Rites of Passage, updated, edited, and almost perfected.

My grandfather’s property was seven hours from were we lived, in Minong, Wisconsin. A town of dirt roads, dive bars, and ample pine-wood forests. A journey by car made traditionally once a year at thanksgiving. The time of year when families come together– for us, A time when professionals abandon trade and get back to nature. A time for fathers and uncles to forge men from boys. Its hunting season in the woods.

My grandfather’s property stretched across three-hundred plus acres of tree farm and natural forest. His soft and sandy driveway leads, past his log-cabin house, across a vast stretch of land—spanning fish farm ponds, natural lakes, and utter nature entrenched in season. On leisurely strolls across the forests one could come across an array of wildlife never seen in our own home towns. Garden snakes sneak across the trails, beavers grace the cold damp beaches, and white-tailed deer drink from pounds where no one sees.

All the men of my family have, in their own way, faced the coming of age trails of the modern day hunter. All young men must understand the trials that lay before him, if he wishes to learn the way of men, of the hunters.

First, he must bare witness to the gore of a slaughter in the bloody process of making venison meat that takes place in my grandfather’s barn. If he can recall the story, describing what carnage he has seen ,with lucid description—especially while his sister has a chunk of the venison on her fork, inches from her mouth—if he can describe it with that sense of lofty pride, he is battle-hardened. The young man must show the most extreme caution and respect in the presence of the powerful hunting rifles that the men of our family possess, he is vigilant to his caution . A young man proves himself and he waits. he waits for an invitation. An invitation to accompany a man and a rifle.

Lying in a guest bed in the drafty basement, I awoke to what I recognized to be the solitary sound of a grandfather clock singing its morning praise. Long and deep notes, instructing the morning light to step to its deep and wise melody. I looked up to see my uncle gathering some clothes out of a duffel bag. “Hey Nick, do you want to go? an early hunt?” I knew this invitation was of prestigious nature, and would only be offered once—I would not refuse it.

It was a cool Wisconsin morning, thick dew on the grass, stodgy humid air filing our lungs.

Two of my uncles and my older cousin were up and walking from the house with us. We whispered across the air, respecting the silence of the morning. Two groups were formed; one uncle, one nephew. each group was two men, one rifle. We set off on a circular path that surrounded the woods. I felt like a predator. my pray had materialized with the morning-dew, and I must find my encounter, else it dissipates into the air which birthed it.

Me and my uncle Scott made our way down the path along the lake, trudging our way across the trail towards a fox hole where we would sit and wait, testing our capacity for patient breathing.

Through the woods my uncle would point out critters that had not yet spotted us, and plants that I would have otherwise not noticed. He was a true woodsman. My family showed a respect to nature that was next to spirituality.

We stepped in line, and I followed command like a small soldier.  I eyeballed the gun more than I thought was respectful. I was attracted to it. its patterns came to life on the butt of the rifle. paths of woodgrain lines ran down from the stock and away from the trigger, and I saw creatures running down the lines–running from its power, running with no where to escape. the gun had a persona to it, like intent, and it began to frighten me, like it might betray us once we found ourselves deep enough into the woods. I began to wonder about the purpose of our mission.

We got to our Fox hole—a large dugout cavity in the earth that sat atop a hill, over looking a valley of grass that came at the edge of the deepest part of the forest. We sat comfortably in the orange clay, settled softly against the earth over looking our small kingdom of nature. We sat for a long time in silence. Now and again, he stared down the scope of the rifle, scanning the bevel where grass met trees. My stomach began to fizzle. Nerves were mounting up in my throat, and I knew I could not stop what was coming. I knew that the power of family heritage, legacy and a sacred right of passage had brought me to that place in time, but would it allow me to stand by and watch the blood of the innocent be spilled?

