Friday, January 30, 2015
Feb 25th The awakening “Charlie, listen to my idea, OK, it's the year is 2095 and the whole world is gay.”
My room: 6:08 AM. I was always a morning person in my mother’s image. And that next day I awoke earlier than usual and looking around those same four cornered walls that had housed all of my madness, a smile shined. I opened the day stretching my arms above my head talking to my homy. “Santo, you listenen? You just see that shit? Did you see what I figured out yesterday? Not black, I was forcen it, I’m going to college buddy, clean up my act, going to be a big time stock broker, a little wind, put me on that track and I’ll run away with it. I was now even coming around on white people. And on that morning there was never a feeling greater or more powerful. I looked back out of the window over the acre of land that was our lot shaking my head with a child’s fondness. My backyard was something wasn’t it? Look at the amazing pink and purple rhododendrons that dotted my Fenway cut. The large Oak trees that fortified the lawns east and west flank, the slinky Dogwood tree nestled in front of our Tom Sawyer fence. The fresh mulch and my own private green monster, a fifteen foot high green hedge that we used to determine home runs during our celebrated wiffle ball championships. “Yup I’m definitely not black.” I said again looking out into the woods, passed the chain fence that separated our back garden from the naked woods and all of its wonderful life and sounds. It was still our lot, but a divider was necessary. Back behind the chain fence was our compost pile. And further back was of course Craig’s famous attempt of building my sister her own frog pond just like the one she had in Cape Code for a present after her freshmen year. Yo Jesus I mean sir or just Jesus, my bad, gotta say, and thanks Breath had become nutritious. I’m sprung out of bed in dance. Smiling and scanning back into my own room, over my desk and personal computer, the trophies, curtains and air conditioners I was mortified. Springing up from my bed, I walk downstairs pass the dining hall, living room and den and find my rock the one constant in this whole maze busy working as always hard for me. My mother. “Wummy” I shout incredibly loud with my arms wide open. “There’s my boy. Good morning” “I’m sorry.” “For what.” “Just you know sorry for everything.” “oh that’s OK, Come give mummy a hug” “I might even take my Ritalin today” “You golden child.” “I know” Good times, I chose her side. I ran back upstairs. I believed her. Plus if I left there was no one the “family” thing had been reinforced everyday for the past four years. Only funerals, courts and hospitals could connect my dad and his family. It confirmed the whole story. Not one phone call, letter or house appearance. It’s OK because at that moment I was thinking to myself I’m probably the most selfish person on the planet, but I can still get out of it all, start apologizing across the board immediately. I needed Jesus. He saw me in the hospital and he see’s me now. He see’s me because I’m in trouble. And he see’s thin families like the projects can work, just a lift to get you where you’re going, he’d been with my mother when she was alone for those first two weeks. They formed quite a bond. And now, there’s a light, he see’s me now, Jesus, I’ve seen the light, please help. Let me rise, save my mother and sister in the process here. I’m asking, help. Blood outside of medical records it seemed in our story like Magic’s meant nothing. We were in trouble. Parker was lucky to be alive. We were still in shock, she was in a lot of trouble. My mother now had “ticks” when the phone rang, spasms, nerves frayed and delicately I had to shield everything from everything a delicate task with final loose ends to tie up. And for my teachers and custodians I’d pass in the hallways, my closing arguments. The Big Guy didn’t understand that. My mother, sister and I essentially had little adult supervision over the past three years. I needed “pals” a crew a family. It was just us. AND THAT WASN’T ENOUGH. I needed those guys or that 20K in paper never happens. Santo got me into college it was only in the wake of his tragedy that Mrs D and I build the rapport we had. And the same with the “shot”, party appearances, college, Lynx, this help came out of his passing. It was the first time the system was going to work for me. For this whole weird thing, UNLV, that whole “thing” was built to flip an enormous gravity that followed my mother and my sister. We just didn’t seem to have good luck maybe I was put in this situation because I was actually in spite of all of this, the luckiest point of view was crazy. It was an exhilarating last twelve hours. “ANOTHER BEATUFL DAY IN Zamunda!” I say kissing my mother and smashing heads like we loved to do with our