Saturday, August 29, 2009

Goodbye "Once Upon a Time"

As a child...
Each day seemed to last forever.
All the answers...
To mysteries were mine to uncover.
As a child...
I was entertained by simple pleasures.
All the questions...
Were ways to find the hidden treasures.
As a child...
Sheltered by my innocence,
I was searching...
For ways to climb the highest fences.
And the days go by...
Where did the time go?

Goodbye once upon a time!

In the 80's, I discovered a band by the name of Saga. And while I was certainly into many of the other popular bands, and even some of the one-hit-wonders, what I liked about Saga was their penchant for writing about sociological issues. Like the song, "Wind Him Up," which is about "Aldo" and his compulsive gambling. Or "The Flyer," which I interpret as a song about the need to escape stress; what better way to get away than simply leap toward the skies?

In 1985, they released an album entitled "Behavior." (Oh, how I miss that album.) Although the song "(Goodbye) Once Upon a Time" has a rockin' chorus, the lyrics struck me rather hard as being quite melancholy. Life was something very different in my youth. It was truly an adventure, and my imagination was spurred by comic books.

People look at me a little funny when I say, "I used to be able to fly." I don't mean it literally, of course. It's just that when I'd close my eyes and imagine I could fly, I could clearly see myself lifting off the ground, the Earth spinning away as I headed toward the clouds...and it was so vivid that my fear of heights would kick in, and my heart would start to pound. And so it was that, once upon a time, I would tell myself that I could fly, and this was my way of reminding myself that my imagination could take me anywhere. It was my "ability to fly" that helped me to escape the less-than-happy home I was reared in.

Such thoughts made me a misfit. As a misfit, my taste in comic books veered toward the X-Men, who were an entire group of "undesirables"...like me. And like the members of that group, no one knew of the superhero in their midst as I walked through the mall...or biked through the neighborhood...or wandered the halls in school. I had to keep those powers in check all the time, you know. Sure, I could slice those bullies up in high school with the claws hidden in my arms, or knock them through walls after I'd turned myself into "nigh invulnerable organic steel." And they'd be sure to wet their pants if I pulled the cord on my back harness and spread my wings wide. "Let's see how you like it when I drop you from 1,000 feet."

So...take a kid with a wild imagination, fed by the extraordinary tales in comic books, and an unhappy home...and you get some truly mixed up thoughts. When I was dragged to temple by my parents, I would often ask G-d for abilities one could only find in the comics. Obviously, what I needed was a genie, because G-d wasn't answering those prayers. I reasoned that He wouldn't do anything of the sort because of those occasional thoughts of dropping bullies from 1,000 feet.

Yeah...I was pretty messed up.

And yet amongst the bizarre thoughts coursing through my head, there was a "hero's code" in my mind; no matter the circumstances, one should always do their best to do the right thing. It was truly a fight to develop such thinking, especially when I was surrounded by bigotry. There were essentially two crimes a person could commit socially in my home. The first was not being Caucasian. The second was not being Jewish. Once upon a time, all my father would talk about was me finding "a nice Jewish girl" to marry and have a dozen kids with her. Thankfully, that kind of thought fell by the wayside...but the bigotry was still there. A drive home from work usually had my father saying the most hateful things about other drivers around him. Someone would cut him off, or be driving too slow, or some other thing he deemed bothersome on the road, and the comments would fly. "Oh, that figures. It's a (woman/nigger/Puerto Rican)." As the decades passed, Dad learned to either generate a new way of thinking or, at the very least, to keep his mouth shut.

Despite such social lessons from my family, I prided myself on never quite learning them. My prejudices only kicked in when I was faced with a stereotype. They still do, unfortunately. I don't like myself very much when such thoughts cross my mind, and even less when I vocalize them. And last night...I strapped some homemade pipe bombs to "once upon a time," lit all the fuses, and held the whole thing tightly to my chest.

There are these street vendors who travel to the apartment complexes in the area, selling food on specially designed cycles/carts to hold their wares. It made the news at one point that a majority of these vendors are unlicensed and unsanitary, essentially selling bacteria-laden food. What's more, ours is a gated community, and so they shouldn't be in here unless they are a guest of someone or they have a gate key. Once they're here, they ring bells or honk horns for the entire 20 to 30 minutes they're here, thinking that more noise will bring more customers.

For the last three nights, I have been confronting this one vendor, telling him to get off the property. "You are trespassing. You are unlicensed. You are disturbing MY peace." And he smiles, nods, and says, "Okay," over and over again. In my head, the unwanted thought comes, Oh, great! He's Mexican and doesn't understand a word of English. Last night, I was so enraged that I actually tried to physically remove his cart out of the gated area, and actually hurt myself rather badly trying to do so. When I brought it to the attention of an apartment complex staff member that this guy needs to be escorted off property...Well, now I was confronted by yet another Mexican, who promptly told me to shove it.

I held it together until I got inside my apartment, and then I completely lost my mind. A steady stream of hatred flew from my mouth as I shook with rage.

Overly emotional...Exerting myself physically beyond my capacities...All because of some idiot who can't speak a word of English and keeps honking a damned horn. So much for not learning the lessons of my parents. So much for the "hero's code." So much for "once upon a time."

I awoke at 5:00 AM, after getting to sleep after 1:00 AM. My entire body hurt. I am still filled with unresolved anger, and I know, without doubt, that if I take it to management, they won't do a thing about it. I'm spoiling for a fight that I know I have no chance of winning. And vengeful thoughts keep running through my head as to what I should do to get back at those who have done me a disservice.

The closest thing to making the fight legal...? Prorating my last month's rent for all that management hasn't done. Walk in on the first and say, "I'm discounting my last month's rent by $10 a day for everything this property advertises, yet hasn't made available to me since new management took over. That's $10 for each day the pool was green with bacteria. That's $10 a day for the courtesy patrol that isn't here through the night. That's $10 a day the dry sauna that hasn't been open. That's $10 a day the fitness center that hasn't even existed. The total I'm coming up with, at this moment, is $33,750.00, with a calculation of 30 days of the year for the pool being closed due to murky green waters. Taking out my rent, you owe me $33,286.00. You can pay me with a cashier's check, or I can give the FTC another shove about the class action lawsuit they're building against you. And be glad I'm not charging you for the violent tenants you allow to rent here. The psychological damage done to me for all the murders here would have a nightmarish price tag for you; and the scariest thing about this place is telling a friend that I can't wait to move out because I'm tired of all the murders here on property." (A body was found lying just outside one of the gates just a few weeks ago. Nice, huh?)

It's actually somewhat amusing that several months ago, one of the owners handed me, in person, several slips of paper, telling me that if I recommended people to live here, I would get a whopping $100 off my rent for a month. I walked out of the office, muttering, "I wouldn't recommend this hell-hole to people I hate. I mean, what would be my best selling point? 'You might get lucky and end up with a mail box that isn't encrusted with bird droppings, and/or hasn't been broken into.'"

The good news behind all of this ranting is that I don't often unleash my hatred. I try as hard as possible to care about my fellow human beings, and keep the unkind words to myself whenever I can. But those times that are sung about by Saga...as a child...as a young man...those days are long gone, now.

As a young man...
My life's gone through so many changes.
All the dragons...
I thought I'd slain became my frustrations.
As a young man...
I've come to meet my childhood's end.
All the answers...
Have since convinced me, I should stop pretending
As a young man...
Finally I've realized,
I've been dreaming...
Living with my past disguises.
Where did the time go?

Goodbye once upon a time!

Oh...Would "Ken" please send me a PM on GitP? I can't remember eaxctly which blessedly helpful soul you are. Thanks.

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