Called my biological father. He didn't answer so I left a message about flying out that weekend. Didn't say exactly why because neither reason involved him. Just said something about taking Uncle to our cousin's -- second or first for either of us a mystery to me -- big family birthday party.
Birthday celebrations're stupid, sure. A concept invented by previous generation as distraction or capitalism, same thing: advertisement. Newsfeed debates about far removed political issues or the NFL, reality TV. It's all contrived to keep the masses in factions. Combative and playing monopoly. Labeled, organized, and opinionated about made up things. An egotistical, materialistic public is good for enterprise and autocratic governments.
That's what birthdays do. In a small way.
But, family is important if just for the time already put in by them toward you. Gotta pay that back, at least. To those who've raised and molded us most. Both sides of mine had been there during the greatest grieving and striving periods in my life. Haven't been close with either group in a long time. Still time to try. And I needed to visit Uncle, too, or else he might have nobody. The best reason for a traditional holiday is the chance for camaraderie, anyway. Banal skepticisms and negative attitudes may feel technically correct reflections of the ever-encompassing dystopia but aren't in the end beneficial.
I phoned the pawn shop in Monterey Park and they said, "Whoops."
"What do you mean?"
"Sir. I'm sorry, we sold your 3DS already," stammered the lunchtime coverage. "But the XBOX remains here."
"What happened to the bag my PS4 and 3DS were kept in? It was a personal item."
"Sir. I'm not seeing record of anything -- ."
Told him it was fine as long as they held onto the XBOX, "My flight gets in at noon."
The man on the phone apparently handed me to the manager, finally, because a much clearer and resonate voice asked all whiskey, "When will you be in!?"
Is there really that much of a deadline on unloading that junk 250G XBOX S, I wondered. It's a plastic reproduction of a rushed and overpriced entertainment unit. A late and cheap knockoff of the gaudy and invasive, too-soon eighth generation effort.
"My flight gets in at five."
"How 'bout any time before eight thirty?" He exhaled, back shelves overflowing with shoddily produced electronics.
My purchase anxiety to buy the hundred dollar flight for the next morning got me an afternoon departure instead. But worked out better for the girl and I, that night, for sure. Allowed us stay up late sharing a steakburger and fries. Some kissing, cuddling, brushing of thighs -- what have you. Careful investigation into the unknown. Trust and comfort tested and reinforced by each other inside the entanglement of intimate moments. Just being two and alone in her room, nothing doing. A mutual Stockholm syndrome for two tired of everyone else.
But commonality aside. How adverse to others or oneself must someone become for them to be unable to get along one-on-one with any other of us? Mankind wants itself, ultimately.
Before we'd gotten food that night my high forgetfulness permitted I leave my debit card in the ATM machine without realizing, when I got cash at the Bear bank. Once you drive away it eats the card for safe keeping.
Cursed in line right after singing praises to our poor (but promisingly pleasant-at-first) dinner choice: the ever salty and fat, Steak and Shake. "Left my card!" Surprised her with the instant tone deviation. Not the first time I'd exclaimed like and about this exact issue in a drive-thru piloting the girl's vehicle. Campaigning for "splurge nights" for me and my kind is never, however, a gambit for getting -- in fact, conversely and arguably worse this was the product of miscalculated generosity.
"I can pay," she offered, a little shiny rectangle already betwixt fore and middle fingers under my chin. But the total had rung to more than even I'd planned to spend when I believed it to be at the behest of my own infinitely swipeable check card.
"No," I tried. "I really just got paid -- it's cool. I'm more upset we've settled for fast food and it's still expensive."
She pushed unnecessary sunglasses into her bunned hair, neither clearly holding up or onto the other. A bird's nest of fine wheat and dried willow, touselled precariously to jangle her glinty trophy.
"Not really," she mused, staring off. "For two people it's pretty good. I spend way more at Slim Chickens."
"Right, but that's comparing convenient versus excessive -- plus somehow our eyes are even bigger than our stomachs there, where the prices are also much higher. All in all, it's not really worth what we're getting. Especially if these dozen balls of fried dough upset our tummies in the end." Which they would, always.
"I'm about to start anyway," revealed the girl unashamed but shrugging. "I already feel gross."
"Yeah, me too," I told her. "I think we're on the same cycle.
