Archive for October, 2011

names.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2011 by darryl zero

My name, for those of you that don’t know it, is Alfred Darryl Moton, Jr. I’m named for my father (that’s him on the left) who was, in turn, named for his uncle Alfred, and the legendary film producer Darryl Zanuck. Family tradition on his side stipulates that the eldest son is named for the father; my paternal grandfather (he’s the guy standing next to my dad)’s name was McKinley Matthew Moton II. Or was it “Jr.?” I can never remember these things. Anyway, Dad’s the second-oldest son, my Uncle McKinley being “MMMIII,” as it were. The Moton family is, as I’ve discovered over the past couple of years, very, very large; that, combined with the general traditions within the family, should have lent itself to my realizing just how common my name could conceivably be.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

My best friend Steven is a sixty-something, twice-divorced guy with an un-ironic moustache, a voice deeper than God’s impression of James Earl Jones singing Barry White covers, and one of the most adept analytical minds I’ve ever met. We used to meet once a week for dinner and conversation; back when we worked together at a higher-ed nonprofit, we used our weekly sessions for the kind of emotional decompression only the most like-minded can truly experience. I doubt he’d particularly mind if I said there was something of a mentor/protegé-esque dynamic to our relationship; indeed, in many contexts, he’s provided me with the kind of advice I’d sought from, for instance, my dad.

I mention Steven only because one of his defining quirks is his attention-to-detail when it comes to the connections between things. Just as my neurotic trivial memory conjures up the connections between albums, comics, books, films, and other useless miscellany, Steven’s good at picking up on the things that happen in his life that draw threads between major events, and–more importantly–he’s good at picking up on the significance of the connections. In the words of my fictional nicknamesake, he “reads between the crumbs” to an extent I could only dream of being able to.

Like I said, Steven has served in a function long-abandoned by my biological father who, try though he might, doesn’t really do much in the way of fathering since I aged past the age at which his ass-whoopings were a viable threat. For as much as I want to love my father, our relationship…well, it sucks. It sucks, in a way that makes me bristle with something approaching disgust from the realm of vicious anger when I see my cousins talk about how fantastic their relationship with him is now that he’s jettisoned my mother in favor of his new wife. I try to say all of this without bitterness, although most of you reading this know I probably want to love my dad more than I actually do, but it’s easy to really look at all the interactions my dad has with his families, new and old, in his new life, and remember all the times I failed to be even visible to him over the years. It set the tone for a lot of what I’ve done with my life, relationship-wise.

It’s funny; whenever my dad does some stupid, fucked-up thing, my first reaction is to draw upon our connection–not only that we’re related by blood, but also that we’re exactly alike in so many ways, and completely unintentionally at that. It makes the fact that we have the same name all the more fitting, telling, and tragic, and so I often use that as the basic yardstick, imploring him sarcastically to “stay classy, namesake.”

It feels weird to bring this up as a means of bringing up what I’m about to bring up, but I mention all of this because it’s easy to get caught up in how frustrating my relationship with my father is, and how much I feel like I’ve missed out upon because of whatever reason (the actual reason isn’t important anymore). I can think of so many times in my life when I remember my dad doing some serious, nurturing, good-natured, actual bonding activities with people, it’s usually with other people’s kids. (No, I haven’t forgotten him taking Matt Corones–a kid two years older than I–to see Public Enemy when they played my hometown. They wouldn’t play my home state until long after I’d left. If nothing else, I deserve to be bitter about that. I still haven’t seen them.) Having such an association of disconnect and dysfunction with one’s father, even if it’s nowhere near as bad as some other folks’, still hurts, and cuts.

It’s particularly painful when you don’t really see much meaning, value, or point to your own life as an adult. I think about dying a lot (as anyone who knows me surely knows), and it’s vexing, not wanting to live, yet living out of fear of not living. It sounds cheap and suburban–and, fuck, maybe it is, I’m man enough to admit that much–but the emptiness of my current existence causes everything to reverberate the moment it passes through, and even the dead weight of my father’s general disengagement rings as clearly as a fucking bell.

Out of boredom, the other day, I googled my name, and was surprised to find the number of Alfred Motons out there. I’d done it a couple times before in the past, turning up a guy playing college football for some small school in Texas; didn’t expect to find much.

Hopefully, you all can understand my surprise when, as the first result, I read that Alfred Moton Jr. died last year, right around this time. Not only that, but he was shot to death, tragically (as if a shooting death is ever anything but tragic), by Alfred Moton Sr.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my mind immediately flashed to the American Splendor monologue:

The idea that, for eighteen years, there was another Alfred Moton Jr., a guy who had his own nicknames, thoughts, identity, everything–but still tied to both his name, and the name of the man who helped gave him life, was mind-fuck enough. To know that this Alfred Moton Jr. had an equally contentious relationship with his father wasn’t entirely out-of-the-question, as young men have issues with their fathers these days.

