Saturday, June 23, 2012

Who's Your Daddy? (Part 1)




Last weekend Phish played Bader Field in Atlantic City for three days, which meant pretty much every hotel room in the city was either booked or going for an extra exorbitant rate. So, like the speaker in my poem 'The Bukowski in You,' on the morning of Father's Day I found myself in a $49 Motel room way out on Route 30. Now before you even get started let me make it perfectly clear that I don't give a fuck about Father's Day and never have really. It's a fake ass Hallmark holiday invented to separate sappy fools from their money. I'll say "Happy Father's Day" to cats I know are dads because it might mean something to them, but it makes me no real difference. I have a son and I know he loves me, I see evidence of that love every time we're together, so just like I don't need anyone to remind me that I'm 6'4" one special day a year, I don't need anyone to remind me that my son loves me. Like most kids, he goes through the motions on these days and sends me an email or this year a text message. And I'm good with that. But then Reuben Jackson (a fine and criminally under known poet) posts the video for Luther's "Dance With My Father Again" on his FaceBook Page and I know right away that as much as I love that song, I can't watch it because it always makes me cry. If you've read any reasonable amount of my poems you know I've got Daddy issues from my (shall we say 'difficult') relationship with my Father. From 'El Magnifico' to 'Saturday Poem' to 'Father, Son and the Wholly Ghost' it's all there in the work. Really it's just another form of unrequited desire, the desire to be loved by my father the way I saw other kids loved by theirs. But he's gone now, ashes spread onto the North Shore of the Allegheny River near downtown Pittsburgh. So I "Like" the video, but don't watch it. And then my iPod Touch starts flashing and telling me I missed a call and I check it out and it's from my son. Who has never called me on Father's Day ever, (mostly because I don't have a phone). So, I call him back and we chat and I miss him and he misses me and really wants to know when I'm coming to see him only I can't say exactly, it depends on how I run during the week if I can afford to miss the big money on the weekend to go to DC. Which I used to do, every weekend, until the economy went into the tank and I ran bad and lost a huge chunk of my bankroll. But we digress. And he starts getting emotional which means like most 12 year old boys he shuts down and says he has to go and I thank him for calling and let him go. And wonder if I'm starting to turn into my Father, which would be really, really fucked up. But then I look up and ESPN is showing clips of sports related to Father's Day and before I can avert my gaze there's Derek Redmond in the blue and white of Great Britain coming out of the Starting Gate to run the 400 meters where he's a contender to win a gold medal. And I saw this race live on TV when it happened, so I know what's coming, and even though Jesus, Allah and Buddha know I really don't need to see this right now, it doesn't matter sometimes, does it? And although I prefer that he not, just this once, Redmond rounds the first turn and then tears his hamstring, and by 'tears' I mean completely shreds, which means he falls down on the track like someone just shot him in the back of his leg and kneels in an incalculable amount of pain until the track officials come over to see if he needs medical assistance. Only what happens next is one of those amazing moments that can make it almost impossible to breathe when you see it. Redmond has spent the last four years of his life training for this race and no, he can't win it, the others are 50 meters ahead and disappearing rapidly, but he'll be damned if he's going to let a minor detail like a completely torn hamstring stop him from finishing his journey. So he pops up on one leg and starts hopping around the track like the most courageous kangaroo you've ever seen and the Olympic officials try to stop him, but he pushes them away and keeps hopping because there's still 300 meters to go. And all of this is enough to make even the most shriveled cynical bastard believe in something, but then the unthinkable happens. Redmond's dad jumps the railing from the stands and runs out onto the track and embraces his son, who puts his arm around him and together they walk the remaining distance to the finish line. And yeah, his dad helping him instantly disqualifies him, but really, who cares? And it's all a bit much and maybe just once in my life I would have liked for something like that to have happened to me and my dad and suddenly the city opens all the hydrants at once, or the Hoover Dam breaks or a surprise summer thunderstorm dumps several inches of torrential rain. I'm not going to sit here and say I curled up in a fetal ball and howled like a hurricane, (but I won't deny it either). And when I finished wiping all the snot out of my mustache, I cheered myself up by thinking about Terrance Hayes' poem about all of his daddies which made me think of all the other older guys who have been surrogate father figures in my life the last 20 years, like Gaston Neal and Cornbread James and S.H. And I remember that . . . (to be continued)

And until next we meet, may all your potatoes be sweet (and dusted with cinnamon).
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