Under The Influence of Dave Young

(This originally appeared in Dig issue 50, which was published just about two years ago now.)

About two months ago, myself and Mike Vincent walked into a bar in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles. (Don’t worry, this isn’t the start of a bad joke.) The bar was filled with hipsters and pro skaters and us sore thumbs, so in a vain effort to cope with our awkwardness, we made with haste to the bar and ordered up some beers. I wasn’t really paying any attention when the beers arrived, but I remember hearing, “Don’t worry, it’s on me.” And then I looked up, and to my astonishment, there stood Dave Young behind the bar. I hadn’t seen him in close to five years, but he had recognized us and insured that we weren’t going to be paying for anything for the rest of the night.
In case you’re not familiar with the name Dave Young, he’s the stuff that BMX legends are made of. He came, he saw, he kicked ass and then he got the hell out before anyone could even ask where he went to. He pioneered street riding in the late 90s, bringing speed, balls-out antics and shock to the TV screen via ‘Nowhere Fast,’ but he disappeared shortly thereafter and hasn’t really done much in the world of BMX since. He also introduced a style of dress vastly popular in BMX today, along with the ‘screw contests, let’s just make video parts’ approach to riding that’s rampant in today’s world of riding. In the simplest terms, he was ten years ahead of the BMX scene he was once a part of.
Early in Dave’s riding career, he gained notoriety first for getting a cover of an early issue of Ride BMX Magazine (at age 14, doing a huge handrail), and then later on for being a test rider for Ride as well. Dave was featured extensively in Ride’s earlier years, testing bikes sent to the magazine and usually wrecking himself on something ridiculous. But he always got back up in time to sneer into the camera lens and willfully display his battle wounds.
Dave was one of the first BMXers to adopt a ‘skateboard professional’ approach to riding. Instead of traveling the world to enter contests, Dave focused on finding new spots to shoot photos at, and also filming video sections. Yeah, there were videos being made prior to Dave, but he was one of, if not the first rider, to make his video section a number one priority within his riding, paving the way for future riders that now can get paid strictly from producing video sections and getting photos in the magazines.
Dave was also most likely the one person directly responsible for introducing the ever-controversial subject of tight pants to BMX. Dave was a product of the mid-90s San Diego hardcore scene, and if you were familiar with bands like Unbroken or Antioch Arrow, then Dave’s fashion sense wasn’t too outrageous. But in the waist size 38 world of BMX circa 1998, Dave’s all black, big belt buckle, tight panted look was definitely the exception to the rule. Dave was comfortable in his skin though, and never really seemed to care that he didn’t look like the typical BMXer. In fact, I think Dave appreciated the fact that he looked more like an alumni member of a Gravity Records band than a dirty BMX kid. Of course nowadays, the ‘Dave Young look’ is a dime a dozen in the BMX scene, so if you’re rocking a sidepipe with a big belt buckle, and your keys are hanging off of your belt loop, you best recognize where it all came from.
Dave also knew what he liked as far as bike setup went. He was absolutely in love with the first edition of the Hoffman ‘Flash’ frame. It was designed to be a race bike, but most riders used it on street or trails because it was the one frame on the market that didn’t weigh 8 pounds at the time. Dave was also very much into sprocket guards, front peg bosses and four-piece Brian Castillo bars. Towards the end of Dave’s riding tenure, he got sponsored by Kink and designed his own frame, the Kink ‘Fiend,’ which was adorned with Misfits graphics and boasted many of the same features as the Hoffman ‘Flash.’
As for Dave’s riding, where do I begin? Dave’s introductory section in ‘Nowhere Fast’ is still legendary almost 8 years after its original release. It’s one of the most amazing video sections to ever be produced in a BMX video, and it can still hold its ground within the scope of modern day street riding. It’s the perfect formula of speed, determination, gnarly crashes and outright crazy lines. And I would suggest right now that you go find a copy of ‘Nowhere Fast’ and go directly to Dave’s part if you’ve never seen it. It was so revolutionary at the time of its release that Dave enjoyed a bit of fame because of it; guys wanted to be Dave Young and women wanted to be with Dave Young. (The only reason I know this is because I witnessed it firsthand. Dave stayed with me for a while a few months after the release of ‘Nowhere Fast.’ And when Dave would walk into skateparks, people noticed, even if he didn’t touch his bike. He actually skated more than he rode during that period. And he was collecting Polaroid photos of girls he met while on the road in a metal lunch box, but that’s another story…)
These days, Dave can be found bartending in Silverlake and working on a miniramp somewhere in the warehouse district of downtown L.A. He’s been slowly building on his clothing venture Blackheart for the past few years, and he was also featured on the Tylenol action sports website named Ouch! The Website (http://www.ouchthewebsite.com) just last year. But I don’t think Dave ultimately spends too much time riding his bike anymore.
As for why Dave never really got back on the horse following the release of ‘Nowhere Fast’ and his short stint with Kink, not much is known. I do think that Dave was over the BMX scene, but also not really sure where or what he wanted to do with his life. He was always one of those people whose mind was going in 50 different directions at once, so perhaps he just felt he should move in a different direction? But perhaps this was also the reason why he was able to produce some of the most groundbreaking riding at the time. Who knows?
Ultimately, Dave’s the only person who can answer any of these questions, and I have his number if I want to call him up and ask, but a big part of me would rather not even know why Dave walked away from BMX. I’d rather just know that Dave Young left one of the most revolutionary impressions on the world of BMX, and leave it at that….

