Friday, January 24, 2014
The end of the summer on my cul-de-sac was always defined by the imminent return of my sister’s next store.
The end of the summer on my cul-de-sac was always defined by the imminent return of my sister’s next store. Over the years Mercedes, Porsche and myself have been involved in some of the more vicious physical and verbal attacks that I’ve been forced to endure over the cunning course of childhood. They are forever nagging at me to stop being a jerk. Our beloved neighbors spent every summer at their father’s happy place on actual Cape Cod. Our same schooled next store neighbors our sisters, a witness and an outlet. Chris Berman might have called our home gym, “the big experiment.” That was Madison if you played the part you could live like an adult. Madison high school with open campus, things like sign yourself out a student parking invited the Twin peaks in. The money, woods and those were the keys. You had to be a zilla to get in the opposite of integrity, kids. And now it was into Junior Year, Mike and I continued to pound the BC basketball weight program regime, which Bart had birthed as a couple years back as freshmen. It was interesting years later hearing from the starting center of the Steelers Super Bowl (XXXIV) tell the exact same story. But instead of BC basketball it was Nebraska football, his dad instead of Bart. We were getting good advice. And we cherished getting bigger, we’d just like high school waited years to be able to come down to the weight room. The Hayden weight room was undercover. You simply had no adult supervision the guy that never misses. The total absence of the police station in our lives recently floated the possibility of home happiness out there. So did Muffin. And when she didn’t do anything in the fall both my mother and I were mildly concerned. My love for her still roaring, I knew this simply by the fact that we timed our climaxes perfectly, rambunctious. Yo if you can’t accomplish this with your girl than you suck at getting busy. As I continued mulling through the list of thoughts I promised myself I’d give some attention to this morning I began to think that this was a whole hell of a lot of shit to cover before I’ve had a bowl of frosted flakes. My gambling cards would be available week one. I’d handicap the high school games and open up spot bets on those games as an appropriate beginning into the glamorous world of point shaving. Who doesn’t dream of fixing a game? I had to swallow and prepare myself for a first day unlike any other I’d exp“Can you believe it mom, Charlie Paradise an official upper class man, take a bow!” My sister cracking up over a natural next step for all incumbents into a larger world she’s already finding Woody Allen humor in what I might do next she, more than anyone had seen had witnessed my range. The comedy. The assuredness. erienced. I was now in the ACE program, everyone will know. And after a hearty standard breakfast of everything and tons of different sugar juices Parker patted me on the back proudly, smiles it was show time. “Can you believe it mom, Charlie an official upper class man, take a bow!” Brooke cracking up over a natural next step for all incumbents into a larger world she’s already finding Woody Allen humor in what explosion I might cause next. With teenage next steps came new freedoms most notably open campus, for everyone of course except me. Yo with my dope summer officially over I in the name of life past sixteen need to think of anything besides all the things I don’t have. I was maybe beginning to get it. After my mother quadrupled checked my entire outfit to ensure clean cut, no cane, pants pressed with a crease, first day, great looking children, Parker was off. “By mom! See you at school Charlie!” Mom and myself raced to the window and saw a car full of her friends peel out with cigarettes hanging out of every window. “She didn’t tell me some maniac race car driver would be screaming in here to get her out of the blue, were they all smoking in there? Was that a joint?” “You smoke?” “Please Charlie, don’t start I want you to have a good day.” “Yeah I will, big year, I’m the man. Where’s Sady?” “You’ve been saying that for years. Mercedes is just like a little sister to you.” The end of the summer on my cul-de-sac was always defined by the imminent return of my sisters Porsche and Mercedes and even though I sometimes hated them, I love them both. Waiting forever, finally Mercedes shows up right on time. “Charlie!” My mother yelled as if the Pope had entered our kitchen. “Well I heard you guys made it to the finals in the summer league Charlie congratulations.” Mercedes smiles for our “hi” hug! She is very proper when she wasn’t screaming and still I was quite certain carried a booty that had yet to be officially taxed. I knew because she had been dated all my friends. “Yeah we did.” Mercedes, closest to me in age finally asks me a question after rolling off the different Ivy League schools her summer pals were attending and where she thought she wanted to (yawn) apply. “OK time to go to Magic’s?” “Wait he got a car and a license?” “He’s