‘May you live in exciting times.’
I always did appreciate the far-east’s humour when it came to cursing each other. At least, it always seemed creative when you’re inundated with people encouraging you to die in so many ways, or to enjoy the humble habit of ‘self-love.’ But go fuck myself if I didn’t tell you this was where we were going to find ourselves.
Red & Ted in HOW has already started to be quite the exciting time. Two and Oh each and building a following with the faithful. And headaches in the back. Everything was coming to be, just as planned.
I’ve come and upset Brian Hollywood so much my name was still on his lips three weeks later. Buck Yates did his damnedest, but couldn’t take a pound of flesh. He did leave me a glorious shiner with that headbutt, but I still stood tall, didn’t I? And yeah, it took pulling some new tricks out of the bag.
Red Dead: The move that launched a thousand GIFs.
And it was on the fucking pre-show.
Worse news, I’m not guaranteed to see airtime next week, either. Seems they’ve all got themselves in a tizzy about 400 episodes, so much so they’re talking about putting a battle of undefeateds on the undercard. Do me a favour this week, if you are in the Allstate Arena getting your money’s worth before the big pyro and pan-around? Don’t film me in portrait, like some fucking cretin.
Never did think I’d run into anyone claiming to be #1 Dad. Figured we were all just a bunch of Lost Boys, and I fancied myself as Pan the Man. I will give Solex this, he ain’t wrong about everything.
Seems in the crashing typhoon of feminism that started as some little ripple in the 30s, well, today it’s washed out all reason to the sea. Sure, women – mothers & grandmothers – do a fine job raising up little boys, but it will always take a man to raise up a man.
And, since I’ve got an hour long drive ahead of me, offering nothing more exciting than the odd asshole testing all bounds of grace and fate in tempting a ten car pile-up, I figured I’d try something different. I’ll give you a peak at my nevercoming autobiography.
Just one chapter.
R.I.P. to My Youth
I had done it. I survived. Ninth grade was in the rearview and I came into a place of greater standing with that awkwardness behind me. All I had to do now was live three more years without making any stupid mistakes, and I’d be golden. What could go wrong?
Now it was Lee’s turn to do the rookie year. I wasn’t a terrible brother. Never pulled down his pants, or made him look goofy in front of any girls, and even broke up a fight or two when it looked like he wasn’t winning. I appreciated having a ear on that level, even if he’d never let up anything that’d boost my ego too much. Just like I’d never tell him I was irritable because the girls in my class kept talking about my cute little bro.
Slowly, I was building an identity for myself. Now, I say I was building it, but really I was soaking up influences from every direction. I followed my friends into just about every sport they did. I followed the girls into the drama classes, because I was the only one smart enough to think about ratios back then. Kept taking French because of the legend of Pierre Elliot Trudeau. But above all of those, I borrowed most from my old man.
I was in the library during third period spare reading Sun Tzu because of Pop’s love of strategy. I was actually paying attention in Chemistry and Intro Calculus to impress him, the engineer. And why I hopped into scraps where I saw fit, because, even when he’d be giving me shit for the grief I caused my poor mother, I saw the twinkle of pride in his eyes.
It was his love of great cinema that’d see me take this sideways dive into the entertainment business all those years later. But everything in its place.
Yes, I could say that everything was going just fine along my way to becoming some big damn important person, but I wasn’t ready for the spotlight I’d have after the six o’clock news on May 5, 2004.
“Local man arrested after police respond to reports of trespassing and assault,” and a picture of Dad’s face.
James Redding, 36, charged with trespassing, breaching a restraining order, aggravated assault and simple battery. Held with bail set at $500,000.
He didn’t learn of the restraining order until he’d been brought before a judge to be read the charges.
To back the story up just a little bit, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. Dad wasn’t a hothead, or some redneck without social graces. This bit of story really starts with a newscast three months prior.
“Five dead in a highway collision in Hamilton. Police are investigating why the van carrying a mother, her three children and their grandmother was unable to come to a stop as it reached stalled traffic, despite near perfect road conditions.”
The next Monday, Dad was given his walking papers. The firm who’d engineered the ABS system for that model of Chevy was all of a sudden downsizing. Dad’s job had been deemed redundant and he was laid off immediately.
Dad’s job was in Quality Assurance.
And as similar tragedies began getting reported in the weeks that followed, Prudent Motion Engineering was doing everything it could to distance themselves from this business. Their old QA Engineer wasn’t letting it go that easily.
