Black Heart Fades Blue

So, these came out a few months ago. They are heartbreaking and really quite good. Jerry is a very good writer, sucks you right in with really over the top tales that I only realized were over the top years later. I’ve read much but not all, have to put it down and change it up often. I did recognize that because we were sometimes separated due to the co-parenting, we have different fucked up accounts of the same time, different place. Poverty imposes the same variables where ever you are; unsafe food poor communities of substandard housing, inadequate childcare and under-resourced schools. These conditions create a fucking hard cycle to get out of and I’m thrilled that these books are not a suicide note but a story of survival. His transition to the artist he is today is evident in these stories. Way to go Jerry.

I grew up with a brother who became one of the most notorious punks around. He was quite a mean fucker sometimes but not most of the time. I love the pic on book 1, it was taken pre me. Really cute. Much cuter than book 2s cover. Buy these books, he’s got a mortgage now.

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Winter Months

The house was small and decrepit, about 900 square feet, I suppose. The main room was a combined living room and dining area, large enough for a matching plush couch and love seat and a small wrought iron and red velvet dining set. A large fish tank filled with pampered exotic fish sat upon the large console TV that separated these two living spaces. A cinderblock and wooden board bookshelf lined the wall and protected a small record collection on the bottom shelves and supported a turntable and speakers on the top. The black velvet painting of a matador that hung above the couch brought the entire look together. Mel was a whiz at macramé so double and triple planters hung in the windows throughout the house.  Dad and Mel shared the master bedroom, Jason and Jere the small bedroom and Jerry and I slept in the living room, he on the couch and me on the love seat.


During the winter months the house was drafty and cold. We were used to the constant Oregon rain but our indifference to the weather was always lost on my lungs.  They were wimpy. At age seven I spent a week in the hospital having nearly died from pneumonia. My mother tells the story of screaming and cursing at the apathetic nurse at her station for failing to notice that I was turning blue and in dire need of oxygen. I was susceptible to pneumonia and would fend it off, usually successfully, every year.

The problem with being poor is that we just didn’t go to the doctor, pretty much for anything. We moved thorough illnesses and broken skin with grit. I remember once jumping off of the roof of a shed and landing on a nail that went completely through my foot and how surprised I was when my mom actually took me to the doctor’s office. I didn’t even realize until much later in life, the neglect we all suffered. The lack of care was normal to us.

On this particular winter I had a rough bout of bronchitis. My lungs were full of goop and every breath caused me to gurgle and cough. The incessant coughing kept the entire family awake in this small house and about every five minutes Mel would yell, “stop coughing!” Her pleas were getting more and more hostile and I knew that if I cried I would end up gasping for breath, unable to breathe. I tried to slow my breathing and calm my lungs but my constricted lungs were unmoved by my mindfulness. I continued to cough and gasp and could feel the tears welling up in my eyes and my throat begin to restrict. I knew that if I cried I would lose all my breath and might die. Mel began to yell, “if you don’t stop coughing, I’m gonna come out there!” I buried my face in the couch pillow and tried to get all of my coughing out in silence, but the need to cough wasn’t going away. I recall my father remaining silent to both my coughing and Mel’s ranting.

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Back Off- the Puritans

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My Father’s Funeral

I’ve been trying to write about my dad for a while but haven’t been able. I know how close you have to allow yourself to get to the past to conjure up the heart to write, and the ask of my heart was just too big. Years ago I learned that in order to survive, my heart would have to neatly pack the plethora of feelings for my dad deep inside and not call upon them.

My dad died last year.  I got a text telling me so. Initially, I couldn’t conjure up anything beyond shock; not sadness, love nor even the remorse of a lost relationship. My feelings remained latent for such a long period after, I became a little scared that I might be a sociopath. This feeling was accentuated by the fact that there appeared to be near silence from my friends, only a handful reached out. After ten years at my school, only two colleagues dropped sad face emojis on my Facebook. Another friend had a stepfather who had died within the same week and she wrote a beautiful eulogy for him, describing what an incredible influence he had been in her life. Many, including myself, sent condolences. It was then that I realized that people only want to send condolences for happy relationships, not failed, as if my apathy toward my father made people uncomfortable. I suppose that’s right as it made me uncomfortable as well. All and all, it was a pretty difficult time. I have sat with the thought that I might be a sociopath for a year and then realized that the apathy I felt toward my dad’s death was real and I that had already mourned the loss years ago. His physical death was only the last step of the process.

