I’ve often fantasized about being on stage, shirtless and drizzling sweat all over the drum-set as I splash the crowd with every thunderous beat. Metallica’s Master of Puppets or Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Overture playing in the background as chaotic cacophony transforms into synchronized symphony. Yes, Overture with the actual cannons and yes, Master of Puppets live with the San Francisco Orchestra. Method and madness dancing together, metal and classical, transcending my needs for beauty in the ugliness of life. Transcending to the cool and rad in the mundanities of existence as I transform myself into Old Man Dave.
- Cue Pink Floyd’s Time. Because when I come home cold and tired, I like to warm my bones beside the fire.
I met Dave through our mutual friend Dan. We were in a 24 Hour Fitness sauna celebrating our last moments with Dan before he’d move to the Philippines. Dave, I later found out, is a tenant of Abdul-latif, one of my father’s closest lifelong friends who owns a bunch of worn out property across the suburbs of Denver. The kind of worn out property an old man wouldn’t shut up about because it’s the kind of worn out property that still manages to have its rent skyrocket with every lease renewal.
Dan left with his wife to the Philippines and Dave, the seventy-something-year-old aerospace engineer, was my newly appointed sauna buddy. Throughout the course of a year, Dave and I found out a fifty year age difference wasn’t much of a foe as it was a friend. A good friend. A friend I could intellectually commiserate with rather than bitchily whine in solitude, all alone. In my mind we commiserated, we shared our lives’ adversities and, most definitely, we rocked out to the melodic maladies of our being.
In my mind:
Dave became Old Man Dave, a super powerless hero who would be the missing piece to the inspiration I needed. What I needed was a vocalist, a composer, a terrifying mirror-image of myself to lead the symphonies of my pessimism and bring them to life. I already had the well-dressed back-up singers, the half-naked busty back-up dancers, the depressed bass guitarist, the arrogant lead guitarist, the anger issues drummer, the freeloading roadies, the condom-carrying groupies, the backstabbing managers, the amoral pig pen gig locations…you name it, I have it. The Black Mondays, all my dark thoughts, all the objective hatred I have for man’s sinful nature. I needed a soundboard of wisdom that would regurgitate my hatred in a nicer way. Dave needed to know someone as young as me feels as pained and betrayed as him. We both needed a friend against the wars we had started with ourselves and we both needed a friend to exchange our strategies of war. Old Man Dave became Ivar the Boneless to my Heathen Army.
- Cue Neil Young’s Old Man. Because take a look at my life, I’m a lot like you even though I’m twenty four and there’s so much more.
In my mind:
Dave is the Michael Jackson of pain. The quintessential being of human suffering. And that’s being generous, maybe even deluded, I know, but fuck it, get your own old person with contemplative qualities and inspirational one liners…pricks.
In any case, Dave is divorced from the love of his life, banned from his children for the last thirty years and, constantly it seems, breaking his ribs and dislocating hips in skiing accidents. The short silver fox with beady blue eyes, like a midget Paul Newman if you will, my coffee and sauna companion, is my clearest image to what a lifetime of internal deterioration looks like.
- Cue Sting and the Police’s King of Pain. Because there’s a little black spot on the sun today, a black hat caught in a high tree top, and a flag-pole rag and the wind won’t stop.
This is the homage I wish to pay by intertwining my suffering with another person. With that of Old Man Dave’s. All while contemplating about perseverance when all seems lost.
Often through one’s contention with the soul or the body or the mind, definitely the mind, we find ourselves to be drowning in a whirlpool of anxiety. Can we be satisfied living a life with continuously bleeding wounds? How many of us can swim against the current? If there is acceptance and peace in accepting a loss or failure, can we truly have gratification with pain?
This is Mahatma Gandhi meets Winston Churchill, Punk Rock meets Country. The angriest form of stoicism the world has ever seen. This is the virtue ethic of the twisted in mind and the pure in heart. Whatever the fuck that means. But I know this: my soul is writing for Dave’s.
