8. Story

On July 31st, the day after I started writing this story I went to get a poke bowl for dinner at Da Poke Shack (yelp link) downstairs from the condo I was staying in while in Kona. The shack was closed and I was contemplating my next move in my grief for missing my shot to get a bowl when I turned around to head back to the car. There was this guy who rounded the corner and looked equally bummed that the shack was closed. I said something or he said something. Then he said, “You want to get some food or something?”, or something to that effect. I said, “Yeah…I was just going to get my car to go get something in town.”, or something like that.

I‘m not sure if he suggested it, or if I did. But before I knew it we were walking to my car and driving the 5 minutes into “downtown Kona” – would you call it that? While we’re chit-chatting I can hear him talking and I can hear myself listening to every word through a *filter. I was watching every move, listening to every detail and listening to myself wonder why I invited this stranger into my car. The last time I was on the Big Island I’d driven down to South Pointe and jumped off the end of the Earth there – my wife was not pleased about my disregard for my own safety and the fact that I could have been killed. To me, this person in the car was a much greater threat, potentially.

He told me how he’d just gotten over from Maui on a short flight and just checked into the hostel across the street from my condo. He was a young-ish “looking” guy so the hostel thing made sense. He told me how the manager of the hostel recommended Da Poke Shack since he’d just gotten over and hadn’t eaten and was starving. He told me he was NYPD, an inspector or something like that. He looked kind of young, but what did I know. He was open, looked honest, willing to share himself – all the perfect traits of a potential serial killer. I planned different moves in my head for when the shit got real. I hadn’t made myself that vulnerable since I’d opened the front door to the guy that ended up punching me in the throat.

We started out by stopping at Huggo’s after hastily trying to decide what each of us wanted to eat. It’s tough enough with people you know. I was driving and had some ideas about where we could go (he’d just gotten to the island after all and supposedly had never been there before – likely story for a serial killer) so I took some liberties. I knew where I’d already been several times so I wanted to try something different. After sitting there a while, and looking at the offerings we decided to move on. No worries said the bartender.

Lava Java it was. Sure it was my fourth visit in as many days but I liked the beer selection, I had gotten to know (as much as you can really know your waitstaff) the bartender and some of the waitresses, and I knew there would be people there. I was starting to get comfortable with Steve already, figuring he probably wasn’t going to kill me but there was one discrepancy in the story that I was still trying to resolve (can’t recall what it is right now, and I resolved it so it doesn’t really matter).

Wings and beer at Lava Java

We sat and we talked about ourselves, and life and whatever. He told me about his Dad and I told him about mine. He told me about work and I told him about mine. We talked about why we were there. We talked about investing and retirement. This guy was totally open to whatever was going to happen. He said being in Hawaii had opened him up – made him open to seeing the world in a new way. He told me about his mentor and his experiences in the hostel on Maui and how they had all these activities over there that a bunch of people were just involved in and everybody was doing activities together with complete strangers and how he met a Swiss girl – how she was coming over on a flight the next day or something and how they were just friends and hanging out. I told him about the Island Goddess Pele and how she draws you to your true self and I told him if there was anything he should do, he should go jump off the cliff at South Pointe. And I gave him my other travel tips for experiencing the Big Island…turtles, black sand, green sand, Captain Cook. He showed me pics of his time with the La Jara Band – a bunch of Hispanic NY cops who play music and create unity with the community that way. How he has no musical talent whatsoever but somehow he’s like the band’s groupie and social media specialist. Honestly, he was an amazing guy to randomly go to dinner with. I’m glad I got the poke bowl for lunch the next day, but even if I hadn’t it would have been worth missing it to meet Steve.

At some point, Steve asked me if I had any advice. Based on how young Steve looked to me even though he was already contemplating and planning what’s next after retirement from NYPD, I’m guessing I look older. Maybe that I have some advice. Nobody ever asks me for advice – not on investing, life choices, whatever. I told Steve this story that I’m writing. The condensed, not every word has to have some purpose because you never know how it will land in the listening out there when it’s the written word, version. The sitting at the bar having a couple of beers version.

