The Cruel Irony from the Family Called "Brown"

Three years ago, my grandparents — the Browns – removed me from the family. My younger sister, who was 16 at the time, hit a rough patch in her life and, dreading embarassment for the entire family because of her, my grandparents acted. They understood the drugs and they understood the alcohol (teenagers will be teenagers, after all). But when Gail gave birth at the young age of 16 to a black baby (my niece, Keira), that was the final straw. Instead of supporting my sister and showing a little heart, they chastised her and shunned her (a cruel irony from the family named Brown, if you ask me). They continued speaking to my mother (their daughter), but only out of spite — they ridiculed her, manipulated her, and insulted her parenting. Mom wouldn’t stand for it, so she shunned them in return.

That left me.

When I first moved to DeKalb for university, I still had a relationship with my grandparents. In fact, during that Spring semester, I received a D in a class because my professor refused to allow me to retake the final that I missed, so my beligerent grandmother called the department chair and demanded an explanation (turns out, my professor never asked if allowing me to take the final was okay)! A few months later, when the worst of my sister’s problems was coming into fruition, Grandma emailed me, saying, “Whenever you have time, Deda and I would like to come visit your new apartment and have you take us on a campus tour!” I wrote her back: “If you don’t have time for my mom, my sister, or my new niece, then I don’t have time for you.” And that was the last I’ve heard from them since.

About a week ago, I was talking with my cousin, Katy. Her family’s going through some rough times (as is mine, coincidentally), but is trying to save face and act like everything is normal and hunky dory. She told me that both her mom and her dad are going to our grandparents house for Christmas, even though they are in the midst of a separation. “It’s going to be really awkward,” she said. “You should come over just to experience that!”

“Oh, yes, because my presence there will calm everything down!” I replied.

My cousin is a really great kid. She’s four years my minor (the same as my sister — they were born three months apart) and one of the most mature 19 year olds I’ve met in quite some time. She and I truly represent the future of our family. When our grandparents inevitably pass on, there will be a generational void to assemble all of us together for holidays and birthdays and other sorts of familial gatherings. My mother and her mother have a sordid past and, even though my aunt has reached out to our family in our time of need, ignoring the wishes of her parents, her offers of help have fallen on deaf ears with her sister. They don’t talk anymore — at all. So when the Browns are no longer with us, it truly will be up to Katy and I to “assemble the troops,” as it were.

“Well, it’ll still be awkward, but at least they’d be happy to see you,” said Katy.

“I’ll tell you what — call up the Browns and ask them if they’d mind if I came over,” I said. “Because I do kind of want to see everyone again — especially you and your family. But I have a feeling they’re still upset with me.”

After Katy called and spoke with them, it turns out they do want me to come. They also said they’d enjoy it if my mom, youngest sister and stepdad came. However, Gail and Keira were not invited. They are still unhappy with her and, though they claim their reasoning is that they just don’t want Gail’s drug culture and gang lifestyle around the other kids who will be there, I still believe they see Gail as an embarrassment. That will be a deal-breaker for my mom — I know it will. That was what made her turn her back on her parents all those years ago — their incapacity to empathize, their heartlessness, and their inability to offer any sort of help.

And so it seems as though nothing has really changed. I hoped that my grandparents were building a bridge to reconciliation, but as it turns out, they’re still burning it down.


Top of the Pops -- 2008

Here we are in December — the end of yet another year. With that in mind, it is time to reflect on all of the things that made 2008 such a great year. This is a yearly segment I like to call Top of the Pops: The Year In Review.

2008 was a historic year: the price of gasoline got to its highest point in our nation’s history and, within weeks, went to its lowest price in the past four or five years. Barack Obama, our nation’s first African-American president-elect, was voted into office. The unemployment rate is the highest it has been since the Great Depression. Michael Phelps broke the record for most gold medals in one year at the summer Olympics in Beijing. Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested for attempting to sell a Senate seat for his own financial gain (God be praised that slimeball was finally stopped! Illinois has got to get back on track!). Guns & Roses finally released the long-awaited Chinese Democracy album (it only took Axl 17 years and it still sucks!).

But all of these things aside, there is one thing that matters more to me than anything else in the world: the music releases. With all of the history that was made in 2008, were artists able to supply a perfect soundtrack for it all? Was the music exciting and original? Did it push boundaries or redefine the definition of art? Or was the music of 2008 stagnant and dreadfully dull?

As usual, these year’s top 15 releases was hard for me to choose because, quite frankly, I didn’t have a lot of great material to choose from. As far as legendary years in the music industry, I’d just as soon leave 2008 behind and look forward to 2009 (some mighty fine releases are scheduled next year). What was most heartbreaking was that 2007 was such an incredible year. I was really looking forward to 2008 just based on the couple of bands that I knew had stuff scheduled to come out this year; bands like Coldplay, U2, Franz Ferdinand, My Morning Jacket, and The Killers.

First, U2 and Franz Ferdinand both pushed their album release dates to 2009. There were rumors that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was going to surprise us this year, but that also never happened. Then Rivers Cuomo surprised us once again by reuniting Weezer to release another eponymous album — Weezer (Red). After hearing the first single, “Pork & Beans,” I got really pumped up because, to me, that song was kind of reminiscent of the acoustic grunge sound they had on their debut. Silly me — I should’ve known that Rivers’s larger-than-life ego would once again get in the way of great music. In a most triumphant fashion, Weezer recovered from the dibachle that was Make Believe and rose back up to a level I call “moderately awful.”

Speaking of larger than life egos, Coldplay released a new album this year! I’ve always been a fan of Coldplay. Let me say that straight away. As much as I would love to hate them, I can’t deny how incredibly talented they are. That being said, I was so happy when they told the world that their new release would sound radically different than anything they had ever done. To me, this was good news! Because it seems that Coldplay started off on the right foot — a good between sound amongst Radiohead and U2. Their second release was a bit more radio friendly, but still had that bizarre sonic edge. Their third album seemed more like a greatest hits compilation as every song could have been released as a single. It was good, better than most other bands could achieve, but disappointing coming from them. So you can imagine my chagrin when, after listening to Viva La Vida I realized that Coldplay really hadn’t done anything new — even for them.

