Mishegas Master

My journal of life and those lives that surround & influence me, both positively & negatively

Sunday, April 29

Tripping The Trip Fantastic

Goodbyes were always difficult between Mom and I whenever we saw each other in the living years. And this time was no exception. I had just spent a full week, visiting places in and around Arizona with Uncle Mickey, who had also been invited by Mom to come and visit with her. Prior to that, the two of them had been corresponding by postal letter. Mom never owned a computer, though late in life she did express some interest in getting one.
It was sometime in mid-summer, 2016 or perhaps earlier when I planned this trip to see Mom (and Dad). Never got along so well with Dad, as I did with Mom. That was fairly obvious. I was supposed to go to San Antonio, Texas to go spend time with a girl. Of course, that never panned out.
But then, I was always a will of the wisp, so to speak. An adventurer’s adventurer. Although, it never looks like it to more adventurous types, like say, Uncle Mickey, who is a true world traveler. 64 countries in 68 years; but he’s another tale for another time. I traveled at my expense always, locally, nationally or internationally.
Locally, it’s always been an adventure, riding the Chicago Transit Authority or CTA transit system. PACE, the suburban regional transit system fairs better, not as dicey as the CTA or adventurous, quieter, but my preferred method of travel is Metra. Faster. Comfortable. Sleek. And always or nearly always on time. Expensive though, verses the CTA or PACE. But worth it just the same.
When it comes to real traveling though, I prefer train to planes and bus and even cars, except if it’s a regional tour. Although I’ve had numerous crazy adventures on the bus-some I’ve written about previously, it’s not my favorite mode, despite the cheapness of the travel mode. It’s the dregs of society that always take the bus. And it’s something I’m just not interested in. Regionally, perhaps, but not just regularly. Planes, I disdain immensely unless I have to fly overseas.
Amtrak on the other hand, is my favorite mode of travel. Any way, anytime anyhow, however I could, however I can, however I would, I would do. And I have. Many many times.
So after the failed trip to Texas, a state I truly disdain, I retooled the trip to go to Arizona instead. My destination, Tucson to meet Uncle Mickey, so we could both together, go by car, to visit my parents, who at that time were still living in Scottsdale (since Mom’s death in June, 2017, Dad has since moved to a living situation in Tempe).
Months passed, until late December, just after my 55th birthday, when things began to get real. Less than a month away, when I’d get to see Mom in person-in person after almost five, no six years. I had wanted to visit her, but she told me to save my money, especially after being in grad school for three years and that traveling might be difficult financially. I almost now in hindsight, wish I didn’t listen to her and gone to see Mom and Dad on my own intuition, but you can’t change time, despite personal historical revisionism abound.
Came January 24, 2017.  I was so excited to get out of my studio. I still felt as if I was out “house arrest.” Meaning, that I was living under a sort of an iron fist from my landlord. The year before had been exceedingly difficult. Canceling shows so I could get my life in order, cleaning up or rather decluttering my studio. That in itself has been a long long project, that I will finish up one day, but I will always I think, be working on.
But the landlord. Oh the fucking landlord-briefly explaining, had me under an unwritten illegal move-he wanted to know for months when I was heading out, where I was going to, how long I would be gone and when I was returning. All none of his fucking business. I remember canceling two major shows and having to worry constantly if I still had a home or not.
And everyone else went along with it. On board with the executive board, so to speak. I was the only one who complained about not being able to freely travel. Come and go as I please. An invisible ball and chain carried with me, every place I went, texting him back and forth with my plans. None of his fucking concern. Nazi Germany pre-world war two, in my eyes.
But I suppose in a way, it was good to have someone that cares about you, even under those conditions. But it wore me down. Tired of being under lock and key. Tired of being an invisible slave who couldn’t move or go anywhere without having to tell someone. I absolutely hated it. To get around it, I invented excuses in the event he did see me leaving.
Escapism was a new action verb in my vocabulary, so when it did come time to leave in cases like this, I always had a back-up plan. Mom always told me, “He doesn’t really care, all he cares about is the rent.” I believe here and now she was right. Correct, rather.
I left my studio early, just as I always did on this morning. Meaning, I’d stay up all-night, packing and repacking. Rethinking what would fit, what I was going to bring for Mom and Dad, and for that matter, Uncle Mickey and what I would be taking back-more trinkets and clothing, that I most likely didn’t truly need, but I would always pick up from Mexican Imports in Old Town Scottsdale-a place where Mom and I would often travel to sometime during my trip to see them.
Arriving at the station, I waited. Waited for what seemed like hours, talking to people, talking to friends and Mom on the phone. Thinking about random things until came time to board, find a seat and enjoy the ride. I had my regular supply of sandwiches and bottles of water to last me until I at least reached Tucson, my appointed round of landing.
The train ride was uneventful. At least until we arrived in San Antonio, Texas for a four-hour layover, as the train waited for another train, the Sunset Limited to arrive and hook themselves up with our train, thereby making it a much bigger train, something like 11 train coaches long.
In San Antonio, I made some new friends, we hung out at the Alamo, drank ourselves silly at Pat O’Brien’s and eventually staggered back to the train and had fitful sleeps in our coach seats, until each of our final destinations had arrived. The guy, who sat in back of me, was terribly hungry and so, I forked over one of my two-day old turkey and cheese sandwiches. It was all right, as far as I was concerned. I love sharing and giving back is tenfold as far as I was concerned. The guy was very grateful and offered to get me strip club girls real cheap and “good bud” in return for the meal.
I told him I’d think about it and went on my way. Uncle Mickey and Tucson wasn’t all that far away now. Once I got off the train, I didn’t know how I was going to get to the airport. After all I was flat broke and trying to figure things out was difficult. I was still getting used to Uber and depending less on taxicabs, which were far more expensive than anything.
Somehow, I managed to slip into an Uber with a Japanese couple, who unknowingly paid for my ride all the way out to the Tucson airport. I didn’t say too much, as the driver seemed suspicious of me. It was better that way. Mostly we talked about the gem show that was in town and the train ride, which was a two-day trip.  He didn’t seem to want to talk about much else and that was fine to me. It was a long ride to the airport and I was hungry anyhow. My sandwiches all gone just left with Kind nutritional bars and bottles of purified water.
Got there and waited for Uncle Mickey to arrive. It seemed like forever, but he finally did show up and off we went in search of our host for the night, who fed us kindly in the moment at the hotel he worked at with coffee, tea, oranges and a Snickers bar for me (Uncle Mickey doesn’t eat candy bars-at least not in front of me), which I saved for later.
He took us for food sometime after he got off work and we drove in this virtually empty car, with our luggage in the trunk, which he told us not to lock the doors. It was a small four door that he said he’d bought used, since it was a drug-runners car. At first I didn’t believe him, but then later I did. Of course that possibility never dawned on me, as we drove on down the highway toward Nogales, the city he lived in and I gazed up at the stars and fell asleep briefly.
Eventually, we got there and were put up in another home not far from him with a couple of crazy cats. I slept in one bed on a relatively quiet space, while Uncle Mickey slept in another bed, somewhere in the home. Outside and a little further away, we could see a portion of a steel wall, separating the towns of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico. I’d never been to Mexico before and hoped I would have the chance when we returned from Scottsdale.
