I’ve often fantasized about being on stage, shirtless and drizzling with sweat all over the drum-set as I splash the crowd with every thunderous beat. Metallica’s Master of Puppets or Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Overture playing in the background as chaotic cacophony transforms into synchronized symphony. Yes, Overture with the actual cannons and yes, Master of Puppets live with the San Francisco Orchestra. Method and madness dancing together, metal and classical, transcending my needs for beauty in the ugliness of life. Transcending to the cool and rad in the mundanities of existence as I transform myself into Old Man Dave.
- Cue Pink Floyd’s Time. Because when I come home cold and tired, I like to warm my bones beside the fire.
I met Dave through our mutual friend Dan. We were in a 24 Hour Fitness sauna celebrating our last moments with Dan before he’d move to the Philippines. Dave, I later found out, is a tenant of Abdul-latif, one of my father’s closest lifelong friends who owns a bunch of worn out property across the suburbs of Denver. The kind of worn out property an old man wouldn’t shut up about because it’s the kind of worn out property that still manages to have its rent skyrocket with every lease renewal.
Dan left with his wife to the Philippines and Dave, the seventy-something-year-old aerospace engineer, was my newly appointed sauna buddy. Throughout the course of a year, Dave and I found out a fifty year age difference wasn’t much of a foe as it was a friend. A good friend. A friend I could intellectually commiserate with rather than bitchily whine in solitude. In my mind we commiserated, we shared our lives’ adversities and, most definitely, we rocked out to the melodic maladies of our being.
In my mind:
Dave became Old Man Dave; a super powerless hero who would be the missing piece to the inspiration I needed. What I needed was a vocalist, a composer, a terrifying mirror-image of myself to lead the symphonies of my pessimism and bring them to life. I already had the well-dressed back-up singers, the half-naked busty back-up dancers, the depressed bass guitarist, the arrogant lead guitarist, the anger issues drummer, the freeloading roadies, the condom-carrying groupies, the backstabbing managers, the amoral pig pen gig locations…you name it, I have it. The Black Mondays; all my dark thoughts, all the objective hatred I have for man’s sinful nature. I needed a soundboard of wisdom that would regurgitate my hatred in a nicer way. Dave needed to know someone as young as me feels as pained and betrayed as him. We both needed a friend against the wars we had started with ourselves and we both needed a friend to exchange our strategies of war. Old Man Dave became Ivar the Boneless to my Heathen Army.
- Cue Neil Young’s Old Man. Because take a look at my life, I’m a lot like you even though I’m twenty four and there’s so much more.
In my mind:
Dave is the Michael Jackson of pain. The quintessential being of human suffering. And that’s being generous, maybe even deluded, I know, but fuck it, get your own old person with contemplative qualities and inspirational one liners…pricks.
In any case, Dave is divorced from the love of his life, banned from his children for the last thirty years and, constantly it seems, breaking his ribs and dislocating hips in skiing accidents. The short silver fox with beady blue eyes, like a midget Paul Newman if you will, my coffee and sauna companion, is my clearest image to what a lifetime of internal deterioration looks like.
- Cue Sting and the Police’s King of Pain. Because there’s a little black spot on the sun today, a black hat caught in a high tree top, and a flag-pole rag and the wind won’t stop.
This is the homage I wish to pay by intertwining my suffering with that of another person. With that of Old Man Dave’s. All while contemplating about what it takes to be perseverant when all seems lost.
I suppose this is a study of one human condition: Contentment.
Often through one’s contention with the soul or the body or the mind, definitely the mind, we find ourselves to be drowning in a whirlpool of anxiety. Can we be satisfied living a life with continuously bleeding wounds? How many of us can swim against the current? If there is acceptance and peace in accepting a loss or failure, can we truly have gratification with pain?
This is Mahatma Gandhi meets Winston Churchill, Punk Rock meets Country. The angriest form of stoicism the world has ever seen. This is the virtue ethic of the twisted in mind and the pure in heart. Whatever the fuck that means. But I know this: my soul is writing for Dave’s.