I told him my number one piece of advice. The thing that if I were on my deathbed and they were asking for my last piece of wisdom. I told him how I want to tell my kids this piece of advice and really have them hear it. I told him how there is all kinds of nasty stuff written about my advice out on the internet. How it really is kind of strange in the normal course of life…rather unexpected. How I’d spent all this time after the fact trying to make sense of it and understand what exactly happened. How I didn’t mind if he took my advice or not – but since he asked – here it is. I told him how I think it’s free because he’s a cop (a fact I later followed up on and found out that the current offer is that it’s discounted 20% if you’re a police or fire and some other things – teacher or student maybe).

He said he’d look into it.

Today, as of about 6 hours ago, he’s taking my advice and I’m psyched.

*Filter footnote: The filter was pretty clearly “What the hell are you doing with this dude in your car? All that love BS you talk about and being vulnerable as one of the requirements to have love be present and experienced is all well and good but this is the real world man. This guy’s story is way too good to be true, is he gonna kill you, rob you, molest you, whatever. Is he all doped up on the crystal meth or some other whatever it is they’re all hooked on these days? I dunno, I can’t look over at his eyes because I’m driving. NYPD cop – what a perfect story to make you feel more comfortable.” And on and on like that.

And man was it loud that day – like I could hear it – and I could hear him. I was really present to both things, just letting the listening be. Hearing what it was saying, and looking for clues for when to open the car door and roll out, and being with this guy that was there in the car out of nowhere. I’d spent the better part of the previous 3 days just really being and being with “my self” in Hawaii where the ocean really drowns out all the other noise. This “listening” just wouldn’t and even shouldn’t shut up – it really is just there to protect one – all evolution style lizard brain protection like. I kept hearing it, and just letting it be, and listening to Steve.

II. Already Always Listening – This part of the story is an example of where, by being able to distinguish the “Already Always Listening – “People, situations, and our approach to life alter dramatically.”

7. Story

Before there was an opening there needed to be an opening for an opening to occur.

Doesn’t that sound like some BS? Well it is. But don’t worry it’s all BS. It’s just a story, after all. Another way to consider what I said above is: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Let’s say the student wasn’t ready. The student may have been ready to find out that they could be a student.

There are several options to choose from, and maybe it was all of them – I may have required several concurrent openings to have an opening occur from the depths of despair that I was (in). There was a book I picked up and read, maybe even two. There was the wild adventure I went on (with my Mom – that’s what made it wild). There was the declaration I made. There was the charismatic Catholic event that I went to. It may have just been the resilience I mentioned in the last post…that being the youngest and my unrelenting obsession with winning the game – no matter what the game.

Going into detail on each of these phenomenal items may or may not occur in the flow of this story…after all, I’d hate to bore my readers. But credit must be given that it could have been any of those “events” or all of them together or none of them at all that ultimately created an opening for an opening to occur.

Just prior to that, each of the possible openings above, there was the opening that seemed to be the not opening. The closing. The slammed phone. It may be that the closing WAS the opening and it began with somebody saying something and standing for something and putting their a$$ on the line, so to speak. It was weird.

My father died without ever knowing this bit of knowing. My mother still doesn’t know it. In both cases it’s “that I know of”. There is no prescribed way to come upon this piece of knowing that this story is about. I’ve found other instances of it being known, come across in other ways. Knowing something, a currency which I deal in. What is it to know. It’s been said that some things you can only know by experiencing them for yourself. Mom and Dad may have come across this bit of knowing. If they had, they didn’t tip me off. Or I wasn’t listening (a habit of mine).

However, that is what this story is about if you recall. Knowing. A bit of knowing some thing. What is it to know? How do we know? Why do we know? Do we really even know what we know? We like to act like we know…I know I do. I know nothing. I was lucky to find that out…especially at such an early age.

That’s why I’m telling this story.

An Opening?
The phone where my words encountered nothing…

I brought up my father and mother…they were there when the calls started coming. They likely assisted me in forming what I knew about the calls. The calls were rather alarming…they occurred that way. They were certainly different, and new and they occurred as alarming. Threatening. What were they threatening? They threatened what I liked to act like I knew. They threatened the “fabric of who I’d constructed myself to be”. Plus they were just unbelievable.

