The catch-all for items related to and/or inspired by the music that shaped me.
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This week's theme: The Precious Few
It's way too early to feel like this right now.
Had I not figured out a few tracks to use maybe later on this week as songs that kinda put me if anything at least in a relaxed mood, I could've used songs from Four Minute Mile by The Get Up Kids a good chunk of this week...I have a lot of emotional attachments to this album I guess.
"Coming Clean"? That's about trying to convince people I've fucked over in the past that I really have become a better person...if they're willing to listen and give me another chance. "Don't Hate Me"...because of those awkward moments when I haven't realized the relationship was over until it was too late to salvage it or stop myself from sabotaging it. "Fall Semester" sums up the (lack of a) relationship with my dad for most of my life...now I'm just a name he's got tattooed on his arm and nothing else. "Last Place You Look": that girl who lived in Florida but went to college in NYC; my first ever experience with internet dating and long-distance relationships, really. "Better Half" could've showed up somewhere later in this entry if I was smart enough to figure out where to put it. "No Love" could just be another song on the soundtrack of the most toxic relationship I was ever privileged with being a part of. "Shorty"...for those friends I've wanted to slap when they were caught not actin' right...oh, wait, that was usually me. And "Michelle With One 'L'" is my mom's name, but it's just a sad song...maybe the perfect song to close a nearly-perfect Emo album with; I always expect there to be another song after it because I don't want to be left alone on that note (and that's sorta what the song is about, in a way).
And that's just one album out of however many The Get Up Kids have put out (I don't feel like actually counting). Seeing them play "Woodson" live and going nuts with my best friend and my little brother is a great memory. Having a large, assorted pack of friends from all different parts of my life get together and stand front row at a tiny club show is another, especially during "Ten Minutes". Randomly slow-dancing in my living room to "I'll Catch You" when my girlfriend at the time was going through a rough spot. Dedicating "Holy Roman" to a relationship with a super-tight friend, or drawing the cover of Something To Write Home About on said friend's birthday card one year. I could go on.
But I'm gonna tell this story instead, because it probably stings me the most and even though it's been about ten years it still gets me almost every time I think about it and hear "Stay Gold, Ponyboy". And I don't much care about telling it now because most of the people involved are either out of my life completely or are so far removed that they probably won't give a shit one way or another even if they did see this.
I've got a half-brother, my youngest brother, who is fourteen years younger than me. The baby of the family. The, uhhh, "oops baby", if you will . And he absolutely adored and looked up to me. The day before I graduated high school I finally/officially moved out of my mom's apartment and into my dad/stepmon's house because I thought I'd be giving myself a chance at a better future. And it was a small house, so I had to share a tiny-ass bedroom with him. There was barely enough room for two twin beds, two dressers, an 18-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a little 20" tv...but the attic was off our room and it was huge, so we kept a lot of what wouldn't fit in there.
And yeah, Li'l Mikey was my dude. My little man. Loved comin' home from school or work and playin' with him. Doin' whatever. Coloring, Legos, playin' hockey in the backyard, getting on my knees to wrestle with him and throw him around, taking him to Sabres games and Mighty Taco. I lived with him for about four years or so. We were tight. But things change...I was kicked out of the house and sent out on my own. I still tried to make time for him as much as I could, but I was working full-time and sometimes I'd hold down two jobs...it wasn't easy. And as he grew up, he had his friends from the neighborhood and all, plus his other activities. I tried to be a part of his life as much as I could, but maybe it wasn't enough. I don't know.
Him being the youngest, he was also the stereotypical spoiled baby. He got everything he wanted. My sister Chrissy and I had to work and save and scrounge and live as by-products of the struggles our parents went through when they were comin' up: I practically took out a loan for a Sega Genesis because I bought it out of a catalog with an overblown monthly payment plan; she used all her First Communion money for a Nintendo many years before; he just asked for a Playstation and got it, no questions asked. Clothes, shoes, jackets, toys...anything. He got it. We were jealous, but what could we do? Nothing was gonna change or make up for it, so we lived with it. We could buy our own shit now, but it wasn't the same. Whatever.