She glanced at me as we pulled forward into the light of the pay and pick up window out behind the restaurant (per quickness and discretion). The yellow and white glares caught phosphorescent crescents splintered concentrically and sporadically around her sharp iris's just before the gold, oil, and purple-green shades fell into place like blast doors.
"A man's time of the month is more manic than depressive -- I think. Imaginary call to action, or a harumph of unachievement."
"Monthly mid-life crisis," she suggested.
"Exactly," I submitted. "Better than childbirth or monthly menopause, though."
Blessed goddess bestowed her divine grace -- dropped me off at MCI, said so long between lip hugs, I had just enough money to get a bag of exxtra hot Cheetos, a flyaway bus ticket, a replacement TAP card, and one-way bus passage on that. The chips and the tap card turned out to be redundant and misspent cash -- about a three dollar loss as I didn't need the Cheetos and I already had a TAP card in my wallet. But taking the bus from LAX to Union Station, and another from there downtown, to another toward El Monte turned out to be the cheapest transport option aside from asking for help from somebody, so found it necessary. Anyway it left me with eighty dollars. The exact amount required for pick up. That's a synchronicity.
The buses brought me to M Pawn from the airport in just under two hours. An hour early for the requisition, so I waltzed right in (after ringing the doorbell). No ticket, however. The guy added a charge of three bucks according to a note left by the manager. "Really?"
"It says eighty for pick up," He started saying immediately. "-- Thirty is the interest and a fee of that." He pointed at the receipt bottom. Fee: Tres Dolores.
The interest breakdown perplexed as well. Only a dollar storage charge, but punching the ticket into the computer cost thirteen bucks. Musta been the only work they had for that hour. Pawn shops're much less popular in Los Angeles than the Midwest, especially lately. Buy it new or have no money, probably. A well spread, even sweeping metropolis, LA. Laden with severe disparity. Downtown being the nexus with high rise apartments blocks away from the slums.
Paid the interest anyway to obligate they hold the thing and walked the two and a half hours to my grandpa's house in El Sereno. Walked with a book held out to keep the sidewalk and street in view, swallowing the embarrassment of how it looked. Listened to a podcast when there wasn't light.
Actually got to the house too soon, neither book nor broadcast completed. Would finish one on the back deck with a smoke, I probably thought upon reaching that last hilltop. Jelly feet. Shins vibing. Down that last slope past gated and fenced old homes.
The keys had been removed from the lockbox out front. Didn't bother with it, just pulled a black dumpster from the neighbors drive and put it next to the fence, crook of a post. Only six feet high, space enough between the spikes along top that my heels fit on the other side of the rung between them.
Hopped onto the trash can and gingerly lifted each leg over to the footholds, squatted, and leaped down to a small planter. Turn the landing into another squat. Free workout sometimes moving about the environment.
Stood before the gated and padlocked, reinforced front door a moment. Iron Gate over the front window to the den.
Any house that's been my home has allowed me break inside from time to time. Like a rite of passage. A proof of ownership. Not my house? Then what am I doing up inside it? (Also, check my license -- the address).
Set down my bag and went left round the overgrown front garden and down concrete stairs with a penlight to the back porch. Two-stepped up the broken boards. Found the sliding glass door at the back locked twice.
Back to the front and across to the other side of the house, to the bedroom window, but was blocked by a mostly dead -- but long out of control -- shrubbery. Sad but funny because the window here had only recently been unblocked from the inside, but the bush had been unkempt and left to block the window for almost nine years. Everything in my grandpa's room had a year ago been put in a box, a bin, or otherwise set aside for Dad's review, by me. Including G's cat who died under the bed two weeks after he.
My sister and I had maybe started calling him "G" in high school as we recognized that he had never really been just an old grump -- although Grumpy had been our childhood nickname for him -- but a true Gangsta.
True like never killed anybody or at least would never speak of it had it been required of them. But still a go-getting, showboating, from-the-bottom-to-the-top, straight player.
Because it's all a game.
The sun had sunk out of sight. Spotlight came on, but out front the garage door held tight.
Checked the rot iron frame around the front window and it wiggled. The window itself had been left open and the screen hung only at the bottom, bobbing outward with the breeze.
