Friday, August 29, 2008

Grateful to be hitting 30 (3)

Dipping into the way back machine is weird, if you do it just right, you actually have a lot of the emotions that you did when stuff happened come back to you as well. While the past few weeks have definitely about looking forward at what I want to do with my life, I can’t help but get introspective on the things that have happened in my past.

While most of my stories have taken place during high school, I’m going to jump ahead some time for this one.


Michael Cox was from Chicago. He was part of a biker crew down there; he did some real heavy stuff according to him. He was a short and stocky guy. He had a balding mullet thing going which was hysterical to look at. Gruff hands, plastic smile and throaty laugh. Because he was a bullshitter, he and I hit it off instantly.

Did I mention I was in Seminary at the time?

About 2 years into my being in Oregon I was informed that my calling was to be a pastor. Now I wasn’t always a believer. I really only started noticing God when I was about seventeen. I was at the theater with Moshe and Mick, we were watching Devil’s Advocate with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves. At the time I was still heavy with Sue and we got to the scene where Charlize Theron has finally lost all her marbles and slits her own throat.

I lost it. I got up out of my chair and blotted for the bathroom where I had dry heaves. On my knees before the porcelain god I decided, if anything ANYTHING that evil could exist in life, there just HAD to be a God and I commended my soul to him. I walked out of the bathroom and straight out into open air, it wasn’t until years later that I saw how the movie ended, and Moshe was standing out there. He’d been waiting for me. He was leaning against the guard rail, lighting up a Camel and said, “You just got saved huh?”

I stood up a little straighter and said, “Yes I did.”

“Welcome to the club.” Then he handed me a cigarette and we went about our business.

I didn’t become a Bible thumper. It’s not in me to tell people how to be and what to believe. It’s in me to believe the BEST in all people. So my relationship was a loose one. I’d talk to The Man every day but I wasn’t thinking there was a calling in it for me. Seriously who does?

I come up here and someone ‘speaks’ over me and says that my calling is to be a pastor to the minorities and the people that others won’t touch, geeks in other words. So I plop down my money and as I work full time I go to school full time.

So in 2001 I’m in school with Mike and we BS a lot. We end up coming to each other for the random things in life. He’s happily married and he’s got like five kids. At this stage I’m single and enjoying it, having left one crack whore and having yet to find that kind of interest in Mary.

I was also working as a bouncer for a little Mexican placed called, La Macarena. So I worked there six days a week, Oregon bars close at 2:30 and drinks stopped being served by 2am. I’d get home about 3 or 4 depending on what was going on. Sometimes we stayed after hours and had a couple drinks, sometimes I went over to someone’s house and hung out or crashed. Still, I was renting a room from Mary’s family and I tried to be civil about the hours that I kept. They weren’t thrilled with the job, as church goers they thought it was too close to ‘temptation’ but took with a grain of salt.

That winter I got an itch. It happens every couple of years. I get the itch to FLY somewhere. I don’t care where or why but I just get the urge to travel. This particular time, due to my involvement in Seminary and helping out some other people, I wanted to fly down to Argentina. I wanted to fly down and take about 100lbs of clothing with me to give to a needy orphanage down there. Someone who I thought deserved it basically.

So I got the clothes together, got the money to go on the trip, got my passport and got out of dodge. The trip was wonderful, I have stories for that as well but now’s not the time or the place.

Instead I’m going to go fast forward. I was able to communicate with Mary and her family in Oregon while I was away. I took three weeks off. I spent two weeks in Argentina getting to know the lifestyle, the people and the fact that the nation was crazy and was at the beginning of that time period where they went through seven presidents in like three months.

I spent one week in Florida to catch up with my family. My grandma the most, I miss that old lady.

While I was away I started getting strange information. Bottom line of all that information? Michael Cox had taken things I had told him in confidence, twisted them and then told everyone about them. In his mind, for some reason, I was a coke head, a vein popper and a whore. While I might be a whore to some, I can tell you this, I didn’t get anywhere NEAR the amount of ass it would take to be a whore in that time frame, let alone my life.

