The Sadness I Feel

The Sadness I Feel

Music seems to strike my melancholy chord quicker than most other stimuli? Perhaps it’s the feeling that the masters put into their work that touches my soul? It doesn’t matter whether it’s an Irish ballad or an old Motown classic like Smokie Robinson’s “Ooh Baby, Baby,” the passion grabs me every time. The raw emotion. The honesty. It must be because we live in such a shallow world that when we come across honesty, it’s pretty intoxicating stuff? I don’t even have to know the language to hear the ‘reality’ of true music. And what is true? Like I’m some sort of expert or something—NOT!

No, “true” to me is music, words, feelings, tastes, touches, etc. that make me take pause & reflect on the beauty of what I’m hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, feeling, etc. When I listen to sad Irish songs, I think that maybe somewhere in my DNA, I remember? What you may ask? I’ll tell you what I learned/remembered, I learned that when Irish immigrants got off the ships from Europe at the docks of New York City, shop owners put signs in their windows, “No Dogs or No Irish Need Apply!” I also know that most of the cops in New York & Boston were Irish because the stereotype was that the Irish are only good for two things i.e. drinking & fighting.

I remember being in the third grade in San Diego and another kid taking a toy of mine & my mom telling me that some don’t have as much as we do so we should forgive them. I recall our babysitter, a Mexican lady who lived close by and who’s house we would go to after school. I can’t remember her face but I can vaguely remember the sense of welcome ness when we were in her home. She’d make homemade frijoles (beans) and for the evening meal she’d have a bowl of frijoles in the center of the table and with our homemade tortillas, we’d dip into that bowl of frijoles and boy did they taste great!

We played in the oilfields of Wilmington when we first moved to L.A. and I ruined several pairs of shoes due to falling in the tar near the oil tanks that dotted our neighborhood. My mom was often mad at us for ruining our shoes & we had to leave our shoes outside the front door of our apartment. I joined the YMCA because they took us places for fun activities like weekly swimming in San Pedro & trips to Disneyland a couple of times a year and somewhere around this time, I believe I gradually began to get a sense that we were poor or working class? I can’t put my finger on it but there was just a general sense that something was different about my family?

I don’t think it really struck me until I was almost out of high school and me & a group of friends went to a party in North Downey. All I recall is that the party ended on very bad terms i.e. several of our host’s friends had started some shit with my “friends” who were older than me but had pretty tough reputations. We made a quick exit & the experience left me with a dirty taste in my mouth because some of the well-to-do “jocks” were making rather insulting comments about us “long-hairs.” I stood outside the main bathroom of our host’s house and telling everyone they had to check out the sunken bathtub. I must’ve appeared to be a country yokel?

I remember picking beans on my summer vacations from 7th grade to 9th grade at my grama’s house in Salem. We got 3 cents per pound of beans we picked & I picked 333 lbs of beans in one day and made $10 and thought I was rich. Most of the workers in the fields seemed to be either itinerant, Mexican families or cowboy winos with an assortment of youngsters like myself or elderly gentlemen & ladies. My grama volunteered my back to many of the elderly or the women who picked beans alongside of us. I would carry their burlap bags of beans down the long rows and over to the weighing scales. I still smile & can see the little Hispanic boy who only knew “my baby does the hanky panky,” and would sing it all day long as we picked. I picture the empty bottles of White Port between the bean-vines lying in the dirt and hearing that the winos slept in the fields overnight and could pick 500 lbs of beans in a single day. I also learned that the Hispanic families all worked and at the end of the day, they all gave their tickets (which confirmed how many lbs. They’d picked) to the father.

I can recall going to parties in the trunk of a car because there’d be so many of us and not enough cars. I can remember needing braces when I was a young man but being told that we didn’t have enough money for them but my sister, Darcy, had gotten braces. I can remember getting forty cents a day for lunch money and sharing it with my friend Junior. We’d go across the street from the high school to a dairy that’d sell us a bag of Chili Fritos and a 8-ounce, plastic container of lemonade for twenty cents. Jr.’s dad didn’t give him any lunch money & worked at General Motors in Downey. He had a gambling problem I learned many years later.

