There’s always something to howl about

The (last) Amend

The Notion

In my dream I’m always gasping for air; as if the trillion or so cubic inches of ozone I’ve already blown through in my lifetime somehow counts for nothing.  I awake, step over the dog, and scramble downstairs in my boxers in search of a physical remedy to a metaphysical dilemma. Something is bothering me and I can’t quite place my finger on it. Life is short and, on this crisp autumn eve, I’m clearly too underdressed to even be considering my last breath.  Our fifteen-year old cat follows close behind, his own mousy demons no doubt,  in tow as well.

‘Dear God, please don’t let me die with money in my portion of the Charles Schwab account,’ I think as I root through the herbal medicine cabinet,  next to the dishes, above the microwave.  ‘That’s what the Prudential life insurance policy in the house safe is for,’ I obsess. It’s an odd recurring thought, I realize. Just being forthcoming.

We keep no real drugs in our house.

Ginkgo Biloba, Paranil, Senna, Licorice Root. Green Tea, White Tea, Black Tea…where the fck is the Alka Seltzer?

Over the years I’ve developed an internal ON/OFF switch of sorts; a requirement for any man whose livelihood  simultaneously hinges on rejection yet somehow also depends on the act of a total stranger purchasing something of considerable value; house, condo, etc…. every month. It’s an Acceptance thing, I’ve learned. This emotional circuit breaker has, for a long time,  assisted me in affairs of the heart,  finance,  most of  the Deadly Sins—Fear, Greed, Anger, etc… not to mention social and personal guilt.  And in case you haven’t  been following the box scores at home this season,  I’ve been in the OFF mode for a while now.


Over time I’ve learned to appreciate  the next ‘Next‘  in life—I just haven’t learned not to  eat Mexican food before retiring for the evening or found a way to avoid the night scares that have startled me ever since that stupid monster began squatting in my childhood closet at 39 Vineyard Road in Levittown.  And as my Life flickers before me this particular night, I wonder:

‘What to do with the lingering wreckage of my Past?’

Just as my faithful canine companion would rather bark at intruders from inside the  picture window when it’s chilly outside, I too,  prefer to write a quick note or better yet, cower behind electronic messaging for all breaking news, good and bad, anymore. Even my foxhole prayers begin with OMG these days. I’ve become shrinkwrapped into a Twitter mentality, 140 characters at a time.   If I feel any emotion at all I toss in an exclamation point or two. Even Facebook is becoming a burden. I don’t even call it Facebook anymore. I call it FB. OMG. WTF…is @ 2 me?!!  Critical mass approaches as my social network expands and my personal circle contracts….

But I mentally carve deeper and in a brief moment of clarity,  it hits me as I hover over the sink swirling the midnight elixir in a half washed coffee mug,  old as hell goddamn cat on the counter beside me. I tip-toe into my office, dig out some dusty boxes,  and begin tearing through decades of loose leaf pulp in search of a single folded sheet.

An hour later it is in my hand.  I examine the inky yellow page beneath the reading  light on my desk.  The Amends.  One unchecked-off task remains although the list is from another millenium altogether.  A previous Life, to be sure.

I walk back into the kitchen and toast the harvest moon through the window. I  boil some water for a final cup of Sleepytime and snoop through the fridge for a quick nibble.  The  cold white light is blinding—Soy this, 1% that, Non Fat everything else. Yogurt? I think not.  Flax seed, Organic, Antioxidant…my wife is clearly trying to torture me into good health.

And,  like most things in Life that have challenged me since those early monster days in (bucolic by name only) Violetwood, once I let the problem go, the solution appears on its own…

The Reunion

I step off the commuter jet in Pittsburgh and walk across the terminal to Avis. The girl behind the counter thinks I’m ancient, I’m certain.

“What brings you to Pittsburgh today, sir?”  She asks.

“Class Reunion,”  Me.

“High School?”  Her.

“College,”  Me.

“Pitt?”  Her.

“No. Slippery Rock….”  Me.

Silence, as  always,  follows.  Two underachievers, we stand an arms length and several generations apart,  avoiding eye contact.

“…I’ve owed someone $100 for almost thirty years and I’m going to repay my debt today…”  Me.

“…then reunite with some old friends.”  Me still.

More silence.  Silence and Judgement, I sense.  I’m being judged by a rental car clerk in Pittsburgh.


“You reserved a Chevy Malibu?”  Finally,  Her.

My wife always makes my travel arrangements so alas,  a sensible Mid-Size American ride awaits my AMEX imprint.  I immediately upgrade to a Cadillac, confirming I guess, that I am indeed… old. We’ve been doing this for years. Mona has yet to ever rent me a car I’d actually be seen driving in real life and I always end up getting a Caddy because they don’t rent German cars in this country for what-ev…..