Peter Gabriel released a new album this year (after a six year hiatus). Before his last release, he had waited 11 years between albums and vowed he’d never make his fans wait that long again. I am assuming that worrying he would break his vow, Gabriel released Big Blue Ball. I should’ve known the album would blow big blue balls just based on the title. It breaks the scheme of his eight previous releases: 1, 2, 3, Security, So, Up, Ovo, & Us. Three words in the title?? Come on, Peter! The good news is that this album isn’t a complete Peter Gabriel album — it’s a compilation of demos he found laying around in his studio that date all the way back to the early 90s. Better news yet is that the best songs on there are Gabriel numbers. All is not lost it seems!

Finally, Kanye West released his highly anticipated follow up to Graduation. Now many of you might be wondering how Kanye could possibly top the enormous success and pure genius of Graduation. Simply enough, he didn’t. In fact, 808s & Heartbreaks is quite possibly one of the worst albums I have ever heard. Yes, the production is great — it’s a Kanye album! He’s an amazing producer! But, here’s the bottom line: Kanye sings. He SINGS. If there’s one thing Kanye should never do, it’s sing. Kanye and R&B do not mix. At all.

But without any further ado, here we go and away we go!

First, the Top 5 Honorable Mentions:

5) Electric Arguments, The Fireman (Paul McCartney)
4) A Hundred Million Suns, Snow Patrol
3) Skeletal Lamping, Of Montreal
2) Seeing Sounds, N.E.R.D.
1) Evil Urges, My Morning Jacket

And now, here they are — the Top of the Pops from 2008:

10) Narrow Stairs, Death Cab for Cutie

9) Everything that Happens Will Happen Today, David Byrne & Brian Eno

8) Viva La Vida, Coldplay

7) Volume 1, She & Him (Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward)

6) The Stand Ins, Okkervil River

5) Modern Guilt, Beck

4) Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

3) Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

2) For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver

1) með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Sigur Ros


The Darjeeling Limited

The past few days, I’ve been watching the Wes Anderson films. Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Tonight, I’m watching The Darjeeling Limited.

The movies chronicles the journeys of three brothers who are travelling, by train, through India. It is the story of how the three reconcile after a year of silence that proceeds their father’s death and their spiritual and physical journeys to discover themselves and each other.

The movie means a lot to me. All of Wes Anderson’s movies resonate with me, but this one, in particular, touches a part of me that is sensitive.

I’m an only child. I have two half-sisters, but I don’t have any siblings that I share all of my blood, all of my genetics, all of my life with. Gail is my oldest sister — 19 — and my youngest sister is 15 years my minor — she’s only 8. Her name is Morgan. They too are half-sisters. Our mother has been married four times and the three of us all have different fathers.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a brother. I don’t know what it’s like to have another man in my life who I live with, compete with, grow with, mature with, fight with, argue with, and team up with. While other boys in my neighborhood were in their backyards wrestling or playing ball or building forts adorned with signs that say “No girls allowed,” I was standing alone, barefoot in the grass, with a ball and nobody to throw it to.

My father attempted to fill that gap in my life as best he could. We wrestled on the living room floor, played catch, talked about girls at school. I appreciate his effort and I love him all the more for it, but that isn’t a father’s role in a boy’s life. We both knew that.

I’ve always wanted a brother, though. Sometimes, I thought that maybe I did have a brother. I was convinced that he had been taken, removed, abducted. Perhaps by his own volition, even.

* * * *

Baseball cards on the spokes of the wheels.
Sit atop my handle bars, on parade in the
Wave to the people, wave to the people.

Bloodied my lip in the backyard,
muddied my slacks in the backyard,
studied the way the blue meets the green in the backyard.

And when the sun kissed the horizon,
we’d spend the night writing poetry on walls with crayons.

I’m the one who got the beating.
I’m the one who ended up being
the scapegoat
for all our silly games.

* * * *

My stepmom’s sister has two sons, Tom and Eric. When I was a kid, living with my dad and stepmom in Joliet, I used to go over to there house all the time, just to hang out. I helped Eric with his paper route, Tom helped me understand the importance of relief pitching. They came to my house to swim in my pool during the summers, we played street hockey and baseball the rest of the time.

They were the closest I had to brothers at the time. I don’t even talk to them anymore. Not even when we’re sitting right next to each other.

Last year, I was homeless for six months. I lived in my best friend’s family’s guest room because all of his family wanted me to stay in DeKalb, rather than move home to Yorkville. His name is Tim–I’ve known him now for three years. Tim has three brothers: Ryan, Aaron, and Joshua. These four guys are tight. They’re bonded together and are inseparable. They have each others’ backs and are always the first to stand up for one another, even though I have seen them get into it themselves on more than one occasion.

The time I spent with them… There are mixed reviews from both parties represented. I know my presence wasn’t easy on them and, for that, I am eternally ashamed. I’ve never meant to be a burden on anyone, I’ve never wanted to be, and I hate it when I feel like I am. At the same time, I think my presence was partially a blessing. At least I hope it was. Tim and I always felt like brothers before I moved in. We hung out all the time, had deep heart to hearts, and yes, fought and argued. But we always had each other’s back, too. I think everyone knew that if they wanted to mess with Tim, they had to mess with me too. Of course, Tim also had three other brothers to back him up. So it’s fairly obvious that no one really messes with Tim.

Sadly, just like my step-cousins before them, I don’t really talk with them anymore. The saddest part of that saga, is that our lack of communication isn’t for lack of trying. We’ve just drifted apart. And as much as I wanted them to be in my life, as much as I wanted them to be brothers, we’re at different parts of the road.

Jeff is another man that I consider a best friend. We worked together a few years back at a Christian bookstore in Oswego. He and I became really close during our time there. Business was usually slow and when it was, he and I would walk around the store picking up books, chatting, and reading excerpts to each other. We learned a lot together, our faiths grew together, and we came to understand the real meaning of having a relationship with Christ in that store. When Jeff got married, he asked me to be his best man. It’s funny — as much as I was hoping he would ask me, I kind of figured he wouldn’t. Just because he has brothers and friends he’s known longer than he has me. But he asked me. Of course I said I would. And I did.

After his wedding, though, he started fulfilling his role as a husband and family man and we, too, drifted apart. Fortunately, he and I are drifting towards each other again. So many things have transpired in the year of silence and we have so much to catch up on, but, like The Darjeeling Limited, I’m looking forward to the spiritual journey it will take for us to discover ourselves and each other.

