They say the best revenge is good living.
So live good . . .
Never let yourself down and live better than anyone ever expected you to. I see this as the key to life. This does not mean everything will be easy. As we all know, life is far from easy. Life is filled with unexpected turns and events. It comes with tragedies and triumphs. The overall goal, however, is to have the triumphs outweigh the tragedies.
Live faster and longer. I say live to your extreme because when it all ends and this ride we live on comes to a complete stop, I want to look back and say I did what “They” said I could never do.
Ever watch the faces of people sitting on a roller coaster?
The ride begins and everyone smiles. Everyone stirs with the perfect thrill. They stir with a rush that comes when the ride slowly climbs up to the highest point. Then everything pauses for a brief moment before the coaster heads down, gaining the unbelievable momentum of an incredible speed.
It is a blitz, I tell you—this is a full-on mission for glory. All around you rages with the sound of mechanical wheels roaring along the track that dips down, loops around, twists, and twirls.
In that brief moment before the pause, before the adventure talks place, everyone on the roller coaster begins to reach for the sky. Their energy is electrified, and it should be. Everyone on the roller coaster paid the price of admission. They paid for the tickets to join the ride and they waited on long lines for what could have been hours.
As the coaster rolls down at an amazing speed, everyone’s stomach drops. The wind sweeps passed them, hair flying, people screaming at the top of their lungs, the ride is on—and this, my friends, is how life should be.
How ever long or brief it is; life is no different from a ride on a roller coaster. Everyone waits on lines and everyone pays the price of admission. We all have to pay to join the ride, and the ride comes with ups and downs, twists and turns, but at all points possible, the best thing to do is reach for the sky and enjoy the ride with every breath you take..
So live, I say
And live well
Live to defy the odds against you. Live to love every minute and live to see the next sunrise by any means necessary.
Leave nothing behind and leave nothing up to the judges. At the end, look back and say, “I did what ‘They’ said I could never do.”
In the days of longhair and long trips to guidance counselors, therapists, shrinks, doctors and so on, I was told there was something wrong with me. I was called stupid by teachers.
I was told, “You’ll be dead by 18.”
I was told, “You’ll be in prison.”
I was called dirt bag, degenerate, loser, a drunk, a thief, bum, and a junkie.
I was given labels like emotionally disturbed, and depressed. I was told I had Attention Deficit Disorder, and that I was learning disabled. I was told I was challenged.
As a student, I was told at best, I would barely be good enough to pump gas at a gas station by a large man with a large nose that resembled the cartoon character Fred Flintstone. He once told me, “You’ll be lucky to get a job as a ditch digger.”
Two days after this, the angry, oversized man cornered me (a little longhaired kid) in the back of a classroom. He told me how he would love to kick the shit out of me. I was scared at first. But I was only scared until I realized this teacher would never risk his job to hit me. I called his bluff. I cursed back at him and stormed away. I could argue that I had the last word—except the truth is the teacher’s comments cut me deep and left a mark.
Towards the end of a my schooling career, I sat in a large room next to a cubicle in the main office of a vocational school. I was told to wait and speak with a counselor. This was an alternative school, which for me, was a poor alternative.
The office was large and outdated like a remnant from the 70’s. My pupils were swollen like large black holes in the center of my watery eyes with only a slight ridge of brown to surround them.
My face was red. My mouth hung slightly open, which gave me a somewhat confused, yet too-far-gone appearance. I was a few hours into a psychedelic ride and about to sit in an office with one of the school’s guidance counselors.
I remember the sounds of the office. Telephones rang the way they did back in the 80’s. Phones actually rang back then. We were less digital than now. Tan-colored rotary phones rang and flashed with a series of square extension buttons lined across the bottom of the phone, and one of the buttons was red. The walls were wood-paneled, the carpeting and the carpeted sides of the cubicles were a mixture of orange shaded colors. There was too much for me to take in during this state. There was a strange smell to the room as well.
They had just given me a test, which was multiple choice. The answers were bubbles that were to be marked on a sheet called a “Scan-Tron” sheet and all answers were marked with a No. 2 pencil.
In my state, I could not read or comprehend the questions. Instead, I filled my answers on the answer sheet in the form of an artistic pattern. In other words, I made a design instead of answering the questions. And when finished, I waited for the test to be seen and graded, or perhaps analyzed to tell me I was capable of doing with my life
After waiting for a long period of time, I decided to stand up and leave. I walked out and found myself waiting in a long hallway, which was called the smoke hallway because it was equipped with ashtrays for the older and legally smoking students.
“Maybe they’re right about me,” I thought.
“Maybe I am stupid.”
My reason for the office visit was that I had not gone to class for a very long time. Instead of going to school, I walked the streets with a friend named, Paco. But Paco was eventually removed from the school system.
Paco and I would arrive at the bus ramps at the school. We were there to learn a trade. Instead, we would smile as we looked at the double doors to the school, and rain or shine, cold weather or warm, Paco and I left before ever walking through the doorway. We had our adventures. We were never straight-headed and always high. It was fun, I suppose. But all fun comes with a price.
On the day of my office visit, before heading to see the guidance counselor, I decided to go to class. It had been a long time since I showed up in class. No one asked where I was. No one seemed to miss me. The teacher certainly looked uncomfortable when I arrived, but this was because of my obviously altered state.
