helping others, and to take care of my family. What you showed me in everything you did, kept me from giving up. There were many times, when I felt despair, that I asked myself what would you have done. You taught me kindness, and you taught me to get through adversity. None of what happened between us is anybody’s fault. Shit just happens. Know that I now understand. I understand that I love you, and that often times life twists and turns on itself and leads us down roads no one has been before. I’m sorry it took me so long to sort all of this out, but I wanted you to know that I’m okay, and I wanted to thank you for teaching me what I needed to know about life, about myself, and about being a husband and a father. Nothing else really matters. And now, maybe, we can both get some rest.

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Lost With A Moral Compass

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

Following my expulsion from a private, religious school which my parents truly believed would set me on a clear and direct path to a cabana on a pristine beach in the after life, I entered high school as a free man, and left as one incredibly fucked up high school graduate. Over the course of four years, I am almost certain that I was wasted every day. As a result, most of my high school memories have dissipated, much like a fog bank settling over the shore line.

While the regular cast of thousands roamed the bleak, concrete hallways, engaging in self deprecating mating rituals with assorted cheerleaders in short skirts and knee high socks, who brushed them off with a flip of their hair and a turn of their head, I was  engaged in a psychedelic lunch break with draft dodger turned English teacher and drug dealer, Mr. N., or some bizarre sex ritual in the back of a Jeep Wrangler with Madame S., the French teacher who I am certain worked part time as a stripper at The Algonquin Tavern.

I suppose it was just my good fortune to have entered the corridor at the exact moment head cheerleader and dating expert Marilyn Garland, bent over and displayed her upper middle class, wonder bread ass to Fitzroy Simmons, a science nerds who had stopped to gawk. “You can keep looking.”, she said, “but you’re never gonna get this.” After a cursory glance, it occurred to me that nobody around wanted to get that.

“Don’t flatter yourself.”, I told her as I walked by. “No one wants that pasty white, bony ass. Put it away.” Fitzroy laughed. Marilyn stormed off with her band of mindless, professional virgins who I have been led to believe went on to find success as frigid wives of suburban accountants, and I was once again in the office of school Vice-Principal, Mr. Brackett.

It was the usual exchange of ideas, one that we seemed to continually rehearse. Mr. Brackett sat behind his desk, tapping his hand with a yard stick, pointing out that I was  disrespectful, immoral, and destined for a lifetime of failure. I disagreed, and expressed my concern that he was ignorant, belittling, and an asshole. I was suspended for three days, and the customary call to my parents was made. As I went to retrieve my belongings from my locker, I ran into Madame S., and I told her what had happened. “You’re just so adorable.”, she told me. “Let me give you a ride home.” I met her at the Jeep. “You drive.”, she said as she tossed me the keys. Now, if you have never had a blow job while driving a manual transmission Jeep with the top down, I suggest you try it at least once. It was wonderfully fulfilling.

My father’s only concern was that he had been called by the school. It didn’t matter to him what I had or had not done. He really didn’t care. He just did not want to be called. “I don’t understand why you keep getting caught.”, he said.

“I don’t get caught.”, I informed him. “I just choose not to run away.”

“Well”, he advised, “that’s getting caught.”

“Not really.”, I replied. “That’s surrendering. I am trying to make a point.”

“Which is?”, he asked.

“That I am right, and they are full of shit.”, I told him. We never understood each other. He neither shared my sense of justice or responsibility. The battle was fought over many years, with his frequent reminders that he just didn’t understand me. I let him know that it was alright, I wasn’t really looking for understanding, anyway. What I was really seeking was the freedom to think my own thoughts, and to live my own life. His only request was that I lived a moral life.