I can remember feeling like Opie on the Andy Griffith show and stealing clothes & other things. I didn’t feel so stupid. No offence Ron Howard? I can remember feeling pain for most of my life but not intellectually grasping what was happening to me until much later in my life and after serious hindsight & reflection.

I can remember learning through regular radio programs via KPFK in Los Angeles a part of the Pacifica Network of the atrocities committed by U.S. troops and the graduates of our “School of the Americas” i.e. School of Torture. In Central America & having the greatest privilege of my life i.e. to be the teacher of a class of high school students from Nicaragua & El Salvador for a mere six weeks. I knew of the Death Squads that Reagan referred to as “Freedom Fighters” and comparable to our founding fathers & the horrific crimes they had & were committing against their fellow citizens with the help, support, training, financing, & blessing of the U.S. government. And when I had to move on because the district wouldn’t renew my long-term substitute credential because I hadn’t taken six units towards my teaching degree, I had to tell my students, the best students I have ever known. And when I told them I had to move on, several of the girls started crying and it brought tears to my eyes so I ran out of the classroom to try to compose myself.

I will never forget my brother and the impact his death has had on my life. He was 18 years old and I was 22 years old. He had been shooting heroin for a few years & I had beat the hell out of him, had told him that I loved him, & had called the cops on him. A few days before he died, I got a message that he wanted to speak to me but I didn’t return his call. I had stolen a girlfriend of his around the time he started shooting heroin and it has haunted me ever since his death that I was the cause of his turning to heroin? I buried my brother and I’ve buried many other friends & family members. And with each loss, I feel ever more isolated.

I have called people “friends” whom I thought would take a bullet for me & knew that I’d do likewise, but they could give a damn less about me. I have spent my life reading, searching, experiencing as much of life as I could possibly handle yet I’m relegated to being a glorified bouncer or butt-wiper in Special Ed, “Caregiver” companies who pay you minimum wage and charge an arm & a leg to the “residents.” My life has been all about learning, sharing, teaching, etc., yet here I am at the ripe old age of 56 and I have felt forced to ask/grovel for a couch to sleep on again & again to the only two people who seem to give a rat’s ass about me i.e. my ex-wife & my friend, Phil.

I know the pain of having a son whom I have loved more than my own life and who thinks of me as a bum. I remember all the glorious times when my son would take my hand & look up to me like I was his hero. Only I know of how hard & long my search for knowledge has been & how deeply it cuts me when I am forced to suffer the insults of lesser-educated or well-read individuals but because they have the title or certificate, they feel that it’s okay for them to treat us like inferiors. I know the silent rage that begs to be let out. The panther in me that wants so desperately to scream “You fuckin’ morons! You’re so ignorant you don’t even know that you’re ignorant!”

Yes my friend. I know a lot about sadness & I know that I haven’t even began to truly suffer. But my life isn’t all sadness. I can be quite silly at times and a bit clever at times. I can laugh at myself and I can forgive the weaknesses in others and myself but I can’t forget the genocidal policies of those in power now & in the past whom we honor. With my reading & research for the past twenty years or so, I have discovered heinous crimes against humanity & my heart has grown so heavy that at times I don’t think I can bear the burden much longer? Nevertheless, I get out of bed each morning. Why? I’m not sure but I sense that sticking to a routine & adherence to one’s principles is the only way to be truly human. I could go on and on for many pages I’m sure but what would that accomplish? So, I’ll just end with “Rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light! Do not go gentle into that dark night!” (Dylan Thomas) —notorious drunkard (me?)

A Somewhat depressed Christmas season/person,
Rob DeLoss
12/16/08

20 replies
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