Monday, October 24, 2011

Father time

The Casa Grande Arizona scenery is as follows: cactus, desert, mountain, and cactus. I’m eight and we’ve been driving through Case Grande cotton fields for more than hour. My dad told me not to go to school that day. I didn’t know why. I guess he wanted me to see how much of a fucking pain in the ass it is to work at a cotton field. Which believe me, is one of the reason I avoid physical labor to this day. He was only checking the meters, but the farm workers sure as hell were doing more. Suddenly I wanted to go back to school.

         “Dad. Am I supposed to be learning something here?”

         “No. We’re going to the zoo.”

My little kid excitement rose to unequivocal levels.

        “Just don’t tell your brother or sister. They actually have stuff to learn in School. You’re in third grade. There’s nothing to learn there.”

       “So we’re going to the zoo?”

       “Well I have to take someone to the zoo.”

I still didn’t get it. For some reason my dad thought it absolutely necessary to go the zoo. Maybe he needed an excuse to not check every goddamn farm meter in the middle of the desert that day. Either way. We were going to the zoo.

Until the van cracked to a halt.

The van cracked and burst into a smoked up hood of despair and ruined dreams. I was about upset as a kid promised tigers and giraffes would be, but the sorrowful expression on my father’s face was what surprised me. I wasn’t as upset as he was. I could see it. He really wanted to have a good day, something nice, without error, just him and me. When the van broke down two miles from anywhere close I saw it all over him. He sat there in forlorn glum as I watched him think.
“Stay here” he said, and stepped outside to perform miracles on a van that didn’t have any left. Eventually, after many expletives, I hopped outside to check the progress. My dad slammed the hood shut and looked me up and down.

        “I hope you have your walking shoes on.”

         “I only have one pair of shoes.”

So we walked.  And when I couldn’t keep up I rode on top my dad’s broad shoulders. He probably carried me over a half a mile until we reached a gas station just off some deserted Arizona freeway. We ate packaged apple pies and popsicles as he shopped for just the right equipment to fix a fifteen-year-old van. And then we walked back. This time I wouldn’t let him carry me. I swear to god I was going to make it. I was going to make it if my life intended on it. Lets just say I made it.

My dad fixed the van with popsicle to spare. If it was the summertime I’m convinced we would have been dead by heat stroke. But it wasn’t and it was still early. Early enough for the zoo.

It was fucking feeding day for the tigers.

This is the greatest memory I have of my dad. As a man that could do anything, weather all storms, do things just because he wanted to. He carried an eight-year-old boy over a half a mile, fixed our van In the middle of the desert, worked half a day at the cotton fields, and managed to get to the zoo before they closed down the reptile cave.

This memory has been there for my entire life. As clear as something that happened to me yesterday.  It’s been engraved as the Image I came to recognize being my father’s actual personality.  Something that was real as father to son. Something you only get once in a lifetime.

This memory was there before he taught me the art of playing 5-card draw, and it was there before he made fun of me for refusing to eat Hawaiian Shaved Ice.

            “It’s like a snow cone but better. I don’t see what you’re problem is?”

This memory was there before he attended every single one of my baseball games, and it was there before his habitual heckling got me kicked off my middle school team.

This memory was there before my friend Chris and I witnessed my mom pealing out of the driveway with a socket wrench flying towards her and a crescent wrench putting out her pick-up truck’s left taillight. This was way before he chased down her truck at three in the afternoon wearing tube socks and a grateful dead T-shirt.

This was before my parents fought for three years straight, debating bankruptcy, divorce, and how much money was just too much money to gamble with.

This memory was before I started binge drinking in high school, and long before my teenage self decided to stop respecting both parties that raised me. This was before my parents loved, hated, and re-loved each other.

I had this memory before my parents got old. Before my mom retired.  Before we moved to small town nowhere.

It was there when we bought my first car, and when I decided I was moving to California three weeks after graduating high school. It was there when I said, “Adios bitches” and got in the car that my dad and I picked out 2 years prior. A 97’ Monte Carlo.

It was there when I kissed them both good bye and said I will probably never move back without the unfortunate circumstance of accidental children. It was there when I watched them in my rear view mirror watching me leave.

This memory lasted through everything.

This is before I was hardened with actual bills and some resemblance of understanding adult decisions. Understanding as much as a twenty-some can actually understand, but whom am I kidding?

