Sweet Home Chicago: “Part V – On the Road to Perdition”

Life can be a bit trying at times. Or a lot, depending on the person. There are so many disappointments to contend with. So many dreams get tossed out or plainly forgotten because of unforeseen circumstances. I’m pretty sure everyone looks around and see all the madness going on around us. Like the story of the 22 year old Australian ball player that got murdered by three teens because they were simply bored.  Then there is our own senseless disregard of the preciousness of every passing second. Every single one of us probably stop in our tracks at some point and ask themselves “what’s the point”? There are no guarantees. Especially for those of us that may not have been born in the most ideal of situations. What’s the point to getting up in the morning to do what it the end may have no real meaning. I think the point is hope. Not the kind of hope used in slogan by politicians. Not the silly hope seen in movies where the hero perseveres and the villain gets his just deserts. I’m talking about the hope to crack a great big chimp smile. Like the one you give an old friend or loved one that you have not seen in ages. The hope to be genuinely amazed by something that is so awe inspiring that it allows you to, if but for a second, to forget about the foolishness in obsessing over acquiring material wealth or climbing the social strata. I’m referring to the kind of hope that inspires you to walk through a minefield day in and day-out because you have faith that a life that is worth risking it all for awaits you on the other side.

That hope was all that I had 11 years ago. It was the thing that pushed me to get into a relationship with a girl that lived 5 states away. It was that hope that led me to reach out to my father for the first time in 3 years. I shutter at the thought about how bad it all could have turned out for me. I’m not sure if I could have recovered if things wouldn’t have worked out between the wifey and I. Luckily for me all the stars aligned just right and that part of my story had a happy ending. Sadly I couldn’t say the same about my father. But we are not at that point of the story just yet.

Cover of "Road to Perdition (Widescreen E...
Cover of Road to Perdition (Widescreen Edition)

It was mid July 2002. My father and I were making major inroads at reestablishing a relationship after 3 years of silence. I had invited him to go see Road to Perdition with me, a film starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig and Jude Law. I was interested in seeing it because I wanted to see what a non superhero comic book movie looked like. My dad wanted to see it because it looked like a great gangster flick with big time actors.

I had traveled into the city to meet up with my dad who was living in Spanish Harlem at the time. It was a warm summer day in New York. We both felt it was a bit of a shame to spend 2 hours in a dark theater when it was so bright outside. But we paid for the tickets anyway and made our way inside.

If I had known then what I know know, I probably would have suggested another movie for us to see. Maybe something like Blade 2  would have been a bit more appropriate for the occasion. You see, Road to Perdition is a comic book movie. It also is a gangster film with a lot of great actors. But above all else, Road to Perdition is a movie about fathers and their sons. About really shitty fathers trying to do right by there not so great sons. Which for us both, it hit a little too close to home.

One of the most important things you have to do when trying to establish a relationship with someone is to suffer a bit of self induced amnesia. You try to forget or at least cover up some of the perceived transgressions that we have suffered in order to get to a better place. Once you are both standing on solid ground, then you can backtrack and go through the long list of shit-tastic events and hopefully make your peace with them once and for all. But you have to get on some sure footing first. Or your attempts of reconciliation will be sunk by the weight of anger and guilt.

When we walked out of that theater there was an awkward silence that hung between us. I could feel resentment coming up from within. My dad was silent. We were alike in many ways so I’m sure that he probably could feel what was boiling up within me. I didn’t want to ruin the day by allowing my anger to get the better of me. I knew that if I started giving the slightest hint of attitude, my father would get upset as well,  and with neither at us being particularly good at defusing a volatile situation, I was sure things would escalation into an ugly argument.

I was trying to figure out how to get past what I was feeling. Even if it was only for a couple of hours until I had a clearer mind set. That was when I thought of her. I looked over to my father and said “So there is this girl that I’ve been talking to a lot lately”. He smiled. He asked me about her. I told him how I met her. About how she lived in Illinois but that we talked every day on the phone. About how I think I really, really liked her. And that I was sure that she really liked me.