Postscript: According to friends, Dave is once again riding his bike and filming a video section to mark an apparent comeback to the BMX scene. Dave’s recent footage, which was shot for the Team Ouch! campaign, will supposedly be featured in the DVD release of ‘Nowhere Fast,’ but could not be confirmed at the time of printing. Blame Dave Parrick, he never answers his phone….

Responsibility Learns To Walk: The Reason We Never Saw Jawbreaker Live in New Jersey

jawbreaker.jpgI wanna say that this incident happened in 1993. Had there been a complete gig listing of Jawbreaker’s live shows online somewhere, I would know the exact date, but for all intents and purposes here, I’m gonna have to go with a guess-timate.

The one reason I’m guessing it was 1993 is due to the fact that I remember what car I was driving, as it plays an integral part to the story. It was a 1980 Datsun Sentra, a four-door beater with a tan paint job that myself and my father bought from a guy named Scamp who lived on Rt. 35 in Middletown, NJ. Why I can remember the name of the man I bought my first car from, but not the exact year this story happened is beyond me. That’s just how my brain works.

So it’s sometime in 1993. Myself, my brother Kevin, and two of our friends, Rich Cunningham and Steve Klein, decide we should go see Jawbreaker play at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ that night. At the time, we lived in Matawan, exit 120 on the NJ Parkway, about an hour and change away from Maxwell’s. Before the birth of mobile phones, Mapquest or Internet listings for live music, I had somehow found out about the show, figured out directions on a map, called my friends using a land line and made plans for the night. Not such a noble accomplishment in that day and age, but looking back now, it was a heck of a lot tougher to find out about anything, figure out where anything was or get in touch with your friends in the event that they weren’t home. (On a side note, I just thought about this: Since everyone has their own phone now, there’s never really a need to ask to speak to someone if you call them now. It used to be, you’d call someone’s house, their mom would answer, you’d say, “Is Frank home?” and then they’d go get them. So I’m thinking that that once common question in the English language is quickly dying due to the ubiquitous ownership of mobile phones. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

We’re in my car. It’s 1993 and we’re traveling north on the New Jersey Turnpike. I’m 19, my brother and Rich are 17, Steve is 16. We make it to the Turnpike exit for the Holland Tunnel, then begin exiting to the left so we can make our way down Washington Street in Hoboken. It’s when I’m on the exit ramp to Hoboken that my Oil light starts flashing. I pull into a municipal works parking lot on the side of the road, get out of the car, look under the engine and discover the once full engine of oil slowly emptying out all over the parking lot. It’s about 8 PM, we’re on the side of the road and my car just lost the plug to the oil pan. Luckily, I had turned off the car, so the engine didn’t seize, but the car was now un-driveable. So we make a decision. Hoboken has a train station, we can park the car here overnight, get to the train station and get home, then come back tomorrow and fix the car.