By hybridizing Dave’s antiquity with my audacity, his life of seasoned calamity with my life of sensationalist curiosity, the collaborative geniuses of our woes are birthed into poetic prose. Or will be, please wait.
- Cue Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure. Because it’s the terror of knowing what the world is about, watching my old friend Dave scream “let me out.”
The purpose which I aim to serve in this essay is undefinable in scientific format. These are dark times for any Enlightenment, and I’m not in the mood for semantics, logistics or any other let-me-explain-my-reasoning-tics. This is an old warrior colliding with the fresh young-blood, this is Iago conspiring to love Cassio and thus do I ever make my fool my muse. This is when cacophony becomes symphony but don’t let the pattern installation to the un-mathematics mathematics of horrendous non-repetitive sound fool you; this music is meant to disturb. Happiness and all of humanity’s crucified, decapitated and burnt attempts to explain why we still persevere and gain happiness from knowing there is none…should…really…disturb.
Before we begin, a moment of prayer to my patron saint: the Marlboro Man.
Okay, that’s enough. I believe we are ready.
Present to you,
If my madness was reality,
In the name of all things disturbed,
Please, put your face closer to the screen,
And warmly welcome, (To reader: insert super melodramatic drum-roll here)
Old Man Dave and the Black Monday’s debut album,
Or, at least, its current track list:
- Cue silence. Because…
Track 1: I Can’t Quit You:
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Gaius Julius Caesar walk into a Peet’s Coffee and Tea to declare a momentary truce and to discuss the politics of friendship.
Dave and I had convened after I received a message from Dave via voicemail asking “You got any time to chat with an old hoot like me over coffee?” We had a few burgers first. Dave had wanted to talk about his life and how he had been feeling blue.
- Cue Muddy Waters’ Country Blues. Because I feel like blowing my horn, woke up this morning baby, found my little baby gone.
The power of friendship, more so between seemingly polar opposites, can be quite effective in mending the human spirit if the parties of the friendship are bound by truthful admiration for one another. Dave and I admire each other. We have each other’s backs.
After losing a civil war with Caesar, Pompey escaped to Egypt where King Ptolemy greeted him with a blade to the neck. He thought he would gain Rome’s approval by decapitating one of its most revered and literally worshiped characters. Caesar became so enraged, he catapulted his rage to initiate the Alexandrian War. Don’t fuck with my son-in-law, I think, was the message because these men were bound by Julia. Caesar’s daughter and Pompey’s wife, deified and adored by both which created a mutual respect, maybe even admiration, between the two.
Caesar and Pompey share their pains and commiserate, over coffee, like two sugar cubes dissolving in the bitterness of a cup of life. Veterans in their own right sharing tips and tricks on life. Like two ants having to carry something that’s a thousand times their weight, lifting pressures off of one another. We don’t think much in each other’s company, no masks to remove and no bullshit. We just lift. Our selves sweetly dissolve into one.
Dave told me he was in love with a woman whom he saw as his daughter, and that he has chosen to see her as such not because she’s ten or twenty years younger but because she’s with another man. A man with a hung wallet and an outstandingly huge bank account. Dave can’t compete. Says he’s too old for love now.
I said aren’t you too old for coffee too? He said he can’t quit coffee, said all his friends drink coffee.
I can’t quit coffee too, Dave.
Track 2: Jonah and the Whale:
Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. We all know the story. But Dave and I have no doubt that there’s a thin line between punishment and divine retribution, a line often navigated by riding a unicycle on it. A unicycle that goes by the name: Repentance.
After coffee, Dave and I walk out to our cars parked perfectly parallel to one another. I lit up a cigarette, Dave smiled. “I never knew you were a smoker, let me try one of those bad boys!” Dave was excited, I was complacent.
- Cue Grand Master Flash’s The Message. Because it’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under. Also, don’t push me. I’m close to the edge and I’m trying not to lose my self.
