“Failure is a huge part of life, but is it truly failure if one is still trying?”
Every once in a while testimonial moments of confession are warranted. There are many things that brew and pop within the human vessel that may rarely if ever arrive at a point of fluid release, certain things are rarely addressed.
I have concluded, sometimes people are cats. In the wee-hours when the night has no eyes those cats come in threes, they scramble through the shadows around buildings dotted in summer bushes and trees.
I lived in Hampton, VA from April 2004 until July of 2010. Of course, this is coastal Virginia which is America’s Mid-Atlantic region. I remember there were countless seagulls suspended in the air or swaying on the ground often times. If you walked with anything edible in your hands they were likely to swoop down and attempt to gaffle it from you.
The seagulls were quite hungry and relentless often times posing as innocent angelic creatures, then ravishing public dumpsters along with parking lots of strip malls and all night diners. They may be spotted picking around and through lost baggies of cocaine and weed, used condoms, undergarments, eggs, pancakes, and sometimes loose money and change.
For a time while living in Virginia I worked at one of those late-night diners. I’ve cleaned those parking lots on Saturday and Sunday mornings as the seagulls feasted and descended into the black top. One thing is quite clear regardless of what I found and saw, or what these grimy coastal birds found and saw; that never entailed a pot of gold. At times contingent upon what kind of night preceded the morning you might have found bullet shells, but never a rainbow and never any real gold.
Any gold that I encountered in Virginia was more prominent in human form, adding to the richness of certain experiences. One of the initial draws for me to move to Hampton was that at the time both of my brothers resided in the area known as the peninsula. VA for me was a rite of passage. It was an education, tutelage, self-discovery, etc. Before I arrived in the 7 cities (Hampton Roads), VA; I was a bit of a non-conformist. The move to Hampton was a compromise and plan B, I was actually planning on moving to Mexico for a while instead but was ill prepared.
I arrived on Sunday Apr. 25, 2004 when I was 22 years old. I didn’t have a car, a license, a job, nor did I have any college education under my belt. I had a little money saved from working two jobs the year prior, but not enough to last beyond a couple of months. What I did have was a great support system between my two brothers and their good folks already connected with them in VA. It was difficult to navigate the area without a vehicle, obtaining gainful employment was also a bit challenging for me at the time.
In a way the seemingly random move from Asheville to Hampton felt like a punishment and lesson in discipline and manhood somehow. It felt like the type of growing pains that I had coming to me for not being “grown enough” already, or for not being “regular/normal” enough with regard to the conventional. I knew upon arrival that this place and experience was going to bring and make something different out of me (and that I may not like all of it).
The first strange bump in the road that I faced within my first couple of weeks in Hampton was a little condition called peripheral neuropathy, fortunately it was temporary and was more than likely the result of a pinched nerve combined with some form of stress and anxiety. The unfortunate thing is that it affected my ability to sleep and even movement of my hands. At night while attempting to rest I noticed twitches and electric jolts going through parts of my body; my neck, head, legs and feet for instance.
One thing that definitely sparked it was a cigarette, and it was more noticeable at night. Up until that point I was actually fairly healthy, so anything out of sorts to that degree was quite alarming to say the least. My eldest brother who was in the Navy ended up taking me to the emergency room after my waking of him in the wee-hours. I was checked out and they prescribed some over-the-counter pills, recommended staying away from “chemicals/substances” (in addition to of course getting rest).
I was fine soon enough just as they predicted, but something in my hands for me was never quite the same although it’s just something I live with and don’t fuss over. I did find work within about a month and it was a “basic” job. I worked a lot of “basic” jobs especially back then. I was a very simple person at least on the outside.
My first job out there was at a place called Old Country Buffet, and I came in as the “green” country boy from down and over on the other side of Carolina (the mountains?). Not only was I country but I was a bit unconventional too, I had to reset and start all over again scratch-made. I felt like a bag of brown flour from an old burlap sack dumped all the way out only to soon be watered down, yet enriched, remixed, and kneaded (needed?).
