Highland Park, 7:29 PM

Molly texted me just as I was walking my deliveries into the Shadyside gym.  She heard that Keziah had passed away and wanted to know if I had heard anything.  I checked my social media and found the same sad news Molly had seen.  I didn’t get the chance to take a writing break while riding my routes, but I thought about Keziah for the rest of the day.  Molly filled me in on the details gradually.  Keziah died alone in her room from a heroin overdose.  Not an unfamiliar ending, as far as punks go.

I turned the tragedy of dying young, yet aged beyond your years over in my head, and felt that same anger I have felt so many times before at the news of so many other dead friends or acquaintances.  I forgot a pickup and had to race back out to South Hills and missed most of a work meeting.  I was embarrassed, but didn’t care much beyond that.  Now I’m home, and I’m trying to remember everything I thought about on my routes.

I know I saw Keziah for the first time in the fall of 2006, when Lizzie and I were traveling together and rolled through Denver.  This was back when Molly was a substitute at that weird charter school and Keziah was one of her students.  She had just left home and was set to ride trains with a dude I had encountered and got bad feelings from earlier that spring.  I remember Emil, Sean, and Teal were sketched out too.  Lizzie and I tried to talk her into not taking off alone with this dude, but Molly ended up giving them a ride out to the yard later that night and told Keziah to keep in touch, and call if she needed help or money to come home.

I can’t remember exactly how that story ended, but I don’t think it ended well.  That dude is dead now too.  I can’t remember his name, but I remember hearing he was shot to death in New Orleans a few years back.  I just counted.  I know five people who have been shot in New Orleans.  One who survived.  I still have never been to that city, and doubt I will ever go at this point.

I know I saw Keziah again, and if I’m placing the time right, it was 2008, the summer I was 27.  I was back in Denver for a month hanging with an old friend while she was pregnant and sleeping on a couch in the suburbs, in a sleeping bag that still smelled vaguely like diesel fuel from Lizzie’s and my previous trip, no matter how much I washed it.  I’d go downtown to hang with Molly and other friends when the suburbs got to stifling.  I think Keziah was dating that guy Sal by then, a charming and sociopathic seeming fuck up who rarely stopped talking.  I remember that summer was also the last time I ever saw Mike Brown alive and all of us hanging out at a sketchy ass crashpad across the street from the Wild Oats where I had worked for a few years, and then was later “banned for life” for allegedly shoplifting

Molly told me later how her and Dustin had let Keziah and Sal live in the basement of their house.  Their fights got too brutal (I’m putting it lightly here, and maybe skipping some details that aren’t mine to repeat anyway) after a fight that resulted in a bunch of broken windows in the house, they eventually left.  I don’t think Molly ever saw either one of them again.

I saw Keziah a few years later after I moved to Olympia  At a crust show at Crypt.  She was with Maria, who told me she had moved Keziah out to Port Townsend with her to get her away from Sal.  I meant to say hey, and then a fight started with some army dudes who had wandered into the bar and were getting too aggressive on the dancefloor.  I sucker punched one of them.  Shit popped off and I remember seeing him push Andreas against the wall in the dimly lit back room of the Crypt.  I saw distinctly his hands at Andreas’ throat.  I ran across the floor and aimed a punch square at his kidneys.  I remember everything moving in slow motion, running up and realizing how big this man was.  I felt my fist connect, and to be honest, I don’t even know if he felt it.

The trouble cleared out the door and they went across the street to McCoy’s.  I lost heart for the show and slunk back up the Puget Street hill to my basement room and my books and my dog and my cat.  I didn’t say goodbye to anyone.  I never saw Keziah again.  I saw Sal on 4th Avenue some weeks later.  I remember wondering with a slight distaste if he had followed Keziah out to Washington.  He said hey and I remained neutral and didn’t say much.  He handed me a zine and I took it, only to throw it away as soon as I had walked another block.

I never really liked that guy.

I listened to the news on my routes all day today.  So much intense rhetoric coming from the right about the coming civil war if Trump gets impeached.  Some people have been talking for a while now about how we’re in a cold civil war, waiting for the first shot to turn this shitstorm hot.  Trying to catch my breath n the Alley just on the other side of Negley Avenue today, it’s hard to not think those motherfuckers are right.  I guess I’ve been feeling that for so many people across the world, one war or another since before any of us were ever born.  There’s soldiers, there’s casualties, and there’s fucking profiteers.  Today, dodging in and out of traffic and ticking down miles until I could ride home to my old lady dog, I kept thinking about Keziah dying alone in her bedroom with a needle hanging out of her arm while the Sackler family are secure in whatever compound they call home to keep themselves safe from the rest of us.

And I want to hack these motherfuckers to pieces and set their bodies on fire and allot their fortunes to healing the epidemic they have profited mercilessly from, that has been decimating the poor for decades, and put so many people in my community in the ground.