We walked around the city that afternoon. Talking about this Jessica chick that had come into my life and who I was crazy about. This made my father share a couple of his love stories. About his first crush in high school. And how he and my mom had become an item. I was surprised by what he said. My father was demonstrating a romantic streak that I had failed to notice in him before. He was genuinely interested in everything I had to say about the girl. And it seemed to me that every few minutes my dad would look at me, shoot me a great big smile, and say “That’s my boy”. He was proud of me. The way he saw it I was showing that Gonzalez charm that he thought women couldn’t resist.

He asked me if I had ever met her. I told him I hadn’t. That she lived to far away and I just didn’t have the money to go see her. Before we parted ways that day, he told me, “I want you to go home and look up prices for plane, busses and train tickets for Chicago. If it’s not too expensive then maybe we can make something happen”. I didn’t want to get to excited. I’ve been let down by him on too many occasions to keep count. Yet I couldn’t help it. The thought of taking a trip to the midwest to met Jess instantly drove me crazy. I agreed. I told him I would do it that very same night.

My father walked me over to the entrance to the R train that would be taking me back to Queens. He told me he would be expecting my phone call the following day about those ticket prices. I said I definitely would, with an almost child like glee. He smiled, gave me a hug and said I’ll talk you tomorrow then you Heartbreaker you. Love you”. I told him that I loved him too, and I thanked him for wanting to make that happen for me. He told me “Anytime. You’re my first born. Never forget that.”

I went down the stairs to enter the subway station feeling as high as I could possibly get. I was going to get to see Jessica. And my father of all people was going to make this happen. I couldn’t believe my luck. All of a sudden the road I was on was paved in gold. And it lead straight to Chicago. I couldn’t wait.

Sweet Home Chicago:  Part VI – My Kind of Town

Sweet Home Chicago: “Part IV – Family Reunion”

Love Love Love
Love Love Love (Photo credit: Gregory Jordan)

I have never thought of myself as hopeless romantic. I don’t think that I fit that billing.  I may have some romantic tendencies or leanings, but I would not claim that I was the kind of fool that believes in love above all manner of reason. Perhaps I’m a bit too jaded to think that way. Damaged goods, such as myself, are too bruised up to achieve that level of romanticism. To be a hopeless romantic I think its necessary to have a level of naivete that can only come from the comforts of a relatively sheltered life. It requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. To trust in the inherent good nature of your fellow man. And you have to genuinely believe that when you meet that someone that makes your little cynical heart skip a beat, that they will forgo their own sense of self preservation, and dedicate their entire existence to you; just because they see something in you that goes beyond anything you ever saw in yourself. I’ve met many wonderful souls in my life. People that are good natured, hard working, loving, and compassionate folks. The proverbial salt of the earth. Yet in the 35 years that I’ve been flying on Spaceship Earth, I’ve only known one person that have ever looked me straight in the eye and made me feel like they had forgone their own sense of self preservation because they thought I was worth it.

When the future wifey and I started talking on the phone over a decade ago it felt like the entire world had come to a complete stop. Nothing else mattered. I didn’t care about current events. There was no war on terror. There was nothing going on in the realm of pop culture that was remotely more interesting than what the wifey had to say. Hundreds of hours were spent on the phone just yapping away. My brother would sometimes leave for work early in the afternoon and would come back several hours later only to find me in the same position still talking with her. We would call each other every night, right before we would go to sleep, just because we wanted to make sure that the last thing we heard that night would be each others voice. Jess would often fall asleep while on the phone, and I would whisper to her good night. She would then wake up and plead that she was still awake and not to hang up. We spoke 9 hours in a row once. We shared so many great laughs. We shared so many painful memories. It was if we had been ignored by the world all of our lives and now all of a sudden we had found someone in each other that wanted to hear what we had to say. And now we couldn’t shut up.

