I found myself at a party in a house on Crawford Avenue I used to live in, and I didn't know where I was.
Friends I hadn't seen in a few years were gathered together to commemorate the life and death of a friend and brother, and I happened to be in Syracuse. So I showed up.
Someone had replaced me. That was cool, my life went forward too. I hoped Eileen was happy. We would always love each other, even though that love would callibrate to the changing times, and our respective changing lives.
I went to New Orleans. She stayed.
But here I was, just about ten years later, and all the faces of the tribe that her brother had built were there.
It was a tribe that I was graciously invited to join by association, and one that in someway Eileen and her brother Mike had inherited after their brother Pat had passed on to the other side.
I tried to help as best I could in that aftermath. I tried to carry at least some of that responsibility of leadership, but in retrospect, I failed.
The faces at the party were in someway a testament to the things that Eileen and I had accomplished together through mutual sacrifice, mutual love, and a ton of hard work done shoulder to shoulder. That was our legacy, really. And it may have faded, but it couldn't be totally eradicated, no matter how hard I may have tried to do some erasing on my own.
The proof always is in the people in the room, not the stuff, or where the stuff happens to be stored.
My friend Tony pulled me aside.
"Hey Dude...I gotta tell you something strange"
He knew me well. I love strange.
"I was on my daily run in the neighborhood last year. It was raining, and as I was passing your old house, I saw a box on the side of the road... and it was full of SAMMY awards... your SAMMY awards"
My interest was piqued.
"So I went home, got in the car, and rescued them. They were all fucked up, but I got 'em. They're in my garage. DO you want them?"
I was only in the 'Cuse for a visit.
I asked if he could hold on to them until I could find a place to put them. He said "Sure, just let me know".
This didn't strike me as odd, that she tossed this collection little monoliths to the curb. You can't let your old life linger and control your present. I had left many things behind when I headed out of town, and those awards represented just exactly what was abandoned.
I didn't blame her in the least for junking them. She saved the important stuff. Styleen always had an eye for true value.
When I won them, she was always wondering why I didn't savor the "win". The awards, at least to me at the time, were just the expected result of the amount of ball busting work being executed. By the time the accolades were lauded, I was already far down the road of trying to figure out the "what's next?". I didn't feel I had the luxury of stopping to smell a rose.
I used to joke that they would be cool to use in the garden instead of gnomes. It would look like a minature homage to "2001: A Space Odyssey". Maybe we could get little ceramic monkeys and place them around each SAMMY? My attempt at self-effacing humor at the time. She owned a home and garden store on Helen Street... maybe she actually did that before tossing them to the side of the road? That would have been classic!
I was lost then, at that party. What I thought was, wasn't. What I thought was home, was gone, and I didn't feel I had anywhere to go to. Hurricane Katrina finally took care of that. I was... irrelevant, on every platform. Hearing that those awards were cast in the gutter made an awful lot of sense to me.
So through the following years, I bounced around between New Orleans and Skaneateles, until I finally realized that maybe to really heal, I needed to be besides my family. I was one step away from living in a cardboard box.
Ressurections are hard. I've done them before, but this time? I was out of gas, and couldn't find a station.
Four years later, I ran into Tony again at Shifty's.
"Dude, you gotta grab those SAMMY'S. My wife is torturing me about hauling them around. We've moved twice since I last saw you. Now SHE wants to throw them by the side of the road!"
I asked him if he knew where I could pick up some work, and he helped to score me a little job with him slinging cardboard boxes in a publishing warehouse facility up on University Hill.
One day, he just brought them to work, and I brought them home. They had finally been returned after 10 years of wandering to their rightful owner.
I had a place to put them finally. I live in a flat above the storefront that used to house Eileen's home and garden store, now closed. A building she owns.
These awards finally are back under the care of Eileen and myself to some degree, after a very long journey. They came back home, just as I have.
They are battle scarred, Rusted and pitted, some with large chunks broken off, their facades scratched with dirt irrevecobly ground into them, some of the ingraving made illegible from just surviving. Their patina was not acquired gently over time. They are beyond restoration, but they still exist.
They are beat up, yet they now stand for something much more important than what was designed as their original "commemorative" intent. They are my life in visual metaphor.
So I have them prominently displayed on the bookcase, surrounding an empty vase that waits to be filled with roses.
Between the myself, the amazing band, and Bob Acquaviva, The Shuffling Hungarians won ten of these awards. Seven of them went on a walk about and vision quest, and two are in pristine condition in a recording studio. One is unaccounted for.
Hopefully, someone is using it in their garden as a gnome replacement.
"You may shoot for the stars and end up in a back alley behind Pluto, beaten and bloodied, but at least I dare to dream, and that’s better than being Earthbound, mired in the muck of mediocrity.
I judge my forward progress and success by the crushingly epic nature of my failures.
The more epic the crash, the more I’m convinced I must be doing something right"
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COLONEL BEAUREGARD "IRON THIGHS" JEFFERSON, A.K.A. "THE MANAGEMENT"