By hybridizing Dave’s antiquity with my audacity, his life of seasoned calamity with my life of sensationalist curiosity, the collaborative geniuses of our woes are birthed into poetic prose. Or will be, please wait.
- Cue Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure. Because it’s the terror of knowing what the world is about, watching my old friend Dave scream “let me out”.
The purpose in which I aim to serve in this essay is undefinable in scientific format. These are dark times for any Enlightenment, and I’m not in the mood for semantics, logistics or any other let-me-explain-my-reasoning-tics. This is an old warrior colliding with the fresh young-blood, this is Iago conspiring to love Cassio and thus do I ever make my fool my muse. This is when cacophony becomes symphony but don’t let the pattern installation to the un-mathematics mathematics of horrendous non-repetitive sound fool you; this music is meant to disturb. Happiness and all of humanity’s crucified, decapitated and burnt attempts to explain why we still persevere and gain happiness from knowing there is none…should…really…disturb.
Before we begin, a moment of prayer to my patron saint: the Marlboro Man.
Okay, that’s enough. I believe we are ready.
Present to you,
If my madness was reality,
In the name of all things disturbed,
Please, put your face closer to the screen,
And give a round of attention to, (To reader: insert super melodramatic drum-roll here)
Old Man Dave and the Black Monday’s debut album,
Or, at least, its current track list:
- Cue silence. Because…
Track 1: I Can’t Quit You:
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Gaius Julius Caesar walk into a Peet’s Coffee and Tea to declare a momentary truce and to discuss the politics of friendship.
Dave and I had convened after I received a message from Dave via voicemail asking “You got any time to chat with an old hoot like me over coffee?” We had a few Lark-burgers first. Dave had wanted to talk about his life and how he had been feeling blue.
- Cue Muddy Waters’ Country Blues. This is a Blues track, by the way, if you didn’t get the reference in the title, ye filthy casuals. Because I feel like blowing my horn, woke up this morning baby, found my little baby gone.
The power of friendship, more so between seemingly polar opposites, can be quite effective in mending the human spirit if the parties of the friendship are bound by truthful admiration for one another. Dave and I admire each other. We have each other’s backs.
When King Ptolemy of Egypt beheaded Pompey after he had lost a civil war with Caesar. He fled to Egypt. Caesar became so enraged, he catapulted his rage to initiate the Alexandrian War. Don’t fuck with my son-in-law, I think, was the message. These men were bound by Julia; Caesar’s daughter whom he deified with his love and Pompey’s most beloved wife.
I am married to Dave’s old-manhood and him to my youth. Old age and wisdom that I have deified. Perhaps in fear of becoming an old painful soul like him or perhaps because we all need unusual friends through unusual circumstances. Most likely because I’d like to understand what intimate companionship can do to intimate pain. What fixes what? Or, what makes what more intimate? Sharing pains and commiserating like two sugar cubes dissolving in the bitterness of a cup of life or sharing tips and tricks like two ants having to carry something that’s a thousand times their weight. We don’t think much in each other’s company, we just lift. Our selves sweetly dissolve into one.
Dave told me he was in love with a woman whom he saw as his daughter, and that he has chosen to see her as such not because she’s ten or twenty years younger but because she’s with another man. A man with a hung wallet and an outstandingly huge bank account. Dave can’t compete. Says he’s too old for love now.
I said aren’t you too old for coffee too? He said he can’t quit coffee, said all his friends drink coffee.
I can’t quit coffee too, Dave.
Track 2: Jonah and the Whale:
Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. We all know the story. But Dave and I have no doubt that there’s a thin line between punishment and divine retribution, a line often navigated by riding a unicycle on it. A unicycle that goes by the name: Repentance.
After coffee, Dave and I walk out to our cars parked perfectly parallel to one another. I lit up a cigarette, Dave smiled. “I never knew you were a smoker, let me try one of those bad boys!” Dave was excited, I was complacent.
- Cue Grand Master Flash’s The Message. Because it’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under. Also, don’t push me. I’m close to the edge and I’m trying not to lose my self.