I couldn’t get enough of Jess. Every conversation made me yearn  for her all the more. And knowing that she was 805 miles away ( I know this because I had Mapquested it) just amplified the feeling all the more. Naturally the more we spoke the more comfortable I felt opening up about my family and its rough past. I remeber sharing with the wifey some of the painful experiences I had gone through with my father. About the drug addiction, the arguments, the ugly confrontations, plus the occasional humiliations. It was not at all out of character to hear Jess sniffeling and blowing her nose after recounting some of my personal horror stories. She never quite knew what to say. That’s never been her forte. But she would always say in the saddest voice that she could muster, with what I often pictured being tears streaming down from her beautiful face, how sorry she was that I had to go through that. I would laugh it off and say that it was no big woop. Just something that happened. That I was a big boy and that it no longer phased me. Off course I was lying.

But I didn’t share just sad stories. I would also tell her about some of my fondest memories about my father and mother and the rest of my siblings. Pleasant memories that ebduced big fat smiles on my face. Memories that I had not bothered to think about for years because I had grown so comfortable focusing on the bad ones. Jess enjoyed my happy tales. Especially the ones that dealt about my misadventures as a kid. Like the time when I was 12 years old, and I punched my dad so hard in the groin, after one of our wrestling matches, that my dad had to get one of his doctor friends to do a house call and check on his badly bruised family jewels. He wasn’t able to go to work let alone walk straight for about a week.

She laughed at my ridiculous stories. I think that was when Jess started to hear something in my voice, something that I either had not realized was there or that I had chosen to ignore. She heard the affection that I still had for my dad. I recall the wifey asking me, “You still love him don’t you?” I guess I did.

Don’t you think it’s time you forgave him?” she once asked. I forgave him a long time ago I told her. I just rather not deal with him, that’s all. “I don’t know Tom. I think enough time has passed for you two to make nice.” I would tell her, “look luv I get why you would say that. And I appreciate what you are trying to do here. But you don’t know my dad. He will find a way to fuck things up. And I honestly rather not have to deal with it. It’s not worth it. Some people can’t be helped. My dad will just find someway to screw me over. I rather not have to deal with another let down”. That was really my reason. It is madness to go through the same song and dance number time and time again and to somehow expect different results.

But Jess would not be so easily swayed. She felt deep down in her heart that if I made peace with my dad that it would all somehow work out. Perhaps she sensed that I secretly wanted to make amends with the old man after 3 years of silence. Or perhaps she just felt that if she managed to get my dad and I back together it would make her feel really good about herself. Whatever her reasons where she made sure to insist that I reconsider my stance.

If anyone had suggested something as hopeless as me and my dad making peace, I would have laughed right in front of their face. I knew the man. I knew his nature. I knew I couldn’t trust him. Not because he was evil man beyond redemption. But because he was sick. And sick people can’t help themselves sometimes. But I ignored my own sense of self preservation. I allowed myself to suspend disbelief. I threw out 23 years of personal experience. And allowed myself to trust in the inherent goodness of my fellow man. All because of her. I wanted to believe what she believed. I wanted to make her happy. And by making her happy I would be making myself happy. And who knew. Maybe this time things would actually work out for the best. Maybe it was time for me and my dad to bury the hatchet. Maybe we could let go of the past and start a new. Yeah, maybe, just maybe this might be good for me.

