Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Long Island - 2014

I think I'm recalling the year correctly.  It was in the summer of whichever year it actually was.  I was asked by my employer to go to Long Island New York to help the local shop straighten itself out.  The Operations Manager was swamped with too much work and not enough capable help to sort it all out.  I went down for about 3 months as Project Manager, but this isn't about my successful representation of my capabilities.  This is about my first real experience with "hotel living".

The company I worked for spared no expense and put me up in one hell of spot; The Marriott's Residence Inn.  It was essentially a 1-bedroom apartment with a kitchen, dishes, full-sized refrigerator, stove, and washing machine.  There was a queen-sized bed and a television in the bedroom.  The living room, though somewhat small, was definitely suitable to one person, with a couch, chair, table, and another television. It was also pet-friendly so I brought my dog Dante down with me.

In order to avoid any awkward interactions with the staff between myself or Dante, I promptly put out the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door handle, where it stayed for the entirety of my occupation of that space.  I tended to the room in my own way, buying the necessary cleaning products and sundries to keep it all as tidy as I was willing.

At first, it seemed like an interesting adventure; out alone in an unfamiliar land, knowing no one, yet having the stability of a place to stay that I didn't have to pay for and a guaranteed placement at a job that paid well.  I spent the first couple weeks acclimating to my surroundings.  I found the places that I could go shopping, get take out, and the closest watering hole where I could stare in profound silence into my drink.

Suffice it to say, this enjoyable comfort of my own independence quickly spiraled out of control, as most things do in a drunks' world when the reigns of control and structure are completely let go.  I discovered a suitable liquor store right up the road, where I could purchase massive bottle of wine, vodka, and whiskey.  I also realized fairly quickly that New York is like so many states, though very much unlike Massachusetts, in that you can't buy your beer and liquor in the same place.  For beer you needed to go to a convenience store, or even better; a gas station.  Every one of them had a beer section, much to my delight!

I'll spare you the details of my depressive fits, alone in the hotel room, often crying into my dog's fur, drink firmly in hand.  Or the many hours, which add up to full days, of watching incredibly awful television while easily downing whole bottles of vodka or whiskey.  I even had a system for my drinking.  Beer was essentially viewed as my water, while wine was used as a starter for when I wanted to feel a decent buzz.  When it came to actually getting fucked up, which it always inevitably did, I would turn to the hard stuff; mixing whiskey with ginger ale or diet coke, and vodka with, well, anything.

The work week in those days was fairly easy to manage.  I might down a beer or 3 in the morning to stave off the incredible hangover from the day before, but then I'd get down to the business at hand.  I focused entirely on whichever tasks I was assigned, ensuring that I did the best I could.  It must have worked because after my tenure there I was promoted within the company to the coveted spot of Operations Manager, and even knocked my first assigned location out of the park, garnering respect and awards.  But, Long Island was different.  I could hide behind the work and remain noticed only in the ways that mattered, though even that eventually started to give out. 

The comedian Marc Maron had a show a few towns away and I knew I had to go.  I was, at the time, fairly obsessed with his podcast and comedic style, so I went up to Huntington with my ticket, excited to see my first comedy show.  I made sure to get there early so I could pre-game, and that town did not disappoint in this regard.  The main street is a veritable playland for adults who wish to imbibe in alcohol.  I must have hit 5 different bars before I gained admittance to The Paramount.  Of this I have only a hazy recollection.  There was even an instance where I was that asshole who yells out loud enough to interrupt the entertainer.  I recall yelling from my balcony seat "What the fuck!", thinking I was clever in referencing his podcast, to which Mr. Maron immediately responded in kind, essentially making fun of people like me, much to my delight!

After the show is when things start to go haywire and large chunks of the night disappear into the oblivion of a blackout.  I remember sitting at an overly expensive bar, with a beautiful woman behind the bar, serving me overly-strong drinks.  I wrote a maudlin poem on the back of a Keno card, as I was frequently wont to do in those days.  I thrust it into my back pocket, thinking nothing of it, and promptly headed for the next new place.  My next memory is of stumbling down the sidewalk in a haphazardly drunk manner, sitting down on one of the benches, and vomiting violently between my feet.

