2/6/23

CABIN FEVER

It’s been a mild Covid winter—a great time to reminisce with a good journalistic nonfiction book titled “Cabin Fever, The Harrowing Journey of a Cruise Ship at the Dawn of the Pandemic” by Michael Smith and Jonathan Franklin. The book reminds me of how this virus disrupted the prison where I had worked. Cots had arrived in the warehouse and news spread about housing inmates in the school classrooms to recover. A handful of coworkers, including myself, worried about a lockdown and being trapped inside the prison. Everything changed that day. But a pandemic on a cruise ship is much worse, especially for the staff. 

In the book: Amanda Bogen, a 27-year-old entertainment host on the Zaandam cruise ship, stated, "It’s crazy. Every ship has a morgue…. Ours is the same room where they keep the fresh flowers." 

Eight countries denied the Zaandam entry into their ports. Eight. 

 I recommend reading “Cabin Fever.”

6/3/22

MOVING ON ... BETWEEN TWO KINGDOMS

 Reading Suleika Jaouad’s “Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted” is a reminder to all of us, that at some point in our lives, we will travel between the Kingdom of the Well and the Kingdom of the Sick. 

After her leukemia diagnosis and during her long hospital stays, Jaouad discovered the power of her written words. During her journaling, she underwent a bone marrow transplant, a break-up with her boyfriend/caretaker, and follow-up chemo treatments; all of which left her asking “what now?” She writes: 

I wanted to understand what had happened to me, to excavate its meaning on my own terms. I wanted the last word to be mine.

And her words are POWERFUL.

Her perspective on what it means to be “Moving On”—

It seemed so easy at first, too easy, and it’s starting to dawn on me that moving on is a myth—a lie you sell yourself on when your life has become unendurable. It’s the delusion that you can build a barricade between yourself and your past—that you can ignore your pain, that you can bury your great love with a new relationship, that you are among the lucky few who get to skip over the hard work of grieving and healing and rebuilding—and that all this, when it catches up to you, won’t come from blood.

Her friends from the Kingdom of the Sick have given her so much knowledge:

 They shared their own stories about what it’s like to have life interrupted, whether by the ripcord of a diagnosis or some kind of trauma or heartbreak. They taught me that, when life brings you to the floor, there is a choice: You can allow the worst things that have ever happened to you to hijack your remaining days, or you can claw your way back into motion.

Her book has made me realize my interest in memoirs—in her words:

I understand now why so many writers and artists, while in the thick of illness, become memoirists. It provided a sense of control, a way to reshape your circumstances on your own terms in your own words.

I’m so glad I read her story and wish her well in her continued battle with leukemia.






4/6/22

BOSSES (HE, HIM)

 I feel special inside the Seven Star Party Shop. It's my go-to place for tallboys of Milwaukee's Best Premium Beer, especially after a 6-mile jog around Stoney Creek Metropark. 

"Cheaper than water," the clerk says, eyeing my oversized hoodie and salt-encrusted headband. I chuckle. And then he asks what he always asks, "Is there anything else I can get for you, Boss?"

That's right. I am the boss. He works for me. Everyone needs that kind of reassurance now and then. Cool. Really Really Cool. I'll take it. Makes me feel special. I rock the headband.

I'm like Gary Reindel, John Jeffire's fictional character from the '80s. 

Gary Reindel needs a little reassurance now and then. He has a trophy wife, Corry, and they live in a condo overlooking Lake St. Clair. Gary works for his dad's Detroit car dealership, Reindel Motors, and Corry at a t.v. station alongside her main workmate Phil Toms.

Gary's got insecurities. He's damaged. His wife defined their relationship, her pre-marital powers of suggestion confused Gary.  Jeffire writes:

"'Love the one you're with,'" Corry said. "Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Yeah, that's it, Gair. Exactly, exactly what I was saying. You get it then. Great band, too."

During his childhood, Gary's dad taught him how to Man-Up: 

...Chuck Reindel, The Duke of The Deal, told his son to finish the fight with the boy without crying or he'd give him something to really cry about ... so they fought again. Again, Gary lost miserably, blood flowing eagerly from his nose and his mouth, but as much as he wanted to cry, he didn't. Lesson learned.

And when adult Gary gets called away from Marina Painter, a customer service rep for Reindel Motors, his dad emasculates his son by questioning his whereabouts and slapping him.

"If you want to chase middle-aged pussy on your time, be my guest. On my time, though, you work. I pay you to work, not fuck off. You understand?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah?"

A third time the hand came hard.

In order to not feel so woefully inadequate, and to fill the void, Gary wants to be called "Boss." And like myself, he truly wants to believe he is the boss. During Gary's descent into the unknown (his hook up with a young woman named Char) Jeffire writes the following internal dialogue: 

He's the goddamned vice president of acquisitions for Reindel Motors. His wife was hot. She worked with Phil Toms. His side woman was even hotter. Char was looking at him. He needed to regroup.

Heck, I need to regroup. 

John, cool story bro. You fit the criteria for "Cool." I'm looking at you, "Boss." 

