As I sit here in the coffee shop I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the combination of Seahawks fans stopping off for a drink before heading to Sunday’s big game and ever present population of homeless who use the shop for their bathroom visits and to charge up their electronic devises. One who took up four tables while doing so. Things I’ve come to both expect and accept as a coffee loving, coffee house freak. Having grown up in what could be considered as a suburb of New York City. (Jackson Heights, Queens to be exact and having lived in a section of Manhattan once known as Hell’s Kitchen. I’ve been used to feeling quite comfortable living within very varied surroundings. However, it wasn’t until I began traveling extensively, especially the country and farms. For it was on those trips and excursions that I found my true peace and happiness. So much so that, years after my move to New Jersey. I found myself opting for weekend trips to upstate towns and farms more then the possibility of hopping a train or a bus to the city. Having enjoyed both in my lifetime. I would never judge or criticize anyone for the lifestyle they choose. I’ve experienced both at different times in my life and both have provided countless rewards and lessons. I just feel that after a lifetime of city life. I might be opening up to something different. For now, my little weekend getaways are the perfect balance I’m looking for.
Just for the hell of it. I decided to revisit twelve year old me and rewrite the article I mentioned in my last post “Unfinished Business” What I wrote below was taken from the school newspaper article I mentioned, a journal I kept at the time as well as memories that still remain fresh all these years later.
Several weeks ago, I began experiencing severe headaches. It all started during school hours and became such a distraction that I was often excused to go down to the Principals office to request they call home to have someone pick up and take me home. Being that I’ve built somewhat of a reputation as a trouble maker. I was initially scolded and told to stop slacking off and get my ass back to class. Days passed and as the headaches became more sever, my trips to the principals office increased. Despite all of the warning signs, health concerns took a back seat and I was sent to see a school shrink. I was asked questions like “Is there anything or anyone bothering you?” “Is everything okay at home?” You know, text book questions one would ask. “No, man. I’m just experiencing crippling headaches. Can I go home now?”
Within a couple of days I was in a doctors office. His assertion was I had been experiencing intense migraine headaches. Something that could easily be tamed by medication, which he described. In the days that followed, my condition worsened, I wasn’t making it to school and due to my parents conflicting work schedules. I was staying with my grandmother. By then. I was not capable of eating and could not handle any light, whatsoever. I vividly recall the overpowering light that emanated from my grandmothers 12′ inch B&W TV being more than my eyes could take. Quickly, (I’m talking about a matter of days.) I began hallucinating. (Here was this kid who sucked at fifth grade Math hallucinating ratios most kids don’t know of until grad school,) That’s when I remember being taken to the emergency room.
Upon arrival, I remember being taken in pretty quickly. (No three hour wait to have his temperature taken, given a few aspirin before being sent home with a bill resembling a school loan for this kid.) A CAT scan taken that night revealed a rather large pineal tumor on the middle of my brain. From there I was quickly admitted to the hospital where I had emergency surgery that was meant to keep me alive. Though I was not told at the time, my parents were gently told to make funeral arrangements. The date was October 11th and by all projections, I would be dead before I got to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner….
To be continued…or not.
As I was going through a couple of file boxes containing old tax returns and medical records. I came across a copy of the school newspaper that featured the article they asked me to write about my experiences and observations of my days, weeks and months as a terminal inpatient at an uptown Manhattan hospital.
Though I was unaware that the school even had a student based newspaper at the time. I agreed and proceeded to pour my heart out about the most trying and challenging experience I had been through in my somewhat short life. After penning and handing it off to visiting teacher. It was delivered to the forces that be and sent to the newspapers staff to be printed and distributed.
Imagine my shock when upon delivery when I realized that my words were not only edited, but rewritten to fit in with the dogma our schools faculty were forced to teach.
While I’m pretty sure my 7th grade English could benefit from a little grammarly love. But having what was being interpreted as my own words, twisted and fabricated to describe my recovery as a result of prayer, faith and God’s mercy. It would seem or be suggested that my becoming ill was part of God’s will to make me a stronger, better Christian. An act on their part was a fabrication and flat out lie. I had no idea the sisters, priests or clergy would go as far as committing libel to spread their message of fear, control and suppression of free speech or thought. While it wasn’t the first time the school or church committed one of the many sins they instructed us to abstain from and swiftly punished us for acting out. It found their avenue of doing so, rather tasteless.
Looking back, it’s hard to remember exactly why I didn’t take my case up with the schools principle, Sister Mary Patrick, or even threaten to take them to court. Maybe it had something to do with the fear of retribution on the schools part. Perhaps being just twelve years old trying to survive a terminal prognosis brought on by a non operable brain tumor. I don’t know why such a predictable action on the part of those put in charge of indoctrinating so many young minds to believe in half truths, fairy tales and flat out lies would warrant one’s anger, but it did.