While I sat meditating on my thoughts and convictions, I was interrupted by a shift in focus that drifted across the air and lured my eyes back into nature. I must have felt her presence from across the many yards down into the valley. There in the middle of the grass, standing independent and beautiful, was a rather large female white tailed deer—a doe. She was elegant and majestic. It was clear that she had not noticed us, or the rifle that was staring her down. The fear began to melt me into a puddle inside the fox hole. The silence turned to  drawn in suspense. no one moved, and for a second I searched the land for motion to make sure the earth still spun. Why had my uncle not taken a shot yet? I looked over at him and for the first time since the doe appeared, he looked up at me. With very slow movement he leaned back and began to pass the rifle to me. I took it hesitantly. “I—I don’t think I can do it Scott, it’s a mother deer.” I stammered.

“We don’t kill the doe.” He stated with a half grin. “Just thought you might want a better look.” All of my fear melted down and settled in my body—cooled in my blood, it forged it self into a memorable conviction that would resonate into a strong ideal later in life.

With the rifle in my hand I checked the safety and choked up on the weapon, propping my face against the scope. I could smell the blond stained wood. I scanned the valley finding her once again from a new perspective. I was awe struck by the gentle magnificence of the beautiful creature. Her silky coat looked soft and touchable. I reached out with my left hand pretending to pet her. Her head was down sniffing or chewing at the dewy grass. Her gaze drifted up in my direction, and for a moment, I felt as if our eyes connected and I saw through her fierce awareness. Not long after that moment, she made her way back into the depths of the forest and we climbed out of the hole and back on the trail towards home.

Hunting has faded out of importance in my family. I will have most likely been from the last generation to be subject to this as a right of passage. Although in many ways I feel I failed the test that November morning, I gain something stronger than a passage into man hood; I gained a respect for nature and new found convictions about the respect for life.

Published in: on February 22, 2009 at 8:42 pm  Comments (2)  

a love poem from a druglord to his lover…

I’m madly intertwined in your intentions

as you are with mine

and I think, with a touch of whim, they call this love…

Published in: on February 3, 2009 at 3:34 am  Comments (8)  

memoirs of a druglord part 3: the naked truth about me.

A storyteller often times may be compelled to start a tale by plunging the reader right into the middle of climax. It is a great way to hook your audience, and it ensures that you will hold the rest of the piece to a great standard, as everything that follows is building up to what you have already said.

It might go as follows:

Like exploring fingers from a naught lover, always unexpected, a single bead rolled down my left butt cheek, and down to the back of my knee. Midwest heat is only rivaled by our barren winters, and I was beginning to asphyxiate under July’s best to offer. Standing in the open mouth of a garage somewhere in the middle of suburbia, I realized that most of the crowd was granting what I can only assume is what they thought I wanted. They were pretending I wasn’t up there wearing only a bass guitar and two white socks.

But then again, for some reason, I have always found that too trite, too cliché a format for my own writing. It smacks of an egotistical author. A title any creator of fiction or describer of reality would surely avoid. Being only slightly vainglorious myself, I will start as follows:

My ass felt out of place. I mean that both metaphorically as well as a matter of comfort. A shift here and a rubber handle is trying to breech my crack. A scoot this way and a knob is at risk of disturbance—easily ten minutes lost trying to readjust. Tone is a perfection, not a sound. None of this should matter as I keep my volume right above the zero notch, at that mark that says “please, drown me out”. My fidgeting has little to do with the handle of my amplifier’s blitzkrieg of defense against my weight. I’m just plain out of place here.

Brandon is in the corner by the door, sitting in a folding chair whose cushions are designed to look like wood paneling. One foot planted on his desk, propping him back in that impassive-student position—and I just know that all the mothers and teachers in the general vicinity of that house must be suffering an intuition that someone is sitting on a chair with only two legs on the ground.

Our singer’s state of discontent sets a dense tone in such a small room. His overgrown bowl cut, is swooped just over his fixated stare; his deep brown eyes are burning holes in the carpet. Looking around I think I am the only one that heeds the mood.

Brandon was the magnetic force of humanity that drew us all to that particular place in time. Looking back at it, I don’t think any of us were really looking to start a band. Maybe that’s why it worked. We weren’t there because we were reincarnated legends of dead rock stars. We certainly weren’t there on a get rich quick scheme. And none of us suffered the usual musician’s small-town-blues.

In retrospect all I can seem to say is that we were there because he wanted us to be. The man had a vision, and it could sell.