Reference: "Boss" by John Jeffire, Coolest American Stories 2022.

 https://www.coolestamericanstories.com/





1/27/13

SOME AGREEMENTS ARE MADE TO FOLLOW

OLD RESIDENT
NEW RESIDENT


RULES OF THE CELL
You will need to sign this agreement before I allow you to live here. FIRST, you must realize that you are not my bunky yet. Neither are you considered a guest, or a good buddy. I see you as an intruder on my turf and I can’t stand the fact that you have shown up at my door. I DO NOT LIKE YOU.

THE RULES
1.    You will keep the area and floor clean. Do not come in here smelling like someone shit on you. If you fart in my presence you will DIE. You will shower (using soap) once daily in the winter and twice daily in the summer. You will brush your teeth when you awake, after you eat, at bedtime or any time I indicate that your breath smells like shit!

2.     The desk(s) are mine, unless I tell you which one you can use or if I allow you to use one.

3.     The window is my responsibility. I will control the window. You do not have a window; neither do you have a light. If you need light for any reason wait for it to come through my window or until I turn on the light. Don’t ask to use a light. Don’t think about asking to open or close or modify the window.

4.     The walls are mine. Do not attempt to hang any pictures without asking. The bulletin boards are mine. If there is something already posted on them, leave them the fuck alone! The same requirements apply equally to the bulletin boards as the walls.

5.     The chair(s) are mine! DON'T ask to use them. Don’t bump them or touch them or even think about using them to pull across the floor while I am sleeping or you will die!

6.      If you see a radio, fan, TV, or anything else that is not yours, keep your fucking hands off of it. If it is not yours, DO NOT TOUCH IT! Or you will die.

7.     I do not wake anyone for work, call-outs or chow. If you miss work or meals, fuck you. I do not come and get you for anyone. Fuck you, your homeboys, your cousins, your friends, and whoever else may want you.

8.     I do not provide for you, only for me. Buy your own cigarettes, matches, coffee, cosmetics and food. You will provide for you. Do not eat in this room, roll your tongue, insinuate you are hungry or ask me what is for chow. If you are hungry, fuck you! If I am hungry, feed me.

9.     Never snore, whistle, or jingle keys. Never sing, tap your feet or snap your fingers to music, either real or imagined.

10.   I do not want to hear anything about your sentence, your private life or your case, unless you pay me to listen to your shit. FUCK your case, and fuck your small talk. I do not give a fuck about you or about how doing this time drives you crazy. We all want out, we all want booze, dope and a piece of ass.

11.  DO NOT ASK PERSONAL QUESTIONS AT ALL! Your Pre-sentence Investigation Report (PSI) SHALL be placed on your locker shelf for my inspection at any time I may wish or desire to review it. EVERYTHING in the locker is yours including anything I shall desire to place there and you shall take full responsibility for it if asked by anyone.

12.   Never bring anyone to this cell while I am sleeping. If I am sleeping and your bullshit noise wakes me, prepare to fight for your life!

13.   Never bring a joint or any type of drug into this cell without telling me first. If you are taking medication tell me now what it is, what side affects it has and I (not you) will determine if you will take it or give it to me for proper disposal.

14.  You, your family, your friends may feel free to put money in my account at any time for any reason.

15.   These rules are subject to change without your foreseen knowledge or even my indicating that they have changed. If you don’t like my rules, fuck you! Remember, you are an intruder in my cell and I make the rules, NOT you, (clown)!

16.   If by my determining you are just one stupid, ignorant, illiterate punk and cannot read, I will read these rules to you. If you do not know how to spell your fucking name when you sign this, place an X on the dotted line and your prison number after the X.

Sign below to indicate that you have read and understand these rules, or place an X with your number after it.

Signed: ……………………………………………………….

1/15/13

NOTHING BUT BLUE SKY


It’s not all wrong, which means it's all good: “From the Blue Sky” located under the heading Fiction at the Trailer Park Quarterly. I call it “flash memoir,” a specific moment in time captured and recorded and published on the internet. I’m still writing, trying to wrap my thoughts around everything that’s happened within the past few years. One snapshot in time (or is it a series of slides?)—my Bio, my Tagline—seems very foreign, if not surreal: “…lives in a 1970’s brick ranch near Detroit.” I do remember appearing at a coworker’s colonial house on a freezing cold day in March with a handful of clothes in my arms. We still laugh about my not having shoes or socks on my feet, how I stood there on his cement porch asking if I could stay the night and after he’d said “yes,” how I had returned to my car for a dresser drawer (what quicker way is there to get out?) full of socks and underwear.  Not so funny then, but laughable now, especially my lavish spending the next day at Target’s purchasing Dockers & cheap pull over shirts—a nice rotation of work duds which didn't go unnoticed by the prisoners in my classroom. I’ve learned a lot about people since then—the good and the bad—and I can honestly say that I’m glad I made it to the Trailer Park. I’m in good company. Thanks Rebecca. Thanks Daniel. If you haven’t already been there, you’re invited to my latest humble abode at TPQ3 (knock on the door, they're friendly, trust me).