One of the first people I met on the job was Mr. Ernest. I was weary about most people particularly in a new environment, but not him. He was a grandfather figure (a figure which I never actually grew up with), but he was also a fellow countryman. Of course when I say countryman, by that I mean that he was country as hell like me.
He was from coastal North Carolina originally, Greenville to be exact. He too had come to Virginia when he was very young and naïve just like myself, joining brothers already living in the area. One difference happened to be that he had been married, divorced, had children and grandchildren. He had lived in D.C. for around some forty years working as a custodian for the public school system. Another difference between the two of us outside of the obvious difference in age and experience was our level of literacy.
His 69 years of wisdom combined with his work ethic and humility had taken him a long way, although he was stripped of all of his material possessions by the time he had returned to Hampton Roads not long before our crossroads. I didn’t independently know anyone around there, Mister Ernest was essentially the first friend I had made in my new home. There are many other people along the way that deserve very honorable mentions and garner nostalgia, but in this case I will only specifically mention Mr. Ernest for many reasons including privacy and possible incrimination.
When Mr. Ernest arrived in the 7 cities it was in the 1960’s, the shipyards were the place to be around there if you were not in the military and wanted to make pretty good money. He only stayed in the area for a few years as a young man and resided in the D.C./Maryland area for most of his adult life, unfortunately all of his brothers who worked at the shipyards died early along with many others due to asbestos exposure.
He lived in a boarding house in downtown Newport News when he returned to the tidewater region recently divorced. He was such a calm and peaceful man but he lived in such chaos. I would more often than not be able to relate to that within the next 6 years. After we finished our shift sometimes we would sit at a table in the restaurant, and slowly go up to the hot bar and refill our plates. We were rarely bothered by anyone. We would just talk about life, work, our pasts, religion, etc. He would tell me, “ I didn’t always live like this Mr. Kevin..”and he reminisced upon his failed marriage to a classy educated woman, with the plastic still on the furniture.
He would tell me things about how rough and challenging marriage is, how sometimes you grow apart and barely talk. Sometimes you sleep in separate rooms for years; how they cheat on you, you cheat on them and sometimes don’t even give a damn. He expressed to me how he had to live up to a certain standard with the cars, house and yard (just to keep up appearances) and then he was just tired of all of it. He essentially chose poverty in pursuit of a certain freedom that did not exist for him in his family life and world.
He would often times drop me off a mile or so down the road at my middle brother’s lower-middle class condo, that’s where I lived for my first two years in Virginia. Ernest had a beat up early-mid-eighties dark blue Chevy Caprice classic, in his spare time he was always doing work on it. I remember he always drove with both feet even though the car was an automatic, that was strange to me but I believe a lot of older folks do that.
One day as he spoke of his’ mortality in a slightly deeper tone and conversation he almost nonchalantly said, “When I walk through that old gray overcoat…”. When I first heard him reference such a solemn moment with such language I just lit up, I had never heard death referred to like that. I had to stop him and make sure I heard what I thought I heard because for me he wasn’t speaking everyday language. Mister Ernest aka “Boyd” had many sayings and phrases like that, but as an artist, that was my favorite of course.
He would also paint encouraging uplifting visions that inspired me. He would speak of all the things that one can possess and achieve but not because “I”, “You”, or “They” said so but because “God” said so. The other gems that I received specifically from him as well as from my two brothers tended to be a topographical road map of my pending future. In the very early stages I was provided with lessons and anecdotes related to things I would end up experiencing during my stint in Virginia, what to watch out for and the nature of people and places.
Within the first year I worked at Old Country Buffet I obtained a permit, attended basic driving school (often times with high schoolers), purchased a vehicle and taught myself to drive manual shift. My brother didn’t have the patience or time to teach me all of these things, so I paid for Dudley’s driving school and a $700 1994 Toyota Tercel with my own money that I had been saving. I received my license on March 17, 2005, a necessary evil for freedom and exploration. I began to enjoy Virginia a lot more and had made a few new friends, although I found it to be one of the more challenging areas to make friends at first. Of course some become rodents, some snakes, vultures, and others wolves.