With each variation of the same failure, I’d see him go white. His mind turned and turned, and steam leaked out his ears. That fateful day he’d gone there to ask whatever happened to all of his notes, and demands for improvement.
How many times I’ve asked him to tell me, step for step, what happened that day, I’ve lost count. But he never gave it. In my mind it was something cinematic as all Hell.
Dad slips past the sleepy security agent and smiles his way past the receptionist. No one even clocks that he isn’t supposed to be there until he’s on the third floor, at the corner office.
He shuts the door. He knows that even on his best behaviour, this is about to get loud.
Pulling his head out of his own ass and away from the softcore porn, the VP of Operations looks upon the man that he knew could be his ruin. He doesn’t offer a hello, just letting Dad know that he’s not supposed to be there.
Dad asks what happened. What happened to all of his concerns that he dutifully reported up the chain of command? Only to chuckle and guess any physical file had been burnt days ago. Come to think of it, those computer towers looked a little new, too. Dad doesn’t wait for the lie. He asks if it was worth it? He asks if meeting the all precious sales figures, getting the bonus that’d pay for Mr. VP’s family vacation, was paid in the blood of how many families now?
The VP’s already pressed the danger button a minute ago, and the lazy guard shows himself. He takes a scolding and is instructed to take Dad off the premises, and never again let him back. Sheepishly the oldtimer takes Dad by the arm and begins leading the way out.
Dad’s had his say. He knows he’ll have his say when the media come knocking, or when the courts ask for witnesses, too.
I wonder what it is the VP says that finally makes Dad lose it. I bet it was subtle, like a papercut, but meant entirely with malice.
Whatever it was, it was enough.
He took his arm away from the oldtimer, but he topples over in the process. My Dad is on the warpath, and marching those eight paces back to the VP behind his mahogany desk. Greedo shoots first, but Dad ducks under the swinging keyboard.
Taking the murderous bastard by the tie, Dad bounces his head off the desk. With a lunge, he’s atop the table and tackling the VP to the ground.
By the time the cops arrive, Dad has him hanging out the window, giving this epic soliloquy about justice and greed.
At least, that’s how I’d write it for Hollywood.
I wish I’d had that based-on-real-events script in my back pocket the next day in homeroom. I could feel a thousand eyes on the son of the crazed man, and wondered how Lee was putting up with it. I was ready to crawl into a hole, my own prison.
But, this too did pass.
I got through it with my friends. Ted made me laugh about it. Kelly loved me just the same. Lee needed me. By the time 11th Grade would start in the Fall, I was back to being the Philosopher King of St. Mary’s High.
Dad, we didn’t have the money to post bail. Didn’t have the bail bondsman that littered the lower 49th, not that we’d trust them. And Ma, well, she didn’t look that hard for helping hands.
By and by, it came time for the trial.
And it did go to trial, too. Dad never took a plea deal. He’d only tell me ten years later that he’d only face three years if he just signed to what they wanted him to say. Two years for the assault, one for criminal negligence. They wanted him to fall on the sword meant for PME. Funny to think how we share another thing: we just can’t swallow the bullshit, even if it meant the best for ourselves and the ones we loved.
The Crown attorney was all too happy to have the deal balked at. See, Dad was a gift horse he wasn’t about to let slip away. This prosecutor had visions of Provincial Parliament and this was the case he was going to stake his claim on. The people wanted someone tough on crime, but compassionate to young and mentally ill offenders; Dad just happened to be Goldilocks for the ambitious asshole.
And surprise, surprise, when he did run two years later, PME was a major campaign donor. My political aspirations were snuffed out at the image of just how spineless the policy makers all were.
It was shooting fish in a barrel, this circus. Every witness called forward by the defence spoke to the character of Dad, but none could speak to the why of it all. Non-disclosure agreements had meant Dad couldn’t even poison PME in his downfall.
Three weeks later, it was all done. Dad sat stoic in the defendants box, looking out to the woman who’d served him divorce papers two months ago, sitting with some other guy. He looked over Lee and I, and a pathetic smile to think we were this close to men that he was all too proud of. Gracey, little Gracey, 10 years old with pigtails and knowing that he’d miss her most.
“James Redding, you have been found guilty of all counts,” the judge in his robes spoke. “I am sentencing you to 17 years of jail time, less time served. You are to be eligible for parole in five years. I hope, for your sake, and the sake of your family, that you get the help that you need and return to society a better man for it.”
I became real comfortable with that courthouse. I’d be back in it two weeks later and walk out an emancipated minor of 17 years, one month and six days old.