driving his brothers, pretty special day for us Sady. We’ll be back wit ya tomorrow.” “You guys always get excited over the dumbest things.” And we slink in to my mothers Ford Taurus to drive us the five-minute walk to Magic’s curious what first ride to first day junior year high jam he had lined up for the ride We’ve already discussed the excitement and usual disasters for me on opening day. It wasn’t a baseball game but kind of was. The commute kicked it all off. Mike’s older brother Josh (LHS class of 89) lent him his car for our first day as an upper classman. Porsche was away at college. After running out of my house with my hands over my years. Pattle, Pat, Pat, pat, pit, pit, pit,. Pit, you could hear and see the uzi bullets creating mini “Good morning Magic.” “Well hello Mr. Junior in high school, as always you break out your best gear day 1.” So this ride while symbolic of miles traveled and new toys in our possession open campus, it also meant. “Charlie are you nervous about going right up to ACE?” “yes.” “Don’t be man, first off all I’m fucken pumped to get the classic stories! I mean your going to see the Big Guy everyday, off the court, just speaking for myself, I can’t wait to hear the stories.” “Really? Like he had two retarded heads, and finally “I can’t believe this.” I knew varsity players weren’t in the ACE program “Hey remember we’re juniors, and you have Coach Sullivan and coach Gibbs up there, you’ll be fine.” Says the guy not in the ACE program. Mercedes and Mike never got in trouble they were focused on their futures and were great examples to be so close in age, geography and time docked. Parker and I needed some counter tides because no matter what, it just didn’t seem we were getting it. Pulling into the parking lot signaled to me yet another reason to never attend class. The sun was in full glory. My crew was in a large frolicking circle. The student parking lot was now officially the place for us to commiserate and I smiled pondering upper class and soon legendary status. On a side note Mercedes friends quietly shattered the pervious best set up fifteen girlfriends ever united. Getting out of the car simultaneously the circular convoy of my crews chins creep up and their warm face’s exploded my happiness while thanking Jesus for giving me a family. “Yo I gotta talk to you kid!” I was always rattled this was the first thing I heard from Skeetah Lee right after stepping out of the car. Skeetah was in a tie with Shank for getting caught for the dumbest shit. “Give until lunch buddy.” And I walked to warmer waters towards scully, an anchor of steadiness. “You wanna skip the first class of the year?” I kick imaginary dirt, Scully is referencing a tradition I started last year six of us skipped the first class, first day and had a sit down proper breakfast at 1 Mariam St. “Whatever.” I’d recently discovered just how much I loved saying the word. “Can’t.” It was so hard for me to say those two simple words unless I couldn’t and that was the case. Besides the stigma of ACE being for mental or crazy kids I now had the hubble telescope on me with oh just basketball on the line. But I had no idea, I was in the parking lot, we were upper classmen, I never wanted that bell to ring. I wanted that moment to last forever. We were all the same before the bell. After the bell they were in mainstream high school and I was now in the ACE program. They’d meet new teachers, find follow Young Guns in class, sit next to maybe an undercover slinky. I was going to be in a class with three or four kids, a couple I might know from my own zilla contributions around town, a couple I wouldn’t. I’d have Coach Sullivan reading me freckle juice. Thank god for muffin. I’d never get a girlfriend I figured. I was too hospital. I’d just lost over 20 academic credits towards graduation. It was a huge #, out of nowhere and my “sorry coach I fell in love” response a little more than mildly retarded. And to top it all off I was literally scared of the Big Guy. He was easily the most controversial and talked about person in Madison. And he now had to monitor me during school hours. I was a wreck I felt I was going to prison with first hand knowledge of a warden of urban mythology. Dam, I’m buggen breathe Charlie Paradise, breathe And Scully could see me. Scully looked cool as shit smoking a Marlborough red cigarette “I hate it.” “Nah It’s OK buddy, listen this is just part of the script, you love that don’t you?” Smiling knowing my hot spots I’m curious, “What do you mean?” “You know what I mean man. You probably set this whole thing up just joking. Whatever the case the Big Guy will be good for you, this year is going to be dope”. I give him a hug as the bell rings I could’ve hung until the last possible second as defined by the Madison Legend hand book I pledged allegiance myself too but Walking into the main hall, up the stairs and towards ACE I’m hastily scurrying under the radar not wanting to be seen. Coupled with my hysterectomy I’m having due to panic I finally arrive at the front door. I had only walked inside ACE twice once during Freshman Year with Wells