On a warm sunny day in July of 2002 I saw my dad coming up the block with my sister. He was dropping my sister off after a weekend visit. I went downstairs and met them at the door. My dad was somewhat surprised to see me standing there. I smiled and asked him if he wanted to come upstairs for a bit. He hesitated. I think he was wondering if I was going to ambush him in someway. I smiled some more. I assured him that it was ok. That I wanted to speak with him. My dad nodded and followed my sister and I up the stairs. It had been 3 years since I had last uttered a word to the man. You would think that we would have had a books worth of material to talk about. But oddly enough we were both not quite sure what to say next. After a few minutes worth of awkward small talk I grew the cojones to tell my dad why I had invited him up. I told him I was ready to let go of the past. That I was sorry for the way I had treated him the last time we had been in the same room. That I was ashamed that I got so out of control and that I had pushed him. I also told him that I forgave him for everything that happened. That I knew he wasn’t a bad man. That things sometimes we allow life to get messed up. And that I was willing to let it all go and make a brand new start if he was willing to do the same. My dad smiled. He told me there are things that I will not understand until I am a father, but that he would love me and always be there for me for as long as he lived. We hugged that day. We tried to do our best to let go off all the baggage that we both carried. It wasn’t so easy. There were times when I could hear hints of anger in both our voices when we we talked about specific events. But we were able to keep our cool. Anytime one of us got a little heated we were able to defuse the situation by either changing the subject or taking a nice deep breath.

It felt good talking with my dad again. For a split second I imagined that maybe, just maybe things would be different. I remember thinking how wonderful life was. I had this great girl in my life that was crazy about me. And my dad was back in my life. Everything was falling into place. I was allowing myself to breath again. For the first time in years I was feeling optimistic about the future. And I had the wifey to thank for it all. I called her up that night and told her what I had done. That I had spoken to my dad just like she had suggested. And that surprisingly it all turned out pretty well. I even told her that my dad and I had agreed to go see a movie together. There was a new Tom Hanks. It was called Road to Perdition. It was a gangster flick. It looked cool. He had seen the commercial and wanted to see it too. So we were going to catch it the following weekend. Jess was so happy for me. She couldn’t help herself and kept saying  “I told ou so. I knew it would work out.” I smiled. Yeah maybe it would.

To be Continued: Sweet Home Chicago: Part V – On the Road to Perdition

Sweet Home Chicago: “Part III – Getting To Know You”

Chatting
Chatting (Photo credit: Becky E)

The minutes were counting down at an almost snail-like pace. My gaze switched obsessively between watching the time on my digital clock and the cheap land line phone that I had resting on my computer table. I was a nervous wreck.  I could feel my heart racing. I tried to talk smack to myself; much like my friends and I would do when we would go to the courts and get a few games of hoops in during them hot NYC summer nights. I remember yelling at myself in my noggin, “C’mon you fat fuck get your shit together. It ain’t no big deal son. Why you sweatin’ it? You got this! You hear me you got this!” But my attempts of psyching myself out fell flat on its face. No matter what I told myself I just wasn’t buying it. The enormity of the moment was hitting me, as if fate was whispering into my ear what was at stake.

I was sitting at the edge of my bed. It was 6:15 PM Eastern Standard Time, and it was 5:30 PM Chicago. Jessica, the girl who I had been chatting with through Migente messages, and hour-long chat sessions on AIM, would be arriving home soon from school. In 15 minutes I was scheduled to call her up for the first time. I had been staring at the phone and the clock anxiously for the past hour and a half. I couldn’t figure out why I was so nervous. It wasn’t like I hadn’t chatted with any other girls in the previous four months. But Jessica for whatever reason felt different. I couldn’t grasp why it was different. I just knew it was.

It had been about a month and a half since Delunatic, the username Jessica went by on Migente, had left her Rockin’ mark on my page. I had done what was customary at the time, which was to return the favor by signing her guest book. While I was there I glanced through her page to familiarize myself with the future wifet. In her profile pic she was standing on the front lawn of her parents house. She was standing there with her younger sister and they were doing their damndest to look like a pair of rock loving, quasi emo, punk rockers. Now I recall that in the picture Jessica wore a white t-shirt with another black long sleeve t underneath. Now the wifey argues that she was actually wearing a black, short sleeve, Good Charlotte t-shirt, over a black long sleeve t. But I’m pretty sure that I am right in my account. She also wore a pair of black jeans with a long metal key chain hanging from her pocket. She had a pair of black, platform, Frankenstein’s monster, ass kicking boots. She disguised her long curly hair by parting it straight down the middle and tying it in a tight bun in the back. Her head was slightly bowed and there was a hint to a small nervous smile. Her body was what us urban folk like to call thick. She had curves in all the right places. I was an instant fan.