Because he opened his yap two things happened. I had a full ride to seminary until he did that, so the school suspended me pending an investigation. The second thing was that the family that I was renting with didn’t want me around because they were doing foster care. So the day I flew back into Portland, there was no one to greet me at the airport. I had to grab my luggage, get on the MAX (Public Transportation Train) and ride down to my school in hope of fixing whatever was going on.

Easier said than done, the dean had been expecting me to darken his doorstep and when I did all he said was, “I can’t help you Gabriel. It would be different if the school had not been notified of these activities. As it stands you’re going to have to confront your accusers before you’re able to go any further.”

Did I also mention I was jobless? Yea. The tri-fecta: no work, no school and no home.

I called in one marker that was owed to me by a teacher in the school, Carl Culley, taught some of the fundamentals in the school and also runs one of the churches in Vancouver. It so happens that the church ground is also a camping ground, so he came to pick me up and took me up to Washington.

It was bitch cold that year. I remember seeing my breath all the time. The cabins were nice and also isolated. I would have some privacy and also die of boredom. There was only one set of people there, they land keepers. They were very nice, geeks after all, but the majority of the time I spent by myself trying to figure out where the fuck I went wrong.

Due to the constant exposure to the elements, my trip overseas and then my stay in a hot temperatures I ended up getting pneumonia. It was the worst kind that had shivers at any time, constant headache. It took me four days to sit and get the ball rolling and by that time I was already very sick. This was a time where there was NO ONE for me to turn to. My friends had betrayed me, the ones that I considered family had cut me the worst.

It took a month to finally talk to my accusers alone. Everyone thought that I was guilty long before anything was finalized. When I did meet them all they had for evidence was slip covers to Stephen King, specific comics and movies. Funnier still? The guy who started this whole thing, Mike, was no where to be found during this little confrontation so all they had was hearsay and my choices of reading and watching material.

Not enough to amount to anything.

I got reinstated into Seminary. If you ever have someone kick or get hitched, you can ring me up and I’ll help out. The rest of it, the friendship with Mike and my trust in Mary and her family, that didn’t turn out as hot.

Fast friends can be fun to have but you need to watch who you trust. Trust is something to be earned, not given and when it comes back to haunt you, it’s the worst way to find out.

Grateful to be hitting 30 (2)

Into every life there’s a bit of calamity that must fall. The reason being is that if we don’t know stress and unhappiness, well then we won’t realize when we’re getting the goods. It doesn’t matter what period of your life you’re in, this applies for all of it. When you’re little, when you’re a kid, when you hit puberty and then when you’re an adult. There’s always some adversity in your life, big or small, and that’s what helps you continue to become the person you’re supposed to be.

Course that doesn’t mean it’s not going to hurt….


Tenth grade was amusing. It’s the year where a lot of things changed for me. I wasn’t as much of a pudge but in my own eyes of course. I had made more friends that were seniors and some that were my own age.

While the seniors were fun, my memory of them is hazy at best, they all had pirate nicknames that tickled me a bit and were overall wonderful people. Out of all of them there was one that was with me for years until we couldn’t be in contact anymore. His name was Moshe Seymour.

Named after a famous general Moshe was a total stoner. He was taller than I was, so I’d put him at 5’11 at the time, black, dreadlocks, devil may care smile and lanky. His taste in music, movies and food was completely eclectic. He would listen to Steely Dan one instant and then jam out to Led Zeppelin the next. Watch the Dukes of Hazzard and then be enthralled in the Matrix and want to talk about all of the spiritual influences that were tied into it.

The guy was a renaissance man and we were great friends. During his senior year I was a junior and we went to his prom. We took in bottle of vodka with us and got lit watching people do the electric slide over and over again like it was going out of style (I wish it would already).

But we’re still talking about my sophomore year so I won’t jump around. There are two stories that deal with Moshe.

The first was the first time that I cut class with TC, the little crew of seniors that seem to enjoy having me around, like I was their mascot. This also happened to be the day of Brandon Lee’s The Crow theatrical debut. We were all geeks and wanted to see the movie. We had heard what happened to Brandon during the making, we’d all read the comic book it was based from (Yes, it’s a comie.. James O’Barr, go get it) and just overall had the hankering to see it.