Now, I have three more brothers — my Bros: Tim, Dustin, and John. These guys mean the world to me. Tim and Dustin are both married, John is engaged. Dustin and his wife are even expecting, right now. Their daughter will be born in the next few weeks and I’m looking forward to being an uncle, even if it is only by association. We all have different goals for our lives and none of them really match up. If all goes as planned, the three of them will be living in Illinois, a few hours away from each other, and I’ll be living in Ireland, almost a full day away from my brothers.

As much as I don’t want it to happen, I imagine we’ll drift apart too. And like the three brothers in The Darjeeling Limited, we’re all going to have to make the effort to stay Brothers, “the way we used to be.”


Where Were We...?

This morning, I woke up the same way I always wake up: slowly, painfully, and with an attitude of regret. I stumbled my way into the bathroom, threw back the shower curtain, started up the water, and, while I waited for it to heat up, I stared at myself in the mirror. The disheveled hair, the bewildered look on my face as I squinted under the bright lights just above the medicine cabinet.

There’s something wrong with the drain in my bathtub — in that it doesn’t drain. It doesn’t matter how much Drano I pour down there or how many times I’ve plunged it, the water will not go down the drain as immediately as it should. So, every morning, I stand in the shower and let the water rise until it’s almost up to my knees, then I turn off the water and dry off. On a positive note, the water accumulation does sort of act like a timer. “That water is up to your knees! Time to towel off and go to work!”

My morning oatmeal is tasteless, at best, but I still eat it. I have a unique way of enjoying my breakfast — I hold the bowl of oatmeal in my left hand and my spoon in my right and I watch cars pull into my office’s parking lot from my living room window. That’s right — I live across the street from my job. What’s nice about it, though, is that I walk across the street and I’m at work.

My work routine is always the same, too. I don’t mean to mimic Office Space or whatever, but a lot of the rituals the main character talks about in his daily work schedule are true to life. Much like him, I spend the first hour of my shift drinking my Earl Grey, checking my emails, and staring at my desk and pretending to be busy. Then, once I tire of listening to my coworker chomp and chew and swallow whatever the hell she’s eating, I put on my headphones and drift into a world of background music.

The entire day is a blur of advertisements, emails, proofs, and post-it notes. At the end of it, I look at the bins to see what I’ve accomplished and I never fail to find that, really, I’ve accomplished nothing. The bins were full when I walk in, the bins are full when I walk out.

Most nights, I go to the gym immediately after work for a couple hours. Then I drive home, surf the Net for a while, watch a few episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” and call it a night, only to be greeted by the rising waters in my tub the next morning.

* * * * *

Today, at work, a few guys and I moved desks around — giant, oak desks. Why? Company didn’t want them anymore. Drawers didn’t slide out all the way and they had scratches and dings on the surface. So we hauled them out to the dumpster. I mean, sure we could have donated them or even put them on the corner and waited for someone to pick them up (which, in this neighborhood, would take all of a few hours), but we just threw them away.

I took one piece of the mighty oak desk, lifted it over my head, and chucked it against the corner of the dumpster so that I could break it into smaller pieces that would better fit inside the dumpster. And as I watched, with much glee, the mighty desk explode into several pieces, something inside me untied, enabling me to leave my life even for just a few seconds so that I could see it for what it really is (or, more accurately, isn’t).

I never thought I’d be here at this point in my life. I know that’s sort of a cliche thing to say and all, but I can’t think of another way to say it. When I was in high school, my future was mapped out. After university, I was going to be married at the ripe age of 23, living in Ireland and working in a coffee shop or going for a Master’s degree. There was no other option for me. I knew what I wanted and I knew all the steps to take to make that happen. The only thing, though, is that dreams seldom match up with reality.

Before you know it, you’re done with University, living alone in a town that you despise with a dead-end job that means nothing to you, and little to no money. The dreams that once shone brilliantly in the front of your mind are still there, but dimming and recessing into the darker corners of your brain over time.

As far as I can tell, Ireland is still there. But it seems like it’s drifting into the horizon.

Granted, I’m only 23. I realize that I still have most (hopefully) of my life ahead of me and that no dream is too far gone. But it’s terribly difficult not to lose faith, not to lose hope, not to lose my grasp of reality and slip into some middle-class, middle-aged, work-induced coma.

All around me at my office I see people who have already fallen victim to that disease. These people who seemingly have nothing to live for anymore because they’re zombies! Staring at their computer screens, staring at their desks, staring at post-it notes, never blinking, never thinking. Everything is boiled down to science and routine. It’s like we’re living in the matrix, to quote an old friend. We’re all plugged into this way of thinking–this… survival mode, if you will. All we’re doing is surviving! We’re not truly living, we’re just barely scraping by! We work and we work and we work and live in these fake, phony professional lives that never add up to anything.

I want out. I want to unplug myself. I want to remember what it’s like to breathe without life support keeping me hanging on.

I want to throw out all the customer proofs that clutter that my office, all the computers, all the printers, all the cubicles, and smash the desk that I cozy up to from 9am-6pm everyday into tiny pieces against the corner of a dumpster and just leave it all.

Then, I will walk across the street back to my apartment, watch a DVD, and write a blog about my shit life. But that’s why I live a shit life, isn’t it?

What else would there be to blog about?


The First Snowfall


It’s only sodding October and it’s already snowing here in the greater Chicagoland area. It started yesterday afternoon, stopped for a full day’s time, then started up again this afternoon. I had the distinct privilege of being able to watch it from my office window well (that’s right–my office’s glorious window view of the world outside is in a window well). Half of the walls in my office are ordinary drywall, the other two are concrete slabs. These two walls, obviously, provide no insulation, so my office is constantly a refrigerator. I really can’t wait until winter fully sets in and the temperature drops to 10 and 20 degrees below zero. I’m almost ashamed to invite people in for chats as it is – I set up meetings in hallways and bathrooms now.

It’s strange–in the movies, snow is always utilized more or less as romantic imagery. It serves as a perfect backdrop to romance and Christmas and romantic Christmas movies. The boy and girl embrace each other and kiss tenderly and a single snowflake gently lands on her eyelash. The two look up to see a barrage of snowflakes, cascading from the sky, and a bunch of kids run out of a colonial-style house into the frontyard and yell, with delight, “It’s snowing! It’s snowing!” and they all celebrate the first wintry snowfall.

In real life, it’s rarely ever like this.