long lost hero cat Butterscotch. “It’s a beautiful day kiddo! OK, now sit down.” She cutely says, “You have your usual cranberry juice, glass of milk, two eggs over hard with English muffin and cereal.” “I fucking love breakfast.” I got this every single morning. “And the Sports section is right there.” A wave of relaxation coats my exterior, quite frankly the Boston Globe sports section got me off suicide watch more than a couple times incidentally having put me on it made for convenience. “Mommy you’re the best.” In all of this association I’d forgot the biggest thing to ever happen in my life. “Oh ma!” I jump up on some oh fuck shit. “What?” She asks frightened. Any excitement with our resume can get her off guard. But this was big. “Sit down Charlie Peter.” “OK, OK, mom but guess what?” “what? You got into college, I know we’re very proud, I don’t have ADD I remember things people tell me a night before.”” “No! Not that. Yesterday I realized that I’m not black.” “you did?” She asked astonished “Yeah.” I say breathing out and nodding with affirmation like I can’t even believe it myself before adding. “Is that crazy?” And my mom triumphantly says in the happiest voice ever albeit screaming, “Well I’ve only been trying to tell you that since the sixth grade.” “I know, I know.” Looking down “I’m so proud of you.” The romantic in me hopes she was looking up to an invisible camera with the ‘this kid is retarded’ face while speaking her soft caring words. “Anyway I’m sorry. I don’t know anything at all. I’d tell Monster but he’s always telling me how retarded I’m.” “Well if your retarded, than he is too.” “yup.” I sigh and say like a young Dirk Digler. “I still hate white people.” I finger snap, point and fire back in a level tone. “Why?” “Just joking, I had you, I love you.” “Charlie, dear god, you are funny, OK eat up, Mike will be hear any minute, if I was Mercedes I’d never drive you to school again either.” “Anyway its been great, like an enormous weight lifted off my chest. I have so much to learn.” “Charlie you don’t know how good it is to hear those words. That’s a good boy.” She finished in Reggie voice. “Mama’s baby, you get tummy tickle.” I was racking up the hugs this morning. “Well anyway Ma, I think I’m going to go around today to all of the teachers and principles and apologize for being a jerk.” “Really?” “Yeah why you don’t think I should.” A quick breath before my mother makes eye contact with me and sweetly says, “yes, as your manager, yes, probably should.” “And I’m going to college, I’m going to major in business, play basketball hang in wealthy circles and make the honor roll just to show dad first semester.” “Wow” “Yup, just tellen you, and then I’m going to write a movie about all of this call it Mad-Vegas, and have famous friends in music and sports, and bring all the Young Guns with me, we’re going to start a charity, give back, Magic’s going to be mayor ma” “OK Charlie, settle down your scaring me” “It’s all going to work out mom. I love you.” “I know. I’ve always believed you know that.” “You always prayed.” I smiled a funny homage to how emotional we could get. “I know” “Pray for Parker” “I know she’s going to be OK.” And we’d cried every night since Parker’s accident together just us relegated to our own tears and reconciliation of how the fuck this happened here. This was all too crazy, great time to rally. “MWAH!” I saluted, picked up my egg sandwich (I never carried books) and walked out the door. “Have a great day, see you when you get home!” “OK!” I ran towards the car screaming. “Shhhh” Magic would say as I got into the car and slammed the door. And as the season dragged the arguments and sports discussion in ACE could turn emotional between any of us on a drop. But who cared if we got emotional, the person you couldn’t get emotional but sometimes couldn’t help it was the Big Guy. And the arguments always came back to the same motif, my moron friends, limits to a loyalty that misguided what a family was all about, they were just friends after all. And I still bit my tongue, the hardest bite, I wanted to scream, your all alone too and it sucks, you need friends you big dummy!” I bit my tongue after everything scared to speak my mind scared to battle his judgment against my own wisdom scared to stand up for what I believed. He still controlled my credits which I’d had no update on ever and was scared to ask. What I knew in my heart not in my brain the truth was we were both right but like my mother and I unwilling to make any concessions even though I think I almost had it. Soon with no more elections I would make my case. When he benched me in Melrose. When he suspended me for the first week of the season. He’d tell me, “I’m doing it because I want you to learn from it. Hey at this point? I’m still getten reports like that?” And it would get worse