It was my dad’s habit to connect with me in between his marriages, knowing that I was always fully interested in a relationship. Once, during my years in high school, my dad and his fourth wife had broken up. He called my aunt and uncle and asked if he could fly me to Texas to live with him. I was so torn. I was finally in a stable setting with a family that really loved me and cared for me and I was doing well in school. For some reason he demanded that a decision be made within 24 hours. My aunt and uncle described how much they loved me and how much I meant to their family and I broke their hearts by telling them I wanted to leave and go live with my dad. When we called him back the next day to let him know, he had already changed his mind. I suspect he had sobered up. I remember how he had died to me that day. These were the tears that were absent from his funeral. Because this was the loss of only his fourth marriage, he repeated the same pattern for the others to come, but by then I had hardened my heart and lost complete interest.

The episode at his funeral was like a really bad sitcom. It was crystal clear that I am the product of two addicts as all I really wanted to do was take a shitload of drugs and/or drink. I deferred, for the most part, but my heart was feeling pretty raw and exposed. The boundary between the dimensions felt incredibly thin that day and could feel my dad’s presence.

My dad’s new family was kind and warm but they are Pentecostals and believe that my dad had just moved onto a large mansion in the sky. His wife, bless her heart because she is such a sweet lady, shared that she had a vision of my dad sitting at a long banquet table in a mansion with her first husband. It took me a minute to realize what she had said to me and then I started laughing. I didn’t mean to, it was just so strange. I also thought, if her first husband is there then it’s likely that my dad’s second and fifth, Mel and Donna are also there. That also made me laugh.

The service was confusing. My dad adopted a son a few years back, the grandson of his sixth wife. Their marriage was short lived but long enough to adopt this kid when his mother got sent to prison. I’d heard about him but was perplexed when his name showed up on the list of children. Jerry, Kelli, Jason and Anthony. I turned to Jason and joked, “Who’s Anthony?” He was Dad’s evidence to show that he didn’t run away from things- this preteen grandson of his sixth wife whom he knew for three years, Anthony from Pennsylvania.

Someone got up and talked about my dad driving up into the sky on his red Harley. The red Harley was from his youth, they added, “When Al ran with bikers.” Jason and I caught each others eye and I knew we were thinking the same thing, Dad never ran with bikers, nor had he ever owned a Harley. Another person got up and talked about what a Godly man my dad was and how they were praying for his children who had yet to know Jesus. Fuck this, I thought, how is this service about me? Plus, for all intents and purposes, I’m a church going Methodist you motherfuckers. In the pew, his wife shared with me how he was lucky he was to have finally found someone who “knew how to do marriage” with my mother, his first wife, sitting on my other side. And all I could think about was the pit in my stomach as I tried to locate the bar in the church. There was none.

It had always been clear that Dad was unhappy with his life and was always running from something. After the service I realized that he was running from himself, the person he had become. He moved to this new community to recreate himself where he was a hero and was lucky to have escaped the clenches of his shitty family. He was a pious, red Harley driving, attentive father of Anthony who knew how to keep a family together. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I was exhausted as we left the church and headed to the airport. I noticed that Phoenix is tan orange, like all of Phoenix- the ground, the mountains and the houses. Miles and miles of tan orange.

My hope is that now I can put his death behind me and write. I want to write about how much I used to love my dad.

Dad PI

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Splash Extra Holy Water

Religion in our household was an interesting endeavor. My mother was raised strictly Catholic in a small Montana town where as my father’s family was energetically American Pentecostal. My mother’s parents were devout even though the church would not recognize their union because my grandmother had divorced and remarried. When living with mom, my Catholic upbringing was pretty standard, church, Catholic classes for communion and Mass. It’s true, one does learn most current curse words and information about sex in Catholic school. Years later a practicing friend told me how high school Catholic girls did not consider anal sex to be considered intercourse- a loophole in the whole virginity thing. Interesting logic, I thought.

1stcomm Jason and Me, 1978

Pentecostal, for those of you not well versed in religion, is throwing your hands up in the air evangelism that might involve long flowing ribbons strewn from said hands of the worship dancers; a type of dance team for Jesus. Speaking in tongues is always a possibility as well. Also, Pentecostals are end times fluent. They can tell you all the shit that supposed to happen at the end of the world and they usually think it’s coming soon. And yes, a conservative agenda to overturn Roe v. Wade is their #1 goal.

