Local Flooding

Many of you will remember the terrible floods in Colorado that occurred mid September. A few days ago I had an opportunity to visit one of the mobile home parks that was close to a river, and like many others, completely destroyed.

flood ruinsInitial estimates said there was at least $230 million in damages to property and infrastructure. This does not begin to measure the emotional cost when families who can least afford it lose their home and all belongings.

flood interiorNote the various water lines in the above photo. My guess is the entire home was submerged and like many others was lifted off its foundation and moved. Can people living in a mobile home park afford flood insurance? Were they required to have it, living so close to a river? Will they ever be whole again, with a home of their own?

flood remnantsEverywhere I looked there were scattered ruins. Toys, clothes, appliances, barbecues, old photo albums, tools, and everything else a family collects and depends on.

muddy interiorThe above photo illustrates what’s left in someone’s bedroom after the water has dried. The water that rushed into these homes was a toxic mix of oil, waste water, and other contaminants. Initial estimates were that 2,900 homes were impacted by this flood in just Weld county. Other adjacent counties were also devastated, and people died.

we will miss..While the human spirit endures, there is a randomness to the universe that is real and perilous. Nature always seems to have its way, and we are often in the way.

© 2013 Michael Fiveson

The Ride

My father sold Oldsmobiles in 1965, and as a favor to those customers in our immediate community, he would take their car in for service and leave his own ride at home. On this particular day that ride was a 442 which was beautiful and strong. In a time when muscle cars were a reality, this one was a behemoth and when I saw that he left the keys on his dresser, I thought I should take it out for a spin. Never mind that I was only 16 and would not have my driver’s license for another year. I was somewhere between crazy and emotionally challenged, so I grabbed his keys and fired that beast up.

Drifting through our residential neighborhood I decided to pick up my friend David, who was the son of a dentist. I tell you that so you would know that it was a nice neighborhood and I had intelligent friends. Not all of their friends were particularly bright, and on this day David made a bad choice when he agreed to go for a ride with the likes of me. He seemed impressed that I was driving this car and perhaps the cool factor overtook his common sense. He had no idea what was in store for him as I continued to casually cruise our neighborhood, deciding to head back to his narrow street where many children played, and all was safe and well.

His street was very narrow with cars parked on each side. This created a very tight fit for two cars heading in opposite directions. As such, the speed limit was only 15mph. I wanted to do something crazy that day; needed to, because taking my father’s car apparently was not enough. Driving without a license came with little risk, so I decided to up the ante some.

As I turned onto David’s street I wanted to see what this bad ass car could really do. Putting my foot all the way to the floor I heard two distinct screams. The first was the engine opening up and firing all 8 cylinders in unison. The second scream was coming from David…..non stop…..panicked and freaked. I saw the speedometer read 95 mph when, *out of the corner of my eye, something tiny dashed into the street. I know this because I hit that small girl, who was chasing a soccer ball. As she flew into the air, already broken beyond repair, my windshield shattered and David stopped his screaming about the same time his head went right through my windshield. My father’s ruined car continued to travel down the street careening off parked cars until it came to rest with two broken boys inside, and a dead and blood soaked child 100 feet behind us. I was not dead, but already knew enough to wish I were.

I was awakened by angry voices and the sound of sirens. I ached terribly and had a broken skull and several broken ribs. I could not see as I was covered in my own blood, but that did not stop the pummeling I was taking from what turned out to be the murdered girl’s father. David was also in bad shape and in addition to having lost an eye; he lost a good deal of his functioning. Today they call it a traumatic brain injury. Back then they called it manslaughter and it was added to the list of things I was charged with. None of it mattered to me, as I could not crawl past what I had done to that little girl who turned out to be six years old and was named Amy. There was a great uproar to have me charged as an adult, even as I lay in a hospital bed for 3 months healing from my self inflicted wounds. The large scar on my forehead didn’t matter either, as I saw myself as the monster I had now become.

After much legal wrangling, I was charged as a Juvenile and agreed to all charges and was sent to the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center, in the Bronx, until my 18th birthday. The horrors that occurred there are almost beyond description, but I was always aware that I was deserving of whatever evil that might come my way.

Who knows what I may have become, if I had not acted so stupidly that day. David’s parents successfully sued my father and ruined him financially. My father walked out of my life and I never saw him again. When Amy’s parents had their day in civil court there was nothing left for them to seize. I would have gladly given them anything they wanted, but I was lost to the world, and was so depressed that I had little to offer other than my sorrow and incarceration. And all they really wanted was their sweet child alive again.

There is no hate as deep as self hate, and my adult life has been marked by alcohol and drug abuse, broken relationships, lost jobs, constant relocation, and several suicide attempts. I take nine medications, and my best dreams always involve my own death. It is only in these dreams that I feel release and freedom. Once, not long ago, I had a dream about little Amy. In this dream she was telling a monster that she has forgiven him, but when I woke up I was trembling and knew that I was never going to forgive myself. One day I was an attractive and athletic 16 year old, and the next day I was forever broken, hideous, and alone.