Dave had asked me if we Muslims believe in the Grace of God. I answered yes and asked what the Catholic view was. Dave said: “Well, it revolves around the idea that whatever you do that’s bad, by the Grace of Jesus, it’s already been taken care of.”
I pushed Dave with a barrage of leading questions on whether or not we humans need a divine sense of affirmative action where the recognition of one’s shortcoming must be faced in order to surmount our lives’ obstacles. Then, of course, God takes care of the rest when His Grace sees you fighting so hard to better yourself.
Instead of American affirmative action, British positive action and India and Nepal’s reservation, we’re not enrolling racial minorities into higher education. We’re enrolling the I-must-prevail minority, as I daringly say, into higher being…or higher being’s primitive cousin, human survival.
Dave’s cigarette didn’t last long, he scoped the area looking for disposal.
“I can’t just litter this shit after talking about God, can I?” he asks, “I’ll be right back, gotta throw this away. Affirmative action, right?”
Jonah in the storm asked to be thrown off to save the others. Those who ask for penance must pay the heavy tax of sacrilege. A butterfly effect that goes full circle: you’re good, you fuck up, you realize you fucked up, you recognize you’re bad, you do good, and, consequentially, you’re good.
That’s if you’re smart enough to rinse, lather and repeat. That’s if you’re smart enough to know you can smoke, you just shouldn’t litter. Do that a number of times until you know you shouldn’t smoke, until all the littering inside is gone.
How else can your redemption be as glorious as the largest living mammal?
Affirmative action with long term results. Pragmatic, possible, purging, and Problematic.
Track 3: Barmy Army 2.0:
If you’ve ever seen Lion King and never questioned the intimate friendship of a meerkat to a warthog, there’s something terribly wrong with you. Timon and Pumba, Dave and I, except I have issues with analogizing pigs to humans, unless you’re a racist cop, are a perfect match. While Timon and Pumba are preaching Hakuna Matata and you idiots sing Kumbaya, Dave and I are performing the Haka in a library’s silent reading section.
- Cue Wu-Tang Clan’s Bring the Ruckus. Because my Wu-Tang slang is mad fuckin’ dangerous and more deadly than the stroke of an axe, chopping through your back and giving bystanders heart attacks.
In the spirit of contentment, one must acknowledge with no certainty at all, that companionship is directly proportionate to one’s satisfaction. Even if it’s coming from your pig-looking friend.
Friendship is absolutely fundamental. It is a vivacious rose that may grow on top of an ice cold glacier or in the middle of a barren desert. Friendship, unusual unions like that of Dave and mine, is the backbone of our contentment because had we not sat down for coffee or gone to lunch over and over, we wouldn’t have come closer to grasping that serenity of true companionship.
And we are fierce, we are ferocious, we protect the tribe of two as should you if you’ve got one friend out there who feeds your contentment. You are nothing without the people that stand beside you. It takes a village. A village. And if they’re not kin, you bet your ass, dearest reader, they’re friends.
A fraternity between a twenty-four-year-old and a seventy-five-year-old that is based on transparent communication and intimate commiseration is how our friendship survives. A brother that comfortably pities me without making me feel less than, a brother that tells me he has three broken ribs and three sons out there who he hasn’t seen in thirty years all with a smile on his face. You think he’d be smiling if he had said that or thought it to a mirror?
A micro-society with a social contract that states: feel ye not shame when thine smile fadeth for ye hath a friend who sincerely will have his heart break for your miseries but won’t lose any sleep on it because we’re Timon and Pumba, we fucking get by. Right, Dave?
Track 4: Bad Riddance:
Ludwig Van Beethoven, the Prometheus of music, is said to have once written a note to a pesky prince or king after some conflict between them that said: there has been a thousand princes before you and there will be a thousand princes after you, but there will always be one Beethoven.
- Cue Led Zeppelin’s Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You. Because I’ll leave you when the summertime, when the summer comes a rolling. Leave you when the summer comes along.
After our last coffee visit, at least 6 months ago, Dave, before heading out, said: “I Love you, man.”
There is contentment. Cue nothing. Because it ain’t a black Monday anymore.
—Wherever you are, Dave. I love you too and God be good to you always.—