THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND
With few exceptions, every man will pause along the road that’s become his life’s journey, turn around and in his mind return to his first memories of that journey. He will embrace the picture of the distant and enchanted trail that was to lead to his shining victory. He may longingly reach out to grasp and hold that vision of the wild and robust youth he was, whose destiny was written in the stars and whose immortality would catapult him to fame, riches, and glorious fate. And when will he pause? Will it be when the road has turned to dust and disappointment, or will it be in a moment of innocent nostalgia? Then, again, it may come with the enlightened discovery that it is mortality itself that creates dreams and desires that can never be fulfilled, and that he and his fellow man perpetuate the illusions that lead to unmet expectations, disappointments, and suffering. But, until that moment of pause, there is in young men a wild, dark, jubilation, “from the fury swelling in their hearts, the mad fury pounding in their veins, the savage, exultant and unutterable fury working like a madness in the adyts of their soul.” And it is the metronome of their kaleidoscopic days that gives a “rhyme to madness, a tongue to hunger and desire, a certitude to all the savage, drunken, and exultant fury that keeps mounting, rising, swelling in them all the time.”
Jimmy’s parents had left town—or maybe escaped is a better word.. The three boys were in the basement of Jimmy’s old house which hadn’t sold before his father’s setback. The evening of beer and the whiskey had begun with restraint, but it didn’t take long for pent up resentments and sat-upon opinion to bust loose and fly around the room. Individually and collectively, these three young men announced to themselves that they were going to be somebody in spite of roadblocks and in spite of those who’d gone before.
“I understand the fucking embarrassment, and lack of any relationship, but your whole sense of betrayal somehow isn’t as lethal as mine—your dad’s offenses are related to his addiction, and although they may cry of weakness, they’re not premeditated. I’m guilty by association, you’re not.” Jimmy was spewing and leaning into Ozzie.
“Bullshit. Of course I’m guilty by association. And how would you feel if you had never had a friend over for the night, or even dinner, ‘cause you’re scared of an uncorked monster?” Ozzie leaned back.
“It’s who he always was, not some idol he built over the years and then one day smashed in front of your face,” Jimmy retorted. He looked over at Dean for support.
“I can’t relate those feelings toward my folks, but I can with Joann, and I certainly can with my faith.” Dean was less adamant than the other two.
“Well, fuck it, I’m not gonna’ lie down and wallow in self pity. The world is mine, and I’m learnin’ from it,” exclaimed Jimmy as he stood up to uncap another bottle of the cheap bear.
”No shit, Sherlock, I’m gonna make Mom proud.” Ozzie reached out to click bottles with Jimmy.
“I’m gonna make me proud. Right Deano?” said Jimmy in salute.
“You know guys, we’ve got the world by the ass and what the hell can stop us?” cried Dean, picking up their attitude with gusto. “We’re Champs. One more this year, and a bunch next year. And the chicks love our gig. Right?
“That’s great for me and Jimbo, but old wimpy is tied down, lashed to the collar again,” yelled Ozzie, laughing and clicking Jimmy’s bottle again.
“Fuck you skinhead, I do what I fuckin’A want.” sneered Dean, alluding to Ozzie’s new flattop.
Jimmy listened, giggled to himself, and thought how it was interesting that some people were adept and skilled in the use of profanity, like Ozzie, who could make a point more emphatic, instill fear, or produce levity, and you expected it because they were practiced, comfortable, and good at it. Others like Dean, did it out of peer pressure, tentatively and uncomfortably, and it just never worked.
“Ok, Romeo, let’s go own to Lowertown, grab some sluts, and watch you strut your stuff,” challenged The Wiz.
“Yeah, right, and get tossed in the crowbar hotel for drinkin’ and driven.”
“So, I’ll drive, I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again,” Ozzie bragged.
“Fuck the puss, they’ll just spoil a good drunk. Anyways they prob’ly got
the… “Jimmy clapped his hands three times. After the three laughed at that picture, Jimmy said,
“So why don’t’ the three of us offer some college a package deal, and replace the myth of “ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble, making a Giant hit into a double, words that are weighty with nothing but trouble, Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
And so it went, topics ricocheting off the three heroes, emotions competing for recognition, and then the inevitable downward spiral that marks the downhill stages of all such drug-induced revelries. Theirs were the unbreakable icons that only time and the forces of nature would wear away and turn into dust on their once traveled roads.
So, once again it happened, and once again everyone said, “I can’t believe it. Where did the time go?” The cycle of the seasons had completed. The circle had connected at the 360th degree as the clock struck midnight and the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and sixty-two began. It was the year of James Meredith in Mississippi, John Glenn in orbit, and Robert Zimmerman in Hibbing.
