I've Always Been This Awkward - Six


Ahh, today is was spa day! I'm totally into it, too, man. The robe. The gentleman's relaxation room. Multiple showers. Flat screen TeeVees. Low lights. Candles and shit. Today it was an eighty-minute massage and one-hour facial. Both done at a higher end joint with a fancy red door. Nice people. Clean place. Pros, man, I'll tell 'ya. An upper-class white people kind of place. I was psyched too. At first I was all, c'mon, you call this a massage, she seemed a so gentle, give it to me! But, in the end it was pretty much the best massage/beating ever. I think I had an out of body experience, too. Seriously. I was reborn. Ramona is probably mid-40s, probably Caribbean. A big-time professional. The last thing I knew was she asked what scent I wanted (I selected lemongrass) and ***blam*** heaven - like surgery. I could have died. Facial too. Sarita beat the crap out my ugly mug, even apologized if she hurt me. Well not really an apology, more of an acknowledgement. Both treatments involved massaging, scenting, warm wraps on hands and feet, darkened rooms, and wonderful touching. If only death were so bad ass.

Yes, died. People die. I could end this section right here. Bye folks, thanks for coming!

People die. Fact. No heaven. No hell. No spas. Done. Just like roadkill squirrels. Just like mashed-up road turtles. Just like flowers. Just like our pets. Like all organic matter. We die. And I've said it before, Americans are some of the most profound death deniers on the planet. We'll do anything to ward off the Reaper. We'll opt to live for years with absolutely no brain activity, connected to machines that breathe for us, feed us, and that keep the bed bugs off -- by choice! And all of our relatives will stand around and grin weakly and really, really believe that everything will be alright. But should we somehow miraculously "pass away," well, we'll go "someplace better." Huh?

I just don't know about people, you know? People die! I will die, you will die, you pet hamster will die, your long lost sister will die, you uncle who touched you will die, that guy in the next cubicle will die. And you know what, we don't even begin to live as if we've even given a thought to the fact that someday it'll all be over. People live boring ass, weak, cheap lives leaving nothing of value behind.

And doesn't it amaze you that there are people who claim they've never known death? Like, what, they're too young, healthy, and genetically superior to the point that no one in their family or community has "gone over to the other side." Never had a goldfish? Deniers, I claim.

