Nothing pisses me off more than when someone wants to pull the string on my “Speak and Say”, and then refuses to listen when I go on to tell them what sound a cow makes. Rejection, in general, is something that is easy to handle but when people dismiss me altogether I really burn up. Paul Jensen used to say that the best thing that happened to him was when his hair fell out and his gut distended. It wasn’t until then that people started to listen to what he had to offer in the residential construction industry. Myself, I am not waiting for that. For one thing, my hair will thin only lightly and my stomach will always remain trim. All of the Lindner men, (my mothers side of the family), had a youthful appearance and never became overweight. They also died before their mothers. I suppose, with all of the skills and mindset that I am hated for, I will be hated for that too but that’s okay because there are too many things that I dabble in to let it really get to me. And I fear that I too will be dead before my mother, which is why I am frantically working on things I feel I need to do before that happens. Working on my mothers house, in Conklin, was not on the list.
Conklin is a small town just a few miles south of the Muskegon County line. My mother purchased a run down house on the dead end of Miller Street as part of one of her retirement investments. The home was in a shambles but then again, so was the rest of the town. A town it barely was, only kept alive by the fifty or so residents whom lived there. Today, in the whole of Chester Township’s 65 square miles there are about 2300 people. It has a very small U.S. Post Office, one small grocery store that rents videos and sells alcohol with the exception of Sundays when a person has to go five miles north to Ravenna- just outside of Ottawa County. There was an old train route that was converted to the Musk-Ottawa Trail, an asphalt pathway for bicycles and family strolls.
The town of Conklin got it’s start as a Railroad stop for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad. A United States Post Office was opened in June of 1887. It was, and may still be, kept alive by an agricultural Co-Op, where local farmers sell and purchase grain and other livestock supplies, as they need them. An Irish Pub sits across the street that had, and may still have, authentic Celtic music Jams where people came on Saturdays from miles around. Fenian’s Irish Pub was quite well known and may have been the chief reason the town hadn’t completely dried up- other than the Co-Op. Many of the buildings that held businesses are in such terrible states that they cannot be rehabilitated for anything other than demolition and repurposing of the lots they occupy. It may be a very long time before anyone takes an interest in any of the properties there for any reason at all.
The project, with respect to myself, began while Sandy and I were still together, and ended abruptly because of Sandy. Or rather because of Sandy’s discovery of some very personal items which were none of her concern, although she made them her concern. This concern of hers was the final beginning to the end of her and I- a bit of a blessing in disguise though I didn’t realize it at the time.
After taking up residence again with Danny, I continued to try helping finish the project. That is up until I became involved with Julie, which happened to be a three-year distraction to my life’s path. Or was it?
It became that I resided there on the property while helping my mother complete the renovations to the home, and the fact that I had no other place to go. My long deceased Uncle William Russo and Aunt Bernice, (Uncle Bill and Aunt Bern), had an old camper van that my mother had acquired somehow. This was parked behind the house, and was where I slept with my dog Dusty.
The project went on for quite some time. It had started with her now ex-boyfriend Stan spearheading the work. No matter what I did on this project I felt my efforts were useless. Stan had pumped so much spray-in foam insulation that the house trapped the moisture that seeped out of the ground. The perimeter of the property was marked by a ditch on three sides revealing the water table at about three feet down. The seepage kept the sump pump running almost non-stop and the moisture built up continually on all of the windows in the house. This made it so that every piece of wood fabricated to finish the windows maintained to be wet which ruined my woodwork efforts and caused for a great deal of anxiety and frustration for myself that didn’t help my mental health at all.
My mother was from the old way of things. Everything that was removed during the demolition process was kept and earmarked for re-use no matter how much work was involved in doing so. That is, everything except for the addition that joined the garage to the house. This was all new construction that was done by a bunch of drunks other than me. They made a drinking spree out of the project- spending the money my mother paid them at the Conklin grocery store on beer, just as fast as they could drink it. The fact that I was insulted over her paying them real money instead of me was grating, especially since every time I tried to work on this particular part of the house there was an obstacle because of them and the piss poor work they had done. To begin with, the walls were all set on top of a layer of fiberglass insulation instead of sill sealer, and there was not one single piece of flashing anywhere, so every time it rained in the least the water came inside of the house. My tongue proved to be tough since I bit it quite often throughout my experience there but I did as my mother wished and used every single thing from the rubbish heap that I could make work, scraping glue from boards and re-milling it into trim material, cutting up the old doors to extract material from them, and practically re-engineering each and every situation along the way. What a nightmare. From the road the house was beautiful. The smoothest part of the project was when she and I stomped the ceiling with crow’s foot texture. As for paint, well, she didn’t waste money on primer. We used a two-coat roller head. The flooring in the kitchen was a snap-together scratch resistant floating floor system. The Kitchen cabinets were prefabricated and went together fairly well. The countertop was a bit of a different story altogether. We were back to “mission highly improbable.” She had a bunch of oak trim she acquired from somewhere- trim that was designed for library panels and chair rail details. It ended up being that I had to assemble two pieces stacked and offset to make the width work, which ended up looking really nice but was a huge amount of extra work. The laminate for the countertop was pretty nice. I can’t imagine what she would have had me do if she hadn’t actually purchased the stuff to be installed like I was accustomed to. The only router bit I had was a forty-five, which is about how many miles worth of cutting I made it do to detail the place where it needed dressing up. That was the kitchen, the bathroom, the window and door trim, the entire staircase system- the whole damn house was a forty-five degree bevel finish. Uniform throughout- continuity is about the only thing the place had, which matched the corner tub and matching riser that I had built for it.
The sump pump crock in the basement corner was a convenient place for my mother’s boyfriend to urinate, since the toilet upstairs was too far to walk when drunk. He had been pissing there for who knows how long.