When I came to, I was sitting on a hospital gurney next to a very large black man with a kindly face who just looked at me and said, "Welcome back." which confused me completely.  I had no clue what had transpired, where I was, how I got there, why I was there, etc.  All of this was filled in by this man for me.  After 6 more hours of sobering up, talking with 2 different psychologists to assure the hospital I wasn't a suicide threat (the found the poem and thought it indicated, given my absolutely fucked up state, that I was thinking of killing myself, apparently - People just can't understand great art anymore), and having to call my father so he could corroborate my mental state,  they let me go.  It took me two more hours to walk and find my car.  I also had to explain to the Operations Manager why I wasn't at work; thankfully he was very cool and took my reasoning that, "I can't tell you everything, but I'm ok and I'll tell you if we hang out before I leave." which I eventually did.

You would think that such an experience would be one hell of a wake up call and that I'd stop drinking.  If anything, I dove in further with a renewed vigor and self-destructive bent that this is when I first felt odd chest pains.  Thankfully they didn't persist to the level they eventually would, where years later I would have had multiple ER visits, EKGs, and stress tests.  Somehow I was able to keep myself in check just enough to avoid those, yet.

I got kicked out of the local bar one night for voicing my anger over them shutting off the jukebox after I had put 10 dollars in, of which I only got to hear only about six dollars worth of my songs.  Apparently I caused enough of a scene that I was barred from ever going back because I tried the next night and the same bartender was working.  When she saw me trying to sit down she made eye contact and shook her head, eyes blazing with hatred, disgust, and anger toward me.  I was still fairly sober for the night so I nodded resignedly and left without any trouble, never to try that place again.

From then on I stayed in the hotel room and drank alone, well, with the dog.  At the end of my 3 month stay I had acquired quite the collection of bottles and cans.  It took me multiple trips to the dumpster to throw all of them away.  All told there were 7 fifty-gallon contractor trash bags filled to near bursting.  They were my bags of shame and self-hatred that I was anxious to be free of, so I secreted them (as secret as bottles rattling together can be) down the hallways in the dead of night before I had to check out finally.

I'd like to say that was when I learned my lesson and discovered the strength needed to overcome my self-destructive tendencies, but alas, that's not the case.  In fact, I'm willing to say that was when I accepted that I couldn't handle the banality of my life without being drunk as often as possible.  I was successful in my work, made great money, and even had the respect of my peers and subordinates, but I really hated myself.

Anyway, that's a short description of my first foray into "hotel living".  There have been many since, and some far worse than even that, but that was the one that started a long dive into an even darker place than I understood until it was far too late.

Take care of yourselves.
-Phil

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Letter to my "niece" for her High School graduation


