VA on a Shoestring I have a love/hate relationship with my life right now. It seems that the love/hate dynamic seems to enter an overwhelming number of relationships of which I am apart. My life's major qualm at the moment is that I am unemployed, living at my parents house (which is ghetto fabulous), a multitude of dime pieces NOT blowing up my cell, all at the tender age of 24. I mean come on. On the other hand, life is grand right now because....another adventure of self discovery and character building is upon me. This one however is much smaller on multiple levels: duration, distance, and demand. Instead of managing small platoons of Korean devils or (angmas in Korean) intent upon discussing how much teachers head resembles that of a chicken (at least they were discussing in English), I am escorting an elderly couple across the country, from Seattle WA to Richmond VA to deliver them into the warm and chaotic clutches of their son, and cult status second father figure of mine, John Radder (from here on referred to as J.R.). This man is gangster.
The Journey: I arrived in the dark at seatac int. airport early in the morning on 12/21/06. I am feeling very devoid of holiday cheer facing the task that lay ahead of me. I can barely address letters let alone navigate airports, and I have to quarterback a pretty intense airport situation: eight pieces of huge luggage, two seniors mean age of 90 (one afflicted with moderate Alzheimer's), and 1 elderly poochy named Havie on more drugs than Tom Cruise and heavily sedated. Age and what constitutes appropriate behavior at different stages of it, is already emerging as a theme to this story. Just picture me standing in the check in line with a massive push cart stacked with luggage and one dog kennel with a visible disheveled mass of black fur snoring at its base. All I knew for that span of 30 or so minutes in that line with that cart were dark dark thoughts that am I scared to revisit. It actually wasn't that bad, and helping these two people reunite with their son and close family friend of mine for the holidays started to feel good in a giving back kind of way.
Highlights of the flight were these: 1. Sat next to a 30 something woman and her 8 month old son that sat on her...everywhere. I'm talkin shoulders knees and toes to name a few locations. This kid had ants in his pants and found comfort in one position for maybe 3 seconds. The woman handled it like a pro and devoted every second of mental and physical attention to the little guy. I couldn't help compare her situation to mine, with an ipod, laptop, enthralling reading material and sleep shades at my disposal. I never felt more selfish in my life. I love kids, I want to have them, I want to play basketball with them, I want to help with their homework, but holy shit talk about a sobering source of birth control. 2. Upon exiting the plane, another parent, literally stepped on his child that he didn't see under the baby carrier in his hands and immediately became abrasive after meeting the burning glare from his wife's eyes. Inconsolable wales of baby agony ensued. 3. Debacle during the layover in Atlanta after Jrad frantically insisted over the phone that I get through to the baggage handlers to let Havie out to stretch her four drug weary legs. I told a Delta Airlines representative "Darnell" of my predicament and he looked at me like I was jihading terrorist. No go on that one...sorry Havie. Airports and airplanes, full of discombobulation, constricted personal space, horrible food, and emotional greetings and partings. When you really sit down to think about it, you will always come away with a story after going through them.
Touched down in VA shortly after, enter J-rad and his son Coleman. How to describe JR. A man of such puzzling and astonishing behavior, a personality full of the most curious of quirks. All I will say is this, he is the kind of person to mail order a mountain bike out of an airlines catalogue with every bell and whistle known to man attached to it. You have to picture a licorice dispenser, gps device, reverse beeping horn, fog lights, and a matching aero dynamic suit and helmet. He also calls his dog a "snack weasel."
A little person with even more color on his character pallet is Coleman. At 7 years of age, he stands well above average height and tips the scales at well above the average weight, looking much more the age of 11 or 12. He does not know the power of his own strength, which becomes an issue as he is a rather tactile youngster who thrives off physicality in play and manner. He is a high functioning autistic and also has long and thick brown hair, the likes of which any backstreet boy would fancy. I liken him to a baby silver back gorilla, a comparison illustrated in the forced group hug he initiated between himself, JR, JR's parents and me. Coleman had his arms around his grandparents in this group hug, and in the quickness and ferocity of the hugs orchestration, the delicate pair seemed a little like rag dolls.
After helping load JRs van with the small apartment sized allotment of baggage, and a quick phone call with Megs that went something like: "Joe, lets go run amok." "Sorry, im kinda in Virginia right now," I finally started to grasp the reality/insanity of my current situation. Its like 10:30pm on December the 23rd, Im in a minivan with three generations of Radder plus one strung out K-9, in Richmond, VA. Whats next? A 24 hour waffle house of course. A place with an inside appearance and aura that makes one greatful for his hep b vaccination. It didnt matter, as I ate at places in southern Thailand without electricity and with water that was gathered from a well. I also voluntarily ingested sizable insects (fried) in Cambodia.