I exit the airport complex and drive north for an hour, texting on my iPhone and fumbling with the satellite radio the entire way. I push On-Star by accident twice.  The third time they inform me I’m being charged.  Bite me.  Besides the makes and models of vehicles cruising  in either direction along I-79 (and the daunt figure that keeps staring back at me in the vanity mirror on my visor), Western Pennsylvania hasn’t changed at all in three decades.

I pull into my old college town as the Homecoming Parade disassembles. As Fate, I suppose,  would have it,  I find a parking spot directly in front of the Camelot Restaurant.  There is a line out to the sidewalk. A hand painted banner hangs from above the awning: 

Everyday.  99 cent Breakfast.

Nothing has changed. I ate a hundred of these meals for free  thirty years ago and then left town without paying the tab. What a schmuck.  I step  inside and push through the crowd into the kitchen. The interior has remained stagnant over the years. The aroma of burnt, bottemless coffee fills a crease in my mind.  An old man is hunched over the griddle frying  a dozen eggs at a time. An old woman stands beside him slinging potato hash onto chipped plates.

“I’m looking for Gary,”  Me.

“I’m Gary,”  Him.

I stare back at a gray ghost of  the man in my memories. I  hand him the one- hundred dollar bill already in my fingertips.

“I’ve owed you this for thirty years?”  Me.

“What?”  Him. A little miffed. He doesn’t stop cooking.

Hey, I’m not in the mood for perturbation on this day; not when I’m attempting to make a grandiose gesture.  I just want to get a good night’s sleep, for crissakes. I continue…

“I’m Geno. I ran up a tab here when I was in Grad School and left town without paying. It always bothered me.”  Me. (white lie)

“I don’t remember you,” Him.

“I was an actor. StreetcarEquusHot L Baltimore.  And a writer. I had a little column in the Tri-City News…. Geno…remember? You let me eat here  free for like a year…”  Me.

“Whatever. I don’t remember.  Amateur theater around here has never been very memorable.”  Him.

“Well I wanted to make good on my debt.” Me, also a little miffed now as well but it’s too late to slip the bill back into my pocket.

“Whatever.”  Him.

I place the C-note next to a toaster.

“I remember him,”  The old woman.  But she doesn’t elaborate. No need to I suppose. Yet another disappointed woman to add to yet another unresolved list.  Not.

I turn and head off to the reunion hoping that my reception there is a little warmer and wondering if there is a Starbucks anywhere in the tri-county area.  Ironic… I never had a buck for a plate of eggs thirty years ago but I’m quick to drop a five spot on a decent cup of coffee in a heartbeat today.  I pull a Green Tea capsule from my coat pocket and swallow it instead.  WTF

I  stroll down the Main Street  (actual name) of  my Bohemian years and stop in front of an ATM. I check my balance and withdraw the maximum daily limit  just in case I suddenly kick the bucket as I make this final turn in Life with no intention of ever looking back.  After all, they say an unrealized expectation leads to a Resentment.  And holding on to a Resentment is pretty much like drinking the poison and waiting for the other person to die.  Don’t you think?

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    4 Comments so far

    1. Keith Lutz October 13th, 2009 2:05 pm

      I am thinking that is wayyyyy to heavy for me at this point in the day.

      Nice writing though!

    2. Don Reedy October 13th, 2009 6:34 pm

      And holding on to a Resentment is pretty much like drinking the poison and waiting for the other person to die. Don’t you think?

      It’s the $100 Amend moments that still leave have me reaching for my Danny Kaye fix. You know that Shakespeare answered the question you pose with the simple answer, “Yes, but maybe, just maybe, I can will the other guy to die quickly.” (See the GOP manifesto regarding this)

      Geno, I’m flawed. Still drink the poison, blame the SOB’s, and pop some lisinopril to keep my veins from exploding.

      More importantly, my Mt. Union College reunion just passed me by, rendering my Starbuck’s moment away, and my five minutes at the Avis counter as well. By the way, after I flashed my California license to the former Ms. Allegheny (Lucille) at the Avis counter, I do believe she commented that I looked like Kenny Rogers, after which she informed me that my Cadillac had just been rented to some stud from Chicago, and I’d have to settle for the Malibu.

      You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille……..

    3. Dan Connolly October 13th, 2009 8:45 pm

      “And holding on to a Resentment is pretty much like drinking the poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

      Damn, I have to write that one down!

      Don’t stay away so long!

    4. Geno Petro October 14th, 2009 4:07 am

      Hey Dan, its an old saying.

      Don, with four hungry children and a crop in the field who needs her?

      Keith, thanks, i think.