Well, caught with my pants down again! End of the month crept up on me, away for a few days, eating like a horse in the country, and before you know it, it's November 30th.
Here's what I'll do to round out this one. I stumbled upon a folder of old letters I've written to various people. By "old" I mean early to mid-9os, when I had access to a computer and was probably just getting used to MS Word, thus I managed to salvage some of these from various floppy discs. Before that, we're talking handwritten letters, and I photocopied none of them, which is good, because most of them were some of the most half-assed, embarrassing love notes anyone's ever written, some of the most truly desperate shit you would ever be bound to read. If I could go back in a time machine, I would seriously kick my own ass from the age of, say, 21 to 28.
But, here's some snippets of stuff that caught my eye. Makes no sense, may be a silly read, but could be some fun stuff along the way, too.
I must say, out of all the tapes I make for people, 70's one-hit wonders or pop tapes are always my favorites. I think people make the mistake of looking at their deep teenage years as a time to remember "their" music. Nah -- for me it was my childhood leading into my early teens. That's the music that sticks with me, that haunts me, that uncovers certain emotions and situations that go a long way to describing who I am. As a "deep" teenager, i.e. the late 70's early 80's, I'd be hung up on stuff like Cheap Trick and The Clash. Not bad stuff, but it doesn't seem to mean as much to me. I find myself buying 80's collections every few months, but that's more for a kick. Rhino hit the bull's eye with their mammoth 70's pop collection -- a milestone, and I've also partaken of many of their "Soul Hits of the 70's" series, although not nearly as much. Stuff like this does represent a tremendous service to the listener. Until this stuff came out, the only connection I had to these songs were dusty and broken 45s in the basement. My brother M was a singles man -- he had hundreds -- literally every song on this tape, and an amazing majority of the songs listed in the "Have a Nice Day" series. With each one, he'd get out his special "M Repsher" address sticker he had sent away for and put it on the label, thus making it worthless for collectors. (He had more than a few early 70's Beatles solo records that fall into this category, with the split and full apples on the label -- oh well.) Unfortunately, 45s being what they were, and kids being who they were, these records were scratched and beat to shit within a matter of months. We took shitty care of them, and almost as bad care of our albums.
Greetings from the ghost of Christmas past, yeh cancerous little gobshite.
It’s me, Bill Repsher, back from the dead, or should I say back from the living, to rain bad tidings and gloom upon that netherworld of lost and doomed souls otherwise known as P____ & S______. To save you from professional embarrassment, I’ve refrained from placing my name anywhere on the outside of this envelope. I thought about putting “Ted Kozinsky, c/o Montana Federal Correctional Facility” on the outside, but that’s not a very wise idea, especially considering that P_______ is really ripe for this sort of thing.
I’d imagine I’m persona non grata around that joint, that if I showed up unexpectedly for a unscheduled lunch appointment with our man B_____, I’d have a few of those guys with walkie talkies in the lobby looking to practice their Tiger Schulman karate moves on me. And I dig that – for once in my life, I had the chance to nail a total bastard in public, and I took it. My only regret is that they couldn’t have published my five-page, single-spaced diatribe I sent to B_____ privately the same day, and that it couldn’t have been The New York Times instead. For what it’s worth, and I know it’s very little, I hope the man looks out a rain-streaked window on a particularly bad day, and some of the issues I dredged up in that letter play on the fringes of his warped mind. That’s all I ask. Even Satan wept when he saw Jesus walking alone through the fires of hell.
Enclosed please find a load of Irish Sounding Shite I threw together recently. Knowing you are a connoisseur of music from the isles, and that you may have known more than a few of these musicians personally, I figured you’d enjoy having a copy sent your way. It may well be preaching to the converted, but it sure beats preaching to a bunch of mean-spirited pricks throwing eggs and tomatoes at you.
