Rooftop Reminiscence

Several days ago my old buddies Gregg & his brother Scott got together to shoot some pool & quietly celebrate Greggs birthday.  We were sitting around essentially talking about a heady melange of health problems, layoffs, wives, money woes & in my case children, and Scott stated:

“Guys, remember when we used to hang out on the roof of Dave’s apartment building, drinking beers , having loads of cash and not a care in the world?”

As the words sunk in I thought dreamily, “Yeah… It certainly was a time…”  It was in the early 90’s, we’d graduated high school and were all working our way through our first semester of community college with surprisingly well paying jobs.  Dave dubbed it “Golden Semester”.  Also in the sitcom-like history of “wacky bachelor antics” on the roof of our friend Dave’s apartment complex we had nocturnally decorated a parody of a living room with discarded furniture we had found.  At it’s zenith we had a battered black couch, 3 arm chairs,  a dresser, and for humor’s sake a broken TV on a stand; I even think we had a throw rug.  In hindsight I can’t even imagine having the energy to silently move a living room set up 5 flights of stairs, ah youth.

While I remember many favorable things from those days (amongst them being thin) what is wince inducing was  our “arrogance”.  We were all just so utterly certain we’d be successful.  It wasn’t entirely our fault we felt this way, there was a decent economy, we had plenty of expendable income, and we had cruised through the previous 12 years of schooling with great grades & little effort and our teachers all but assuring us grand achievements.  Things were different & we were pretty innocent.  Less than 10 minutes ago Shu called me to let me know in no uncertain terms that she did the math (she handles the bills & is very good at it, while I’m better at sulking & making internet posts) and we are going to be dramaticly short on rent.  Reality.  I’m hoping a second job interview that I have Monday will go well but we are talking about other plans that involve severely menial work, low pay & shit hours just to survive.  I think about that kid leaning on the ledge of the roof staring at the stars (you could still see them then) feeling the world was laid out before me; now I feel fated to the same degradation, back breaking labour and early grave that took my dad. 

Even though as I sit here,  I can still smell the cool night air of those evenings and smile, shaking my head at the recklessness we had as we’d run from building to building on the narrow passes desiged only to keep the rain off people’s heads, lucky we didn’t break our necks; I do know that at least I’m a better man than I was then; well, not so much better but deeper & more responsible.  Sure I admit, I have kids, the bar has to be raised…  I also admit I feel much more like damaged goods, but even though I admit that I have fallen quite deeply into despair I do  know at least I will do what I have to in order to keep us afloat.   A small comfort,  but I’ll take what confidence I can find since I’ve no faith in anything other that that one small thing at least…  That more than anything else is what my father left me; and I’m really glad he did.

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4 Responses to “Rooftop Reminiscence”

  1. While I like this prose…I feel it’s a rather foregone pessimism and defeat.

    I for one don’t feel unsuccessful. True, I’m not the richest man in the world, I don’t own a house.

    I’m also 35….not a kid….not a lot of time to screw around…but I’m not ready to believe I’m anywhere near done. As I read this…I’m taking a break on a Saturday night 1:30 am. I just completed an online certification of Adobe Illustrator CS4…and now I’m switching between “Teach yourself Visually HTML and CSS” as well as the “HTML, XHTML & CSS Visual quickstart guide.” I’ve just finished “Shopclass” by Matthew Crawford that talks about preparing yourself for the career tide of the uncertain future.

    Yes, the fact is ….shockingly, we literally have to work harder than our parents. I would never have thought that would actually happen, but here we are. The amazing thing is we also have waaaay more opportunity to educate ourselves than our parents ever had.

    Knowledge is literally flying around faster and faster every day…forget traditional school. Online resources are EVERYWHERE. Learning has never been so accessible.

    I am scared to death what COULD happen tomorrow….quite literally paralyzed by it sometimes actually. But instead of succumbing to that fear…(I do let it knock me down from time to time) I get my ass to a library or a site like Lynda.com and take an hours worth of training.

    Now…I know I don’t have kids…and I’m sure time is very limited, but I PROMISE you….if you took an hour or two a day and put it toward learning a specific skill, you’d be shocked where you’d be in a year or 2. Learning something new and valuably will make you feel better also…more positive, more hopeful.