When I was about 12 I visited my aunt and uncle, my dad’s younger brother. Although my uncle was totally insane, I liked visiting because my closest cousin was in the family. Her stories of growing up put my own to the test, no less fucked up. We might have taken the Joy Bus, I’m pretty sure we did, to church one Sunday. There was a lot of singing and dancing and swaying of raised hands but the most exciting part of the service was when they had an alter call for anyone who wanted to experience a full immersion baptism. I remember my uncle prodding me a little with a nudge, as the people streamed up the aisles toward the immersion pool. I looked kind of fun so of course I stepped up. I remember when I came home Pentecostal, my mom was furious and kept saying, “I’m gonna kill that man,” referring to my uncle. She suggested I splash extra holy water on myself when we attended church next.

immersion  Some guy, who looks like Mike Pence, receiving a full immersion baptism

In high school I lived with a different, very religious aunt and uncle. My aunt is my father’s little sister. She was 31 and had two kids of her own when she took me in. She and my uncle were good people but very religious. We were church on Sunday and Wednesday night people. I was so thankful for a home and they were very good to me so I complied as much as I could. They were hippy Pentecostal. This means focus on Jesus, loving one another and probably a bit of pot smoking. It also meant no TV or secular music in the house. I would continue to smuggle my mixed tapes and albums into my room. My aunt knew they were usually from my brother so she looked the other way as long as she didn’t hear it. When I sang at the Pop’s Concert I chose a religious song. Because of my extended stay through high school, I became fluent in Christian-ese and hyperaware of a Just Prayer flow and cadence.

I have strong feelings about all of these experiences but only wanted to report the narrative rather than analyze it. I may share another time.

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Who’s Anthony?

Although he was married seven times, he only fathered children with my mother. With one of his last wives, he did adopt a young kid. It was her grandson whom they decided to adopt when the mother was incarcerated. None of us have ever met the kid. I believe he was trying to redeem himself for being such a bad father to us three when he decided to adopt. After divorcing this wife, my dad committed to child support set up a life insurance policy for this kid. Good for him.

At my Dad’s funeral last year the pastor announced, “… and he leaves behind four children, Jerry, Kelli, Jason and Anthony.” Jason quickly gave me a sideways glance and mouthed, “who’s Anthony?” We both chuckled.


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Like My Dad’s Wives

In 2008 at my former place of employment, my friend Pat was in charge of training us new hires in our electronic grading/communications system. He mentioned that the system would only be around for another year. I remember his confusion when I answered, “These systems come and go like my Dad’s wives.”

In 1962 Mom and Dad married. In 1973 they divorced.

In 1973 Dad married Mel; In 1977 they divorced.

In 1978 Dad married Vicki; In 1981 they divorced.

In 1982 Dad married Jackie. In 1986 they divorced.

In 1990 Dad married Donna. In 2002 they divorced.

In 2002 Dad married Marty. In 2008 they divorced.

In 2010 Dad married Carol. They were married when he died in 2018.

Some of these I’ve written about. Some I haven’t. Some I barely knew. Most liked to party and drink, a few liked to drive fast cars, some I loved and one I hated. Two that held a special place in my heart died young. A few knew Jesus but others, not so much. He landed well, his last wife was a gem.

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Killing Tina

Until I reached high school, I would spend part of my summers with Dad and whichever wife he was married to at the time. From first grade to fifth, this would have been Mel the crazy wife who loved fast cars and art and who would eventually die of a heroin overdose and from fifth grade to eighth, Vicki, the incorrigible skank who hated the sight of me. By the end of his life my dad would take seven wives. Someone once commented, “at least he believed in the idea of marriage.” But, my dad and his wives and his fear of being alone are a different story.

I have written about Vicki before. She was a bit of a Monet, from a distance a pretty petite outline with long blond hair, but up close the blurred lines give way to the detail that seethed through her prematurely aging skin soaked in contempt and bitterness. She was a succubus clinging to the remnants of her dwindling youth.  Vicki was unhappy and spiteful and hated the fact that I was young, optimistic and my dad appeared to genuinely like me.  When I first met her I couldn’t figure out why she was so cold and distant besides the cruel stepmother thing, but soon recognized her briny jealousy.

Vicki had a daughter very much like herself. Her name was Tina and was five years younger than me. During my summer visits I was the default babysitter and would spend large amounts of time with Tina while Dad and Vicki were at work. I would take her to the park, to the store to buy candy and generally tend to her. Although Tina was still young and unscathed by the hazards that had claimed Vicki, it was clear by the ways she wielded the powers given to her that she was Vicki’s protégé and was certain to turn out just like her mother. She was doted upon, spoiled and encouraged to narc on any of my small 7th grade infractions.