* This story is true, up until the point where Amy ran into the street. No child was killed that day, and at the end of David’s dead end street I slammed on the brakes, and slid to a stop. He exited my car in a hurry and ran home. I casually drove back home and left the keys where I had found them on my father’s dresser. Life continued for me as it was, and it took many years before my impulsive and potentially deadly behavior of that day became clear to me. As part of my working life, I once taught employment modules in a prison for youth. They were there for a variety of stupid acts, including theft and vehicular homicide. I always saw part of me in their faces, and would look at them knowing that they were not as lucky as I was that day.

© 2013 Michael Fiveson

A Gift, of Sorts (sexual content)

In 1965 when I was 16 years old, I was living alone with my father who was very much a bachelor. He would have been 38 at that time and he was a car salesman who was successful in both his work and play. His male friends were kind of connected, if you know what I mean, and there were poker games where these goodfellas would play and drink and laugh quite a bit. In truth, they were a fun bunch, but there were always the dark secrets that came with these guys, and my father worked to stay on their good side. I’m not sure what his contribution was to this group but it probably had something to do with his work as a car salesman. He was more than a little interesting, my father, and his rough edges needed the kind of smoothing that would keep him away from the apartment for long periods at a time, and I was largely left to fend for myself. This was a lonely time in my life and I recall that I had made arrangements to visit my mother who was living in upstate New York. As the trip was approaching, my father told me to make sure I was home the following night as he had a “surprise” going away gift for me.

While I didn’t know for sure what was the surprise was going to be, I do recall thinking it was going to be most unusual, and my anticipation became quite intense as the day moved slowly into night. I was most excited when I heard the door open and my father coming up the stairs with someone else.

She was absolutely gorgeous, and her name was Ruth. Long blonde hair, 23 years old, and about 5 ft 4 inches. After a brief introduction, my father left the apartment and I was alone with Ruth. My heart was racing and my mind was numb when she started to kiss me. This kissing lasted for some time and she was very complimentary. Although I wasn’t a virgin (what can I say, call me lucky), I never imagined that I would be with a grown woman, and one this beautiful and sexy was beyond belief. After several minutes Ruth suggested that we move into my bedroom, and without any hesitation I stood to show her the way.

She undressed herself and then she undressed me. Her naked body was superb, and her breasts were perfect, arching slightly upward. I was so excited I could hardly breathe, and we were kissing when she climbed on top of me and guided my screaming penis inside of her. It lasted 6 seconds. Give or take 2 seconds. What, at 16 I should have known about restraint and timing? She was wonderful about it all and suggested that we wait a bit and try it again. I was kind of freaked at this point, having lost it so quickly and not really knowing what to do now. During the time that we spent in my bedroom, my father had returned and retreated to his bedroom, where he would wait for Ruth. She was very tender with me and very kind with her words. Right before she got dressed she kissed me for several minutes and told me she wanted to give me a piece of advice. “Always go down on a woman, you have fabulous lips”.

In the morning I peeked into my father’s room and saw them sleeping together. I wasn’t freaked out and wasn’t damaged. It was another era, a time when a misguided father might do something like that for his son. Today, of course, this would be considered way over the top. I never could arrange something like that for my son, and although he is a grown man now, when he was 16 he was, in my eyes, still a child.

My father didn’t know any better, and he just wanted to do something nice for his son. The gift was extended, accepted, consumed, and is forever a part of me.

Many years ago I was attending some State sponsored training for Social Case Workers, and I relayed this story during that training. It is fair to say that everyone was horrified that a father would do that to a boy of 16. I didn’t feel abused, but I also understood their outrage. My father was piece of work, and I still think about Ruth.

© 2013 Michael Fiveson

When I was King

When I was a teenager in New York, I was unremarkable and full of doubt. I suffered from low self esteem, struggled with my weight, and had a bad temper and jealous heart. Like many young people, I was having a difficult time finding my place in the universe. This angst was softened some by having a girlfriend I adored, and my complete joy in playing baseball.

One variation to the game of baseball was something called stickball. There were two ways to play stickball. One version consisted of playing in the street and involved hitting a bounced pitch with a broom handle. This was not an easy thing to do as the bouncing ball came quickly and often had a weird spin to it. How far you hit the ball determined if it was a single, double, etc, and many of these games involved running bases.  The ball was either a Pensy Pinkie, or a Spauldeen. Both were firm, pink hollow balls and could travel a great distance.

The other way stickball was played involved chalking a square box on the side of a school or building. This created the strike zone, and if a pitcher threw a strike, the ball would have chalk on it. This was my preferred way to play stickball as it allowed the pitcher to actually pitch, and was brilliant in its simplicity. The ball would hit the wall, and bounce right back to the pitcher. Again, the quality of hits was determined by distance and there was generally a fence which would determine a homerun. This form of the game also used a broom handle (or stickball bat you could buy) and could be played one on one, or with an outfielder. Here there was no running of bases and hits were determined purely by distance.