The week we have with my parents is pretty wonderful, though Dad is pretty cranky the first night I am there and that’s very upsetting, so Mom fixes it. I am already used to the mere fact, at this point in my life, that Dad and I will never be friends (that would change of course within less than five months). 
We spend some nights together at dinner, talking. Sometimes we are late in coming in, sometimes we aren’t. Mostly because we, meaning Uncle Mickey and me are exploring the surrounding area between Scottsdale and elsewhere.
We go lots of places, including Surprise, Arizona, where we explore the mountains. Uncle Mickey thankfully can guide the car, but not always in the right fashion, because he joyrides half the time, scaring me, thinking we will go over the side of the mountains, which happens to be at times, between a 4,000 to 8,000-foot drop.
He tells me to guide us using the map-while I just want to get the fuck down from the mountains. I am afraid of heights, but it’s a little hard to explain this to him, especially when we are already elevated 25,000 feet already. I can see how frozen I was, looking back on it, as we are coming down and I notice at some point, one of the roads is washed out from a previous flood. He drives through anyway, since we can’t really go back the way we came and besides, sunset is beginning.
As we are driving down, it is beginning to lightly rain and then something I see, and I thankfully breathe a long sigh of relief, a regular road! And then I laugh because I see three paramedic trucks flying up the same rugged wet mountain road we just came down from, in single file. I shake my head and smile broadly.
February 1st is one of the most difficult days of my life; I have to say goodbye to Mom-thinking I will see her again. I tell her that I will come back in the fall, when the desert is cooler. Mom has never liked goodbyes. Though we have spoken on the phone several times throughout the course of the 16 years she has lived out here, in person goodbyes are a lot worse.
Of all the in-person goodbyes I have had with Mom, this was the worst of them. In fact, they don’t or never got any easier. We both are crying. Uncle Mickey and Dad must be kindred spirits, because they are both rushing our goodbye ceremony rather rapidly. “C’mon! We have to get going!” “I love you, Mom,” I call to her, as we head out the door.
It would be the last time I would ever see her alive.
We drove back to Nogales. That night, our host and a friend of his, take me across the border to Nogales, Mexico, where we get some great fresh tacos! After that, we stop into an open mic, where a few Mexican musicians back me, as I launch into a punk rock version of GG Allin’s, Bite It You Scum. I also throat sang Mykel Board Weasel Squeezer, an homage to Uncle Mickey. The musicians are thunderstruck and have me throat sing a few more tunes into their IPhone, which serves as their field recorder.
Then it’s onto a darkened street for a little more “fun.” Then back to the border, where I produce my passport, to the border patrol agent, whose smiles seems to get bigger and broader when I tell him where I am from. And just like that, he lets me back into America.
A restless night of sleep, early morning call up and I am dropped off at the Tucson Amtrak train station And sadly, I say my goodbye to my new friend Ivan and Uncle Mickey.
As I wait in line for the train to arrive and begin boarding, an older woman breaks bread with me and offers me half of the breakfast burrito she failed to eat. This seems like a good start to what I hope will be an uneventful trip with no difficulties.
And then it begins.
The Texas Eagle pulls into the station early-a rarity, and I am assigned my seat, struggle with my heavy, bulky black-wheeled bag and make my way to my seat. Being first in line does have its advantages, as I take the same set of seats I rode in on the way up. It’s not always like that, but when it does happen, I take full advantage. They are my favorite kind of seats too; the middle of the train. Makes it easier to run downstairs to grab sandwiches and water from my bag. Go to the lounge and brush my teeth. Stuff like that. Also, there’s a decent window seat view.
We pull out of Tucson and chug through the whole of Arizona, New Mexico-there’s a small state for you and finally we reach Texas. I hate Texas-most likely because I have had so many bad experiences in that state and also, like Montana, it takes forever to get though, virtually 10-12 hours by train in order to get to the next transfer point of San Antonio and then it’s additionally it’s another 6-12 in order to get through that, just to get to Arkansas. And that’s no exaggeration.
Like most train rides home, I just want to sleep-it’s a long ride I have ahead of me and having only slept a few hours back in the guest house in Arizona, I just want to get as much rest as possible before we hit San Antonio and then Chicago.  
The train rolls along. I have dinner, consisting of turkey and cheese sandwiches, bottled water, yellow crackers and a protein bar, my augmented full-scale meal for the next few days.  I read a little, look out the window, call friends, call Mom, tell her where we are and go to sleep.
It’s 1:10am when we arrive in Del Rio, Texas, Friday, February 2nd. Groundhog’s Day, to be exact. The train is supposed to make a 2-minute stop and then puff on ahead to San Antonio within a matter of a couple of hours to wait for the Sunset Limited, hook those passenger cars up to our train and then fly home, getting us back to Chicago the next day.
 That doesn’t happen. I peek out the window and I notice people are standing on the platform, smoking. Smoking? This isn’t a smoke stop as I whip out my paper Amtrak schedule and scan the times. We’re supposed to be gone, I think.
And then I look at the window again; more people are piling out of the train. Lots of cigarette butts decorating the platform. I wait and scratch my unwashed hair, as a conductor is rambling through the train and tells every fourth passenger that the apparent trouble as to why the train can’t move, is because a wooden train trestle has been burned to a crisp 20 miles out, leaving us and several freight trains virtually stranded.
The color temporarily drains from my face and I think shit. I think I’m not going to get home on time. I can’t get to Dallas on time and meet Cousin Bones. And then that stops and I think of it as one great adventure. Be positive in light of the situation.
It’s now, 1:30, as I dial an 800 number back home in Chicago. “Hello, WBBM news room” the male voice says. I tell them, I have a news tip for them. I explain to them, I am on an Amtrak train bound for Chicago and why we are stranded. The guy on the phone doesn’t flinch his voice when he tells me,
“Sir, we only cover Chicago-related stories. That’s a train in Texas.”
I retort back, “Yeah, we are in Texas, but we’re bound for Chicago and there are at least 150 rail passengers on this train heading to Chicago. “ We make the connection in San Antonio and from there it’s homeward bound to Chicago’s Union Station.”
“Fine,” says the reporter, as he takes my name and my phone number. I’ll do some checking. Thanks.” He hangs up.
Won’t be daylight for at least another few hours, so I roll over and go back to sleep. At about 6 am, the sun comes streaming in my window. I go downstairs, grab a sandwich and a bottle of water and chew on it for what seems like hours. I fall back asleep and wake up at 8:15.
I Google the local newspaper, which is called the Del Rio Herald, find the name of the localized newspaper reporter, who covers the important news and call the cell phone listed. “Hello, “ I say. My name is Sid Yiddish and…” “Sid Yiddish? Yes? I’m in the middle of an interview right now, can you call me back?” I laugh, exhaustedly, “uh well, I wanted to tell you I have a tip for you, you might want to follow up on. I’m a passenger on a stranded Amtrak train that is sitting in the middle of town that is headed for San Antonio, and eventually to back to Chicago. We’ve been sitting here since 1 in the morning because of a burned out bridge fire. “
She tells me she’ll call me back as soon as she’s done. I thank her and hang up. In the meantime, I slip on my gym shoes, head down the steps and outside and much to my surprise, I see several county sheriff personnel, cars, several policemen, border patrol people, a buzzing helicopter above and a paramedics truck, in a parking lot adjacent to the Amtrak passenger rail station. It is reminiscent of a similar situation I witnessed on election night 2008, directly outside the parking lot of my former work place with all sorts of local and state police, United States Army personnel, Illinois National Guard, “on standby” the eve of the presidential election, in the event, Barrack Obama lost the election, thereby inciting a riot in the streets of Chicago and elsewhere.