I think it was Carrie who turned me on to Jim Carroll and his Jim Carroll Band in like 1991. They did the song "People Who Died" on the Catholic Boy album from 1980. Here are the people I've known who have died (in rough chronological order):
  • Tyrone Satterwhite - This is the man for whom I was named for. He was my father's heroin-addicted cousin. They thought it would aid his so-called recover if they named me (my dad's first born) after him; honorific, right? Well, I remember being dressed for Tyrone's funeral. Overdose, surprise? My uncle (first reference) told me that I had to go because "we loved him so much that we named you after him." I think I was three. Thanks! Tons! Why not name me Junkie.
  • James King - "Grandpa James" was not my real grandfather. He was my grandmother's second husband. I never met my actual paternal grandfather, he died as the result of a homicide long before I was born.He died in a bar. In Texas. Purportedly his "posse" was waiting just outside of the bar. Legendary tough guy (whom my father emulated, I suppose). I guess my dad's dad had poor posse management skills, should have gone for his MBA. But James King was my uncle's father (second mention). Of course he was an alcoholic. I remember he was fiercely protective of me, though. Any trouble and I'd run to him and he'd say something like, "You leave my boy alone!" I was like four or something when he died, I have no idea. He died in a nursing home, an alcoholic to the end.
  • Aunt Rosie - Even though I had only met my grandmother's sister once, Aunt Rosie's death was the reason we had to move from sunny, perfect southern California to Alice, Texas. My grandmother was the executor of her estate or something I didn't understand. But, yeah, I had to live in rural, poor, Tex-Mex for nearly a year. I kiss the Californian soil every time I return because I was extraordinarily fortunate to leave Texas. I was only in that hell hole for one school year. Imagine if we had somehow become stuck there? There would be no Ty Hardaway™ dot com. Can you imagine? I'd'a gotten killed in a bar long ago (with my dopey friends standing around outside). I can't even begin to think about that.
  • Tracey Green - Tracey was a neighbor. She was part of the neighborhood gang. You know, the cadre of kids who played together, hung out together, experimented together. We all kind of rotated who was currently whose boyfriend/girlfriend partner. Sometimes Christine was my girlfriend, sometimes it was Christine's sister whatever her name was. Tracey was a freshman in high school and I was in eight grade. Tracey crashed her mo-ped into the back of a flat-bed trailer going around 40 miles per hour without a helmet one night. Her mother was a duty nurse in the emergency room where Tracey's body was taken. She died on impact from massive head and torso injuries. Tracey was my neighborhood "girlfriend" at the time 'cuz I mack like that, yo.
  • Allan who hung himself in the park - Allan was kind of the loner kid. He was awkward and socially less-than-skilled. He was in my eight grade PE class. Kids treated him like shit. He refused to shower, was often sickly, and not physically strong. I was cool with Allan though. He was smart, kind, sensitive, and articulate. He did act out a bit. I didn't have any problems with him and he actually enjoyed my company. Allan hung himself in the park on the last day of school that year. I guess if he didn't kill himself he would have probably shot everyone in high school.
  • "The Who" kid form high school - I can't remember his name but this kid fuckin' loved The Who. I was in a few high school classes with him. I can picture him clearly and I think his name was John, maybe. It was like summer of tenth grade. Tom and Andy and I were smoking some pot in a field on the forth of July and heard the sirens. John was purportedly adjusting his stereo in his car and ran into a parked car (dollars to doughnuts he was crankin' some Who). We didn't know until the next day. But, yeah, buzz harshed!
  • Jeff Masuda and his dad - Jeff was probably the smartest kid in high school; one of the smartest kids you could ever know. I think he got like a scholarship to MIT or something huge like that. Probably would have invented flying cars that fixed the ozone layer and kept the planet at a perfect temperature (and cured cancer in his spare time). He died in a car wreck "back east." Nice, affable, smart kid. At some point during his funeral, his dad stood up and screamed, "My sonnnnnn!!!!" took two steps toward the casket and dropped dead from the massive heart attack. I frequently call this the most tragic story I've ever know (Tracey Green's comes in a close second).
  • Dave the Proctor - I worked with this guy named Dave at Santa Cruz. He was bigger than husky but you wouldn't necessarily call him fat -- he was tall. So he decided to diet. He lost a lot of weight really fast. When questioned, he was prissily defensive, "What? Can't a guy lose some weight? I think I look great! Damned if I'm fat, damned if I'm skinny." Dave didn't know it but he had diabetes. He didn't show up for work for several days. His brother found him dead in his apartment. Sadly, Dave was a huge pain in my professional ass, so I was sort of relieved at not having him around anymore. I hate that that was my reaction. Am I bad?
  • Ryan on his bike - Santa Cruz again. Young dude, Ryan. Riding back towards campus from town with another dude, Ryan said so long to the other rider and hung a quick left to go to his house. Unfortunately that quick left was into the windshield of a car driving past at about 45 miles per hour. Ugly scene. Head through the windshield and stuff. No helmet. You know, like the scare movies in Driver's Ed. The kids on campus were torn all up. Some for real. Some for show.