The pump seemed to run non-stop due to the ground water seeping in from around the footing, and had become in need of replacement. Frantically, I worked to remove and replace the pump before my work area inside the crock became filled. My utility knife had a fresh edge, dressed with the sharpening stone I kept in my bag along with antiquated items- like a rasp, that I was routinely criticized for by other persons I tried to work for. It saved me quite a bit of time and money to drag it across the stone a few strokes. In my haste, and without much needed assistance, I lost control of the knife, slipping from the mass of electrical tape that Stan had used to wire it in, and cutting deep into my left thumb. Quickly, I squeezed the flesh together in an attempt to stop the blood flow as I dashed over to the utility sink to clean the wound. Both, my mother and her boyfriend were there but as soon as I said that I had cut myself they just ducked out. It was one of those situations where you needed an extra pair of hands. Flabbergasted, what could I do? What could I say? They were gone out the door so fast that they didn’t have a chance to hear a single syllable. It was as if I had lit a stick of dynamite. Blood kept gushing, and all I could think about was the bacterial infection that I could lose my thumb over. The cut was held together with my fingers as though I had taken over pinching the penny. Had I not been used to doing everything alone I might have ran across the street to have the neighbor help me. The struggle of washing, drying, and preparing the wound with a triple antibiotic ointment was a real trick. And struggle, to say the least, is what I did. A roll of duct-tape and some paper towels near the sink area was all I had to work with, so that’s what I used to bandage my hand with. From that day on it was difficult to work with the wound- not to mention the wound in my mind that I was once again abandoned in a serious time of need. A carpenter cannot work without a thumb, and I was already too handicapped as it was.
By the time my thumb was completely healed I was burnt out on the project. The bathroom still needed grout for the tile. The faucet needed reinventing in order to install it on the sink, and the place needed carpeting throughout, as well as the various inspections for an occupancy permit. The building inspector never did show up to this day, no matter how many times my mother called him. I think he eventually just sent her the permit.
Now, it’s June of 2008 and I finally received word that I won my disability claim. My sister, her husband, and their five children had taken up occupancy in the house. She put the grout in the bathroom but they never did put in carpeting. My mother figured it wouldn’t need to be replaced if it was never there to begin with. And with several kids and a slew of animals the carpet becoming ruined was inevitable. For all the things in this project that went on that didn’t make any kind of sense, holding off on the carpet installation was the one thing that actually did. Several animals and children could destroy carpet in no time, no matter how hard a person worked to keep it clean. My mother was always over thinking and maybe that’s where I get it from but I only have half of a brain. Is it possible to over think with half of a brain? I’ll have to try and think about that one. Maybe that was a family trait because when my first grandchild was born he only had one complete brain mass- no split hemisphere’s, and died forty five minutes after his birth.
Jen came up to meet me for the first time on September fourth of 2008. It was a weird set of feelings and mixed emotions. There was some confusion over whether or not it was what I should have been doing. There was some frustration over the fact that she was coming to pick me up instead of me coming to her. And it was embarrassing to be living with my baby sister, not to mention that it was an odd feeling to be dependant on her for so many things. My bed was just a mattress on the basement floor amid the clutter of boxes and dampness and I truly felt out of place but I always feel out of place so I guess it didn’t matter.
The one thing that was good was the first impression of the house. It had an entirely new face to it that made it appear as though it was newly built. This was the final part of the remodel that I did to it, and quite possibly the one thing that I had done that was the most complete. Even still I was proud of the work I had performed, mostly because I knew what went into every part of it. There was no part of it that was a small task.
Jennifer arrived around seven p.m. that night. She came in and met my sister and her family, and was led around the house to see some of the things that I had done there. My sister Amanda was immediately pleased with Jenny, warning her that she wasn’t to let me “get away with anything.” Jen just laughed and we set off to Lansing where she lived. There wasn’t a moment of silence all the way to her apartment. We had much in common and I enjoyed her company from the very beginning.
After that first weekend together I would take to bus to Lansing to see her, that is, up until one time a little bit after Halloween when my mother decided to drive me down to her place in order to lay eyes on her and assess what I was doing with her. My mom and I arrived around five o’clock. Mom noticed right off that there was no smell of food in the air, commenting something about Jenny not being a person who cooks much. Jen just laughed it off while I waited for the next comment that my mother might make to heighten my embarrassment.
Jen’s son Drew was a low maintenance kind of boy. He liked to occupy himself with his video game system in his room. My mistake in his regard was that I wasn’t able to integrate myself into this routine. It was too challenging for me to learn the controls for the various games and only got in the way of his amusement with them. I just let him do what he did, interacting with him when it was convenient for him. Siena, on the other hand, was a different story.
Siena was a polar opposite from Drew. She was mechanical, helping herself to the toolbox in the apartment when she needed to open a locked door or open up the controls of her video system in order to change batteries.
It wasn’t too long before I was replacing Jen’s support system of friends to get Siena off to school and to be there when she came home. This support system was necessary mostly because the daycare offered at Sparrow Hospital, where Jen worked, was absolutely useless to her. It didn’t open until seven thirty in the morning, while Jen had to be at work at six. Siena’s father was not at all helpful at sharing responsibilities so Jen’s girlfriend’s stepped in to help out until I showed willingness to take over those needs.
It wasn’t long before Siena began testing me, starting with cutting my power cord to my laptop computer with a pair of scissors. She had also cut a hole in one of my shirts with the same scissors, a hole that landed right at one of my “nibbles.”