I was hungry, Coleman was hungry, and neither of us were paying. What our gracious host did paid for was probably the craziest concoction of food ever to grace the same counter space. Chocolate chip waffles, which Coleman wanted immediately when he saw them instead of his plain waffles (so we split half and half), a chicken burger, hash browns covered in chili, and a bowl full of grits. One of the more satisfying meals I've ever consumed; an eating high so euphoric it was completely undisturbed by the very public outburst of rage from JR's father at Coleman which drew the extended attention from every patron inside the restaurant. The verbal outburst was definitely provoked as Coleman calmly slid out of his bar stool chair that was in the protected middle of JR and myself, coolly walked over to the table where his grandparents were sitting, and abruptly snatched the glass of milk out of his grandfathers hand. He quickly began chugging the glass of milk, of course half of the beverage ending up on his shirt. John (JR's father) reacted in a way that any travel weary 93 year old would, and shouted "Gimme my milk back RIGHT NOW DAMMIT!" followed by a "NO! STOP!" in a vexed senior citizen voice and a flail of his arms in an attempt to recover the glass and the little milk that was left. JR sat silently watching the situation unfold, and rotated his stool back to the counter top and exhaled a slow sigh with his forehead propped up by his left hand, bowl of chili covered hash browns staring back at up at him from the counter. Kinda priceless.
We finally made it to the Radder residence in the Churchhill area of Richmond around midnight. Gayle (JRs wife) was there to meet us in her thick and face swallowing Dolce & Cabanna shades worn to protect her (indoor and outdoor) light sensitive eyes. Gayle is truly a wonderful human being, whose kindness knows no bounds, whose heart I would liken to a bottomless shaft in her never ending capacity to care. I am reassured often of her belief in me and whatever I do. Gayle had been busy making up the guestrooms which were at their least, kingly. They were homey, smelled of rich mahogany, featured many leather bound books, and made me think of a bed and breakfast worthy of fetching astronomical prices for rent. Never have I seen a person with such a passion and talent for decoration; she is without a doubt the Michael Jordan of interior decoration. I finally retired to my suite around 3am to confess my thoughts and honest (slightly scrutinizing) take on transpired events to my laptop and blog. I fought off sleep for maybe 30 minutes, and as I fell into slumber, Coleman's 115 lb footsteps were still thundering away on the wooden floors of the hallway outside my door. That was an account of one day with the Radder family. I was fortunate enough to stay two more, and those days were full of more like stories of restaurant mayhem/senior citizen assault with a maniacal child at the eye of the storm. My last night with them was spent barhopping in downtown Richmond. While fruitless, as we went out at 1:30am and near closing time, I did get to lolligag in the 5 star Jefferon Hotel (named after Tommy boy himself) bar and lounge. The place was beautiful and more marble laiden then anything I've ever seen (see pic). The night came to an end with a three way cheers at 4am between Gayle, JR and myself. We toasted of course with some fine bubbly, no crys, but stuff worth more than my jacket none the less. We brought our glasses together in celebration of each others company, of being together. When I thought of home during my 8 months abroad, memories that I would frequently visit featured them. As deliciously unconventional as these people are, I am proud to consider them family and for family I would do anything. Including babysitting my younger bash brother protege, which required the protective wear of an NHL hockey goalie. I know one day this life of mine may have the blessing of progeny, but that day is far off. Currently, I am too selfish and seduced with foreign aspirations, wanderlust, and writing in a blog that I think is way cooler than it actually is. Life is interesting and at the moment, far from static....especially in VA, especially in the company of the Radders. God bless them.
¶ 11:41 PM2 comments
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Adventures in a Winter Wonderland
Apartment annihilation. Body ache. My neck feels like it has the mobility of a tree trunk cast in cement. Slumbering log sawing younger brother at arms length away; his cell phone exploding with juvenile love, his flatulence filling the otherwise silent sunlit room. A random stream of thoughts at 8:30am on a marvelous Sunday morning. I look about and am stunned with the proof around me at how quickly males can destroy a living space. Females can as well; it’s just that males usually destroy more rapidly, more often with destruction of property that is higher on the scale of disgustingness. In comparison to females, I think we as males are less averse to conditions of vileness and somehow and someway are more prone to it. Simply not giving a rat's *** is my scientific hypothesis. (These are comparisons obviously being made in large generalizations).
