What happens when…..

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The past month has been busy. Crazy. Strange. And. Which is the nature of life. My friend in learning to deal with his MS is helping me by passing on things his therapist says. It weird being on the receiving end. My philosophy is to throw insights or lessons learned into the wind. It’s also how my writing happens. The answers to my questions have never been in a single place. It has been a collection of found jigsaw pieces thrown into a mental box. When the light is just right I can see how the edges fit together. My awareness is the critical component. Then there are those 2×4 moments. A change of perspective.

It has been my experience that we all have those people around us who are fellow travellers on a shared journey. Men coworkers have proved invaluable throughout my early separation. Reality checks when the bottom fell out. Where a woman may use a paragraph, they used a series of very short sentences. Been there. Got the t shirt. It gets better. That what I can provide for my friend. Dealing with Crazy. Racing thoughts. Anger.  We both have trust issues. Two loners with two different ways of dealing with the chaos Crazy can cause.

That shared journey is soon to diverge. Has these things tend to do.  Lessons learned need space to grow. For me that space is toward the edge of the great Journey. That’s my lesson to learn this time around. An evaluation for state services showed high intellect and education but extreme social isolation. Which is something the past 18 months have shown in a harsh light. Except it’s a well known place where I lived for decades. What makes this time different is a realization I have choices. And that is new.

In my past premedication life, long terms plans were lost in the realm of a foreign language. Hope, change and happiness hung out there too. Readers of this small blog were equally illiterate. A mind steeped in a negative brew find the effort involved in learning a new language an exercise in frustration. We see the word. Can pronounce it. But miss the concept behind it. It forces us to redefine a nebulous set of cultural values. An ever changing vocabulary rich with nuanced meanings. Often contradictory.   I found it can be shared experience. A choice hiding in plain sight for years.

It’s what happens when you lift your head up and look around.

US Open Cup 2015

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The past four hours or so have been interesting ones. The Michigan Bucks and Detroit City FC will play in the opening round of the US Open Cup.  For those that may not be familiar with soccer, it’s a national tournament for clubs from all levels of play. Amateurs will play professionals. the Bucks have been very successful, in their 20 years of operation, being giant killers in the Cup.  Detroit City is making their second appearance since 2012. The year of the clubs founding. Two organizations with radically different DNA. That contrast showed this afternoon.

Throughout its 20 years, the Bucks have averaged 600 fans per game. Play inside a metal building with first generation artificial surface. They cater to the old model of American Family friendly soccer moms. Detroit City is being forced to move to a larger stadium due to repeated sellouts. The loss of seeing the skyline from the terraces will be hard. Older organizations still have firsts. Being forced to deal with the demand for tickets by the DCFC  supporter base is one such moment.  People that have a negative history when the Bucks were the only game in town. Both occupy the 4th tier in different leagues. Amateur college players and recent graduates playing the game they love in the summer

Two scenarios.

First the easy way. Recognizing the demand and marketability of this event long in the making, find and rent a suitable venue to easily handle the expected crowd. Understand that having a third party handle the logistics of ticketing, with certain negotiated guarantees in place, is the best way forward.  Immediately arrange with the opponents FO for them to handle their supporter demands for tickets. Including a mechanism to provide more to meet demand. The added expense will be more than met with the greater demand. The match of the first round goes on without any distractions outside of those surrounding a one off match.

This wasn’t the way it has happened. Earlier today the Bucks instigated a two step process for ticket allocation to “prevent outside agents from selling tickets on the secondary market.” They don’t like scalpers. No worries. Except the process isn’t transparent or does the website list a written privacy policy of how the metadata will be used or protected. Trust Us. Many supporters are getting around this by purchasing season tickets for a rival team. AFTER helping sell out the capped number of season passes for DCFC in 85 days. My thinking is 1700.

There isn’t any guarantee or mention of how the tickets will be distributed after the Bucks fan base get theirs. I understand a block of tickets will be made available through the DCFC FO. What’s left over will be General admission sold through the Metro Detroit area at local soccer stores(?).  The Northern Guard supporter group has owned the social media of Detroit soccer from the announcement of DCFC. The Bucks have never been a presence. When your newest uniform release makes national news so will other events.  Comments about the handling of this have been national. Played out with glee on the immediacy of Tweeter.