Maybe that's why we were all surprised when he started getting in trouble...he had everything; what more could he want? First it was the paintball gun getting confiscated by the cops. Then it was sneakin' out the house and getting into fights (he even had that easy too...his mom worked 3rd shift as a nurse and dad was a combination of "don't care" and "oblivious"). Then clothes started showing up in the laundry that my stepmom knew she didn't buy, and weren't mine (because I'd still pop over to do my laundry at their place often). Still, nothing was brought up. Even when my stepmom's Lortabs went missing, all he had to do was deny it and he was in the clear. He says he didn't take 'em, then he didn't take 'em...I guess that was their call. My sis was getting fed up; she had moved back home after breaking up with the guy she had been living with and she saw a lot of what was going on, but it was kinda her word against his, and even then it wasn't much because she wasn't around a whole lot either...she just knew he was gettin' fucked up a lot. Way more than a high school kid should've been.
And maybe it's because there wasn't a drop in his grades (they were actually better the more he was using). His daytime relationships looked legit...he could be down the street skateboarding and porch-sitting whenever we drove by, and for all we know that's all it was. Cute cheerleader girlfriend. A likable kid. But he was a walking pharmacy. OTC pills, most of which you needed an ID to buy (and he was still underage, so him and his friends were shoplifting them most likely). Prescription meds going for $10, $20, $40 a pill...some I couldn't name, and I worked in a drug store. Street drugs. Hard drugs. Maybe even a little booze, just for fun. And no one really knew. Like I said, my sister had her suspicions, but with no real proof all she could do was plant seeds of doubt in her mom's head...but not the baby of the family! Not our little angel!
Until the cops brought him home. Again. While my parents were home. And the woman whose window or screen door or whatever it was he kicked in pressed charges. I don't remember the whole story so I don't know all the details, but I doubt anyone's reading this that does know what happened so now it's my memory over theirs. He was fined bigtime, ordered to pay restitution and damages, and put on strict probation: no drugs or alcohol, a curfew, maintaining good grades. Thought he was scared straight. But eventually he got caught back up with the shitty group of friends he was fuckin' around with, and everything went to hell fast for him. This was it: jail, or rehab.
There's a teenage drug rehab facility about twenty minutes from my folks' old place. And it's no surprise that there's always a wait to get a bed there; supposedly it's one of the best options as far as rehabilitation goes in WNY for kids under 18...but it's also a bigger testament to the growing drug problem in the area. And at first he wasn't able to get in right away. Somehow, someone pulled some strings for him...I don't know if it was his judge, his probation officer, a teacher or counselor, I have no idea. All I know is he avoided the pokey.
Now, at the time I was an Assistant Manager at an Eckerd Pharmacy. On a good day my store was a six minute drive from my house, and it took approximately one more minute to drive past that to my parents' duplex. I vaguely remember my sister telling me Mike was in some trouble and might be "going away" *wink wink* *nod nod* for a little bit, but she wouldn't go into detail I think because she wanted him to tell me everything...this is roughly around the very beginning of my family falling completely apart. Chrissy and I were no longer as close as we used to be, I wasn't coming by as often and when I did my dad was practically catatonic in his recliner in front of the TV, and conversation between everyone was usually stilted. Birthdays weren't the same, holidays weren't the same...nothing felt right anymore. And to make things worse, I was dealing with my own personal issues...I was trapped in an abusive relationship with a narcissistic woman who refused to divorce her husband, I absolutely hated my job because my boss was the "perfect manager" and I wasn't very good at it nor was I trained very well by my previous manager...and their boss kept hitting on my married girlfriend, who was also an assistant with the company at another store. So I handled the nights I didn't spend going out and getting shitfaced or fighting verbally and physically with the crazy girlfriend the best way I knew how to cope...getting drunk in my dining room alone, writing until I could barely read what I was trying to piece together (I wrote a lot of "Ribmeat Of The Family Tree" around this time...I think that's the last one I started working on getting archived at WDC last summer...I'll finish doing that someday ) and basically driving myself crazy because I wasn't being the best person I could've been. I was getting way too far into my own head and into everything else instead of doing the things I was supposed to be doing: being a good brother and family member, being an ideal boyfriend even if the relationship was not ideal, being a good and dedicated employee, etc. Instead of doing all that, I was stressing about not doing all that, and I was being, for lack of a better tern, unhealthy about all of it. I was orchestrating my own nervous breakdown. I don't even remember anymore which came first...the first of mine, or Mike's rehab. I'm assuming mine did, but I'll save that for later this week maybe.
