Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Day 23: Enough camel cash to purchase a Turkish Harem…my twenty year tryst with tobacco (b.)

He was jaded gen-x slacker and a hard core autodidact. He had greasy unkempt hair and looked like he hadn’t showered since the first Reagan administration as a protest against the Iran-contra affair. You always saw him reading a book while nonchalantly lounging in a coffee shop, Zen and the art of motorcycle Maintenance, which I imagined was something like Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky.

He wrote songs, guzzled Rolling Rock and cheap coffee, quoted Gregory Corso from memory, was as promiscuous as he was materialistically enervated and  intellectually erudite, didn’t shave, sported a sandpaper goatee that looked like the abandoned 40oz littered little league baseball diamond behind my high school;  surreptitiously waded his laundry into his roommates stash to avoid paying for a wash.


He was a jester. He was witty as shit, couldn't hold down a steady menial paying job to wipe his ass with. He was a emblem for anti-yuppie hood. The insouciant social-avatar who gave the finger to  a corporate Americana soused in suburbia and mired in materialism.

  He was Troy Dyer and he was the poetic pinnacle of coolness.
And oh, during the 99 minutes of Reality Bites flashed across the screen you rarely saw him pontificating his ideologies without a cigarette in paw.

I wanted to be Troy Dyer.

When I saw Before Sunrise the following year and when I saw that Ethan Hawke wrote a book and scribed a eulogy for Allen Ginsberg and used the word ‘dilettante’ I wanted to be Ethan Hawke. When I read that he hooked up and later married Uma Thurman I deemed him the coolest creature possessing a penis on this planted next to, of course, Johnny Depp, who was immortal chain smoker as well.

Who says the Youth of today aren't impressionable as shit. 

I was sixteen years old when Reality Bites slacked into the sticky seat cushions of theatres. I more than likely saw it on one of our Friday night outings with Hale and Pat (and later Joseph Whitby and David Strickler) where we would always do Maid Rite and a Movie. I was saving up to return to Europe.   Thanks largely to my high school English teachers the great Larry Reents and Mr. the immeasurable Ron Diamond, was beginning to write seriously. During our weekly Maid-Rite and a movie jaunts I would saunter into the original Willow Tree Books, pillaging the poetry section, drooling over the porcelain skin and black hair of the girl who worked their named Rachel who dropped out of Southern would play enya, George Winston and Tori Amos over the store speakers while one perused and endless columns of narrative-trussed  vertically placed rectangular volumes of bliss.

I was just a little bit in love every time I shook her ivory hand.   

  I kept a journal. I was still a hard-core Christian. I didn’t curse. I can every day. Nights before track and cross-country meets I would drop to the caps of my knees supplicating to an overtly WASPish variation of a Christian deity that the flashing neon slashes would correlate with my expectant goals (note: they never did). I was still an upper four-forty miler at best and could hang with the legendary prep  Adam White and future Olympian Tim Broe the first two laps with ease before the anatomical pistons of my thighs would trudge and founder leading into the third ellipse.  I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting faster. I started chiseling my thought into a sheath of paper, my handwriting, resembling Ogham slits. I was questioning everything. I was listening to more Morrissey than could have possibly been salubrious for my teen-age angst-riddled longevity. I was good but my mile time no longer improved to state qualifying caliber regardless how hard I worked. I vowed to work even harder. I developed stress fracture in both my femurs. I still said ‘fuck it!’ I pushed myself into an aircast and still competing.

 I refused to fail.

 One night after a meet I came home and the evening news (all AP students were required to watch the evening news) was agog with illuminated effigy's burning like bonfires from Seattle.

Kurt Cobain was no more. 


I continues to fail as an athlete. While busting my ass I continued to fall on it. I was writing more and more every day, mostly journals, but a few poems. The first poem I remember writing was a very DC Talk save-the-friable youth of today poem entitled ‘WOULD YOU LOSE A CONDOM WITH A CROSS ON IT?”  I was again, prepping for a summer in Europe where I would see Holland and Germany and Paris as well as return to England. I was dancing in the show choir at Manual. I was running, dreaming of the proverbial next year being my year. I was still reading everything I could mustering my itchy little paws on. I had discovered Walt Whitman. When TS Eliot was blathering on about afternoons and coffee spoons and patients being etherized across a either a table or a spread out sky I thought he was blathering frilly poesy’s just to me. Somehow, almost overnight without my knowledge more of my friends started smoking. It was some time during that spring that I took my first drag, only I didn’t inhale for when I tried, I yakked like there was no tomorrow. no tomorrow, which, of course, felt like my future as an athlete at that time.

I was also trying to grow my hair long.  When my father (who died 12 years ago t’day, God rest his soul!!!) told me that if I intended on growing my hair long I could not use the car I retorted why, reminding him that Jesus had long hair.

“Yeah, Jesus did a lot of walking too, son.” My father, in all his benevolent banter informed me.

I got a haircut fast, but I was able to keep it like a greaser, a la Ethan Hawke.

I went several days without bathing until my sister Beth complained of the smell. When I tried conveying to my mom that Jesus smelled to she handed me a bar of soap and told me to pretend that I was baptizing myself in the Jordan river complements of the upstairs shower.


Also, there was ONE WORLD, which opened up two years before. It was known as ONE WORLD COFFEE AND CARGO. They sold cool jewelry and grungy tye-dyed and hemp associated bric-a-brac at the entrance. It was always swamped when you entered. Back in spring ’93 ACME COMICS (home of CO-OP records before Campus town to all you corn-chippers who used to listen to the CURE while cruising up and down the arteries of Main Street in the late 80’s) was next door where the dining area is now. Upstairs where the apartments are now was the bathroom and a room where everyone went to get high. It was a bohemian mecca. They had plays, held open mic poetry reading. In the back where the bar is now was a room furnished with bookshelves fraught with poetry and philosophic tomes of insight. Fuck, you felt like an artist just by entering the place.

Plus, you could smoke. You had to. Everyone inside the shoe-box sized emporium of intellect was haplessly lighting up. Unless you were the size of a fire hydrant no one was going to card you. It was almost your duty to inhale.

Still with the exception of an intermittent puff, I would refrain. My friend Patrick McReynolds would tirelessly chide me insisting that every time he bummed me a smoke  off me I would just let it dangle between my lips as if I were blind folded awaiting the fusillade of  bullets to dibble me to my untimely demise.

At Hale’s all night 16th birthday bash that year we left the front porch on McKinley and traipsed to the playground behind Bartonville school. We clambered the monkey bars and everyone started smoking. Even Hale, who would later develop a classical propensity for  cigars but you would never see him touch a cigarette for the life of him today. Hale had a friend named Randall Taylor who was two years older and who Patrick was able to use for tobacco-purchasing procedures (sir).  I refused to smoke.  Patrick tried offering me one then stated that I would only feign to be inhaling anyoldways.  Two years’ earlier we were scaling the chipped  rungs on the Yellow Monkey Bars outside Christ Lutheran School role-playing vicarious super heroic sojourns and now, we were smoking. We had our drivers’ license.

I was still focused on becoming a world class athlete. I refrained from smoking but europe would change all that.

Europe and Lums on Western and (oh, yes) the taste of my very first damn fine cigars. The whirlwind accelerated velocity and scent of youth was awaiting me.


I just had to cross an ocean, first.

No comments:

Post a Comment