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A Sample Chapter from “Minimal Reaction”

I have been working on this novel for 5 years. It’s almost done and as I put the finishing touches on it and get ready to send it to my editor and then to the market, I can honestly say I’m going to miss these characters. I love them dearly and will remember them fondly like college friends I have not seen in years. This portion is unedited so excuse any blatant errors.

Part 4 Chapter 2 from “Minimal Reaction

I am admittedly not as close to my parents as other children, but the callousness displayed at the bottom of the dumpster was like nothing I had ever seen or heard of in my life. The house was completely empty of all the monetary valuable items and all that remained in the dumpster were the memories. I imagined the two sisters conspiring to have everything of value taken and stored somewhere to be later sold, or maybe it was already sold, liquidated through antique dealers, boxed up and ready for auction. The large pieces of furniture only staying to be sold with the house, which I quickly looked up and realized was already on the market. I have never felt so ashamed to be part of a larger family. I wanted to die right then and there.

The dumpster was filled about half way with photo albums, family video tapes, some personal items, old books, old newspapers, notes written in my grandparent’s handwriting. Anything personal had been carelessly tossed into the dumpster, anything of no value to anyone but a family member had been chucked, to make way for more money, to make way for purchasing new things with no ties to the past. Their guilt must have been so unconscionable, that it burned their hearts. The easiest thing to do was to declare it junk and throw it the trash. I was sick and getting sicker by the minute, but at least I had found what I had come for. There was a sigh of relief in that, they left everything my mother wanted in this dumpster, primed for pick up and taken to the local landfill, dreams, memories, and love buried with the rest of the rubbish from the entire area. The mental sickness my aunts displayed by throwing this stuff away I wasn’t ready for. This was to be my burden. My mother and Cassidy would never know because I would never tell them. I knew the truth and it literally hurt me. I needed to pack up as much as I could as soon as I could and get out of here. I started to become nervous, but my curiosity was overwhelming me.

I couldn’t help it. I had to look through some of the photos. In the first book I opened I found black and white photos of kids. Some I recognized as my mother and aunts, others could have been neighborhood children or distant cousins. There was a series of them in party hats, balloons abound the living room that was just on the other side of the dumpster in front of me, but decades earlier, children played happily while adults looked on proud. Camera’s flashed and everyone would want to come by after the film was developed to relive the day, now over a month ago. Pictures of the birthday transitioned into pictures of kids in hastily slapped together Halloween costumes, someone literally in a sheet with eye holes cut out. I laughed to myself.  What a far cry from the realistic costumes we put on today. Evidence that time changes everything.

Time did change everything. Some of the smiling beautiful faces in these pictures were the same ones that have warped into money hungry devils. I looked at the peace and sanctity that was clearly present in my Aunt Sarah’s eyes, not at all like the ones that I saw earlier. These were seraphic, uncomplicated eyes that had innocence and purity and were free of judgement and hate. These were eyes that were simple, and loving, and wonderful. The adult world makes you jaded, money and consumer obsessed, if you’re not careful, capitalism because your way of life and you forget how to love things are aren’t covered in prices and money. The eyes I saw earlier were sad lost eyes that had no control over their own jealousy, greed, and obsession for materialism. She knew it was wrong but could not help it. My aunts were fiends for money and possessions like Stupid Mikey was for crystal meth. At least Stupid Mickey never hurt anyone he loved.

I started 3 piles. One that was clearly junk like old food boxes or dish towels with holes in them, the other was stuff that I had to get back to my mother like photo albums, video tapes, reel tapes, and knick-knacks, the third pile was mine, which so far had a hat that was my grandfather’s that said “Be A Happy Farmer” on it. It had his sweat marks on it and grease and oil on the brim. It was perfect. I tried to sort quickly and had it in the back of my head that I shouldn’t be there any longer than I had to. I was sitting on a box that had some tools in it, and I didn’t think my father would want anything. Certain items like an old jacket I sat thinking about too long. I had to make the choices quick, and going through these things so haphazardly was starting to bother me. My mind was wandering something wicked and I thought about gaining a little chemical help. I jumped up and tossed my legs over the top of the dumpster. Right before I hoisted myself out, I noticed a little brown leather bound notebook where I was sitting. I eased myself back in and grabbed it with the intentions of using it as a table to break up my next line. I lept back out and went to the car, opened the passenger side door, placed the book in my lap, and grabbed my stash. I emptied a little cocaine and half a Xanax onto the book, and broke up the pill and with the side of my license and then mixed the two together. I went back to my wallet and grabbed a bill, rolled it up, and bent my face down towards the line of powder I just made. I snorted it clean and I immediately felt the effects numb my brain. I picked my head up to see a small dark circle only an inch away from my eye and simultaneously heard the unmistakable sound of a shotgun being cocked.

Anthony Norman White - Freelance Writer

Historically Repetitious Inaccuracy Causes Generational Repression, Again

I was at a dinner party recently when someone almost 10 years younger than me exclaimed, “There’s no way I’m in the millennial generation. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 16!” It was not received as anything but truth. Everyone agreed.

It had a profound impact on me. I left that party depressed, irritated, and sick to my stomach, despite the fantastic food.

If you were born between the years of 1981 and 1996, you’re a millennial. And it’s a soft border, meaning you might be a millennial if you are born on either cusp. The millennial generation has an odd and bizarre stigma attached to it that is more historically repetitious than accurate. But what that comment from the person at the dinner party illuminates is the control that the previous generation has over millennials. And it’s not Gen X, it’s the Boomers, the only other generation that has equal number of people enveloped inside and they feel threatened as every previous generation of Americans has felt since the 1600’s.

The first Jamestown colony on the New Land that Britain had acquired in what is now Virginia was largely a bust. No crop other than tobacco had grown successfully there and England’s premier tobacco provider was still Spain. Spanish tobacco couldn’t be overthrown by a successor until the King decided to make an announcement that the tobacco from the New Land was much better. This was in an effort to revive his investment and the marketing worked.

As production had to increase the workers that were sent to Jamestown in the first place needed help. They wrote to the King to send some new workers. The King, resourceful as ever, sent a younger generation there, in order to ensure that the farm system was taught to a new group, sustaining his investment long term. Not long after their arrival the letters started pouring back in to him.

King James
King James looking slightly like Tom Waits

The colonists wrote that the new batch of young workers he sent were lazy, unable to be trained, didn’t listen, and were practically no help. This began the American way of complaining about the next generation in order to preserve your own dignity and posterity, as a new batch of individuals is sent to take over.