Keep on smoking, poster boy for electronic voice boxes. Allow me to say that of all the people I have worked with, from ex-cons and white supremacist in various factory stints to blue blood Wasps from Westchester County who couldn’t get electrons shot through their anuses, that among this sad troop of misguided souls known as my lifelong coworkers, you were definitely one of my favorites, a true character, like some updated pervert from a Dickens novel. I can picture you giving lung cancer to Tiny Tim as he sat in the corner piping, “God bless us one and all.” You’d smoke that gimpy little bastard to death. Frankly, I’d have spent more time around you, but I’d probably be in an oxygen tent right now gasping, “That bald-headed prick Yul Brenner was right.”
I’ll be thinking of you when I’m vomiting in my green plastic derby on St. Patrick’s Day. Long may you run.
Oh – and fuck Bob Geldof.
I wouldn't say I think what you do is a waste of time. What I do at work is a waste of time -- but I'm getting paid well for it, and I'm supporting myself on it. I'd say the things you're doing for free are a lot more honorable than what I'm getting paid for. But, damn, A____, what are you doing? I'd understand if you had sugar daddies back home bank-rolling your existence, but how are you living? How do you do it? What I'm questioning -- because I'm honestly at a loss -- is how you seem to be getting by with no visible means of support. I'd be jealous, if I weren't under the impression that you must be near broke 100% of the time. I've been there -- a few times, the last being when I decided to temp right in the middle of one of the worst recessions to hit this country. I was down to about $300, with no work coming in, and I didn't feel like working anymore, period. It didn't feel good. A few weeks later, the jobs started picking up, and then I landed the job at the ad agency that kept me in the green for the following three years. That's as close as I got to going under, and with a college education and a fair amount of street smarts, I felt like a fool for letting myself go that far.
You look like a fucking gangster! The black leather coat, the shorter hair – your face has grown more character, you look real Italian now. When I first saw you, I didn’t know if I should say hello or reach for my wallet. Which is good, if you ask me – I’ve learned that having the power to physically intimidate people in some way is an effective tool in staying alive, especially in the city. I’ve had people tell me I’ve spooked them just by the way I walk up to them, but I’m sure not aware of it.
So I find it’s good not to get too hung up on one’s life direction. I live in a town filled with neurotic people who let such things blow their minds and either turn them into freakish trolls, or send them to psychoanalysts who get rich for basically being bartenders without alcohol and a loud jukebox to contend with. Everyone I know seems to have some grievous life crisis going on. Some for real (a friend back home going through an ugly divorce that involves kids), some imagined (another friend in California who’ll call at three in the morning to tell me he’s going bald). My only crisis is that I’m not doing exactly what I want to do, and I haven’t whipped myself into the proper state of righteous indignation to draw lines and make it happen. I’ve grown old enough to know that life rolls along no matter what you do, whether you appreciate every second or try to throw it all away, it goes on. And when you go, it goes on without you. (All right, so I stole those last two lines from a coffee cup.) I like the way I’m turning out -- most days I feel I can handle anything. If there’s one thing I’m acutely aware of, it’s that I’ve made a promise to myself to always live like I did as a child -- not to take things too seriously, and to treat everyone with the respect they deserve. And New York has taught me not to panic -- you live here, and you either learn that implicitly, or you never learn it at all. For most people, this is panic central, and I don’t know why these people just don’t up and move.
I’ve thought of doing that myself. I’ve been in the Bronx too long. It’s not a terrible place -- I’ve lived there around seven years and have no scars, war stories or police reports to show for it. But in a lot of ways, it’s very isolating, because people are afraid to visit me there, and I can’t blame them. I think people see me as somebody who wants to be an outsider. No -- I just want reasonable rent. I may move just because I’m getting the urge to have a relatively normal life living around white people again. (The only way my life is abnormal now is that I live in a place where no one else is white. If a black man who lived around white people told me he was sick of white people, I’d know exactly what he was talking about and wouldn’t take it personally.) I think every New Yorker spends half his day thinking, “Man, it’s time I left.” We’ll see what develops -- I haven’t gotten myself tied down yet, although I did have a pretty strange date last Friday which I won’t comment on.