Dave had asked me if we Muslims believe in the Grace of God. I answered yes and asked what the Catholic view was. Dave said: “Well, it revolves around the idea that whatever you do that’s bad, by the Grace of Jesus, it’s already been taken care of.”
I pushed Dave with a barrage of leading questions on whether or not we humans need a divine sense of affirmative action where the recognition of one’s shortcoming must be faced in order to surmount our lives’ obstacles. Then, of course, God takes care of the rest when His Grace sees you fighting so hard to better yourself.
Instead of American affirmative action, British positive action and India and Nepal’s reservation, we’re not enrolling racial minorities into higher education. We’re enrolling the I-must-prevail minority, as I daringly say, into higher being…or higher being’s primitive cousin, human survival.
Dave’s cigarette didn’t last long, he scoped the area looking for disposal.
“I can’t just litter this shit after talking about God, can I?” he asks, “I’ll be right back, gotta throw this away. Affirmative action, right?”
Jonah in the storm asked to be thrown off to save the others. Those who ask for penance must pay the heavy tax of sacrilege. A butterfly effect that goes full circle: you’re good, you fuck up, you realize you fucked up, you recognize you’re bad, you do good, and, consequentially, you’re good.
That’s if you’re smart enough to rinse, lather and repeat. That’s if you’re smart enough to know you can smoke, you just shouldn’t litter. Do that a number of times until you know you shouldn’t smoke, until all the littering inside is gone.
How else can your redemption be as glorious as the largest living mammal?
Affirmative action with long term results. Pragmatic, possible, purging, and Problematic.
Track 3: Barmy Army 2.0:
If you’ve ever seen the Lion King and never questioned the intimate friendship of a meerkat to a warthog, there’s something terribly wrong with you. Timon and Pumba, Dave and me, except I have issues with analogizing pigs to humans, unless you’re a racist cop, are a perfect match. While Timon and Pumba are preaching Hakuna Matata and you idiots sing Kumbaya, Dave and I are performing the Haka in a library’s silent reading section.
- Cue Wu-Tang Clan’s Bring the Ruckus. Because my Wu-Tang slang is mad fuckin’ dangerous and more deadly than the stroke of an axe, chopping through your back and giving bystanders heart attacks.
In the spirit of contentment, one must acknowledge with no certainty at all, that companionship is directly proportionate to one’s satisfaction. Even if it’s coming from your pig-looking friend.
Friendship is absolutely fundamental. It is a vivacious rose that may grow on top of an ice cold glacier or in the middle of a barren desert. Friendship, unusual unions like that of Dave and mine, is the backbone of our contentment because had we not sat down for coffee or gone to lunch over and over, we wouldn’t have come closer to grasping that serenity of true companionship.
And we are fierce, we are ferocious, we protect the tribe of two as should you if you’ve got one friend out there who feeds your contentment. You are nothing without the people that stand beside you. It takes a village. A village. And if they’re not kin, you bet your ass, dearest reader, they’re friends.
A fraternity between a twenty-four-year-old and a seventy-five-year-old that is based on transparent communication and intimate commiseration is how our friendship survives. A brother that comfortably pities me without making me feel less than, a brother that tells me he has three broken ribs and three sons out there who he hasn’t seen in thirty years all with a smile on his face. You think he’d be smiling if he had said that or thought it to a mirror?
A micro-society with a social contract that states: feel ye not shame when thine smile fadeth for ye hath a friend who sincerely will have his heart break for your miseries but won’t lose any sleep over it because we’re Timon and Pumba, we fucking get by. Right, Dave?
Track 4: The Guild of Ugly:
Irish novelist Samuel Beckett built a house in France’s countryside near Paris. A Bulgarian, Boris Roussimoff, with his family, moves in next door shortly after. Boris’ teenage son, Andre, who suffers from gigantism is already a 6-foot-something behemoth weighing over 200 lbs, is destined for a future spot in entertainment wrestling’s hall of fame.
- Cue Edith Piaf’s Johnny Fedora & Alice Blue Bonnet. Because whenever you find yourself blue, you’ll find it’s June in December if you’ll just remember, that true love will come smiling through.