and Santo for the party, the other time was summer league. I stopped cold, my feet our numb Red Five I’m going in Walking into the holding cells long haunted hallway all was dark. In Madison’s main stream of regular classes there were levels 1-3, and then honors. Then there was the LABB program. One part of the LABB program named after itself was for down-syndrome kids. Then you had the PLACE program. This was generally kid’s that clearly a hundred times over they couldn’t, behaviorally survive regular mainstream. This was for any number of reasons. And then you had the ACE program. The ACE program was typically for kids in the court systems, kicked out of high schools and other “special” cases. And there’d never been a varsity player on the team from the ACE program. They were two very different worlds. Acclimation begins at first jump and peering as I walked slowly down the hall I heard only a mutter, a mouse and glanced curiously at the hallways walls. I noticed that the “tags”, vandalism of this programs teenage graffiti. One could see that a “shank” had been used to carve the various initials, proclamations and immature sexual innuendo that delinquents felt the need to publicize. Since the scribes were “doinks” inclinations rang true at first glance. Of course I saw the “B.” the “B” which followed me through every drop point of my life to date. Billy Graham, the orphaned hockey legend of legends, I knew I was in a bad situation when I saw the B carved on the wall or bench where I sat. Reality hit me as I could now hear voices coming from the most classic high school classroom in the state. It was my secret garden. Although there were three and a half separate offices in the compound, this was the main room. It was the kitchen, the lounge and Big Guy’s office. There was an actual kitchen, two enormous orange sofas probably from the early seventies. Of course there was the Big Guys desk and a wooden table donated from a local prison. The five by eight glass windows of which his personal headquarters perched itself on looked directly over the fabled student parking lot. He’d look out the window for ACE kids. “There he is, opening day, how you doen Charlie? The guy with the worst reputation in like fifteen years at Madison High school, Jeepers, Charlie Paradise.” I was shocked. His big personality and unique manner of speech, and how any compliment from him felt, half of my panic right there vaporized right out of my chest. And it wasn’t a compliment, a rip even felt good. It was Magic. Like a sorcerer with the force he sucked something intangible but oh crippling out of the center of my frail but lately meatier chest. That was a lift. I just stood. I Floating a very reserved gaze around the horn I think to myself, yo they got me in here with hardened criminals. The Big Guy only took half the panic away or made it worse, I couldn’t tell. “A, get over there and fill out your forms.” “But I don’t know what to fill out.” “Shut up Chalie .” PAUSING AND LAUGHING TO HIMSELF BEFORE PICKING BACK UP. Yo I’ll tell you somethen else, don’t say yo to me? OK, don’t say yo anymore. You think you can say yo to me?” “No coach.” “Good, Sully help out your boy, Sully’s boy Charlie Paradise the childhood delinquent. What do you think Gibbsy?” The Big Guy wants to bring my old freshman basketball coach Coach Gibbs into the fun frying of my frail foundation. Gibbs chewing his gum “I don’t know Big Guy, we’ll just have to wait and see.” Ooops apparently Gibbsy stepped on a toe and apparently ACE was a lighting rod aired out type of firework display the Big Guy ran. “Shut up Gibbsy, don’t call me Big Guy.” “What should I call you then?” “Coach” The Big Guy flips his hands and says this puzzled that Gibbs had to ask the question. “call me coach like always, Sully calls me the Big Guy but hey he won a state title for me you just rode the pine.” Shell shocked, intrigued, panic stricken yet confusingly enlivened, I can’t move a muscle. I couldn’t spit a sentence. Coach Sullivan, a thriving top supporter comes over and grabs my arm. “Come on Cahl take this pencil, let’s fill out your schedule.” It’s earth tattering to think how inept I was in basic protocol. I was spoiled at home our moms did everything for us. “Sully help your boy out.” Seated on the couch, “OK um. I don’t know what classes do you want to take.” “I don’t know, basketball” Coach Sullivan laughs, “Yeah I hear ya, listen I think some of these you have to take, so check off like one of those? A couple of these one’s, cross off a couple of boxes like over in that direction and your good, I think. We’ll ask Bob (Big Guy). We also have gym once a day which since you don’t have open campus you can take instead of study hall, we usually play basketball, it’s competitive, Booty’s not bad, smurf plays, Beef plays I also don’t mind playing bombahdment every now and then, wiffle ball a bit, you know whateva .” “No way?” “Yeah” Coach Sullivan chuckled like ‘yeah your god dam right we do.” “Really?” “Yeah Cahl I run it.” And pointed to himself like he’s the only security guard for a heist I was in on. My chin darted forward as