At Thanksgiving Jennifer’s mother and stepfather came to visit. Jen’s mother was completely prepared to cook dinner but I insisted on doing it. She had a small fit on the side when she saw me place the turkey in the oven in a paper bag. Dinner turned out just fine but I never heard a compliment. It may have been that I had taken some of her mom’s thunder but it was probably more along the lines of her not trusting me, and her sentiments that Jen should have stayed with her children’s father. It surprised Jen’s friends that I had given her mother a hug that afternoon when they were leaving. It wasn’t known to me that she was not the person to hug. Oh well, I can only be the person I am. Besides, no one warned me.
Christmas was almost a disaster. Since I had slept in due to drinking the night before, I awoke to a room full of people. The first thing I saw when I came out of the bedroom was a woman bent over. Her rump was the only thing I saw. I took three big steps toward it and wound up for a swat. Half way through the motion of it I saw out of the right corner of my eye, Jen and her stepdad. It was her mother bent over. I narrowly escaped having caused a disaster that day.
Disasters were still in the cards. My medical appointments caused an interruption in caring for Jen’s daughter, which caused for Jen to come in late for work on an occasion or two. It wasn’t long before she lost her job. Jen won her unemployment suit, and could have won a much larger argument against Sparrow had she been less of who she is. We were soon evicted from the apartment. Since an eviction comes with the need for another place to live, and the loss of a job comes with the need for financial assistance, Jenny had to call and ask her mother for a loan. We assured her that I had a large amount of money coming any day but that didn’t take away from the chance for her mom to get down on her again for leaving her children’s father.
We were quick to find another place to live and only needed seven or eight hundred to carry us until I got my retroactive payment from the Social Security Administration. Her mother gave us the money but it wasn’t without much grief at that time. Both Jen and her mom were hurting but for different reasons. It was very hard for either of them to communicate without some emotional torment. It was much the same for my mother and I. It was as if Jen and I both shared the same problems. We had more in common than we knew at the time.
Part of the financial issues Jenny had was that she was very free with her money. If anyone she knew needed money for any reason she would give it to them. She had not saved any money. The only equity she had was in her retirement benefits, which she cashed in when we needed to move. She had a heart of gold that couldn’t be measured. Even before we met, she had been spending her money to enter songs from Danny and I into contests.
As for me, my skills were put to the test when we took occupancy of the house we moved to on Walton Drive. When the city came and turned the water on we found out that the pipes had burst in the past when the gas-(and not the water) was shut off during the winter months. The people who owned to house had it up for sale, listing it with a Century 21 Realtor. The house belonged to the wife only after her parents had died. It smelled of decay and it was filthy. So, while Jen went to work cleaning, I went to work ripping the walls apart to expose the burst copper pipes. We had a plumber come in and estimate the job, which ended up being between fifteen hundred and two thousand dollars. It was a trick for me, beginning with isolating the leaks. Between the half bath, kitchen and full bathroom, I managed to make things work. In the beginning we ended up with the use of the toilet in the half bathroom, the bathtub in the full bathroom, and the use of the sink in the kitchen. By the end of the fourth day we had the use of all of the plumbing fixtures but ran out of hot water soon after we started using it. The hot water heater needed to be replaced as well. It was because the dip tube rotted off at the top, which siphons the hot water from the bottom of the tank, while the cold water comes in from the top, forcing the water up the tube. It took me another day and a half to get a new hot water heater and replace it. What did work out was that the landlord allowed us money off of the rent to offset the repairs we made. It didn’t equal much more than a month’s rent but it was better than a sharp stick in the eye.
The only time we met the owners of the house was when Jen met them there to give them the money to move in. He was a truck driver, and she was an oddball. She claimed she couldn’t drive into the city because she had some kind of phobia. That was just fine with me- the farther from us the better. One of the first things we noticed about the house was that there were steel bars in the windows all the way around the house. The street was a nice street. Almost every house on Walton Drive was nice. The yards were green and cared for and the cars of the residents were clean and well cared for as well. It was confusing, that is, until the drive-by shootings and houses exploding nearby. That was when we found out that we lived in the red zone of the area. It was the part of town that had the highest crime rate. Even still, Jen and I worried little. We had a nice big back yard and a one-stall garage. And the house was just the right size for us. The flea problem was a different story altogether.
It wasn’t too long before we had the hand-cheese cleaned from the doorknobs and cabinets, and all of the filthy switch plates replaced. And it only took three vacuum cleaner bags to remove the dirt from the floors. After renting a carpet cleaner for a day we set to one last task at making the house smell better. That called for five boxes of carpet fresh and another fresh vacuum cleaner bag.
We made the office in the living room and set to work on our networking campaign to build a platform for the music. Everyday one or both of us worked at it. Right about the time things got settled my Social Security affairs were in order. Jenny was appointed my payee, much to my sister’s disapproval but it wasn’t geographically feasible for her to be the one in charge of my Social Security even though she had much to say about it, along with the intention of praying on my weaknesses and getting a Toyota FJ out of the deal. The thing is, had Jen not come into my life when she did I would have gladly bought this vehicle for Amanda. Coincidentally, the back pay came through at this time.