Becket waits for Godot. Andre the Giant waits for the school bus. Godot is stuck in traffic but the bus is here parked for poor Andre who doesn’t fit. Andre becomes the only person to ever have had a Nobel Prize winner as both neighbor and private chauffeur. He is surely chuckling in his grave as I write this. Chuckling with nostalgic joy, remembering his commute to school on good ole Beckett’s truck, where he fits.
The Bulgarian brute and the Irish writer, a match only made in the farmlands of France.
Dave sends another voicemail asking if we can meet up for lunch again. Says he needs advice on confronting his landlord, says he either wants to buy the property or remodel it. Says he doesn’t know how to approach that proposal.
“You got yourself a salad,” said Dave jokingly. “Did you get yourself a salad because you want a salad? Or because I got a salad?”
“You got yourself in a pickle, Dave.” I replied. I didn’t have the heart to sarcastically ask if he wanted a pickle or because he’s pickle prone, if he’s naturally susceptible to salty trouble.
The Indonesians have a saying: where there is sugar, there are ants. It’s not as intuitive as ‘don’t eat everything that you see, even salt looks like sugar’ but its nonetheless beautiful. Sweet, even. I suppose the saying signifies some sort of contagion mentality like people flocking around what’s sweet, following their hollow desires. Or, maybe, it could mean that where there is great sweetness to be had, surely a pestilent line of creatures are waiting patiently for a taste.
But we’re ugly, aren’t we, Dave? Like a pickle, soaked in vinegar, preserved in a container of bitterness, and, just, mm-mm, so…damn…good.
“You should be upfront,” I proposed. “Tell your landlord exactly what you want, he’ll either agree or disagree. In any case, if you can’t buy that house, you can buy another.”
“That’s the problem…my doctor lives across the street from me, my neighbors are good friends, everyone smiles at me, when I go to the local chiropractor, you know, I can shoot the shit with the lady at the desk because she knows me,” Dave said.
Been too long since you’ve submerged into vinegar, Dave. Where’s that ocean-marinated grit, that brackish water tenacity I admired in your steely blue eyes?
“You think if I tell him I’m an old man with broken ribs and a fucked up hip, he’d give me a good deal?” asked Dave. “Like a heart to heart, not a sob story…you think he’d understand?”
“That could work. I don’t know. Honesty is good, it’ll get your point across but, I don’t know, it could work.” I replied.
Telling people you love them or you’re sorry and be absolutely sincere about it, is probably the hardest thing a person can do. The only thing I can imagine that could be harder or just as hard, would be telling the truth in a room full of liars or lying in a room full of truth-speakers. Like a man who blames his boots for the faults of his feet.
Sob stories don’t get shit but pity. Please, you’re one of the only heroes I have left…
I lied. To my friend.
I’m like that. I either lie right away, or I never lie.
Pick me up and take me to school, Dave. I’m too small for a bus sometimes.
Track 5: Living the Life of Riley:
In Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, David Bowie played as Nikola Tesla. Yes, Ziggy Stardust became the man who invented the 20th century. At first Bowie declined Nolan’s offer, however the trick, the prestige if you will, was perfectly executed when Nolan told Bowie the role of Tesla and his cloning machine would not be believable unless a man who is larger than life plays him.
- Cue Arctic Monkey’s The Jeweler’s Hands. Because the inevitables gather to push you around, any other voice makes such a punishing sound. He became laughter’s assassin shortly after he showed you what it was.
Tesla said virtues and failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When you separate virtues and failings from yourself, you become no more. What I fear for in my friendship with Dave is that the virtue of being truthful friends is shadowed by the failing of being so undeniably different. Yet, in a mirror, I see an old man with steely blue eyes and cheeks as slender and leveled as a cutting board. We still remain different. The same way force and matter are different, the same way they can’ t exist without each other.
I don’t know anymore and I’m not happy about it. Is it ‘it is what it is’ or is it…does Dave think about me like I think about him?