We had used most of the day to do other things. This was Miami and movies didn’t start showing at that time until after like 3 for some reason. So we had a whole day to kill before we could book it.

We were at one of the local malls, the other one was about a thirty minute drive away from us. We’re looking at show times and the first showing of the Crow isn’t until 5 pm. It’s like 2:45 when we read this. Obviously we don’t want to be hanging around that late. So we go to the nearest phone booth and ask the other theater what time their first showing is, it’s at 3:05.

Our only mode of transportation was an older van. It only had one seat in the back and the rest of it was set up for transportation of materials. So there’s about nine of us and only five can have an actual seat. So we all pack into the van and tear off into the day.

We got there in ten minutes. I don’t need to tell you just HOW fast we were going. We got there with enough time to play some arcade games. It was the scariest and most fun I’ve ever had.

The second story that I’ve got with Moshe isn’t anywhere near as fun.

During my sophomore year I fell in love. At least I thought I did at the time, with a girl named Sue. Now there’s more back story to how and why I picked Sue but I’ll leave that for another time. Right now what you need to know for sure is that Sue and I, after some ups and downs, clicked. We were both drama geeks, enjoyed the same writers and overall had a good time together. I was doing some drinking at the time and having a bad time of it at home.

I was the only man in a family with eight women. They all loved me in their own way but also tortured me in their own way as well. My mother and I never saw eye to eye.

This particular year we had already had some serious fights that had lead to electrical chords and broom sticks being used on me for punishment. I’m a tall guy and my mother felt that she no longer had the physical strength to put me in my place with just her hands. So she resorted to other means.

That day that we saw the Crow I got home late. I had been getting home late for various reasons before, school drama, hanging out with friends or whatever else I could think of to have some freedom.

My mom had gotten home before I did from watching my movie and she was waiting for me when I came in. Sue is Cuban. Many Cuban families celebrate a girl’s fifteenth birthday with a huge party, much like the American Sweet 16. It’s a gala event and she and had been dating for a while and my mother knew it.

Her punishment to me? Grounding me from going to my girl’s party.

I have to admit that I had a touch of Emo in me when I was in school because my reaction was to try and kill myself, literally. I took some medicines from the cabinet, downed it with a two liter of Coke while my mom and grandma were grocery shopping and laid down waiting for sweet bliss to just take me away.

Two hours later I woke up. My mother’s car was idling in the driveway, they were back. I got up to help bring food in. During my second run from the car to the house I collapsed. My knees finally gave way. I knew that I wasn’t doing hot, I had looked in the mirror and I was pale and sweaty. Whatever I had taken was doing the job, it just needed time.

My grandmother knelt down to help me and my mom gently pushed her aside.

“Leave him be. If you’re trying to kill yourself make sure you do it right, I don’t want to take care of a vegetable for the rest of my life.” Was all she said and continued on her way.

I went to school the next day, somehow I didn’t die, and I found Moshe. He took one look at me and knew what I had done. He took my arm and wrapped it around himself and took my shuffling husk to the Yearbook room where they also had a private office. He set up three chairs, put his jacket down and told me to stay there. He went and got Sue and Mick from wherever they were and told them what was going on. He cast on weary eye at me and said, “I have to do some things. I’ll be back to check up on you. Don’t leave.”

The next three days those three people held vigil over me during school. I didn’t go to class, it didn’t matter, I had an in and the teachers turned a blind eye. Sue would watch over me for some of it, then Moshe would come in, I’d talk him into dragging me outside to smoke a cigarette and talk for a while and Mick would be teaching the whole time in the classroom, one spoken word away from me in case I needed something.

I don’t talk to any of them anymore, life’s funny that way when you think you’ve made life long friends until something in life changes that perspective. Sue and I went our separate ways, never to speak to each other again it seems, Mick is in Florida doing whatever Mick does in Florida and Moshe lost his life being the carefree guy that he’d always been.

Still, those three made sure that I would be here for this birthday. They made sure that I understood what it was to live to make sure another survived. They probably won’t ever read this but I wanted to thank them for making sure that I realized that life was to be enjoyed, not suffered.


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