Four Friendships and a Funeral

Whatta week. If YOU told me the story that I’m about to tell you, I’d call the boys in white coats to pick you up and take you to the mental hospital where you’d wear plastic slippers and play imaginary tic tac throw. Not REAL tic tac throw because they’d take away the bean bags for fear of them being too sharp. NOT that I’ve ever BEEN to a mental hospital mind you.

First of all, let me just polish ‘face book’s ass once again, as the opus that I’m about to unfold for you like a virgin in John Mayer’s bedroom after he just played a shit song for her and then said ‘I wrote that just now…for you’, wouldn’t have happened if not for the technological wonder of internet skullduggery.

It’s funny when you watch those ‘The World of Tomorrow’ clips from the 60’s and see the amazement these guys had at things like PUSH BUTTON phones instead of rotary, and see them almost piss themselves with joy at seeing a beeper the size of a microwave oven, and NOW I can fuck my hand while looking at pics of midgets running up and down stairs nekkid. Thank god for the internet, to think…15 years ago I might have had to actually go out to a bar and tell this story to REAL people. Good thing I can dodge the ‘pussy bullet’ now and tell it to you on the computer.

I’m not sure quite how to begin, so what I’ll do is ‘Tarantino’ it and start at the end. Then I’ll throw some back-story in for exposition, and after you fall asleep from boredom, I’ll make off color remarks about your mother. Then I’ll reel ‘er in and bring it back to the end. Full circle style!

While I was sitting at home on Thursday evening, minding my own business and reading ‘Ta-Ad!’ magazine (a magazine BY and FOR gay magicians, but that’s another story), I get a familiar ding from my computer. Someone has sent me a message on the Face book. It seems that this person is the ex girlfriend of TWO of my oldest friends (again, that’s a whole other story). She tells me that my friend John’s mother has passed away and asks me if he knows.

Back-story: John grew up with my best friend Steve. I didn’t meet Steve until we were 16; I met John around the same time. John and I were always competing. When we all played football? John and I only paid attention to who could knock down each other. Pool, softball, baseball, air hockey (which is the only one I CAN beat him at now); everything was simply a competition between the two of us. There was rivalry, but with a friendship underneath.

Unfortunately, as we got older, John’s sense of competition did not. It’s a sad thing hearing a 30 something year old man STILL saying that he can drink you under the table, or that he can beat your ASS at beer pong. To this day John still has a lot to prove. To who? I have no idea. Personally, I love the guy and he doesn’t need to prove a damned thing to me. That being said, you can’t help someone until they ASK you for help. Doesn’t work unless they want it.

Back-story: John’s father was a helluva guy. He left John’s mother when John was very young and married another woman. John lived with them. The beginning of John’s ‘I can do anything’ attitude stemmed from his father’s passing when he was 16. I think his method of dealing with this heavy blow was to continually ‘prove’ to his father that he was a worthy son.

John has never been what you would call an ‘emotional’ type since that day. NOTHING fazes him, and he works very hard at displaying that persona. We ALL know someone like this. Tough as nails, drinks like a fish, and absolutely NO emotion, but you can still see the pain and inner turmoil just underneath the skin. The irony is that through their display of this ‘brick wall’ exterior, it makes YOU feel a constant low throb of pity for them. Hell, I cried like a hungry infant with a full diaper when Charlie died in the season 3 finale of ‘Lost’, I’d probably be living in Wisconsin and displaying the zip locked heads of my victims in a fridge while eating flies if I didn’t let that shit out from time to time.

Back-story: John and I were never what you would call ‘close friends’ when we were young. More like passing competitors. To be honest, I don’t think we liked each other very much. John was thin, buff and handsome, while I was…well I was me. As will happen this gap in what’s considered social beauty, prevented us from really getting to know one another. Until the first time my mother kicked me out of my house.

I was sleeping in my shitty 86 Oldsmobile in the parking lot of a church. Let me tell you something I’ve learned about sleeping in a car; that, apparently, is the ONE fucking crime the police CAN prevent. It’s like they have a god damned radar that tells them ‘hey some poor slob is sleeping in his car, let’s go over there and violate his civil rights!’ They’re no where around when someone’s breaking into your house and stealing your TV, but some asshole is trying not to shiver himself to death in the cramped backseat of his Buick Popeye? WHEEE OOOO WHEEE OOO!