I remember trying to help another friend kick junk, a few years back now.  I remember sitting in my too cold living room calling support line after support line, just trying to help find them resources.  The walls we kept hitting felt like some maggot’s idea of black humor.  Someone got it in their head to make the hellscapes we call cities and the drudgery and toil we call work so unlivable and impossible to extricate oneself from that so many people will be literally dying for a taste of escape, then to make sure they will never escape from the escape.

And I get it.  I can barely go an hour without looking at my stupid phone.  Not that these fucking cancer-making nightmare rectangles provide much escape nowadays.

I remember trying futilely to beat back my busted teeth at 23, before I lost a shit ton of them to car wrecks and rot (also a case of a lack of resources).  I went to the hospital in my city and told them I was homeless and had a tooth infection (both more or less true).  An overworked doctor gave me a bottle of antibiotics and a bottle of 30 hydrocodone, the number to the dental school across town, wished me luck, and sent me back into the snow.  I washed the pills down and walked back to the house where I was crashing.  I remember clearly the beautiful, washed out numbness that followed as the drug began to diffuse through my bloodstream.  I can almost taste it writing these words now.  I laid in a friend’s bed and listened to a tape of Amebix’s Arise LP and thought to myself:  “I get why people get hooked on this shit.”  I even remember recording notes of what I was feeling in my journal of what I was feeling.  I wondered if this was what so-called “normal” people, who live with the luxury of not feeling this world’s dizzying joys and crushing horrors, so hard and so fast, and just so relentlessly felt like.

And I think about the brutal unfairness of this world, what it’s done to my friends, and how we are among some of the luckier people making our way through this this thing we call late capitalism.

And I think my lifelong best friend Molly summed it up best, talking about Keziah:

“Keziah got handed a heap of shit in her short life and when she needed to, she gave it back. She was resilient, defiant and curious.  May she rest in peace.”

 

 

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Highland Park, 7:29 PM

Brookline Avenue, 4:05 PM, 89 Degrees

Cut through a small, well-kept pedestrian alley at the end of my route, where I am sitting to write this now.  There’s a door in the middle of this alley and steps behind it that go down into some restaurant that isn’t open right now.  For whatever reason, I’m imagining it as some sort of jazz club, the kind that might have existed in the 30’s.  Did they have jazz out in the suburbs and small towns in the 30’s?  I really hope so.  I am still feeling waves of jittery energy from that hippy meth coffee and then the kombucha on top of that.

Right before I turned into this alley, an old man stopped in his tracks on the street to stare at me.  Like, full stop, turned his head to follow me with his eyes as I made my way down the street.  I stopped for a minute and held his stare without breaking eye contact or changing my facial expression.  All the sudden, I felt like I was fifteen, turning heads at the mall.  He eventually started walking again.  I walked into the tanning salon to change out their posters.  It smells heavily of what I imagine is chemical tanning lotion in there.  The strange, orange colored women behind the counter are always very friendly.  “Just change out whatever you need, hon.”  My next stop was the pizza place that always smells faintly like rotting cooking oil, the kind Lizzie and I used to dumpster when we drove around the country in that fucked up diesel/veggie oil truck/money pit that I couldn’t even keep running for longer than six months.  The contrast of smells from tanning salon to pizza shop is always nauseating.  I feel a headache coming on.  Too much coffee.  Not enough water.  Too much sweating the precious fluids in my body out in the sun.  As I was walking over here I heard a woman yelling at two kids on BMX’s.

“If there’s a problem here, we can call the cops!”  She said.

“No problem.  You don’t need to call the cops” said a scared looking boy who couldn’t have been older than 12.

What is it with middle age that makes someone so cop-happy?  Seeing that interaction reminded me of the time Mike Fleetwood and I were bored when we were 13 on a lonely small-town Saturday night and wandered into the Shrewsbury Family Restaurant – I think it has a different name now, but it was the closest thing to mom’s house where there might be other people. If I’m putting the time right, my father probably would have been dead for a month or two.  I know it was still cold out.  If I recall, we were lurking around behind the diner, just childishly wandering around.  Somewhere back around the front, a woman came out and confronted us:

“What are you two doing?”

“Uh.  Nothing.”  I remember saying, with my eyes directed towards the frigid pavement.

“Well, I’m calling the cops!”

I remember thinking what a rapid and unnecessary escalation that exclamatory statement was, and that the last thing my mother needed to deal with was my being driven home in a police car.  I turned and ran and Mike followed.  We cut through yards and made our way back to my mother’s house, where we hid in my room probably watching movies or whatever for the rest of the night.

Two short years later, a different Saturday night and Adam and I were bored and maybe high on dirt weed or Ritalin. We walked to the diner in the cold and empty night, smoking cigarettes and talking.  I had a mohawk and Adam had bright blue hair.  We sat down at the counter and asked for a cup of coffee.  The manager on duty told us no service.  The place was dead.  There weren’t even other customers to offend with our hair.  We got up to leave and the server behind the bar told us to sit back down and she would get our coffee.  She went back in the kitchen to get our coffee and we could hear voices raised, but never knew quite what they were saying.  We drank our coffee and left, tipping as graciously as two broke fifteen-year old’s could.