I took to the wall game very quickly and very hard. I played for years and became more than a little good. I could always play ball, and had a great stick, but those Pensy Pinkies were lethal weapons in my hand. I could throw from the side, throw overhand hard fast balls, and mixed speeds. I also had a curve that could make a hitter fall back sharply as the ball approached his head, and then would fall off a table and right into the plate. Kids would argue with me…”that couldn’t have been a strike”. And I’d show them the ball, covered with fresh yellow chalk. I froze batters, toyed with them, hardly ever walked anyone, and was dominate. As much fun as that was, hitting was even better.

Few kids could really pitch well. Most of them flat out sucked. I could hit from both sides of the plate, with equal ability, but from the right side I could do magic. A homerun was over the fence. That was a decent poke. Over the fence was a street, then someone’s yard, house, and backyard. I would load the bases batting left-handed and then switch to my power side. I would hit that ball as high as I did far. High into the sky and over the fence, street, and house. Many balls were never found and were no doubt on the next block. Then I would wait for the next fat pitch and hit bomb after bomb. I would also figure out the better pitchers and anticipate their next pitch. That would result in a rush of hits and runs, and at some point I would become tired from all the hitting and want to pitch again.

On that field, for those hours, I was really good at something. Sandy Koufax-like on the mound, I loved every moment, and found a transcendental place where I was something better than I could have ever imagined. It allowed me passage into an unknown world where I could pitch with almost magical powers, and assume control where it existed no where else.

Unfortunately I could not trade that skill in for something more useful. A gifted ball player, I had neither the confidence nor the motivation to play high school ball, and I largely stumbled through my teen years, finding respite in a simple game I loved and dominated, and the sweet promise of my girlfriend’s lips.

In my garage is a stickball bat I made 14 years ago, when, at the age of 50 I found some kids I could play with. The game is completely foreign in Colorado. I could just as soon find someone playing cricket (never have). I would play tomorrow, at age 64, and am willing to bet that I can still hit from both sides and could pitch with skill and confidence, albeit with less velocity.

To any and all older athletes out there, consider yourself challenged. Let’s get it on.

© 2013 Michael Fiveson

Hell Storm

hellOn August 3, at the precise moment this storm was moving towards my neighborhood, I was outside with my wife watching the sky moving in a circular motion. It was a very eerie shade of green and there were reports of tornadoes sighted in neighboring towns. We were mesmerized and afraid, and in the process of watching this, I never ran inside for my camera.

Good thing my friend Rudee Hartono was at work just to the north of my home and snapped this with his IPhone. He was kind enough to allow me to re-work the photo and post it.  As he watched it move south, I was watching it come in from the north. We had at least 25 minutes of intense hail and hard pounding rain. My gutters were quickly overwhelmed and we had some flooding.

Now I wait for my new roof and skylights, having already deposited my insurance check. All my neighbors need new roofs as well. My last one was just put on four years ago. We will soon be listening to crickets during the night, and hammers during the day. Oh well, just an inconvenience. But what a sky!

Elva and Cleatus

elva&cleatus© 2012 Michael Fiveson

What can we know about the lives of a married couple who will spend eternity together?
Cleatus was five years older than Elva and if he was 26 when they married, she was 21, and that would mean they married in 1909. When Elva passed away in 1960, they would have been married for 51 years and would have had a grand celebration the year before her death.
One can imagine that Cleatus would have been broken and lost without his precious Elva, but he hung on for another 14 years and at the age of 91 his last thought must have been a happy one, knowing he would see his bride once again.
Lives of long ago, very much the same today.

What?

On a chilly day in early November I walked without concern until I heard what sounded like something flying past me at a very quick speed. So quick, I could not see it, although I could feel a presence and there was an awful smell, like something that died long ago, but refused to give up its stink. Again and again it swooshed past me and my steps became more urgent as I became genuinely afraid. I passed someone’s trash and grabbed an old  2×4, just in case I might need it. That would be fine, if it was a human I was sensing, but this was something else, I was certain. Then I heard it and could not believe what it said

“I want to suck your blood”…I looked up and…and… oh my God……there it was!!

© 2012 Michael Fiveson

P.S  I can no longer see my reflection in the mirror, which turns out to be a blessing. My wife really likes my stamina, but my dog only growls at me. But the best part is that there is a vampire convention next year in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and flying there will be much cheaper this time. Quicker too.

Thank You Veterans

A belated but heartfelt THANK YOU to all of our brave veterans who left family and the comfort of home to serve our nation, sometimes at great peril.

My wife and I are both veterans and met in the Navy many, many years ago. Not only was I lucky enough to score my life long companion, she is also my best friend and lover. And I have a great sense of pride that comes from having served.

Thank you fellow veterans.

Daddy’s Caddy

© 2012 Michael Fiveson

Another beauty laying low in the junkyard. Many of us no doubt did have a father who drove a Cadillac. My father drove an Olds, but then he used to sell them and always drove something brand new. Before that he sold Fords for a bit and drove an Edsel for a time. Man that was one ugly car, but not this Caddy, which ruled the day, and lit up the night.