The Bianchi and The Giant

Riley was 22 when he first met Greg. Introduced by a wild blonde named Emma who had great legs and who was an equally great kisser. Greg was older, wiry and lean, dark featured with a sharp beak and narrow teeth covered by a thick mustache. He was a wily street creature, rising from some small town muck with a conniving smile and selfish intent. He was Riley’s first foray into Scotch whisky, homemade videos and crystal methamphetamine, all while inside an apartment on SE 162nd and Stark. Emma, who also frequented the sparse, dark cheaply built flat, had also recently felt the subtle grip of street living and hard drugs on the throat of her youth. They both explored, suffered, learned and though only one of them eventually got out, they both never forgot the sibling-like romance they shared with each other.

The Bianchi was a late ’80’s road bike, simple yet state-of-the-art, and newly painted flat black with a rattle can by Greg behind the apartment complex. The fresh paint was like an alarm, or more accurately, like a disguise. Riley had stayed the night the evening before and had a hundred-dollar bill stolen out of his shoe while he slept (never made that silly mistake of hiding cash in a damn shoe again). He was sure it was Greg but had no evidence and all he heard were the pleas of innocence from the half dozen dope heads and dirty squatters around him. There was an older lady who actually lived there, a fat, spandex wrapped meth queen, middle-aged, strangely sexy like Roseanne Barr but saggy jowled like Jabba the Hut, hauntingly attractive to a boy with no mother but on the surface she was shockingly vile. She may have been not only the culprit but likely one who orchestrated the late night larceny alongside Greg. Riley was quite upset when he woke and found his shoes empty but was too soft of a young man to really do anything about it. Later that afternoon Greg then showed Riley the bicycle hoping to ease the tension.
“Go ahead, take it. It’s yours,” he said slyly.
“Take it? Like, it’s mine? Really?” Riley truly was just a boy, attention spanned stretched thin, barely enough to soak in owning a new bicycle. He was however, experienced enough to know why it smelled like fresh black Krylon spray paint but was awed at how it looked totally bad ass. Flat black on black on black. Riley had that bike for the summer and put hundreds of miles on it. He eventually then broke the rear part of the frame by drunkenly smashing it into a curb one hot September night. Lost a tooth and an important chunk of metal that held the wheel hub in place. Luckily, he had a friend who was handy with a welder, so he still has the bike to this day, stronger than ever, healed with hell of a bead.

Riley also loved mountain bike riding during this time. He loved Powell Butte with its quick, winding single tracks and close proximity to his East side neighborhood. The days he bombed down the hills nestled in the big, grassy watershed, he escaped the relentless loneliness of school and the brutal detachment of his immediate family. Grinding up the hill, breathless, driven and exhausted towards the peak to then be able to rocket down the other side, barely staying on the trail, the front suspension bouncng as he held on for dear life, wide-eyed and loving it. One of the dirtball kids in the neighborhood who rode the butte sold him a silver Giant mountain bike with front end hydraulic forks for $100. It was worth 5 times that and Riley rode that bike as much as the Bianchi but the Giant was cursed. Plagued with the air of being stolen and Riley knew it. It hung over him for the two years he owned it. Riley then outgrew it and while working as a waiter the first big purchase he ever made (paid for with a stack of 5’s, 10’s and 20’s) was a Kona mountain bike. With rad high-end suspension and disc brakes, it rode like how a girl felt and was as fast as any wild animal Riley could ever imagine.

A few months later, Riley rode to the little corner store and slipped in for a six-pack of Fat Tire beer. A straight walk directly to the cooler along the back wall and then back up to the check stand. Not even 60 seconds. Not even 60 seconds for him to come out to no bicycle. Gone. Had he thought he would have been in the store for more than 2 minutes he would have locked it. Holding a six-pack in the doorway of a tiny quiet store, just him and the guy behind the counter and no bicycle. A bunch of beer with a picture of a bicycle on it but no bicycle. He sat down on the curb, opened a beer, and learned let go of it all.

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Cigarettes Pt. 1

Long before there were any notches on a beat-down headboard or a depraved selection of stories of how the notches got there, before jobs or deadlines, before past due notices and pleading no contest, there were cigarettes.

The second gateway drug after your friend’s mom and dad’s Kahlua and peppermint schnapps.