We’re about two miles away, and we start walking. None of us had ever bothered to figure out the NJ Transit train system, so we’re hoping that someone can point us to the train which travels back to Matawan once we get there. For two miles, we trudge over the then sidewalk-less shoulder lane of Observer Highway, ultimately arriving to a bustling train depot in the middle of a heavily populated commuter town. It’s just a train station, but for four kids that spent most of their time simply driving around their little corner of the world on summer nights, it was a different world. Somehow, we discover that there are no direct trains to Matawan. We would instead have to travel via Path Train to New York City, get to Penn Station and take another NJ Transit train home to Matawan.

Along the way, we met a middle-aged man that helped guide us to Penn Station. We didn’t know him one bit, but our ignorance forced us to trust his directions. He did get us to Penn Station, but not without asking for $5. We gave him what we could and made our way downstairs to the train station.

Once aboard the Jersey Coast line of NJ Transit, the four of us wasted our trip home singing the theme from ‘Growing Pains’ and other assorted TV shows from our youth. Upon reaching the Matawan train station, we said our goodbyes to Steve and Rich, and began our six-mile walk home. I don’t know what we talked about or anything. I remember thinking that the night had evolved mush differently than I had expected, but I wasn’t the least bit upset about it.

Upon passing Matawan Regional High School, we walked past a car. The window rolled down to reveal a kid named ‘Cowboy Paul.’ He was in the band and practice had run pretty late that night. (He also wore cowboy boots and a trench coat in case you were wondering about the nickname.) He only wanted to wave and say hello, but I quickly explained the story and asked for a ride home. He obliged, and in ten minutes, we were back at our house. My car didn’t make it, but we had without any help aside from Cowboy Paul’s quick ride and a nameless man with knowledge of trains from Manhattan.

The next morning, my brother and I borrowed my dad’s van. We stopped off at an auto parts store in Matawan, bought an oil plug for an ’80 Datsun, four quarts of oil and a 14mm open-faced wrench. Then again, we headed north on the New Jersey Turnpike. When we got to Hoboken, my car still sat silently in the municipal works parking lot, oblivious to the cars, trucks and other assorted vehicles that were coming in and out of the place. I got underneath the car, bolted the new plug into the oil pan, filled the car up with oil and started the car. It ran fine. In ten minutes, we were back on the Turnpike, headed south to Matawan, me in the Datsun, my brother Kevin behind me in my dad’s van.

I never really wondered if we missed out on Jawbreaker that fateful night. Instead of seeing a band we liked, we experienced a world we hadn’t come to know yet. And more importantly, we didn’t have to call our dad to come pick us up in Hoboken. He definitely would’ve come gotten us in a second had we asked him to, but there were greater forces at play here. We weren’t kids anymore. We were finally figuring out how to depend on ourselves, taking life as it comes and adapting to the circumstances. Looking back now, I can see it’s just responsibility taking a few of its first adult steps. But when you’re young and clueless to the workings of the world outside of your suburb, it’s a tiny victory in the former world of calling your parents when things go wrong. One I’m still very proud of.

Hard-to-find parking spaces in an overcrowded town

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(Provided you read the television anti-theft device story prior to this one, everything should make sense.)

Eventually, the police did arrive. A few days after the television anti-theft device incident, though their arrival had nothing to do with that escapade. It was of a much more pressing matter: alternate side parking rules.

Let me explain. Each side of our street gets cleaned once a week. For three hours on Wednesday, you can’t park on the left side. And for three hours on Thursday, you can’t park on the right side. During those hours, a street cleaner drives up the curbside of each street in a vain attempt to keep the street clean. It’s also open season for the police in the case that a car owner forgets to move their car. Unmoved cars are given $26 tickets each time they are parked on the street when alternate side parking rules are in effect. Slight pain in the ass, but one we’ve learned to live with and even apply a formula to, to a degree anyway.

Wednesday afternoon was left side of the road street cleaning. Heather’s 1988 Honda Accord, a rusty old bucket of a storage space parked near our house most of the time and never driven unless we need to move it for parking laws, was parked on the left side of the street. At 12:45 PM, I went out to move the Honda and was greeted by a uniformed policeman.

Me: Is there a problem officer?
Patrolman Quintero: Yes, there is. This car is unregistered.