 Two emergency medical technicians (EMTs) ask me what’s going on, as if I had all the answers and or look the part. I tell them, “Heck, I don’t know.”
Then, the female EMT steps forward, leans in toward me and says, “We were told to expect some casualties here.” Casualties? What kind of casualties. A crew of 11 Amtrak train personnel consisting of conductors and cooks, afraid of 150 people trying to get home?
What were they expecting, a riot? I think on it for a sec and then answer them with, “Oh, I don’t know.” I mean, we’re all wanting the same thing. We all want to get home.” They shake their heads in agreement, but tell me they’ve heard other passengers complaining and stuff.
As I discover, a particular bunch of people on the train are often referred to as crackheads. Dope fiends. Weedsters. Methheads. Trailer trash-Duck Dynasty and Honey Boo-Boo types. They’re the ones complaining the loudest, saying stuff like, “the toilet stinks. I smell like piss. I ain’t got enough money to pay for the shit in the cafĂ© that tastes like shit” I ain’t got no money. “
I find out that they were the ones who called into to a local radio talk show and complained about how bad service is on Amtrak, just because of this one little mishap that they’ve magnified several hundred times. They’re not like the rest of the passengers on the train. Like retired people. The Amish. Regular people with jobs or on vacation or coming back from vacation. People who have to get to meetings.
Well, I think, they had a choice. They could have taken Greyhound, Trailways, Megabus or any number of regional buses. Or they could have even flown, but no, they chose Amtrak and when Amtrak gets in trouble, they’re the first ones to complain. And they only are able to hear themselves. No noise interfering.
Eventually, the reporter stops out and talks to me. I tell her what’s going on, in a nutshell. One of the crackheads, who’s now become an instant expert on being stranded, decides to listen in on my interview and draws closer. After all, the temperamental media star, knows all about stranded and believes she knows everything about everything.
When the reporter asks me a direct question about the situation, I tell her simply, “In light of the situation, it’s really just a big adventure,” to which the crackhead angrily responds, “It’s not a fucking adventure! We’re stranded! Stuck in the middle of nowhere! You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! Adventure! Boy, you’re on drugs,” the crackhead snaps at me, while intensely stomping away like a little girl who isn’t getting the attention she wants so desperately.
But to be frank, Del Rio, Texas, isn’t in the middle of “nowhere.” Per Wikipedia, it’s the county seat of Val Verde County, has a population of 40, 549, has two colleges and is home to Laughlin Air Force Base, the busiest United States pilot training facilities ever. No, we’re not in the middle of “nowhere.” We’re somewhere, a city that you don’t care to get to know, just you don’t care to get to know any other place other than the trailer park you most likely live in.
“See what I have to deal with here? But I am thinking to myself, they’re going through withdrawal without their precious medication that they need to comfort themselves with every 10 minutes and instead need cigarettes to calm themselves down. I turn back to the reporter and tell her I’m heading home after seeing my parents, not even sure of when I will get there, but at this point, will make due with what I have in front of me and make the best of it.”
We finish up the interview, as the reporter takes her photos and heads back to her car. She wishes me well and tells me that if no assistance comes out by 5pm, she will come back and take me home herself-I ask her, “You’ll take me all the way back to Chicago? That’s awfully nice of you!” “Yeah,” she says. My husband’s family is from there and I wouldn’t mind at all.”
I can’t believe the offer. A woman I’ve never met offers to take me home if Amtrak doesn’t oblige. In the meantime, 40 passengers have abandoned ship, finding friends to pick them up or to finding rental cars to take them all places Texas. The trouble is, for those of us who can’t afford to do that have to stay with the sinking ship. Once we leave, our ticket and/or ride home becomes null and void and we have to buy a brand new ticket, so it’s with the ship I reluctantly decided to stay with.
In the meantime, I wander back and forth. Another reporter from the Del Rio Herald wants to interview me. I oblige. We take more photos. And he, like the other reporter, asks me the same or similar questions. And like before I give the same or similar answers. But unlike the female reporter, the male reporter doesn’t offer to give me a ride home.
When we finish, we shake hands. I wander around, and see that Tele Mundo has arrived, the only locally national-based news organization here. I watch for a short time and then walk over to the passenger station, where I find inside, they are serving stranded passengers, cookies, popcorn and lemonade. It’s the least they can do, to accommodate us, I suppose.
I get my share and walk outside to the front of the station and sit down on one of the benches in front of the station. I make a little small talk with some of the other passengers, who think like me, that there’s not a whole lot we can do and enjoy the moments while we can. They, unlike me, are headed to New Orleans and want to get home. Soon.
They are also extremely wary and sick and tired of the crackheads, dope fiends, weedsters, methheads, trailer trash-Duck Dynasty and Honey Boo-Boo types. They, like me, want nothing to do with them. Thankfully, most of them stay away from us, except for a couple of them, whom I think want the attention of the rather heavyset man approaching me, while I am sitting on the bench at this very moment, who just happens to be the Del Rio sheriff and a few of his posse.