This memory lasted until I had a 6 in the morning phone call that I rolled over to ignore. I fell back to sleep almost as I pushed the button. I dreamed I was eating an apple pie and watching my dad fix the van.

This dream lasted until I woke up to perpetual knocking on my bedroom door and my Uncle whispering something about bad news.

This one memory of my father lasted until my twenty-one year old man body got out of bed, stopped before my bedroom door and dropped. I dropped and cried for the first time in years. I don’t remember stopping.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pepperonis and Olives

Fuck I’m nervous. I’m seventeen and I’m fucking nervous.  Seventeen year olds shouldn’t be fucking nervous. What do seventeen year-olds have to be nervous about? Late homework? Whether or not you can get Ellisa Summers to give you a handy in the back of her Chevy? How many beers you can pound before doing something that you’ll regret? Seventeen year-olds have it made. Then why am I so fucking nervous?

The internal monologue runs through my head incessantly. It’s the reason why I spent my entire life being fifteen minutes early to everything. I never know how long it will last, but it usually lasts. I guess that’s my problem. I’ve always cared way too much of what people think of me. Other than my unmistakable good looks it’s probably my biggest Achilles heel. It fucks with me, stabs at me, pushes me into endless overthinking and analyzing that has ruined or complicated every relationship I’ve ever been in. That’s probably why I drink. I could use a drink.

I’m seventeen and I need a drink. I’m seventeen and I’m worrying about starting a job at Pizza Hut. It’s pepperonis and olives, how hard can it be?

I walk into the building five minutes late. It’s small, one room. They only do take out.

A small, stocky man, stumbles into the room. I can tell by his stubble that he’s a little bit older than me, but not by much.

             “What’s up motherfucker? My name’s Leroy.”

              “Hi. I’m West.”

              “West? More like East.”

Of course I can’t introduce my name without hearing at least one compass joke. Original and witty compass jokes have become the opening initiation to about fifty percent of the people I have ever met.

                “I’m just fuckin’ wit ya.”

                 “I get it all the time.”

                 “Yo, you smoke bud?"

                "Bud? Weed? You smoke weed man.”

                “Pot. Yeah. I mean.. Sure, all the time.”

I have never before smoked Marijuana but holy fucking hell did it interest me. Most of my friends were already smoking pot but for some reason I have been reluctant to try it. I could put down a twelve pack to myself by the time I was sixteen but for some reason I never smoked weed. I was picking my moment I guess. Choosing my time to shine.
                  “You want to smoke?”

                  “What if the Supervisor sees us?’

                   “I’m the fuckin’ supervisor dog.”

Of course, Leroy was the supervisor. I’ve spent fifteen minutes of my life overanalyzing a pizza hut ran by a pothead named Leroy. This shit always happens to me. I worry for nothing. Everything pans out. Fuck, I’ve never smoked weed before. Why did I lie? Fuck, what if he notices and doesn’t like me? What if he thinks I’m a giant puss bag? Why do I even care if Leroy likes me?

Leroy and I discreetly walk into the vegetable freezer. The giant walk in freezer was Leroy’s smoking room. He pulls out a massive bong from behind the green peppers.

                  “Nobody eats green peppers.”  Leroy says

                     “Why not?”

                     “Because they taste like shit high.”

I guess that made sense.

Leroy packs the bowl of the bong well. Well I think it’s packed well, but what the fuck do I know? He puts a lot of weed in there. As he lights the stem I wonder what it tastes like. He inhales, pulls the bowl, and inhales even deeper. “Holy shit”, I think, this guy is going to die from smoke inhalation. He’s like an oven vacuum. No, he’s way cooler than an oven vacuum. He’s like a dragon.

                    “Your turn.”

What did he do again? He lit what? Pulled what? Did he smoke first? No don’t be an idiot he pulled then smoked. No fuck! He inhaled, pulled, inhaled. Is that right?

The door handle turns.

                “Fuck!” Yells Leroy has he hides the bong behind his back.       

                 “I knew you’d be in here you fucking toker bitch.”

A kid no older than me walks in. He was hardly a kid. Much larger. Much less nervous. Clearly he was way cooler than I could be. Hawkish. Fonzi like. He was the Pizza Hut employee I yearned to become. The cool guy.

Leroy exhales.

               “Fuuuckk, Frank you scared the shit out of me yo!”

               “Who the fuck is this guy?” Frank spit.
  “He’s West. He’s cool.”

Oh thank god. I’m cool. Am I cool because I’m generally awesome, or cool because we’re smoking pot in the pizza hut freezer?