This subject is at the simmer for now.  DCFC supporters are taking a wait and see approach. That they don’t trust or like the Bucks owner, Dan Duggan, is well known. He will be held accountable for any mistakes. Real or perceived.  This is more than just a soccer game. It’s the US Open Cup. It’s the present versus the past of American soccer’s base. It’s Detroit City versus everyone. Most importantly City attitude versus The Suburban youth soccer attitude. The City left for dead is back. The march is led by the skull mask of the NGS.  IF I get tickets my hearing will suffer greatly.

A final thought. And one driving all the turmoil surrounding this match. Your club getting into the US Open Cup is a big deal. For the supporters, this is a top of the bucket list life event. For those of us who Live and Breath DCFC, this is not a matter of life and death. It’s so much more than that. It’s what Dan Duggan and the Bucks organization have failed to understand. Or worse want to deny us.

DETROIT CITY TILL I DIE.

 

Sunny Days of Spring

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Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.

Famous line line from a song.  For me it’s the sunny days that leave me feeling out of sorts. Humans evolved with vision being the dominant sensory input. A critical survival trait in a world filled with predators. Friend or Foe. Now our foe is a media marketing juggernaut that creates false images of perfection. Which unfortunately 90% of the population can’t achieve at a genetic level or lifestyle option. The largish kid who was always the lineman in Pee Wee football in Texas, has become the overweight 51 year old man.

Too much fast food eaten in the car going to or from another dead end job. A slightly twisted foot that limited my ability to walk longer distances and made exercise painful. Grass doesn’t hurt as much. But the world is mostly concrete. Add cheap shoes. And my shape is round. That’s how I see it. Some friends say no. All my thoughts are still seen through the inner lenses of oddness polished over my life. A reality at odds with the world of Yoga pants and hairless apes. There was a sudden image of my cousins. All thin. Not skinny but thin. The two who I felt closest to weren’t. Others where trendy clothes were an impossibility.

There’s a scene in Grown Ups that make my point best. It’s when they all go to the water park. Kevin James in a bodysuit and Sofia Vergara in a bikini. Both are anomalies for different reasons. The source of comedy is a need to deal with deep pain. Embrace it or internalize it.  The way my brain works fashioned it into the whip that I have so often used to make the pain physical. Emotional eating is a slow form of suicide. Rage or anger allowed full rein at inopportune moments. Studies show single men have shorter lives than married ones. Our destructive urges are channeled into a driving need to protect those closest to us.

For me, Pain has been the only constant I’ve known. A close companion. The confidant in my decision loop. That saboteur with the constant whispers of worthlessness which led to me destroying an hope of success or happiness. A Fatherly gift to his son. One I’m striving not to pass on to my son or daughter. These are my thought s from waking on the first beautiful sunny day in my city by the water.

On Being a Soccer Supporter

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My  soccer club’s short season is fast approaching. For 8 months the emotions released on the terraces are sleeping. Vivid memories of the being THE CROWD not a number making up a crowd contain the emotions expressed there. Sorry to say this to fans of other American sports.  If you’ve never stood in the terraces for your club, You never understand. It’s an all consuming sea of a physical expression of intense emotion. A safe place to express yourself in a celebratory display of something so far beyond any other life event. For me the only moments greater were the birth of my children. Like any parent, they are always first in my thoughts.

Except for that short period since the summer of 2012. The year Detroit City FC was born. My club and kids battle for my attention.  In blood and ink, size and time matter. My back piece for my club took 8 hours. It’s not finished. The artwork for my children was a more intense three hours. The national team shield over my heart, all single needle work, only took an hour. Supporter culture is a lifestyle. A community is forged in the intensity of shared events. Strangers become family. Need help moving? Going out? Time during the week kicking a soccer ball around in the street? Just ask. Done. Hard times? How much do you need? pay me back when you can. Family without the baggage.

The pronouncement that this generation that will propel soccer into the American conscious has arrived. Families are showing up in the supporter sections. The tradition of being part of a club from birth to death has becoming a reality. Yes the pictures of skull bandanas and mask can be jarring. Roiling clouds from the smoke bombs isn’t a normal sight at a sporting event. The attitude expressed in a single voice using certain language can be a bit jarring to the uninitiated. That is until the mask come off. Or seeing them play with their kids. Ordinary people. The well educated and the blue collar. Many nationalities and cultures. Uncompromising inclusive. All hidden by the masks and smoke. Many of them are friends making their neighborhood a better place to raise their children. The like minded of a particular mindset expressed in standing for their club on match day.