I still care though. I can’t just dismiss the whole enamorment. This is the old man on a hill whom I’ve been waiting for all these years. All my significations, all the trouble of micro-analyzing every interaction and applying symbolic importance to our friendship, are now under question.
I haven’t seen Dave in months, it’s beginning to take a toll on me. I have no one to commiserate with…and I’m starting not to care. I’m losing my contentment.
I suppose this is a study of one human condition: Contentment.
Track 6: Happy Go Lucky
When King Minos of Crete imprisoned inventor Daedalus in a maze-like dungeon of his own creation, the Labyrinth, Daedalus managed to escape with another of his constructions. With his son Icarus, Daedalus built a flying contraption using feathers and wax to mimic the wings of a bird and to ultimately fly their way to freedom. Daedalus warned the wide-eyed Icarus against the sun’s smoldering power. Don’t fly too high or it’ll burn you down to the ground…literally. Guess what the curious little shit did?
- Cue Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan. Because thank you for those items that you sent me, the monkey and the plywood violin. I practiced every night and now I’m ready, to take Manhattan then take Berlin.
Maybe I flew too close to the sun, maybe I got too devil-may-care-ish. Maybe I was too impressed with this astonishing obelisk of an old man? Or maybe I was just too dumbfounded by a regular person? He might’ve just been a simple statue of a person who just got too close, too fast. Too lucky.
Dave, you artifact of human suffering, why do I miss you?
My old friend is certainly a rarity, but I have troubles discerning whether he is a relic or a ruin. Troubles. It troubles me to have friend-troubles because it’s a problem when a person who isn’t expendable, is also absent. My friends are few. The good friends, at least. My blood brothers, my soldiers, my kin…those are less than a handful. Dave is a good friend, and I’m not always there for friends but I did my all to be good to Dave.
The first time Dave and I had our own conversation was a few nights after our mutual sauna friend left. Drenched in sweat and pathetically reaching for our water bottles in the sauna, Dave looks at me and groans. First he tells me why his abdomen is bandaged, said it was an accident. Second he tells me how his ribs broke, said he was going too fast on the slopes, and said he was bound to wrap himself around a tree. Third he tells me the truth, said his age is getting to him, said his mortality is clearer than a desert night’s sky, said his life is loveless.
Said all that to me.
It was a simple, sincere and saintlike process. Why and how…oh, you’re honestly listening? Here, you’ve earned some locked, stocked, and barreled truth for your bare-faced attention. Our honesty had one another fixated, we fell for it, this friendship, hook, line, and sinker. Only in a few minutes we went whole-hog. Here’s your problem and here’s mine. Let me call a spade a spade for you, let me be brazen, bold and blunt. Let me give it to you straight, straight up, straight out, straight from the heart, straight from the shoulder…it was straight-shooting, it was the realest interaction I’ve had with a person in the shortest amount of time. Dave knows the truth is always the bottom line and it’s his old age grit that allows him, that liberates him from whatever pitiful lies he would’ve spewed to me had he not been truthful. Had he been young and foolish like I often am.
I don’t know people like that.
I don’t know anyone that flies too close to the sun and doesn’t get burnt.
He must have real wings. No wax. No bullshit.
Track 7: Bad Riddance:
Ludwig Van Beethoven, the Prometheus of music, is said to have once written a note to a pesky prince or king after some conflict between them that said: there had been a thousand princes before you and there will be a thousand princes after you, but there will always be one Beethoven.
- Cue Led Zeppelin’s Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You. Because I’ll leave you when the summertime, when the summer comes a rolling. Leave you when the summer comes along.
After our last coffee visit, at least a year ago, Dave, before heading out, said: “I Love you, man.”
Contentment. Thought it would hit like a feather tickling my skin but it’s more like a sledgehammer to the forehead. Or water to the liver.
Fuck it, cue nothing. Because it ain’t a black Monday anymore.
—Wherever you are, Dave. I love you too and God be good to you always.—