Young Robert, a highly sensitive poet, enchanted by the poetry of Dylan Thomas, adopted his name, and expressed his nightmare and the fear of the nation in gravel-toned verse, claiming to have been “ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard” and to have seen “guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children” and to have heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world” and to have “met a young child beside a dead pony” where “the pellets of poison (were) flooding (the) waters.” He sang about a nightmare that would become reality if the handsome young president’s gamble with the Soviet threat to ‘cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war,’ didn’t work. But it did work, and the poet and the president became legends and lived to see another day—in the case of the president however, less than 400 more. And thereafter Americans would “tell it and think it and speak it and breath it, and reflect it from the mountain so all souls could see it.” And at least for the moment, the hard rain didn’t fall.
And in the relative quiet of the neighborhood, the hands of the drummers were not a-blazin.’ There, the beat of the drum was constant, and life marched on to the provincial cadence that had given it definition.
“Well Oz, we have truly turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse, don’t you think?” claimed Dean, cleaning a paintbrush.
“Silk purse? Deano, this is the Taj Mahal,” yelled The Wizard from the sidewalk fronting Billy Daley’s house. The inside was beautiful, especially the finished hardwood floors, but they would have to wait for spring to paint the exterior. “I know where we can get a deal on orange exterior latex for next spring,” chided Dean.
“This ain’t a brothel, douche bag.”
Dean would have a great year on the ice, earning a hockey scholarship to Colorado. Ozzie started out like a ball of fire but broke a wrist on a lay-up and ended up leading and motivating from the bench. Jimmy lost interest in sports, except for the last season on the diamond, and directed his efforts toward business opportunities. Priorities adjusted and readjusted. The winds of change whistled through the lockered halls of the schools and the homes and shops in the neighborhood, and deep inside each of the students and the residents, the center of the universe rotated on an axis of survival and self-gratification. Most would not attain the enlightenment or the courage to pay the price of being a complete human being. The search for security would inhibit the risks to really embrace the world and reach beyond, to fathom that doubt and failure are the costs of knowing, and that pain is a condition of existence. And in the end, to be accepting of every consequence of living and dying. Regardless of all else, in the final analysis it is the human element that alone affects us to the core and ultimately, it is only that that counts.
That spring Suzy Dill got pregnant. Suzy and Liam had been inseparable since the football party. Whatever fireworks that set off in the O’Leary household, stayed there. Liam left school, got married, and went to work for a local contractor who was a Central graduate and loved rubbing shoulders with jocks, as he had never quite made a varsity team himself. So he hired the best athlete in school in history so he could ride Liam’s coattails, and in the process hired the best worker he’d ever have. It was a shame that Liam would not captain the next football season. With his loss and the core of athletes who graduated, Central drew the curtain on it's most dynamic sports era ever.
There were 127 graduates in the Class of 1962. Commencement would be the last time they’d ever be together. About ninety percent would go to the graduation party and after that, they’d scatter in every direction to pursue their dreams, goals, and happiness. Substantially less than ninety percent would find any of the three.. Time alone would carry each down what they thought was the road to happiness. Each would become convinced that their diploma, or maybe a relationship, certainly marriage, perhaps kids, well, maybe kids when they’re older, would bring happiness. Of course money would do it, or a better job, or definitely when the kids finally flee the nest, or when the divorce is final. Maybe next month or next year or the year after that. Few would comprehend the mystery that it is not a road to happiness, the road itself is happiness. It is not the arrival that counts; it is the journey. Only a few of the Class of ’62 danced down that road as if no one was watching.
Sean O’Dell, a decorated 63-year-old cop, plants evidence in order
to protect his friend of 50 years from a murder conviction. He
knows that his friend is the real victim and chooses to risk his oath,
reputation, and even freedom to prove it. Does the end justify the
means, and what price must he pay for a justice that may be veiled
in a lifelong untruth?
“These were the times that raked leaves collected in the street gutters where they burned and smoldered through lazy October days. Everybody loved the smell and everybody liked Ike. Fathers wore brown felt, wide-brimmed ‘man hats’ and mothers wore funny round hats with nets. The times of Pall Malls and Luckys, when guys fought with their fists, and handshakes were sacred. Families had two goals: add to savings accounts every month and pay off the home mortgage. There were lots of Savings and Loans and corner grocery stores where kids bought Push-Ups and Dreamsicles. Teens ran home to watch Bob and Justine, Pat and Kenny on Bandstand, Ed Sullivan, Snookie and Giselle on a cumbersome, small-screen, black and white Philco. A time of innocence, rides and family breakfasts after Mass on Quinquegesima Sunday, while the haunting refrains of Gregorian chants echoed in the heads of well-dressed and well-mannered children.
It was a friendlier time and a slower quieter time. It was a time like all times that inexorably trudges through the shine, to the dull, and to the rust, until it is filed into the pages of history and the temporary alcoves of memory.”