A Stream of Consciousness of Gratitude, You Know?

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Dan Kempner
Contributing Writer


Every damn day I turn on the TV – the idiot-box, as my dad used to call it, ha-ha! – though I don’t think that’s original with him. Maybe he got it from one of the late-night guys, Jack Parr or somebody in the early days of TV.

Jeezus, even then, it sucked, or that’s what he used to say – he-he! Though I have to admit that Jack Parr was really funny sometimes. He always seemed to have the quip right there on the tip of his tongue. I used to love when he would come out and just start talking, just like he was in the living room with us. Jack “Not-Up-To-Parr” – as dad used to call him hoo-ho – he was a funny one, almost as funny as Jack, though Jack always seemed like such a nice guy, a guy you want to talk to, you know? A sucker who finishes last, as the old man used to say, every night when we watched it. Hard to believe I still remember ol’ Jack the way I do. Oh, he was funny and such a nice guy, really when you think about it, a real sap, I guess, or so dad used to say.

Or me now, like, in all the magazines, like People, you always hear how bad it is to be angry. It’s so bad they say, anger will kill you. He, hee! Christ! You’d think by now they would have learned, anger never killed anybody. Well, ‘cept maybe that guy got killed by a guy last week in a fight over who pays the check, am I right? Assholes, the guy probably deserved it, or that’s what my grandpa would have said, before he got killed. On the force 39 years and never got killed until that day. But the stuff keeps on coming, right? Don’t get mad, it can kill you, be grateful! The drivel keeps on leaking down their chins, am I right? My dad, he used to say, “Angry? I don’t get angry. I get even!:


I think he made that one up too. Funny, he’s been gone more than ten years, but I still remember. “Get even,” he always said. His heart gave out, right after the Sox lost for the umpteenth time and he was throwing something at the idiot box. He was a tough son-of-a-bitch, didn’t even want me to call an ambulance but he stuck it out all the way to the hospital before they pronounced him dead. Be grateful, sure, right, uh huh, am I right? He’s dead, what’s great about this, ha-ha, you moron. I do miss him though, sometimes, and the games and the throwing shit, and the stuff he used to say. Good to have him around, you know?

Or the radio, that Tuner-of-the-Devil as my ol’ man called it, when we listened to The Shadow or Dick Tracey or any of my favorite shows. The Shadow now, with that crazy laugh, “The Shadow knows, Ahhh ha, ha, ha, haaaaaa.” Man, how I loved that damn thing, though I guess it was crap as my dad used to call it. Especially when the White Sox were on, they never won anything and my dad hated them, threw stuff at the Devil Tuner almost every night during the summer, the damn shits who called the game, the ads, he just hated them Sox, said so every damn night. ‘Course I kinda liked listening to the broadcasts, the rhythm of it, you know? I mean, those announcers sucked, sure, but they kind of set the scene, you could almost see the ball sailing up there or thudding into some guy’s glove with a whack! I remember back to how much I loved baseball, well, back then at least but really, the Sox never won anything, and it kinda sucked, or so my dad said, every damn day. I kind of liked those broadcasts, you know?

You pick up the paper and some fool’s talking about how good the weather is. What the hell is good about it? It’s weather, for God’s sake, or that’s what my dad used to say, sometimes, I’m not sure if he made it up. ‘Course, I sort of like sunny days, but they just used to burn him up. Rain too, now, I mean the idiots hate it, but it has kind of a relaxing sound when it hits the roof and it changes the smell of this town – disgusting, the shits, as my dad used to always say – but I always liked the way it felt fresh and clean, still do I guess, after a good, soaking rain.

And I remember the hot days when the ice cream guy used to come around with his truck, every day, same time, “just as the skeeters were biting,” my dad said – he-he, he was a funny one. But I did love that Strawberry Shortcake bar; it had this sweet kind of…

…I can still sort of taste it on my tongue, still today, isn’t that amazing? I love thinking about it, but my dad? Good Humor? he used to say, Good Humor? What’s good about it – hee-he. But I have to admit I can still taste it today, and those bells, whenever I hear them, it feels good, you know?

Or the news! As my dad always shouted, whenever Cronkite came on, what’s new about it? – hee-he! I think he probably made that one up. Cronkite, now, he was a nice guy, I always thought, just a good-old-Joe, telling it like it was, am I right? Those were the days, the old black and white.

Funny, the Sox won that very same year my dad died, he-hee, so I guess they got even with him ah-ha! I know what dad would have said about that, losers, he would have said, but as I think about it, he might have cried, too, you know, after all those years of watching and hating them.