Many years later, following a night out, when the paranoid delusions invade the deepest recesses of my thoughts as I attempt to sleep, I realized that I had very matter of factly pissed away most of my life. Wallowing in the effects of years and years of uninhibited hallucinogenic consumption and random acts of various erotic mayhem, I realized that I was plagued with a sense of melancholy. I had discovered, much to my father’s chagrin that morality is a sham. Behind a facade of transparency, it has been driven into the shadows under a veil of secrecy and deceit. It manifests itself as the law of the land, but in reality it is merely the masturbatory fantasies of those who sit on the far right. I have participated in enough protests to have discovered that those liberal, left wing social democrats who take to the streets and gather in the squares to voice their disapproval, wind up being corralled like cattle and detained in the name of decency and public safety. I have come to understand that morality is a word used to dupe us into conformity. It is used to stifle self expression, and entice the masses to join in and march in the great military parades. Morality is insanely immoral.

We are, after all, human beings with the freedom of choice. So whose morality are we being asked to accept? Morality does not stop us from hurting others, but in fact encourages it, provided those we wish to harm are without morals. It is not morality that should prevade our existence, but responsibility. Responsibility to ourselves, and to our fellow man. We all have a responsibility to take care of each other, that is the essence of being human. Morality gives us the option to fuck up those who are less fortunate and marginalized, once we convince ourselves that they are immoral. The white shirt, suit and tie bufoons who reign supreme by virtue of their ability to make promises that they have no intention to keep, dictate what is moral as they shove the poor and destitute deeper into the holes that have been dug in an attempt to bury all of the unwanted refuse this society has created.

Where is the responsibility we have towards our fellow man? Where is the sense of duty to help those in need? These qualities, an integral part of what makes us human beings has been relegated to land fills across the planet in order that the rich and powerful may continue to be rich and powerful. I  don’t profess to have all of the answers, but I do know that I do not screw others because it is immoral, but rather because I have an obligation to help, not hinder, to enlighten, not confuse. I don’t want what others have, nor do I need it, but the constraints of morality force even the meekest of men to become sinners. The new found morality will not lead to happiness, or peace of mind. Happiness will be found in doing what you love, and being who you really are, without seeking acceptance from anyone other than yourself. Those who expound morality are immoral.

I regret nothing, although there are times when I wish I could have said something a little more appropriate than “Go to hell, you fucking whore.”, at the settlement hearing with my first wife, but it was said and done. I have tried to spend my life as a champion of the underdog, the guardian of those who are unable to help themselves. When no one wanted to hang out with Fitzroy Simmons, who was taunted, teased and bullied his entire academic life, I looked out for him, and offered my friendship. Madame S., well, she needed to feel love, and I desperately wanted to be the one to give it to her. My refusal to knuckle under to the intimidation tactics of Mr. Brackett served to demonstrate to others that authority exists only because we give it permission to.

I went on, after University, to work with children and adolescents with mental health and behavioral issues, guiding them to a life of self reliance and self acceptance. Not bad for a disrespectful, immoral, failure. Recognize your responsibility and your duty to give back, and stop listening to the moral right. They’re all just fucktards.

Forgotten

 

by Solomon Tate

Richard Brand was not a bad kid. He was the product of shitty parenting, and an environment that bordered on destitute. He grew up angry, anxious, and alone, displaying oppositional and defiant behaviors. I met him in 1990, after he had been in a multitude of residential programs with negligible success in helping him get his life in order. He had incurred several criminal charges for assault and petty theft, and had received a couple of years probation.

He claimed that he was misunderstood. He believed that his thoughts and ideas were  unappreciated and his existence unacknowledged. He was sure that he was on his own to find his way through a world that had nothing to offer him. It was difficult to reach him, but over time, he seemed to develop trust in those who were working with him. He began to do well in school, and joined the junior basketball team, where he excelled. He developed friendships with his teammates, and seemed to be moving toward making the changes that would lead him to a better life.

An altercation with a school administrator forced him to change schools at the insistence of the school board. He gave up his friends, and his basketball, and transferred to the behavioral program. Once again, Richard found himself alone and angry. His relationships with his service providers worsened. He became abusive and threatening. Sadly, he was discharged from the only program in which he had done well, returning to the residential centres that had failed him.