I read through the long list of bands that she herself had listed on her page. She was big on Nu Metal at the time. There were names like  ILL NINO, Korn, None Point on her list. I couldn’t say that I was a huge fan of any of those bands. But It was nice to meet another latino that did enjoy rock music, even if their taste in rock was nowhere as refined or as tasteful as my own.

I sent her a private message complimenting her on her musical taste. I was just trying to fish for a bit of conversation. Something that I did regularly. Most messages went unanswered or I would get a response that didn’t leave me an opening to send a follow-up message. But every now and then I would get a reply back that allowed me to start a correspondence. Jessica turned out to be one of those instances.

We had spent the past month and a half just sending each other random notes or chatting about our like and dislikes. We talked about our family and about our friends. We spent a ridiculous time talking about music and movies and the things that moved us. We also spent some time talking about our cultural differences. I was Nuyorican, she was Chicana. We may share the same language but that was about where the similarities ended. Our foods, traditions, history where so different from each other that I couldn’t help but be fascinated by it all.

During one of our chats she had mentioned that I had spoken to some girl on the phone. She had inquire if I spoke to a lot of women. I told her I didn’t. That I made it a case of personal policy not to ask for a chicks number because I wasn’t about that. Off course I was full of shit. All I wanted to do was talk with women.  But I was trying to seem nonchalant. Off course the only thing I accomplished by saying that was delaying our chance to talk over the phone.

Yet I truly believe that the delay of our eventual phone conversation was the key to allowing our future romance to bloom. We got to know each other on a level that wouldn’t have never been possible otherwise. The major drawback with chat and note conversations is that they are best served when you are having short Q & A sessions. You can’t really get to in-depth with all the details or it gets way too tedious to read through it all. So I started writing long email to her, which served as more appropriate format if I wanted to go into details about what we talked about. Jessica followed suit.

I really started to look forward to getting an email back from her. I remember reading through them and laughing hard about the silly stories that she told me about herself. My letters were a bit darker, but it had its own tinge of dark humor that I think attracted her. I miss those days sometimes. It’s been so many years later and we both are securely living under the same roof. Sometimes I think we take each others presence for granted. But back then we couldn’t get enough of each other.

The digital clock read 6:30 pm. The time that I had both been anticipating and dreading had arrived. I was going to go straight for the phone and dial her number. But I stopped myself. No way big man. Hold the fuck up! If you call at exactly 6:30 pm on the dot, she will probably think that you had been sitting by the phone waiting to call her. And although that is exactly what I had been doing, it did not mean that I wanted her to get that impression. No. I needed to play it cool. I was going to give it another 15 more minutes. Then I would call. We don’t want to appear too eager. Yeah that was the way to go. So I waited. The seconds dragged on for hours. It seriously felt like I was stuck in some type of time bubble. Where  the passage of time moved at a much slower pace than it did outside the bubble. I blamed my heart. It was beating close to the speed of light. And anyone that knows anything about space and time knows that time slows down the closer you get to the speed of light.

It was finally 6:45 pm. I picked up the receiver. I dialed 9 out of the 10 digits needed to make the call. My finger hovered over the last number. My heart was beating so quick. Don’t fuck this up fat boy. You hear me! Don’t fuck this up! It was then that I realized that this wasn’t the usual case of butterflies in the stomach. I was feeling something else. I think I like this girl. Which in my day meant that you were a few steps away from being in love. Shit, I hadn’t even heard the girl’s voice yet and I was liking her hard. I was fucked.