when the FACE program expanded. The veil had been lifted. My friends were welcome upstairs at their own peril, the virtue of the FACE quickly became a vice as this miserable season rolled on. My boy C my former vice president of gambling and choir boy at the Big Guy’s church would come up and defend us. “Your starting Jaffe over Magic? What are you nuts?” “Mike can’t hit a free throw.” The Big Guy retorted matter of fact, Coach jolted his shoulders against a stern face that rarely broke sullen on sensitive topics. “And why did you bench Charlie? On the road, Scully’s knee?” “Hey enough Cullen it was his fault. You think I don’t know he could’ve helped us down the stretch. You are such a banana head.” “C enough, it was my fault.” Soon the regular season expired and the seeds were announced. I had given up a month ago. On the morning before tournament the Big Guy had asked Coach who was now a head coach down the road turning around a beaten up program that included future NFL star and husband of thee Jessica Simpson Eric Johnson to ask me off the beaten path, “Hey, are you guys going to win tonight or what?” I was seasoned in ACE by then and knew this came from the Big Guy trying to see if I had quit. “Yeah we’re going to win, fuck yes. You comen?” But I didn’t mean it. I pretended to shit my pants when he walked back in to the main coach room. The state tournament started tonight and I didn’t give a fuck if we won or lost. I was deflated. We’d lose in the first round to Billerica on a floor that wasn’t even swept. The Big Guy had plugged me back into the starting line up wrong on some many level as had he’d coached this special group of friends ever since Santo and this past summer. I couldn’t forget what he said to Magic, “Eh Mike! We had a nice service, I don’t want to see you guys crying about this all year.” And that was June. He’d said the same thing about my heart. It reminded me of Porches and Mercedes mother saying the same thing to me just days after Santo’s untimely accident. Fuck is wrong with people, god dam. Final Game: We won the tap, Magic fed me, my first shot, state tournament, three ball that took a year to get off was swatted violently out of bounds. I was yanked yet making an inspired run at the end, the Young Guns fell short, 68, 61, we were 13-5, first round exit, final stat line. We’d lost the Middlesex league title among other things ultimaltely ranking middle of the road after 30 years of Madison basketball excellence. The program we were born to purport died with our stars. I was a role player. I remember Coach Brinklow whose missed free throws contributed to our Young Guns summer title coming in and saying, “nice career guys.” To me, Goldy and Magic and that was it just like that our whole childhood. What a weird feeling it was, over, tossing my gym bag over my shoulder eschewing a ride walking home for the very last time. The walk didn’t seam as long as it once did. My sister had recovered and had a fresh long scar on the right side of her face. She could part her hair a way and hide it, and still like my arm, eventually people noticed it. She had AA five days a week, lost her license for four years and was smoking weed everyday falling into her English books alone in a high rise dorm. I loved her, and Boone was going up there every single weekend making sure she was good which in retrospect we should’ve never let her speak with any of them again. I needed the company. The School Day Begins 8:45AM. Dripping with optimistic proficiency I burst into the main hall for my day: inside a re-born life. The season had ended and I had officially forfeited all gambling. I had side stepped out of all of it, dead presidents were flying around in chaos there was no control. A year from now nothing like this would occur. I enjoyed having nothing to do with it thinking how unbelievable it was that Skeet probably took heat for the whole thing, fucken dumb ass I’d deny everything as always there was no proof and I didn’t think at this point if we ever saw him again he’d drop my name, I did pray on it. Shedding the shit I started my week off by requesting a time to sit down with all the teachers in my arsenal. I had to tell them I knew nothing at all. An apology of sorts It was my own parade down Michigan Avenue this high school meant so much more to me than the other typical students getting through the gates of adolescents. I had always been famous for the wrong reasons but today on the heels of Santo’s passing and in conjunction of my acceptance of knowing nothing I was truly free. I felt like Magic times a hundred. “Dice!” “Beaver, what’s happening.” “Charlie.” “E squared, you see me doing my thing, right?” “Whatever you see me doing my thing” “What’s up Chuck” “What’s up Jamie.” “Charlie Peter Paradise! I love you!” “I love you Kim, I’m not black!” “I heard Emily