I lost touch with him over the years. And then, one day, he appeared on the 6 o’clock news. He was now 22 years old, and had been charged with 1st degree murder in the death of a 29 year old man. As the story unfolded, it seems that Richard had found acceptance in one of the many street gangs that proliferated the city, and there was a matter of an unpaid debt that needed to be collected, one way or another. Richard and another young man were sent to collect payment. In the ensuing discussion about the debt, Richard pulled out a gun, and shot the man in the head. Twice. Following an investigation that included eyewitness accounts, he was apprehended and placed under arrest.

The trial was brief, with a guilty verdict as the outcome. I sat in the courtroom for the sentencing hearing. Richard saw me, but had difficulty making eye contact. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with no chance of parole for 25 years. He was to serve his time at Collins Bay Federal Penitentiary. As he was escorted out of the courtroom in shackles, he turned to look at me, and I swear I saw him mouth the words “Thank you”.

It was the last time I saw him. Several years later, I was informed that Richard Brand had died in Collins Bay. He was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate in the shower. His grandmother claimed the body, and he was interred in the family plot in a cemetery in Jamaica. Failed by a system that consistently breeds fear and anger, and a society that is built upon the alienation of the marginalized, Richard Brand disappeared, a lost and tortured soul, as if he never even existed. Sadly, he will not be the last.

 

 

Space Cowboy

by Solomon Tate

There are moments when I have found myself traveling  through space and time, much like Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, usually as a result of any one of a number of hallucinogenics I have dabbled in. While laying on the couch in the melancholic office of the maudlin and mundane Freudian psychotherapist, Dr. Herbert Needleman, I found myself once again laying on the beach in St. Kitts with Serena, and I was certain that the good doctor wasn’t even aware that I was gone. Freudians rarely noticed that kind of thing.

I have seen much of the universe this way, bouncing around the cosmos, without warning, travelling into the past or into the future, but it is always, unmistakably in my present, and without the customary flying monkeys, dragons, and munchkins from The Wizard of Oz. Its always spontaneous and often occurs at inopportune moments, but in St. Kitts, the all inclusive resort offered free cigarettes and free booze. As a smoker and a drinker teetering on the edge of alcoholism, this was indeed paradise. The sky was always as clear and as blue as any I had seen. The beach was white sand, with water that seemed to glisten in the sunlight, casting dancing beams across the shore line. Serena was tanned and bikinied, and I reached over and touched her on the shoulder. “Well, I see you’ve decided to come back again.”, she said as she turned on her side to look at me.

“You’re impossible to resist.”, I answered. “By the way its one hell of a view from back here.”

I had been coming to St. Kitts regularly, about 3 or 4 times a year, for about 7 years. Sometimes for a month or so, and other times, less than 24 hours. It was impossible to predict. It was just like that. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but space and time jumping do not adhere to the usual laws of physics. It is not constant, but it never rests.  It is random, and it is impossible to control.  This spiraling across time and space has bounced me in and out of the bed of Juniper, the barkeep at The Spaced Out Tavern in the trading outpost on Delivyn’s Planet, and Fiona, the wild and wooly Celtic sheep hereder in 17th century Scotland who, I suspect, is my wife.

“How long are you staying for this time?”, Serena asked.

“I don’t know.”, I told her. “I never know.”

I had been seeing Dr. Needleman for years, delving deep into my psyche to try to uncover just what all of this bouncing through the cosmos was about. The Freudian was certain it was a suppressed childhood event of such magnitude that I was attempting to completely dissociate from reality, but I was almost sure it was the years and years of mucking around with my brain, but either way, I just wanted to be able to stay in one place.

“You are going to have to face the fact that you have created this situation entirely in your subconscious.”, he told me. “It exists only in your mind.”

“Are you suggesting that I’m imagining all of this?”, I asked. The Doctor said nothing, and as I turned to look at him I found myself sitting at The Spaced Out Tavern, staring into the eyes of Juniper as she poured me another shot of  whiskey.

“So, how long do I get to have you for this time?”, she asked.

“I’m not sure,”, I answered. “Its really not up to me.” And that’s just how it was, every time, everywhere. There was never any certainty to anything. It was impossible to make plans. It was impossible to have a life.