Me: Well, it’s not being driven, so don’t worry about it.
Patrolman Quintero: I’m not, but this vehicle can’t be parked on the street if it’s not registered, and I can’t let you drive it to move for the street sweeper.

Me: What if I push the car to the other side of the street then?
Patrolman Quintero: Are you fucking kidding me? And are you the owner? I need to speak to the owner.

The exchange was brief. On a crowded city street, in front of a taxi stand with the lights of Patrolman Quintero’s police car firing into our neighbor’s windows, a crowd had begun to gather, wondering what the disturbance was. I ran in, got Heather, whom was also informed of the melee by Patrolman Quintero, and we stared at each other puzzled. The neighbors were now out of the house, blissfully watching. Particularly, the neighbor just opposite our house.

I looked in his direction and yelled, “Hey, this doesn’t concern you. Why don’t you mind your own business?”
To which Patrolman Quintero responded, “That’s his right to watch.”
To which I said, “Well, it’s my right to tell him what I think about it.”
To which Patrolman Quintero responded, “You don’t want to get me upset, do you?” Standard fucking pig vernacular for “Shut up or I’ll make this a lot worse than it already is.
We stared each other down for about five seconds afterwards, and I was pretty glad that I didn’t turn away first. Minor, minor victory against a cop, but one nonetheless.

We didn’t have too many choices. The car was unregistered and was about to be sold. If the police towed it to the impound lot, the only way we would be able to get it back was by registering the car in New Jersey. After showing the court that we had registered the vehicle, with insurance, we could then pay the tow company for the move and storage fees. By rough estimate, between towing, storage, registration and the ticket fine, I worked that out to be around $500, which was roughly what Heather would get for the car if she went ahead with her original plan to sell the car in the first place. We were, as they say in the courts, at an impasse. A money pit of an impasse for a 20 year-old car with 250,000 miles on it.

We were then offered a “deal” from the cop. If Heather signed over the car to the city, he would simply tow the car, tear up the ticket and forget about the fines incurred from parking an unregistered car on the street. Heather would be losing the car that she hadn’t driven in six months and was planning on already selling, but we really didn’t have any other options. Quickly, we started emptying the car of anything we had stowed in the trunk. Old BMX trophies, a pair of white roller skates I bought at a church auction for $1.50, middle school yearbooks, you get the idea. Basement minutia, and since we didn’t have a basement in the apartment, the un-driven Honda parked on the street had become one.

I did one better, popping the hood and removing the battery (which Heather had just replaced on account of readying the car to sell it). We stripped the car of everything we could, thinking that if some scumbag from the police department would soon be driving the seized auto, we might as well make it difficult to get running again. The cop wasn’t happy about it, but hey, it wasn’t his car. Not yet anyway.

Amid this, our neighbors stood still, watching our procession of stored goods move from car to apartment and back again. It was then when the cop mentioned who had probably reported the car in the first place.

Patrolman Quintero: “This is a small street and your neighbors pay attention to cars that are parked on street for too long.”

I looked up, the neighbor’s face across from us looked blank, the same neighbor who’s car alarm goes off at all times of the day and night, the same neighbor I would now be terrorizing and calling the police on for the remainder of our tenure here.

In the end, the tow truck arrived and towed Heather’s car forever out of our lives. She was down a few hopeful hundred bucks, but that was about the only direct damage incurred. We didn’t spend any money to save a car that simply served as storage and was only moved to avoid tickets for alternate parking rules.

Indirectly, the damage runs deeper. Bureaucratic bullshit and strong-arming people without the means to financially fight back have always been a tool of the government, at every level, and yesterday, we were hand dealt a hard slap of reality by a cop, a nosey neighbor and a crusade over hard-to-find fucking parking spaces in an overcrowded town.

If, and when, I see that Honda Accord on the road anytime soon, some windows are getting smashed. And hopefully, they are the windows of the bastard that started all this.

Mind You: The Story of The Television And The Anti-Theft Device

Just got back from Dallas. Both of us weren’t feeling too good on the ride home from the airport, finally succumbing to a mixture of head colds and fatigue after a few weeks of overdoing it in every capacity of life. Knowing that there was gonna be a lot of downtime in the coming week, and that there was no TV in the bedroom to watch, we decided to stop at Target on the way back from the airport and purchase an additional TV for the house.