The conditions of which I speak involve perishable food products left out well on their way to degrading, recyclable and non-recyclable rubbish dominating every horizontal inch of surface space, and the personal effects of three brothers strewn about with no particular rhyme or reason, as if an imaginary explosive device containing thick winter jackets, digital cameras, cell phones, snowboards, ridiculous fur lined caps with earflaps, and gold bond had exploded with a kill radius of 20ft. Poor Wes, his apartment has seen cleaner days, and I also must think to myself poor Wes's apartment, it has probably known better interior decoration. I’m no guru or feng shui expert, but college deco...so funny, so mandatory, so tasteless, so beautiful and so indicative of the times. When else can you celebrate how much pizza you’ve eaten with a cardboard wall installation? At least unicorns and gag-balls were absent in design plans. I am no person to talk of tasteful college room art, as I lived in a room with the phrase “Lights out bitches” painted on the wall. All college attendees were once there, and we are all guilty of it/unabashedly proud of it.
Oh my goodness do I feel how George W. runs a country. I guess this can only be expected from reliving a typical college-esq. night and then getting ruffed up snowboarding on the slopes of Mt. Baker. A list of notable details: Consumption of cheap beer packaged in quantities exceeding counts of 24; hanging out in the converted living space (a garage transformed into two closet sized bedrooms and one social area) where worship, praise and tribute is given to alcohol in 3d and 2d forms of art; doing the meet n greet with middle brothers social network, myself being the patriarchal elder (what happens when you bridge the age gap to spend time with younger brothers and their friends); rocking out to a musical dvd entitled "the last waltz" directed and produced by Martin Scorsese about a band called "The Band," quite hippyish, rich sound, atrocious group singing that united everyone in glorious fist pumps regardless of age, ethnicity, or creed; calming of emotionally unstable Shelley who literally thought she had peed out a goldfish, when in fact there had simply been a purge in a nearby tank....the unfortunate fish was simply in toilet purgatory and not sent to his watery grave until being urinated on and then discovered in shock; and finally a long, frigid walk home/2am Western campus tour.
That glorious version of a written and music less montage was all part of a plan. A Careful and tedious plan involving a day of snowboarding the beautiful and pristine slopes of Mt. Baker. Between the three of us (J.griz, Dub CG, Young Z, = the brothers grim) total times of boarding snow = 1. Saying we are beginners would be saying too much. Needless to say, the first five minutes of strapping both feet into a board and trying to navigate felt like being a gerber gorged baby taking his first steps. There were many unfortunate run-ins/terrible tangos with a demon possessed chairlifts which upon dismounting, usually left the three of us in a disheveled mass of snow pants, beanies and grunts; just the kind of thing to instill confidence before taking it to the slopes. I will say though, that the Greenberg men are decently athletic and able bodied with catlike speed and reflex. We learned quickly enough, and knew the definition, difference between, and physical application of things like heel carving and toe carving by the days end. It was some serious fun. There were of course major and monumental crashes and burns, the kind where you feel like a rag doll…a rag doll being thrashed by an abominable snowman. This is why my neck has 30% of its normal motion and why left gluteus maximus muscle feels like it was shot with a bowling ball. All bodily pain aside, the bewitching feel of gliding over snow, adrenaline releasing speed, and shredding in the company of brothers wes, and zach…company I haven’t had in 8 months, all combined for a magical day. Not to mention the scenery…jagged snow capped spikes of rock rising swiftly and abruptly, carved out forests of silent and frozen evergreen trees enduring the elements, the eerie and almost unnatural hush that seems to blanket everything…complete bereavement of sound. My eyes will forever crave natural beauty of the environment....as long as it remains to be beheld.
We are currently in a midmorning stalemate trying to decide if we are man enough to conquer Mt. Baker on back to back days; or whether to return home, nurse our aches and pains, and return in a purple plymouth voyager minivan full of fistpumps, a will to win, and a passionate resolve to party hard. But first, off to house cleaning and groans of muscular discomfort. Dope Boy Magic signing off.
Ps. Notable weekend quotes: “We have friends, not fans!” – Andrew W. K. “This guns for hire,” – Bruce Springstein.
¶ 10:15 PM0 comments
Read up on the portion of this life which I have chosen to make accessible to you. Or if it is simpler, just give me a jingle and we can shoot the breeze. Either way, forget about the time, what productivity means or anything that might be pressing and get lost in some thought and imagination.
I come from a small town north of Seattle, WA, where I learned that rain is a magical thing because it turns things green. I have had the chance to go a few places and see a few things of which all I have are pictures, memories and stories. I am currently living and learning about Los Angeles, California, and what it means to be an Angelino.