People went to this school to learn electricity, or plumbing. Some went to become artists, and some took cosmetology. My Old Man wanted me to take an air conditioning class, or a heating class. But my class was photography.
In the months I was supposed to attend this class, I never took one picture or developed one roll of film. On this day, which was my very last day, I decided to go into the dark room to watch the glow in the dark clock on the wall.
I went in, turned off the lights, set the clock, and then I sat on the floor with my back against the wall. I watched the second hand move around the face of the clock. The room was absolutely black. The numbers were glowing in the shade of fluorescent green.
I stared at that clock in a tripped-out haze. The LSD was strong in my system, which brought me to the most intense part of my high.
I began to hear the sounds of sirens and imagine hysterical laughter. I heard the inaccurate sounds of bells and whistles. As my mind sunk it to the depths of schizophrenia, I sat in the dark with what I suppose would appear as a deranged or mentally detached smile.
I was lost in a bizarre trance, and fixated on the beautiful green light from a glow in the dark clock. I was so induced, that I ignored the pleas which came from other students that looked to develop their film. Eventually, the complaints were too many. The teacher sprung into the room. She was angry and yelling.
“What the hell is going on in here?”
When she flipped the light switch, the teacher found me sitting cross-legged or “Indian-style.” There was a long line of drool hanging from my bottom lip. To the teacher, I appeared demented and frightening. My long hair was moved away from my face. My eyes so terribly watery and my smile so obviously insane; I turned to look at the teacher, slightly shaking my head like a lunatic in disbelief.
The teacher was near middle-aged; she was an ex-hippie, and probably no stranger to the psychedelic scene. She looked at me as I sat on her dirty white tiled floor with my back leaning against a black wall.
Demanding an answer, the teacher asked, “What the hell are you doing?” in her best version of a loud and angry voice.
“The clock,” I pointed.
The teacher looked frightened.
“It glows in the dark!” I screamed.
“Ya gotta see this,” I told her.
Needless to say, this was my last day in that vocational school. In fact, this was my last day in any school. I had already been removed from one to another. This alternative school was in fact my last alternative.
The one lesson that made sense to me, or should I say the only lesson that ever made sense to me was something that came from a conversation with a teacher. This man was a good teacher, and in fact, he was the only teacher that ever made me think I was going about school thing all wrong. His name was Mr. Nastri. He was a math teacher in Junior High.
Mr. Nastri asked me if I thought I was stupid.
I told him, “No, but the other teachers say I am”
We were in the hallway between classes. Mr. Nastri was not a tall man. He had a somewhat high-pitched voice, black hair parted from the side with a few strands of gray, which he undoubtedly earned during the frustrating hours of teaching math to unwilling students, such as me.
He had a somewhat bulgy nose, but he was kind looking. He never insulted me. And I appreciated that
“But do you think you’re stupid?” he asked
“I don’t know . . . maybe I am.”
Mr. Nastri encouraged, “I can tell you right now, you’re not stupid.”
I argued, “Well, everyone else tells me I am.”
“Why prove them right,” asked Mr. Nastri
Then he asked me, “Are you coming to class today?”
“I kinda have to now,” I said. “You already saw me.”
Mr. Nastri shook his head. “No you don’t.”
“You’re not gonna let me cut class.”
Mr. Nastri shook his head.
“If you don’t want to be there, then I don’t want you to be there,” he told me.
“Other people want to learn, and if you’re in there and distracting them, then they can’t learn. So if you don’t want to go, I promise you, I won’t say anything.”
That was the first time I ever thought I might be doing it wrong.
When I began this trip in sobriety, there were people that said I would never make it. There were those that said I would be dead or locked up someplace in prison or on flight deck.
(Flight deck is what they call the psych ward)
There are people that said I could never be successful. They said I would amount to anything.
But like Mr. Nastri asked me, “Why prove them right?”
In my decades of sobriety, I have made countless mistakes. I have fallen in some ways and rebounded in others. I have gained and I have lost—but I never gave in.
Over the years, I have seen a few of those teachers that were less than kind to me. It was nice to tell one of my English teachers about a book I wrote. It was nice to tell him about a lecture I gave in a library, which coincidentally, was a library that threw me out when I was a kid. It was nice to remind him the English teacher of the less than kind remarks he told me on a daily basis. It was also nice to tell him that I am a lot more than a gas station attendant.
It was nice to see an old therapist of mine walk passed me at a book signing. This was good because she told me I would never be published. She also told me I would never marry the girl I was with at the time, but yet, there I was—I was at a table with a sign in front of me that said “Meet the Author,” while my “Wife” was sitting in a chair beside me.
It was nice to achieve 10 years sobriety after a time when I thought I could never achieve one. It was nice to make 15 years, and then 20. I have 24 years now, and I’m looking for to my 25th anniversary that comes this April 1st.
The best revenge is good living.
Someday, if ever there is a chance, I’d like to find my old math teacher, Mr. Nastri. I’d like to tell him something I don’t think he ever realized. I’d like to thank him because the question, “Why prove them right,” helped save my life.
I still suck at math though, but hey, if Mr. Nastri held a class . . .
I think I would go