These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Friday, August 17, 2007

leather belts, moshing and body aches

last night for the first time in years i felt my age.

i attended (for the newspaper) a heavy metal night at a local theater in town. some bands were playing hard-core metal. we thought it'd be a good idea for coverage. i agree. it's something different for this town. it's a jolt this town needs to snap out of the 19th century.

i get there and only a few people are milling around. i get through an interview and then start interviewing the singer of the band bullfights in tijuana.

the guy and his bandmates were dressed in shorts, t-shirts. they looked "normal." one guy had lots of tatts. but as i have a tatt now, it's not big deal.

i was trying to get an idea of wht hard-core was. i decided to sow my true age by saying i grew up with metal like judas priest and iron maiden. they said this was not at all like that, it was more punk-oriented, but faster and more aggressive and more positive (than the 80s metal groups).

they even practice something called straight-edge. it was a new phrase for an old fogey like me. it apparently means not doing drugs or alcohol or even being abstinate. doing things to keep your body healthy.

i then walked around inside the park theatre. it's cool in there, dark, long (rectangular), with seating in the back and an open space up front. when packed for such a show, i bet the place is claustrophobic and sweaty.

i talked to a few more people and then settled in surrounded by some kids and the bar behind me.

the first act, before the fire, took the stage. i was surprised by how clear the sound was. it wasn't distorted and out of tune. it was well done. grantd the singing was completely unintelligible, but that's how it's done.

the drums pounded incessantly and the guitars ripped through chords and harmonies but with an edge i hadn't heard since i went to some of the '80s concerts.

then i noticed the empty space up front by the fence. an announcer said that while stage diving was not allowed, moshing was in the area up front.

people ran up and began rushing each other, ramming into one another in blurs as i saw it through the lighting on stage. they and the sounds blended to form this energy that filled the place. i loved it.

the guy in front of me, i noticed, was doing something with his arms. i kept staring at him and didn't get it. it was moshing or headbanging. he kept moving his arms (set at 90 degree angles) up and down slowly, as if he were enjoying a different kind of music, say some hiphop.

it was nly later while i transcribed some notes that i realized he must have been doing something called ninja dancing. he certain looked as if he was performing ninja moves, something another rocker at the venue told me people did at these events.

i chilled, untucked my shirt, trying to be cool. however, i was wearing khaki pants, nice brown dressy shoes and a button-down shirt. i didn't quite fit in with the crowd.

i eased my way to the back and watched as before the fire finished its set.

i walked out. quite a few of the hard-core folks were outside chatting in groups, smoking or yelling when a motorist honked at them. it looked like a concert scene before a big show somewhere. i could have been on my way to see iron maiden -- except these kids were too clean cut and they had cell phones.

i walked back to the office, realizing that i had a hearing buzz. i guess the music had been louder than i thought. it lasted for about an hour. but i felt out of sorts as my ears rang with remnants of the crashing guitars and thmping drums, screeching vocals and beating bass.

there was a small part of me, though, while standing in the audience, that wanted to rip off my nice button-down shirt and run into the rushing moshers and get pummeled as i think i owould have been. i resisted the urge, in stead, coming to my senses after it sunk in that, in truth, i am old enough to be the father of one of those kids. if i'd gotten lucky at 20. heh, heh!

Monday, August 13, 2007

farewell uncle eli

once again, as it happened nearly two years ago, my phone rang and i saw it was my sister. i felt something odd for a split second before answering, something weird (i'd spoken to her yesterday evening).

linda told me my uncle elias, my dad's oldest brother would probably not survive past the day (sunday). he'd gotten sick very quickly. elias had a stroke nearly three years ago and has spent most of that time in a nursing home.he had a blood clot that damaged his brain.

a few minutes past 5 sunday afternoon, linda called me back crying. elias died. he'd died a few minutes before 4 texas time. he died while the priest was performing last rites with family surrounding him.

according to linda, eli was fine saturday. he was blowing kisses at his granddaughter maya. suddenly sunday morning he took a bad turn with high fever and he declined from there. he was on oxygen when linda arrived, with nursing home personnel unwilling to move him because of his delicate state.

she said she knew he'd died when the mask over his mouth and nose wasn't fogged up anymore as he'd stopped taking a breath.

eli is the second oldest next to my aunt Mine, who's 78. he's was a few years younger.

how can i best describe eli? well, he was a quiet man, sort of like my dad. i think that's why they got along just fine. he talked quietly and walked slowly. he was a hard worker, too. he'd make his way to the ranch twice a week and found himself busy doing this or that every time he was there.

and never a trip to the ranch went by when he didn't stopp in to see rena and ricky. those kids meant so much to him. once they spotted ricky dangling from eli's shoulders as he carried the kid on his back (until he was told to stop).

and he had a big heart. he always gave when he could and never thought of himsef.

we saw him last during our trip to texas in december. we stopped by and my aunt took him around the nursing home for a ride on a wheelchair. she left him by a wall as it was time for him to be put to bed. the last thing i remember doing is patting him on a bony shoulder and giving him a kiss on the forehead.

the last conversation we had before he got the stroke i called him and my aunt Chica at home. i spoke to him for a little bit.he asked about the weather.

the last time i saw him before the stroke, he, aunt chica, tio gocha and patsy and me and dawn went out to eat at golden corral. it was a meal we enjoyed before we left for michigan a few days later. the golden corral was his favorite restaurant in corpus.

i can still see that small-framed man with an old straw hat on his white-haired head, a hard candy in his mouth after eating lunch prepared by his sister on a saturday, strolling over to fix something that was broken.

farewell uncle eli. you will be missed. you were a good man.
love you.