The most soft spoken become something else for a short period of time. Hidden strengths are revealed. Everyday fears are shown to be shared. That loosens their grip. All of this I’ve experienced. Such strong emotional release can’t be sustained. There’s a satisfying weariness when the crowd dissipates. A relief that it was over. The special set of elements that creates such a storm has a set time limit. For the supporters it has a physical element. Being a supporter is a very active endeavour. The March to the stadium. The standing while we chant in full voice. Maintaining your balance on seats designed for sitting during a rain storm or blistering heat. Then the drive home afterwards.

And still I wake with the need to do it all again. Check Twitter and Facebook for pictures and highlights from the day before. Reading all the comments from other individuals who wished their club had the same atmosphere. And respect from others that do. I walk a little taller because I’m part of something special. Unique. An attitude expressed in my everyday life. Knowing my small Facebook page has a global reach because Detroit City FC is my club. Tell me how many others can say that?

On may 15th, I will stand with my loud rowdy smoke loving clan in the visitor section of Cass Tech for the season opener. That’s how we are seen not just heard. The cherry on top is we play Cleveland. A sport rivalry deeply ingrained in Detroit history. A history that our owners carry with them. Then there’s the small detail that match counts in the Rust Belt Derby. A supporter created competition between Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit. Forget the fancy silverware and plates. The trophy is heavy. Made from metal representing the manufacturing past and present of three cities. All fueled by social media. Every app or site.

I AM CITY TILL I DIE.

NO ONE LIKES, WE DON’T CARE.

BURY ME IN ROUGE AND GOLD.

AND WEAR THE BLACK SCARF

WITH THE STARK WORDS

FUCK OHIO.

NO APOLOGIES.

Unwelcome Changes

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Spring has come to Michigan. New city. New place to occupy. Same old problems came out of the suitcase with my clothes. They are the things the inner me never used to think about. That mishmash of out of style colors and trends picked up without thinking. A blind man without a someone there to help. So what what needs to go with the Spring cleaning.

Constantly saying I’m poor is more than a financial state.
Schedules are important.
Windows can also be a form of prison.
Friends are important.
The difference between how I see myself and others see me are two different versions.
Change is when you find out how much the world can change when your not paying attention.
And how frustrating your lack of knowledge is hinderance.

The show northern Exposure had an episode about the spring thaw of the glacier. It caused some of the characters thoughts to shift to another. Mine were frozen in some other place. The dripping of the melting snow give me the option of opening a door to let in the outside. One of those absent pieces was writing. Such an integral part of who I am was painful.

This has been the reason for my silence. The river has always flowed under the ice. But forgetting that is the difference. Enjoy the Spring.

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This both an apology and an explanation to my family outside of Michigan. Twenty two years ago I left the place where I was born and raised. It was the final resolution of a growing dissatisfaction. A feeling that has been with me since childhood.  And it had nothing to do with my large sprawling family.  When mom and her first husband, Raymond, stopped being gypsies to put down roots, the sisters followed. She was the heart of a growing clan of family and friends anchoring them to one place.  Before it was the wartime shipyards in LA or the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. Trips back home to Tulsa or early Vegas or next door to New Orleans. Where they both collected memories and people like seashells.

When He died at an early age, the gypsy life called once again.  Into this void stepped the man who would become my father. This formed the backdrop to my life. A chaotic confusion of loud cousins. Aunts, uncles and grandparents who weren’t by blood. Friends of friends or from church. Epic Christmas celebration quickly followed by the appearance of the Nut Sisters on New Year’s eve.  Summer get togethers because the drive was short. And those shopping trips to Mexican border towns for pots and wrought iron my Aunt Sharon loved. My Uncle Boyd would always led the caravan to the border inspection every time. It became another piece of family lore.  Woven into to all this were my mom’s stories of people and places.