    I say this because I hate to see someone younger than me sound ready to concede defeat. If you say it enough, you’ll believe it and when you believe it…it can’t help but be true. I know that sounds like some bullshit “the secret” dimestore philosophy, but it’s so godamned true.

    At this stage….frankly you’re not going to get out of this situation overnight.
    The road to a level of success is probably a two or three year climb….but you’re only 33…..you’re only 33……you’re not middle aged as much as you might feel it…but if you don’t get something going NOW….you really will be too old or too sick to do anything.

    Now…you could say….and probably will say…”We’ll you’re an art director for the Art Institute, this is easy for you to say”….we’ll that’s partly true…I’ve had it a bit easier, but I promise you if I didn’t work 60+ hours a week for literally the last 10 years…I’d have been passed by long ago. I also spend most of my “free” time when I’m not hanging out with you guys or a few spare hours with my wife on Saturday….reading or learning something to stay relevant…it’s a constant, sometimes exhausting pursuit. I’m also staring down the barrel of a career in an industry that is dying day by day…print is absolutely dying and I have to make myself ready to design for online & mobile content…or go live in a tent.

    I don’t know what else to say Dom….I’m scared as hell..I really am.
    I’ve just arrived at the exact point in my life where I thought I would start a family…maybe buy a house….and guess what?….the economy turned to shit and I can’t buy a house….Andrea and I have had the conversation about whether or not to have children in all of this…but we’re going to start trying at the end of this year because there HAS to be hope….and something to fight for ( and yes….I am channeling Samwise Gamgee apparently)

    In the end…I guess it’s really how you measure success….and when I see a man that CHOSE to take care of three children…that CHOOSES to not abandon his responsibilities and manages to keep food on the table…I see a successful person, but I think about those rooftop days as well and I miss the Dom from those days…I miss the optimism.

    My parents didn’t meet or marry before they were 40…they did not own a home AND they had no money when they met and they made it all happen…after 40.

    Don’t concede defeat….if you start to take better care of yourself and seriously start to move toward a realistic goal…you can really start to think of today as a beginning, not an end.

    It took a lot more than you’re aware of to get myself to this mindset…I’ve hit the reset button a few times….I’ve crawled back from ruined credit, bill collectors up my ass day and night, years of therapy ( yeah…I’ve had some dark…dark days), and a fairly serious heart condition that I don’t talk about too often because it literally cause me to freeze up.

    I’m not going to read this back, because it’s probably retarded rambling and extremely poorly put together…I’ll just chalk it up to stream of conciousness…but know that I’m sincerly concerned….yet optimistic that you have the time to start again. It really starts (however slightly) with an attitude adjustment…however that can happen for you. I belive you’re intelligent enough and willful enough to be able to change….maybe not into a rock legend at this point….but you know what I mean.

    • kingbiscuitpants Says:

      Thank you very much for the words of encouragement, the works of respect and the reading of my crazy ass rambling. Admittedly I was is an understandably pessimistic mood when I wrote it because halfway into typing I had the rent bomb dropped on me. Hopefully my chef job interview will work out tomorrow and thanks for the advice & encouragement. I guess that’s why I write this stuff; it’s like a diary for exhibitionists and it helps me work stuff out & I usually feel a little better after I write even the most depressing crap. Sometimes the fear gets to me (like when I posted that post) but I know I’m trying. I miss that optimistic kid on the rooftop too, but I at least have respect for the fat man on the ground.

  2. for what it’s worth – I thought it was written REALLY well. Depressing as all fuck, but well written.
    I miss my own optimistic kid on the rooftop, but I wouldn’t trade places for the world. I’ve been there, done that, and no matter how hard things get or how scared I may be – I know that I’m better for the experience. And I’ve got a decade on you, junior!

    I agree with Scott that Iron Maiden is probably never going to call you in for some sessions work, however, your varied interests and your tenacity serve you better than you may know. Just keep swimming. . .
    Your dad would be proud of you.

    • kingbiscuitpants Says:

      Thank you once again for the words of encouragement and compliment on my writing. I am doing all right even though the weenie sling job has just crashed & burned (more on that later) I was just in “quite a mood” while writing it, and I’m checking out a few other jobs today so there is hope.
      thanks dom

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