I fucking HATED sleeping in that car. You gotta take that ‘cold piss’ in the middle of the night and have to drive to a gas station at 3 am while doing the pee pee dance in the car seat. And the cops would harass me like I WANTED to be sleeping in my car. Telling me; ‘you can’t sleep here’. And I’d ask them “so, can I come back to your house? Or maybe just park at the police station?’ No viable answers. Protect and serve my ass.

Anyway, John lived with his step mom about 2 houses away from the church parking lot where I was sleeping at. He began to bring food and stuff out to me and eventually started hiding me in his basement like I was a lost puppy dog that he was keeping from his step mom. This is where our friendship truly began. How can you not like a guy who helps you out like that?

There’s something in everyone that makes you truly believe in the goodness of people. John taught me that although our worlds may have been at different parts of the spectrum, we still shared that common bond of goodness deep in our core. It’s things like this that make you truly see what someone is capable of, no matter how hard they try to hide it. It’s a difficult thing to help someone at times, but I try to be there whenever someone needs me now.

Back-story: Soon after my mother let me back into the house, John found himself at odds with his step mother and out of the house himself. I talked my mother into letting him stay with us. He slept on our couch for nearly a year and my mother thought of him as a son. We got a job together working for the school district as ‘before school’ and ‘after school’ babysitters for 1st through 8th grades. Because of John’s natural athleticism, those kids loved him.

Through my love of comic books, John picked up that habit from me, even working for the comic shop from time to time. We did a lot together. When my mother kicked me out again, John came with me. I moved in with the owner of the comic book store Paul and his wife, while John moved in with Paul’s   Polish mistress whose apartment he was paying for.  I know that I’m ‘glossing’ over the whole mistress thing, but that’s a story for another time.

It’s interesting how we can meet someone through a close friend and form a bond with them that we don’t quite have with that friend. The first time you hang out together, sans the original friend is awkward, but eventually you feel like you don’t need them around. Steve was great, but he was the (and IS) the kind of guy that you have to give a four week notice to before you see a movie with him. John was impulsive like me. And as you know, both good and bad can come from impulsiveness.

Back-story: In our twenties, I got my first apartment with a nightmare of a roommate…Scott. Scott was the most over emotional person I’ll ever meet, and the ONLY emotion there was for him was anger. When we moved in to this apartment, Scott was in his late 30’s and had an 85 pound crack head girlfriend who was cheating on her husband (who was actually a nice guy) with Scott. She had 3 of the worst behaved little bastards this side of ‘Bebe’s kids’. A 13 year old wigger, a 10 year old future slut, and a 5 year old who, as the story goes, was caught getting a blow job from another 5 year old in a closet in school, and who would walk around saying ‘FUT YOU big Mike’ to me. I have to say, that NOTHING has ever made me want to slam a kids head in a car door more than this shitstain saying ‘FUT YOU’ to me. Scott and her would just laugh and feed into his future delinquency.

When I got the apartment with Scott, it was under the strict condition that these beasts would NEVER be there. After 2 weeks all fucking four of them moved in. I had a constant throbbing headache from dealing with them. They would go into my room and steal anything that wasn’t nailed down, forcing me to put a deadbolt on my bedroom door. My only saving grace was that once again, John found himself without a place to stay. I immediately told him he was welcome at my place. He moved in a brought some sanity back into the situation. He didn’t stay long, but it was nice to have him around.

Soon after John left, those little monsters broke the cable box in the living room. While I was at work, Scott kicked down my bedroom door and TOOK the cable box from my room. When I came home, I told him that was fine, but I was no longer going to pay for cable as I don’t leave my room, so I don’t watch it in the living room. Scott proceeded to beat the living shit out of me on the living room floor while all three of those kids cheered him on. I left and never looked back. Scott had been my friend for nearly 10 years and I haven’t talked to him since.

I moved in with my friend Grey Jim, his dad, and his dad’s girlfriend. That was good times, Jim’s dad is a great guy and we truly had a lot of fun in that apartment. John eventually moved in as well and got a job at a pizza place. Every night he would bring home a pizza for all of us, and he made a good fucking pizza.

We broke a lot of glass too. Jim always wanted to be a body builder so he was pretty big. This always put him at odds with John’s competitive nature. One time they were wrestling in front of the building and Jim went to throw John up against the big window on either side of the front door of the apartment building. Well, he ended up putting him THROUGH the window. Jim freaked out thinking his dad was gonna be super pissed, so when the cops showed up, I took the blame.