The daily dope of yellowing fingernails and raspy morning hacks, the hourly desire to tap the vein and choke the throat with that stinky, sweet tightening of every wonderful inhale…

6th grade. 1985. Metropolitan Learning Center. Northwest Portland, Oregon. Off-campus lunch hour. The Gypsy was a vast, dingy, dark neighborhood lounge where filthy day-drinkers and junkies hoping to escape the light of the afternoon often dwelled. In its doorway stood a cigarette machine that had a picture of a Marlboro cowboy corralling a herd of something while gripping a Full Flavor between his teeth. This was the notorious machine where the schoolkids would sneak into the bar’s entryway and stuff the machine with quarters and pull the knob that delivered those wonderful, brightly colored parcels of contraband.

One day it was Reed’s turn to get the smokes. Never having gone into The Gypsy or even began to fathom what a truly legendary dive bar it was, his introduction to such a venue was monumental. His eyes and mind were forever and beautifully wrecked for seeing such dimly lit debauchery thickly wallowing in a cloud of silent drinking and cigarette smoke.

As to not be spotted by the bartender, this child trembling, pushed what he hoped were enough coins into this towering machine. Frantic with nerves, he quickly saw the camel, that universal desert animal, dirty with gold and dust on its emblem and pulled the plastic, crystal knob that loudly delivered the cigarettes into the dispenser.

Reaching in, he snatched the smokes and booked it out the door, panting, dizzy, victorious.

Reed’s friends, standing across the street at the theater doorway, giggled and ran towards him as he swaggered down 21st Ave, the cock of the cigarette walk. He tossed the pack over his shoulder at the bunch and then watched his delinquent pals groan with disappointment. “C’mon, man, what the hell is this?”
“Whaddya mean,” Reed asked.
“Dude, these are straights.”
“Straights?”
“Yeah. Straights. No filter. Tobacco in your mouth. Lung burn! Short and not sweet, have you ever tried them? How are we supposed to smoke these? Gross. You smoke ’em, they’re all yours,” throwing the pack back at Reed in disgust.

Be ready to sacrifice yourself to the gods of vice should you choose to live such a life of experience, excitement and excess. There will be a day when you’re compelled to ingest chemicals you’re not confident in. A day when you will be expected to finish off the rest of the drugs, a moment when, you alone, will have to reckon with the fact that your partners in crime will abruptly leave you high and dry the minute you think everything is great.

The Taste of Music

My dad used to sing me Neil Young and Uncle Remus.

Then he showed me David Bromberg, The Rolling Stones and Tchaikovsky.

I was at my neighbor’s house when Black Dog gave my little boy body wide-eyed convulsions.

There was a Tuesday afternoon elective at my school called “Beatles and Drawing.” It was a half hour of listening to the Beatles and drawing whatever you wanted. I was 9 years old. MLC…sigh.

I was a 10 year old when my friend mentioned that his big brother bought Kill ‘Em All and it took me 2 more years of Madonna and New Wave until I finally understood what he said that day.

My first concert was George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers at Portland’s Civic Auditorium in 1986. The following year my dad took me to my first indie show, Screaming Trees with The Dwarves at Pine Street Theater. That’s how cool my dad was.

When my family broke up I moved schools and went from being raised among the culture of the city to now having to explore adolescence deep in the Eastside suburbs, my life took a serious turn. My lifelines were License To Ill, Legacy of Brutality, N.W.A. Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, It Takes A Nation and in the 8th grade my friend brought over G.B.H., Jimi Hendrix, L7 and Slayer records and we played them all until the needle broke and my brain melted like soft ice cream.

I was neck-deep in a suburban white neighborhood and it was then that I realized I could either be a product of my bland environment or make a conscious decision to live and think for myself.

Anything that flaunted the system and mocked the establishment, the music that protested corruption, oppression and used passion and adrenaline to express their discontent was music I subsisted on, endlessly blaring into my Walkman. I was an only child who just lost his mother and was now living an hour-long bus ride away from the comfort of downtown. Music was the only thing I listened to because I certainly wasn’t hearing any of my teachers or relatives.

On those bus rides I understood why some people listen to bubblegum pop and others just…don’t.

I found this and this at the record store while dropping out of college. Twice.

My friend at Tower Records told me to buy Pretty Hate Machine. I bought it on title alone.

I showed my best friend the Marshall Mathers LP when it first came out and we played it continuously in his 88 Mustang GT.

A friend came to my house and she showed me Glass Animals.

I went to my friend’s house and she showed me 21 Pilots.

Though words and pictures are like my harem, it is music that leads my beautiful life from darkness into today.

You Call THIS the Longest Day of the Year?

First day of summer this year came numb and quiet like how I escape a room and when no one interesting is around.

This life is so weird. So quick to change and turn on you, unpredictable and unprecedented, nature will devour you or embrace you, if you’re lucky you’ll feel a little of both.