My grandfather thought my dad’s generation was a bunch of lazy long haired, pot smoking hippies who were glued to their hi- fi stereos. They were, but they also were catalysts for change, ushering in an era where people stood together for what is right. Protests formed for peace, equal rights, and individuality around the country. These are the same baby boomers who are now repressing and propagandizing the Millennials in the same way that they were by the Traditionalist or the Silent Generation.

Make no mistake, not everything since the 1600’s is repetition. This current generation grew up in a socially different time that causes more time in front of a screen than in front of anything else. But what is seldom argued is that the Millennial generation’s world is the world, they grew up inherently global and so there views seem so completely different because they are the first generation to see what they want to see, have all information just a click away and seem generally accepting of all types of people regardless where they are from.

Much in the same way the baby boomer generation was ridiculed by their parents for spending far too much time and energy on rock and roll, radio, and television, this new generation is on their phone. The older generations didn’t grow up with things “going viral” and that term has a negative feel to it, and they themselves find they spend far too much time on their phones and on social platforms. If it’s addicting to them, it must be more addicting to the younger generation because they simply have less experience.

But it’s just not true. It’s always been in our hands and so we adapted much quicker. The issue isn’t addiction from the younger generation, but actually from the older. 62% of Facebook users are over 35, 20% is in the Millennial Generation, and 10% is over 65. All of these generations have had social media the same amount of time. And the numbers are actually pretty similar. The only exception being television. Millennials don’t watch TV they stream off their tablets, phones, and computers. Gen X and the Boomers still watch a few hours of TV every night.

Somehow the TV screen is lost in translation when compared to the cell phone screen.

The Millennials are the first generation to make inclusivity a priority, renewable energy a reality, and social media a tool. These initiatives were largely thought of by a previous generation that wanted to make things better for the next generation, but has now become irate and jealous that it is becoming a possibility. Fabricating things to complain about the next generation is a silly way to show support. But maybe a few of us will use that chip on our shoulder to break the rules all over again.

But how about instead of ridicule there is general support? What if we all worked together instead of drawing a line in the sand of who is right and who is wrong?

The Millennials themselves will be the first to try and weasel out of being part of their own generation. Where does that come from? Handed down from the previous generation trying to prove that their worth is still a worth. If you were born between 1981 and 1996 and you are saying that you are not a millennial you are only being beholden to the previous generations who paved the way and now have shackled you to a slower rate of growth, to their fears, and to their shadows disappearing as the sun sets. You’re buying into 400 years of historically repetitious inaccuracies fueled by tradition instead of truth.

Time to unshackle.

2018 marks the first year we could have a Millennial as president. Young leaders are being elected already. Justin Trudeau of Canada is 46 and Emanuel Macron is 40. The Millennial Generation is now larger than the Baby Boomers and that number will continue to grow larger as the years go by. We are in control. Not monetarily, but in populous and that means that we can start to dictate the direction of this great nation.

If you are already using phrases like “the kids these days” and “back in the day” you are already cementing into place the same repression and historical inaccuracies that previous generations put in place. But it’s not supportive and won’t help us all out long term. The younger generations should use their time and effort to connect with the older generation, to learn where certain things went wrong, and where things went right and accept that wisdom and learn. If everyone was willing to work together we could all be part in making the future of this great nation much brighter.

As long as everyone puts their phones down long enough to listen.

Thank Your Teachers: A Tribute to Dave Fish

It was my freshman year of college when I met Dave. He was in the graduate program at hippy haven SUNY New Paltz teaching Freshman Comp 101.  I landed in his class by mere fate or maybe some sort of secret lottery system I’m not sure of, but either way I was there.

Dave was going to show us what the Beat Generation meant to the world of literature and I was eager and ready having known for years who Allen Ginsberg was, his sad bearded face adorned a Rolling Stone that showed up some years before after his death on my parent’s coffee table. I read the article and was amazed that one man could do so much with poetry.

The novel that was assigned to us that class was Jack Kerouac’s masterpiece On the Road. I had no idea what was about to happen to me. I knew that I had been assigned many books to read in English classes, most of which were either good enough to finish or important enough to get through. My favorites up until that point were Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath. I thought I was just a huge Steinbeck fan, little did I know how little I knew.

I read On the Road in one day. My eyes couldn’t stop darting around the pages and I needed more. I couldn’t wait to get to class every day to see what everyone else thought, to see what Dave had to say, to see what the narratives that were extracted smelled and felt like. I was, in part, obsessed, because I learned, Kerouac was more than just a writer, he was a rule breaker, a punk rocker, the beginning of the “hippy” movement and possibly the end and beginning of something bigger generationally in America.

Being immersed in the heart of the dragon every day, surrounded by neo hippy socialites and pot smoking sandal wearing patchouli addicts made me see why Jack drank himself to stupidity and eventually death. By the time the class had ended I not only had read other books by Jack, but a biography as well. I knew Jack like I knew myself, in and out, and was seriously pained to see how misconstrued his messages had become, the consumerism of it all, the lost art of jazz, true prose exploding like roman candles across the sky.

But Dave, he understood. He knew what Jack meant! He was explaining it daily and in terms I had never thought of. “Mississippi Gene is Buddha!” Dave yelled and my pen hit the paper to make a note. My brain was melting. “You don’t need to write this down”, I thought. “Jesus! This is life shit!”

Standing in the Shawangunk Mountains late one afternoon, the sun starting to disappear behind the peaks, the chilly air starting to casually stroll in, my stomach reminding me to go back to campus and hit the dining hall, and I realized what it was I wanted to do. Of course, I always knew it, but I needed this moment for it to become concrete.

I wrote my first book when I was in first grade. I was on the news. It was a Christmas book, but more Stephen King and Tim Burton than your typical Christmas story. Although I had no idea what macabre was I was certainly already dabbling in it.

In the book, Santa had been impersonated by the Devil, who went around killing children, then made toys from their bones and gave the toys as presents to other children.

It’s fucked, I know.

And the worst part is, they don’t catch the devil in the end. The lead detective, a woman named Kristy, is unable to solve the crime. The ending was either intentionally left open for a sequel or more importantly, was a precursor to the way I saw all literature, further backed and corroborated by the Beat Generation more than a decade later.

Even at an early age I always wondered why there had to be a well-defined good guy and bad guy in every story. Real life never works this way. Sometimes you’re the good guy and sometimes you’re the bad guy.

Sometimes you learn a bunch of stuff and change your ways and sometimes you learn a bunch of stuff and don’t change a damn thing. If life is never so cut and dry why should literature be?

Art imitates life. I have always considered writing an art before it is entertainment. Good art makes for good entertainment, but good entertainment isn’t necessarily art.

In New Paltz, under the distinct tutelage of Dave fish, I was shown that other people thought this way and I wasn’t alone. My thoughts were suddenly vindicated, it was a relief and a burden all at once. I couldn’t give up and I wouldn’t.