Katura,

   First, allow me to apologize for not being able to attend your graduation party. I am currently indisposed to easy travel by my own foolish mistakes, alas. Even were I capable of journeying to the engagement, I suspect that I would be less inclined to do so regardless, through no fault of your own, but rather my own discomfort. I don't readily enjoy people and their inane posturing at intelligent conversation (says the guy who writes with an equally inane air of arrogance). Also, I haven't been kind to your mother over the years even when she has exhibited a general fondness for me, much to my own shame. To top the excuses off: I just don't really know you. Yes, I knew of you as a baby, and yes I also knew of you as a toddler, and there were times when I interacted with you in your early teens, but that doesn't add up to actually knowing who you are as a young woman. Hell, I'm not even sure of your age; I assume it's 18 and will henceforth operate under this assumption (though they say to assume is make an ass of u and me). So, it's probably for the best that I don't force an awkward interaction and rather send this unsolicited letter and gifts that hopefully have some merit for you.
   So, you've graduated from high school. Well done! It's certainly no easy task to sit through class after increasingly dull class, surrounded by immature malcontents who constantly seek the stage of attention in order to combat their own obvious inadequacies, and succeed in crossing the finish line to attain a diploma which states that you are now well-versed in an education most general. I've heard that you also studied abroad, in Germany if I'm not mistaken, and my supposition of this must be that you're in some high standing intellectually. This is good. Perhaps some of our interactions when you were younger had some positive effect. I do recall stating very succinctly on various occasions to always remember the maxim: Knowledge is Power. Maybe that helped. Maybe not. Either way, it sounds as though you've at least realized some aspect of this truth, though I suspect, given your younger age and overall lack of experience in life (and I mean the “real world”), that you aren't yet fully aware of the implications therein, but that you are insightful enough to eventually intuit the whole lesson.
   What do I say to a newly anointed member of the so-called “real world”? Welcome to the shit-show could be apt, though perhaps a bit brutally honest. I'm not known for my soft skills, so this could be the proper greeting. But, rather than darken your thoughts with truths that can depress one and lead one into despair, I will instead offer some advice from one who has walked these darkest of paths and come out, not unscathed, but not wholly defeated either.
  1. Do not allow anyone (man or woman) lay hands on you in any way you don't desire.
  2. Be selfish, be selfless, be caring, be careless, be loving, be loved, be honest to others and yourself.
  3. Let no other person be the focus of your disappointment, for they will constantly do so regardless of your intent; allow that only to yourself and be beholden only as such.
  4. Don't be a fucking sheep. Follow no herd as they will lead to frenzied irrationality and valueless anarchy. Find your own truths and values and hold fast to them, no matter the opposition.
  5. Imbibe and experiment with alcohol and certain drugs (psilocybin is best) as you see fit, but do so in an educated manner and safe environment. Alcohol should be respected for what it is: The opiate of the masses. Indulge sparingly and never think it cannot become the crutch you come to lean on for all your problems; because it can and you will find that it eventually will break beneath your weight, taking you down to the worst places imaginable. Trust me, I know.
  6. Read. Always read. The lessons of the proper pathways to take in thought, belief, and life itself are all laid bare in the books of the past. You need only decipher them and apply them to yourself as you deem appropriate.
  7. Don't give in to the simplicity of animal lust, but rather instead, give in to honest love. As ridiculous as it sounds (even as I write it, I hate it), it's true: You'll know it when you find it.
  8. That said, you'll be heartbroken many times over and break twice as many hearts. It's all part of learning and parsing out the ones who don't fit.
  9. And further elaborating on the previous point: No other person in this world (until you have a child of your own) is worth your own life and dreams. There are over 7 billion of us on this rock and no matter how tough the loss, no matter how alone in despair you may feel after love lost; there will always be someone else, eventually.
  10. I could go on and on and on, but I'll stop here with the most important lesson of all: Ignore everything I've said and live your own life. You'll figure it all out and nothing anyone else tells you will really change who are and what choices you're going to make anyway. It's really just to make myself feel better, as though I've done my duty in passing knowledge along, when in reality, I'm a fuck-up and not one who should be giving advice.