Note: An aside, outside of the story. One of the issues I’ve come across in my various attempts at being completely vulnerable and authentic in writing is the impact it has on others. As most of these tales involve others in my periphery, and others may not be as willing to be as vulnerable and authentic as I – and/or I may have to reveal more than I might reveal about my thinking various thoughts about people in my periphery – it makes for a challenge. Secret keeping? It’s something we do. Or it’s something I do at least. But they’re not really secrets, they’re just things that we wouldn’t normally say. Could offend, could reveal, could hurt, etc. So I balance sometimes – is this authentic? I don’t know (I don’t know anything, really). It may be that it’s part of the question of what is it to be authentic? What is it to be authentic and vulnerable? Who knows. :Note end

With me being the “youngest” as each of my older siblings moved away I developed certain resentments toward them for “leaving me”. Just another layer on top of “You don’t care about me. You don’t even love me. I’ll show you.” My eldest sister was a different sort of mixture of that statement and being so much older that she didn’t occur very much for me in my existence. Similar to the way my 7 year old son doesn’t even recall being in Venice 3 years ago…I think there are a lot of things that just don’t stick. I didn’t recall having much resentment toward her and the relationship (for me) wasn’t developed enough that it occurred to me as mattering much. I had this experience of older sister who is living out of state and not in my reality all that much and this concept of older sister who is my sister and I go visit her once in a while so of course she cares about me because, well, she’s my sister. I had another sister as point of reference and I had a fairly robust experience that she cares about me – so relationally I could conceptualize the same thing could be with this older sister, if only she were around some.

Make sense?

Well out of nowhere and rather suddenly my eldest sister is calling me, wanting to talk to me, telling me that she cares about me and loves me. She’s doing the same thing with my parents. It was a little abrupt. I have no recollection of what we talked about during these phone conversations. I likely wasn’t listening very intently as the calls themselves were likely just an interruption into whatever it was I was doing (like trying to figure out why she left, and how to buy that sweet in-dash but removable (so nobody could steal it) car stereo with CD player (a relatively new invention at the time)). Anyway, it was kind of like telling my 7 year old son to come and eat dinner while he’s playing whatever video game he is playing as dinner time approaches. Of course, I was 18 at the time, so you know…uh, yeah same thing really.

My sister. She loves me.

Not to mention, that in my house growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in a middle class, blue collar, undeclared slightly alcoholism fueled dysfunctional utopia-like family talking about loving each other wasn’t really something that happened. You just sort of knew, or were supposed to know it. In fact, talking about it almost seemed to make it a little disingenuous. That was the experience of it – you just knew (or assumed that everybody knew you knew and assumed that everybody knew it about you too) and if they didn’t well then you’d never really know but you’d just have to hope for the best or not. But talking about it, over the phone…long distance? Do you know how much those minutes were costing?

Yeah, I gotta go.” Then, this strange thing occurred. Rather than being a reaction to “Yeah, I gotta go” there was this really, really weird empty void that “Yeah, I gotta go” fell into. It sort of landed somewhere, but there was no response to it. No reaction to it. No anything really…other than a sort of reflection of it. In fact, many of the things that I think I said sort of went into this void. It was almost like dropping a penny into a well. Maybe that was the opening? If it was, it closed really soon. In this void where what I said went, rather than hearing the reaction come back to me I heard (though I couldn’t really hear it yet) all this chatter revving up in “my head”. All these thoughts about my sister, and why is she calling and she doesn’t really love me and this is bull$hit and who the f does she think she is saying this stuff to me she sounds crazy and how the he!! can I afford that and why would I want to and on and on and on and on.

Very little (none?) of it had anything to do with what was happening.

I was getting rather “worked up”. Over here. Like I said, something was being threatened. I was backed into a corner that I didn’t even know existed. And I was responding the way somebody responds when they’re backed into a corner. Guns were blazing. That void that things I said were being dropped into…that had to go. Soon, I said something that got some “expected response”. Maybe tears, or confusion. Something, anything. Some response.

Then, I had my first ever encounter with the experience of coaching.

Now, coaching is a well known and common business term today…it’s not even necessarily a business term. It’s just something people do. Life coaches, performance coaches, whatever. But in 1989, man? That was the stuff that cults were made of. When you had somebody interacting with you, behind the scenes, interpreting how you should view the world and providing some guidance toward more powerful ways to interact with other human beings? That was jacked up…

I used the F word a lot. Don’t ever call and talk to me about that again. And I hung up the phone.