It has never been a priority for me to spend money on myself. Feeling I deserved something- owing it to myself as a pat on the back for climbing up out of the sludge, I began shopping the newspaper for a motorcycle. A few bikes grabbed my attention but after comparing them dollar for dollar, only one grabbed my attention. It was a 1981 Honda CB900 Custom. Asking Jen to take me to see it, I explained to her that I had a feeling about this bike. It very well may be a cherry or what I called a sleeper. The person I dealt with on the phone was an eighty-four year old man. I was excited about the prospect. When we got to his house he led us to a garage where the bike was stored underneath two coverings. It was beautiful and it had a two-tone blue finish. All he wanted for it was sixteen hundred and fifty dollars. There was only seventy-five hundred miles on it, which means it was just broke in. It started right up and I was in love. I didn’t even have the stones to try to talk him down. We all knew it was a great buy so I left to go get the rest of the money from the bank and came back the next day to pay him and pick it up. This bike is the only thing I bought for myself with the money, other than some fishing equipment- a used motorcycle. This was my reward to myself for making it through some very tough times and for cleaning up my act. After handing him the money I told him that I was going to go get a trailer to haul it home. He put me on the spot when he say’s, “You mean you’re not going to ride it?” I was so excited that I had never even thought it through. To be honest, I was a bit intimidated by the bike. It was so beautiful and had such a full figure with the fairing and trunk. It was the biggest and nicest bike I had ever had. “You’re right,” I said. I threw the helmet on and lit the engine up. My knees were a little shaky from the excitement. I mean, it had been so long, and I was under the spotlight. The last thing I wanted was to dump it, bruising my ego as well as the bike but I rode it gently down the long driveway ahead of Jenny.
Well, no sooner than I turned out of the driveway it started sprinkling, and within the next half mile all hell let loose. Rain was coming down in buckets. The roads were awash with water flow in an instant. This bike had never seen a single rain drop and now it was practically submerged. In some spots the water was over my feet, the pipes being muffled by the water. I was thinking, “Shit! The chrome is going to rust fast.” My clothing was soaked clear through within a few minutes. There was nothing left to do but push on to the house and get it in the garage. The bike was amazing. It ran excellent and never skipped a bit. The ride home was a good one, no problems, no scares. I was elated.
A few days later I took Jen for a ride on it. It was the last ride I would be giving her. She wanted her own. Within a couple weeks we found a bike that was perfect for her- a Honda Shadow A.C.E. Deluxe with twelve thousand miles and not a scratch on it. Our plan was to secure a loan with some off my money in order to build up my credit. Mindy had ruined my credit when she left, charging up plastic at every store in Grand Rapids before moving off to South Carolina. It seemed like a great plan.
When I got her new bike home I had her get used to it by driving it around the house in our yard. The idea was that if she laid it down her and the bike would not be injured. Running along side of her like a kid on a bicycle for the first time, we went around the house twice before she waved me off and she went out the driveway and down the road. It was a great moment- Jen was riding.
We had several great rides together throughout that summer. The best rides were in the evening when we would go explore back roads and small towns. She was in love with her bike, and she was in love with me. She deserved every bit of it for being such a great support to me in every way. With her receiving unemployment and my social security, we had a fantastic summer that year.
Jen and I decided it was a good investment in my music business to purchase a better computer, so we went to Best Buy and bought the iMac 20 OSX. It was a sweet computer system. It was also decided that I would enroll in Lansing Community College and take the classes that would help insure a good effort at establishing my business. I was really own my way now.
One day, soon after we moved in, Jen loaded up the Kids and the Dachshund to take them to there grandma Mona’s house for the afternoon. When she got there, the kids went inside with their things. While the door on her Ford Explorer was opened Pudge saw a squirrel and dashed out of the truck to chase it. At that very moment a woman in a large SUV came flying down the residential street going more than twenty miles an hour faster than she should have been. She ran right over the dog with her front tire. Pudge got up from the street and dragged himself back to the truck and got himself inside. Jen called me immediately and told me what happened. She told me she was taking him to Michigan State University’s Veterinarian Hospital and asked me to meet her there. They performed x-rays, which revealed that his back end was crushed. His pelvis and hips were broken severely. How he got himself back in the truck I still don’t know. The vet said that he could feel that they were broken but that they could operate. It was his intention to see if we wanted to spend the five thousand dollars to try to patch Pudge up. I knew how much the dog meant to the family, especially to the kids. Five thousand was a lot of money but I had it at that time. The vet left us alone to talk about it. It was fairly easy to say go ahead but just as I was saying it was a go, he came back and said it was much worse and it would be closer to ten thousand dollars. As he was discussing the quality of life that the dog would have afterwards, he got a code blue and ran back in the room where Pudge was. He came out a moment later and said that the dog had gone into cardiac arrest and he had to inject him with a shot that would take him away without any pain. He brought Pudge out to us and he died in our arms. It was a terrible day for the family.
After Pudge passed the Vet offered us a few options with what to do with him. We opted to have a plaster cast made of his paw that we could come back in a few days to pick up. We took Pudge home and placed him in the freezer until we could decide what to do. We considered burying Pudge and placing a marker on his grave but we knew we wouldn’t be staying in the house forever so, we decided to have a funeral pyre and cremate him as was done with Danny. After the fire we had we took some of the ashes and put them in a box. Drew wanted a container for them like the one I had Danny in.
Soon after losing Pudge, we decided to take the kids out to their Grandma Starr’s, Jen’s mom. Jen and I would go up to upstate New York from there. We were waiting for the loans to come through for my classes that were to start in the fall. Since I had wanted to go to the Adirondacks ever since Mindy left, we decided that’s where we would go. We took the money we borrowed to give back to her mom. This money wasn’t in our hands a month before we received my back-pay. She asked us if we still needed it but we insisted that she take it back. We set off for Lake Placid that afternoon. It would have been great to bring the motorcycles and ride in the mountains but we decided against it since I had yet to get mine registered and legal. It was smart.
After we got to the Adirondacks and made camp, we set out to explore some trails and surrounding wilderness. The rivers and streams were picture perfect. The mountains were gorgeous. The lakes nears our camp had the appearance of being untouched by man. It was an outdoorsman’s paradise. Magazines and books couldn’t properly convey the real beauty there. Had I known more about mushrooms we might have had an extra special treat.
The second day at camp I awoke to quite a surprise. While we slept in our tent a cat of some kind had came to our spot and pissed on my boots that I had just bought at Cabela’s on the way up. The smell didn’t hit us until we got in the rental car to head to a nearby lake, where I wanted to get my fly rod out. From that day on we referred to them as my cat-pee boots. It’s five years later and they still have a slight odor.