   I'll end this meandering letter with an explanation, though I doubt it's actually needed, of the gifts I've sent. If you don't want to read The Story of Philosophy in it's entirety, then I would beg you to at least read the introduction. It's only a few pages long, but it's such a beautifully written explanation of the importance of philosophy and what it truly is, that you will be remiss if you don't. I have discovered in reading throughout my life that philosophy is where the greatest thinking is done and I wish I had spent my entire studies aimed specifically toward it as I feel I would be a much more enlightened person today. I hope you'll find the curiosity to study it yourself, whether as a hobby or more academically directed. The book I've given is a very brief overview, though well-written, and there are so many more philosophers and thinkers that I would happily recommend. Women, for instance, are historically given short shrift in the that field, but there are many who you should indulge yourself in. Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Phillippa Foot, Bell Hooks, just to name a few.
   Your mother just informed me via Instagram message (I asked) that you'll be studying International Business and Economics. Very ambitious and respectable to be sure! Planning to be a titan of industry then, I wonder? A politician? Activist? Lawyer? All interesting endeavors and I'm sure you'll be a smashing success in whatever you decide to pursue. Since I'm on the topic of philosophy already and this news has added new depth to my understanding of you, let me just say this: Do not compromise your values. I'm sure you know this, in theory, but when you're faced with moral dilemmas in “real world” situations, you may find that it's much tougher to stick to your inherent values when massive amounts of money are on the line. It's easy to devalue actual people when they're just numbers on a profit/loss sheet. The system is designed as such, on purpose.
   I've also included a book of poems and stories by my absolute favorite writer, Charles Bukowski; Run With The Hunter: A Charles Bukowski Reader. He was quite a shitty person when judged morally, but that doesn't change that he had such a transcendent power in his writing that can be readily realized upon reading. I wanted to be a writer for the longest time until I read Bukowski. I realized that someone else had already done what I had wanted to do: To take the written word and distill some of the greatest ideals of literature, poetry, and beauty down to the simplest terms, palatable to any person who reads it. (Another lesson: Don't compare yourself to others. It leads to cognitive dissonance and existential dread. Trust me, I know).
   The final book I've included is a text, and the translation of which, that changed me much as Bukowski and philosophy in general has done. The story behind my first reading of The Tao Te Ching is as follows: When I was 23 or so I worked a part-time job at a tobacco store in New Hampshire. I was a miserable fuck who enjoyed listening to overly maudlin folk music, somewhere in the Emo vein, and was more than willing to share this misery with everyone around me. It was the first time I fell into a hole of nihilism (something I struggle against constantly, even to this day) and couldn't seem to reconcile myself to any meaning in life. I could find no worthy endeavor to keep myself from drowning in a bottle, or shoving various pills down my throat, or tripping on acid and mushrooms just to try and justify existence. My supervisor, Jack, once asked me a question and it's one that I'm still trying to figure out. He said, “What's your abstract purpose?” He asked this out of a long conversation we had about disillusionment with life and the realities of the perpetual meaninglessness in it due to our eventual death. I thought, at that time, that there was no reason to committing oneself to any projects because we all eventually equate with no more than dust. Our influences in the present, regardless of whether they echo through the future for thousands of years, really mean nothing in the face of the eternal realities of the cosmos. This may be something you one day have to face yourself. I had no answer to Jack's question, so he loaned me his copy of The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu, translated by Stephen Mitchell. I did what I typically did in those days after work and got riotously drunk, but, in the hangover haze of the next morning, I fumbled through the pages of that book and something like mania overtook me. I felt an excitement and verve about the eternal. I felt the ecstasy of realization in the face of my eventual death. I was truly free, finally, in the understanding that only what we do while we're alive actually matters. It is the fleeting nature of our lives that frees us to revel in it entirely.
   I have since fallen multiple times into the pit of despair that one finds oneself when thinking too much about the nature of existence, consciousness, and morality, but I've found solace in books. Writers like Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jack Keroauc, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, Henry Miller, etc. ad nauseam, have helped me to escape from the banality of the day to day. Perhaps they can be of help to you as well, but then, perhaps you will have a stronger sense of yourself than I ever have and will thus, not have these existential crises. And speaking of existential crises, I can't say enough about the philosophical investigation known as Existentialism. Philosophers such as Jean Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietszche, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Soren Kierkegaard, and so many more, can be relied upon as guideposts in the investigation of one's Self and the very nature of Being. They will help to steel your mind against the awful and sometimes brutal nature of life.
  Ok, I've fucking rambled for too goddamn long and really should call it quits. Suffice it to say, I hope that you continue to do well in life. All I really remember of you is a small child who was fascinated with my gnarled beard. You asked why my neck was brown. And I remember a Christmas when I put my hatred for my father aside and tried to play along with the commonality of family for once. You were maybe 13? Well-spoken, though quiet, and clearly an intelligence blazing from behind your eyes, that only we, the truly intelligent, can recognize in one another (There's that inane arrogance again). Congratulations Katura, and good luck in all of your future endeavors. Take care of yourself.

Stay Strong. Stay Proud. Stay Focused.
-“Uncle” Phil Kapitan

P.S. If ever you find yourself in Worcester, MA for any length of time and wish to catch up with your arrogant, egotistical, self-centered, and generally prickly “uncle”, let me know and I'll gladly grab a cup of coffee with you. You can email me: Gonzoduke0@gmail.com and I'll drop everything (if I'm even actually doing anything) to do so.

I'll leave you with this, one of my favorite Charles Bukowski quotes, an excerpt from the poem, “Roll the dice”:

if you're going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling
like that.
you will be alone with the
gods
and the nights will flame
with fire.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Feeling Disillusionment

I don't do this shit anymore.  I just gave up on the whole experiment after a while.  There was too much on my plate, you see.  Between working full-time (at the time) and desperately fighting every day to stay sober, I just couldn't find the time, so to speak.  The fact is that if I had really felt like continuing, I could have.  But, really, the truth is, I just got sick of feeling obligated to do write something every day, which on its face is pretty fucking pathetic.  How hard is it to jot some bullshit down?  Not at all, too be honest.  I'm just a lazy sort.  I far prefer sitting in front of my television, binge-watching shows and movies as though they hold some hidden answer, while constantly feeling depressed at my lack of activity.  A paradox of my own making, I suppose.