“Hello,” they say to me in a very friendly voice. “I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind.” “Sure, I have a few hours to kill here, why not?” They all laugh.
“Have those people (the crackheads, dope fiends, weedsters, methheads, trailer trash-Duck Dynasty and Honey Boo-Boo types) been bothering you? They seem to be bothering everyone.” I look at back at him and say, not really. They’re not harming anybody; they’re all frustrated like the rest of us. They just want to get home. No one really wants to be here in Del Rio. I’m certain you don’t want us here either, is that correct?”
The sheriff just nods and says “Yep. We’re just doing our job to keep everyone happy.” “That’s the main goal, I’d say. Keeping us all happy and they sooner we’re all out of here, the happier everyone will be.”
The sheriff looks disappointed, but thanks me for me taking time out to answer his questions and leaves with his men. I have to say, that most likely they were looking for some action.
A few dozen arrests I’m certain. To be perfectly honest, I am certain those folks were toking up. I saw them myself doing it, but why bother them? They have habits like we do.  A lot of them were fighting though, ridiculously fighting for absolutely no reason-but not fighting other passengers, just fighting amongst themselves. I can say as a group, they are rather aggressive, unusually aggressive, but under the circumstances, would you expect them not to be?
They want to get home or to wherever they are going to. Just like me and everyone else I have spoken to on the train. And speaking of which, I decide to hop back on the train to see what’s doing. Not much, save for a few passengers who are still sitting quietly in their seats, while one of the conductors is coming down the aisle, serving donuts to the passengers. A nice gesture, indeed. In a few minutes, I hear an on-board announcement that they will be serving up bowls of Amtrak chili. Can’t go wrong with that.
In conversations with conductors aboard the train, they tell us, they are doing their best to keep everyone happy and they’re doing a great job. What their bosses in Washington, D.C. are telling them to do with all of us, however, is a different story, meaning finding a fast solution hasn’t been all that easy. I mean, after all, we are 152 miles west of San Antonio.
Almost every conductor I speak with, tells me the same thing, it’s Washington’s policy. They’re the ones trying to solve the problem. And from the looks of it, from where I’m standing, at the moment, they simply can’t.
In the 13th hour of the 24th hour, barely 12 hours after we become stranded, word is spread amongst the passengers that we are finally going to be “rescued,” by way of chartered bus. However the wait is painfully long, due to the main factor being that the weekend the wooden train trestle just happens to be torched, is the same weekend that the football classic, the Superbowl is being held in Houston and that getting a chartered bus is next to impossible, because all buses have been chartered out in and around the states of Texas and Louisiana.
At last, in the beginning of the 18th hour of the 24th hour, chartered buses begin pulling into the adjacent parking lot that once was occupied by the now nearly deserted authorities personnel. There are buses going all directions, and eager passengers running toward them, as the destinations are announced.
Every destination except for San Antonio.
All of a sudden, the last three chartered buses pull into the lot and are earmarked for San Antonio. I grab my black backpack, push my arms through the shoulder pads, find my black oversized rolling bag and literally run to a bus. The bus driver takes my luggage and stores it underneath and packs the bus up with passengers!
We are finally on our way to San Antonio!
As the bus chugs along the highway it begins to drizzle and then it increasingly becomes a steady rain. I don’t remember much more, other than the bus being extremely tight with passengers, the air being dry and me gently drifting to sleep and waking up nearly an hour later, to discover, we are making excellent time.
As we pull into the station and deboard the chartered bus, I see two of the remaining crackheads get into an argument over money outside of the train station. I find my train car that I need to be on, show the new conductor my ticket, and place my bag in a baggage compartment. And head out into the night for a few hours. Denny’s for a good meal, a Tex-Mex bar to watch good free entertainment and walk back to the train, where the majority of passengers are sitting, just waiting for the train to leave the next morning at 7am.
And thankfully, the Texas Eagle does leave San Antonio on time. No more worries, no more wrinkles, no more nothings that is until we get to Longview, Texas. The last official stop in Texas and the last smoke break, I think, until we hit Chicago. I bound out of the train to get a little fresh air and notice the slight chill in the air.
I also notice the two policemen walking directly in my path and nearly walk into me, until a conductor shouts, “No! Not him! Him!” The conductor points to a younger, more buff man, wearing a hoodless solid blue jacket, smoking a cigarette. I am wearing a striped blue hemp coat with my red fish cap and hoodie. I guess policemen just can’t tell the difference and will grab anything that moves.
Evidently, the buffed man, indecently exposed himself to two under-aged Amish girls in the same car I was in, allegedly inside the bathroom lounge area, which is located on the lower half of the passenger car. They grab him, as he gives up without a struggle and is led away. I just shrug my shoulders and grumble about cops who behave like cops and nod my head to the conductor who spoke up before I was wrongly grabbed.