The first snowfall of the year is usually on a cold day in October or November, when the skies are overcast with dark, grey clouds–billowing and ominous–and the wind whips violently (and directly) against your face, making it nearly impossible to breathe. The snow is usually a mixture of rain and ice and it slaps your cheeks like a drunk, angry wife. People that are fated to have to be outside during it pull their jackets up around their necks and half-gallop, half-stride across the parking lot, hoping to escape the cruel unrest swirling around them without looking like too much of a fool in front of their business associates (appearance–even in times of great peril–is everything in the professional sphere).

The first snowfall is miserable and depressing.

And today, I was allowed the opportunity to peer over the tops of the piles of paperwork that clutter my desk and watch the first snowfall from my office at the bottom of the window well.


I'm Voting Republican Because...

A friend at work emailed me a satire entitled “I’m voting Democrat because…”. It was a letter to the editor in some newspaper in Des Plaines, Illinois (at least that’s where this writer is from).

The letter, which I’m assuming was meant to be a real jab at Democrats everywhere, did nothing more than rile me up. It was poorly written, poorly researched, and housed poorly formed arguments (some of the entries actually are good reasons to vote Democrat!). I took into my own hands to humbly and respectfully submit a rebuttal entitled “I’m voting Republican because…”

My rebuttals begin with "I'm voting Republican because..."


I’m voting Democrat because like most Americans I trust lawyers more than anyone else; I think only lawyers should run the government, and all the Democrat Leaders are lawyers: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, John Edwards, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Leader Harry Reid, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, a nd John Kerry, to name just a few. (Al Gore dropped out of Law School, so I don’t trust him as much, except on Global Warming.)

I’m voting Republican because, like most Americans, I trust professional wrestlers, bodybuilders, pro sports teams owners, billionaires, and oil barons. I think only they should be running the country: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Bush, Jesse Ventura, and Dick Cheney, just to name a few.

I’m voting Democrat because the Democrats support the trial lawyers and I think this country needs more lawsuits and less tort reform. And I don’t believe the trial lawyers’ contributions have a thing to do with it.

I’m voting Republican because the Republicans support arms-traders and I think this country needs more terrorist threats in the world and more money to line our leaders’ pockets.

I’m voting Democrat because Congress has done such a wonderful job under Democrat leadership the last two years, that I want a lot more of the same.

I’m voting Republican because the country has been such a wonderful place to be under Republican leadership for the past eight years, that I want more of the same.

I’m voting Democrat because I want to get my health care from the same competent, efficient, cost-effective, customer-service-focused folks who run the US Post Office, the Pentagon, FEMA and the state Registry of Motor Vehicles

I’m voting Republican because I want my health care to be so unaffordable, that I have to work until the day I die. It doesn’t bother me, though—my hard-earned dollars that I give to pharmaceutical companies are, in turn, going to the pharmaceutical lobbyists that support the Republicans I’m voting for by funding their campaigns!

I’m voting Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves.

I’m voting Republican because I understand the responsibilities of being a law-abiding, arms bearer. It’s just a shame that my friends don’t want to go hunting with me anymore after just one tiny, insignificant incident! Perhaps the crack addicts, drug lords, disgruntled students with mental issues and gang leaders will join me at the sportsman’s club with their .45s!

I’m voting Democrat because Sen. Obama has promised to cut the taxes of 95% of the people, including the 30% who don’t pay taxes.

I’m voting Republican because Republicans consistently give tax breaks to the wealthier upper class. I’m glad money is being saved by those who really need it.

I’m voting Democrat because Sen. Obama has promised to take away the secret ballot in union elections, and I think the union bosses should know if a workingman or woman is with them, or against them.

I’m voting Republican because I think that laborers can’t handle the responsibilities of just one vote in a unionization ballot. I think there should be at least two votes and the second should be totally secret! I also believe that employers should be allowed the opportunity to pressure their employees into voting against unionizing. How should blue-collar dimwits be trusted to make an educated decision like that the first time around if not for their bosses’ direct influence?

I’m voting Democrat because Sen. Obama has over three years experience in the Federal Government, and “Hope” is a great strategy.

I’m voting Republican because Sen. McCain has over one hundred years experience in the Federal Government and “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” is my personal philosophy.

I’m voting Democrat because Sen. Obama voted “present” instead of “yes” or “no” over 120 times in the Illinois State Senate, and I think we need a decisive president.

I’m voting Republican because Sen. McCain has voted in favor of nearly all of President Bush’s legislation, and I think we need an extension—nay, a continuation—of the Bush administration.

I’m voting Democrat because I think that drilling for American oil is foolish, when we can buy from the Middle East.

I’m voting Republican because I think that we should drill for American oil. Screw the caribou! Besides, it takes way too much time and effort to come up with a better solution for our dependence on fossil fuels! Don’t think through it—just do it!

I’m voting Democrat because I think windmills (except off Hyannis) are a better answer to reliable, clean energy than Nuclear Energy.

I’m voting Republican because I think “nucular” energy is the most reliable and clean form of energy that has been explored so far. Sure, the uranium that is required to generate “nucular” energy is a non-renewable resource, but so are fossil fuels! I’m sure that once we’ve used up all the uranium, we’ll find some other resource to use up. Maybe in Alaska! Screw the caribou!

I’m voting Democrat because I don’t think we give enough to other countries in foreign aid.

I’m voting Republican because I don’t think we borrow enough loans from foreign countries.

I’m voting Democrat because I’m for putting up barriers to free trade, as they did in 1930 with the Smoot-Hawley bill. That made things much better then.

I’m voting Republican because I’m for putting up barriers to fair trade. How will America retain her place as the world’s most (and, eventually, only) progressive economic giant if other countries are allowed to compete?

I’m voting Democrat because I miss the high unemployment, inflation and interest rates of the Jimmy Carter years.

I’m voting Republican because I’ll miss the high unemployment, inflation and interest rates of the George W. Bush years. It was so easy to get approved for a mortgage in those days! You didn’t even HAVE to be employed!

I’m voting Democrat because parents shouldn’t get to choose the school their kids go to. Parents should leave their children’s education to the teachers and stay out of it.

I’m voting Republican because parents should be allowed to choose the school their kids will go to, despite the need for enrollment in public schools. Who cares if schools in districts I disapprove of get shut down because of the severe cutbacks prompted by my party? My kid will be the pride of the Catholic high school football team! Besides, the government could use the money that public school teachers make to cut down the federal deficit!