“Hopefully you can stay long enough to get me off this time.”, she said. “You kind of left before the mission was completed last time you were here.” Shortly after successfully completing the mission, and just as suddenly as I had left, I was back in Dr. Needleman’s office. The trips had always left me tired and drained and often with a headache, but now they were simply beginning to wear me down. It was becoming far too complicated to juggle all of these meaningless pieces of existence, trying to put them together like a jigsaw puzzle in order to create a life.

“Would you be interested in trying hypnotherapy?”, he Doctor asked. “The other option is pharmacological intervention.” Neither of the options presented appealed to me. I was not about to embark on a trial of brain eating pharmaceuticals, I mean, I’m sure it was pharmacological intervention that created all of this shit. Hypnotherapy seemed equally unappealing. I was, at this point in time, unwilling to relinquish control of my thoughts, or to be turned into a chicken.

It was cold in The Highlands. I stood on the ridge and watched Fiona tending to the sheep in the glen. She looked up, waved and ran towards me. She threw her arms around me. “I am so glad you are here, my husband.”, she said. “I have missed you.”

“I’m here now.”, I told her.

“But for how long?”, she asked.

“I don’t know, Fiona.”, I replied. “I just don’t know.” We spent the afternoon in bed, as the sheep bleated outside. We drank and laughed, and watched the sun set behind the cliffs.

“I am carrying your child.”, she blurted out. “And I’m sure that its a son.”

“Alright,”, I told Dr. Needleman. “Let’s try the hypnotherapy. But you’re not going to turn me into a chicken, right?”

“Right.”, he said. “No chicken.” I don’t remember much of what happened then in that office. I began to feel drowsy and more relaxed than I had ever been, and then nothing. I remember hearing Needleman speak to me, but I have no idea what he was saying. I felt like I was sinking deeper and deeper into a warm, fleeced lined hole. The further down I went, the warmer and more comforting I felt.

Juniper was waiting at the bedroom door when I returned, naked, with a bottle of whiskey in her hand. “I’m ready.”, she said. She was beautiful. They were all beautiful. When I bounced back to Dr. Needleman’s office, he was still talking, but I was no longer enveloped in the warm fleece that had seemed so comforting.

“It didn’t work.”, I told him. “I have been to see Juniper.”

“Ah, the space girl.”, he replied. I sat up on the couch and was struck with the realization that this really wasn’t all that bad. I got to travel and see things I never thought that I would see. I was involved with very beautiful women, one of whom was bearing my child. I was living a life, although it seemed fractured and incomplete when examined as separate, partial lives, but as a whole, it was a pretty damn good gig. The secret, it seems is in acceptance. Happiness, peace and contentment are found in wanting what you have, not when you have what you want. and not in having what you want. Its all just the perception of things.

I continue to traverse the universe with no particular destination. I go wherever the universe sends me. Fiona and I have a son, a strong boy who is growing up to be a good man  who looks after his mother when I am not around. Serena and I continue to smoke and drink to excess at the all inclusive resort where we live, enjoying the sun and the sea. Juniper purchased The Spaced Out Tavern, and has brought in extra terrestrial exotic dancers which has increased the sale of alcohol threefold. Everything, I believe, is as it is supposed to be. I will continue to be a space cowboy until such time as the universe decides that enough is enough. Yipee ki-yay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Charlie Garrick

by Solomon Tate

“I guess it hasn’t really been that bad.”, Garrick said to Dr. Perlmuter, the cardigan clad Psychotherapist who bore a striking resemblance to Tim Curry. “I mean there have been many potholes, and a whole lot of wrong turns, but it’s really been pretty good.”

“So why are you here?”, the doctor asked.

“Well, out there may be okay”, Garrick answered. “But the shit in my head freaks me out.”

“Well, we’ll have to pick it up right there next time.”, he said matter of factly, “I’m afraid we’re out of time.”

The good doctor was right. They were out of time. Two hours and seventeen minutes later Garrick stepped in front of a train at the St. Patrick subway station, ending the life of a good man.

