Thursday, September 22, 2011

Money (That's What I Want)

The pizza place had just opened.  It was around 11:00 a.m. and I had decided to sit in the bar to order my pizza to go.  The waitstaff was sitting around waiting.  All the TVs were on with 9/11 tributes from all the different stations. The waitresses were talking about their weekend so far and watching stories about the heroic exploits of the FDNY.  Some stations had live coverage at ground zero while the list of victims names were read aloud.   Others had interviews with all sorts of people from first responders to evacuees to loved ones left to deal with tragedy.

I've got one eye and ear on the TV.  I've got the other set on the waitresses.  Each person is going through their own personal ritual.  Hair up just so.  Apron tied this way, not that.  Order pad tucked here or there.  One of the women was talking about dancing so much at a wedding the day before that she was exhausted.  In a good way.  Another was talking about living in NY in '01.  She remembered so much I couldn't possibly do justice to it here.  The bartender was sharing a funny text exchange from the night before.  The wedding dancer was saying that her aunt (I think) had been exhorting her to go catch the bridal bouquet. Evidently there was no way she was gonna get up there to try and catch that bouquet. 

"I don't like all of that tradition stuff". That was one of the other waitresses.  There was a buzz of responses to that. 

I didn't really hear any of it though. 

I'm watching ground zero on TV.  People there are making rubbings of names on the monument.  Water is cascading over the wall of the fountain disappearing into that black, black square in the middle. 

All the noise in the bar quickly fades as I hear that young woman's words swirling through my brain.  I'm suddenly alone in a room full of people.  I am amazed at the words I've just heard.  Even though her statement was about weddings I am immediately thinking of so many other things.


1. the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice; a story that has come down to us by popular tradition.
2. something that is handed down; the traditions of the Eskimos.
3. a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting; The rebellious students wanted to break with tradition.
4. a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices
5. a customary or characteristic method or manner; The winner took a victory lap in the usual track tradition.

Where would we be without traditions? In so many ways our lives are driven by tradition. I mean when you get right down to it. Aren't they? It doesn't matter your religious leanings or your political views; we mark time - the passing of seasons and years, well so many things really, in some traditional way.
I don't know how many times I had a toss with my daughter or son on the first warm day of the year just to loosen up the ol' arm.  It's a tradition taken up by many fathers.  It's a tie to the past and a hope for the future.  Or that walk in the woods we always took in the spring to see the green shoots coming up through the winter weary ground.  On family trips there was always a particular place we'd stop.  That highway rest stop that marked a leg of the journey.  It was something you could count on.  Watching a certain video at Christmas time just to make sure you were getting in the spirit of things.   There are so many life affirming traditions.  So many things we hang onto to let us know everything's gonna be all right.

We traditionally commemorate dark times too though.  The memorial at ground zero is of a tradition ages old.  People have gathered to remember lives lost in many places.  Auschwitz, Gettysburg, Hiroshima, Chernobyl; these are just a few of the places people go to remember, to mourn, or just to try and figure out how we could do what we do to each other.

Yup.  People travel to these places.  In fact people travel to these places so much there's a term in the travel industry for it.  Dark tourism. Or of course death tourism.  In an article on

I must be gettin' old.  I never thought the phrase "Isn't anything sacred?" would pass through my brain pan.  I mean it's about death and how people deal with the unknown we all must face.  It shouldn't be about making sure you have a nice stay at some hotel just so you'll remember and use them again on some other trip some where else.  Ya know?

Well, I'll see ya 'round.





Saturday, September 10, 2011

Homeward Bound

My life blew up a few months before I started writing Notes. So...

I lived in a motel for a year and a half.  It's on one of those busy roads littered with strip malls and shops for miles and miles.  Carpet stores and bed stores. Big stores, little stores.  It's a divided road with two lanes on either side.  One of those where you have to go out of your way sometimes just to make a u-turn to get where you really want to go.  Really it's a commuter road now a days for people who want to avoid traffic on the highway.  And though not exactly a no tell motel, all the places on this strip are known for prostitutes, drug deals, teenage parties, and of course police visits.

I lived tucked away in room 101.  The first room in the front of the building.  Away from the hustle and bustle just a few yards around the corner in the main section.  I was never aware of the reindeer games going on in the busier section.  I'd come back after a day's work with some kind of cheap fast food and close the door on what ever the future held in store out there.

The thing is though, one doesn't really live in a motel.  In fact the first year or so I was there I had to check out for one night every three weeks and find some other place for the night.  Of course they offered to let me store my stuff in the room.  Well, you know, for a charge.  No mail could be received either.  If they let you get mail you would be establishing residence.  NO establishing residence!  No packages either!

I was a person of No Certain Address.  Wow.  I never in my life imagined I would be able to; have to really, say that.

I knew all along that there were some people that did stay there all the time.  No checking out.  No shuffling off hither and yon.  I always wondered what I was missing.  Why I couldn't just stay.  Until one day.  One day I went into the office to pay up and the woman I always saw behind the counter gave me permission to stay.  "I trust you now" she said.  I could come in and pay for the week and just stay.  No more hassle.  My weekly wonderings of "Why not me" were over.

I was in limbo though.  I didn't have a home.  Some times home just isn't where you hang your hat.  For various reasons I'd allowed my life to stagnate.   

Various reasons?  Well sure.  I had started over in this life a few different times.  I've crammed clothes in bags and belongings in the car and left.  I've planned things out, set a date and left.  I guess I was in no mood to start over again this time.  I didn't want to set up a life again.  Get used to something again just to eventually move on.

Then one Sunday morning I got up and got a newspaper.  I was determined suddenly to move on. 

See I was teasing somebody at work one day and they thought I was serious.  So being an adult, this person said something he meant to hurt me with.  Classic malice aforethought stuff.  Cut to the bone stuff.  It didn't hurt though.  It woke me up.  "Is that what things look like from the outside" I  thought.  He was one of the only people who had a chance of really understanding what was going on in my life.  Evidently he didn't.  He did make me think though.

I'm renting a room in a duplex now. 

I answered an advert in that newspaper.  I went and looked at a few rooms in this house and chose what I thought was the best.  I came back a few days later to pay my first and last and move my stuff in.  As I was doing that the manager of the house presented me with a piece of paper to look over.  It was a list of the rules of the house along with a list of things I was supposed to read and initial.  Things like; You will come to weekly meetings, You will submit to random drug tests, You will allow your room to be searched at any time.  I was getting more frustrated with each line I read.  "Really?" I asked in response to what ever I read first.  I was ready to take my money and go.  "You can't be serious!"  "Dude, you really should tell people this is a half way house before you ask for the rent money" was the last thing I said before I handed him the money.  "Transitional House", he said.  He wouldn't call a half way house.  More like a two thirds house. He envisions this as a last stop before real life for most of the people who will be staying here.


I'm in transition.  I didn't even know!  Although we all are in some way or another I suppose. 

I have an address now.  Is it home? Nah, I don't think so.  But I am homeward bound.  It may not sound like it, but it is a step up from the motel to me.  I'm sure I'll be tellin' ya about some of the people who pass through here and what lessons we could learn from them. 

Had enough? 

Yeah, me too I guess.

Keep your stick on the ice.