I’m voting Democrat because I think this is the perfect time to raise the Capital Gains tax and drive investment money out of the stock market.

I’m voting Republican because I think this is the perfect time to keep the Capital Gains tax exactly where it is until 2011 and continually bail out greedy billionaires by pouring money into the Stock Market.

I’m voting Democrat because I believe oil companies’ profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene, but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn’t.

I’m voting Republican because I believe the oil companies’ profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene. They should be making much, much more than that! Oh, look at that: my stock in Haliburton just went up.

I’m voting Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would, and I want to spread my wealth around to those who earn less—or nothing.

I’m voting Republican because I believe I will do a better job of spending the money I earn than the government would. I promise I won’t ask questions when the civil services my community depends on (like the police department, fire department, the hospital, the schools, the city employees, the state employees, etc, etc) start disappearing. The Hummer I just bought for my sixteen year old son is more than capable of handling all the potholes that will start appearing all over the roads when there are no city employees to repair them!

Oh, what’s that? My son will have to go somewhere else to get his driver’s license because the DMV was shut down? Hm… That’s fine—we’ll be able to afford a solution for that problem too.

I’m voting Democrat because freedom of speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.

I’m voting Republican because freedom of speech is fine, as is my freedom to cover my ears and say, “La la la la la! I’m not listening! La la la la la la la la la!”

I’m voting Democrat because, when we pull out of Iraq, I trust that the bad guys will stop what they’re doing because they now think we’re good people.

I’m voting Republican because I think it’s okay to supply arms and military intelligence to terrorists. Also, we should stay in Iraq as long as we possibly can. It’s God’s will for us to sacrifice as many American soldiers as is necessary—Muslim extremists will eventually change their ways. Right?

I’m voting Democrat because I believe that people who can’t tell us if it will rain on Friday CAN tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in ten years if I don’t start driving a Prius.

I’m voting Republican because I don’t care about the energy crisis. Besides, all the scientists, geologists, ecologists, biologists, marine biologists, and geographers in the world all agree that the amount of damage we’ve already done is irreversible anyway! “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!”

I’m voting Democrat because I’m not concerned about restoring partial birth abortions so long as we keep all death row murderers alive.

I’m voting Republican because even though I tell the evangelical demographic that I’m pro-life, I have no real solution to ending abortion than to sign a bill into law. Sure, I know that abortion laws won’t stop abortions, but coming up with alternative solutions requires too much thinkin’! I’ll let the Democrats think of a way to make the adoption process easier, or to get federal support into the hands of underprivileged families and single/teenage mothers, or to make education more affordable and of higher quality. My Republican leaders will end up shortchanging the families and mothers and eventually slashing the funding for public schools anyway, so what does it matter?

I’m voting Republican because family values are what are important to me. But please don’t tell anyone about that little incident in the airport bathroom, okay?

I’m voting Republican because everyone on death row belongs there and I have no doubt that none of them were wrongfully accused.

I’m voting Democrat because I believe that small businesses should not be allowed to make a profit. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution to people who didn’t start businesses.

I’m voting Republican because I believe that small businesses, contractors, and entrepreneurs should be squashed by big business.

I’m voting Republicans because I believe we need to get the money out of the hands of greedy people and into the pockets of greedy bankers!

I’m voting Democrat because I believe the law is what judges say it is, and not what legislators say — or the Constitution.

I’m voting Republican because I believe the law is whatever George W. Bush says it is and not what those who are learned in political science say. Only HE can infringe on the Constitution and make up his own laws.

I’m voting Democrat because the media would call me a racist if I didn’t.

I’m voting Republican because Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and “Papa Bear” would call me un-American and/or a supporter of terrorists if I didn’t.


Back to the Garden

* Disclaimer: I can already tell that I'm going to get a lot of flac for this essay, so I just want to point out, before you read any further, that I in no way support political nor social anarchy out of a spirit of a rebellion. This essay is instead written from a spiritual perspective, based on very basic principles from Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism that I happen to agree with. I am not urging any of you to "stick it to The Man" to prove a point -- I am instead inviting you to a way of life that is higher, truer, and more spiritually fulfilling. Without any further ado.... *

It began in the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve lived in complete harmony, complete peacefulness, complete satisfaction with each other, with nature, and with the Lord of Hosts. Surely, this is communion. Surely this is what it means to live: no stress, no strife, no fear, no anger, no hatred, no sadness. This is the definition of coexistance—the very substance of life: to live and to live; to walk and talk in the Garden in relationship with God and with each other.

The first man and woman were entirely self-sufficient, much like the nomads—the hunters and gatherers—at the dawn of civilization. However, unlike the nomads, Adam and Eve weren't hunters inasmuch they were gatherers. They lived in communion and maintained relationship with Jehovah Jireh—the God who provides; they merely had to maintain a healthy relationship with God and He ensured that all their needs be met. As Tom Hodkinson points out in his book, The Freedom Manifesto, “(Adam and Eve) don't work work but neither do they consume. It appears to be a pre-agricultural era, where the food you need is simply plucked from the trees and hedgerows” (115).

Indeed, this is a pre-agricultural era—Adam and Eve had no knowledge of nor experience with farming; they merely lived off the fat of the land. This is an era that predates agriculturalism, industrialism, and even consumerism. This is a time when all the trading and bartering was done in an economy of mercy and grace between two parties. The Lord of all creation offered His services and goods (food, vegetation, and life itself) and, in return, Adam and Eve offered their love, praise, adoration, and an open line of communication. The world's first economic system was built on the guarantee of fair trade.

This is the beauty of simplicity. Utopia.

Then, everything changed. The itch for something better set in, the desire for the next best thing consumed Adam and Eve's hearts and clouded their minds. Consumerism was born. Not coincidentally, consumerism's arrival was synched with the arrival of advertising in the form of the serpent—the greatest marketing agent of all.

He came on the scene with an agenda to sell. So he found the only object in the Garden that was off limits and built up his advertising campaign. He described the advantages and benefits of eating the fruit of this particular tree, then disavowed everything that the “other expert” said about the fruit. He made it seem as though this object—this fruit—was the latest, greatest thing on the market and that their lives would be all the more complete if they were to have it (even though they already shared an unsurpassed intimacy with the Lord of all. Their lives could not have possibly been more complete and, in their hearts, they knew that).

