Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A memory of my father.

Many years ago, when we first arrived in Canada, we had to live in a one-bedroom apartment. It was all we could afford, I guess. So, me, my mom, and my dad all slept in the same bedroom, though I did have my own bed. Anyway, one humid summer night, just me and my dad were in the room – Dad probably had to work in the morning; mom was still up. And I told my dad how, in middle of night while sleeping, when you turn over your pillow – it’s nice and relaxing how the pillow temperature is much cooler on the other side – and he said something like, “Yeah, I do that too. The pillow *is* cooler on the other side.”

And I remember laying there, savoring that bonding moment. Just two guys, enjoying their cool pillows.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

“The reason I liked that rubber band was because the moment I saw it in the pan of the Hamburger Helper I was cooking for your idiot father was the moment I realized that I cared so little for him that for a few seconds, while I was stirring that crap, twirling the rubber band with the spoon, I considered leaving it in there. I didn't even mind that it must've fallen out of the box of Hamburger Helper; that it got into the box at the factory or what-have-you. No, my immediate thought was to just leave it there. Like a secret revenge. I mean, he was the only one who was going to eat that dinner – I’d already had a tuna sandwich and you were God knows where. But I took it out, because I wasn’t going to have the bastard accuse me of trying to choke or poison him, and because I was better than that. But you know what I did? I rinsed off that rubber band and put it on my wrist. And I wore it everyday until it caught on my coat button yesterday and snapped. And the reason I miss it, is because it was a daily reminder of the day I completely stopped giving a shit about your father.”

I felt kinda bad for Mom. So to try to make up for that, a few days later, I opened the cupboard, got a box of Hamburger Helper, carefully opened the bottom of the box, put a rubber band in it, and then glued the box shut. She still talks about that day she found a second rubber band, like the way a kid talks about the best present they ever got, ever; almost like it was a miracle.

And that rubber band lasted for years!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

“This idiot, this complete asshole, is insisting I drive home with him, after he’s had god knows how many drinks and embarrassingly flirted with all the other women at the party – And let me tell you, they were NOT interested such a weak, ridiculous man like him. And then at the end of the night, he makes a big stink when I don’t get into the car, getting verbally abusive and grabbing me when I flatly tell him that I’m not going home with him and that another man is taking me home. So he leaves and the next thing I know, it’s almost dawn when a phone call from the police wakes me up and they tell me to come pick him up. So I go down to the police station.

This drunken bum was driving home and suddenly, he saw a very bright light coming towards him. He thought maybe it was another car, with only one light working, and try as he might, he seemed stuck on the road and could not change his lane. It was a train coming towards him and he was driving on the train tracks – don’t ask me how he got there. This disgusting pig was so out his mind that he couldn’t even tell he was on the train tracks. The train smashed into your father’s car, and knocked it into a ditch, and thank God, or maybe curse God, it was going very slow and had begun to brake long before your father had even noticed it.”

This was the story my mom told me when I asked her for an electric train set. She said ever since that traumatizing incident, trains frightened her and she didn’t want them in the house. She also used the same story when I asked for a slot-car set, citing a fear of cars.

She was also afraid of:
Hot dogs
Macaroni & Cheese
Potato Chips
Amusement Parks
Movie Theaters
White Bread
Electric appliances
Sneakers and many types of clothing
Other children in the house
Coloring books/crayons
Circus tents
Evel Knievel
The Harlem Globetrotters
Home ownership
School functions
Valentine’s Day cards
Pets of any kind
Many years ago, my mother and I were walking home from the supermarket when we came upon a pack of cigarettes lying on the sidewalk. It was a warm Sept. afternoon in Terra Linda, California. I was not enrolled in the school across the street from where we lived, as my mother and father were preparing to move yet again – this time to a place called Canada, where unbeknownst to me, my mother was a citizen. Having been educated in the States, I had never heard of it.

Since our return to the U.S. after another in a series of half-assed attempts at moving to Germany, neither my mother or father had been able to find work. They were very nearly flat broke, down to their last $2,000 and the two-storey town-home we were renting was essentially barren. The property manager had loaned us some stuff abandoned by various tenants over the years. So we had a small kitchen dinette set, and two mattresses, one for my parents and the other for me. My room was a mattress and some cardboard boxes, which I used as a fort for the toy soldiers I’d been able to buy, when my mother gave me $3 one day and let me walk the couple miles to the Emporium dept. store.

My father was rarely home as he was “looking for work”, though he usually came home empty-handed, late, and stinking of drink. And my mother was simply broken. A former smoker, she was at her wits end, though I scarcely knew it.

So that day, when we were walking home and we came upon a brand-new, factory-sealed pack of Marlboro’s, just lying there on the sidewalk, she picked it up without hesitation. She smoked ‘em all that day and late in the evening, but still before my father had come home, we walked back to the supermarket and she bought another pack. She told me that they made her feel better. And she felt more sophisticated smoking, noting how stars like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, were smokers.

Years later in Toronto, when my mother came home early and found me smoking in my room – And before she could feign an outrage, I simply told her that they made me feel better about my failing grades. And that they made feel cool, like Humphrey Bogart (I had a picture of him in front of Rick’s Café American on my wall). Her expression changed and she went on to detail the events of that time long ago in Terra Linda, in addition to telling me how she thought it was nice that we now had something in common.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Heinz Klein was a pious man. And though he often felt like a lone candle in a dark world, he kept his feelings to himself, comforted by the ally that walked by his side, day after day.

Heinz always sought his Savior’s guidance at times when he was faced with a difficult decision. He first asked his Lord for a sign when he was eight. He needed guidance with whether or not he should struggle on with his piano lessons (he simply was more interested in the drums, though his parents were so enthusiastic he play piano) or tell his parents how he truly felt. He asked Jesus for a sign. He asked the Son of God that if it be His will that he continue with the piano, then the Almighty One should strike the large maple tree in the field he was standing in with a bolt of lightning.
Well, seconds after he said, “Amen”, a bolt shot down, splitting that tree in two and starting a small fire – though Heinz was unaware of that side-effect, as he was too consumed with awe and fear to take note of much beyond the miracle he’d just witnessed. He ran home and immediately hit those 88 keys. Needless to say, Heinz poured himself into his piano lessons and quickly became quite proficient, to his parents’ delight.

In the years that followed, Heinz turned to the King of Kings often, seeking answers to all manner of questions. And each time, perhaps because of that first wondrous sign so many years ago, Heinz always made a point to give Jesus the option of splitting a tree with lightning. And while he was grateful to have the Lord as his advisor, he did begin to wonder if he was asking Him too many questions, and too often. Like the time for instance, when he asked Jesus for a sign whether or not he should eat a double-beef burrito.

When he was finally arrested, Heinz Klein was considered to be the worst serial arsonist in American history.

And this was the story my mother told me when I was seven and said I was going to pray to Jesus and ask Him if I should put the Big Jim Rescue Rig or the King Arthur playset on my Santa wishlist.