Another time, I had JUST gotten my first bee bee gun, and one night while we were bored, John and I opened the screen window on the living room bay window, and started shooting it at random things. As someone was walking into their apartment across the parking lot, we shot the bee bee gun at them. It didn’t reach of course; it was just a bee bee hand gun. But we kept plucking away as they went inside, thinking it would make a ‘dink’ sound on the window by the door and he’d look around all confused. Well, as this guy was getting his mail by the front door of his building, the window just fucking SHATTERED with this LOUD ass glass breaking sound. John and I freaked the fuck out, tossed the gun and didn’t leave the apartment for like 3 days.

After a while, a family moved in downstairs from us. The movers told us to ‘watch out’ as they insisted on bringing their refrigerator. The fridge, the movers told us, was INFESTED with cockroaches. Sure enough, a week later there were cockroaches every fucking where. You would wake up in the middle of the night FEELING them on your face. They lived IN the fucking freezer. The apartment had half wood panel walls about waist high. We would have cockroach races by hitting the wood with our fist, and roaches would scurry up the other half of the wall. Jim’s dad couldn’t take it anymore and moved him and his girlfriend out mid way through the month. John, Jim, and I stayed until the month was over and destroyed that fucking place. We bought hairspray cans and put a lighter to them and just incinerated the inside of that apartment killing roaches.

The bonds of friendship can run deeper than the ocean and farther than the farthest reaches of space. Since MY mother passed, the only family I have left are my friends, and I cherish those friendships like a brotherhood. Growing up, I’ve always considered my friends more like brothers than friends anyway. I’ve met a few new friends along the way; Action Jim, Smart Jim, Gordon, and Mike to name a few. But they wouldn’t have become my friends if they didn’t fit into this brotherhood that I’ve created in my mind. As I indoctrinated them into my core group, they have now become intertwined with the others, able to hang out with them without me around. I like that. It makes me feel like I’ve made something where nothing was before. A bond of friendship, mutual respect, and love.

Back-story: After my mother passed about 5 years ago, I got my first apartment by myself. I lived there for 2 years, at which time my lease came up at the same time I was presented with a new job opportunity. I decided to move in with a friend for a while until the money started rolling in from the new job and then get a better apartment. Unfortunately, life sometimes gets in the way of our best laid plans.

Through a series of unfortunate events, like the job not panning out, and my friend getting kicked out of his apartment, I found myself homeless again. Not ‘eating out of a trash can’ homeless but I was taking ‘sink’ showers in the bathroom at work. I got my OLD job back, and all of my things were in storage, I just didn’t have the money socked away for first month, last month and security.

John had just bought a house and invited me to take one of the rooms in it. I hadn’t been close with John for some time, and it soon became apparent why. John had become a hopeless alcoholic and a dedicated gambler. His need to prove ANYTHING to ANYONE had put the needle in the red, and he had become more a caricature representing a ‘kind’ of person, rather than just being himself. Like a character on ‘The Simpsons’…Barney if I have to make a choice. Every Saturday night, he would come home drunk off his ass, sit in a deck lounger that he had in the living room with 2 giant speakers on either side, turn on B96 and crank the volume all the way up. Somehow he’d fall asleep. To him, this was proving to nobody in particular that he was cool because he ‘extreme’ listened to B96. His clothing choices, while hip in the 80’s, hadn’t changed much. He used to play FOOTBALL in Z. Cavaricci’s, wrestling shoes, and a silk button down shirt, and then wear the same thing out on a date. If he could, he’d still wear that shit. Now? It was stonewashed jeans, and a mesh, Cowboys jersey, cut off halfway down to reveal a midriff, STILL wrestling shoes, STILL Oakley’s, and STILL a rat tale.

He would tell us of his exploits with women, bragging that he made this one cum, and that one begs for more. All the while I lived there, he brought 2 women home, and ONE was an ex girlfriend with a coke habit who dumped him by stealing 2 grand and taking off with a another guy. I felt bad for him. He had become a shadow of himself and something of a joke.

I stayed with John for 2 years. He never asked me for money, but after the first time the electricity got cut off, I started pitching in. He didn’t have a car, so I drove him from 159th and central to 79th and Roberts Rd. every morning for work at 7AM (for those of you that don’t live around here, that’s a long drive). On the weekends, I’d drop him at whatever bar he was going to gamble at from 10am til close.

The signs were there, I would ask him if the mortgage was being paid and he’d sleepily or drunkenly tell me it was, so what came next really was something of a shock to me.