You see, in every small town, every go for broke suburbia, there are black top heroes and asphalt visionaries. I don’t mean the guy that sulks in his room looking at a James Dean poster thinking “yeah, just wait. I’ll show this good for nothing town some day.” No, I mean your rare garden variety Neal Cassidys, run a muck in a soccer-mom’s arcadia. That type of hero that doesn’t think about what could be, if only; he doesn’t think unless absolutely necessary, and when he does he will blow you out of the water—uncontainable personalities with crazy ambition.

Once the legend part wears thin they become politicians and salesman; optioned between scum of the earth and top of the social hierarchy.

You know the type. The spoken word is a sport for these guys—the kind of character that tries to sell you his hello for the low, low price of a handshake; creatures of higher articulation and elatedly sweet diction that have fallen strangely out of their realm and into ours.

A contrivance bound for center stage.

A born front man, as the one that brought us together he treated it like a responsibility, acting upon us like a burden at times. In the end all of us owed him dearly, and I think me most of all.

Chaz was sitting in the farthest point from me in the room—at the farthest point from any of us in that corner. Sitting on the bed with one foot on his amplifier, guitar propped perfectly in his lap. I only dared glance in his direction for unnoticed moments during practice, fearing what could be passed in only a glance from those big dark eyes. If you feared insanity you might go running after your first encounter with Chaz; something about him seemed contagious.

Chaz was more rumor than man. And true to his story in a way most neighborhood lore could ever stand to be.

In a perfect work of fiction, Chaz would have been playing guitar from the time he was big enough to handle one. A master of scale and prophet of harmony, Chaz composed most of our songs, often instructing us on what to play by tapping his foot and nodding his head, pointing sharply and mouthing his interpretation of what you instrument sounds like.

Although it is true that Chaz wrote most of our music, he had only learned to play the guitar weeks before our first band practice.

My first memory of Chaz takes place in a stolen Mercedes Benz, whipping around the corners of a well to do suburban labyrinth. Overly eccentric mail boxes coiled in fear from this mad pilot as he manipulated turns with a ragtag precision.

Now as tempted as I may be to leave that description as it stands, and it is the plain truth, I don’t want to be deceiving in my writing.

It just so happens that this Mercedes Benz belongs to our mad captain’s parents, and probably dated back before any of its current captors were born. Never the less, I was terrified by how far over my acknowledged line I had crossed. That line was disappearing in the rearview mirror of a dying classic.

I strummed my fingers with pride against thick-gage bass guitar strings, proud to be able to bear the notes the way a bass was meant. Fleshy fingertips balance a tap, a scrap, and a pull, upon, against, and away from the strings. Imitators use a plastic pick made for the twelve string guitar. Many will tell you that it is to create a designer sound that they are after, but most of them are guitar players that came into the band to late to fill that spot.

I could play fast and with passion. I could compose, and I could mimic. I ignored rhythm through a manipulation of time. But for some reason I could not play this style of music in any creative fashion; completely infertile to the creation of this music.

If this was fiction it would be easier to explain that I was foreign to the beast instrument and didn’t know the first thing about deep note rhythm. But I remind you, I will try not to deceive you with my words.

To my left, Paul looked about as comfortable as I did with his gaunt, almost nonexistent ass subtly gyrating on his amplifier. I could almost hear the grind of bone on grid coming from his bated movement. Paul was the closest to me in a strange way that didn’t show in reality. We were close for the same reason we both felt uncomfortable on our amps. As much as we could relate, I dared not look at him either. Two people in despair of a situation create something much worse when no action needs to be taken. Paul and I were there to ride this out and see where we would land. God only help us for what we had gotten ourselves into.

Paul was a straight forward genuine genius. He and Chaz shared conversations about quantum physics that dwarfed the rest of us into awe. Chaz had long been rumored a freakishly high IQ, and with Paul there was no need to rumor it at all, his subtle mannerisms said quite enough.

Bang!!! Bang-bang-bang!!! Tisk-tisk, bing-bing, tisk!!!

My face winced uncontrollably every time Kyle struck the snare.

To be continued…

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 9:14 pm  Comments (6)