I took a deep breath and allowed my paw to press down on the final digit. I heard the beep go off loudly on the receiver; followed by a number of rings. A part of me wished that she didn’t pick up. I think the phone rang 5 times and then a voice came on. “Hello”, said the female voice on the other end of the line. I asked in the deepest most manly voice that my 6’1 400 and something pound frame could muster, “Yes — hi is Jessica home?”. The voice answered by saying, “This is Jessica.” The moment of truth had arrived. I had no idea how this was going to go. “Hi Jess, it’s Tom. Calling you as promised.” I remember there being a slight pause of dead air. I’m sure that it didn’t take as long to actually get a response back as I actually remember it. But at that time it felt like it took forever for the future wifey to say something in return. She finally opened her mouth and said “Well so much for not being the kind of guys that ask for numbers and calls girls up.”

Fucking chick was busting my balls. Yeah, I really, really liked her at that moment. All that anxiety that I was feeling just a few instances prior evaporated rather quickly. We were about to hit it off beautifully. I just had lacked the imagination to realize how good it was all going to go.

To Be Continued: Sweet Home Chicago Part IV- Family Reunion

Sweet Home Chicago: “Part II – Rock On!”

When we last left off, my friend had just finished convincing me to sign up on to the social networking site Migente.com. I didn’t join because I wanted to get in on the whole social network experiment. My reasonings where a bit shallower than that. I was just attracted by all the cute looking ladies that I saw while being introduced to the site. I’m sure you will forgive my male chauvinist reasoning’s. But what else would you expect from a 22 year old kid?

For the first couple of weeks, all I heard was crickets, when I would check-in to see if anyone had bothered to check out my page. I wasn’t surprised to learn I wasn’t exactly a hot commodity. After all, there was that little matter of me being well over 400 lbs. And with no Biggie Smalls, or Big Pun, around to make being big look fashionable, well lets just say it was a tough time to be a big fella’ in the city. It was only at that point that it dawned on me that the four year old picture that was serving as my profile pic was not going to attract anyone’s attention. Although this was before the time of selfies, duck faces, or narcissistic bathroom abs shots, it was still imperative to have one decent looking picture of yourself. Unfortunately for me, I really didn’t have one. Or at least not one that disguised my size. If I was going to make any type of positive impression with the ladies, I would have to put in some effort, and make my page stand out from all the other dudes that were on the site. Thankfully that wasn’t too hard to do. A good 95% of the male profiles usually went a little something like this:

Yo Ma what’s good? This is Tito Pena AKA Joey Wallnuts, cumming atcha from Da Boogie Down Bronx. You know how we do! Just trying to hook-up with some honnies and get things poppin’. So if you like what you see and you ain’t scurred ( yes you are reading that correctly. Scurred not scared. Remember we keep’n it real here) holla atcha’ boy. Ya feel me!

Terminal 5, NYC
Terminal 5, NYC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now I have known plenty of ladies in my day that would have been perfectly fine with that guy. But that wasn’t someone I could pretend to be. Plus that’s not the kind of girl I wanted to attract. I was trying to meet the sweet, girl next door. The kind of girl that didn’t mind putting some time in to read an extra wordy profile from a guy that was obviously trying way too hard. That wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen with a big fat guy. The kind of quirky, down to earth, funny, playful, full of life chick that you only see in movies being played by Zooey Deschanel. Who, as a side note, I have had a major problem with since seeing 500 Days of Summer. Why did she have to be such an asshole in that movie? She did Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Tom so wrong. But that is neither here nor there.

Since being my boring self got me nowhere, I felt my best bet was to try and become someone else. Or at least use someone else’s words. I spent several hours looking for thought provoking quotes that would perhaps make me come off as a deep thinker with a sense of humor. Thankfully a few key search words on the ol’ trusty browser lead me to all the deep sounding quotes and funny musings that I would ever need. Looking back I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed for thinking that I could sound like the second coming of Mahatma Gandhi because I copy and pasted a few quotes. But at the time I didn’t care. They sounded good too me and I thought it made me seem sophisticated.