In order to break the rules I had to first learn them and I did, imitating Kerouac, Ginsberg, Brautigan, Baraka, Corso, Snyder, and others. I spent so much time writing that I forgot to go to math class, business class, science class, and pretty much every other class. I helped start a poetry group and an on campus magazine that centered on poetry as art. I eventually dropped out of school completely and moved to the city of Syracuse to become the next Jack Kerouac.

I became a waiter instead.

I did go back and eventually graduate college with a degree in writing and since have pressed forward as the struggling writer that I have always wanted to be. But you can’t live out your dreams without a lot of people standing behind you encouraging you and aiding you along the way.

You never know where your inspiration can come from as a writer or as any individual ready to move forward and progress. What I may not have understood at the time but certainly do now is that my progress had to embrace the complete weirdness that I know resides inside me. But it’s hard to let that out.

You’re growing a second head that if you let it out people are going to look at you differently. I needed someone to tell me that it was acceptable and that others had done it before, to cultivate the plant of weirdness that has already rooted in the soul was actually a good thing. Let them think you’re weird, because, well, you are. Weird is unique. Unique is art. Art is entertainment.

The reason I’m a weird writer isn’t Dave’s fault. That burden probably falls on my parents. But the enrichment of my weirdness that led me to become a writer?

That one’s on you, Dave.

The Writer

When I was in college I had a professor get an overstuffed ego when his book was published and he won an award. He became so bloated he could barely fit into a classroom and even filled lecture halls with the stink of his gloat.

I hated him with most of my might. I was eighteen and didn’t give a damn about his dumb book. I just wanted to know how to get where he was.

On the final exam one of the questions was “What’s the difference between an author and a writer?” My response? “A writer writes and an author auths”. I actually received one point.

What this particular professor taught me, even though he did not mean to teach me anything, was that in order to be a writer you need to write. That’s it. It’s really that simple. But there’s so much gut tearing, so many hernias at every turn, gallons of sweat and annoyance, and infinite amounts of brain freeze with every key stroke that it’s so difficult for even the best writer.

So I wrote this email to myself on September 9th of 2017. I wrote it and saved it and I look at it as much as I can to help defeat writers block, help remember the importance of the writer, and to take the chance of freezing up my brain with another key stroke again and again.

The Writer

The writer is always at odds with him/her self, always trying to explain and justify their view, and going against popular belief now because it won’t’ be popular forever.

The writer is always creating the narrative of society when the narrative doesn’t exist, is constantly hearing the opposite of what they believe and will do anything to convince a straggling few that what they are seeing is a vision of the future, a glimpse into what is to become, however impossible that may seem at the time.

The writer isn’t about going against the norm on purpose, but because they can’t see it any other way, it’s not being contrarian just to rouse, but making sure people are roused to stay contrarian. The writer will bring something that isn’t’ in the limelight into view and do it even though there is no reception. The writer graduates into the next realm and lives to tell the tale, but it’s all for nothing because the writer won’t have the money and won’t have much recognition, but it gets done anyway.

The writer writes because if the writer doesn’t he/she will fucking explode.

The writer would rather be in writing than be in person because it’s not about standing in the spotlight, it’s about holding the spotlight, a light that most people won’t notice until it’s gone. What the writer identifies with now will make sense after the generation he or she exists in no longer exists.

The writer writes because writers write.

 

A Grocery Store Story

This was first published in the Spring of 2005. It was my first published piece in a magazine and it really gave me the spirit to want to publish for the rest of my life. I often look back at this piece as the first time I became a writer and not for the fact that it was published in a magazine, but because I tapped into something that became important for me as a writer for the next decade, I found in myself the excavation tool to mine the deeper emotional coal, that if pressed, can be worn around your neck. 

A Grocery Store Story

There was a strange moment earlier today in the grocery store. I looked at a box of banana flavored cookies, a package obviously intended to entice kids, bright colored purple and yellow, the banana cookies themselves on the outside of the package, each with an individual smiling face, actually on the cookie itself, saying to the chilled that its okay, these are delicious. Just an inanimate strange smiling cookie face. Dizzy with sudden nostalgia, I remembered how when I was a kid my mother used to make ghost cookies around Halloween. White frosted cookies in the shape of ghosts, with little red round cinnamon candies as the face. My mother always made the little ghosts smiling at me and when I returned home from school, the cookies laid heaping on a large crystal plate at the little table in our old kitchen. I remember how the wooden chair felt strange as I pulled it back, bumping over the groutless black and white, diamond checkered tile floor. I would sit and tell my mother about school. Eating my smiling little ghosty cookies, drinking my two percent milk, looking into the bright eyes of my young Italian mother, her brown eyes glazed and tired, waiting for the point to my childish and immature story about what Pete Hatch did at the lunch table. She would open the old brown Frigidaire and pull out more milk, encouraging me to talk on and on, and I would, for there was no one else to listen, no brothers or sisters, dad away with work, late in the fall, no neighborhood friends on this cold and dreary afternoon.

I remember doing my homework covered underneath my fleece colorful blue dinosaur blanket, my mother starting dinner just before my father would return home from work. And when he did, I would sit with the family, just us three, at an aged wood table in front of our big bay window, examining the multicolored autumnal themed backyard, listening to classic rock (a la Steve Miller, John Cougar Mellencamp, Pink Floyd). My parents sipped red wine and talked about grown up stuff and I secretly fed the cat under the table.

(All this from a banana cookie package at a grocery store, damn near twenty years later! What it boils down to is that I lost the functionality of my spirit. I see now that I’ve grown stagnant and strange, delineating from the initial splurge I felt years ago. But I think its back, suddenly, outrageously!)

After I would help with dishes and then retire to my room to play endless hours of Nintendo and listen to my CD player. (Alice in Chains, The Dave Mathews Band, Aerosmith)  Just a kid.

And the nostalgia continued. All this in an eye blink, reeling in the cookie isle of a grocery store.

The next eye blink and I realized something else.  It was this:

Later on, much later, around eighteen years old, my sophomore year of college, I left New York City to go to Syracuse to meet my mother for lunch. She brought my grandmother, now deceased, the matriarch of this deep Italian family, to meet me. It was a surprise. We went to Sweet Baba’s, a wood fired pizza joint, in Armory Square. It was just before Halloween. The weather was cool and dry, the foliage at its peak that year, leaves gathering in gutters in this concrete city. But sitting there across from my mother, and my mother’s mother, for the first time in my life I realized they were the same. I realized that my grandmother was growing old. That someday she would die. And I saw my mother, aged, weathered, beautiful, and aging. I told her at that moment that I wanted a ghosty cookie for dessert. She laughed. My grandmother touched my hand and said, “These are the things I also remember”, but in Italian so much more beautiful.