No more incidents, I hope. I just want to get home.
February 4, 2017. Three days later, dirtier and greasier than the greasiest diner in the city, I am last home. The greatest train adventure in my modern history of traveling becomes memory.

And that’s not so bad.

Tuesday, April 26

Tales Of Texas-Tale 2 (Growing Pains)

It was 1992.

A good year to say the least. I was working full time in a profession that I loved. Journalism. I was a working journalist, working for a small weekly in Melrose Park, Illinois. Home to ministers and mafia men. Though it didn’t pay me much, it still paid me something. I was in a loving relationship with a woman whom I would have given the shirt off my back to her and anything else for that matter.

I wrote poetry about and to her every single day. I must have written over 500 poems at least. I was a hopeless romantic. To this day, I can barely find a handful of these poems. Most of them are tucked away somewhere, I hope to find them one day.

I’d met her at my last undergrad college I attended, Columbia in Chicago. I was working at the Chicago Health Department in the city of Chicago in the fall of 1988, as part of an internship for my journalism requirement at school. I was still publishing Cops Hate Poetry, my poetry fanzine, in fact she was coming to photograph me for a story an unknown reporter for the Columbia Chronicle on my poetry fanzine had actually written.

In those days I had to dress a bit more proper. Trimmed beard and mustache. Combed hair. Slacks, a collared shirt, sturdy shoes, dark socks and sometimes, a conservative tie. It was just the way of the world. And if I were to represent the city of Chicago, that’s the only way I could.

She came to my office and asked to see me. I looked at her once and know I was in trouble. She was so sweet and nice and kind to me, as she took my photos, but then I always thought photographers had to be in those days just to capture their subjects. I assumed incorrectly.
As I knocked off my internship for that evening, we walked back to the el. I told her my life story and a lot of little stories to boot. She was the first woman who didn’t tire from my stories.
 I was so pleased. She never seemed to tire of them, even when I asked her 30 times a week.

“No,” she said. 

And always like that.

The next school year, in the fall of 1989 up through graduation in 1990, we worked together on the college newspaper, she in the photographer capacity, while I played office manager and eventually switched over to cub reporter, investigative and entertainment reporter. My internship ended with the city and I received a much more lucrative internship with Variety a larger-than-life entertainment weekly, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere in the United States and globally. I wrote film box office stats for weekly Variety in New York and for daily Variety in Los Angeles. Faxed all of my stories in. Sill no Internet at this point of in the universe.
I was a full time student, pulling down 40 hours a week in my internship, while another 40 hours at the newspaper. I was 26.
Even though I was intensely dating a Japanese woman whom I adored at the time and in a 2-year relationship, she, meaning the photographer, remained my closest friend. I knew she was in a relationship dating another photographer on the school newspaper. It wasn’t until spring 1990, when I chose to take her with me on assignment to go cover Farm Aid 4 in Indianapolis, I got a closer glimpse of what was happening. I noticed her belly was out a bit and I guessed on my own that she was pregnant, but with whose baby, I wasn’t sure-certainly not the photographer’s.

Someone else’s.  

She never told me until much later.

But we didn’t talk much about that. We were more interested in covering a major star studded benefit in Indianapolis. It was there she cut her teeth, freaking out when she saw Arlo Guthrie up close and personal. I had met him 5 years earlier at the first Farm Aid in Champaign, Illinois. She clung to me as if she and I were intimate, but I knew we weren’t.

We were just the best of friends. And she was someone I could always talk to. Tell her all my troubles and she found a way to whisk them from me. That was her strong hand. We shared the same room and when the lights went out for the night she always told me not to look when she was undressing. And I never did. Never peeked. Never wanted to. I just respected her, even though there was a tiny slow burn of me wanting to, creeping in ever so slightly.

We did our work and I was glad for it. We bonded well on this trip. And it showed.

When it came time for graduation on June 1, 1990 at UIC Pavilion in Chicago, I remembered well at the point when the college authoritative degree handlers called out my name to receive my bachelor’s degree and I danced across the stage and handed the college president a copy of my “Coloring In Peacetime coloring book in a manila envelope, of all the voices in the building that shouted my name, hers was the loudest.

After graduation, she had moved back to her mom’s in Racine, Wisconsin. Had her baby in late September 1990. I would visit her almost monthly.

At first by bus, and eventually by driving to see her.

At long last in 1992, she would move back down to Chicago, get an apartment and a job, baby in tow and all, first somewhere mid-city and then later, a little further north. She worked as I discovered inside Cabrini Green, teaching photography, on and off. She had gotten a job there sometime during the time of her pregnancy and would work there sporadically.

It was the summer of 1992 when I first set foot in that awful place to teach journalism, get assaulted my first day and the agency I worked for never did a thing, fearing the worst of black verses white crime in a city-sponsored job, even admitting to me they knew the suspect. I remember taking the day off, while she cried her eyes out, wishing she had never brought me into the place to begin with. I told her not to worry, that I would come back. 

And I did come back the day after next.

One day out of the blue, she would invite me in to have lunch with her. It was like old times. I just figured she never wanted to be around me, but I was dead wrong. Soon all students would come up to us both and individually over the next several weeks and ask us if we were dating or married. We both said no, although I realized we were probably giving that emotion off. And at that time in my life, I kind of wish I had been, but that was not to be just yet.

It had been late in the summer when the job ended and I had to go back to whatever I had to go back to, which was my part time journalism job in the western suburbs. We had been out one night-gone to an art gallery where she sought out the director in order to get a job.

I had a strange feeling in my stomach. It had been building up for weeks, now spilling over into days. Then hours into seconds divided into moments. I knew it was coming and I had to ask her before the moment of movement had passed. But instead, the night came to pass and I would only ask her this.
 “Hey, this friend of mine really likes this girl and he wants to ask her out but he’s real nervous to ask her out even though he likes her a lot. What you think he should do?”