We found a TV/DVD combo for a little over $100. I lugged it from the back of the store up front, paid for it and made our way home. The packaging was safe guarded by this anti-theft device that wrapped itself around the four sides of the box (which I figured would be disarmed upon purchase.)

Got home, found a knife and sliced through the wiring on the anti-theft mechanism. Immediately, a high-pitched security has been breached alarm sound rang through the house, piercing the walls, the doors, everything. I grabbed the alarm, now unattached from the TV box and ran for the kitchen sink, thinking, “this is a battery powered mechanism. If I short it out by getting it wet, it’ll stop.” So I placed the blaring anti-theft mechanism under the faucet, turned on the water and waited. Five seconds later, the noise dropped a few decibels, but continued. More water, a few more dropped decibels, I figured, “Hey, this is working.” Then I turned off the water and picked up the anti-theft mechanism. The move out of the faucet brought the sound back to its original state. Another plan was needed. The house shook like a fire department in the heat of an emergency, the sound of the anti-theft mechanism ringing through each wall.

Mind you, we live in an apartment building. This alarm noise was surely already attracting people to our door. So I grabbed some old t-shirts and wrapped them tightly around the anti-theft mechanism, slightly muffling the sound. Then I threw on my jacket, frantically put the t-shirt wrapped anti-theft mechanism under my jacket, grabbed my bike and headed out into the night. My preliminary plan was simple; find a dumpster, throw that thing in there, get the hell out of the area. Mind you, this is for an anti-theft mechanism on a TV which I purchased.

So I get out on the streets. And for some reason, it’s the most crowded it’s ever been on the streets near my house. And here I am, pedaling down the street with a muffled secuirity alarm sound emanating from my pants. If I was a passerby, I would’ve immediately thought “Suicide bomber.” Luckily, no one did much past staring at me puzzled beyond belief.

I race down the street to the one known dumpster in the area. Of course, it’s gone. Then I remember another; it’s surrounded by construction workers. Then I hightail it to an empty street nearby, spy an abandoned trash can in front of a house for rent, grab the deafening anti-theft mechanism out from under my jacket and chuck it into the trash can. In a few minutes, I’m home to a quiet apartment building, hoping no one is in the hallway wondering what the alarm noise was about.

Mind you, the entire episode detailed above took place in no more than 8 minutes. But I just know, somewhere out there tonight, the police are searching for the person that stole a TV from Target, then dumped the breached anti-theft mechanism in a trash can not far from my house. Either that, or they cleared a whole block of people under the guise of a bomb scare. All for me trying to get rid of the anti-theft mechanism that adorned the 13″ TV/DVD combo I just purchased…

Engine Kid

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In 1994, I fell in love with a record called ‘Angel Wings’ by a Seattle band named Engine Kid. Not really sure what drew it to me, or even why I bought it considering I didn’t even know what they sounded like. But somewhere in there, I bought it on CD, recorded it to cassette and listened to it daily on my Sony Walkman.

Looking back now, I think I had probably read the album description in the Revelation Records mailorder catalog. It read, simply, “The second LP to be released by Seattle’s Engine Kid. A combination of the quietness of Slint and the heaviness of The Melvins, Angel Wings’ features 11 songs that mesh post-rock, noise rock, and jazz.”

Knowing me, then, that would’ve sold me above and beyond becoming an Engine Kid believer. But it went even further. The record simply floored me. A mixture of epic, scathing noise ballads clocking in around seven minutes, combined with blasts of 2-3 minute instrumentals, a Coltrane cover, it was all there. Even the artwork grabbed me. My favorite being the back cover, a dark painting of a lone fallen angel, sitting at the edge of a cliff, overlooking a dark valley. Staring at that painting long enough to listen to the entirety of the pummeling six-minute long ‘Holes To Fight In’ got to be pretty cathartic after a while. I don’t know why, it just did. There was an episode of The Sopranos when Tony Soprano is at his therapist’s office, and he mistakenly discovers what could possibly be the source of his panic attacks after relaying an emotional tale of fainting after a fight with his mother. He stares at the ground in the office, bewildered. Here’s the exchange.