Because Vicki thought that my dad showed a skewed affection toward his own kids, a moratorium was placed on our interactions. To avoid Vicki’s wrath, Dad’s interactions with me became very limited and carefully monitored. He stopped hugging me, avoided talking with me and made sure to stop telling stupid jokes to reduce the laughter between us that would certainly set Vicki off.  He walked around Vicki on eggshells trying to keep peace. Tina still jumped on my dad when he got home from work and receive big hugs, those things I had given up. She loved the attention and had picked up Vicki’s habit of smiling at me during these moments. I knew it gave both of them pleasure and I was determined to not let my pain show. I swallowed the lump in my throat and willed myself to grow a thicker skin. I began to see my dad for the weak, limited man that he was.

The next summer Vicki would employ these same tactics toward my younger brother when he and I both came to live with them in Texas. Because of a perceived bias that my dad showed, Vicki put clear criteria on the discipline (beatings) that Dad gave Jason to ensure that it was sufficient and not prejudiced with affection. I remember her yelling down the hallway, “that’s not enough, he needs more!” My dad always would break down and comply.

The plan was to spend the summer in Eugene with Dad before returning to Mom’s in Portland for the start of school. Dad would stop at home during his lunch break so that I could spend a few unguarded minutes with him where I would make his favorite mustard and bologna sandwich on white bread. He would laugh and tell me stupid jokes as if everything was completely normal like, “do you know why the “V” of birds flying south is never quite symmetrical? Because there are always more birds on one side of the V.” Dad’s playful, goofy sense of humor was one of his defining characteristics and I was so desperate for his acknowledgement of my existence that I was quick to forgive him for his limitations and accept the hugs and affection he showed during these brief moments. Of course Tina was present and these interactions were always reported back to Vicki.


Soon Vicki put an end to the lunchtime rituals and demanded that Dad stop coming home for lunch to see me. Again, my heart was broken but I was determined to not let Vicki see any sign of victory. I forced the boulder down my dry throat and it scraped the meaty walls and tore open my insides. I could taste blood as the tears welled up in my eyes. Vicki threatened to send me home early to Portland if Dad continued to come home to see me. As instructed, Dad stopped coming by during lunch and continued to limit his interactions with me. I couldn’t tell if it bothered him because he maintained a jovial veneer with Vicki and Tina.

About two weeks later, Tina and I were playing in the driveway and Dad surprisingly stopped home for lunch. He jumped out of his truck like normal father fashion, picked me up in his arms and gave me a bear hug. Like the many times that would follow, I immediately forgave his infractions and accepted the warmth shown to me. It became a habit in between wives that Dad would woo me back into his good graces. My mom also claims that he initiated their own reconciliation on occasion, usually when breaking up with a wife but also while married when times got tough. I can see it for what it is now, but in the moment, I kept thinking this will change and I will get my dad back. I made Dad a sandwich and enjoyed a half hour of joke telling.

Tina was quick to milk the opportunity for all that it was worth. After my dad returned to work, she showed her cards and demanded a trip to the park and a stop for candy on the way home. The negotiations seemed fair although I was wary that she might not have the capacity to keep her end of the bargain to not tell her mother that Dad had stopped by for lunch. There was a clear power shift that afternoon and Tina demanded my attention and obedience. I kept thinking, oh how I wish these were different circumstances, as I’d love to push her face in the dirt and hold her down. She was tiny and venomous like her mother.

That evening after the parents had come home, I was in the back yard playing with the dog, Shlitz. Tina came outside and began to taunt me with threats.  “I think I’m going to tell Mom that your dad came home today,” she said through squinty eye and a slow grin.

“No you won’t,” I answered, studying how the light bounced off of her icy blue eyes. “You know she’ll send me home and I won’t be able to take you places anymore.”

“I don’t care, my mom will take me,” she volleyed back.

I tried negotiating with Tina to not tell her mother and reminded her of the fun time we had at the park earlier. I began to see that it wasn’t a trip to the park or candy that interested Tina but rather she was motivated by the same thing that motivated her mother, the manipulation of power. Later in life, I’m sure she would learn to wield the power in her sexuality in the same ways that Vicki did, but for now she was just in training. She was enjoying watching me squirm and stared at me like a greedy amateur drunk on her spoils. Tina turned toward the back door and said, “no, I’m gonna tell.”