I drove John to work one morning, and then went straight to work myself. If I’d have gone back to the house before going to work like I usually did, I might have been able to save some of our possessions. When I came home that night at 5, John was pulling up with his ride at the same time. The leftovers of everything we owned were on the curb. It turned out that the Sherriff’s police had evicted him at around 8 am. Since he wasn’t there, they went in and threw everything that was in the house out on the curb. EVERYTHING that was anything had been taken by neighbors and scavengers. The only thing I had, after a lifetime of acquiring things, was my mattress.

I lost my TV, my computer, photos, sketchbooks and notebooks with a thousand ideas in them, my comic book collection which was worth a pretty penny at that point, autographs that I could never replace, the sugar gliders that I had bought for my girlfriend as a valentine’s day gift, all of my clothes were gone, my mother’s awards and certificates, PICTURES of my mother. Look around you at all the things you own and imagine them being taken away from you in the blink of an eye. The most precious things that you’ll never be able to acquire again…gone.

John threw the remnants of his life in the back of the Mexicans pickup truck that brought him home and left. I haven’t seen him since. That was 2 years ago.

I was homeless again for a time, as I spent all of my money on that bitch whore of an ex girlfriend that I occasionally bring up in these posts. I got us hotel rooms, and took her to expensive restaurants. That’s what happens when you date a younger chick, AND a chick who is ‘hot’ out of your league. You do stupid shit trying to keep her around. I eventually got an apartment and ‘rebuilt’ my empire piece by piece. She moved in with me for a time, cheated on me, and then found an excuse to leave. Convenient that she dated me when I was homeless, but had extra cash, now that I had a nice apartment, but funds are limited due to bills, she’s outty 5000. Fuck her.

Back to the present: Johns ex finds me on face book and tells me that his mother has passed. I inform Steve and our friend Brian, who also grew up with John and we make plans to go to the wake which is to be held on Friday night. Steve and I hadn’t seen John in two years and Brian hadn’t seen him in nine because of a rift between them caused by the very woman who informed me of Johns mom’s passing.

We were all sad to hear of Johns mother’s passing, but at the same time we had a sense of anticipation at all of us being reunited even in this time of grief. Brian and I went to the funeral home together, and Steve was to meet us there shortly after we arrived.

When we got there we were greeted by neighbors of John’s mother who informed us that NOBODY could find John. As it turned out, his mother had passed two weeks prior, but everything was delayed because John had to fill out paperwork for the funeral. They hired detectives, there was even an FBI agent looking for him, but nobody could find him. I immediately went into ‘Magnum P.I.’ mode. Since my mother passed a few years ago, I appreciate the fact that the funeral, however somber an occasion, helps to bring a sense of closure to the situation. I couldn’t imagine depriving John of that sense of closure, so Brian donned the helm of my black friend who fly’s a helicopter and the search began.

As everything was being done through the state, because John wasn’t available, the wake was only from 4-7, so we only had about 2 hours to do what the FBI couldn’t do in 2 weeks. First we called all the numbers we ever had for John with no luck. Next, I know that John had a corvette at a mechanics for several years and he was slowly paying them to have the engine replaced. I called them and explained the situation to them and they gave me the phone number they had for John, explaining to me that he had just given it to them last week. We now have a lead.

I call the number, and it’s a disconnected cricket phone. Seems he needs to pay the bill. THIS is my foray, as I sell phones, not cricket, but I know how to talk to these people. We go to a cricket dealer with the intention of paying John’s bill so we can call him. His bill is 75 bucks. Brian and I discuss it and come to the conclusion that EVEN if we pay the bill, it’s been shut off for over a month, so there’s no guarantee that he’ll actually HAVE the phone on him. So I ask for the most recent address on the account. She won’t give it to me. I do my ‘salesman’ thing and sweet talk her into giving it up. By the way, I have a date with a very heavyset Hispanic woman this Tuesday because of this.

We check it out, and he used the address of a friend. Dead end. We then go to Blockbuster video where my friend Matt is the manager and ask him to check the name for an account. He doesn’t have one there. Another dead end. Seven o’clock is rapidly approaching and we’ve gotten nowhere.

Light bulb. The two years I lived with John, I dropped him off at the same bars every weekend. RIGHT by Steve’s house. Steve is already at the funeral home, but calls Johns cousin and asks him to check out a few of these bars. He finds him at the first one he tries. The Dirty Sock. John has NO idea about his mother, and has been there drinking since 10 A.M. His cousin rushes him to the funeral home.