So, what's the purpose to this little ditty that I'm happily typing away?  It's just that I've felt disillusioned by the podcast effort.  It's like the experiment is coming to its natural end, but I'm not sure if I'm just sick of it or I'm upset that I haven't been successful in some abstract way, which I have no actual definition for.  Maybe I had my hopes set too high from the outset, even though I tried convincing myself, and others, that I was just doing it as a genuine passion project, the truth is that I had some vision of becoming similar in some way or another to Joe Rogan or Marc Maron or Very Bad Wizards or Partially Examined Life or etc. ad nauseam.

The facts are though, that 1. I don't have the money or equipment for such an endeavor.  2. I don't know the right people and don't like chasing anyone down. 3. I'm not even sure what I was trying to do beyond trying to have people over for conversations that I thought were enlightening in some way.  So, much like most of the things I've attempted in life, I've failed, yet again, alas.  Or, rather, I'm going to give up.  That's more akin to the truth, I suppose.

And so, on this amazingly San Diegoesque Saturday, I'm sitting in Nu Kitchen (used to be called Nu Cafe), typing up a really shitty eulogy to the Hangover Haze Show and it's subsequent subset, Thirsty Thursday.  I bailed on this week's edition of the latter portion of the show because I just don't feel like doing the damn thing when I've been feeling this way.  I don't have anything substantive to say or offer the world.  It's quite depressing.

Sobriety has been really lame, since I'm being so honest.  With it came a renewed interest in reading and learning, which I certainly find to be a huge plus, but really, I'm bored all the time.  I stay away from people due to my intense want to forget everything, always.  My therapist recommends that I join some sort of fucking group so I can meet people.  No, not the AA kind or anything, more along the lines of a Chess Club, or a Book Club, or a Film Club or a etc. ad nauseam. 

But, the fact is I fucking hate most people.  Hell, I even vaguely hate most of my truly best friends.  It's a torturous place to find oneself mired, alas.

I even went so far as to go out last night in an effort to get along with some co-workers, but that was a fucking disaster.  It was, of course, at a bar, as most things in the adult world tend to be, and after 30 minutes of tolerating the obnoxiousness of the drunkards I was surrounded by, I wanted to bolt.  I muscled through and stayed for about 2 hours, sipping O'Douls or Red Bull, both of which I hate.  When I was finally able to Irish goodbye my way out, I power-walked the mile and a half home in record time, regretting wasting the effort.

I'm not sure most people really understand what sort of lonely and isolated existence I'm subsisting in.  Maybe it's my fault.  More than likely, I suppose, alas.  Fuck it.

Take care of yourselves.

-Phil

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Trades are an option

I recently had a discussion for the Hangover Haze Show with a good friend of mine who has worked extensively in the trades for years.  He has installed solar, done carpentry and achieved his Construction Supervisor's License, has gone to Electrical school and will eventually have his Journeyman's License in Electrical.  So it would be fair to say that he's well-versed.

We spoke about the trades as a viable option instead of going to college for Computer Science, or an English degree, or god forbid, an advanced degree in Gender Studies (haha).

There's a glut of trade work available currently due to the fact that the baby boomers are retiring or dying off and for many years in the late 80s through the early 2000s the emphasis was on going to college.  There was a negative stigma placed on people who were trades workers.  They were viewed as beer drinking, large gutted, moronic plebeians without the capacity for complex thought or decision making.

Those folks are the ones who are currently having the last laugh though.  While it's true, if you're a prodigy in Software Engineering who teams up with someone that can effectively market your app, chances are you'll make a bundle of money and be able to retire early, or re-invest and move up the entrepreneur ladder, much like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. 

But the truth of the matter is, you're most likely to end up as a mid-level programmer for a larger company.  Just another cog in their massive machine.  A faceless entity who draws a decent weekly paycheck without the trappings of fame and glory.

And generally, in both instances, you'll be hiring tradespeople to do the work on your house, property, and car because you lack the necessary skills to do so yourself effectively.  Not to mention negotiating the depth of red tape local governments provide when trying to permit certain projects.

I've worked in solar and construction and also have my Construction Supervisor's License and I've operated a good deal of heavy machinery that would seem foreign and daunting to most people.  I participated in various masonry and landscape projects.  I grew up in my father's auto mechanic shop and some of the earliest photos of me are in my godfather's junkyard and around hardcore grease monkey's.  I've swapped engines in my car twice as well as other more advanced mechanical projects.  Over my years I've attained at least an intermediate skill level in electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. 