A week later, a message was in my mail box in my dorm room. I had a package, first class. It was from my mother. A big box of ghosty cookies with the little red candies in a big smiley face with a note saying “Share them, but only if you want.” I did share them. And I cried a little later, about how my mother remembered that I was still a little kid at heart.

This is called A Grocery Store Story.

It’s always fall in my heart.

Anthony N. White - Pearl in the Apple Orchard

I Found a Pearl in the Middle of an Apple Orchard

Sunday was the perfect day for picking apples. The weather was warm and sunny, there was just a little breeze that made you wear a long sleeve shirt, and the air smelled like fall for the first time this year. There’s an excitement that takes hold when the leaves start falling and crunching under foot, a childlike nervousness that Christmas is coming soon and the snow will make outside quiet and moody.

My wife and I took our son for the thirty-five minute drive outside of the city of Rochester to the country, into Wayne County, the number one apple producing county in New York and home of Mott’s. We went to Lagoner Farms to ride the tractor pulled wagon, pick tree fresh apples, drink cider, and breathe in the beautiful scenery.

It was busy, as expected, and sometimes my first reaction to crowds is to recoil, becoming a little hesitant about even going, thinking that somewhere along the lines the size of the crowd will ruin the day. The bigger the group of people the better the chance that someone detestable shows up and irritates me, my acting skills have always been sub par in those situations and I often where my heart on my sleeve.

We walked around to get the feel for it and I decided to get in line for the tractor ride while Ruth followed Pi around the playground. It was the greatest playground ever, a real working farm playground with wooden swings, piles of bailed hay, and a big sandbox filled with trucks and diggers. My son was ecstatic.

I stood in line just behind a group of four. They were younger than me, but not by much and talked about how one couple was trying to have their first baby. It was nice to see them out doing something family oriented before having their first family. I know I rarely did before Pi came along. But I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation, partly because we were standing close together but also because I hated them.

They complained a lot. Pretty much about everything; how hot it was, how long this line was, how expensive the apples were, how crappy the city was, how stupid some movie was, how terrible some football game was, how awful their jobs were, how terrible their car was, how cruddy the food was at some restaurant was, and how bad, in general the world is all the time. It just didn’t seem to stop. I started getting itchy and hot.

We hadn’t been there for very long and my mood was foul. I thought about leaving, but I saw Pi having the time of his life so I tried to block it out. I was doing a miserable job of it when they decided to leave. They thought it was taking too long for the tractor to return and pick up more people.

“Why go out there and pick the same apples they already have on the front porch for the same price”?

One of the girls actually asked, “Do you guys even care about picking apples”? And everyone agreed that they didn’t and left the line. I was just happy it got shorter and quieter.

We boarded the little wagon pulled by a small tractor. The driver was a pleasant man that resembled my father. Pi even asked if it was Papa. Once we started pulling away from the farm, the sights and sounds were plenty and I started to forget about the “Fairport 4” as I nicknamed them because of a group opine about how much better Fairport is than all the other towns around Rochester as if they’re all different countries with strange new economies, currencies, and customs.

I enjoyed being out in the middle of a field, even with strangers, as we left the wagon and weaved our way past them into empty rows of trees, just the sun and the gleam of red and green apples, faint voices curling over the rustle of leaves, the occasional burst of laughter or a child yelling out for joy. We were having a great time and Pi really enjoyed taking the apples out of the tree and crunching into them, more than that, my wife and I felt “home” amid the quite pews of trees and the alter of the country. It gave us a feeling in our hearts that we were closer to where we grew up, where our childhood memories reside, and where we finally figure to belong.

The pearl was still hidden, probably coyly peeking at me from underneath the vinegar scented apples that had fallen down to reconnect where they came from. I was lost in the day, conveniently absent minded, relaxed, and for the first time that day, happy.

Anthony N. White - Pearl in the Apple Orchard
Anthony N. White – Pearl in the Apple Orchard

We finished picking our apples and boarded the wagon to head back to the farm. They make their own hard cider, which we had before, and it’s very good, so we were headed back in to sample the new versions, sit out in the sun, let Pi play on the playground and have some late lunch. Ruth even had someone on the wagon take a family picture on the way back, the blue sky and red apples in the background looking more like a cartoon than reality.

The wagon ride was quiet, the bumps and ruts in the road were methodic, and my son was sitting contently in my lap, my left arm wrapped around his waist acting as a seat belt. I took my right hand and rested it on Ruth’s knee, her warm hand gently resting on mine and we road on. I closed my eyes, leaned my head back, and let the sun soak in.

That’s where I found it. I found the pearl right there. It was never hidden, but rather out in the open, not in the convalescence of the “Fairport 4” but rather in the very fabric of the reality of the day, a gentle Buddhist mindfulness that enlightenment doesn’t come from silently meditating alone, but can come when it’s least expected, because that’s when you’re most ready for it.

The adjective of the pearl comes from Jack Kerouac, who went searching in his infamous book “On the Road” for the same thing. Although he found it just 100 pages in. It seemed like an odd time to find what you were looking for so early in the novel, and it took me until this past Sunday to figure out what he meant.

Little pearls of wisdom can be found and saved for remembrance somewhere later in life. My pearl in the apple orchard will remain in my mind’s pocket, and someday, I’ll be old, or sick, or both, and pull that pearl out, running it through my fingers and it will feel the same; the same weight from my little boy on my lap, the warmth of my wife’s hand on mine, the gentle rhythmic bounce and hum of the tractor, the unmistakable feeling of the bright, beautiful autumn sun warming my bones, and I’ll be happy all over again.

Taking the First Step: A Profile of Artist Melissa Joseph

On April 12th of 2015, Melissa Joseph changed the course of her career. Even if she didn’t exactly know it yet.

She had tried to actively avoid violence most of her life, and growing up in the small town of St. Marys, Pennsylvania she, for the most part, was able to. But as she moved away, moved on, and came into her own, she realized that it was an irresponsible way to live.

April 12th 2015, when Freddie Gray died, the violence the world exuded became unavoidable for her. It was time for a change; time to face the rage that presented itself in the news, on street corners, and around the globe in almost every household.

 “I can’t do nothing anymore. I have to do something. And as an artist, this is what I have to give.”

After spending time as an art teacher in private and public schools in Washington D.C., Cincinnati, and Rome Italy, Melissa had thought she had found her life’s calling. She wanted to help people capture their inner self and work through their emotions with art, something she had been doing for years.