6. Story

Background of meaning. This is a term I may use today. It may describe a way I had (have) of viewing the world. I heard some of my “background of meaning” today on the radio. Bon Jovi – I’ll Be There For You. I’d live and I’d die for you. It’s just that the term “background of meaning” doesn’t really do justice to the experience “background of meaning”. When there is a background of meaning, and it is not clear that it is a background of meaning, it isn’t a background of meaning. It is reality. It isn’t even A reality. It is. Reality. Not in the background either…part of the foreground so close that everything is filtered through it. Possibly distorting the view to look like what I’ve always seen before.

I was in a tough spot.

Wasn’t sure why she’d gone, why all those sixes kept showing up, why I’d gotten fired from that job – at least not why “when all of this other stuff was going on”, why that car got ripped off (I should have noticed those guys noticing me put that stereo in the trunk – in fact, I did notice those guys noticing me put that stereo in the trunk – I just didn’t notice it enough to distinguish it as I am about to get my car stolen because those guys are watching me put my detachable stereo in the trunk). I hadn’t had that background of meaning. I’d never gotten my car ripped off.

Resilient wasn’t a term I would have used to describe myself at the time. I’d had no experience being resilient that I knew of. It wasn’t a part of my background of meaning. Happily, nothing very traumatic had ever happened to me. Everybody around me was alive and/or dying in a naturally progressive order, nothing sudden or tragic. I had a mostly solid family background with a not necessarily extra-ordinary amount of undeclared alcoholism fueled dysfunction – most of which I wasn’t even really cognizant of. I ate food. I slept in a house. Sure there was that time my bike was stolen from Silverman’s. And that girl that lived behind us that taught me to play the game “Simon Says, Strip”. Honestly, I thought it was pretty fun (though she may have had some trauma – who knows, and this is my story, not hers). There were those neighborhood “bums” that would randomly upset my sense of calm and order in the neighborhood. The neighbor kids who’d make me fight Billy Bloom once or twice. Mostly though, nothing too traumatic. No need to be too resilient.

This little stretch I was in, this most uncharmed time of my life, this was new territory. I can see now that I may have been a little resilient. Maybe it was those mornings waking up to deliver newspapers, every day no matter the weather – even if it was a little late some days. Driven on by my Mom cautioning me prior to taking that first paper route that nobody was going to be helping me. I’d do it, I said. And I did. Maybe it was developed responding to those people that complained when their paper was late.

Maybe it was that declaration I’d made when we moved to Parma when I was 10. Driven on by my Mom cautioning me prior to signing me up for 5th grade at my old school – nobody was going to be helping me. I’d do it, I said. I vowed to not leave my friends and that I would do whatever it took to get back to my old grade school. Long walks…a mile to State, a bus ride to Bader, a mile to Pearl. Then reverse to get home. Or a 3 mile bike ride. Then back. There was that time I crashed into the parked car because I was asleep on my bike. But I made a promise…didn’t think of it as “having given my word” at the time. Heck, maybe I was just too afraid to go to a new school and it was easier to trudge on, do the hard thing. Eventually I’d even do the new school thing. New high school…I knew very few people because I was so intent on keeping my old crew. I trudged on with that too.

I was also “the youngest” and in that way I did know myself as resilient. Resilient enough that I knew how to manipulate and bludgeon with pleading and ranting until I’d get what I wanted. I knew how to follow through and get what I wanted to get. Looking back, I was pretty resilient, or at least persistent and determined. When I wanted something.

This current beat down from life was new though. Not something I’d experienced before. I can’t recall the exact order of, or when exactly things started to break open. And I’m not even sure that I’ve given a fair picture of HOW BLEAK THINGS REALLY WERE up to this point. How I was desperately trying to break my way out of this jam that life stuck me with. I do recall that the song Runnin’ Down a Dream had come out…and Wikipedia tells me that this song was released on July 29th 1989…the day before my 19th year began.

Like I said. I had plans…

It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
I had the radio on, I was drivin’
Trees went by, me and Del were singin’
Little Runaway
I was flyin’

Yeah, runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream

I felt so good, like anything was possible
Hit cruise control and rubbed my eyes
The last three days the rain was unstoppable
It was always cold, no sunshine

Yeah, runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream

I rolled on, the sky grew dark
I put the pedal down to make some time
There’s something good waitin’ down this road
I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine

I’m runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream
Yeah, I’m runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
I’m runnin’ down a dream

…Tom Petty