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

Brief Non-writing update to my like, five followers and those Nazis that were watching my shit for a while.

This has been one of the best weeks of my life, holy shit.

I am so close to finishing my Bachelor Of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, after so much hard work.

So many cool projects on the horizon.
Swimming in sweetness and support.
Sometimes I wake up to texts from my sweetheart, and can’t believe how I lucked out, except I know how hard we both worked to become the people we are and deserve one another too.

Tonight I will read a piece of writing on a stage where the mighty BLACK SABBATH once played when they were at the apex of their sonic power.

Does this mean I’ve made it?

Doing everything in my power to keep my body and brain healthy.

 

 

Brief Non-writing update to my like, five followers and those Nazis that were watching my shit for a while.

Dating during this whole mass extinction thing is wild.

We sit
Next to one
Another in bed
Skin pressed to skin
You smile while you knit
And I’m drunk
On the delight of it

With a baseball game
On the radio
The window open
To the last strains
Of summer drifting in
From a skyline I never thought
I would come to love
Looming concrete and steel above
Not indestructible
But close enough
For now

I scribble in my journal
Trying to give my words
The bloodsoaked weight
Of a Lydia Lunch or
Any other horror adjacent

I Let the pen rest
With a breath
And your head
On my chest

Try as I might
I don’t got the heart
For wringing the wrath
Out of my body tonight
I wore that shit out
Of me last year
And the year before that
And the year before that one too.

Talking about being born
Like a burn ward
Skin always too thin
Too sensitive to exist
Over and over and over
How your bones can ache
And age, slamming small hands
Against a lifetime’s weight
Of storm clouds begging to break

Drive home
Across down
Real late at night
Sailing across an
Asphalt sea and blinking lights
The windows down
Fingers curl around the wheel
Freshly dipped in the afterglow

All the cold songs
Written for cold hearts
I used to love
About never falling in love
And tears flowing
To help the flowers grow
Play real loud on the stereo
Singing me all the way home

Those songs seem so silly now
Or at least like the sounds
Ears would be grateful to outgrow
Waiting
Not in love, but kind of in love, or
Making our way to that graceful falling
Or close enough
Waiting
for the curtain to fall
And the war to come home.

Dating during this whole mass extinction thing is wild.

3.14.4.18

One.

The first time I saw you:
You were magnetic
With your cracked tooth grin
Tattoos gracing your skin
Your steel toe boot
Stomp across a scuffed
Hardwood floor painted
The color of one hundred
Midnight hours passed
In delicious summer stillness
Your eyes
Catch mine
You smile
And I smiled back
The humidity hanging
Thick in the air
Turned electric, sending
My skin tinging
For a moment
Like an alien
Sensing a kindred spirit

Two.

Two hours later
Dancing at the show
Sweaty and smiling
On the precipice
Of “punk for life”
I wonder
Just when we get
Too old for this
Fifteen years after
I screamed the words
“Young until I die!”
For the first time
The band
Right on the cusp
Of stardom, or what passes
For it down here
On this dirty living room floor
Is giving it their
Absolute all
You introduce yourself
In the sweaty afterglow
Wild hair stuffed
In a knit black beanie
Despite the summer heat.

Three.

Two years on
All fucked up
On sleeplessness and loss
And expensive liquor
Twenty-one days since
A single shotgun shell
Shattered the world
Of almost every person I know
Back home

So I came out here alone
Breaking in steel toe boots of my own
Praying to stomp my way down
Enough strange streets
Turn down enough blind curves
Walk up enough steep hills
To outrun this
Sadness swallowing sadness

We share a drink
And a fierce affinity
For one another
Intelligent eyes
Growing harder
And harder
I look at you
And see a mirror.

Four.

You are my friend
And one of the
Best and brightest
I know
Sitting in your parking spot
Making the most
Of our small hours
Before the dawn

I wouldn’t go back now
To visit those hours
Inhabit those shed skins
But I wish
I could visit
To hear the grace
Of your laugh
And the light
Behind your eyes
One more time

Five.

The sharpness in
Your words matches
The razor glint
In your eyes
I’ve seen that malevolent
Glow pouring out of my
Own skull, tasted that venom
Dripping out of my mouth
So many times before

Blessed as we are
With this curse
Brilliant minds, that move too fast
And suspicion to match it
Paranoid thoughts pushing
A soul past the red line
Like the time
Our friend kissed
That boy who
Wasn’t your boyfriend
But you wanted him to be
Even though you claimed
It was all no big deal
Later.

You sent a text
To our other friend
Telling her you hoped
Her clit shriveled
And fell off

“Goddamn, girl.
I wish you hadn’t said that.”

“What?
She fucked me over
And now she doesn’t
Deserve to ever
Feel pleasure again
I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Like it was the most rational thought in the world

I shuffled my feet nervously
Beneath the table
Reminding myself
To never get on your bad side
After all
We are so much alike
And I been on my own shit list
For most of my life.

Six.