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. Hollywood Transit Center, Portland OR
Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. Hollywood Transit Center, Portland OR

Then tragedy struck Melissa at home. Her father passed away suddenly. Her thoughts shifted, time seemed to stop while emotions swirled and started to change her mind on her life’s course again. Life is so ephemeral and it only gives you a fleeting chance to live the way you want. She needed to produce art, not just teach others how to do it.

Being a teacher is a lifestyle. It’s being there for the young adults and children you teach for ball games, recitals, concerts, and plays. It’s being there for all the school activities that are necessary for encouragement and proper development. She no longer thought that she could provide the right perspective for her own work while devoting so much of her time to the development of others.

Freddie Gray. Stop 2: N. Fremont Ave. & Mosher St, Baltimore
Freddie Gray. Stop 2: N. Fremont Ave. & Mosher St, Baltimore

 “I feel strongly that it’s even more than a lifestyle but its own vocation.  It’s a special calling, just like being an artist. I realized that I had something to say and I couldn’t give teaching what it deserved because I felt so strongly about getting my own work out.”

With her already embedded feelings of angst and despair coagulating, her father’s death provided the catalyst to finding her artistic voice. It had to be exercised and metered out in healthy doses upon the world, recycling the anger into something useful, something beautiful; something that could be better understood.

“This is what I have to do.”

Her first project was icons but she shifted rather quickly to working with cement and stone to represent the hard to handle subject matter. She felt as if she needed to physically work through the global stories of violence and rage with her own muscles, bones, and sweat. The heavy feeling of someone you know dying, transcribed into a physical specimen designed to evoke those same emotions.

Philando Castile. Larpenteur Ave, Falcon Heights MN
Philando Castile. Larpenteur Ave, Falcon Heights MN

She was finding that trying to use words about her emotions was too difficult. They would get in the way and clout her ability to reason and speak directly and clearly. The conversations would shut down and that was not helpful to Melissa or anyone.

“If you’re going to tackle something this heavy you have to be ready for the conversation.”

But for Melissa, it’s not about lecture it’s about connection.

“There’s no blame in it. It’s strictly anti-violence. Everyone is held accountable. It’s not just one thing, it’s everything.”

Her newest series takes a look at spots where people in America and around the world have died from needless violence. The images, ink with brushes on paper, are bare, stark, and have nothing living in them. Just the street corner and the buildings that surround. There’s no cars, birds, or bugs and certainly no humans. They are an attempt to remember the countless names that flash on the nightly news and in the papers daily. The new name just pushes the old name out, making it meaningless and totally forgettable.

“It represents the void left in people leaving and it helps to remember the ones who have died by the hands of violence in the world.”

The death of Freddie Gray triggered a need to react to the violence, but for Melissa, it’s not just about cops or youth, it’s about people, all people, and more specifically those needlessly dying by the hands of reactive violence.  No matter their profession, or race, or gender, or reason, the experience of having someone taken from you so suddenly is unnecessary.

Lylliana Mendoza & Aslemarie Torres. 3000 Block of Lawrence St. North Philly
Lylliana Mendoza & Aslemarie Torres. 3000 Block of Lawrence St. North Philly

Freddie Gray may have triggered the need for the discussion, but her father’s death triggered the need to start the discussion. The bravery needed to utter the first word, pick up a pen or a brush, or take that first step is inconceivable to most. Luckily for us, it wasn’t for Melissa Joseph.

You can currently view Melissa’s work at the Woodmere Museum with another being added in October. Updates will be on her website.

For more about Melissa Joseph, her mission and her work, please visit www.melissajoseph.net or @melissajoseph_art on Instagram.

To get involved please visit the following sites:

http://blacklivesmatter.com/getinvolved/

http://www.mothersincharge.org/

A Sample from Minimal Reaction

Minimal Reaction is a novel written by Anthony Norman White. It is a fiction story that paints the true picture about the opioid addiction and dependency issues that face the United States.

Truth is, addiction to prescription medications starts at an early age and continues for most of our adult life. 1 in every 4 people in the US who take opioids battles addiction. In 2015, there were 52,000 lethal drug overdoses in the US, 20,000 were from opioids.

Make no mistake, drug companies around the world bring in over 500 billion in sales per year, and since they have the highest profit margins, sometimes over 40%, there are a select few that become richer and richer with every addiction.

Minimal Reaction takes this head on while chronicling two best friends who sell a few pills to make ends meet, but wind up being major players in a huge supply chain. They get ahead of themselves, end up in the wrong place at the right time, and learn that you don’t run the pill game, the pill game runs you.

The following excerpt is from Part 2, Chapter 1 of Minimal Reaction. It is unedited, contains explicit language.

Every few minutes Stupid Mickey would yell out “Queensboro”.  It was really starting to get on my nerves.  Every break in conversation, any time we brought up Manhattan, the trip, the drugs, anything really, he would shout out, “Queensboro” fast and furiously, almost as one syllable.  I didn’t want to ask why, but that’s why he kept doing it.  He wanted desperately for someone desperately to ask the question.  He pulled this trick all the time.  He thought it was wit.  Ping just ignored him, which made me even more annoyed.  We were barely to the Van Wyck, not even out of Queens and Mikey was annoying me to death.  I cracked my beer and sat back, the windows open, Rage Against The Machine on the radio, and nothing to do but ride.  I wasn’t even exactly sure where we were going besides into the city.  Maybe I could talk Ping into stopping some place amazing for some food.  I was already thinking about “Cozy”.

“Queensboro!”

“Why do you keep yelling that”? Ping finally confronted him.  I was excited.  I lurched forward and stuck my head between them in the front seat.

“Cuz’ we goin’ over the Queensboro Bridge, my man.  The greatest bridge in NYC!”

“What’s the address we’re going to?” I interjected, just to get things rolling.

Ping knew the city very well.  If you needed to get in or out of the city in a hurry, he was the guy to have on your side.  He said it was because he loved to look at maps and he spent years studying the map of Manhattan as a kid. Ping’s father owned properties there and they used to ride in together all the time.  He would take him all around the city and then when they got home he would have him track where they went on a big map they sprawled out on the floor.  Ping’s dad was great.  He was secretly teaching him a skill that would come in handy for him, even if he didn’t intend it for this purpose exactly.

“We gotta head to Rucker Park to get at someone.  That’s first, my man.”

“Why would I take the Queensboro Bridge then?”

“Cuz’, my man, that’s the way to Manhattan.”

“Not for Rucker Park.  We gotta head north first, then hit the two-eight-seven up to the Major Deegan, then cross the 138th street bridge, quick right on that one way…uh…actually 139th street, and it puts you right at Harlem River Drive which shits you out on Frederick Douglass just north of Rucker Park.”