So anyway, I was a barely-functioning mess, and on top of that I now had to face the emotions of feeling like I failed my family again because of Mike and him going into rehab. And for whatever reason, The Get Up Kids were playing. I may have had their cds loaded into the 6-disc changer in my car, or they may have shown up on my iPod, but that didn't matter. The day he was to be taken in, I left work on my lunch break to say goodbye. I was a bawling mess...I hadn't cried that much in a long time. Certain lyrics from different songs would just throw boulders into my gut, and I'd shudder with tears. Ugly crying, the very definition...while driving the short distance from 542 (my apartment, as it was known) to work, and from work to my folks' place.
"We're loyal, like brothers...just us vs all the others!"
"I'm sorry...I hope you'll forgive me. But what you want from me is killing me."
"Don't be scared 'cuz you're not something I'm willing to lose."
"Saw my baby boy, diggin' his own hole. Keepin' alive family traditions."
"You build me up...you break me down again. And I take it."
"I hope you don't think less of me. If i'm cold, I don't want to watch you go. I'll cry, until I can't see the whites of your eyes...for two more years."
Every song that came on, it seemed. I was wrecked. Heartbroken. And there was nothing I could do but say goodbye. We could visit occasionally once he got settled, and he could write letters to certain people (all monitored), but no phone calls. Well, family had limited visitation rights...except me. I was "too much of an outside risk" because "I had problems of my own" and was considered a bad influence. I was devastated...that's the only way I know how to put it. Yet I didn't exactly celebrate it either, if that's what you want to call me not doing anything about it...instead, I played right into it. I got worse the more I tried to get better. I was losing my grip on everything. All I had to do, all I had to help this kid, my brother, was his letters from inpatient longterm rehab offering me encouragement, when it should've been the other way around. I should've been the older, responsible brother...leading by example. And I was anything but.
Somehow I managed to secure some visitation privileges. Every other Saturday when it was my weekend off I'd meet up with him at an AA meeting...it was part of his treatment and how he could earn some free time, and afterwards I'd take him out to lunch and we'd catch up. And every single time I felt like a shithead for all the little things I did wrong between us, and for not paying more attention to him as he got older, and for still using even though he was working on getting clean. I was still every reason not to have any time or contact. It wasn't lost on me, any of it.
And eventually, I wanna say after nine months, he earned his release and was able to graduate from high school with his class. Here's a testament to my family's tone-deafness when it comes to addiction issues: It was either his "Welcome Home" party or his graduation party...one of them was held in the back of a VFW post my dad was a member of or hung out at or somethin' like that. And my only experience with VFW halls has been that's where all the old guys go do drink by themselves. So this kid's fresh outta rehab, and we're all havin' beers to celebrate. Just one of the many reasons in the Owners' Manual Troubleshooting Guide as to why we're not really a family anymore. I played my role, and I acknowledge that. Mikey has owned and acknowledges his part. And everyone else is just as selfish as they've portrayed me to be in their own special ways. Nobody else wants to admit it, and everyone wants to think they're some kind of hero in their version of our little story. I don't have time for that...I'm trying to be a better me first and foremost.
On a positive note, as far as I know Mike's doing well. We don't talk much but he's the only one I still have any contact at all with, and that's the way I prefer it. He's got a steady job and a kid now, and we had tentative plans last summer when I was back home to meet up, but they fell through and that was the last of things for awhile. When I make it back to WNY I don't really make a big deal out of it anymore...everyone misses you and wants to see you again until you actually come back, and then they're all really busy and shit comes up. Even when I've been able to give people plenty of notice ahead of time, plans always seems to fall through. So whatever...I don't go out of my way for anyone anymore because I see how it is, and I don't want the letdown. And it's probably for the best.
"State your distance, but it's not a million miles away.
If this is what will really make you happy... then I'll say...that we'll be...
old enough to know better; young enough to pretend.
This is the last of my letters until I see you again."