I can’t tell you many of the things that occurred in Virginia, many of them are totally outlandish and uncalled for but I was just a human being trying to live a life on earth. I had many reboots during my 20’s, so there’s a lot more to tell about this story but it would have to be a whole book containing such delicate information the likes of which I am not prepared to divulge at this time. However, I will still continue to attempt to paint this picture of the world and life’s humbling of man.
I received a tip in 2005 from a co-worker about auditions at the radio station (WHOV 88.1 Hampton University). They said they liked my voice at the audition but I ended up doing street promotions due to the demand, but I almost felt like a college student for a while. I met and got to work with some really cool folks too. I felt that that was more attuned to my natural frequency, but sooner than later I would digress and deviate from a straight path (poor choices and bad company).
My brother invited me to leave his residence around March of 2006, I had just started a better paying job at West Telemarketing working as a CSR (Customer Service Representative) for WHI (Walgreens Health Initiatives). I moved in with a young lady that I had been working with, she lived on the other side of town in Phoebus. The neighborhood and living situation was less than ideal but I liked her and was ready for a new beginning. She was a really smart and savvy lady two years my senior from the Bronx. She helped me out a bit but then I helped her out a bit, I thought there was something? Oh well, timing/placement and surely some form of madness.
I was living on the other side of town by the end of the summer, for this young lady had to depart with her three year old daughter to be closer to her family in PA. I drove the U-haul up there and even spoke of joining her in the coming months. I moved into Lakeshore apartments with a roommate in August of 2006, I was fortunate enough to be granted the master bedroom. Everything was seemingly good, but by then I worked at the call center for Cingular wireless prepaid and was actually getting more overtime than before. I wasn’t really enthused about sitting in a cubicle and talking to people all day if I am to be candid, but there were some interesting and diverse folks that worked there.
I was actually love sick underneath, I had caught some feelings for the birdie that flew away back up north. On a Friday in late September upon the weekend that I foreshadowing-ly labeled “The Kevin weekend”, I went a little too far and didn’t take care of Kevin. I was anticipating a great weekend of fun, games, imbibing, and shenanigans of sorts. I decided to accept an invite or recommendation to attend a bar called Rooney’s and begin the highly anticipated “Kevin weekend”. Unfortunately, I forgot to eat dinner although I managed to do Sunday laundry on Friday before I went out.
My buddy from work happened to be there, and this was the first time we hung out and drank outside of work. We had good times and met a Gemini-an stripper lady from Newport News who invited us both out to see her on Saturday night, she seemed to like both of us but was partial to my friend. She herself was African American and pleasantly “hood” in presentation at that time, but she did make it politely clear that she favored white guys. I didn’t mind because buddy was a cool dude so we all took shots of Cuervo and Captain Morgan, drank some beer and she departed fairly early. Eventually I decided it was time to venture home, besides I had to work at 9AM and it was 1AM.
Buddy asked if I needed a ride home, my car was right there and I didn’t think I drank all that much. I lived within a mile and a half down the road, I could have actually walked if I was thinking more lucidly. In my noticeably empty stomach- super buzzy blur I decided that it would be best to take the residential side roads home to avoid DWI. As I turned left onto the first residential street I felt the foamy bubble gut, I knew it was coming sooner or later. I rolled down the window in my white 2001 Nissan Altima as I’m tracking through a neighborhood that leads home eventually.
I lean my head out a bit, certain that the “upchuck” was going down (and BOOM!). Released is the airbag, I’m flung a bit and my car has eaten a parked Suburban head on. I KNEW I WAS FUC**D! Adding insult to injury, I had not vomited, this was a dry heave. I was going to just walk home or call a tow truck (as if any of that was a viable permanent solution). All of these engine fluids bubbling and sizzling as they dripped onto the asphalt steaming and seething as their nauseating lava burnt into my black holes. I tried to knock on the homeowner’s door to fess up but nobody answered. There were a couple of skater kids that came around to check on me, and the police arrived soon after. While the police were there questioning me after initial apprehension I finally received relief from the alcohol, most likely pushed by nerves. Needless to say, that is how I lost my license after only having one for about a year and a half. I was 24 years old and my car was totaled.