John walks in drunker than I’d ever seen him wearing a bear’s jersey and sweat pants. He smells of Budweiser and bar peanuts, and the only people AT the wake besides us, are neighbors and his mothers AA group. Talk about awkward. John shows no emotion as usual, but we know it’s there. We figured that would be the case, but as only his oldest and closest friends really know him, we were there for him.

Since John doesn’t really have any family on his mother’s side, he asks us to be Paul bearers the next morning for the burial. Brian couldn’t make it, so it was only John, Steve, John’s cousin, and I. That was it. A four car funeral procession. I truly felt bad for John. See, John’s mother was a retired Chicago police officer, much like MY mother. But because nobody could get in touch with John, and HE had to request it, there was no police presence. Also, because John just found out, nobody in his family knew, so there was no family presence either. Just the four of us.

One of the biggest regrets that I have in my life is not being there when my mother died. She was in a care home and the nurse came down and told me that she was about to pass, and that she had asked for me. I’ve never told anyone this. I didn’t go. My mother was a guard at Cook County Jail for 27 years, she was a tough as nails woman who got shit done. Strong and ever independent as she had been, her last days saw her tiny and frail. The cancer had eaten her away, and I just couldn’t bring myself to see her like that at the end…if nothing else grants me entry into hell, I’d request entry just based on this ONE moment of my life where time slowed and became no longer than it takes to utter the words ‘I can’t’.

So I know something of regret, and if I’d known sooner, I’d give my life to have spared the regret that John is hiding right now for not being there sooner.

We all went back to the bar the night before, after the wake and drank with John. What else can you do? That’s where he wanted to go. Apparently he left the bar at close and drove all the way home from 95th and Roberts to 24th and Central. The next morning he showed up for the funeral hung over, smelling of white castle and, no lie here, wearing a brown button down silk shirt, blue running pants with a white stripe down the side, and wrestling shoes. We have to make a ‘dress up’ John Ken doll.

The service is unceremonious as the funeral director just wants to get it over with because the state is paying for it. He keeps saying ‘not to hurry things along’, and ‘we have to move on now’. We follow to the cemetery and they put the coffin in this big concrete box and winch it into the ground. This is stuff you normally don’t see at a funeral, they do it after, but no ACTUAL funeral service had been arranged because it was too late. We walk through a swamp of goose and deer shit to the burial plot and say a silent prayer as the gravel is dumped over the concrete box.

Afterwards, John gets into his truck and Steve and I follow him to a bar. It’s funny how over the years Johns taste in bars has NEVER wavered. This one was shittier than the one we went to the night before. You can tell it’s been around since at least the 60’s because it’s ALL wood paneling and low ceilings. John regales us with tales of what he’s going to do with his mother’s house, although if I were a betting man, I’d say the state has already taken possession of it since there was no ‘next of kin’ AND to pay for the funeral costs.

The whole sordid event leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, and a throbbing memory of MY mother’s passing that even now is bringing me to tears. One of the things that I took away from my mother’s passing is the knowledge that no matter how much a woman says she loves you, NO woman will ever love you as much as your mother. Whatever your differences with her, she’ll never cheat on you by loving someone else’s son, and she’ll never leave you because you don’t have a lot of money. She’ll take care of you when you’re sick and offer you advice when you don’t want it but need it.

The boundaries of love are infinite between a man and his mother. Oh, a mother will love her daughter til the end of time to be sure, but there is a special BOND between her and her son that can’t be defined. I loved my mother like Elvis loved his, and I’m sure that John did too. I can only hope that when he sobers up enough to let what’s happened grip him, that maybe it will also sober him to the fact that he needs help. Even if only fashion help.

Bottom line? There are a great many truths that we have to learn in life and death is one of them. It’s a painful and emotional process that you CAN’T simply ignore or try to hide from. You have to deal with it, you have to grieve, and you have to look death in the eye, stare it down and make it your bitch. Only then can you move on. If we don’t deal with it, a part of it latches onto your brain stem and sucks the life from YOU in the form of subconscious bouts of lashing out and feverish crying jags. And TRUST me; NO woman wants to see you cry. They say they want you to be more sensitive, but I cried once in front of an ex and she started thinking ‘why the fuck am I dating this hamster?’

To all of you have lost someone? I’d like to offer my condolences, I know it means nothing coming from the jag off stranger who writes about stupid shit on the internet, but just know that although nobody can FEEL your pain, and nobody can truly understand what YOU’RE going through, let someone be there for you, open up and let that shit out.


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