Becky, for I never did call her mother again, was moving full steam ahead with Keith. Poor bastard. But that meant following Keith out to Calgary, and Hell if I’d live under the roof of a woman I’d lost all respect for, and a guy who’d never earned it. Of course I framed it in more polite terms than that. I would be graduating in months and would feel disadvantaged of economic opportunity in Alberta. I had a support group here that would see me through to a time when I could gain full time employment.
I was only sorry to see Lee and Grace leaving.
I was welcomed to live with my paternal grandmother, but I found the old doll dead in her bed a week after. Autopsy showed hemorrhaging, and she’d passed peacefully in her sleep with a massive stroke. I took up the payments on her apartment, worked a little more than I should, and saw my grades slip. It didn’t matter, I no longer wanted a college education.
I was free of every adult influence and looked around only to find myself to now be one.
February 12, 2020
Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre
I’d been to this place twenty times a year, you’d think I’d find a comfort in the familiar.
“Move on through, sir,” echoed out of a speaker and the locks gave, iron bars swung open.
The hallways were painted cinder-block, pale yellow, and if you closed one eye and imagined really hard, you could confuse it for the halls you haunted in high school. Hell, didn’t you ever swear your high school was a prison during those brilliant Spring days?
The red stripe along the polished concrete floor leads me into a wide room. The soft chatter reached me before I laid eyes on those five picnic tables drenched in sunlight. Civilians and convicts sharing moments of humanity.
“Look who’s here,” hits like a sneak attack.
“Alex!” comes running a 4 year old in the classic pink long sleeves under denim overalls with sneakers squeaking up the floor.
“Hey Lela!” I bend down to receive her hug. I move like a trained fighter, or practiced uncle, as I pull my chin to avoid the heatbutt little kids can’t help but give looking up too soon “How’ve you been?”
“Good! Mommy’s gonna take me to McDonalds after we’re done seeing Daddy!”
I stand up and return the friendly smiles of Alisha and Martin. Bored of me already, Lela scampers her way back. I follow at half pace.
“How’re you fairing, Martin?” I ask the one in the fashionable orange ensemble.
“Better than you, by the looks of it. Tell me that the other guy looks worse,” he jests, but draws a look of concern from Alisha, just now seeing the faded purple under my left eye.
“For the three seconds that matter, he was,” thinking that even if I left any permanent mark on that crazy bastard you’d never notice it among the usual scars and bruising.
“Your Pops did mention you got back in the game. I’m glad for you. Couldn’t imagine spending all that time working out just to get into fake fights for the cameras like that,” the stuntman work, not pro wrestling. .
Marty’s been Dad’s bunkmate for the past five-ish years, ever since he found himself enjoying the five star accommodations of the old Barton jail. He had the pleasure as result of one rowdy Friday the 13th down at Dover, and the misfortune of a cop standing behind him during his backswing in the process of educating some jackass about the costs of grabbing another man’s wife’s ass. I see him most times I come to visit Dad. He’d been nothing but a sweetheart during his time inside.
“How’s Dad, by the way?” I wanted the third person perspective.
He doesn’t look at his daughter or wife to sugar coat it, so I trust it when he says, “Same as your old man’s always been. Nobody bothers the Mayor.” It was a nickname the more hardened convicts gave him shortly after he arrived. They all loved his story, and he wasn’t interested in gangs or power. Guess that’s why they gave him the name. I’d overheard some of the guards call him that, and not even in spite.
“Well, just know that I appreciate you looking out for him. You’re dad’s a good guy, Lela.”
Having heard the sliding doors from the far side of the room, I turn to see ‘the Mayor’ making his way to the usual corner table.
“Happy belated, by the way. Couldn’t think I actually forgot,” and we dance the handshake to bro-hug dance. “Lela, you take care of your mom, now.” And with a cheeky smile, “Alisha.” And I leave the happy, but disjointed family.
Remember how I mentioned Dad was supposed to be eligible for parole after five? Funny thing about that, just what money and a grudge can do to a fellow. “Five months,” I walk into the hug.
He lets go and does this thing where he just looks me over, hands on my shoulder. He lets himself smile just a bit as he claps me on the back, “Only five months.” And he motions me to sit.
I take residence on that chilly steel and have a look over the old man. Those crow’s feet are coming in, and his auburn hair has given away to silver. He has just as much on top as he did in those photos holding me in diapers, so I at least have that to look forward to in my future. From what I can tell beyond the Trump’s-face-orange garb, he’s not letting himself waste away.