But knowing that this Alfred Moton Jr. was dead–and, not only was he dead, but he was dead at the hand of this other Alfred Moton, the one that gave him his life, and his name–that shook me. I went to Alfred Jr.’s facebook page, or tried to; there was only a year-old tribute page full of pictures with a light-skinned brother with a bright smile and telltale signs of the same youthful energy that makes every kid beautiful. He’s a kid,, I thought, and felt the lump form in my throat. He was a kid.

Was.

I remember what I felt like at that age, barely 18, attacking college with an enthusiasm I never thought I could attack anything with. I remembered meeting Langely, and Muhammad, and finally getting to hold Cori close and kiss her and our own stupid, sincere, ill-fated pledge to each other, and learning how to play music and that weird, apocryphal, incomprehensibly joyous confusion that is learning how to be in a band. And then I thought of everything that happened after that, Jordan and Jen, Danielle and April and Allie–Allison, the great love, all the great loves, all of which I carry to this fucking day, and remember how all of that kicked into gear when I was barely 18. It was the only time I can say unqualifiably that I wanted to live, and I knew that’s how Alfred must have felt then, that’s all anyone that age feels is a desire, an aching, a burning need to just be.

He could have been the one who made it, the one who made such a name for himself that people would hear the name “Alfred Moton” and think of something special, something significant, something that would make me smile with a bizarre sense of pride and say “that young guy stole my name,” only with a winking sense of glee, because I’d be sharing something beautiful with someone wonderful.

But that’s not going to happen. Because Alfred Moton had a shitty relationship with his father, who was a damaged man capable of horrible things, and because of that Alfred Moton, Alfred Moton Jr. doesn’t get to do anything other than be a sad story of tragic loss, the memory of a friend, brother, boyfriend, student, cousin, grandson, and son who was taken from the world before he should have been.

It’s illogical, irrational, and maybe even a bit selfish, but I feel a sense of loss, kind of like what Pekar said. I never knew Alfred Moton Jr., or the father who gave and then took his life, but I feel a kinship with both men. I wish I knew them. I wish they weren’t gone. I wish they were everything I wish my father and I were, because the world needs more fathers and sons, names and namesakes, that actually act like family.

I miss them, if that’s possible, or at least I miss what they could have been.

Just a thought.

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old blogs.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2011 by darryl zero

11.02.2004 :: 01:29

monday.”

if we are to go on co-existing, there are things i would like to discuss like why your favorite things make you so selfish,

and who these people are posin’ as us…

“I think,” she said, “I’ve spent more time sitting in my car with you talking than I have with any other person,” and I was laughing inside, the memory of her in the driver’s seat, the heat from our breaths catching on the smoky windows and coagulating while the christmas lights from the houses caught and spread.  The haze around her head completely elevated me because it was so fucking real, I mean present and meaningful not in a poetic way but in that simplistic way solipsists like me chase around every dark corner of the world, it was there, no real reason other than it had to be there, and I immediately believed in her then.  I missed her when I was in Iowa, it was barely there while I was establishing what I established with Allie and Mackenzie but it was always there, something that kept me checking my email every day, waiting for little bits/bytes of her to be there for me.  She was waiting for me to come back, she’d decided that when we parted at 3am that night in December, she was waiting for me, and that was perhaps what made me feel free enough to enjoy what little time I enjoyed there, the liberation that comes when you know, actually know you have something at the end, and whatever happened in the now would tell the rest of the story but at least it would be an adventure.

But that was two months ago, before she’d told me she had something to ask me in those small black letters, before I’d driven the hours in Iowa snow to see Allie, before I’d shoveled three days of Oregon snow out of the driveway just to see her, before I’d poured her the enormous glass of vodka so she could ask me what she asked me and why didn’t I fucking realize it then?, before the parts of me and parts of her became Us, and I was only laughing inside, because I was still confused and hurt from everything that had happened in-between then and now.

I’d found her sister’s place faster than I’d expected, a townhouse on a side street near the Lloyd Center on a corner with brick buildings and polite-looking houses.  I recognized the neighborhood; my shrink’s office was two blocks north and a few more west.  Despite having taken ten minutes to clean out the car, thirty to drive to the office to pick up money owed for gas and check my email and another twenty to drive from Beaverton across downtown, I still managed to beat them there.  I listened to Maserati the whole way, Closer Than You Know How filling my senses and spilling out the open window as I soared over the I-5 bridge and the city filled the windy air, and something resembling fear pushed through the detachment and settled into my chest, coupled with that new sensation I hadn’t expected, the want, that elated, flabbergasted want.

i’ll learn to dance with the winds that are blowing,

away to the country my heart calls home,

so at least you will be safe in the knowing

you’ll never wander these fields alone…

I walked in circles for about five minutes before I actually found the place, unable to distinguish any structure from one another before the numbers from her sister’s directions began to make sense. I rapped on the door twice. Then louder. After a minute, I rang the doorbell; getting no response, I pivoted and walked back to the car, the familiar twinge in my stomach began again, and I knew this time it had nothing to do with hunger. I had my hand on the door handle before a passing cyclist caught my attention. “Where’s the nearest convenience store?” I asked.