But they bought into it. They salivated at the sight of the fruit and the capitalistic beast inside them woke up, demanding to be fed. The two of them were banished from the Garden and sentenced to a lifetime of toil and trudgery. Need gave way to a fleeting desire and civilization has been spiraling downward ever since.

* * *

Nowadays, our lives are dominated by the material world that surrounds us. From every angle, we are bombarded with advertisements for everything from toothpaste to vacation destinations to shoes on a daily basis: billboards on the highways and even on the sides of public transportation, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, every website we visit, and even in the movies we watch. Companies will pay millions upon millions of dollars to place their product's name on surfaces their top-notch marketing specialists deem “great real estate” (like jumbotrons in sports arenas or on the backs of seats in airplanes).

Even we have become walking advertisements because of the clothes we wear or the mp3 players we listen to. It is no longer enough for corporations to sell their shit to us, we are now expected to help them sell their shit with our shirts and hats bearing the name or logo of the brand of clothing they are. Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Aeropostale, Abercrombie and Fitch, American Eagle. All of these outfitters proudly display their names on everything they design: their t-shirts, their sweaters, their hats, their jeans, even their socks! These businesses design their clothes this way because it's effective marketing—what better way to have your business's name spread all over the world than to plaster it all over the clothes that your customers are buying? This is the precise reason I refuse to wear novelty clothing.

You know, it was one thing when businesses no long viewed us as people, but as dollar signs. However, even those days are gone. We, the consumers, have gone from the target to the real estate, from the victim to the enabler.

Here's the sickest part of it all, though: we listen, we watch, and we buy. Then, once the latest fad bores us, we we wait for the next thing that will improve the quality of our (apparent) empty lives. We're like ducks, snatching up whatever bit of bread or crackers that gets tossed our way.

Consider the iPhone, for example. The iPhone was produced by Apple and released in 2007. for three or four months leading up to its release date, the market was saturated with advertisements. Apple's ad campaign was relentless and, ultimately, successful. The iPhone was a huge hit for the software giant and Steve Jobs made a lot of money because of it. However, in one short year, the iPhone became outdated and unfashionable—especially since an updated, less expensive version of the Blackberry was released within a few months. So in 2008, Apple released the iPhone 3G (which, really, isn't much different than its predecessor). And we ate it up eagerly. Even those of us who still had the original iPhone ate up the new one.

Our self-sufficiency has been replaced with boredom. We are so spoiled with all the toys, gadgets, gizmos, and entertainment mediums that we become bored with all of it almost as fast as we fall in love with it in the first place! We have a hunger, a craving, an insatiable appetite to be entertained at every turn. We move on from one fad to the next, from one interest to another, even from one lover to another in a heartbeat! We do not know how to live in a world of simplicity—in a world where the only joys and worthwhile experiences in life are the ones we have to make for ourselves. The marketplace spoon-feeds us, Uncle Sam turns us over his shoulder to burp us, we regurgitate whatever we just ate and then whine until we are fed again.

We are living off the fad of the land.

No longer do we rely on a Higher Power (or even ourselves) to have our needs met; we are almost completely dependent on the tangible objects and superfluous things of this material world. We are sick and becoming increasingly crippled. So we consume. We obey the orders of the capitalistic physician who says, “Buy it—it will make you feel better.” We blindly spend, blindly consume, never realizing that the weight of all the shit we buy is what's crippling us. Meanwhile, the physician is lining his pockets with our hard-earned pay and spending it on devising new marketing schemes to get us to buy more stuff.

Even them that realize their affliction continue to consume. To many, it's an addiction like alcoholism, drug use, or gambling. Our inability to ignore fire sales is not totally on our own shoulders, though—our peers and the world surrounding us also contribute heavily to our need to buy more stuff. See, the amount of things we buy—and the brands of things we buy—have become indicative of our identities and social classes. Therefore, we consume to keep our identities and to maintain our social statuses, lest we be confused with a lower class, a person of lesser standing, or a complete invalid. God forbid we be defined by our actions or the words we say or even the amount we love. After all, the brand of shirt we wear is a much more reliable indicator of who we are as people.


Then, most paralyzing of all, we become emotionally attached to the stuff we buy. There are people who will hold onto some stupid little something for decades, regardless of how often they use it, regardless of how often they even look at it, regardless of much space it occupies, regardless of how often its get packed up and moved from town to town, and even regardless of what it is! They hold onto this stuff for all sorts of reasons: a loved one gave it to them and it's all they have to remember said loved one by, the object is the last of its kind, and (my personal favorite) “I might still use it one of these days.”

Allow me to let you in on some things, here: first of all, if you've been holding onto a coffee mug for years because it's the only thing you have to remember your grandfather by, you are shallow. Either that, or your grandfather wasn't worth remembering. I know that sounds heartless, but I find it even more heartless to commemorate a loved one's entire life with something as frivolous as some silly little man-made thing. Secondly, if you've had something for a long time and haven't used it yet, you probably never will. It will rest in its keeping place and collect dust until you get rid of it or donate it to someone who could really use it.

Such items do nothing more than clutter our homes and our very lives.

* * *

I am reminded of the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler.

The rich young ruler (let's call him Marcus, as it gives this character a bit more personality) was inspired by the statements Jesus made and the works he did. He wanted to follow Jesus as a disciple, going from place to place with him and learning the higher ways Jesus taught. So when Jesus came to his hometown to teach, Marcus ran out to him and proclaimed his intentions: “Rabbi, I want to be a disciple!” Jesus stopped to consider the ruler's proposal for a minute. He seemed genuine enough—he told Jesus that he was inspired by the things he had seen and heard, that he read and obeyed the Torah from the days of his youth, and that he was willing to do anything to be with Jesus. So Jesus agreed and invited him along by saying, “Sell all of your possessions and follow me.”

What an invitation! The son of God himself extended a personal invitation to the rich young ruler to see and hear the things that God did through him. Even if Marcus weren't a believer, this was still an opportunity too good to pass up! Consider: permanent vacation, seeing the world, experiencing different ways of life with fellow followers representing all sorts of different walks of life—the benefits of the trip were enough to lure the ruler out of his mansion! It's not like he had anything better to do with his time anyway. The rich young ruler, however, declined the invitation. According to the Scriptures, he didn't even offer Jesus an excuse as to why he couldn't go—he merely got this dejected look about his countenance, dropped his head, turned his back to the crowds, and moped back to his house. Wouldn't it be considered common courtesy to at least explain why he couldn't go? Even if he made up something ridiculous, like explosive diarrhea, would have been much more respectful than just walking away.

