Super Sunday Hamster Blender Blog

29 June 2006

Peace Out

My oldest brother died. The only thing worse than him dying is watching him die over the last two weeks. Cancer does that, I guess; take over, reduce a man to nothingness all too fast and not fast enough.

He knew about the cancer for almost two years. Never bemoaned his situation. Never forced sympathy. Just told it like it was.

Those phone calls. “Jimmy, I tell ya, it doesn’t look good.” I can see him shaking his head, a knowing half-smile, as if he was talking about a baseball game, with the home team down by five runs in the ninth. It was almost casual, accepting.

He would not impose his misfortune upon anyone.

The last day. Watching my mom holding his hand, her head down upon the hospital bed. Waiting for his death.

I know he will live on, especially in my children. As much as my parents raised me, so did he. Twelve years older than me, yet he still hung out with me, played with me, made me part of his world. He’s in his twenties, and he’s taking his elementary school brother to the beach. Coming to my school plays. Playing catch. Badminton. Everything.

He always kept himself at my level when I was a kid. Something I have tried to always do with my kids. For those who know the kind of relationship my kids and I have, well, now you understand where it came from. I had one hell of a teacher.

And I have a hell of a lot of very good and dear friends. Those who came to the services, who sent flowers and cards, invited me over; those in my present and even those from deep in my past who came from nowhere to console and support. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate their thoughts, and especially the effort they made for me and my family. Many did not even know my brother; they did it for me. I am deeply grateful.

I have my summer journey planned to San Antonio. I am going to be my kids’ roadie as they play Warped Tour. We are making plans to take in the Rancid show in NYC in August. The seasonal heat means plenty of beach trips. My new XBOX360 keeps me amused. The guys in the band are wonderful; supportive, united lunatics who make Thursday night sessions the best night of the week. I have a gift of five pounds of beloved Twizzlers to plow through.

If it wasn’t for Philip and the precious time he gave me, I could very well be coming home from work, floundering sweaty on a sofa, complaining about the price of gas to the cat and a disinterested wife between desperate swallows of pride; old before my time.


After such a long stretch of rain, it was so sunny the week he passed away. Contrasting weather and emotions. Disbelief and rationalizations. Skip Little League baseball practice, get into his Triumph Spitfire, and Misquamicut Beach is less than two hours away. Never again and never forget.

06 June 2006

Cup of Unsweetened Summer

5:09 PM, Wednesday, 91 South, sluggish and jerking towards the 291 exit in the narrow hope of lessened traffic and the virtues of illusionary speed limit freedom. Bittersweet summer, my summer, taunting; attempting to force guilty air conditioning and thoughts of going nowhere and how the use of air conditioning results in spending a zillion dollars on gas; the same gas that churns a profit for the upper classmen of Exxon and Sunoco who are sitting in air conditioned office spas convincing our ignorant little president that there is a supply and demand problem that can only be rectified by more dead soldiers and deforestation. And higher prices.

The windows stay down in diminutive and dismal defiance.

Saddling beside me, just as stalled, is a metallic silver Corolla, with an oversized spoiler serving virtually no purpose other than to mimic an epic shark fin on an exaggerated, overzealous guppy. Its stereo, costing the teenage owner more than he spends on child support in a year, discharges voluminous doses of Usher. Despite his windows being up, the bass growls along my spine; of course, it has to be this loud, he wants every driver on 91 South to hear it, for it is his way of saying “I am the Chosen One to enlighten you with my insubstantial self-assertion into your life.” Usher. My God, this boy has no soul.

I think all souls have dissipated into the asphalt.

I don’t mind the heat, nor the sweat balling up under my shirt; I am out of work, on my way home, my stink is my own, no one to impress with un-frazzled hair and pressed pajamas; let it all go to hell as the shoes will soon be off and seduced by the stillness. But I can hear them, these Nowhere People, forever bitching about the heat; the same way they bitched about the winter, or the rain-split spring, or the decay of Autumn and the onslaught of New England heating bills; or anything-anywhere-anytime; regardless of time zone, universe, or Survivor outcome. Forever ensnared in the details of the media misery parade, they mimic the sound bites at work, at garden parties, and within earshot of anyone that doesn’t want to hear; feigning intelligence like a desperate chameleon clinging to fit the scenery of ineffectual acceptance.

Acceptance is sometimes too easy a way out.

Then again, maybe this as well, this indiscriminate summer, has balled underneath everyone’s shirts; the nagging deceit suffered by millions of Americans, scrimping and skewering a pittance of two-weeks vacation a year, edgy with pressured and chiseled itineraries and escapist dreams that crumble as fast as they are constructed; back to work, back to jammed copiers and leadership by omission, to a land of the misbegotten and bedeviled. I am, in this moment, the living metaphor for the workforce; mired, overheated, disheveled. All chameleons, forced to change our colors. To fit, to match; our wages, our noble obligations, weakened by the lure of retirement at a time when our legs, livers, and love gives out. Europeans taking off the month of August are amused by us. We merely fight back with a God complex, and the matching war-blood red, religious right white, and the 9-to-5 blues.

And we hold onto a few vacation days just in case day care falls through.

5:21 PM, minutes from false hope, the relief of making forward progress; at least to a home where the curtains can be drawn to a tight close, and a few open hours to cling to before the sudden dusk and wrinkled sheets descend. Wednesday is running out, running away; tomorrow assures a reproduction, a novice rerun with low ratings and an unknown cast; cast-off, castaways; the summer sun strains and promises under the disguise of dawn. There’s coffee with slight, bitter smiles, and the faint possibility of an offhanded drive to the ocean. If it were only the weekend, if only everyday were the weekend, filled with the sweetened summer, filled with the deceptions we have learned to blindly grasp, sold to us. We have to buy, we were raised under shaded, listless maples and lazy-lawn afternoons; the aftertaste of freedoms vanquished, and we are left to fend for shards of contentment and squandered inspirational memories with every passing, unfulfilling payday.

At least there’s always coffee.