The following excerpts are from my thesis It Will Be Amazing Eventually, which was completed in the spring of 2008 upon finishing up my Master’s degree in writing studies at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
It Will Be Amazing Eventually was a collection of essays focusing on my life between the years 2001 to 2006.
It Will Be Amazing Eventually
This was before coffee fixed everything. Before we felt we all got smart. Before we did it again. This was a time of remarkable resiliency and refusal to back down. Champions of champions we were. Invincible little Eskimos in our invincible little igloos, surrounded by tall trees and dormitories only twenty minutes outside of big, scary Baltimore, Maryland.
Alive Amongst the Living
The smell of Casco Bay in Maine on an early morning in the beginning of January is piercing and runs up through the nostrils, tickling the hairs and crisping my eyes. My freshly shaven face is coated by the frigid air, numbing my chin and solidifying my cheeks. It’s everything I don’t want to be a part of at 4:30 in the morning. Yet deep within the natural feeling of resentment that such a morning brings is the toasting of life, the celebration of the living that pours rocket fuel into my heart, causing it to beat faster and faster. The time and temperature clock high above the dark skyline of Portland, Maine reads negative thirty degrees and after only a few minutes my fingers and toes are lonely and isolated. My heavy gloves, rock scrawled across one, and roll across the other, are still stiff from the snowstorm over the weekend, and the dark gray Smartwool socks my mom stuffed in my Christmas stocking serve as warm, little nooks inside my dirty, brown, steel toe boots.
I feel fresh and able, ready to start another day on Casco Bay.
Coming up to Great Diamond Island, I walk out to the Hurricane Deck, the boat’s top deck, with a bundle of newspapers in a clear trash bag. Away from the shelter of the pilothouse, the unblocked wind careens into my eyes, and the bitter air rushing into my nostrils reminds of ski trips my uncle used to take me on. Willard glides the boat up to the dock, towards the headlights of an old Jeep Cherokee. The driver, Little John, stands outside, hands buried in his pockets, waiting for the day’s news. Little John’s gray beard twinkles with the bits of ice that have formed through it, and his small frame bounces up and down to keep warm. Without stopping, Willard pulls up just close enough for me to heave the bundle of papers onto the dock and I watch it coast through the air like the soft pumpkins we used to hurl around the neighborhood after Halloween.
The bundle hits the frost-covered dock and slides right up to Little John’s big, bopping boots.
He waves. I wave.
Turning around I blow some snot onto the deck, laugh because it’ll be frozen before it hits, and head back inside to lie down. With any luck, I’ll go back to the dream I was having about owning my own island in the Caribbean. An island of amazing white sand, outside toilets, and speakers placed in the tops of palm trees. An island I wouldn’t necessarily rename unless the name was too foreboding or implied something I didn’t support or stand by. An island that would have wild horses, a wiffleball field that looked like Fenway Park, and a small, little house that I’d brew beer in, adding fun, natural elements that I would find while out on one of my daily strolls around the grounds.
Headed North, Headed South
The Airline is an all-out free-for-all that bends, winds, and curves recklessly through the hills and mountains and long shots of Northeastern Maine. Gas stations are few and far between, as are people, signs of life and/or civilization, and law-abiding truckers. You drive it fast and have fun with it.
There are no exceptions. None.
The Fire Ceremony
There was no breeze to cool things off when the sun was out or to keep the mosquitoes away later in the evening. It was going to be bad, a very dire scene. But it was something everyone seemed to be willing to accept, or at the very least, assume it was worth dealing with, given the importance of the aforementioned fire ceremony.
The leader of a fire ceremony serves as the focal point, the guide, and the entertainment for the event’s entire duration. The leader at this particular fire ceremony was Oscar. Oscar had very interesting teeth and glasses that leaned just a little bit farther to the left than they did to the right.
Regina fell in love with Oscar’s teachings and his adorable and amazing museum. She invited Oscar up to her tucked away, rustic, and idealistic compound on countless occasions, making a true event of it with food and music and hand drums. A very warm and likable woman, she hugged everyone who came in, and lovingly found places on the crowded countertop for any food they had brought, usually beans or salad or both.
This was the first fire ceremony to take place at the Strongheart compound.
Molly showed up in Portland with outlandish red hair, sharp blue eyes, and a personality that could conquer small European countries.
The dancing lasted until Oscar started to slow down and speak to the rising flames. People stopped what they were doing to listen, to try and make some sense of the sounds coming from the large sun mask. Oscar turned from the fire to us, to each one of us, and pointed. Gibberish, gibberish, gibberish! He turned back to the fire. Blah, blah, blah! He turned back to us and in silence walked twice around the circle, around the blazing fire pit.
Then, just as he done inside, he took a spot at the crest of the circle. He raised his arms and chanted some more. All we could see of him were his eyes.
They were massive.
Little Legs & Arms
The plans had been made earlier, in the dark bar on Commercial St. where we sat while watching France and Italy in the final game of the World Cup. The nachos were soggy, the fries were wilted, and it was my parents’ anniversary in a sunny house across town.
Sun-drenched and stuck in a good mind-numbing mental state, we sat at the bar. It was myself, Tom and his lady, Stanner, and Jon, Tom’s older brother. A sunny, summer Sunday and the bar smelt like old cigarettes. The man sitting next to me with the weathered baseball hat and dirty, gray coat smelled like bait juice and whiskey. He mumbled something about being struck by lightning.
Not once, but twice.
“Hurt worse the second time,” he stuttered, the words falling out of his mouth as drunk and exhausted as he most likely was. He was missing teeth and had patches of hair scattered across his face, rolling up and down his cheeks like wind-beaten fields in Nebraska.
“Really?” I replied. “I would think it would be the other way around.”
“That’s what I thought. Not quite the case, though.”
The majority of the free world sleeps soundly, and Maine is always at least an hour away.
The Band, “The Weight,” comes on the radio. I drop my head down against the door’s window. My poor fingers ache and clutch the wheel to save themselves from falling off, sending us all into a ditch.
I turn up the music. The lyrics set up campsites in front of me and my mind drifts, wanders, and flounders around, seeking out good firewood for toasting marshmallows.
The road in front of me is the Alehouse and the smoke hangs around the lights, illuminated various purples and yellows. Performer after performer walks on the stage. Josh never stops talking. I sit in back, drinking Geary’s alone in the crusty dive bar, the self-proclaimed best in Portland. The Hampshire Special Ale. Wanzer says they’ll really throw a wrench into your night. Nixon thinks they were brewed by the Devil. I make my own decisions.