told me, so proud of you!” “Mr. Robinson, have a good day.” “You do the same Mr. Paradise, keep up the good things I’m hearing.” “That’s all I do sir.” “Send your sister my love, get me her address” “Charlie, is it true your not doing the.” “Shhhh, Frankie don’t talk about that.” “OK” “Dice, you going to Lael’s tomorrow night.” “Lael having something? yes” “Chuck, what’s up dawg.” “What up Chuck chillen.” I was rolling, rolling in a good way, clean on all counts, and nothing felt better. I was a legend and couldn’t apologize to the faculty fast enough. I knew my first stop, the office of none other than Mr. Nichol’s, a legend among teachers, a football stud and Dartmouth guy that had instructed my dad and was his favorite instructor at this same school that like Back to the Future looked so very different so many moons ago. He’d coined the classic length of a paper line, “Long enough to cover the material, short enough to be interesting.” I knocked at the door. “Mr. Nichol’s, you in there?” I nudged the door a creak and could smell the smoke from his cherry wooden pipe. “Mr. Paradise, is that you? Get the hell in here. What-” And I repeated with Mr. Nichols being a wise ass beating her to the punch, “do I owe this pleasure too.” He stopped, and paused from his pipe, gingerly laughing, “yes.” “Mr. Nichol’s, I have some crazy news, and I really thought I should come to you with it first.” “Ok, my young scholar, bursting with energy and potential, I’m all ears.” His glasses dipped below his wise peepers staring at me like a famous lost poet back from the sands of an enlightened time now stuck here in the crappy early 90’s. “OK, I’m just going to say it. I really believed I was black.” “Really?” He harped on his tone cementing an early case as to why I was there for my first confession. “Why ever did you think that?” “Cause I wasn’t scared, and I could dance. I played hoops, had the struggle in me and hated white people. I thought that god had a mix up like a valued trading card all star misprint. Anyway I just realized for the first time that I’m stupid.” “Congratulations Charlie!” “for what Mr. Nichol’s?” “that’s the smartest thing I’ve ever heard you say.” “haha, good one dude.” Mr. Nichols was a treasure chest of information, all’s I ever wanted to do was attend the high school in the eighties or the seventies, I hate the lame ass grunge filled post Reagan depression known as the early 90’s. On that morning most of that washed away. I was going to college and wasn’t black Mr. Nichol’s wore a leather coat, he urged us to be courageous in our literary expeditions. He at almost seventy years old had jet black hair and for all intensive players in our eyes (me and Monster were the only Young Guns in the crew that had him as a teacher) with the corvette (even though I admonished him for that, I hated corvettes, too white for me), leather pants, jokes and penchant for openly gawking at slinky teenage ass he was a wise player. He smoked accepted beer as bribes and wasn’t your ordinary figure then again nothing about my Madison Hills life ever seamed to be. He’d even taught my own father in high school so many years ago. And only a true player in 1993, could offer a case of Bud Light, I would be the last like the era we’d known was unknowingly coming to an enormous cultural end that exploded borders wide reaching touching everyone in our modern globe. I had to maximize my record utilizing whatever juice, tact eyes and spine I had left. I still had no idea if I was going to graduate scared as all hell to ask the Big Guy what was up with my credits. 10th Grade. Mr. Nick flashback. I had finally been teamed with Monster in an actual class and the two of us were having the grandest of times. Out of respect for Mr. Nichol’s we didn’t ruin the class as was always the calling, plus here was a guy we respected (played football at Dartmouth back in the day) and could learn something from, I still moved down a level dodging a Tale of Two Cities for the “Outsiders.” No thanks Flashback over. Suddenly there was a slight knock on the door as it opened. It was my guidance counselor and good friend of ACE as well as Mr. Nichol’s, Dick Conant on the barbarian tip. “Jim!” Mr. Conant purported as he mightily walked through the door into his small office in F house. “Dick, come on in soldier, we have a special guest star honoring us today with his presence.” “Charlie Paradise, how the hell are you today, good to see you!” Mr. Conant was another rock star on the faculty tip that had always supported me and was a common denominator to both me and my long lost running mate the Black Knight. I’d close out two stars, important pieces, (good) Knights on my chessboard with one reading. Mr. Conant was a king, children’s author and former marine turned guidance counselor. He grew up in the same gritty section