And she would answer me, “He should really ask her out and not be afraid to.”

And that night, I didn’t ask her out.

The next night came. We had just come from a gallery opening her and I. I had driven there in my red Geo Prism. The car was parked in front of her new place, somewhere in East Rogers Park. I knew tonight would be that crucial night. I was still in the other relationship with the Japanese woman, but that had gone sourly South sometime ago and I wasn’t thrilled by what it was vast becoming.
And so just as she was about to get out of my car, I grabbed a hold of her left hand, got extremely nervous and I said, “Hey, will you go out with me?”

She held back a bit and coyly responded, “Well, we go out already.”

I think she knew what was coming next, so she waited patiently, when I said, “No, that’s not what I meant.”

“I meant as in dating you.”

All she said, was, “Yes.”

My heart jumped for joy, as we embraced.

She told me in the days that followed when I first asked her that hypothetical question, that she thought I was going to ask her out right then and there and was crushed when I didn’t ask her out, so she kind of planned out the alternative, meaning and hoping that I would ask her out the next night, which I did.

In the week that followed, I broke off a four-year relationship with my Japanese girlfriend, knowing full well what I was getting myself into-a new kind of love, someone that I felt wasn’t going to hurt me so much, someone who I felt would protect me from evil and would support my art in ways I could never fathom possible before. She was my friend first and foremost. We had that much going for us-what would follow would be anybody’s guess.

But like my poetry, which had also taken off that year, in particular that summer, it would prove a hotbed of stormy passion, both in writing and in that relationship; a lot of proving, a lot of fighting for what was right; a lot of kissing and making up and a lot of “Yes, I know” and “No, I don’t know” kind of answers.

It was also during that time period that I was informed that one of my poems, had been published in an erotic anthology out of Austin, Texas, entitled, Apex Annual, #1, Erotic Fun. It was 64 pages long. A pretty big book for a poetry anthology.

A poem I had written initially for two men; a gay couple-friends of mine, but the meaning had changed drastically when our relationship, meaning Wisconsin girl and Illinois boy, grew drastically in leaps and bounds. It was no longer about them; even the words were so obvious.

Behavior Modification
Schoolgirl’s charm
Buys happiness on a stick
70 rigid muscles
For 20 solid minutes,
Satisfaction
Riding up and down
On an old man’s dick.

The meaning had changed overnight, though the words were so vulgar and harsh.

Hardcore.

The way she liked it when I talked dirty to her.

I decided to go to Austin to partake in the performance-not that they would pay my way, but I would go on my own. Stay with a friend and drive up on my own to the venue on Congress Avenue.
It would be my first exposure to written eroticism, no matter how the form. I discovered just how powerful it was written a few years later when I would have to wrestle away a copy away from a friend of mine whom I had lent a copy to, who refused to give it back to me because he got off on the book sexually.

“I lost it. I mislaid it. I can’t find it; “ he would plead with me, when the book was in plain sight on his bed. His personal fetish was pancakes, but that’s another story for another time.

I snatched it up and called him a liar to his face. How could I not? I learned never to lend anything out to him again. A lesson, I don’t ever seem to learn, either with books or CDs these days.

But back to the matter at hand. It was early November 1992, when I flew to Austin, Texas and took part in the reading. I remember how much I milled around the food table, fressing and then backstage, so nervous to read, and had inserted a tape recorder in my coat (or was it down my pants?) to capture the moment.

There had been every kind of performer on hand, from performance artist to poet and then some. I remember vividly the guy who had a small piece of metal shoved inside his pee hole sideways in order to juggle various objects up and down his penis. That was a sight to see. And the lovely girl assistant helping him.

The guy who had been on before me had used salsa as lubricant to shove bananas up his ass as a part of his performance. I was terribly glad at the time that I didn’t have to see that, just hear it described as I paced nervously backstage, because I went on after him.

All I remember him saying was “Ewwww. Butt-juice. I’m sure he wouldn’t want to see this.”
And I’m glad I didn’t.

As a result of that image floating around in my brain, I didn’t touch bananas or salsa for another seven years.

The reading would go off without a hitch. I would be successful, although I would be written up in the Austin Weekly alternative newspaper sometime afterward and described, “as a rather large man who was hanging around the food table all night.”

I wasn’t THAT big. Nor fat. Nor heavy.

Those images would haunt me for the next several years. And it would take me a few more years before I could write about it comfortably. But to that day and beyond within and without our relationship, she never once criticized me for looking the way I did. She loved me for me. She saw beyond what was. 

I wished that the Japanese girl I had once loved but broke up with, didn’t use it as an terrible excuse against me not to have sex with me because she worried about becoming “pg” or pregnant.  


I only wished the rest of the world and the whole of Texas felt the same.

Wednesday, March 30

Tales Of Texas-Tale 1

I should preface this writings by saying my experiences in Texas have never been that great. As a result, for a great many years, I ended up hating Texas and vowed never to return.

The last time I was in Texas proper was 2002 after a long reading and performance tour via Greyhound Bus.

15 states in 14 days.

This summer marks my return to the state I hate for the first time in nearly 14 years and I’m excited at the prospect of its outcome. A completely opposite feeling from a few months ago. Another tale for another time with a good outcome (I hope).

Over the years, my feelings about Texas never changed. Within the last 3 years however, with the advent of meeting fellow performers & friends through social media platforms such as Facebook, returning to and graduating from grad school with students in the program from Texas, and a few close friends who moved there, my feelings toward the state have slowly begun to disintegrate.

I hated Texas because of all the bad experiences I had there. More so, with Jay and Charlie (initially) and a number of related incidents there. Not that it’s all lovey dovey at this point, but it will take time to get reacquainted with a still formidable enemy.

 And now, onto my first Texas Tale…

Tale Number 1-First Time In Texas

In 1986, when I visited Texas for the very first time, I stayed in Spring, Texas, which is a suburb of Houston. Jay’s dad didn’t exactly like me-he was a former oilman, a very rich and successful businessman whose wealth was siphoned from him during the oil bust of 1985. He was bitter and he was hurting. Had to sell all of his priceless artwork and African masks.