I once told a woman that I felt better being alone because that was the only way I knew how to be. Comfortably. Then I realized by watching my father’s nobility towards my mother and saw that despite relationships not being clearly defined by how society measures success, a union of love will always be that. Love. Alone or not.

My best friend as I was growing up had parents that gave kids refuge both in their home and in their hearts, it was an unconditional respite from whatever was troubling us back then. As I was forging my adolescence through the darkness of sickness and death, I found myself under the wing of my friend’s father and his influence and wisdom brought me from the edge of certain indelible mistakes that has plagued many a boy far better than I. He overwhelmingly helped make me the somewhat charming and fun guy before you today.

First day of this particular summer is the day marked for fathers. All that I’ve learned from the men that love me gives me an absolute and beautiful power that seems to grow with every day, every decision and every relationship.

The love in being alone or with someone is love I’ve learned from mothers and fathers. But today, the first day of summer is the first day of something I’ve been practicing for forever.

Reid Rockatansky

Let me tell you about my relationship with Max Rockatansky. He’s a real dreamboat. A real cool guy. A real survivor.

I first watched Mad Max in the summer of my 5th grade year at my friend Josh’s house during one of his birthday parties. Man, birthday parties back then were the business. When you’re a kid everything is so monumental and over the top, birthdays were a chance to plan deviance and recklessly cause trouble outside of school hours, school rules and school grounds.

I remember the movie was randomly playing in one of the rooms and only a couple of my friends were watching it but Josh’s older brother and all his friends were sitting silent so I sat and glued myself to this VHS screening of what turned out to be one of the grittiest and baddest ass movies ever. Dirty. Violent. Characters so vivid and ornately costumed, big, loud engines, motorcycles and hot rods, choppy, vulgar slang-filled dialogue made a young boy such as myself stare fixed into that big TV screen as if nothing else mattered.

I always hated my friends’ older brothers for being such pricks but that day was one that changed my life forever.

Max was everything that embodied what I wanted to be. An ambivalent and quiet loner with a dog and a fast car, only made mad when pushed by the evil that men do, but a man with no particular destination, wandering, gunslinging for survival, searching for gas, dressed in hard leather.

I would from then on crave to watch the dark and tragic anti-heroes who were hopelessly at odds with the world and their own morality. The romance of hating those who love you or just plain realizing that everyone eventually will let you down for their own gain would be steadfast and hard-edged codes that this little boy, possibly unfortunately, would holster in his core as he wandered the wasteland that was the playground.

Rabbit The Dog

Lost dog
Apparent spring,
March forth into new wilds
With fresh beginnings.

Speckled and slung with a nose searching mischief,
Wild and running into nighttime waiting eyes,
Feral though loyal, Rabbit sought her reasons
Buried in dark evenings and when she found
The right time she returned to the sky.
Brilliant animal whose sly wit and cunning advantage
Made monkeys of people and prodigies of dogs.
Brown marks concealing her form
Against the green of Oregon’s arms
Allowed her liberty to stalk and prod
Up and down neighborhoods and wetlands.
Bound in the house during times of youth
Stifling the fury in her animal bones
Containing such raucous desire
Proved the finish of many chewable objects
Her belly was the mecca for faces and rubbing,
Clean your ears and throw her soft spots at you
Only hands could restrain her fence-breaking ways.
No trash bin safe
Or rodent nearby, no feline was clear
Until the dog found more interesting distractions.
Jumping like some dingo kangaroo
Towards the towering trees that held squirrels safe,
The beast in her skin just wanted to play.
And say hi.

On The Fence, On The Mend, Tongue’s a Waggin’

My first car was a 1969 Ford Galaxie 500 Country Sedan station wagon. I was 20 years old. All 19 feet of it was white and it had this awesome rear glass window that automatically went up and down with the push of a button. 429 cubic inches of big-time burning of barrels of gasoline. Wagons are my favorite kind of car, utilitarian and spacious, fun and inconspicuous to cops with radar guns and regular guns.

When I was growing up I wanted a red Radio Flyer wagon but it was one of those things that I never got, not because I was deprived, I was just given different toys like Big Wheels and eventually a sweet brown, banana seat bicycle (without training wheels, I might add).

A wagon’s my new whip today. My sweet and interesting nature will be instigated by wholly different reasons and likely by quite a different contingent, as well. I’ll have to wait and see.

A beautiful, glorious, shining wagon that will save me money, blood, regret, and a pile of bad decisions. Well, admittedly, lest we forget the great stories, the legendary fun and the beautiful impulse of reckless abandon that’s often associated with me and fah-watah, in light of all that, my new wagon, however, is gonna be rad.