We passed by a little fisherman’s shop called, “The Hungry Trout”. They had a guide service and everything you could need for fly-fishing. There was a woman sitting in there who may have been the owner. She was all geared up to go out at the drop of a hat. There she sat wearing her fishing waders and vest, reading a periodical. We started asking questions about where the best place for a novice to go would be, and what we might need. Asking to look at my box of flies, she made a few suggestions, adding that the one that looked like a bright red worm was illegal. We didn’t know she was joking until she laughed. I must admit, I was a bit envious of her. Jen and I could only imagine what it must be like to get paid to take people fishing. It had to be fun, well, except for dealing with some of the people maybe. After buying a few flies we set off on our adventure.
We must have taken a thousand pictures or more. There were caves along the way that we stopped and looked at, and sections of mountain with crevasses that streams crashed through. Everywhere we looked was something exciting. What a blast we had. The only thing that may have made it more fun might have been if I wasn’t drinking. My discovery was an alcohol beverage, “twisted tea”, which I knocked back pretty regularly under the “we’re on vacation” clause. One of my drunken hikes involved hiking a mountain trail near our camp. It led to a river where I tried my luck. The next day we packed up our camp and headed into Lake Placid but before we left I had realized that I lost a cigarette pack that had a few smokes and a couple joints in it. Making a quick backtrack, I located the package and scampered back to the car with a bit of satisfaction.
Lake Placid was a nice quiet little town with lots of shops that caught our interest. There were items left over from when they had the Olympics there in the eighties. Bobsleds were placed in front of shops along the main drag through the shopping district. Jen snapped a few photos of me sitting in one of them. There was an antique store that had a lot of curiosities- expensive but pretty cool. We ended up buying an old metal container of some kind for Drew to keep Pudge’s, ashes in. We still aren’t sure what the container was originally.
He wanted a container just like the one I had for Danny’s ashes. The problem was that this particular container I used wasn’t appropriate for Drew. I thought it was appropriate to put them inside a half-pint metal liquor flask since he died because of alcoholism. I can only imagine how long Drew felt the pain of losing his dog. My pain lingered for several years before I could handle looking through the things Danny had entrusted me with. There was a large box of pictures that opened deep stinging wounds every time I looked at them. It wasn’t long before I packed them up and taped the box shut, marking the box with the words, “Do not open until you can handle these memories.”
Soon after we came home from our trip, we began organizing an official CD release party to finalize our work at “getting the music out there.” We joined the Capitol Area Blues Society as business sponsors after answering an ad where they were looking for someone to be the webhost and to help put together their newsletter. From the moment we walked in, we were met with opposition from Frog of “Frog and the Beef- tones”. He was an arrogant pus-gutted slug who had a running gig at the Unicorn Bar, which was just a shit hole of a place that had a capacity of maybe one hundred people- including the band and the bar employees. It wouldn’t be long before CABS pulled their offer from me to do the work they needed done.
Jenny found a job opportunity in Traverse City. The position was at Munson Hospital working in surgery relieving people for their breaks and working rotation. The offer came with a fifteen hundred dollar relocation bonus, which was hard to turn down. The fact that she had won a wrongful termination judgment, which was a black mark on her file, caused for a hard time finding another position. Hospitals have a long reach when it comes to finding another job. The only thing we had to do now was find another place to live in the area that would put her to work within twenty minutes after being called in to work. She would be taking call whenever they needed her. Taking call meant that she would get a certain amount per hour just waiting to be called in, which meant there would be no networking or promotion going on. She was my right hand man when it came to promoting in the community. I didn’t mind too much since I was tired of being at the bars looking for opportunities. It was always a situation where we would be drinking while we were there. The truth was that I was tired of drinking, especially after having a nervous breakdown after the CD release party.
The house we found that was available seemed perfect. We went to see it and she loved it. Hell, I loved it. Everything about it seemed perfect, including the fact that all we needed to move in was the money. No credit references were needed, which should have sent up a red flag about what we were getting involved in but I looked past my paranoia and cleaved to the idea that we were now going to be in a tourist town with all the prospects of broadening our listener base and selling CD’s.
It doesn’t matter how much the rent was. I cannot recall it. What mattered to me was that it was a big house on a corner lot in a forested area. There was no lawn to speak of that required mowing really, and besides, the landlord, Mike, was a lawn maintenance person with his own business. I would never be cutting the grass or plowing the driveway. Nearby was a section of forest that everyone hiked in. It was diverse and beautiful. We were excited about the chance and reality of being in the Morel Mushroom zone. And being very near the bay and rivers meant fishing, which we all loved to do.
After I had the family settled in to the point where everyone could find clothes to wear and dishes to eat from, I went to the local community mental health office to have my case transferred. It wasn’t forty-eight hours after unloading the moving truck that I did so. The most important thing I needed to do was get to the doctors in the area. Getting things started when Northern Lakes Community Mental Health took on my case and established a man named, Brian Bee, as my caseworker.
Brian Bee was a very nice man but I could feel, with my extensive experience receiving treatment with the CMH departments, that he was under-qualified to handle my case. It didn’t really bother me since I was happy to be getting service at all. Lansing had denied me service when I tried to transfer there from Ottawa County but that was okay since my family practitioner, Dr Gadbios was taking the initiative of handling my meds until I got settled with a new Psychiatrist. It never occurred to me to file for an appeal. Jenny had no experience with this sort of thing so she never thought about an appeal to the decision either. It never dawned on me to do it from the start. After all, the point was to have my meds handled, which Dr. Gadbios was doing. And since I had meds to last me several weeks, everything was okay.