In other words, not only am I extremely well read (humble too!), but I can also build and provide the maintenance of a house as well as the property it sits on and if I were so inclined, could maintain my vehicle as well and fix it in most instances of it breaking down. 

There's a great deal of money to made in the trades and I've often considered opening my own construction company and pursuing that route, but I also find that while I do enjoy the somewhat mental challenges and physical strain of that type of work, my happiness lies in the cerebral pursuits of the highest levels.  Namely, Psychology and Philosophy. 

But, I urge those who are thinking that perhaps college isn't for them and that they'd like to make a successful life for themselves otherwise, to consider one of the many skilled labor trades.  There will be plenty of work for you once you're licensed and I know many people who make more money per year than high-level IT professionals.

I was one of them.

Take care of yourselves.
-Phil

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Schedule going forward

I originally started this blog as an attempt to write a post every day.  I was able to do so, for the most part, except when I would get busy with other things, run out of ideas to write, or just got plain old lazy.  Then I would make up for it by writing 2 the following day.

This was all fine and dandy when I was unemployed, which has changed recently.  So, between a full-time job, the Thirsty Thursday episodes, and trying to get people on for the weekly Hangover Haze Show episodes, I don't have a wealth of time to commit to blogging every day.

I also found there were days that I would be struggling to find topics to write about and I would much rather write posts of substance, rather than crank out anything that pops in my head just to live up to the daily deadline that was self-imposed.

So, this is my official announcement that I won't be writing a blog post every day.  I'll be writing them whenever I'm struck by the writing bug and I feel I have something worthwhile to share.  Sometimes that might be many within a day and then other times it may be nothing at all for multiple days on end.

I'm sure this will inconvenience absolutely no one at all, but I figured that I may as well be honest and let people know what's going on.

As always, please feel free to send emails directly to HangoverHaze@gmail.com and now you can even leave a voicemail at 774-243-2181.

Take care of yourselves.

-Phil

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

My own Arrogance

Why am I so fucking arrogant?  It's something I've been for a long time and it's been detrimental to my interactions with a lot of different people throughout my life.  Including the ladies, as it were. 

As far back as I can remember...well, that's not totally true...I recall being a very young age and my demeanor was rather pleasant.  I was known in the neighborhood for walking right up to the perfect stranger and introducing myself with a smile.  Dangerous practices to be sure, but still, there was something at one point in me that lacked the arrogance that drips off of me now.

Somewhere along the line of life I transitioned to an overly self-assured prick.  Combined with my constant judgment of everyone and the selfish bent of my character and frankly you've got a terrible human being.  I'm not really sure why people even call me "friend".

I think the arrogance started to rear it's humble head (haha!) as I tore through literature, which gave me a different understanding of life itself, and after going through being locked away for "anger management" problems with a bunch of hormonal teens, followed by a stint in the foster system, and finally being bullied consistently by my friends.

Arrogance, for me, comes from a place of being so utterly confident in that moment that I drop all pretense of humility.  After all, humility is really only used as a disguise so as to not embarrass anyone around us who may not be of the same understanding.  I had also spent much of my life being a passive bystander to my abuse, which involved continuous berating, belittling, and beatings, and I no longer allow people to walk all over me anymore.  I refuse to be a victim of anyone else.

There are far better ways for me to stand up for myself and commit to a life where I won't be victimized, but I'm still learning how to process and move forward in a healthy way.  So, if you've been a victim of my arrogance all I can do is say, I'm truly sorry.  I'm working on it and it's going to take a while for me to change.

Take care of yourselves.

-Phil

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Remembering 9/11

The night before I had quit my shitty job as a gas station attendant.  It was an overnight gig where I would sit in a booth for 8 hours, get stoned or drunk, and dispense snacks or cigarettes to customers through a drawer from behind bulletproof glass.  

I recall the Assistant Manager of the place practically begging me to cover for the night so she could plan the rest of the week properly while she tried to find a replacement, but I was being stubborn and told her that I'd had enough and couldn't handle it anymore, which was true.  So, I sat with my roommates and got stoned all night before heading off to bed.

When I woke up it was probably 7:30AM or so.  I doddered around the apartment in a bit of a daze, due not only to the stoned sleep I had woken from, but also realizing the reality of what I had done.  I had no plan for a new job whatsoever, yet I had casually bailed on a steady income.  There was a thrill to it, but also a bit of panic.