“Why wouldn’t you just pick up the FDR which turns into Harlem River Drive at the Queensboro, my man!”

“Because the Queensboro doesn’t go into FDR.  It goes over it.  And the only place to pick it up from there is either, south, at 1st and 48 which is stupid, or north at 1st and 63rd and that’s going to be a zoo.”

“Yes it does, my man.”

“Yes it does what, Mikey.”

“Yes it does go into the FDR, my man.”

“No.  You’re wrong, The Queensboro Bridge most definitely goes OVER the FDR.  I’m right, you’re wrong, trust me. End of story.  And, plus, even if it did, which it does not I assure you, my way is faster.  Trust me.  Seriously.”

“Aight.  Aight.  I trust you.  You know I do.  But…Queensboro!”

They both started laughing, Ping mock punching Mikey across the face, Mikey pretending to be hurt, just goofing around having a laugh.  I wanted to strangle both of them.  Although, I had to admit to Ping later in the evening that his directions and argument were quite impressive.  I had no idea where anything was so he could have lied about the whole thing.

“Every bit of it was true”, was what he said and I believed him.

We hit the highway and the blur rush of wind was too much for me to hear what they were saying in the front seat.  I would catch little blips and phrases from now and again as Ping turned towards Mickey in conversation.  Mikey was enthralled.  He really was like Ping’s younger brother sometimes; hanging on every word, trying to annoy him, looking up to him for help and inspiration.  Mikey was a year or two older than Ping but didn’t have the same intelligence or maturity.  And had about half the teeth, too.  Although I couldn’t hear the conversation exactly, I heard Ping talking about basketball on account of us heading to Rucker Park.  I only heard the things he was saying when his head turned towards Mikey.

“about seven o’clock…pouring ‘em in….that’s it baby, that’s KD.  Standing with my back …I’ll be damned…scored…dunk….dunk… pounding three’s…. could’ve gotten…best player outta Texas…come to the Knicks….”

Ping knew more about sports than anyone I knew.  He loved all sports, too.  He could go on talking about Baseball till he was blue in the face, but he watched Football, Soccer, Tennis, Basketball, Auto Racing, The Olympics, Hockey.  He loved it.  He followed all of it and would talk to anyone about it whenever the subject came up.  He gambled on games all the time, too.  Only guy I ever knew to lay bets on college baseball during the regular season.  I remember once, in a bar in Midtown, Ping gave a soliloquy about how Football will be obsolete in 25 years.  I swear by the end, about 30 people were crowded around listening.  Some guy said he should have his own radio show.  Ping talked about doing radio for months afterward.

We pulled up to a stop about a block from Rucker Park.  Mickey jumped out quick and scurried around the corner.  Ping sat back to watch.  He surveyed the street, tilting his head from one side to the other, examining the area as if he were to write a report.  He turned his head so I was in his periphery.  “You know what?  I could live here, I think.  Basketball going on night and day, people walking around, look at that little store over there! Oh man, there’s something about it up here that I like.  Maybe I’m just sick of the island, you know?”

“This is just another island”.

“Yeah, but its different here.  And really, you’re always on an island, you know?”

Ping, whether he meant it or not, could be really philosophical.  He meant that everywhere you’re ever going to live is an island. Continents are for the most part surrounded by water, but the way he said it, could have only come from someone who’s lived through so much in such a short period of time.  I decided I was going to tell him about Gramps. It just came blurting out of me.

“My grandfather died today.” I said it matter of fact.  But I didn’t mean to.  It came off as insignificant.  But I didn’t think of that until now.

“Jesus, dude.  Really?”

“Yeah.  Crazy huh?”

“The one you never see?  Who lives up in East Ba-Jesus?”

“The one and the same.”

“Wow.  Sorry, man.”

“It’s all good.  Like you said, never really saw him the last dozen years or so”

“Yeah, but, still.  When anybody you know dies it sucks.  Especially when it’s your last grandparent.”

I hadn’t thought about that until he said it.  Grandpa Jack was the last elder, the last connection to the past beyond what my parents could remember, the last person in my family tree that could remember a time without television.  Ping interrupted my train of thought.

“You going up there for the funeral?”

“Yeah.  I mean, I guess so.  I haven’t thought about it.  My parents are going up today I think.”

Ping looked away.  He looked out the window on his side, possibly thinking, or possibly not knowing what to say.  We sat for a minute in total silence.  I looked straight ahead, he out his window, and Mikey gone around a dark brick corner to go find whoever he had to find.  The car was suddenly still and silent.

Ping has dealt with the death of a loved one before.  His Uncle Reese had passed away.  His grandparents on his Father’s side passed away before he was born.  So he never knew them.  Then his Father died.  After that strange day under the hot August sun, nothing would really be the same.  His grandparents on his mother’s side, who lived close by, and who he liked a great deal, decided to move soon after.  Ping’s arrest after losing his scholarship was too much for them to bear.  When they left they did not leave their address or phone number. They blamed Ping’s dad for his own death, and they blamed him for what happened to Ping’s mom after.  That’s when he moved in with his Uncle Reese.

“Life’s whacky?  Aint it?”

“Yeah.  That’s an understatement.”

“Speaking of whacky, what the hell is Mickey doing?”

We looked up and saw Stupid Mickey coming down the street, brown paper bag under his arm, singing like a lark, with his fly unzipped, button undone, sweatshirt wide open, with no shirt on underneath, wearing a big floppy straw sun hat.  He looked like a modern day Huck Fin, with his cut off jean shorts, if only Huck Fin had been through the ringer, had a drug problem, and liked fucking prostitutes. He bounded up to the car, swung open the door, and plopped down like he weighed 300 pounds.

“Dudes.  I just got a sick blow job.”

“Really we couldn’t tell”, was pretty much all I could muster up from the back.  I could smell him.

“Whoops! Guess I forgot to close up shop.”

I heard the zipper of his sweatshirt, before the zipper on his pants.

“Yeah, I know everyboday!  And Everyboday knows ME!”

“Yeah, that’s great there Captain shit head, but what the fuck is in the bag?”

Mikey was about as proud as could be.  He made a deal, that he thought was great, somehow received fellatio in the middle of it, and now got to show it all off.  He was acting like a dog that catches a rabbit and leaves it in the shoe of the hand that feeds him.  Ping was the hand that fed him.

Mikey started in with his story while searching for his cigarettes.

“So, this dude, right?”

I wanted out of the car immediately.  In fact, I wanted off of the Island suddenly.  I would have rather literally cut off my left arm with a pair of safety scissors than listen to this debilitatingly stupid story. Mickey half turned around in his seat to include me in his audience.  He lit a cigarette.  I leaned back to get away from the smell of him.