But I have to say, I strolled down to the Sox parade to see the suckers line up, and the sky was that perfect blue you only see now and again, and the banners were blowing in the breeze, and it was just awesome, really, the fans so excited and I got Guillen’s autograph, got it right here where I can look at it. The suckers were all over him, but somehow he saw me and it was one of those moments, you know? Where everything just seems to open up and you know you’ll never forget it, right? My grandpa used to say those things were just for idiots, likely to get crushed in the crowd, and for what? A little bit of scribbled ink on a piece of paper or a baseball, bring it back and it just clutters up the place. And my dad, he laughed, and so did I, but I still have that thing, up on the mantelpiece, and I like looking at it.

I kind of remember that series and the year the Sox finally won and Guillen kind of smiling at me, bigger than life, right there, and I handed him a pen and he said, “What’s your name, man?” and I told him and he just wrote it down and said, With Love, Ozzie. I don’t think he did that for any of the suckers, just me, and I’ve always kind of liked having that ball even though it’s just clutter, or that’s what my grandpa said, but it makes me happy to look at it.

Gramps also said, “Hey, it takes all kinds and all of them are idiots,” and it does, right? Am I right? Sure, ‘course it does, and the Internet, now that place is sick. Sicko, sick sick sick. That’s where the sickos hang out. Take this morning – please! Ha-ha! Oh, man. Hoo. OK, that’s not original, I saw it on reruns. Black’n’white baby, that’s the way to go.

Jack Parr, now that guy was funny – he-he! – he was great, I loved that guy, still do, those guys knew how to tell a joke in those days, Jack Parr and those guys, in the early days of TV, but now it all sucks, you know? Like my dad always said. And they kept it clean, too, really high class, back in those days, not like these days with their namby-pamby shit about everyone can marry anyone and everyone has to be happy, am I right?.

So today I’m on that Facebook – scrolling and trolling as they say – ha-ha! – and giving the morons hell, when I see some drivel called “Notes From the Gratidude.” The Grati-dude! How’s that for an asshole? A moron, that’s what gramps… Now there’s nothing worse than some smarmy character, probably raised in one of those plastic bubbles, drivel running down his chin, prattling on about how “awesome it is to be alive” or “be grateful for every breath,” right?

Every day, in every way, right? Am I right? Oh, man, I just got to laugh. Gratidude? Shithead is more like it, that’s what my dad would have said, you bet! He’d have said, Bill – that’s me, right? – Bill, he would have said, “this is horseshit.” Everything was horseshit to him. He was just that kind of guy.

I can hear my dad howling. A realist. A real hard-headed son-of-a-bitch, that’s what he always called himself. Bill, he said, don’t let ‘em shine you on. Don’t fall for it. The world’s a hard place, and it takes a hard ass to sit on it. A man needs a hard hand in this world, not a soft dick – he-he! – that’s what he was always saying, or some horseshit like that, right? And he had a hard hand, too – hoo boy – that man was one tough son-’em-bitch, no one knows it better than my aching hide, right? Ha-ha! He would’ve told that “Dude” off pretty good.

I could barely read this stuff about “Thank you for another day never promised to me” and other horseshit like, “Live like every breath might be your last.” Bullshit, am I right? Ask what’s great about this, the ‘Dude’ say. I mean, what’s so fucking great about breathing? Especially after 26 years of Camels? My dad found that out the hard way – hoo, yes, yes he did, but he was a hard son-of-a-bitch to the end, nobody couldn’t say he wasn’t. Cussed out the doctors until the end, until his last breath, you bet …

…but I kind of miss the old man.

Damn right, life is hard and then you die, is what he said, and the sooner the better for some I could think of, he said – he-he! Oh! He was a rare one. The TV, now, he chucked stuff at it … what’s great about this? Ha! Moron.

That Cronkite, though, he was kind of great, when you come right down to it, I’m kind of glad I got to see Cronkite, there in my living room-like, every night, whatever my dad said, he was a good guy now … right?

I remember when Kennedy was killed – JFKike my gramps used to call him – now there’s a guy my dad and gramps really hated, I tell you what! But Cronkite now, he cried, didn’t he? When Kennedy died? And I did, too. I remember that day and somehow it’s good to remember a guy like that, like JFK, large-as-life in my living room. “Ask Not” and all that horseshit, the dad screaming and throwing stuff at the TV, but somehow, something about that guy made me cry a little bit when he was killed.

I kind of still want to cry a bit when I think of it, and I guess no one is promised another day, am I right? Like dad before the Sox finally won it in ‘05, or gramps after 39 clean years on the force. I mean, my dad croaks right there and the Sox win, and I get Ozzie’s autograph and I guess you just got to ask, maybe there is something great about that.

Am I right?


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