It was clear that she was testing the boundaries of her power and so far I had been playing really nice. She was completely unaware of my rage and my strength, I had never shown it, and the injustice of my situation was fueled by the hottest burning rocket fuel in my gut. I could feel the fire coming up my esophagus and grabbed the only thing that separated me and Tina, a toy shopping cart that she had been playing with earlier that day. I snapped and shoved the front of the cart into Tina’s stomach and pinned her to the side of the house. She let out a quick yelp before I pushed it harder to stop her cries. I had pushed all of the air from her lungs and could see that the position of the cart was not allowing her diaphragm to expand and take in more air. I knew that I could kill her and just sat with the decision for a minute while she slowly turned blue. I recall having enough sense to do a quick total sum analysis and knew that the end result would not be good for me if I killed Tina. Oh, but I wanted to. It was as if I had dumped all of my pain onto the shopping cart and was presenting it to her. I jabbed the cart harder hoping to break a rib or two. Tina’s eyes filled with fear and I could see the carbon dioxide poisoning causing her eyes to quickly shake. I knew I had to make a decision fast. I got one more quick jab in before I released Tina.

Tina fell to the ground and began gasping as the snot expelled from her lungs and covered her face. I proceeded to the front door to go pack my bag as Vicki and Dad rushed out the back to assist Tina. I was certain that nothing coming would be as bad as I felt already. I was ready to leave.


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Once I Ran

I think there’s a story here, I just need to develop it a bit.

I escaped from a home when I was 13. It was a “holding” place for juveniles. I was picked up when a friend was involved in an incident with a crazy boyfriend and a gun. It was an incident of my circumstances. The cops brought us in to call our parents. My friend’s parents came in to pick her up but mine weren’t around.  I was moved to a juvenile home in Portland, Waverly, until a relative was found.

waverley.jpgSteve Beven/The Oregonian

The home was nice enough. I may have even ended up in a nice foster home, but my trust was waning and I kept open the possibility of other plans.  I stayed for a few days, enough time to make a friend. In our dramatic 14 year old fashion, we decided to escape. Funny, we were from the same neighborhood (of course we were). The place had a bunch of staff always roaming around. We decided the best way to be able to leave unnoticed was at night.

When the night assistant put the baby to sleep, my friend and I slipped through the back door and quickly scaled over the tall fence. I nearly jumped over the 5 foot barrier, but had to stop to help my friend that got snagged up. We got ourselves free and ran down the street toward the bus line. We jumped on the next Division line bus toward home. Why I ran back to this disaster area, I can’t figure out except to say that it was the last place I knew my family.

It didn’t take me long to figure out how ill equipped I was and I knew my couch hopping and squatting was getting both over welcomed and unsafe. After leaving my home a month earlier, I returned to an empty apartment. Mom was living downtown and Jason had been handed off to a family he did not know. I broke in the sliding back door and barricaded it shut once I got inside.

Although it wasn’t unusual to see the cops cruising through the apartment complex, I noticed the frequency of their visits had increased. I tried to stay out of their site just in case they were looking for me, and ventured out very little during the day. It’s not that I was so afraid of changing my circumstances, I just didn’t want it to be through the cops. I was so afraid that not only could my mother not take me, but also that my father wouldn’t want me.

After about a week of squatting, I was heading back to the vacant apartment through the common courtyard between apartment buildings. Just as I turned stepped around the corner the cop car appeared. I’m sure I evoked suspicion as I instinctively bobbed back into the shaded courtyard. My first instinct was to run with the confidence that they wouldn’t catch me. I turned and ran, through the courtyard to the edge of the building kitty corner the basketball court sized grass. I was fast and escaped their line of vision through the next courtyard and through the fence.

I waited until dark to sneak back to my apartment. The cops glided by in their car later with a car flashlight sweeping through the complex, not an uncommon event, but worthy of noting.

I called my grandmother the next day.  I believe she was aware that I had been missing. She connected me to my dad and I was on a plane the next day to live in Houston with Dad and Vicki.

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The Season of the Witch

I’ve always found it quite difficult, being a freak and living in the real world. Freak is a bit harsh more like dark strange. I was never a goth, but mostly wear black all of the time. I laugh the hardest dark humor, adore Edward Gorey, choose Vonnegut on a day off and consider a doll’s head with glowing eyes, the la touché finale. Other freaks understand, but living in the real world is much harder.  And being a teacher, even more so, they’re all so level headed. Except for the art teachers.


But during this time of year I get my fix. The eyes remain illuminated and the Cranes get their airtime on my Sonos. Here’s to the Season of the Witch.




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