Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sinking Ships

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"I hope that you like it in your little motel
And I hope that the suite sleeps and suits you well
Well I can see it as time and a sight through smell and
Thats why its nice to be by yourself

Cause thats what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for, aren't I?"
-Modest Mouse, "Little Motel"

“I’m losing my room on Saturday. I spent eleven months homeless last year, and now I’m going that way again.”

My father is a proud man laid low. Once upon a time, he supported a family of six, earned six figures a year, and wallowed in middle class luxury, free to indulge his penchant for bourbon with nary a concern for the future. He coasted along, slowly self-destructing, expecting unimpeded comfort as he soaked and pickled.

That was before his industry collapsed, his employment options evaporated, and his savings dwindled away during a couple years of rent checks, car payments, wedding expenses, cartons of Bensen & Hedges De Luxe Ultra Lights 100’s, and nightly fifths of his holy amber poison. Now he rents rooms in boarding houses full of divorcees and parolees. He makes deliveries for an auto parts store. They pay him a pittance.

“Again? Jesus, Dad. What happened?”

My myopic sub-ambitious version of the American Dream was simple: all I desired was a walled residence inhabited solely by me: a place to eat, shit, sleep, masturbate, and consume illegal narcotics uninhibited by the obtrusive presence of other lifeforms.

I basked in that for one glorious month.

“Oh, a bunch of shit. I had to fix my car again and didn’t have the rent money. That’s the main thing.”

I used to loathe the old man. From my 14th to 22nd years, he was my chief tormentor, my nemesis, the bane of my existence. My hatred was deep and all-consuming. Sometime after I left the nest and began facing the sacrifices and hardships of adult life, I began to understand and appreciate the man. I learned to respect him despite his selfishness and addiction. We reconciled. I came back to live under his roof for six months while I was between jobs. That ended with fleas and eviction. The family scattered like dandelion wisps in the breeze. Four years ago.

“You can crash at my apartment for a little while for free, Dad. This way you can gather some money and get back on your feet. I guess it’s my turn to help you out.”

As soon as I hung up the phone I thought about what I’d just offered. While it might have been the nice thing to do, it sure as hell was going to ruin my fun.

This man has been kicked out of multiple shared residences for getting drunk and falling asleep naked in the hallways. This is a man who frequently confuses the refrigerator and the toilet. (No, he doesn’t eat from the toilet, but he does piss in the fridge.) This is a man whose internal organs are so seared and soaked that he clutches his belly and howls while he sleeps. (When he isn’t snoring louder than a helicopter.) And like most classic drunks, he knocks over lamps, stumbles into furniture, and unknowingly bleeds from the foot for several hours without realizing it.

When he came to visit and pick up keys, I sat him down for a good old fashioned son to father talk.

“I’m going to continue to live like I’m alone here. I’ll try to be considerate, but… I like loud music. You like Wheel of Fortune. My choices will come first. I work 80 hours a week for this place. You like to chat and chat and chat. I often want solitude. So I will send you to your room. Frequently. Try not to be offended by that. I’m glad I can help you out, but the fact that I’m losing my privacy and space is something I resent. Be prepared to deal with hostility from me. It’ll happen. Clean up after yourself, and leave my goddamn toothbrush alone. You can eat whatever’s in the fridge, but don’t pee in there.”

I thought for a minute.

“I’m not putting a time limit on how long you can stay here, but the purpose of this arrangement is to allow you some rent-free time to accumulate money and move on. This is not a permanent arrangement. I expect you to aggressively save cash. That means no upgrading to expensive booze, premium cigarettes, and fast food meals. You’ve been cooking at home and buying your vices from the bottom shelf for two years. I’m not doing this so you can be indulgent. Like I said, I work eighty hours for this place, and for you to get all lazy and casual will piss me off. Resist that temptation. I know I sound harsh, but I think it’s best that I’m upfront so we have no confusion. Okay?”

He blinked a few times, speechless. Lectured by his own child. Told he might be sent to his room without dinner, grounded, his allowance taken away. His pride took some serious hits over the past few years, but this was on another level entirely. Still, we’re good friends, and he knew I was not gleeful or malicious with my stern lecture.

Besides, his only other option was sleeping in his van at the highway oasis.

He thanked me and left to go get possessions from his last residence, which he had two more days to occupy.

Almost a week has passed since then. My landlord lives above me. Dad has managed to piss him off twice, and that would be three if he’d been seen drunk and stumbling, pissing out in front of the building because I was in the bathroom. He’s embarrassing me.

This is going to get ugly.

Fast.

No good deed goes unpunished.

1:22 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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