Couldn’t sleep last night. I listened to a couple transcriptions of The Henry Morgan Show (more on him sometime later) and plugged in an MP3 player. When the song Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult came on I began to think about an old buddy who’s probably a guest of the state as he was busted for selling prescription drugs along with his mother. I began to think about his brother and that led to another old friend.

Eddy was a person headed for the edge of a cliff and jumping, only to find out he had a ten foot drop onto another cliff. I first met him when I was working second shift at Fafnir Bearing Co. He’d been hired to be an assembler of disc packs. They were the drives that computer disks rode on. He looked like trouble and I felt a little wary because he had that look in his eye that I usually saw in somebody headed for a fist fight. We got along after we’d both decided that the other was as determined to slack off as much as possible. He knew how to push buttons, sometimes mine. If I had my eye on a sandwich on the lunch cart, he’d buy it knowing it would piss me off. The department grew and as new bodies were added Eddie make friends with them. At the time a lot of us were getting into a “smoking circle” that consisted of getting loaded and watching Star Trek. Eddie also had it in for the foreman, an officious twit who was trying to climb the corporate ladder on the merit of being related to a middle management up and comer. Eddie got a plum job assembling a deluxe version of the regular units and it ate at me. He did his job well and when I was transferred, he was teaching new employees the ropes. Eddie wasn’t done with me. At the time we hung out in the same bar, me for a smoke and a beer him as a connection for pills. He always found a way under my skin, not malicious, but in a friendly way. I left to go back to school and Eddie and I ran into each other less frequently. His alcohol and drug problem was escalating, mine was moving right along nicely. Eddie got fired. He really started to go downhill. It was apparant that he was in the firing line of bad luck. He was the only injury during a bar brawl at Elmer’s. Everyone was involved and he wound up getting clocked in the eye by a full beer bottle. The eye turned blood red and in its healing didn’t improve. Edddie took to the streets. Life at home had become a series of run-ins with his mother and brothers. He was barred from most of the bars in the city. It didn’t matter to him, he showed up and tried to cadge a drink and showed complete surprise when the bartender tossed him. There were rumors that he made money by being “hit” by cars and settling with the driver. A couple times he wasn’t so lucky and wound up with an arm in a cast. Hell, he became a walking freak show. You almost wished he’d try to get a drink in a bar you were sitting in just for the entertainment value. He jumped the last cliff, expecting it to be a short drop that he’d recover from. This time he fell all the way. all of his buddies showed up for his wake and swapped stories. Every now and then you think you see him coming down the sidewalk with that sidling limp trying to get out of the cold. It’s not him, he stopped walking the sidewalks way too early.

Smoker was a biker. He had a steady job and was married to a sucessfull woman. He had a son who adored him. The problem was, he was a little kid in a grown up body with grown up problems. He was curious and talking with him was an excercise in Q&A. He wanted to know. He also was on the same train a lot of us rode then. He was always up for a walk into the parking lot to fire up a spiff and just bullshit. He loved his Harley and maybe he had to keep up  the image of  the tattooed biker stuck in his head. Like most of us he abused various conciousness expanding substances. But he wore it well. He could sit on his bar stool, red eyed and grinning, carrying his end of a conversation. Despite what those who first laid eyes on him thought, he didn’t live in an apartment or trailer. He had a Cape Cod with a big back yard. He was in love with the computer. Long before a lot of us had anything to do with them he was on-line. One typical road trip with him turned out to be riding along as he ran errrands and visited buddies in various bars. On one such excursion we wound up at his house. He turned from bar denizen into suburban homeowner. I got a tour of the place including the back yard with a Hav-A-Heart trap complete with juvenile skunk. Deep down I envied him, a Harley, house and tolerant wife. Smoker didn’t jump off cliffs, instead he walked the highway, tightroping the white line next to the breakdown lane. He took calculated risks, knowing just how much blotter to drop. Skirting the limits of being in control. It  caught up with him. He tried quitting but rehab looked like the only way to repair a crumbling marriage and age creeping up not too stealthly. He escaped rehab and went back in. His last breakout put him in the path of an oncoming car. He had a lot of buddies at his wake and funeral.

If I seem like I’m serving up two examples of how not to live, I’m not. There isn’t a day that I don’t wish I could go back. They were good friends and we were irresponsible. We didn’t have the foreknowledge of what would happen. If somebody showed us the future we’d dismiss it with the knowledge that we could change it if we wanted. I can look back with a defective lens on something I barely escaped. Yeah, I survived, big deal. There are a whole hellof a lot of people who got into shit that they didn’t ask for and turned out better than I did. Maybe this is self-serving. Yep, it is.

Why does Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have a few songs like Suite: Judy Blue Eyes and Southern Cross and a whole bunch like Almost Cut My Hair and Carry On. They were at Woodstock and they carried the good vibe a bit too long. They brought Neil Young aboard to add weight to the music. I listened to some CSNY and the music didn’t connect. I don’t think I’ve become jaded or blaise. Just maybe the message wasn’t that strong all the time.

Why am I hooked on shows like Smoking Gun’s Most Stupid whatever, Clipaholics or It Only Hurts When I Laugh? Does the sight of people falling, injuring themselves and causing grievous bodily harm while somebody films it amuse me? Hell yes. It isn’t me.

TALK TO ME, IF YOU DON’T WATCH OUT I’LL POST MY PLAYLIST OFF MY FAVORITE MP3 PLAYER. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FOOD BANK. ADOPT A SHELTER PET. SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR LOCAL POLITICIAN, YA GOTTA START SOMEWHERE. EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO VOTE FOR THEM CHECK OUT THE THIRD AND FORTH PARTY’S CANDIDATES. YOU MIGHT GET SOME IDEAS YOU CAN WORK THEIR WAY INTO THE MAINSTREAM. FRINGE CANDIDATES ARE FUN TO WATCH.

See you on Friday.