Tony Soprano: It’s like taking a shit.
Dr. Melfi: Ok. I actually like to think about it as a childbirth.
Tony Soprano Sr: Trust me. It’s like taking a shit.

That’s what Engine Kid did for me emotionally. It took all the anger, confusion and bewilderment that came with life as a 20-year old and flushed it away. An emotional release, a dark, fucked up way to come out of my bedroom and take on the world outside my door.

Later that summer, in Westfield, NJ, Engine Kid played a basement show. About 30 people gathered to watch. And somehow I knew to bring ear plugs. To this day, even though it was in a basement without monitors or any expensive amps, Engine Kid was the loudest live music I’ve ever experienced.

The album (and the band) have both been named-dropped as students of the Slint ‘Spiderland’ school of post-rock, but I think that’s a quick read of Engine Kid’s ‘Angel Wings.’ As a fan of ‘Spiderland’ as well, I do notice several moments of similarity, but only in the same way that I’d point at two different kinds of trees and say, “Hey, they both have leaves and branches.” That being said, there are start/stops, weird time signatures and streams of loud/quiet throughout ‘Angel Wings.’ But man, Engine Kid was fucking angry. Slint might’ve been angry people as individuals, but it never came across in their music. Engine Kid was furious, and a lot of the times still to this day, I can’t help but think that the member of Engine Kid really didn’t know how to channel their anger outside of the band. The result, came naturally through the band. Engine Kid, a trio comprised of Greg Anderson (vocals, guitars), Brian Kraft (bass) and Jade Devitt (drums), was the vehicle by which they grappled with anger.

Actually, they were the vehicle by which I grappled with my anger. One that’s stood the test of time and still serves an emotional purpose 13 years after the fact.

YouGoose

Came into the bedroom the other night to find Goose the cat watching Korean rollerblading videos on YouTube. I experienced what I imagined would be the same feeling I might have if I have a kid that wants to play football and baseball. “I love that little sonofabitch, but what did I ever do to make him like rollerblading….”

For the record, the computer screen was open, and the Net browser was on, but he got to YouTube on his own…

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Hapless Holidays

(I found this randomly today, first written on 12-10-04 and not touched since then. I re-read it and decided that I was either drinking, really bored or just going out of my mind. Though it was probably a little bit of all three. It wanders a lot, but I like the last paragraph about soda and how water brings all of the rambling into some sort of arrangement….)

Hapless Holidays

I have a very tardy mailman. Come to think of it, I always have. While most people are mail-content by noon, I am usually waiting til 3 or 4 and sometimes 5. It’s not a big concern really. But I’ve moved upstairs now, and hearing the front door, if there happens to be a large package that doesn’t fit inside the door, is a problem now. I’m not worried about thieves of theft or any pieces of hopefully big packages falling to the wayside because they don’t fit in the front door and I’m too far away to hear the mailman knocking; I’m worried about the rain. I’ve had several packages not get stolen and not fit inside the door, that have gotten wet. Very wet. I guess my problem really isn’t with a lifetime of tardy mail deliveries, it’s with water. I can drink it and use it to dispose of food particles and bodily waste, but I don’t want it to touch me or my belongings unless it’s under controlled circumstances, like that of the shower. I often wonder if there ever were a time when being wetted by the elements was perceived as welcoming, or if humans and our ancestral line always viewed dire elements as enemies.
I try to think what animals still in a somewhat natural habitat do on rainy days, and the stray cats in the neighborhood possess the same natural aversion to water that humans have. So I’ve assumed in the past that they would be pissed had they moved their office upstairs, couldn’t hear the mailman’s knock at the door and then opened the door some hours later to a wet package. But they’re cats and that’s a far stretch of the imagination for anyone to take. Cats don’t get mail. People get mail. Wet mail if that person is me and the day calls for rain. Oh you tardy mailman.