He wanted me to earn my keep. That was just his way. Hindsight says he was damn near broke and needed the money. But, he expected me to pay him rent for staying at his home for 2 weeks. I balked at that idea and did chores instead.

His divorced (and alcoholic) mother thought I was Jay’s rag doll for gay sex. That played out very badly one night during a dinner at an area Houston restaurant. A bloody screaming match between mother and son, that by present standards, would have made today’s reality TV show staged fights appear exceedingly normal.

Jay was adopted. Full-blood Hidatsa. Jay had just come out to me 2 years earlier (Summer, 1984) while we were stationed at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois in the journalism program.

I met Jay the summer of 1984 during a residence floor activity in early July. We all went to see the film Ghostbusters at Cinema Twin, near the Hy Vee grocery store. It was him and I who straggled along that got us to talking to each other. I don’t remember much more about that night other than to say we became fast friends.

I didn’t understand much about the gay-lesbian stuff back then. The only moment I recall with him was the phrase he used over and over that summer, that “He has the look.” 
Back in Houston, during the 4th of July weekend, in 1986, a rather hot and humid weekend I should add, we went into a gay leather biker bar one night-on Montrose Avenue-I don't recall which one it was. I do remember they had a backyard and a general store inside.

We get in.

We separate.

Little did I know that he left the bar and planted himself outside.  No way to text him or call him, it was still 1986, after all.

So I wander around and then I go to the backyard, where there's a barbecue and a slave auction with men in full leather chaps in progress.

I'm in the back curiously watching, when suddenly, I hear directly in back of me, a tall lean man with a deep booming Southern voice growling, "This bar is for big boys only," knowing full well, he was talking to me. I got the hint and left. I went to the general store inside the bar and bought a button that read, "I use Crisco." 

I still have that button.

I found Jay outside waiting for me in the parking lot of the bar.

“How long were you out here waiting?” I ask him

“20 minutes,” he says.

“Why didn’t you come and find me?” I asked him.

“I was lazy,” he says.

I shake my head, as we head out into the warm muggy night off and in search of other adventures.


Thursday, November 26

The Day I "Died..."

The day that you die is supposed to be the day that you are remembered in infamy. Your friends, family/relatives and enemies remember you fondly and only have good things to say about you---never bad.

The night I died according to Facebook was completely the opposite. It was mid-Wednesday evening April 1, 2015, I was cabbing it over to the Gallery Cabaret on Oakley, just off of Armitage in Chicago on my way to a Henchmen gig.

I was late coming from school-doing something, like I always did.

 Doing something. I talked to the cab driver about my art. Told him lots of stories. I remember him taking a different way there because traffic was blocked and for some reason he took the Eisenhower, got off at Western and took a straight shot over.

I’ve had my run-ins with cab drivers in 2015; like the cabbie in early March who nearly killed me in his cab driving over a median strip and into the northbound lanes thinking there were the southbound lanes. It was a wonder I was still alive. And then later, when we pulled up to the event I was headed to and hitting the man on the bike and only caring about his cab.

That was wicked.



It must have been about 7:30 in the evening when the cab pulled up to the club. I paid the driver and saw Dr. Nothing and Dennis The Menace out on the sidewalk. Said something to them that I can’t remember and headed inside with them. The Slurve was sitting at the bar.

The open mic was already in progress as I set my gear down and went to unpack the bingo box, the instruments and my costume. I said hello to the hostess who was donning a boring blond wig, because after all, it was April Fool’s Day and the one of the biggest fool in the Chicagoland area was moments away from disgracing the stage.

The rest of the Henchmen filed into the club. I greeted all of them. The poets were already there. Some I recognized and some I didn’t. Even saw the one I screwed one night and found out later she was married but was hot for teacher. 

Yeah, something like that.

On stage at that moment, was anarchist anti-Israeli poet Joffre Stewart. Crowing about it being “Sid Yiddish Day” and oh, who just happens to walk into the club and hears him saying it as if on cue? Moi. I just glared at him, knowing that he would do an anti-Israeli poem in my honor. And of course, that was the very next poem he recited, while I whispered to the host’s husband on how to film the band & I, as we performed the bingo game. I told him that I was going to “put him to work.”

After a long open mic, we were ready to perform. I sent the Henchmen up, to take positions, while I readied my own space and passed out the bingo cards, chips and set up the bingo cage and whispered more instructions to the host, but I knew things were already going to go wrong, as I told the crowd we were going to play “4 corner bingo” and someone else decided to play bingo the regular way and as we played on and the crowd got slightly unruly because someone else did it wrong and they all wanted to win and that’s how it goes when you play bingo. 

No one wants to lose and everyone wants a prize. To try and please everyone, we played a 2nd game and who should win, but Joffre Stewart. His prize? A genuine bar of Swiss chocolate marzipan from Copenhagen.

We do one a couple of more compositions and I decide to end it early because I wasn’t exactly sure on time. As I am packing up and collecting the bounty from generous supporters of our work, Dr. Nothing comes up to me and tells me “Sid, you’re dead.” I have no clue what he’s talking about and go back to packing up my gear, changing out of my costume and talking to the host and wiping the sweat off my face.

I get a ride home from the host’s sidekick, as he lives pretty close to me. I am tired, I say to him as I get settled into the car. The conversation is nothing special between him and I, in fact, it centers on my brother Louie, just like always after I ride with him. I don’t care really to talk about my brother Louie, because my brother Louie is a true asshole; someone I wouldn’t trust with my life even if I were dying, because he’d be the first one to ask for either my Saturn or my laptop or some other valuable material possession I now own.

And with a brother like that, who needs him?

I was pretty tired that night as I turned in. It already had been a difficult week in my life; bad critique at grad school, a canceled spring trip to New York City on top of canceling an important performance gig, which had stressed me out because the last time I canceled an important performance gig I was called “unprofessional” and I would never work in Kansas City again.
 
That’s somewhat true. I haven’t worked there since February 2014. Again, due to the unprofessionalism of my grad school department who didn’t bother to tell its students that the building was going to close that summer due to asbestos removal and only had a week to pack up all of their belongings and have them put into storage.