“So this dude I know,right?  Real shady cat.  Weird cat.  Dirty.  Down under.  He’s got some shit he wants me to start gettin’ in on, right?  So of course I’ll try anything if it’ll take the edge off.  Shit is serious.  He’s settin’ there on this couch with this bitch on the nod next to him. I’m like, “What’s her friggin’ problem?” Turns out she’s on the shit my man’s trying to push to me.  Fedinahl.  Son, I scooped a bit up and bang! I’m feeling fine! He goes, “How about we make this happen?” and I’m like “Yeah but you gotta give me a deal.”  And he did.  What’s up!”

He plopped the brown paper bag down on the arm rest in between him and Ping.  Ping looked discouraged but opened it anyway.

“What the fuck is this”?  Ping dipped his hand in the bag and scooped out 4 or 5 small bottles of clear liquid.

“Fedinahl, my man”.

“You mean Fentanyl?  The synthetic, class C narcotic?

“I guess so.”

“You spent my money on fucking fentanyl?  You fuck? “

“You’re always lookin’ for oxy, my man.  This shit is the better.  Trust me.”

This is why Stupid Mickey is called Stupid Mickey.  He is cheap smoke.  Everyone can see through him and Ping was no different.  There was a silence in the car.  I could hear traffic and people all around us.  Mickey was staring at Ping, nervously wringing his hands.  Ping closed his eyes and tilted his head back, then started in on him after a short, awkward breath.

“Mickey, the people I sell to don’t use needles, they think it’s for low life’s and junkies.  Low life’s and junkies like you.  How many times do I have to…”

“Yeah, but this shit is better than…’

“I’m fully aware of what you think is better and I’m fully aware of what is better, and I’m fully aware that you’re a moron!  I sell to college kids and young professionals who have money!  They’re chefs, and business men, and sales people, and business owners.  They don’t want track marks up and down their arms like a fucking junky!  They’d lose their jobs, they’d ruin their relationships, they wouldn’t be able to function in normal society! They are not like fucking street people.  I know what you’re saying.  This stuff is better if not the same, blah blah blah.  Well it’s not.  Not to them.  Did you spend all of it?”

“Sorry Eddy.  I thought, I thought, you know?”

“Did you spend all of it?”

“Yes”

“And let me guess, your guy through that blow job in.  Right?  Right?”

“Well no. But…yeah, but I didn’t pay no extra for some bum bitch!  I wouldn’t spend your money like that!”

“I didn’t think you would.”

“I don’t waste no money, you know?  I’m sorry, Eddy.  Let me make it up to you.”

“I don’t need you to make it up to me.”

“But I want to.  I’ll go get your money back.”

I’ll hand it to Mickey here for a second.  He would have marched right up there and asked for his cash back.  He wasn’t afraid of anyone.  And I was never sure if it was stupidity or bravery.  But it was probably stupidity.  Mickey reached over, snatched up the bag, and started to leave.  Ping stopped him, grabbing him by his skinny forearm.

“Mickey!  Stop.  First of all where did you get that awful hat?”

“I found it in the stairwell, my man”, he explained proud and happily.

“OK.  Second of all get back in the car.  You can’t get your money back.”

“And why not?  That mother fucker ought to be happy to give me that cash back.  I was helping him!  Of course I can get my money back.  That’s my dude up there.”

“He made that hooker throw in the blow job, didn’t he?”

“Uh-huh. I was looking for a deal.  I told him.”

I was in the back listening intently.  I had no idea where this was going.

“He said it was part of the deal, didn’t he?  Part of the deal you were asking about?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well now you can’t get your money back, because he’ll ask for that blow job back and how you supposed to do that?  Hmm?”

A few seconds of silence ensued.  I watched Mickey complete the thought and come to the conclusion.  It was like watching a cat find a good place to take a crap in a kid’s sandbox.

“Shit.”

Silence washed over the car.  I was impressed with Ping.  But I was also impressed with this drug dealer in question.  He must have known Mickey was buying for someone else, known that it was hard to get rid of fentanyl, and used him the best he could.  And it worked.

We sat around for a minute not knowing what to do.  Ping’s head was working from side to side like a boxer, tilting left, then right and back again.  He cracked his knuckles, took off his hat, ran his fingers through his curly brown hair a few times, snapped the hat back on, and buckled his seat belt.  He had formed a plan.  His dark eyes darted to the rear view mirror and bored into me.

“What was the name of that kid who bragged about going to NYU at Matt’s party the other night?”

“Jesus, Ping.  I was hammered.  I was barely listening to him.  You were the one that talked with him.  And hated him.”

“Text Matt.  Find out.  I got an idea.”

“What?  Why?  What’s your idea.”

It was too late to ask those questions.  He was already set on something.  I knew it was no good.  The car started, lurched forward into traffic and took off downtown.  We cut across a few long blocks and ended up on Frederic Douglass, cruising in and out of traffic, the city blowing by my window like an eight millimeter movie.  Harlem is one of the greatest places on earth.  Great food, busy streets, and affordable rent lead to a nice mix of individuals.  Columbia provides for an eclectic atmosphere and just blocks away from hell’s kitchen where every night can be fun.  I loved it there, spent some time hanging around there, and had a few friends who went to Columbia who ended up living there permanently.  I always wanted to live there and maybe someday I will.

Ping and Mickey were talking in the front seat.  I wasn’t paying close enough attention to get into the conversation.  I kind of didn’t care.  I was starving, annoyed, and ready to do something other than ride in the back of a car.  Our usual runs are to Doc’s place, which is usually a different, but nice, hotel every time, we have a drink, relax, talk with Doc and some of his cronies, casually leave, and then go meet up with our contacts and start making cash.  Holding onto our packages from Doc makes us giddy, giggly, and goofy.  We stare at the loaves, hold them like footballs, and break them up into other bags, consistent to what our contacts ask us for.  We always joked around and called them loaves because of the packaging that doc used.  It looked just like a loaf of bread.  But then you would break it open and find a thousand or more pills in the wrapping.  It was dangerous, nerve wracking, morally corrupt, and completely awesome.  The thrill of the score, the mountains of cash and pills, the high from the drugs, the people, the bars, the driving, all of it, is one big rush of adrenaline.  I wanted nothing more than to feel that.  But instead, I found myself downwind of Mickey, in Ping’s car, flying down 8th Ave, waiting for a text message while my stomach growled.

 

Kes: What Makes Him High, Trap Beats, and the Element of Surprise

Kes is not trying to placate the masses or swim in a pool of hundred dollar bills floating in expensive champagne. It’s not about music videos with rare cars or bikini clad platinum blondes happily twerking by a pool. Kes is simply after the best version of himself.