I have been in bed
For four days now
The diagnosis came Monday
And with it a shattering
A feeling of never being
Able to trust myself again
I could stay here
In this room
Forever
Let heart starve out
Go to oblivion
Nobody calls on the phone
And I feel a loneliness
Like I’ve never known

And then you are at the door
Pulling me up into your arms
And into the world outside my window

“Come on, let’s get something to eat
Your brain may be trying to get the best of you
But this shit doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”

Seven.

Christmas comes.
And you, Josef
And I, are all alone.
Running from the worst
Goddamn heartbreak
I ever known
And the kind of cold
That cuts to the soul.
I made the three
Of us dinner
And we ate together
Thankful for the sanctuary
Found here in one another
From the heartless
Rain of this wretched city

I didn’t take any pictures
Of that night
But now I wish I had
You were too on edge
Looking out the windows
Over your shoulder
As if some unknown enemy
Would cross Eastside Street
And knock on the door

I mostly remember trying to play off the tension
And Josef hating the movie I pirated
And with good reason
That shit was way too violent
To watch on Christmas

And I see now
All the little red flags
I should have seen back then
The Storm getting ready to rage
Suspicion bordering on madness brewing
In the world behind your eyes

Eight.

New Year’s Eve
And We’re fighting
In earnest now
Outside a bar
That I didn’t even want
To be at anyway
Feeling like a thousand
Eyes are staring at me
In judgement
And condemnation
The beginning of
A long and painful
Process of separation
From this city

The same city
We both arrived in
With such cautious hope
Once upon a time
Like shaking hands
With something waiting
To gnaw at your insides

Struggle to comprehend
The reason and rationale
Behind your wrath
But the silence
And the evasive glances
Drive the final nail
In my new year.

Call it good
And leave the party
Before the countdown
To midnight even begins
Walk the tracks
Alone all the way home
In the bitter cold
Which I like
More than rain soaking to the bone
Ring in the new year
On the phone
Sitting at my desk
Staring out the window
Whispering nervously over
The phone to my best friend in this world
Because I got a feeling
That all hell
Might be coming home
For both of us
In the year to come

Nine.

I see you crossing the street
Through the fog
Walking home alone
The rumors been swirling
Around this lonely
Little town for weeks now

We all know
But don’t know
How to hold
Or how to even sit
In proximity to your pain
And the paranoia that follows
Praying to all the gods
Above and below
For your freedom
The best lover not a one
Of us ever got to know
From sorrow
Thirst
Hunger
Want
And loneliness
To wrap you in its arms
And bring you safely home.

Ten.

You are my friend
And still one of
The best I’ve known
Pacing around in the back yard
Pointing the finger of suspicion
In every direction
We’ve all known loss before
But goddamn,
It never came to me
Quite like this
There’s a first time
For everything, I guess.

Watching the mask of sanity
Slip away not with a whimper
But with a plaintive wail
And every accusation imagined

I drive home
And want to cry
I want a flood
To fall from my eyes
To wash this city clean
From all the bitterness
And all the fights
And all the plots contrived
That drove us to this point
That we may finally sleep
Through the night

Twelve.

We sit in the sun
In the bed of my truck
Outside the storage building
Where we both rent units now
You smoke a cigarette
And we soak
In that familiar
Feeling of defeat
Staring down the barrel
Of uncertainty and instability
For the hundredth
Time in this life

When you sold
Most of your stuff
I never told you
How I raced down to Rainy Day
And begged them to sell
Your records back to me
“Look, my friend is just
In a very dark place
I’ll pay double whatever
You gave her for all this stuff
So I can keep it safe for her
Until she’s well again.”

I threw my hands up
In exasperation when the
Guy behind the counter
Offered to sell me the
One of your records I
Could even identify
For seventy dollars.

You give me your bookshelf
Saying you might come back
For it someday
Even though I know you wouldn’t
And we carry it into my unit
And I padlock the door behind us
I see the resignation
Like set deep in your eyes
And feel a morbid sense
Of relief at what
That resignation replaced.

Thirteen.

You send a text message
To my phone right before
You get in your car and drive south
Straight out of my life

“I’m sorry.
I know you did your best
And you’ve been such a good friend
I just don’t know what’s real anymore
And I have to go.”

Fourteen.

Everyone hates what happens next
All the worry
And the wishing
Praying to the gray
Sky above us
Even though we
Are no longer certain
It even listens
For you
To just
Make it out
Of this.

Fifteen.

The last time I saw you
You were scared
And all alone
Smoking a cigarette
Flying a sign at a rest stop
Outside your busted car
Somewhere along the I-5.
When I stopped to piss
I had a feeling I would
See you standing there

I said hello
Gave you fifteen dollars
Told you I loved you
I didn’t try and argue
Or even address the demons
Taken up residence
In your head

I got back in my car
Drove and drove and drove
Away from Washington
Through Oregon
Straight to California
Luna and I didn’t stop
Until Los Angeles
Where the sun finally shone above us

Standing at the observatory
above the glittering ocean
Of electric starlight
I wished for a way
For the light
To wash away
The resignation
That comes with
The knowledge
That you can love
Your friends
As hard
And as true
And as purely
As anything you have
Ever loved in your life

But sometimes that love
Is not enough
To keep a flame alive.

3.14.4.18