I’ve seen this mailman at earlier intervals in the day. Around noon, in the Quick Chek, waiting to pay for 3-4 different articles of chocolate-based candy. He’s got a candy fix, easily fixed by Quick Chek’s 3 for $2 candy policy. And so it goes; M&M bars, Twix and Chunky’s, all held together in one hand, while the other one grapples onto a 20 oz. paper cup of QC (assume that’s the abbreviation for Quick Chek here on out) coffee that is supposed to be fresh and strong, but always weak and old. And I’ve seen this similar circumstance multiple times, but I don’t feel that it’s my place to make conversation with him outside of our standard place of business; my front door, him on the porch, me bracing the storm door open and trying my best to bar any cats from getting outside while I wrestle packages back inside. He seems cordial during these encounters, but I feel that possessing the knowledge that these encounters are fueled solely on bad coffee, sugar and artificially flavored chocolate would taint any future displays of cordiality we might have. He would know that I know that he’s a sugar fiend, and then he’d feel shameful around me in the way that an alcoholic might lament over themselves when the cat is out of the bag around friends. (There’s no cats in bags here. It’s a figurative statement.) I’d try to force an apple on him. He would recoil in shame, and all future encounters would be utterly uncomfortable on both behalfs. Maybe that’s why he’s tardy, but probably not. Had I come into adulthood as a government employee given free reign every day of the year, I would assuredly be tardy and sugar-fueled and oh so weary of the rain. In a way, mail man are the stray cats of the governmental work force, only they don’t beg for food and start fights with other neighborhood cats. They’re not really governmental or symbolic stray cats at all, they both just have an aversion to the rain. Plastic coverings would help both of them.

I make a note that plastic really isn’t as bad as the environment makes it out to be. The parts of the environment covered in plastic don’t get wet, and if they were thinking like a stray cat or a mail man, that would be a good thing. But it doesn’t seem to matter to the inanimate though. They seem to like getting rained and snowed on, if the opportunity arises. It’s not the be all, tell all difference between mammals and the inanimate, but it’s one small piece of the puzzle to tell the two apart.

I had previously been having a moral argument amongst myself over the various fors and againsts involving the use of plastic. I was using it frivolously and needed to do something about. When I tried to be conservative with the amount of plastic I used in public places that also sold more disposable plastic, I was told, “Don’t use your plastic. Spend your hard-earned money on our plastic or you will need to leave.” I vowed not to leave, under the condition that i purchase recyclable glass from the place, which held beer instead of water. It wasn’t a battle over who’s plastic merited better qualities; it was more a battle over spending or not spending money, which is what all personal moral arguments always come back to for me. Should I go to see the movie in the theater or wait for it come on video. On the one hand, it’s $9 to get into the movies, but the sight and sound are better. On the other hand, Pepsi probably paid for the stereo sound and high-definition screen, and why do I need to pad their pockets anymore than they already are? I wonder if my mail man drank Pepsi on the days when QC coffee was really lacking in substance? One the one hand, Pepsi’s flavor is static, and he would undoubtedly appreciate the high volumes of sugar and caffeine. On the other hand, it’s a larger corporation than QC, and who did he want to support more? See what I mean? On the one hand, I might be spending money, but on the other hand, I’m consistently worried about where I want to spend what little money I have. Same goes for my mail man’s choices of drink, and why I can’t decide whether or not to go see movies down the road or wait til they reach my house. The only absolute in both equations is that time is passed easily. I wonder if my mail man was a Coke or Pepsi man.

I have wanted to be a neither man for quite some time, but when all else fails, I’ve reached for Pepsi over Coke time and again. Everyone would love to lament over rooting for the little guy and why choosing Pepsi isn’t the choice of a new generation, but a choice for the one with less of a fighting chance. But the honest truth is, I just like it cause I can drink more of it faster without getting that soda water upheaval feeling in the back of my throat. It goes down easier physically, and I like their ads just a bit better as well, which makes it go down easier socially. Soda’s social ubiquitousness is strange in a society where water in uncontrolled circumstances is deemed harmful. Soda to me is the ultimate form of out-of-control water, chemically and socially, and yet we welcome it into out hearts and minds and ask that it mend social ills and spark romances. We want nothing more than to be surrounded by it, and in many forms we are, but take away the coloring and the sugar and the caffeine, and it is once again an enemy, of the mail man, the stray cats and my lonely wet packages.

Some things, I’ll never understand. I know this and know it well.