Travel shifts perspective.  For some it temporary.  A brief escape from an ordinary seeming  life. For others it’s permanent.  Life is a framework of streets where we live or work. People. Landmarks were we turn if there’s traffic. Short cuts and long drives in spring. This is the movie you star in. Write and direct. That reel stopped when I was on a Naval supply ship stationed out of Guam. Forward deployed supply ship never stay in port for very long. Gypsies of the fleet. Three years of collecting memories and friends. No one knew I was leaving the Navy until the phone call from Houston Hobby.  Could someone come pick me up please.  My first choice was the train.  The land Navy couldn’t understand taking the slow way home.

The film was turned back on for my family. But I had become an Expat. Problem being an expat is only others, who have some of that inside them, understand. Swimming against the stream. Dated. Got married.  Moved to a different coast. Close along the shores of the Great Lakes with neither of us having jobs waiting.  To a place settled before America expanded out of the colonies. What I found was silence. The insistent nagging voice was gone.  Where my body fit the seasons.

Regrets? No. Do I wish my kids could meet their relatives in Texas? Sure. But my memories don’t reflect the reality either. Growing up both of my uncles lived in Oklahoma. Uncle Lawrence had a large family I never met.  By now it could be in the hundreds.  My mom died 5 years ago. A was an alien in a strange new world. An illusion of returning, gone. By then another generation had grown up in their version of my family.  Names on FB without any context. That’s what I am to them. . She was the keeper of the family pictures. That role is now mine. The outlier in the north.

Why is it I’m compelled to write about this? Uncle Boyd has a chronic lung problem from years of working around asbestos. He and Aunt Jo are the last Elders. My last real connection to my past. And I had not thought of them until yesterday.  A suggestion for a FB like from Uncle Boyd brought it into sharp focus.

Words are all I have to offer. Historians study the intimate mundane words sent on scraps of paper of the long dead. A temporary fragile medium carried the weight of hope, love and thoughts to those far away. Now it’s 140 character shorthand that are forever stored somewhere.  But only if there’s power.  This is a letter from where a river flows into the wide bay of a Great Lake.

I hope this letter finds everyone in good health. Surrounded by people who love and care about them. And lastly that I haven’t forgotten you.

Love Will

Friendship

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The simplest questions are the most profound. Where were you born? Where is your home?

Where are you going?What are you doing?

Think about these once and a while, and watch your answers change.

This quote is from one of my desert island books. Recent events have forced me to examine concepts that are fundamental to being human. Friendship is an important one. What I’ve learned is finding work in a new town comes down to who you know. Friends and family tell other friends and family about work before anyone else.  Networking. At this moment there’s only one person I call friend.

A man’s circle of friends happen in childhood.  For women it’s early college. Specific places and time. Roughly a third of Americans are on the move at any given time. I read somewhere that most settle back within 50 miles of where they grew up. The pull of Place. Jason is the only person from the shelter that has stayed in my life from that event.  We both share tales of chronic conditions.  Mine is controlled by medication and knowledge.  He will lose the ability to walk within the year or a decade.  MS is called the snowflake disease.  A range of afflictions that manifest differently from person to person. But the ending is the same. We both will have years taken off our lives. Stress Hormones and the body attacking itself.

My car is a lifeline for both of us. There’s a wind chill warning tonight followed by sub zero temperatures on the weekend. He returned to his hometown and family. Where an old job became a new one. We depend on each other for support.  Some days needing to get to appointments is the only reason I’d leave my apartment. It has forced me to realize that being a friend was just a word in my vocabulary. My use was too casual.  Its true meaning was beyond my ability to grasp in many cases.  This is my view.

Those that have called me friend will disagree. It’s my hope. The past three months has sharpen my sense of what’s important. A friend can tell you things that would get someone else hit. I used feel envy as others told stories about long term relationship. Either Friends or family. We all want to belong to something greater than ourselves.  Take away one of the circles of daily interactions, we feel lost.  A subtle emptiness or panic.  Although for the vast majority of my life I’ve been alone, there was very little loneliness.  It’s both a strength and weakness. Without the passive web of belonging, my one friend has special value. Something I refuse to take for granted.

Too many times in my life that has happened. This is a blanket apology to those I took lightly or ignored.  One little book has guided me when my life went off the rails.  Richard Bach the Reluctant Messiah.  It’s been a candle in the darkness. Whatever my reason for starting this blog, it has come down to this simple purpose.  If this kept one person from taking their life to end the pain, I’ve done something good.

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