I don’t know what you’ve gathered of my childhood from that big story and things I’ve told you about. It was a strange time. When I was, say, eight years old, there were probably around 15 kids between one and four years older than me, around 10 the same age, and around 10 more kids four years or younger. Right around 40 kids all told -- this was in a small town of 500 people -- an outrageous number of kids. We ran around like wild dogs -- adults couldn’t wield too much control over us. Luckily, they didn’t really have to, because most of us were raised by fairly strong-handed parents, but there were also a few wild dog kids, like LC, who served a few years in jail a while back for drunk driving and running down two small children one Sunday morning, and Tommy One-Nut, a member of the Warlocks who recently died when he ran his Harley over the high side of a rail one Friday night back in July. We played sports constantly in the schoolyard right next door to our house. Every single day -- all day during the summer. And at night we played this game called Jailbreak, an off shoot of Hide and Seek.
Basically, we were the tail end of the Baby Boom, and we were all over the place. There just aren’t too many kids back there these days, and the ones who are seem strange -- they don’t indulge in team sports, maybe because there aren’t enough kids to get good games going. I was raised in a totally different place from these kids, although the physical environment hasn’t changed much. Not many of my “kids” showed up at the block party -- I put kids in quotes, because I’m 31, and everyone else is either in his mid-30’s or late 20’s -- not exactly kids anymore.
Those guys still live around town -- J, our neighbor JB, GB, a goat-like human who will eat anything -- he’s responsible for some of the most foul, eye-watering farts I’ve ever smelled. His worst was after an all-night drunk with J and JB. G was in the back seat, and he made a strange sound. After a moment or two, J noticed a rotten egg smell. JB smelled it and vomited out the window -- he had to bolt from the car, as did J, at a red light. When they got back, GB was laughing his ass off. J asked G if he had burped or farted, and G mumbled, “I don’t know.”
We managed to have a great time talking about the vicious, bloody football games we used to have back then. (Once, a kid from a neighboring town had his ear ripped off, and I can clearly recall DT doing a full, unintentional split on wet grass, me getting a bloody nose and going home with a white shirt turned completely red down the front, and Z getting his nose broken and having two black eyes for weeks afterwards -- weird, nasty stuff.)
But the real kicker was running into JC, LC’s kid brother. JC is three years older than me, LC is around six years older, and the oldest brother MC is eight years older. MC’s famous because he turned down a minor league pitching contract to marry his girlfriend. LC’s famous because he was psychotic -- the kid scared everyone. He was about six feet tall and probably weighed around 160 lbs. -- a skinny, wiry guy, but muscled like a greyhound. The guy never worked out, and he had a body like an olympic athlete. Actually, he did heavy amounts of drugs, smoke, drank and abused his body in every way possible and had a body like an olympic athlete. Top this with a truly maniacal, criminal attitude, and you have one scary motherfucker. He had a weird, nasty look in his eye, even if he liked you.
While JC inherited some of LC’s rough edges, he was always a very effeminate kid. So it should have been no surprise to me that he’s out-of-the-closet gay and brought his partner to the picnic. Mindblowing, Daniel in the Lion’s Den stuff -- this took real guts. He was smart enough not to camp it up -- basically, if you didn’t know JC’s history, you’d say there goes two guys who must be related. JC does have a slight effeminate lisp and one of those “not an ounce of fat, sunshine” perfectly-toned bodies many gay guys seem to favor. But he still puts out those spooky LC vibes.
I remember when we were growing up, girls in town would practice to be cheerleaders while we played baseball. JC would start out playing baseball, but sooner or later, he’d break away and start leading the girls in their cheers. If anyone would make fun of him, he’d come over and kick the shit out of him -- I know, he did it to me once and beat me until I didn’t want to get up.
My childhood is filled with all kinds of incidents like that. It would have been a kick to go over some of them with the guys. I know everyone at the block party had as good a time as I did -- hopefully that will spur someone on back there to arrange some kind of reunion. I realize now that those kids I grew up with were just as, if not more, influential on me as my high school and college friends. I can’t lie to those guys, or pretend I’m something I’m not -- we go all the way back to our very beginnings. I think high school and definitely college presented an escape from the people we thought we were. We could go somewhere else, make new friends, act differently, pick up new interests. But the guys I grew up with -- they’ll be able to point out good and bad things about my character that may not be obvious to people who’ve met me down the road. I think it was absolutely necessary to leave them behind -- there were a lot of bad things going on back then, too, kids getting caught up in drugs, and just a general “Lord of the Flies” type attitude that was spooky and mean-spirited at times. But to go back and be able to see these people again in a totally new light, yet still the same in so many ways -- it’s a mind-blowing experience.