It’s weird what you think about.  I want to get home to my dog.

Brookline Avenue, 4:05 PM, 89 Degrees

Journal 10/1/19

South Hills, 2:50 PM, 91 Degrees

Siting in the alley a block up from Eden and watching an old man on his smoke break from the restaurant on the corner.  His beard is gray.  His apron is a dirty white.  His eyes dart between the sweltering asphalt and his phone.  This part of town reminds me of Lancaster or Southern York County, sometimes I start to feel claustrophobic when I’m out here.  I’m sitting on the cooking pavement trying to find shade and drinking the kombucha the woman who owns Eden comped me.  White clouds, without rain pass overhead giving the street a brief break from the heat, and I could almost miss the cool gray falls of the Pacific Northwest.  This time last year I was settling into a misty fall and winter living with one of my favorite humans on the planet, and I feel the ache of that absence right now.  I’ll make sure to text them when I’m off work later.

Instead of missing anything more or picking up my phone, I find myself remembering the pregnant gray storm clouds of a South Florida late summer day.  I remember the way they’d gather in the late afternoon, all gray and heavy and ominous right before the sky opened up and the rain came down in blinding sheets so thick you could barely see a few feet ahead of you.  The world would cool down for a few blissful hours, and sometimes the streets would flood.  The kids would all come out to run around in the water once the lightning stopped.  Now I think about those clouds and the feeling of dread that comes with 90-degree fall days in October in the Northeast and I think about acid rain and rising seas and how long before she sinks.

Nothing to do for today, but jump back on my bike and finish my rounds.  The man across the alley just finished his cigarette.  Looks like we’re going back to our respective grinds at the same time.  I hope he’s done with work soon too.

Journal 10/1/19

Journal Excerpt – 9/30/19

Slept hard last night, like the dead.  I think the travel took it out of me.  I left my phone in the kitchen and managed to stay in bed until 9:30.  Only part of the road that I really remember is stopping to stretch in a Vermont cemetery where most of the graves seemed to be over a century old.  I scratched my eye somehow and spent part of the drive precariously trying to blink the blurriness out of my right eye and keeping the car under 80 mph just in case.

I feel a total lack of enthusiasm for my day job today.

Reading the other night went okay.  I thought about reading a piece about my mom intended for use in a collaborative project with Sam, but it didn’t feel ready, so I switched to an excerpt from a prose piece about Olympia – a recounting of a sweet date with HP and the night W and I thought we were going to die.  Felt good to write about a one and place that is safely relegated to the past at this point. I finished with a newer poem.  Being onstage was at once both exhilarating and terrifying.  I sweated it out under the lights in my Ben Sherman knockoff.  I need to work on my inflection and delivery.  I felt flat, on autopilot.  I don’t even know how long I was up there.  Time melts away onstage, especially when the venue is dark and the only lights are on you.  I know I got a strong round of applause as I left stage, but I was too scared to look out at the crowd.  I walked backstage a cathartic mess of nerves and wanted to hide.  I have this feeling like I just want to be so real that it shines through everything else.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  I think sometimes, people just want to be entertained.  It worked last time I was on that stage, reading about lost love and forgiving my momma.  Tonight, it felt like it felt flat.  I’m not sweating it too hard.  There are good nights and bad nights.

I felt like a raw nerve after I read, and just wanted to hide.  I found a spot behind some ancient bleachers way in the back of the theater and crawled under them to hyperventilate.  The person who went on after me and closed out the night did this jokey nude performance art thing, where they walked onstage mostly naked and gradually had people who were in the know hand them clothes until they were dressed  As they were walking off stage, they said: “Did you know that in Vermont that it’s illegal to take your clothes off onstage?  That’s it.  That’s the performance.  Bye.”

It was funny, but maybe lost on me, prudish as I can be at times.  The staff working the event asked everyone to put their phones in a box, so nobody could creep and sneak photos.  Totally understandable.  I got up from my hiding place and surrendered my phone and then went back to the shadows to try and remember how to breathe.

I hid until the house lights came back on and then got my phone and went outside.  A few people told me they were into what I did and I think I smiled weakly and said thank you.  I never know how to take praise, even though I know how much we all want it on some level.  I guess it’s just that I bare my soul up there and I wonder how voyeuristic it might feel for someone else to see, and I also get that someone might wanna shield their eyes.  I don’t know.

I’ve decided that I can always feel pride in how much of myself I pour into my writing, how hard I work at it, even if I don’t always connect with a reader or an audience.  I don’t think I’m always necessarily palatable as a person, or a writer, but when I connect with people, I do so on a pretty rad level.  All I can be is brutally honest and keep working.

Journal Excerpt – 9/30/19