A version of himself that he’s been chasing since he was in high school and realized that he was a lyricist. His realization grew to an unending passion. He turned passion into poise and dedication and now his dreams are coming to fruition.

Inspiration Comes in Many Forms

When the mic is in his hand and he’s performing he feels at ease. The sense of satisfaction of reciting his lyrics to a crowd is cathartic at worst and inspirational at best. Kes’s lyrics are not damning or insensitive; in fact they are just the opposite, even though when he wrote him he wasn’t feeling his personal best.

“It’s stuff I made by myself. Not feeling great about myself. I made it on my own time. It’s the best high.”

His lyrics sum the feeling up even better:

The sound of a crowd loud shouting out at once

Is the equivalent of the high of a 1,000 blunts

Kes has battled depression for most of his teenage and adult life. In his lyrics you will find hope, inspiration, and strength as if every time he puts pen to pad it’s an effort to drive away the depression and head him back on the right track.

Some of his favorite artists have done that for him. He brings up Joe Budden during our conversation, explaining that it’s OK to need help and to express your true emotion.

“I’m doing what other have done for me. But it’s reality. For better or worse.”

Kes and His Producer

Like so much that happens in Rochester, NY the relationship between Kes and his first producer started at Wegmans. Kes met Volatile there years back and their shared affinity towards the world of hip hop started a relationship.

Volatile already had his career started with his own productions that he had posted to Youtube. Kes looked him up and was impressed. Volatile produced Kes’s first official album “The Prelude” available wherever music can be found.

He is already working on a follow up that should be out sooner than later “Creature of Habit” although no official release date has been set yet.

The producers and rappers that Kes has worked with over the years had a profound effect on him. He has learned from them and taken their knowledge of industry and beats and turned it into his routine, it has made him a creature of habit, writing, recording, learning, and evolving.

The Element of Surprise

I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Kes and share some scotch with him. He’s extremely approachable, quite affable, and humble. His clean cut look and deftly quaffed red hair don’t scream hip hop. But he doesn’t mind that. It’s not about looks it’s about lyrics.

“You can’t take yourself too seriously. I love it. I walk in (to the studio) with my button up and slacks and people are looking at me like ‘You rap?’ and then they hear me and they go ‘Oh shit, you rap’.”

Kes puts a hard line in the sand with new pop rappers and what he’s trying to accomplish. Pop rappers are flashes in the pan, radio wave sycophants who want money and fame. Real MC’s are lyricists, their writers with a craft; it’s about poetry, not bitches.

“Trap beats are the music version of reality TV.”

Simple to make, little production, and the use of very little lyrics slings trap beats into our mainstream. It’s super simple, fun, and goofy; almost as if anyone can make it. And maybe that’s the idea of it and that’s why people gravitate towards it.

But Kes is not impressed. He’s impressed with art, beauty, and challenging yourself. The new pop rap is not made like this and for this reason. He believes that a well-rounded instrumental is much more difficult to make, takes more time, and should be considered just as important as the lyrics.

He goes back to the 1990’s for inspiration, to listen to interwoven samples, the complexity of good production. The music is just as inspiring as they lyrics. The element of surprise isn’t just in looks, it’s embedded in every aspect of his music.

You can follow Kes on:

Twitter @Kessteele

Instagram @Kessteele

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/Kes585/

The Prelude is available wherever you usually get your music.

Norman White , The Fraternal Order of Hot Dogs and Scotch Founder- Anthony Norman White

The Fraternal Order of Hot Dogs and Scotch

No matter what the situation is you should arm yourself. It doesn’t have to be a weapon, but if the situation is trying to run through a football field full of rabid Grizzly Bears, then a weapon may be in order. If you plan on playing chess against Bobby Fischer, you might want to brush up on your chess skills and contact a good spirit medium.

But you should arm yourself with knowledge and tools wherever you go. It literally makes us human; it’s what separates us from the rest of the animal pack. It’s why we go to zoos and don’t live in them.

Sometimes you can arm yourself with whatever is lying around. This weekend my father and I dislodged a tree from under a dock with a branch that washed up on shore. Opportunity comes knocking and I always try to answer the door.

Tree in Chaumont River - Anthony Norman White
Tree in Chaumont River – Anthony Norman White

That’s why I armed myself with hot dogs and scotch. I took leftover hot dogs from a cookout at my parents’ house over the weekend and a bottle of scotch my Aunt Paula gave me and I went to battle; potty training a three year old.

Well almost three. But that’s not the point. He’ll barely remember all of this, if at all, while I’ll be scarred for life. This is where the hot dogs and scotch come in. They make things a bit more palatable. Even dookie.

It’s true, mornings are spent rehydrating after all that booze and salt, but they are when you’re on vacation, too. So this is my sadistic vacation, my twisted Fantasy Island, my cruddy, dump filled Space Mountain.

While I was at the cookout I snapped a bunch of pictures of the family and of my parent’s property. But for some reason I took a picture of a picture. It’s the one at the top of the page of the old guy. That’s my Great Grandfather, Norman. His first name is my middle name and I always felt like that was a really important piece of me.

His son was my grandfather, Leroy. My wife and I chose Leroy as our son’s middle name, hoping to start a family tradition.

I was going through the pictures of the weekend when I came across the one of Norman.  I stared at him for a long time, the deep wrinkles and sun-leathered skin had seen it all; drought, famine, the hottest summer, the coldest winters. I suddenly realized something.

He had to potty train my grandfather Leroy.  What a funny thing to think about. I can only think of those two as the older men that I knew, so the vision in my head looks more like a geriatric funny farm rather than the dairy farm they both grew up on.

But just as I share a name with Norman, I share a story, too; Potty Training. It’s literally the fraternal order, I am doing as my dad did, as his dad did, as his dad did, and so on. I wonder if they spent the week armed with hot dogs and scotch and that’s where I got this idea?

The Fraternal Order of Hot Dogs and Scotch - Anthony Norman White
The Fraternal Order of Hot Dogs and Scotch – Anthony Norman White

It doesn’t matter. That’s not the point.

The point is that we feel connected to our past and that it comes in all sorts of ways. I suddenly felt connected by more than just a name to my great grandpa by simply beginning the potty training process on my son. I felt as though I finally belonged in the White Fraternal Order of Things. I’m commencing my part in history.

But I like flashy names. And I like Hot Dogs. And I like scotch. So, there’s that.

I would like to extend the invitation to all new dads and moms who are about to begin the potty training process. Come be a part of the Fraternal Order of Hot Dogs and Scotch. It may not make potty training any easier, but it might make it tolerable because hot dogs and scotch.

(This piece is dedicated to Kiki. Thumbs up, dude.)