An appointment was made to see the Psychiatrist, Dr. Fellows. Until then I went about business as usual, networking with mom and pop businesses to establish myself in the community.
It never occurred to me that my business was not wanted in the area, especially with my having long hair but I went about things without a second thought, empowered with the notion that things could really pop for my efforts working with other musicians and pushing the music and website, Bluesilingus.com. My mountain bike took me all over the city of Traverse. Soon I was mingling with people on the street, passing out fliers, checking out the local college campus with respect to transferring my studies there, and visiting the local shops where I felt I could get my CD’s on the shelves. One of those places was a second hand store called, “The Top Drawer,” where I popped in and dropped off a CD to have the proprietor check it out, approve it, and place it on his shelves. Weeks went by before I realized he wasn’t going to check out the CD, finally going in to retrieve them and being harassed for trying to get him to listen to a “stupid tape.” My only response in my shock at how I was being treated was that I couldn’t believe I had been “profiled as an undesirable”. This was the day that I had my appointment with Dr. Fellows. I had been instructed to bring in all of my meds, which I did. Brian sat in the room with us as Dr. Fellows went through some sort of routine, feigning interest in my file. The heavy weight of scrutiny was felt. I could tell that he had some sort of problem by the way he was speaking to me. My insistence that I was not there for meds was translated to his report as me saying, “I am only here for meds. I just want my meds.” The truth was that I stated that it wasn’t about meds at all. I had the meds, I just needed a Dr. to take over my case, which was never finalized. There was no finality to what I should be on. The Doctor in the past was still working with me, adjusting things per our visits. While feeling like I was being treated rudely, I made a comment to Brian Bee to the affect of my being “in a bit of shock having been profiled as an undesirable by a small statured gay man”. Dr. Fellows received this as a cut at him, and maybe it was. What he did then was say that he was uncomfortable handling my meds due to my receiving multiple scripts from multiple doctors, which reminds me that I need to start rattling cages about my case against him.
Of course I was receiving meds from multiple doctors. My case is a chronic pain case stemming from an auto accident. They had just performed surgery on my neck for which the surgeon prescribed certain meds. Then there was my family doctor whom had prescribed certain meds. And then there was the Psychiatrist from Ottawa community mental health who had prescribed certain meds. If Dr. Fellows had called to discuss any of this with any one of them he would have been given clarity as to my situation but he was not interested in becoming clear as to any part but the part he wanted to be clear on which was that I was a long haired leather jacket wearing person who was not wanted in this community.
It was a short time after this that I began to self titrate my medications, which means I was doing what I could to stretch them out until I could get the situation straightened out. During this time of cutting my meds in half the neighborhood began to impede on our family. A woman across the street accused us of letting our dog crap in her yard. She made comments to the effect of us just being “renters” and that we should go somewhere else to rent. She and Jen got into a yelling match in the street. The police were bringing my son home drunk off of his ass. After that a cop showed up at my house out of the blue one day. Fearing it was for me for some reason, I hid in the stairwell but the dog was barking and driving me nuts. A few minutes of him banging on the door had got me thinking that it was to do with Cody. Deciding to go to the door finally, and inviting him in to my office, I was informed that he and Cary had gone to one of the La Senorita’s in the area and did a dine and dash after racking up a bill for alcohol and food. She had placed her bank card on the table to give the waitress confidence that the bill was going to be taken care of. It makes me wonder why the waitress didn’t become curious as to the affect of placing the card on the table. She should have seen that as odd. The mistake Cary and Cody made was that they didn’t take the card with them, sending the cops to Cary’s parents home looking for her. They were instructed that she was with Cody and that they might find them at our house. I explained to the cop that I wanted to strangle the girl and smack some sense into my kid. The cop laughed about my statements with understanding.
A short time after this Cody was thrown out of the house. We couldn’t have him living there with his own set of rules while Drew and Siena looked on at the situation. It spelled out an inevitable problem.
It was important for me to focus my energy on things that were positive, things like photography and nature. My Sony handy-cam and I went everywhere together via mountain bike. I began spending time everyday in the forest in the neighborhood. There were trails everywhere to hike and plenty of intriguing natural items to photo. Then I got the idea to not only take pictures but to shoot videos to post. The idea to shoot cooking videos was of great interest because every time I watched a cooking show I saw misinformation that needed to be corrected. It was a chance to build another platform to get attention drawn towards the music.
On Mother’s Day I decided to shoot a cooking video where I made a Pork loin. It was called “Pig, inside pig, inside pigs”. It was a half of full loin wrapped in bacon and stuffed with garlic. The video turned out pretty good. After posting it on YouTube I got good reviews from a few friends, especially Lisa but that was pretty much it. I don’t think many people checked it out so it was a bit of a failure as far as I am concerned.
Feeling pretty good about my cooking episode, I decided to reinforce it with some more photography. There was a slight fantasy in mind of getting photographs of a Cougar. It was my hope to sell the photos to the newspaper at a good price. So around six p.m. I rode my bike around the block to the dead-end where the trail began, stashed my bike in the brush and set off down the trails. My first intention was to find Morels since I had been raking in the yard and found some there. They may have been from last year because they were very dry and small. There were a few large grey Morels around the property that had just grown. This excited me pretty good, especially since I found a place in Chicago that was looking for around four or five pounds of them. They were offering around seven hundred dollars a pound for them. It was a great treasure hunt with a promising reward.
There were signs of others hunting mushrooms in the forest. The leaves were all turned over proving someone or something combed the ground heavily in search of something. I found a stump where mushrooms had been cut from that was about three to four inches around. Beefsteaks were all over the rolling hillsides of the forest. They weren’t as in demand, slightly toxic but edible. I picked them to dry and save in the cupboard for anyone interested in eating them who might happen to be a guest at our house.