  • Doris King - I had moved to Maryland in 1992. July. In March of 1993, I found out that my grandmother was really sick, with cancer of all things. Hospital sick. She didn't really share her woes with many people. So I visited to see what was up. In the hospital's intensive care she insisted that since I was in the state that I take her car and visit my friends. Insisted! So I did. Drove up to San Francisco and back and took in the whole gang, Marty, McKenzie, Carrie, Matt. When I returned, she told me to go home. I put lotion on her feet. I Kissed her. Told her how much I loved her. I cried. She was dead in four days.
  • JW King - This is my famous only uncle. JW. Joe Willis. Jason. Whatever. I called him, "Uncle." Brilliant man. Very smart and very kind. I owe him my intellectual curiosity. I owe him my cynicism. I fucking LOVED that man to death. Fucking bad genetic luck, though. He had the addiction gene. Got it from his father. Heroin. Crack. You name it. But gentle as a kitten. Died in his early fifties on the couch of my dad's house. My dad who was often hating on his little brother had recently taken him in from homelessness. He didn't want his brother to die on the streets. Massive heart explosion. Died right there on the floor. Fuck! I'm crying right now I miss him so. And yes, all the King's are dead now.
  • Kim's baby - Not my friend Kim with the twins but a co-worker from the 90s. She had a splendid, beautiful, glowing pregnancy. Her healthy, beautiful baby died at about two months. SIDS.
  • Frank Reed - Jesus. Not my story to tell but this is my friend Mark's dad. Great guy. Everybody's favorite dad. Young. Fit. Strong. Funny. Handsome. A real buddy of a dude. The kind of dad that you think in your head, I wish that was my dad. Solid morals, solid values, good citizen. Tough fucker. He was just out on a bike ride when a drunk Mexican in a stolen car ran him over. Enough to make you hate on people. It really is. But it's not my story to tell.
  • Gail Royer - Gail was the founder and long term director of the Santa Clara Vanguard. Even though I was only in SCV for two years, Gail and I developed a very strong, very candid friendship. He was always asking me how things were going; sort of his way of feeling out the pulse of the group. Likewise he told me what needed to happen in order for me to have success. Even though we were deep into an undefeated season in 1987, Gail confided in me that the powers that be weren't going to allow us to win. I was shocked. I thought it was some sort of motivational deal. You compete and you do better than everyone else and you win, right? Nope. One of my first lessons in real politics. We lost that season's championship tenth of a point. Ouch! I'm still bitter too. He died several years after I was long gone and a distant memory.
  • Aunt Amelia - My father in law's big sister. He's 90. Lived to be a hundred. Impressive. Most impressive was her cognitive ability and wit. I made her laugh at 99. She fell and as the story always go with the elderly, she succumbed to being bedridden. I'll be lucky to reach 50.
  • Ania Sklarz - Great kid. Young artist. Robust. Crazy. Loud. In many ways just like me (except for the "great kid" part). She was in Philadelphia for art school, even getting some recognition for her work. Art, since I knew her when she was a recent high school graduate, was all that mattered to her. I encouraged her art. It was all vision this and aesthetic that. A real, natural-born artist. Rare. I got word that she died in a horrible freak accident. She was having some cocktails on the roof of a building in Philly. She apparently leaned against a chimney, the chimney gave way and she and the chimney tumbled into an elevator shaft. Like what, a 10 or 12 story building? The only comfort I can take is that I can imagine her thinking, on the way down, "Son of a bitch! This is how I die? This?! Nobody will believe this." She was 27.
  • Laura D. from work - I had this co-worker. She was 40 I think. Two kids. Both of the kids were in my kid's preschool, so I kind of knew her well. She, in fact, was a co-conspirator of mine at work (because I'm always involved in conspiracies). She was a confederate of sorts. Stealthily we raised issues, like plumbers we raised hell. So she got pregnant again. Great. She wanted a third kid, but she miscarried. She went in for a post-miscarriage D&C and...died from an infection. In the 21st century America, this professional, high SES, more than adequately insured worker bee woman died from a goddamn infection for a routine procedure. Jesus help me!
I hope I'm not forgetting anyone. No disrespect if I am. If I remember someone, I'll update. People die. Fact. Inevitable.

"Teddy sniffing glue he was 12 years old
Fell from the roof on East Two-nine
Cathy was 11 when she pulled the plug
On 26 reds and a bottle of wine Bobby got leukemia, 14 years old
He looked like 65 when he died

He was a friend of mine

Those are people who died, died
They were all my friends, and they died"

- from "People Who Died" - Jim Carroll Band, Catholic Boy, 1980

"Do You Realize - Oh - Oh - Oh

Do You Realize - that everyone you know

Someday will die

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes -
let them know

You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last

You realize the sun doesn't go down

It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round"

- from "Do You Realize??" - The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, 2002

By the way, because I'm so into professional massages (I get it) Ramona was convinced that I was a "yoga guy." Similarly Sarita, my esthetician, thought I had a good exfoliation/moisturizing ritual. She thought I did a good job with hydration too (yeah, coffee). Funny. My dentist thinks I floss.

I've Always Been This Awkward
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