      “West. Like the fucking compass?”

      “Yeah. Like North.”

Leroy hands him the bong.

I pay close attention.

Frank lights the bong and breathes in much deeper than Leroy. He makes Leroy look amateurish. Then he pulls the stem and inhales a mile long drag of what’s probably going to be great tasting marijuana. But what do I know? If Leonard is the dragon Frank’s the fire demon.

     “Your turn.” Franks coughs.


I grab the bong. Look at them both. They cough; look me dead in the eyes. I can do this. I take the lighter, put my mouth to the bong and light. I drag. Drag even more. I pull the stem and inhale for what feels like an hour, but in reality it’s more like three seconds. I’m a natural.

     “Oh shit he’s going to be so high!” shouts Leroy

I exhale into a fit of coughing. Loud, boisterous, uncontrollable coughing. It’s bringing back memories of child hood asthma and reminding me why I never wanted to smoke. Asthma, who fucking needs it?

  “Dude. You are like my hero.” Frank mutters.

I feel like shit, my chest is pounding, aching terribly. My head hurts, I want to pass out. Why do people do this?

Leroy checks his watch.

 “Goddamnit, we have an order at eleven. Delivery and shit.”

I cough and smoke trails out parts of my lungs I didn’t know I had. Leroy slaps me on the back.
                  “You alright?”

Am I all right? No. I’m probably having a heart attack right now. I’m going to pass out and die right here in the pizza hut freezer. I’m seventeen, I’m nervous, and I’m going to die in a freezer.

I suppress my coughing fit.

                   “Yeah man. Feeling good.”

Leroy moves about the pizza hut like a fucking mastermind. Orders come in and they come to me. People come in, more orders come in, and they come to me. It’s ten in the morning and people are ordering pizza like you’re suppose to have it for breakfast. The bagel bite commercial really changed the pizza culture. How much bacon goes on a meat lovers? Two cups? Oh god where are the measuring cups? Fuck it. Use you’re hands.

More people come in.

How much sauce do you put on a pizza with extra sauce? It seems so simple but god does that pizza look delicious.

More orders come in. It’s ten past ten, but it feels like an hour has gone by. I’ve must have made fifteen pizzas, but I guess I’ve only made three.

Frank walks to the oven.

“About time pussy.” Frank mutters as he packs the pizza and gets ready for delivery.

“I’m high.”

“I know.”

“How much sauce goes on a pizza with extra sauce?”

“Just put more sauce on it”

He had a point. So I smothered the motherfucker. He left with the delivery. Damn that pizza smells good. Maybe If I had just one pepperoni it would be OK. Just one little pepperoni and then I’ll make more pizza. Little did I know that one pepperoni quickly turned to three pepperonis, and then it turned to various make table creations. Munchies suddenly made sense to me. I didn’t even know I was high until I saw Leroy standing by the table looking at me like a kid at the zoo.

Shit, how long has he been standing there?

            “You’ve been doing terrible.”

            “Sorry man, I’ll get better”
            “Good. Quit eating all the fucking pepperonis.”

            “I didn’t even know I was doing it.”

Leroy walks away and I continue to make pizza. They all look so delicious. I don’t understand how Leroy can work here, smoke weed, and not eat any of the pizza. It seems like an impossible task only a fire dragon can master. Leroy the fire dragon. Leroy the dragon of Aragon. Leroy, the master dragon of all the dragons. Fuck I’m high. I’m high and I can’t stop thinking about dragons. And pizza

Leroy approaches.

            “I’m taking a smoke break.”

            “You’re smoking again?”

            “Cigarettes. You smoke?”

            “Cigarettes? Yeah. Of course. All the time.”

            “I only do it for the breaks. I’ll meet you outside.”

Leroy walks outside and I help myself to another round of pepperonis and olives. And then I realize I don’t have cigarettes. In fact, I have never once smoked a cigarette in my entire life. I lied again. Fucking hell, what is Leroy trying to do to me, get me addicted to cigarettes and pot on the same day? Can you even be addicted to pot? You can be addicted to pizza that’s for sure.

I put the last pizza in the oven. It looks phenomenal. The people that ordered it are brilliant. Meatballs? Why didn’t I think of that?

I start walking outside. I stop, gather myself, and stare at the dirty dishtowel hanging upside down in a pool of sanitizer. Or is it right side up?

Fuck I’m high.
I’m seventeen years old and I’m terribly high.