I’m sitting here tonight, Ms. G, listening to pop music and tossing around ideas on the laptop. When I got home tonight, I could smell my laundry on the drying rack I put over the radiator – a wonderful smell, clean and boyish. It’s good to know the things I wear smell like that – makes me want to toe that hard, fragrant line. Now that’s discipline! I’ve been told I still smell like a boy – and I know that smell, I catch it sometimes, a weird, clean smell, like a kid who’s just worked up a light sweat playing baseball, but his clothes are clean, so both sides come together and make this boy smell. So long as I don’t smell like shit, B.O. or heavy cologne, I’m doing all right. I tend to be an extremely clean person.
I can’t accept that philosophy. I think that’s why I’ve fallen out with AS, although I used the smoke screen of her getting all weird back in January about that time I called up late to go out for lunch. Regardless of how smart she is, she’s got herself into the mindset. I’ve never met her parents, but I can tell you they must be decent people from the suburbs, working towards some defined goal, a nice house and kids, the whole deal. She wants those things, which I understand and appreciate, but she also wants to blaze her own trail in business. Those two worlds aren’t going to peacefully coexist. I think she knows that, and the kind of guys she sets herself up with have to fit into that neat little picture. Sometimes I get the impression she wants to trash the whole business thing and just walk around some big house, giving her kids weird names and trying to live some way of life that doesn’t exist.
What a turnaround from the sorority girl who cut loose five nights a week and must have done her weight in guys. I see too many weird conflicts in her. We’ve all got them (I call them paradoxes when I want to be nice), but hers expose a little too much of a conniving mind. Conniving towards positive goals, but conniving nonetheless. I think she’s a good-hearted person, but I also think she’s going to have some sort of breakdown before she’s 40, where all these things come to a head, and she sees what everyone sees sooner or later -- there’s no way out. Every action will have positive and negative effects. There’s always a certain amount of shit to take. You may not get what you want, and if you actually get what you want, it won’t be what you thought it was. I don’t trust people who don’t understand that, and it seems that as people get older, they pick up on it real quick, or never pick up on it at all.
There’s no way out -- I like that concept. It makes you take responsibility for the way things are, and makes you realize it’s pointless to sit around pining for someone else’s apparently “better life.” We have no better lives than the ones we live. There’s no way out -- make what you have work. And if it doesn’t work, fuck it -- park it on the side of the road and walk away. I wish I could go back to high school and give that as a speech -- hey, kids, if you’re thinking high school’s over, you’ve just walked out of prison and now you’re free, I’ve got some news you might want to hear ...
But I do recall the end of high school as being a major relief. College was another story -- I recognized that was it for that way of life -- having friends around all the time, getting bombed in the middle of the week, having days where you only had one class and all kinds of time to play around with. College was a kick -- I have good memories of it, and I don’t ever want to go back (Dewey Beach, Dewey Beach). I guess it would still be possible to have that lifestyle, a lot of people I know have no qualms about hanging out until two in the morning on a work night. But that shit just wipes me out anymore, I can’t do it. Give me a good night’s sleep instead. Good bowel movements, a good night’s sleep and an occasional roll in the hay -- the rest is only window dressing.
I think I ended our situation because it felt like a job to me. We weren’t going anywhere. Maybe I filled some small role in your life, but I never had the feeling it was anything more than that. That gets tiresome, especially when you see possibilities in someone. And as you know, we let that cat drag from the bumper for more than a few blocks. It wasn’t easy drawing a line and saying, “This has to end.” But I think that moment was when I finally started to concern myself with the things I wanted, and to act accordingly. Call me a little boy for cancelling the whole party, but what else was I supposed to do? In terms of patience, I ran that well dry a few times. I did learn a lot about what it means to love someone, and I learned that I was willing to stick to my guns and see people for what they are (as opposed to what I want them to be). And I learned to walk away.