Tuesday, October 13, 2009
A PERSONALIZED HALLMARK CARD OF TORMENT text & photos by Walt Cessna
I am as unsurprised by my own un-demise as anyone who actually knows me can claim. A walking wound, unflinching in my own spectacular tide of tribulation and personalized Hallmark card like torment. And loving every mother fuckin minute of it. I think. Yeah, sure, there are times when I wish I was a bit more on the clear thinking, actually remembering shit type of tip, but that was a luxury that had always had a way of alluding me and who the fuck was I to screw with fate.
Say what you will, but I’ve always had a habit of doing myself wrong, exactly at the final hour. As a kid, I got into endless accidents, scrapes and fights. As an adult, I had become quite skilled at getting every last chance and blessing possible, but then I would simply do something, anything, to fuck it all up.
I can remember my father finding me a bloody mess at the bottom of our suburban fortress, my knees cut to the bone from the fresh laid granite slabs that had just been put down on our front porch steps. He scoops me up all super hero like and rushes me in our black topped green Plymouth to Deepdale Emergency, a room that I had and would continue to call a second home at different times of my childhood. After pushing several other people waiting ahead of us, my dad deposited by blood soaked body onto a bed and demanded attention. As usual, he got it.
My dad busted his ass schleping to Astoria, Queens everyday and working it, with hella overtime, for Con Edison, the utility monopoly of New York City. He never complained. Not even when they went on strike and he had to stay at the plant for a month without coming home. My dad was fierce like that and it’s probaly the thing I most admire about him. His work ethic. His unlaziness. His ability to build something or fix anything with his own hands. To me, as a kid, my dad was a superstar of carpentry proportions, building us tree houses out of real stumps and giving me my first tool kit when I was ten. It was my most treasured possession.
The first thing I built was a beauty parlor for my Planet Of The Ape Dolls, especially Zera whom I had been whipping up toilet paper ready to couture in the can since I discovered that underneath her clothes was a Barbie doll body dying to be draped in something fierce. I would take flash pictures of them until one day my mother demanded to know what I was doing. She thought I was doing something dirty. If she and I only knew how dirty my obsession with fashion would become, they might not have laughed the whole matter off.
There was the time I fell while carrying the mayonnaise jar as I ran through my Godparents house when I was four and fell face and hand down on top of it. My Great Aunt Me-Ma liked to recall that there was blood everywhere, even on the ceiling. At seven I fell backwards off a retaining wall in my driveway and suffered a three day concussion that to this day I still can’t remember. At nine I caught the underside of my forearm in a rusty nail that left a sweet little starfish shaped scar and at ten I had the luxury of walking smack into a telephone pole that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. At least that’s what it seemed like.
I guess what I’m trying to say through my bloody recall is no matter how many times I manage to get myself fucked up, I always manage to survive and climb back on top. Even now, as an unemployed, drug and alcohol addicted about to be thirty six year old with HIV and currently receiving disability loser, detoxing for the first time in over twenty three years, I know that things can only get better.
That’s the sick thing in my life. For as much pain, there is joy. I guess it all really does equal out. And let me make one thing perfectly clear. I regret nothing in my life. It has been so rich in texture, surrealism and experience, I would be a fool to deny it’s warped gift. This is my story of how I survived it.
I was born in Flushing, Queens on July 24 like “The Nanny” and still have a bit of the accent. My mom was fifteen and having an affair with her forty five year old and married Church youth counselor, got busted and was put in the unwed pregnancy ward of her local hospital where she gave birth to me prematurely when I was just shy of eight months. I was a Barbie doll on an incubator, yet I’ve managed to make it to six foot two and one hundred and fifty pounds at thirty-six.
To say I’ve been in therapy is an understatement. After twenty-three years of constant alcohol and drug abuse and self medication, I ditched my denial about it all and finally told someone. I have had a few years of rehab, relapse and enough AA to choke Shamu. I’m done girl. Over and fucking out.
Oh yeah. Getting back to my childhood. One morning my entire family was awakened by a four a.m. to the dot phone call that would change our lives forever. My Uncle Paul, my Dad’s younger brother, had been stabbed to death while coming to the aid of an elderly couple being mugged by a young Puerto Rican drug addict on Fourteenth St. in Manhattan. My Mothers screams sliced through the once peaceful night and my brother and I bolted up in bed with a force that rivaled Christmas. I was 11. He was 8.
The next days New York post ran a photo of my Uncle with the headline “The Good Samaritan” and “MURDERED” underneath it. News crews were actually waiting to interview my poor father and my cousin Debbie, his God Daughter as they exited the morgue after identifying Uncle Paul’s body. I remember seeing my father being led out the door, crying hysterically and looking grief stricken and confused. It shook me up by how surreal yet totally fucking real something could be all at once.
to be continued-