The story between the lines of the text suggests that the rich young ruler was so attached to his possessions, that he turned down the opportunity to experience a sliver of what life in the Garden of Eden was like. Jesus offered him the chance of a lifetime: to walk and talk, to share an intimate relationship—to live in communion—with the Son of God, much the same way Adam and Eve were privileged enough to live in harmony with God Himself. And the rich young ruler refused it. He chose the finite material things he had stored up during the course of his short life over the infinite treasures he could have been storing up in Heaven.

* * *

It seems—at lest in my experience—that only those who are in touch with their spirituality realize the benefits of living simple lives. The Shakers, for example, sing these lines from one of their hymns:

Tis the gift to be simple
Tis the gift to be free
Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in a place just right
Twill be in the valley of love and delight

Mahatma Ghandi, the world's most famous Hindu, always preached the virtue of simplicity, Taoists pride themselves on their simple lifestyles, and there are even atheists who believe in the power and will of the human spirit to maintain a pure and simple life. Consider monks and nuns: these are men and women who detach themselves from all of their possessions, all of their worries, all of their friends and family, and instead embrace a life cut off from the rest of civilization. They make their own clothes, grow their own vegetables, prepare their own food, and live their lives in the peacefulness of isolation and presence of the god they follow.

Buddhism even bases its entire faith system on the virtue simplicity. Buddhists believe in what is called the Four Pillars. The four pillars are: 1) Life means suffering, 2) The origin of suffering is attachment, 3) Cessation of suffering is attainable, and 4) There is a path to the cessation of suffering (this path is known as the eightfold path and maps the way to reaching nirvana). In short, the very foundation of Buddhism is that man can reach ultimate enlightenment, but only by first detaching himself from his possessions and the world around him. As long as man is emotionally or spiritually attached to any tangible thing, his life will be one of suffering.

* * *

Am I saying it's wrong to buy stuff or to own things? Don't get me wrong—I'm not saying that all. There's nothing “wrong” with spending a little money on yourself and owning a fair amount of worldly possessions doesn't make you a “bad person.” What I am saying, on the other hand, is that before you can appreciate life for what it is, you must learn to appreciate and even embrace a life devoid of extravagance and superfluousness. Spend more time with your loved ones rather than the useless crap they've bought for you. Donate things you don't wear or use on a regular basis to charity. Find a hobby, learn a trade, refine your talents, meet new friends, catch up with old friends, stop to smell the flowers. But, for God's sake, don't waste your life away on things that will turn to dust, break down, or become outdated in the blink of an eye. Embrace simplicity!

It is high time we got back to the Garden. It is time we put off the things of the world that have been suffocating us for so long and finally live without the burden of our stuff, constantly weighing us down. Now is the time to experience the things in life that allow us to truly live (and to live “life more abundantly”).


Brown & Gold Shag Carpet

Brown & Gold Shag Carpet

This is my first memory.

It is not a memory of a birthday party that none of my friends attended, or a picnic that was ruined by an army of mosquitoes, or a haircut that made me look foolish despite my insistence to have it styled that way. It is not a memory of a beach on a warm, summer day, the sensation of cool, green grass between my toes, or even the scent of the breeze. It is not a quiet, sneaking thing that hides in the recesses of my mind.

This is my memory that I cannot shake, and it is my first.

I was sitting on the floor of the living room; a brownish golden light poured into the room. The early morning sunrise made the off-white blinds and tan curtains seem like stained glass. There was a musty scent in the air that pervaded the entire apartment and made some first time visitors gag upon entrance.

A deep blue sofa, two lamps, a television sitting on top of an end table, the whirring of the refrigerator in the kitchen, the silent whoosh of the ceiling fan.

I must have been around four years old. My mother, stepfather, and I were living in a two bedroom apartment in Batavia, Illinois—the town where Mary Todd Lincoln was institutionalized after her husband, Abraham, was murdered while the two of them were watching a play.

I have always found it a little eerie that I lived less than a mile away from that institution. I find it equally eerie that the city of Batavia has converted that institution into a low-income housing complex. I suppose that in this age of consumerism, not even insanity is a monument worth commemorating.

I was watching Saturday morning cartoons, sitting there on a patch of hideous, brown and gold shag carpet. It was the kind of carpet that if one were to shuffle across it, one would not be surprised to kick up a cloud of dust, some spare change, or possibly even a Volkswagen Beetle.

And it covered almost the entire apartment. The living room, the hallway, the two bedrooms, the closets and even half of the kitchen. Only the bathroom was spared the sight of that horrible carpet.

I didn't mind so much the way it looked or even the peculiar odor that was deeply embedded in its fibers. I hated, though, the way it made my skin itch. I sat cross-legged on the floor every Saturday morning, directly in front of the television and for the duration of whatever show I was watching, I would be relentlessly scratching at my legs. My mom would always remind me, in less than amiable tones, that the couch was a mere few feet away from me.

I'd like to believe that she was looking out for me and was merely trying to protect me from contracting some sort of horrible disease that was probably wound in the fibers of the carpet. Or perhaps she was more concerned about the wellbeing of my eyes or even my legs. It would have been a shame were my retinas to have been fried due to them being glued to the screen.

As true as both of these fates could have very well been and as much as I would like to believe that Mom had carefully considered both of them and was merely looking out for me, I find it more likely that she was simply annoyed with my constant scratching and was looking for a way to get me off of the floor. I find it even more likely that she didn't want me watching television at all and would have rathered I read a book or participated in some other activity that required my utmost silence—like sitting in the corner, staring at the wall, or playing in the street.

But that's just how she was and such mind stimulating activities weren't part of my daily life at that point. I didn't have time for that.

Of course I could have sat on the more comfortable sofa, but that would have been a definite setback! As irritated as I was with the carpet and the condition of my legs, I wasn't at all interested in sitting more than two feet away from the television for fear that I might miss something important in the fast-paced storylines of my favorite cartoons.

Some sacrifices must be made.

Tom and Jerry was my favorite cartoon of all, with The Real Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles coming in a close second and third, respectively. Even at a very young age, I had a good understanding of the social implications of the show, though I of course couldn't explain them with any sort of eloquence.