“You’ve been thinking about what you’re going to do when you get back out into the wide world?” I ask as a barometer of that fickle thing we call hope.
He looks to the table, to the window, then back to me, “A little. But I’m guessing you’ve already planned some things for me?”
Plans: he knew I had a plan for everything.
“How’s your sister?”
I get that same pride-forced smile he does thinking about her, even if we couldn’t claim much responsibility for the woman she’d become. “Gracey’s good, Dad. Busy as always, but good. Should be getting back from LA today or tomorrow,” the Oscars were a near second to Paris Fashion Week for fashion journalists. “I keep bugging her to come here a little more.”
He forces a sigh and shrug to show humility, “You don’t need to do that. I’ll have the time to reconnect with her at her speed when I’m out of this place.” Again, he looks to the sunshine out the window. “Besides, you’re plenty busy yourself,” a nod in recognition of the sumo fight in my head as to whether I’d borrow some of Grace’s concealer next time I’m out and about and don’t need to be reminded of ‘workplace.’ Peace v. pride.
I want to tell him about that feeling, the rush I’m getting out there. I want to tell him about the way Ted & I came into that place like a hurricane. I wanted to tell him how afraid I was that this was just like every other time, when I needed it to be something more substantial. I wanted to say something of the early success.
But I just smiled, and made shy. I don’t know why. Let’s just say this Less Artful Dodger was lost.
He’s good and moves on, “Well, just keep giving them all the Hell you can. And keep Teddy from doing anything too stupid.” I’ve had to tell him about every time we’d been deemed not-worth-the-trouble, and even if it was usually Ted’s doing, they weren’t always. I think he’d just prefer to think of me as respectable.
Shitbag I am, I let him.
We both sit, searching for words, until I break the silence with, “You look good.” Fucking small talk.
He grins and bears me, just to respond with, “You, too.”
It was this place, it had me itching.
“Well, I’m glad you came by.”
“I’ll have to try to remember my joke book next time,” and a sad smile. “See you in another two weeks?”
“Oh, I’ll be here,” he had the jokes.
We stand and let the hug show the affection my tongue seemed to be short on.
“Take care of yourself, and just keep outthinking them,” he whispers as goodbye.
Posted 2:30 PM Thursday February 13, 2020
The picture on the left is of a man awfully similar to Alex, but the tone of the picture is all wrong. Alex is in the photo, but he’s the one in diapers. Not even a year old, but that signature grin of his was present even then. The guy holding him is his father, shirtless and hairy chested, standing in front of a swing-set he’d just built knowing he wouldn’t have the time to do it with another son on the way.
#TBT Am I doing that right?
So, Saturday we celebrate a milestone. Bring your confetti poppers.
Can I say ‘we’ if I’d only been here for two shows?
400 episodes of HOTv and the card is stacked. Tin Man defends the LSD. Captain Serious defends the ICON. C-Money defends the #97Red. But don’t let it get lost, two unbeatens step into that ring Saturday in Chi-town.
Steven Solex, I’ll tell you like I told Hollywood, like I told Yates, you’re only in my bracket to play spoiler for everyone else. Please, don’t take that too harshly.
I get it, you’re all about the kids, and being the best throwback of a Dad since before we knew Bill Cosby was a rapist. And with a ‘stache the likes I haven’t seen outside of the porn industry, or on some bear in a Pride Parade. I’m here to help you with that, the Dad bit, not the… you get it. See, the hardest thing you can try to teach anyone is how to be resilient. How to get back up after they’ve been knocked down. You can only teach by example, and the difficulty comes in that getting knocked down bit.
That’s where I come in. It’s on you to get sit up after that second bell rings and your head stops spinning.
Please, don’t thank me. I’ll just take my three points and move on. Move on along a tournament that slowly by slowly is looking like Red or Ted will see the finals. And Money, that’s a 50% chance you see either Ted or myself, and a 100% guarantee that you’re in for a heist.
Let me back up a bit. I’m not overlooking the rest of the Narcotics bracket. I put hard work into setting it up just the way I planned. I wanted each man hungry and willing to go tooth and nail trying to get the nine points available to them off of any man that isn’t me. It’s just a shame so much of my plan is playing out on the pre-show.
Steven Solex, you want to be #1 Dad, and that’s fine. I’ll just be #1 in your L column.
We’ll see you Saturday,
(Get there early, or tell management this needs to be on the main card.)
Your Willing Villain