The same week I was supposed to go to Kansas City. Life isn’t fair but so it went.

I went to bed and thought nothing of it. It was spring break after all and I could sleep in that week.

When I awoke the next morning, I arose to such a clatter; I had 4 voicemails, several texts on my cell phone and a little over 200 notices on Facebook that had declared me dead.

The following posted note on my Facebook page started off the feeding frenzy, a little after 9pm central daylight savings time: “I am sorry and heart-crushed to announce the passing of Sid Yiddish. He collapsed upon ushering his most famous hand signal high E, whilst using audience participation in the game of bingo as a chance parameter to direct his conducting for the first time. He was pronounced dead when the paramedics arrived. Multi Kulti will host a gathering in his memory, details to follow.”

This post appeared on my friend Dr Nothing’s Facebook page. As I discovered later, his account was hacked into. Yes. Hacked. Even the tightest of ITT men can have their accounts hacked into.
In the sickening irony that followed, 19 friends of mine liked the post.

And that’s when the shit hit the fan.

Here are the actual posts that followed, minus the names.

Holy Shit!‬ This better be a Cruel April Fools Joke!

‬

Hoax?
‬
The world just lost some light.
 ‬
‪

‬



‬

I always figured I'd find out about his death on social media, and I'm His BROTHER!!!!!!


‪

‬

 Sounds like the onion headlines
.

Gosh, will he be alright?


Whatttttttttt? Are u serious? Damn I just asked u about him
.

‬

Were his last words "And I would be your leader!"  

He is all right. He is gone to heaven to be with god.

‬
This better not be an April Fool’s joke
! ‬
‪

‬



‬

Just at the hospital to view the remains. Though he appeared much as he did in life, family is still recommending a closed casket. he will be sorely missed, at least through the weekend, and depending upon the weather. Sid always considered me a very dear friend. At times I considered him as well.


And just earlier today he was alive and well debunking everyone's April Fool’s jokes... and now he is gone. He will be missed except on April 1st when he was a bit of a party pooper...


Wooowww.‬ I can't believe this!‬ So Sorry to Hear it happened....


‪‬

Oh man I am in shock and deeply saddened by this news...



‪‬

My brain cannot be alive, it is dead with the memory, and cannot go on
.


‪
Awwwwww I'm sorry to hear this. He was definitely an original. & will greatly missed.


He left this world doing what he loved like a total boss. this is the way he would have wanted it to be.



‪‬

Please tell me this is an April Fool's joke?


‪‬

What???
 I don't believe this shit though.


‪‬

 
I've texted a couple of friends and have not gotten any confirmation that this isn't an April Fool's joke. Being that neither one of them have come to this thread to assure us that this is not a joke has me suspicious
; alright, there’s a message here that is a give away that this is a joke. everyone read his post.
 There should be many people who could deny or confirm it. And for whatever it's worth now posts memorializing him on April 2nd.


‪‬

You had me until the hand signals!!



‪‬

Oh no. and I never got a chance to meet him and always wanted to.


So very sorry for the loss.

Okay, it's April 2nd now. What's the real story?


And that was just the start. Like a long drawn out drizzle, it continued.

What?? I thought at first this was a horrible April fools joke. If true.. RIP Sid Yiddish.I had just thought it had to be an April Fool’s joke. How sad. Don't know what happened. Crazee.

Jesus, I can't believe it. We had such a good time hanging out with him last summer. Check his page,  it's true. Well, there's no obituary or anything. Some fellow claims to have witnessed the whole thing, onstage; it's all very weird, which is why no one knows whether to actually believe it. Especially on April Fool's Day, but it's April 2 now, and where's Sid? I know a lot of his friends are comedians, and they seem to be congenitally incapable of serious discourse.

So sorry Sid...RIP
. ‬

And it continued. From bad to worse. A angry mob looking for blood.

Well fuck you very much for worrying people. Very fucking lousy and triggering prank.

Sid Yiddish is NOT dead. Very bad joke. NOT dead. Very bad joke.

And as the mopping up began and more remarks were made in the process, a pattern began to form and it was an odd pattern at that. There were the usual suspects in the mob; the reactionaries; the truth-seekers, the actual believers and the angry. And then there were those who never actually saw it and had no clue what had taken place.

In particular, there was one guy, whom I’ll deem as an acquaintance, who was so insistent on “my death” that he pushed pretty hard on reasons why, how and where only to discover through a mutual friend of ours, that this guy had staged his own death four years prior to this. It left me scratching my head and wondering, what the fuck!

And there were the ones who privately messaged me; I thought, now if I am dead, how am I supposed to answer their letters? It was enough that I had been off Facebook publicly since late January, 22, 2015 and rarely posted, save for a photo or a gig.

In the days that followed, after getting bullied and pushed around by others who were convinced that I staged my own death online, I ran into friends on campus who saw the post and there were those who didn’t see the post and embraced me as if I had truly died. 

An interesting side-note was that a Google search of my name two days after I supposedly died, turned up at least 54, 400 entries for me, 184,000 less than usual. It was quite evident that the my death put a quash on a lot of things and people.

In the months that followed, there were those who I had emailed about things and situational stuff that I wanted to resolve but for some reason or another, I couldn’t, most everyone said the same thing, “I thought you were dead!”

And then I discovered, quite by sheer accident or perhaps it was sheer coincidence, online in a conspiracy forum, what the name, Sid Yiddish truly stands for and that is:

S=Sid
I=Is
D=Dead
Y=Yiddish
I=Is
D=Dead
D=Dead
I=Is
S=Sid
H=Hoax

Why is it, in life, no one truly gives a shit about one or another’s well-being until it’s too late? Why is it that on Facebook that many people take situations and people for granted until it’s too late? Not reach across the aisle, the pond, the sea, the next city and make that concerted effort and say hello until it’s too late?

I say, do it now, before you miss out.


Put your differences aside. Stop being so sensitive. It’s not always about you. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Be more forgiving. Tell someone you love him or her. And everyday. Life is like a deck of cards, you never know when that Ace of Spades will be dealt. Do it now. 

Don’t wait until the moment is gone.