When I was 17 years old, our family had just moved from South San Francisco, California to Indianapolis, Indiana. Wasn't an easy decision, by any means, but the offer of being a supervisor (lead mechanic) at United Airlines for my father, was not something to be passed up, considering the cost of living in California is/was three to four times higher than it was/is in Indiana. United Airlines had just opened a new hub in Indianapolis, and there the offer of position await for my dad.
Having to come full force with the decision of shedding my "ghetto-fied" San Francisco city roots, only to move to a place I ignorantly considered "Hillbilly Hell", I did the only thing a rational teenager would do:
I fled for my life.
It worked out for about a month, but by the time Valentine's Day came around, I was lonely and tired of having to fend for myself. I couldn't take any more of my parent's demands for me to fly to Indiana, what with my own doubts lingering heavily upon me, so I finally agreed with my mother's final plea.
I was abusing alchohol and drugs to a mortifying degree considering I was only 16 going on 17, and I knew all my connections were going to be for shit once I moved to "Hillybilly Land". I figured "now" was as good a time as any to start putting my life back together, what with a new start and all. On the plane out to Indianapolis, I had decided right then and there that I would need to mend old and tattered relations if I wanted to be successful at walking the path of joy in my newfound life.First I would reconcile with my 3 brothers, saving the hardest ones to sew back into symbiotic harmony for last.
I won't say that earning back my mother's trust was easy, by any means, but compared to what I would have to patch up with my father, I think I had analyzed right when deciding to save my pops for last.
Every word that ever came out of my mouth when it came to saying anything to my dad was co-erced. I had to MAKE myself think of clever things to say, topics that he would feel comfortable speaking to me about. Finding subjects that avoided re-opening of past hurts was difficult, and most times I just remained a silent observer, learning as much as I could about what meant most to my father, what spoke loudest to him in saying, "Dad, I'm sorry I betrayed your trust for so long, but I want to earn it back, even if it kills me".
I had been picking up alot of old hobbies by the time I was "settled" into our brand new beautiful house, journaling being one of them. I needed as much as I could to distract me from my wanton desires to go out and get completed shitface wasted. So I looked to new hobbies as well, adding cleaning mercilessly to the list and cooking dinner. But I needed more to replace the evergrowing sense of loneliness and urgency that grew inside me everyday.
We had never lived in a 2 story house as young children and it was always a secret hope and dream of mine to have one. Everything was so shiny, clean and new....an empire for us to start from scratch, all on our own. Unlike the past, we always had enough to eat, hell MORE than enough to eat. We didn't have to split our Klondike bars in 4ths just so everyone could have a fair share of dessert, and eat crablegs and steak for dinner every night if we wanted to. Life was actually...."easy".
Funny, but when I finally got what I had always hoped and dreamed for as a child, it never did feel like "mine". I had fucked up so many relationships in the immediate family, that I just couldn't ever feel secure enough in my own shoes there. I knew I wouldn't last there long, I was getting to be the age that one feels most compelled to go out and start an empire of their own, and I had just severed so much of the relationship I had once had with my parents. I knew they always loved me know matter what, but there was so many things I couldn't forgive myself for.
It made for akward moments and a lack of conversation when my father and I were in a room alone together.
I didn't want to leave this nest with burned bridges. But I didn't know how to rebuild, and my father had seemed like he was ready to throw the towel in. There was too much heartbrake for him in trying to put stock into something he had already invested so much time and energy, with less than nothing to be returned to him. I know I took a big chunk out of him, and for that I held my head down in secret shame.
My father has always been a musician. Been playing guitar ever since he was 12. His dad had bought him his first guitar on his 12 birthday and told him, "Don't come out of your room until you learn how to play something".
And so it went....
30+ years later and the man is pumping out David Gilmore leads that would probably have brought tears to my late grand-daddy's eyes.
I knew this about my father, his passion for music, and while we hadn't shared the same taste for music in years, I could appreciate his love for bands like Black Sabbath, Tool, Metallica, and the likes. I also knew that while he wasn't crazy about Cypress Hill or Ice Cube, that he had tried his hardest to incorporate what I enjoyed at the time into our relationship, at the cost of his own "lowering of standards". But he did, in his own way, and I remembered that when all the attempts at feelings of love we had expressed for one another had failed when I was 17.
I had been getting into different musical genres, trying to let go of old past musical memories, ones that drug up too much remembrance of a life I no longer lived. U2 provided a certain amount of simplicity that my life so needed at the time. Hearing the beautiful riffs used in songs like "With or Without You" or "Sunday Bloody Sunday" made me think of my father, and how his own beautiful melody mickmicked that of theirs.
I had decided I was going to learn how to play guitar.
I didn't know to approach my father about this, because it had been something I had always secretly wanted to do, but in hearing my dad shred away, I would feel intimidated and tuck back inside of me, not wanting to be made fun of or put into a more vulnerable stance than I already was.
But again, at this point, I was willing to patch up what had been undone between my father and I, even if it killed me.
So I bit the bullet and told him I wanted to learn, and wanted to learn from the best.
It was hard to get a good read on him, how he felt about this. He was no public displayer of emotions. His initial response was stoic. "So play", he said, letting his infamous shrug of indifference droo on his lanky shoulders, while letting yet another hit of smoke drag up his slender nostrils. I walked away defeated that afternoon, not letting on that my heart was broken and shattered into a thousand pieces. "I deserve it" is what I told myself.
The next day, when I came home from school, my dad was at his usual station on the computer, cigarette dangling freely from his mouth. There was a large black case on the floor next to him, and his prized Ibanez was sitting on a guitar rack next to him.
He says, "If your gonna play, let's get one thing straight right now. You need to be listening to this, or this", handing me the "Paranoid" album from Black Sabbath and a "Best of" compilation of Jimi Hendrix. Then he says, "If you can play like Tony Iommi one day, I've done my job well."
That day was the start of a beautiful reparation of what I thought was a forever lost cause. We began to chatter on endlessly about "artificial harmonics" and how high the action should be on a guitar, arguing that I couldn't stand it because it hurt my wimpy fingers, him jokingly telling me to get over it and take it like a man, while sharing breakfast bacon and eggs with one another in the sunny mornings of our new breakfast nook.
I would walk to work everyday, swapping the "Paranoid" album in my walkman for other such "Black Sabbath" pleasantries. "Planet Caravan" being a favorite song, "Fairies Wear Boots" being another mutual favorite between the growing relationship that was my father and I.
The first time I heard Ozzy sing about "The Wizard", I thought immediately of my father.....
"Never talking, just keeps on walking, everyone is happy when the wizard walks by"
Except that my father was always shrouded in a cloud of mystical darkness.
He wasn't Mr. Happy Pants, and didn't take shit from anyone.
But he made US happy. OUR family. And that's all that mattered in his world.
Sure he had his faults, who didn't? But he brought home the bacon, begged for apples at Jonny's when we lived in Seattle and couldn't even afford to drive to the store to BUY the fucking bacon in the first place, having to ride a bike everyday just to get to and fro, for Christ's sake.
(Begging for apples at Jonny's is an ongoing inside joke that I will disclose more information on in another memoir)
So, he was "The Wizard" alright. But he was THE RENEGADE WIZARD. He did things his OWN fucking way, and while not everyone was a fan of his ways, it got the job done, raising 4 great kids in a place where the odds were always against a man and he's STILL happily married to the Warlock Wife, (even if it IS out of loving spite!) 40 plus years later.
"Never Talking, just keeps on walking, spreading his magick, the wizard walks by."