my eyes popped out of their sockets like at the end of Total Recall. “Sometimes we get the batting cages set up, OK, let’s finish this up.” “hell yeah.” And soon my scheduling was done. Looking up at the clock I had about twenty more minutes before I was allowed to leave and attend an outside “mainstream” class with the “normal” kids. Situating myself quietly I sat inconspicuously. Watching the festivities of what now would be an everyday occurrence I watched the Big Guy put down a nice Boston crème doughnut in ten seconds flat. The great student “Beef” sat next to the Big Guy. He was in ACE of all reasons because of his weight. Beef was simply too big to get around campus. Therefore he sat in ACE all day, banged out Boston creamers while holding down ball boy responsibilities for the boys varsity hoops squad. And then it happened. “Gibbsy watch this, a yo Chalie!” Frightened cause I was back in the ACE spotlight and jarred over the fact that he could say yo and I couldn’t, I replied. “Yeah” “Yo, you got your gift ya shmooza.” “What do you mean?” Coach Sullivan now leveled me for preparation, he held my shoulders. “Eh you got your gift.” “what?” The Big Guy announced tapping his right foot furiously annunciated like a game show, he declared the grand prize, “I think we got your center.” Coach was heartbroken to lose him.” “What” “Transfer 6-8 Lefty junior, moving in from Nashvill, I just spoke to his coach, said he’s the best player he’s ever coached. He’s heeyah today” Coach Gibbs “we’re really excited about it.” I’d prayed for it for so long. I was astonished. I believed. And it was empowering. Hope. “What!” I throw my arms in the air and run out of the ACE program wildly screaming. I could hear the coach laugh, happiest moment of my life. A few minutes later I ran back in. The Big Guy was on the phone, “his names Sean but we’ll call him Stretch. He’ll Stretch the lineup!” And just like that word had spread and the phone in ACE was ringing. “Hey Jay we’ll see. His coach told me he’s the best player he ever coached. Yeah I got Charlie Paradise runnen around ACE like a chicken with his head cut off on Christmas, it is, unbelievable.” I’m back on with Jesus full time The one thing that we needed since we were in the fifth grade was a bona fide center. It was our birthright now, a shot at a state title. Being integrated with Diamond Junior High was the single greatest thing that ever happened to me. I got the Black Knight back, and another school to corrupt. We were finally a class, a crew family and same grade basketball brothers. We just got a six eight center in the class of 94? Come, on! This information curbed the festering panic I had looking around. “Milla!” Coach Farias screamed! “I saw that, you can’t take wood shop.” The bell r. I could now leave and go do normal things while celebrating a dynamic first session of ACE. I didn’t have to be back until after lunch for ACE Gym, my afternoon free time and an hour of group therapy. Nothing more exciting than new information and it information was already out. A six foot eight center is roaming these very halls somewhere right now Migrating north from TN Sean’s mother, now divorced from Madison originally accepted a job offer to essentially run one of the worlds foremost medical centers in Boston. My mother had told me all about it again and again after reading an article about her new position in the town paper the Minutemen. Rolling down stairs I’m sprinting to the crew and judging by their faces before a spoken word, they knew. For myself, Magic, Santo, Wells, Goldy, Scully and Spec we couldn’t have been happier than if we were seven years old in FAO Schwartz, Manhattan on Christmas Eve in the Star Wars section with an unlimited budget and ability to fall back asleep as many times as we wanted. Since the fifth grade we went to camps. We played year round. We knew we were going to good but in short, no pun intended we needed a center. Last years 6-5 captain graduated. And “Stretch” as Coach Farias nick named him on spot was 6-8. We lived with this horrible slight of height all through the chase of our vision. Santo was the tallest and only six three the final piece to the puzzle. Stretch our new center. “Hey it’s unbelievable. I can’t wait to see him play today. We might be great.”” “How’s ACE?” Mizz responded with the utmost in curiosity “Crazy I’ll tell you all about it later.” Once the final bell rang Magic and I never on time gave quick pounds to our crew as we headed to an early lunch to talk and mentally prepare for our fall basketball workouts that started in exactly five hours. I still had guidance people nurses and a few faculty friends that could dodge me out of my mainstream classes. Get back some normal time. 2:30PM. Training for the season started the first day of the fall with after-school intramurals last year when I fractured my ankle. This was fall ball. So on this splendid fall day the unveiling of the hottest thing to hit Madison since Paul Revere was our new center Stretch. He was blonde with a big smile and all American good looks. He was a Young Gun. It was being made for Hollywood.