Something hit my brain as I walked through a section of woods that I called, “The Carpathian Forest.” It was a chunk of forest that was unlike any other part of it. It was densely wooded with cedars that were very large. Many of them had grown and fallen, leaving piles of logs in heaps and lots of them that became hung up on other trees as they fell. These trees were great places for someone or something to get high up off of the ground. A great place for a cougar to stay while waiting for a deer to pounce on and eat. The thing that hit my brain was a message, a subconscious smell of cat piss. I couldn’t seem to smell it but my mind said it was there. It kept triggering me to the scent. I became alert of danger and climbed up onto a pile of fallen logs in order to elevate myself for a better look down upon the forest floor and into the heaps of logs that might conceal a cougar. After a moment or two of worry, I climbed down from the pile and told myself I was imagining things. Right at that moment I caught something out of the right corner of my eye. I turned my head to catch a glimpse but only saw a flash. Then I glanced into the trees to focus on it but again, I only saw a flash. I snapped my head to try to catch a better look but the flash was still unclear except I saw the tail. Then another flash and glimpse of the last part of the tail. It was a ghostly creature whatever it was- another flash of the last half of the tail. It had an arc to it with a dark tip on it. Again, I saw the arc of the tail and the dark tip. It was a cougar. It made not one single sound. There was not the rustle of a single leaf, or the snap of even the smallest twig. The cougar was a professional sneak but I saw it. The strange thing was that I was mentally alert in my subconscious. My brain told me it was there before I could get a glimpse of it. Had I not been triggered by my crazy mind I may have allowed myself to become prey. It knew I was watching, looking, knowing. It knew that I knew and it did what they do, run to hide and wait for another chance to pounce. They don’t like humans unless it’s what’s for dinner. It’s funny but not humorous how they know when they have been spotted.
The particular day I went to get my CD back, I was given a very slight apology with the statement that he liked it but had no interest in stocking it, no matter what profit was in it for him.
Drew had a room overlooking the driveway. We called it the crow’s nest because he had a great spot to keep an eye on things regarding our house and the rest of the neighborhood. Siena had a nice room on the backside of the house with a great view of the forest that the houses were nestled in. There were lots of birds and flying squirrels to be seen. The one thing that was a bit annoying was that the woodpeckers were constantly hammering on the wooden siding. Holes were everywhere from them searching for bugs.
Cody had a great spot in the lower level with a walkout that he could come and go through without disturbing the rest of the family. Disturbing the rest of the family proved to be inevitable with his drinking and choice of persons he surrounded himself with. The worst influence was this girl he seemed to fall in love with. This girl was a problem from the moment I met her. She was fourteen years his senior and an accomplished alcoholic. She was so accomplished in alcoholism that every person she had been friends with in the past was no longer speaking to her. That went for her parents as well, come to find out.
One night in particular, her, Cody and a friend of his was over. They all went downstairs to hang out and drink while watching a television we had hooked up for him to watch in the lower level living room. They were all drinking vodka, and they were here doing this because they had no other place to be to do so. It wasn’t long before she led his friend into the bedroom he was using so they could have sex. When they came out she was making it known that she was ready for whoever was next. Her plan was to lure me into the bedroom by enticing me with sexual favors in order to use the affair as leverage for a place to stay in my house. After all, how could I let her be thrown out when we had such a secret to keep? It was not hard for me to see through her in a flash. She had me pegged for someone I am not- a fool. My reaction to the trap was that I was going to bed… with my wife. I would not be sticking my head in a noose that night.
Soon after kicking Cody out of the house my medications ran out entirely. Wine had become my medication but it was not as efficacious. Scarlett’s birthday crept up on me and only drove me further into depression. Jenny had been working and was not in tune with what was happening with me. There were problems in the neighborhood with being accepted, and it was becoming ever so clear that we were not in the right place for our family. It was bittersweet since Drew was really enjoying his school and the house was way bigger than we really needed. Despite our issue with the landlord we soon found ourselves in court. We were being sued for damages that the house had received from the last tenants. We never dreamed we would be set up in the home to absorb those expenses.
Our case against the Woods family was pretty cut and dry, we felt but when we arrived to court for a hearing we were flanked by the Attorney the Woods hired and beaten badly to the tune of forty-five hundred dollars. Soon after that my bank yanked the money I had set aside to secure the loan for the motorcycle, which left us with a little over seven hundred and fifty dollars. Everything piled up in my mind and I finally snapped, waking from a nightmare where they had came and taken my motorcycle. Waking Jen up with my flailing and sobbing, she woke me from that dream. She assured me that they weren’t going to take my bike, and then she instructed me to remove the nicotine patch from my arm. We went back to sleep.
Jen had worked a pretty long shift and came home around seven or eight p.m. My self- medicating caught her nose and she began asking me about it. For some reason I became defensive and argued with her about it, then deciding to go outside and clean out the eaves on the rear of the house. It was storming out. My big idea was to climb the ladder to the eaves and fall to the ground with the intentions of being killed by the fall. She had been calling the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health department in the prior weeks about my condition but got no assistance. After many calls throughout the week before, she tried again on this night. She became frantic and frustrated because of the lack of help she was getting. She was instructed to call the police who told her that they couldn’t do anything unless there was an altercation and physical violence of any kind. Exascorbated, she told them that I had pushed her aside in an attempt to leave the house that night. That was all it took. The Michigan State Police were now on their way. When Jen told me the police were coming and that everything was going to be all right, I stated, “Nothing is ever all right when the police are coming.” Hell, we all know that.
By this point in my medicating, I think I might have been up a half of a box of wine a day. That didn’t stop me from grabbing my laptop, smoking affects and keys and jumping into the truck. The plan was simple: flee the scene to the end of the road where it leads to the trails, climb into the back of the truck with my laptop and just kick back for a while and let things calm down.