After eating breakfast I plopped down in front of the computer in my bedroom to start the job search.  In 2001 everyone was still using AOL Instant Messenger, so I made sure to fire mine up to keep communication with friends if they were around.  Most of them would probably be in class as we were 19 years old at the time.

Matt was the first to send me an IM.  It just said, "Turn on the news now!".  This alarmed me a bit as he knew that I wasn't very partial to watching the news.  I walked into the living room and turned on the TV and switched it to one of the major news channels.  I was instantly stunned by what I saw.  One of the Twin Towers of New York City had apparently experienced a major explosion.  

I sat in rapt attention as the reporters struggled to explain what they could only infer was happening.  No one knew for sure, other than there was a massive burning hole in the side of one of the towers.  What happened after that started to alarm more people as cell phone service was quickly being interrupted, not only in New York, but across New England and then the East Coast entirely.  

When the second plane hit, I was watching it happen live.  I can remember the news anchor remarking that there was a large plan coming into view and it seemed to be traveling far too low within the cities limits.  Then in slammed into the side of the second tower and even the people in the news studio couldn't disguise their alarm and horror.

That's when I yelled out myself and ran to Tom's room, slamming on his door to wake him and his companion up.  He groggily answered the door asking what was wrong and I just said, "Someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center tower."  His eyes widened and he quickly got his robe on and joined me in the living room.  

We sat in stunned silence as we flipped through the various news stations to see each one repeating, from various angles, the footage of the plane hitting the second tower.  Tom's guest, who was a Danish woman that had come to visit him, came out and joined us after a little while.  We all sat around speculating what was happening.

Dan came home from wherever he had been.  If I recall he had been let out of work early as most places were doing.  Matt informed me on IM that classes at Fitchburg State had been let out and cancelled and all buildings over a certain height in New England were to be evacuated.  F-15s were scrambled and were soon circling NYC.

The United States of America's heart and soul had been attacked by radicals from the Middle East.  They had struck directly and purposefully by flying 2 massive 747s into both of the World Trade Center Towers.  

Around 9:30AM or so we all watched as the second tower collapsed down to the streets below.  Massive clouds of smoke swelled through the city streets.  There was footage of hordes of people screaming and running away as quickly as they could.  Then, around 10AM or so, the first tower fell as well.

Thousands of people died that day.  Innocents who were just going about their day.  People on the flights, people in the towers, people on the streets, and then the heroes who did their best to rescue those in need.  So many lives lost because of radical beliefs.  Fanaticism at it's worst.

I remember my friends all meeting up and chatting about it.  We talked about how the country was going to war.  It must be.  This was the first direct foreign attack on the country since Pearl Harbor and it was shaping up to be far worse.

Later in the evening some of the cell service was recovered and I remember Tom's friend called back home to Denmark to talk to her family and assure them she was alright.  While on the phone she started to laugh with whomever she was chatting with in her native tongue.  Meanwhile in the background on the news they were still tallying the death toll.  At one point she even had the gall to say something along the lines of, "Now America understands what the rest of the world deals with."

I understand what she meant by that remark, but there's a time and place to say such criticisms and I definitely disagree with her timing.  I think my anger was very evident because Tom ushered her into his room.  She ended up leaving earlier than she had planned and later on Tom explained that he told her she needed to go because she was being utterly inappropriate.  Good on him for that!

Being jobless, I was glued to the TV for the next week or so as more and more information came to light.  I watched the footage as they played repeatedly.  I still feel the horror at watching as people would jump from 30+ stories up to escape being burned to death, only to fall to their deaths below.

17 years later, it still saddens me that this is the type of world we live in.  Other atrocities have happened since, and I suspect, will continue to.  This is a world where nihilism, fanatical radicalism, and mental instability cause people to go on shooting rampages.  Where bombings happen in places where the most people gather so as to cause maximum carnage.  

It's a world I don't understand.

My thoughts go out to people who suffer.  Any type of suffering.  That which is caused by others, that which has been caused by me, and that which seems to surround you for no other reason than being alive.  It's not easy to navigate our ways through this thing called life.  It's even harder to understand the reason for any of it, but I try my best to take solace in the kindnesses that others are capable of.

Be kind whenever possible.

Take care of yourselves.

-Phil