I was having a conversation with my physical therapist when the topic of camping came up. She was utterly shocked by the fact that I had never spent a weekend or even a night in a tent with the glow of a warm fire just a few feet away. Growing up in Queens, New York. There were always adventures to be had. Playing inside and on construction sites, fumbling through cemeteries at night and trespassing in general. Not to mention the bus trips to the Bronx Zoo where we could catch a glimpse of the burnt out buildings and the areas crack heads and window washers. who begged for money outside of the tunnels or where the bridges dispatched cars, trucks and buses throughout Manhattan.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began traveling extensively, skydiving, white water rafting and cliff diving. Still, there was always the opportunity to return home to a hotel or hostel at the end of the day. No disrespect to campers, tents, sleeping bags and roasting marshmallows by the campfire. Each and every one of those mentioned would be super cool. But I slept off a night of heaving drinking and hardcore in Central Park in my teens and I think my fear of being murdered by an axe or machete wielding maniac trumps that of a mugger in the park. Years, no decades later. I have a hard enough time getting my wife to join me game of Wiffle ball or Frisbee. I don’t think my chances of getting her to go camping with me are much better. People change, so who knows. Maybe my time will come.
While there’s never been a day that I haven’t regretted leaving my camera at home. The practice of bringing one with me everywhere I go has undoubtedly kept me from living in the moment and learning to appreciate something without documenting it for whatever reasons I deem fit. Knowing full well the perils of cluttering your hard drive, computer or phone device with countless unwanted images. Old habits die hard and trying to capture images that inspire you in on way or another is nothing to fault someone over. Still, capturing images with my phone allows me to instantly edit and feel less compelled to keep what I don’t want. Being that I still find inspiration in things others often overlook or discard. I’m thankful for having more than one option to capture and share the things I love.
After my Father wrecked or sold ever car he owned. He began using his Mother Veronica’s decade old, beat up car to get from A to B and not much further. The trunk was so dirty that your hands would instantly turn black once you unlocked it. The seats were torn and tattered and the floorboards were often covered with debris and weeks worth of empty fast food containers. Regardless, we were able to fit my Father’s 6’4 frame, our dog, myself and up to eight kids piled up in the backseat. The Hawkins brothers Keith, Petey and M.J., Glen, Tommy and whoever else would risk the trip on that day. (Aside from those named. The cast would always change depending on the day and who was willing to brave the back seat.
Once there, we would often disperse into two separate tribes or war parties as my Dad would set up camp and build a fire to roast hot dogs, marsh mellows or whatever supplies we manged to gather before our voyage. In the few hours we’d stay we’d play war, burn tires and grab whatever we could from the abandoned cars and the nearby railroad tracks. In truth, there was no Tarzan or nearby water to be found. For the life of me, I may never learn how or why it came to be called “Tarzan Island.” But as I would come to learn at the time and many years later. It was what everybody called it. Year later, I’m talking decades. I returned to Sunnyside Queens to seek out the area. The train yard itself was still there, but it had been closed off and closely patrolled. Whoever said, “You can’t go back.” was probably speaking from countless heartbreaking attempts.
As I’ve returned to many of my original stomping grounds, I find that most things are best left to memory and the mystique many things and places held when we were young impressionable and somewhat fearless. Things definitely felt a lot bigger back then. Something that helped us grow up and mature. And while there’s no diminishing the risks we took and the element of danger we were always drawn to. I feel very lucky to have taken chances and not letting those fears get the best of me. In the end, I’m happy to be able to recall so many adventures from younger years. Like my wife always says. “Maybe one day you’ll write that book.”
It never fails. Whenever I enter a record store, it happens. Something, whether it be a song, a record, a shirt or any exchange regarding music. A connection is made. From my days as a teen working in a record store or m\y visits to record stores in any town, city or country I’ve visited.
During my first days in Seattle I found myself in a small record shop talking to a native New Yorker who did time on the early New York Hardcore scene. He pointed himself out in a Live DVD of the first Bad Brains show at CBGB’s. Later on that week I struck up a conversation with another employee who used to volunteer at the legendary Gilman St. Project. Just last week I was pulling records out of the bin when I learned that the clerk behind the counter was also originally from New York City and worked at a record store just a few blocks from the one off St. Marks St. where I was working nights.
Then there was this Sunday when I visited a record store a mere block away from where my wife and I had just devoured delicious servings of chicken and waffles. I had been to this particular store numerous times when I first settled in the area and had always found something to my liking. On this day, as I took my stash to the counter. I noticed the clerk was wearing a shirt from the surf rock superhero band Daikaiju. I pointed out the shirt and asked when/where he had seen them. Adding that I had had the pleasure of seeing them up close at a bar in Brooklyn, NY.
In late 2017 I found a kindred spirit while talking music with the record guru at a local West Seattle record store. and found myself in deep conversation could go on and on with countless stories regarding friends and relationships that began while visiting record stores or going to shows, but I’ll spare you of my never ending tales of geekdom. Instead, I offer this images of the mighty Daikaiju from their show at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn, NY.