Charlie Garrick was 54 years old. He spent 30 years as a reporter for a group of small, community newspapers. He had written a book, but came to the realization that he could say everything he needed to say in 2 or 3 sentences. ‘The Decline of Modern Culture’, which he wrote in 1998, consisted of 250 pages, of which 249 pages were left blank. On the 2nd page Charlie wrote “The tyrannical web of deceit that has circumvented the universe has been left to run amok, unattended for far too long. Stop the fucking lying”. He was right about it,I mean  he really didn’t need more than 2 or 3 sentences to say what he needed to say. ‘Stop the fucking lying.’, pretty much said it all.

Charlie Garrick was my friend. We served two tours of duty together in rehab, during which neither one of us could muster the courage to achieve any measure of success. During our conversations, usually held over a couple of pitchers of beer and numerous tequila shots, he spoke lovingly about his children, and passionately about Taoism. Charlie believed that life just is. Nothing more needs to be done. If we could all accept our lives, commune with nature, and seek and want nothing, all of the world’s problems would cease to exist. I don’t really understand much of it myself, but he was certain it was right. “Be like a river.”, he said. “All it ever is is a river. It flows, and nothing more. And in doing nothing but being a river, it carves through solid rock, creating valleys, and massive canyons. Pretty impressive for doing nothing.”

We sat at The Brunswick House one afternoon, many years ago contemplating life’s purpose, as 2 incredibly naive young men were prone to do. I was a psychology major, infatuated with opportunities to delve into the psyche’s of troubled souls, and help them change to live more fulfilling and positive lives. Garrick, reluctantly chose his major in his 3rd year. He opted for a combined major in history & English. He stated that since man was destined to repeat the past, someone should know what the hell had really happened, and be able to write about the dangers of repetition.

Although  customary in these instances, Charlie left no note, leaving the usual culprits to ask why. All that they could do was to ponder circumstance and speculate in an attempt to rationalize what had transpired. I’m not sure if even Charlie knew why. More important and  certainly more relevant is  how  no one noticed the anguish and desperation that was consuming Charlie. He had friends, and family and it just didn’t make any sense. It never did. Something was eating away at him, from the inside out, and it had probably been going on for years and years.

I hadn’t spoken to Charlie in a few years, and I suppose that should have been some sort of warning that things weren’t right. But we always assume the best, I suppose. People get busy, and their lives twist and turn like a river, taking them where ever the river leads. It wasn’t unusual for Charlie to disappear, but he was pretty consistent in letting us know that he was okay. There was always some kind of smoke signal, a letter or a telegram, and more recently, a text message or an email, simply stating ‘All is well. Glad you’re not here’. But there had been nothing over the last few years.

Charlie had once told me about the time he headed north and spent 2 weeks alone in the wilderness. He said that when one removes himself from the human race, even if only for a short time, it becomes evident that you never really belonged, and no longer wish to be a member. Isolation was liberating, and in isolation, he was able to truly know himself, and to become himself.

But even in his reluctance to be a part of humanity, Charlie Garrick was always there for me, and scores of others. When my wife became ill, Charlie was there, and when my first daughter was born with a disability that required her to undergo 11 surgeries in 7 years, Charlie sat with me at that hospital every single time. He was a loving and caring man who always seemed to put others before himself. Sadly, most people didn’t notice as Charlie acted within the realm of silence and anonymity. He hated the recognition and notoriety that often went hand in hand with doing the right thing so much, that he had refused to attend 3 separate award events in his honor. Few people knew that he sat on several committees that dealt with social issues, or that he taught a creative writing course for marginalized youth in the city core. And that’s how he wanted it. He did what he did, like a river, doing nothing more that just being, and he carved a life of good deeds, touching so many.

And now that he’s gone, I regret for not being a better friend. I regret that I was not there for him when he needed someone. I feel guilt that I didn’t take the time to find out what the hell was going on so that I could at least try to help. I will miss him. I will miss the way he argued with the server at Szechuan Palace that Peking Duck is really only a chicken that swims and flies. I will miss the way  beer came streaming out of his nose like a fountain when he laughed. Most of all, though, I will miss his friendship. I will miss the commitment and dedication he devoted to being my friend. I will miss Charlie Garrick.