A flat T brace of some kind waited in a bucket by the boxes in the drive where I rummaged. Found it and turned out the bolts holding the rot iron gate to the house. They came out so easily that the weight of the grate seemed lesser until it swung down fully free except for the brackets at the bottom, which bent.
Braced it on a trash can, fingered out that screen, and jumped inside the den, down the hall with a right-left zag in it to two stairs, a landing, then a whole case to the basement, round through heaped boxes all hung open and finally arrived at the back door. Unlocked it and paused, then quickly checked for my stash of marijuana. Not to be found. My tote of clothes ransacked!
Frantically unfolded each item of clothing to make sure before deep breathing about it, cursing my biological father. My dad not my boss, and the tote mine, a prescription for the pot. This is the future. Drugs are given out by licensed professionals. Kids are huffing compressed air in their basements. Not much has really changed socially or physically yet so it's hard to notice the exponential and tumultuous spiritual flux going on across the nation.
But marijuana will be legal almost everywhere in half a decade, so get used to the future old and young. That'll be the "least" of it if that's the kind of thing you fear. Some people want to believe for whatever reason that all these changes are signs of the season, coming of the end. Some cliche apocalypse. But humankind should morph, have robot parts, order self-driving shuttles, bikes instead of cars, and alter their perception of what is real and important with proper drug use, meditation, flotation and exercise, or we'll never make it to glitzy science fiction books, movies, television and our dreams.
Went fuming back up to the zig in the hall and through the garage to get my bag. Stood out in the front spotlight surrounded by junk stacked, empty trash cans, and a pallet. Spotlight on us.
Felt like I was twelve. Eight-teen. Twenty-five. An infinite child worming his way through endless ages, back and forth through time, in concentric circles. Hopefully outward or upward each iteration, every year, through each lunar cycle. Daily, even. At least better in each similar case that comes along throughout these spiraling 'round each other and onward life stages.
Echoes in a well. Inter-dimensional light shining through the silent, splashing water at the bottom of eternity. And trapped in a monkey.
Checked the mailbox with the penlight and a stick. Dad had taken the mail and the keys with him. Inside the living room, his bike hugged itself and a chair with U-shaped bike locks. One mine and one his. But my junk huddled where I left it, including the change jar on my desk with just over five dollars in quarters therein.
Drank a beer and went to bed sometime around two. After sorting a little. Mostly searching, really.
"He really just threw that shit out," I mused aloud. "That's prescription meds, for real. Can't do that, Dad."
Woke so many times Sunday morning to alarms confusingly set the night before. Two hours to the left on a globe, but the phone hadn't auto-updated. Clocking Missouri time, got up with the sun.
Went to clean up the mess outside, eat some soup, get dressed and poop. Then walked all the way back to the shop, before walking broke as homeless person to see Felipe, my uncle.
The help made to get his things in a hurry, but I explained awkwardly that I did not have a car. Their eyes stayed always narrow in shape not expression -- although that's sometimes the impression -- but widened shortly then. Swiveled simultaneously down to the my tidings.
Had a large bag on my back and boxes in my hands.
Unpacked as Uncle and I had our typical banter. Plugged in the box as the nurse and carer watched, briskly explaining during each process but to blinking eyes and no questions.
Fine. Put a movie in for him and left.
Two dollars meant an ice cream at least on the walk home.
Felipe's hospice home resided in San Gabriel. The round trip to get his shit and see him, set it up and teach them, walk back -- took seven hours. And had to skip the birthday party because Montebello would add an hour there and back walking south of home. By the time I had started walking home the sun began slipping quickly away from its zenith. Party at two and phone already dying too much audio use on the walk.
Ran for some portions, but at least knew the way without my phone powered on and in my pocket, forgotten. Read a good book the whole way. Finished it upon returned. And my cousin finally texted me back from earlier.
Adam Trainor: R u coming to halos krib
Me: I was until I got locked out of the house...
Adam: No way that's too funny
It actually is, I thought as I landed in the planter other side of the front fence again. Finally. Went to the garage door to touch base and for a few minutes fiddled with putting the grating back over the window. Took all my strength to hold it in place and turn the bolts, which wouldn't catch. I'd broken it. Really broke in, perhaps should be locked out if can't repair the damage.
Adam: Did you get back in
Me: Ha, yeah. But I did some accidental damage..