“There’s a 7-11 on 21st,” he replied, startled.

“Thank you.”

The pay phone felt ugly and alien in my hands. I dialed the number by memory, the third number I’d grown to memorize associated with her name.

“Hola,” she said.

“Donde esta usted?”

“Um…” she trailed off; I was surprised and cruelly delighted to recall that, despite the tenure she’d spent in L.A., she had absolutely no knowledge of Spanish.

“Where are you?” I repeated, this time in English. At the back of my mind, some idle part of my brain put the Maserati song down for a second and toyed with the concept of formal verb forms.

“Oh, we’re two seconds away” was her reply; she seemed as jovial as ever, words coming with a warmth that hardened the edges of my emotions, bitterness building with a slowly-returning frustrated fear that asked more questions than my detachment could accommodate. It returned in a second, hitting long enough for me to detect it in my voice as she asked where I was and I responded. I hung up and walked back, warm enough in my coat but uncomfortably encumbered, feeling strangely immobile.

I ditched the coat back at the car and looked around the corner, where she sat, smoking a cigarette on the curb, and I wish it could say it was the temperature that made me cold again, but really it was just the sight of her, bringing back every second on the plastic mat beneath my grandfather’s desk and the corner of the kitchen and the chair in the den, all of which I’d inhabited at various points in time over the weekend crying in my own various ways.

I started talking to her then, simple greeting at first as I eased my frame, still sore from the inexplicable exercise of bowling, down to the curb a couple feet from her. She replied, simply and analytically, and it was almost like that first night at the Pied Cow, me trying not to stare at her too intently but afraid to break eye contact, not wanting the dream of her actually wanting to see me to end, not wanting the interesting, thoughtful, beautiful woman whose first words to me questioned my sexuality to retreat back to wherever perfect place she undoubtedly came from. She told me again what she’d told me on the phone an hour earlier, that she and her sister were headed to the coast, adding that her mother had issued the edict, and it made sense to me, if only at the time.

She finished her cigarette and asked if we could migrate to the car, and I agreed. It was in the vehicle, safe in a place where I knew at least I couldn’t escape, that I told her everything I could think to tell her, that I really wanted it to work, that I was willing to give her my heart, but she was giving me every reason to not do it, that I had placed my trust in her and was starting to think my trust had been misplaced, and a few other things that I don’t feel comfortable mentioning here, and it felt so good to be fucking honest that it didn’t matter that I was worried at how suspiciously agreeable she was.

When I was done, I realized she was touching my face, and the softness of her hands, the delicacy with which she treated every movement of her fingers made me close my eyes in spite of myself.She’s going to do it now, I thought, this is where she’s going to drop me and leave me all alone,

and I could have sworn I saw something in her face that filtered through into her voice, something suggesting she was about to do just that, but it came out as “I don’t know.”

I told her I was worried about her, and that I wanted to help her in any way that I can, and I could wait for her, but for my own selfish reasons I wanted, for lack of a more articulate description, to remain her “boyfriend,” the word rolled off her lips weeks ago and I never ever expected to hear it, and it felt better than I imagined but when I said it, it came out tentative and rushed.

She said she needed to figure some things out, and that she still wanted to spend time with me, and we talked for a little while more then but avoided anything serious. We went inside then, joining her sister, who was packing for the trip, before returning to the car, this time with her sitting in the passenger’s seat, sister behind the wheel.

“Goodbye, beautiful boy,” she said softly, the name she’d called me the few times I’d actually seen her during the week.

“Be safe,” I said.

i’m alive, and that’s all i can say.

No need to coax you away from your play.

No need to cloudy your sunshine day.

i give up, and i’m running away.

As the car pulled away, I felt a certain calmness settle into me, a real calmness and not the fake detachment I inherited from my father to keep me from hurting others, and a peace that came with the suspicions and facts of the matter that didn’t quite make sense. Despite all of the questions, I knew at least enough to develop a picture of what was going on, and I’d done all I could. All I could do then was wait, wait until tomorrow, or the “tomorrow” she’d mentioned, the tomorrow during which she promised she’d call.

Tuesday has come and gone, and I’m still waiting.

But that’s the way it is.

And the way it feels.