It was simple enough but I had made a wrong turn and ended up coming out onto Holiday drive where a state police vehicle was coming. He turned around and came after me. It was a severe thunderstorm that night which had wiped out the power and all radio communications. The road has no curb so I pulled into a driveway where I could get off of the road. The officer, Peterson, came to the driver’s side of the Explorer where I explained that the door lock is malfunctioning making it difficult to get out of the truck. I pushed the button and went to grab the handle. The cop reaches for the button and the door malfunctions. His gun is in my face the entire time. I push the button again and try the handle. He reaches in for the button again. Where do these guys come from?
After several moments go by of me trying to get out- explaining again that the lock requires special tact, he holster’s his gun and wraps his arms for my person grabbing be around the neck to pull me through the window. “Dude, you don’t understand” I kept frantic. I tried to explain that I just had a triple disc-ectomy in my neck and to let go so I could get out on my own! He just kept working at my head pulling and pulling on my neck. At this point I refuse to allow him to rip me- a longhair, out of the truck window by my neck. Flashes of his watching the video with his cop buddies appear in my mind. I locked my legs under the steering column and resist.
When the moment came that I finally decided to let him pull me from the vehicle, I just let go in order to body slam him through happenstance. Now my fury at the whole thing comes out in a huge explosion of energy like when the boiler over heats and the pressure switches fail…it climbs high on the gauge…into the beginning of the red zone… quarter inch into the red zone… five eighths into the red….three-quarter into the red…13 sixteenths into the red… HUGE BURST OF PRESSURE AND A HIGH PITCH WHISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSTLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEE fiiisssssssssssssshhhhhh- I let him have all that he had coming. There, watch that with your buddies…you fuck.
He kneed me in the ribs several times and cuffed me in the showering thunderstorm. Then he drags me over to the state vehicle and places me on the hood with my left cheek on the hood, so he could have the added footage of him with a longhair that he soaked in the rain.
The only part I cared about was getting the tape for my defense. The part that pissed on my toast was that I was wearing my prize leather jacket- part of my effects when I promote music but especially part of my wardrobe, my routine costume. It was an acquisition from a yard sale in Belmont, Michigan, that I paid five dollars for. Ever since I started wearing it, getting peoples attention was easy. Everyone complements me when I wear that coat. It’s a magic coat that I have remade and that I continue to mend over the years with a single needle and thread.
Well, now my jacket and I are soaked sufficiently. It must have been a good fifteen minutes. In his defense, he assumed he was handling a woman beater- unclear on the situation. Anyway, the frickin jacket is soaked and I am really unhappy about it though I do not believe it received any damage. I had recently cared for it with leather conditioner, mink oil and neetsfoot oil, I believe.
At the time I was so in duress over the , yet again, loss of my son, the passing of my daughters birthday, the failing at establishing a report with doctors in the area, the refusal of service at the local U-Haul store where we were discriminated against for being one of either, Mexican, longhair, and a juicy woman, and then there was having to beg a physician to take my case so long as I didn’t ask for narcotics (chronic pain), the little twerp at the Top Drawer rejecting my hand in the community as a fellow business owner- on top of what had happened in Lansing with the Capitol Area Blues society. I had had it past my capability- and now my coat.
After the weekend passed, I was out on bond and restrictions where I had to come to The La Senorita back door to a place called Traverse Area Support Services, managed by Rick Gubins, I believe, and his son. The day I was let out the officer who processed me from cuffs to the street assured me that I could go back to the house to get my medications and personal effects since there was a no contact order that said we could not even send each other post cards or even communicate through family or friends. On top of that the cop gave me back my grass pipe. Total set up for later. I smelled a rat and pitched it before I could get anywhere unsafe. He thought for sure that they could write me up for paraphernalia in addition to violating a ppo. That would enhance the case, as they say.
Sure enough, just a few minutes after I got there, the state cops showed up. I went back to jail for a violation. Jen was pissed. All she wanted to do was get help for the situation. She hadn’t any experience with how to manage the mental health system. And she certainly hadn’t any clue that there was a problem until it was really too late. I was trying to handle affairs on my own as best as I could. She had a new job to perform at, hell. All I had to do was keep the kids from killing each other and feed the dog, really. But I fantasized and made a cooking video. As if the cooking video wasn’t enough, I made one about cleaning the leaves out of your ornamental bushes, finding a morel, checking out a woodpecker, washing the truck, (with the window down) and smoking some meat, which during the actual cooking of the meat, I turned it to leather. I actually say, “There’s the smoked meat, perfectly…ruined.” I don’t think anyone ever caught it.
Yeah, it’s all or nothing with me and I can only surmise that it’s due to being both, German and Polish. So, every time I drink, I end up fighting with myself. And, let me tell you, I can kick my friggin ass!
Grand Traverse sent me up in front of the judge, again, and I was let out on the, “blow PBT’S every day @ the rate of five dollars a pop. I saved each and every plastic tube I used to blow with. I am thinking about making something out of the material. Maybe a big pecker and Judge Powers cheek and cheek- with Jarboe on his knees playing with Powers giblet. And then there’s Mr. Gomery trying to get someone to notice his freely offered anus- from here on refered to as a “Foa” constrictor…LMFAO!
Why the grotesque statements and imagery? Well, when I finally went to court, after blowing PBT’S for well over a year, then after all the PBT’S and never missing one and never blowing hot, they throw me in jail for 13-60 months. That’s One to Five, people. Jen was devastated but I was in shock. They walked me to the elevator, her with tears in her eyes, my mother with her. I looked at her hoping for one last bit of eye contact and then, whoosh, the elevator door. I will never forget the look on her face when they took me away.