of Dorchester that the Black Knight hailed from although running that city neighborhood through the 70’s, 80, and three Republican administrators had upped the body count and depressed the area. There were no more whites to be found by a long shot, but both me and Black Knight always loved that he was a city guy, that spoke of gangs and the inherent struggle of growing up. Before I had one more small surprise in store “Um Mr. Nichol’s before I left, I just wanted to recite that passage of Shakespeare that you said could get us extra credit.” “Oh that one.” He stares at his pipe intently and with deep Yoda knowledge shoved and finally sprinkled all over this corner of the world for fifty some odd years. “Yeah I got one.” I memorized thousands of raps songs. I knew when he announced the extra credit it was be a piece of cake. And I began “For brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name - Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel, Which smoked with bloody execution, Like valour's minion carved out his passage Till he faced the slave; Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps, And fix'd his head upon our battlements.” “Terrific Charlie.” Mr. Conant says as Mr. Nichol’s claps exuding words that launched a hyoper active state and smile. “You’re a star kid, you’re a star!” This warms me and I extend my hand with professional hunger and youthful optimism. “Thank you , thank you!” And finally stepping back to tell them both upon my exit. “I’m going to make you guys proud.” “Go get em Charlie.” “Just want to say sorry, sorry for my ignorance around here through the years.” “Ignorance eh?” I laughed over my new word, “You like that.” A smile and wink these two new had witnessed generations of teenagers, their stamp of approval was important. Leaving his office thug revelry was no longer something desired, at all. I wanted to be polished! Shined till I looked like a mirror stripped clean of dicey veneer, to be steered clear is what I was talking about. I wanted to use these dialectical desserts in a better way. Wow taking three to maybe five minutes with certain faculty I deemed dope provided me with a windfall of charmingly excitable comments. The compliments and all of a sudden good vibe I was getting everywhere especially adults had made skipping classes almost encouraged. Now that I’m stupid teachers enjoyed speaking with me. Fascinating, the great punching irony was this “schmoozing” is what I was built for. After this past winter, all its panic, problems and firestorm I stood there that day, accepted to college, clean on all counts. Just about Doing the right things was easy it seemed, on that day anyway, and certainly less stressful. All business involving me here is closed on the gorilla furilla. I’m not antsy there is no itch. Well that’s not entirely true but this new awareness has already provided a vibe that down right squashes even the most sizzling sensation making book ever sparked. It had been a closet cleansing expunging experience venting trapped truth with certain members of the faculty. Finally my loose and scattered life knowledge was becoming wisdom. My vices were being turned virtuous as I thought and thought, and smiled and talked. I owe it all to Santo, never gave a shit before you buddy. You really have saved one of us, maybe more what a fool, black, funny as shit, me, dam, I’m certainly not color blind. And that was the thing. And what a shocking thing it is for a seventeen-year old kid to realize that. It explained my love. It’s depth, dark secrets plain as the eye could see, the sadness understanding finally being accepted to college what “Kool Aid from the Smooth Adolescents meant, the color wheel. It’s true. That’s why I got away with everything, and I knew it, played it, over and over again, I was white with blonde hair, you know it’s like if you’ve ever accidently taken your cats side over your sisters kitten, they never get over it. Black & Spec two completely worlds, and as kittens they’d had a completely different life and world from us but we all grew up together. I would never however ever stop paying it homage. I appreciate what it gave me for the struggle of rap is so exquisitely necessary. I’d never relinquish my flow. I’d never relinquish the cats and culture that taught me a very important lesson in life, maximizing flavor. At least kids from the city projects still dress nice. Look at the dirt ass poor white trash trailer southern type of people, earth’s scariest race. When white people are down on their luck and mad poor they officially throw their white flag up and officially just give it up. Blacks in this country or wherever will always be my brothers and I’ll never tweak my nuance. METCO taught me strength, endurance and about getting on when all that exists is you. They taught me about playing hurt.