To my happy surprise my superficial changes seemed to make a difference. I started getting a few more visits to my page. And a few girls actually signed my guest book which was a thing in those days. Then came the notes. I was receiving a few messages a week from a few of the girls that had checked out my page. They all mentioned the same thing. I love your page. Great quotes. So deep. And so on and so forth. I felt I was well on my way to Bootycallville. Now I just need to start corresponding with some of the ladies.

My first few attempts at striking up a conversation failed miserably. My so called game was way too rusty. I was trying desperately to come off being cool, swave, confident, and funny. Instead I just seemed awkward and probably a little desperate. Which always sent them fleeing; rightfully so. I needed to recalibrate my efforts.

I tried to take things a little slower, which is not exactly something I have always excelled at. But I did my best to make an effort. I took the time to get to know them. I planted the seeds of friendship. Which in turn led me to learn all about their wants, dislikes, dreams, and hopes. And just like that, it all started to fall into place. A couple of months in, I was talking with a few girls through notes, and over the the phone on a regular basis.

You would think that I would be happy with the way things were going. Yet that wasn’t the case at all. You see, I was suffering from– well let’s just call it stage fright. The problem was that every time I spoke with these girls I was putting on a front. I was pretending to be someone that I really wasn’t. I guess that we all do that when we are trying to hook up with someone that you are attracted too. You know, put your best foot forward. The thing was that it wasn’t even my foot. I mean I wasn’t using an alias or anything that dramatic. But I wasn’t being honest about who I was or what I really looked like. Eventually I would reach a point when the girl would suggest we meet up; and then I would have to go through a list of excuses that I had made up in order to try to delay the meeting. There was this particular instance when I was in high school that had stayed with me. I was going up a flight of stairs and several steps below me were a couple of girls that I thought were pretty cute. I overheard as one girl asked the other one “What do you think about him?” I knew that they were referring to me since there was nobody else in the stairwell. Her friend responded with  “He’s cute. But he’s SO big.” They were talking in hushed tones so that I wouldn’t hear them. So it wasn’t like they were going out of the way to hurt my feelings or anything. I just happen to be unlucky enough to catch what was being said. I gotta say that hearing those two say that about me hurt me plenty. You never really want to hear that you aren’t attractive to someone. It is a bit of a punch to the fat gut.  This was pretty much the only reason why I didn’t want to meet any of the girls I was talking too. I was afraid they would react in the same manner. Plus I didn’t need to deal with the added disappointment of having to explain to them that I did not actually possess a 14 inch penis. Eventually all the girls that I would talk with would all tire of my excuses and move on. And I would find myself back at square one.

Then on April 6th, 2002 I got a notification that someone had signed my guest book. I took a quick peek. The message read:

“Hey what’s up? Just wanted to leave my rocken’ mark on your spot! Well take care and ROCK ON! ROCKERS RULE!!!”

All these years later and that message still puts a smile on my face. You see in addition to all the silly quotes that I had plastered on my Migente page, I also had a small listing of the bands that I was really into at the time. Bands like Radiohead, Sublime, No Doubt, Weezer, and the Strokes. I never in a 100 years would have thought that anyone would have been drawn to my page because of the music I listened too. It was just something I had posted to fill some of the empty space. But as you can tell by reading the message above, it got the attention of a kindred spirit. Someone that also appreciated a good song with a heavy riff. Someone that was also a bit of a lost soul. That someone would turn out to be my future wife.

Little did I know that I was about to enter a miniature golden age. Fate was playing her little games with me; and once again, I found myself clueless about the significance of another pivotal event in my life. I was about to be swept out to sea by a tidal wave. I just didn’t know it yet.

To Be Continued: Sweet Home Chicago: Part III – Getting to Know You

Oh God!: Part III – Paradise Lost

Oh God!: Part III – Paradise Lost

I know I had previously described God as suddenly not seeming to be around. Here one moment, and gone the next. But that isn’t exactly an accurate description. God’s departure from my life was not an abrupt event that caught me off-guard. No, instead God just gradually faded, in the same fashion that the colors of a beautifully adorned temple gradually fade away after being exposed to the elements for a millennia or two.

