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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To paraphrase Monty Python, It’s been a bitch of a week in Bay City. The apartment still feels temporary. My VA caseworker assures me it’s not. Just follow the rules. Four decades of living at the corner of Crazy and Rue de Abyss tends to warp reality.  What I don’t realize was there was a someone else sharing the space. An artist who left spiky balls of pain everywhere.  Some cleverly hidden to feel slightly uncomfortable till you moved.  Funny how furniture becomes important.  It breaks up empty walls.  Creates anchor points that allow stability in your life.

I have an air mattress and a chair the last tenant left.  Living in a converted attic space does limit choice. The 38 stairs have a lot to do with it. Last night the isolation body slammed me.  There was that crippling psychological pain.  Mentally I knew the cause.  And knew I had to work through it. Instead empty calories became my self medicating way to make it go away. another land mine. I’m learning the Middle Way of the Buddha. Not the religion that grew from it. That trumped the entire thought process of turning it over to the christian god. I need a new tool box to get me out of the hole. This was all triggered by the downside of owning a car. Maintenance and gas.  A loss of the one thing that kept above bum status.  A term used by someone in the shelter. walk or get a bike. In a Michigan winter.

One by one the lies I’ve spun to buffer the trials of life by shattered. That leaves the choice. What happens next? Intelligent. Needs the structure of work.  Can be slightly lazy if unintersted. Isolated socially. All in a new city. That is the killer. Jobs are hidden in the network of relationships or shared values.  Going back to school isn’t an option open to me.  Short term decisions made in crisis. Funny thing is how adaptable we are. All of this has become my norm. Therein lies the key. Am I brave enough to take the key and open a new door? Haven’t yet.

This blog is the third one in a series of failed attempts. When it became an open discussion of my mental illness is still mystery. My hope is my daily struggles help someone else get through theirs.  Even when I seem to be stuck in neutral. Keep pushing the boulder up the hill.  One thing that I’ve learn is occasionally there’s a small rock that you can use as a wedge.  Step away.  Enjoy the view.

Super Bowl Sunday.

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The yearly mega event for the most American of sports starts the month. When it’s all over the name of an athlete or athletes will be raised to an iconic figure of myth and veneration.  Why? Envy.  We will never be an elite anything. Can any of us say, outside of sports or the military, that our entire lifetime of training or sacrifice will come down to one moment of fulfillment.  Everyone knows Tom Brady but who knows the special teams guy who was lucky enough to make the squad playing today?  An average professional career last 3 seasons. Still a rare achievement. Being a parent last a lifetime. No halftime shows for us.  I’d rather have memories of a fridge covered in pictures and report cards than a diamond encrusted ring.  An object of jewelry that is painful with each handshake.

At the end of this month is my 51 birthday.  A simple date on a calendar for a man who has battled mental illness all his life. Worked a string of dead end jobs because of it. Who for three years traveled a portion of the world in the Navy.  Has been loved by three women.  Who saw qualities still hidden when he looks in the mirror.  And the father of two great kids.  Being teenagers still, the future is uncertain. No video. No stories in the media. Just a man doing the best he can.

An ordinary life. My life. Given the chance to go back to change it, I’d decline. For although my story is the same in general terms as the vast majority, It is still distinctly mine.  All the scars and pain have brought a certain level of wisdom.  An acceptance of my flaws.  Watch the last scene of The World’s End.  That sums it in humorous angry way.  It’s dealing with the aftermath that shows your character. Not everyone gets a trophy just for showing up.  Success or happiness is a personal measure.  It’s what drives our everyday decisions.  Moral and ethical behavior are what we carry with us. Not something to be imposed on others.

These are my thoughts as I watch the snow swirl outside the library.  A beautiful public space with free WiFi. 24/7 connectivity has been beyond my means for many years.  It has put me out of step with the modern world. Surprising a condition I find comforting. An American yearning for the lifestyle of found in Europe. One more challenge in a complex yet simple life.

A Dream

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This is what woke me at 4am. When you dream in full technicolor and complete dialogue, getting all can be tough.

“We all have parts to play. Some great. Some quiet. These change over the course of time without rhyme or reason. All are equally important.  Most important is what we get wrong. Either brilliant or rubbish, doesn’t matter. It’s all about relationships.”

That’s the gist of it.

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