Essentially, the premise of this show is that the cat and the mouse fight each other just because of their social roles as cat and mouse. Tom, the cat, sees Jerry, the mouse, and something inside of him clicks: I must chase this mouse with reckless abandon because he is a mouse and I therefore do not like him. Hilarity ensues as Tom comes up with every trick in the book to capture the elusive Jerry, but always to no avail as Jerry has several tricks of his own.

In the end, Tom and Jerry always seemed to arrive at an understanding of each other and even displayed a certain amount of amity towards each other. A certain simpatico, if you will.

I wished real life were as simple as the cartoons I watched.

While I was enthralled with my show and my scratching, I hadn't realized that I had the volume extremely high until I heard my mother and her husband, Paul, stirring in their bedroom.

My mother remarried in 1988 or 1989—I can't remember which, but it hadn't taken her too long to find someone new to marry after her leaving my father. Paul was a construction worker and, like most construction workers (at least the ones I have met), he spent most of his free time at the local bar. Not coincidentally, this is where he happened to spend most of his paychecks.

I didn't understand why he had to go to this place. If he was as thirsty after a hard day's work as he said he was, we had plenty of drinks at home and I would have been more than happy to share my juiceboxes with him.

Paul stumbled into the hallway, belched, and squinted into the sunlight, holding himself up against the wall. He was utterly disheveled and wreaked of liquor. He approached me slowly as he shuffled over the carpet, his feet heavy with a hangover.

“Good morning!” I chirped, as innocently as a boy my age could.

Paul looked up at me with this look that said “Are you serious?”

He burped, then sighed, scratching at his navel with his middle finger. “Go back to bed, Andy. It's early.”

I have always hated it when people call me Andy. Even as a four year old, I thought it was such a juvenile name: Andy. Andy isn't the name of a cool kid or even a moderately cool kid. Andy ranks up there with names like Marcus or Elliott. Andy is the name of the fat kid with Coke-bottle glasses who eats paste and occasionally wets himself during class. Drew, on the other hand—that is a cool name.

I turned away from him and focused my attention back on the screen. I think I even made this weird nose with my mouth—like a pft!—as if to say, Yeah, whatever dude. “I'm watching Tom and Jerry.”

“The fuck you are,” he bellowed through another belch—he was still drunk. He stomped towards the television and punched the power button with his clumsy fist.

“Hey!” I whined. “I was watching that!”

“And now you're not. Now get your ass back in bed!”


“Go, God dammit!”


He took a few steps closer.


My innocent, puppy eyes and whiny complexion turned to stone.

Looking back, I can only see this event as a rerun of the moment David faced down Goliath. The lumbering giant stomps his way onto the battlefield and bellows, “I ask for a fight with a man and you send me a boy!” The shepherd boy, David, plants his feet to take a firmer stance and pulls out a sling and a knapsack loaded with his artillery—five smooth stones—to challenge the sword and spear Goliath wields. Goliath chuckles—no, guffaws—at the sight and between bursts of laughter retorts, “What am I? Am I a dog that you should come at me with a stick?”

David's reply is epic: “You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God.”

This, of course, enrages Goliath. He steps forward, expecting David to quake; but the boy does not. The giant takes another step forward and raises his right arm across his chest and prominently displays the backside of his hand and motions that if David keeps standing there, he will soon be tasting it; but the boy does not move. Goliath takes one last step toward David so that he is standing nearly toe-to-toe with the boy.

David, the shepherd boy, does not shake. David, the future king, does not run away. David, the man after God's own heart, does not even move. He loads his sling with a single smooth stone and glares back at the giant with a dogged determination.

Goliath furrows his brows and challenges him with his eyes: Make your move.

This is it. This is that moment.

This is that moment that the little boy with the water-wings stands at the edge of the dock and works himself up to jump into the water for the first time; and even though his daddy stands there with open arms and promises Come on! I will catch you! Jump!, he still doubts all of his surroundings, his assuring father and, most of all, himself.

I closed my eyes and loaded a single smooth stone into my sling.





“You're not my daddy,” I said. I turned my stoic face to meet his gaze and with all the bitterness my four year old body could muster, coldly followed the phrase with, “I don't have to listen to you.”

He grabbed me by the collar of my shirt and yanked me up to my feet. He took an awkward, hard swing at me with the back of his hand, but missed in his drunken stupor. He tripped up a bit, but never let go. The second time he swung, he didn't swing as hard and he didn't miss. His open palm made direct contact with my left cheek and made a muffled clap!.

I didn't cry. Though tears welled up in the corners of my eyes, I did not cry.

I looked up into his heartless eyes and shrieked, “I hate you! You're not my daddy!”

He pushed me to the ground with the clenched fist that had been holding my shirt. The force of his shove made me roll once or twice until I stopped against the wall. “Now, go!” he yelled.

I don't think I was as scared as I was bewildered. I was watching a cartoon about a cat and mouse who fight each other and now, here I was cradling my swelling, bright red cheek in my hand for comfort as my Smurfs t-shirt absorbed the blood dripping from my nose. And even in the heat of the battle, that God damned carpet was still making my legs itch!

Stuff like this never happened in my cartoons: I didn't know how to react or what to do. The cat and mouse always became friends at the end of the program! I couldn't foresee any simpatico coming from this event.

And, of course, there was the thought: Where's Mom? Why won't she save me?

Paul stood over me, slouching at the waist, arms dangling at his sides. His beer gut spilled over the elastic band of his underwear and his long, deep breaths made it seem as though he had just run a marathon. Even though this battle technically belong to him (after all, he was the one still standing), he looked defeated. A hint of exasperation across his face. His stance made him look pathetic and even in my fear of him, my Goliath, I felt stupid and slightly embarrassed for ever being afraid of him in the first place.

The way he was glaring at me under the weight of his eyelids told me that if I didn't do something, he was ready to strike again. I ran to my room, slamming the door behind me, and slid my weakened body under the bed, making sure my mattress hid every inch of my skin. Through the door, I heard Paul take a few steps then collapse in a heap of drunkenness. I felt vibrations under me as the floorboards absorbed his deep snores while he lay there, with his face down in that brown and gold shag carpet.

I never again told Paul that he wasn't my daddy to his face. Then again, I never called him daddy either.

And this is my first memory.

Copyright 2008, thisbelongstodrewmoody