Not a lie just out of order told. Not always necessary to be chronological. Or else I might never tell the truth. Especially around an aura judgmental.
Adam: You wanna chill n smo ill roll through after
Me: That'd be cool, man.
Adam: Yeah text me your addy
I did so, just the first line because it's the only one but he asked for the city anyway.
An hour later asked again if he could, come over, "n chief real quick," and asked about papers or a piece. Confirmed I had neither. Pops dropped all my stuff in the trash last time he came by, told Adam. He had a good laugh and got some papers for us on his way.
Showed up another thirty minutes later or so, SUV, wife driving. Her name rhymed with a word or two, probably. Hazy proper noun dictionary.
Told them happy birthday and the state of our predicament.
"I still haven't found the keys to the gate..."
Luckily had the Lot key, so we went there after I jumped sidewalk-side in front of them. Adam's wife held the ladder.
The other property my grandfather owned and left resided next to the northern neighbor, just a short walk uphill.
Explained nervously why the situation had gotten the way it was, although the exacts about it didn't matter to them and we shared the LA evening, kushy. Smoking in a circle like we would at work or in the service except something that causes momentary euphoria instead of a constantly bleak yet driven dreariness, loneliness, and various cancers.
The conversation lasted about an hour, but felt like three. Caught up on work, the weather, video games and arcades down the street, family, the neighborhood, and made promise to see each other again soon.
As they drove away the day finally hit me as just what I'd come for, through time and space, to keep hold these threads that keep slipping out my grip. The truest blessing of childhood is the the close-knit environments inherent. A smaller world. All sewn together.
Then we stretch out and spread, get kneaded, worn by the world and eventually the lines connecting us grown bare, thin. New ones stitched in. Pull on some and they snap. Retie the important ones with a knot if possible. But others are phased out altogether. If still connected, in the void.
Too many broken threads make a hole. Whole lives woven together just to unravel at the end.
Infinite avatars for the divine to probe the universe through. All of us different sides and mutations of an original source, but because we're all shards begotten from that big bang, sons and daughters of an exploding, evolving, and expanding -- but nevertheless, solitary -- god, we both owe and are trapped by the physical reality that makes it possible. In a crowd, by myself in public, or in solitude, with my friends, family, or while avoiding either of them and staying at home, there's always a lonely underlayment.
But I think I love it.
Walked to the Bear bank. Went inside. Got cash out with my ID. Boring.
Walked north ten blocks and paid the library late fees, and used a computer to research and purchase some penny stocks back for a net gain after they'd sold off high that morning. Only two hundred dollars, but that's two-thirds rent.
Home Depot next. Got anchors to bolt the window back on and walked home past the dispensary to get some of my own. Fuel. Some strains do different things, believe. The most obvious difference is energy versus sleep. Light green keeps you up. Purple puts you down deep.
Anchors weren't big enough.
Damnit! Sat and grabbed at my feet. Tossed a rock in self-defeat.
Then went out back and smoked while I wrote, until my laptop ran out of battery and I had no excuse left but to go through and throw out my excess stuff. Got two trash bags full. Took a short walk up the block to dispose of them. Then packed a bag for the next morning and hit the sack snoring.
Flew back to Kansas City. Took nearly all day, but the girl came along to pick up the man from the airport. Victorious return. With an extra bag this time, filled with sentimentality.
"How'd it go?"
"I was aching for an adventure and got one," I told her. "So, pretty well."
"Good." but not much else was said until her emails were under control, I'd gotten my bag and found the car. We drove off catching up, smoking lung cancer sticks, and cranking the radio.
Don't know for certain anymore why I went or why the universe allowed it be done in the way it had. brought back exactly no cash. But mission accomplished. And paid the next day with an extra check coming via snail mail from the best savings account ever, a brokerage.
Drove home, to my garage turned bedroom, dorm-style apartment. Parked the girl's car out front, not one of my own at the moment. Nine to five laborious job would resume in the morning. But for now we got out and walked bouncing rumps. Returned to my brother cooking, Travis the cat napping. Well met! And warm otherwords were exchanged as I strutted about the space, a miniature ceramic castle in a fishbowl compared to the sunken and rotting galley in the aquarium out west. The perspective shift from chaos in noman's land to familiar at hearth had me filled with the feeling of coming home compounded, multiplied by being so much action.