Faith, like willpower, is a finite resource. You can lean on it to keep you propped up when all you want to do is fall. You can draw strength from it to keep you marching forward, regardless of how treacherous the terrain. However there are limitations to how far faith can carry you. In my experience I have found that sooner or later most of us need a break in the action. We need a chance to catch our breath. To recharge our batteries. But if fate so chooses to be relentless in it’s assault, that faith that you so desperately relied on to keep you going gets depleted down to fumes. Once that occurs, it becomes difficult to get any real sense that God is around.

Please allow me for a moment to make this disclaimer. I know I keep saying we, us, our, as in plural. But what I am talking about here is really only about my own personal experience in the matter. I wouldn’t dare to sit here and proclaim that what I experience is what some of my atheist friends have experience, or other folks that have dealt with matters of faith. That my friends would be nothing more than a gross over generalization on my part.

I’ve meet people that stopped believing in God but never suffered a crisis of faith. I know others that just never believed in him in the first place. For these folks there never was a sense of ever being let down by God. There was never any animosity. God just became an antiquated idea that no longer served a practical propose in their world. Others just saw the complete lunacy that organized religion sometimes stands for. I have come to know folks that saw God much like the the Wizard of Oz; nothing more than an elaborate prop used to control and manipulate the poor, the uneducated, and women. They refuse to believe in something that does not promote the advancement of knowledge, or whose followers dare to proclaim their superiority over others just because they want to apply 1st Century writings into 21st Century logic.

Then there are those on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve meet people whose entire existence has been nothing more than one drawn out battle. They have had mounds, after mounds, after mounds, of shit just flung on them by life. Who have been kicked and spat on, repeatedly by a world that treats the weak and the voiceless with utter contempt. These admirable people carry their cross in quiet dignity and never once doubted God’s existence. They take pride in their love for God. And although they might find themselves questioning his methods, not once have they ever questioned his purpose.

I have nothing but admiration for both camps. They are resolute in their belief and for that I respect them. Because at least they believe in something. Unlike me. I want to believe in God very desperately, but I dont feel his presence anywhere. I want to believe that there is a greater plan. That all the pain and struggles that I have experienced, and that my family seems to have endured for well over a century isn’t just because of random dumb luck. But there more I look into the matter the more I see that everything that has happened to us is a simple matter of cause and effect; a sprinkle of bad decisions, laced with a lack of understanding, and drenched in a whole lot of poverty. So my belief stay stranded in limbo. They are neither here nor there.

I want my life to mean something. To do something that makes a difference. To somehow leave my mark. And it has nothing to do with being rich or famous, because in my eyes, those are completely meaningless aspiration when weighed against the grand scheme of things. My goals are much more modest. All I want is to feel, real, honest to god joy. To be a decent family man. The kind of man that the wifey can look up too with pride. I want to stop feeling afraid of failing. To trust in my ability to persevere. And most of all I want to someday soon be a good loving father that will do for his children what no man has done in my family for generations. And if I had a sense that God was still around, I might actually trust that these things are all yet possible for me.

So I pray up to God, and I ask him to give me the strength that I so desperately need. To infuse my spirit with confidence. To give me a sign that he is still there, and is listening to my prayers. That I am not alone in my journey. I call out to him from time to time, but I get no reply. I don’t feel his presence. All I feel is a big dark void. I feel nothing. And it causes me to ponder, if God ever was there in the first place. Was I just praying to myself all those years ago. Was there anyone ever really listening? Did I credit him for things that I purely did on my own? And if so, then how do I fool myself into believing again, so that I may get over these hurdles that are keeping me from reaching the mountain top? Maybe I should have been placing faith in myself all along. I don’t know. Just understand that I am no a blasphemer.  I’m just a dude looking to believe in the invisible man in the sky.