Most marriages end in divorce, which is why I find it particularly ridiculous when anyone tries to use the defense that there is some kind of “sanctity in marriage” as an argument as to why same sex couples can’t get married. Maybe if I happened to be born gay, my own marriage would have persisted longer than the six rocky months it did. It probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference, because either way, I probably would have paid just about as much attention to her as I did: basically none at all. In my experience, being a hetero normative male didn’t help my chances at successful marriage; I just wasn’t ready for the commitment involved in such a lasting bond. My parents, on the other hand, are still together now after 30 plus years of marriage. Amidst their bickering, they often lovingly tell each other that no one else would ever put up with their shit the same way the other does. As a child, if you would have told me that my mother would wake up every day to play cards with my father before he left for work, I would have laughed at your naivety. However, being able to see it myself honestly restored quite a bit of faith in humanity, and makes me hope to one day have what they have.
My parent’s current loving relationship was developed after a long, hard-fought battle. They separated a handful of times when I was growing up. When they would split up, my father would normally end up quitting his job and/or moving out to escape whatever craziness our family life had in store. One of these fateful times during my formative years, he worked at some horribly crappy job that no one would have wanted, doing something that no one should ever willingly sign up to do. Honestly, I was probably a little too mad at him to care what he was doing, but I am still fairly positive that it wasn’t anything nearly as important as drawing navels on marionettes, or even as quite as thrilling as professionally waxing the backs of the ever elusive Midwestern house-husbands. He very well may have been the monkey with cymbals working tirelessly for any old organ grinder. One particular organ grinder he worked with instilled in him a saying that haunted me for the majority of my life: “Don’t be a boy. Be a man.”
Maybe it’s genetic, and my father, like me, just never really liked children. That would easily explain away his usage of, “Don’t be a boy. Be a man.”” Maybe he, too, had his fill of children during his childhood, so upon entering early adulthood, he just realized he didn’t much care for them. It would make sense, because it didn’t seem as if he really appreciated me until I was well into my teenage years. Thankfully, at this time, our relationship really started to change for the better.
As my teenage angst set in and I started to self-identify as a punk, my father, for the first time ever, actively took an interest in my life. In the early 90s, he took me to see bands like the Voodoo Glow Skulls, Nofx, Diesel Boy, the Descendents, and the Bouncing Souls. I remember him freaking out about how nice one of the guys with a giant mohawk happened to be. This pierced saint accidentally bumped into my dad and spilled both of their beers. Afterwards, they struck up a conversation, and the punk rock stranger/benefactor bought my dad a beer, apologized, and went on his merry way. From that point on, my father and I had become inseparable. For Christmas every year, he would buy me random albums from bands that I had never heard of. Half of them were complete crap, but others helped open my eyes to a whole new world of music that I would have never experienced otherwise. Notable in the lists over the years would be: the Circle Jerks, Nine Inch Nails, Gorilla Biscuits, and the Revolting Cocks. It was eye opening, and I finally was starting to see my dad in a whole new light. We quickly became the best of friends.
Having your father as one of your best friends is both a blessing and a curse, because there will always be times when you wish he would be a little more like a parent and less like a friend. I guess this was a nice change from what our relationship was like in my early childhood, where I would have settled for more like a friend and less like a tormenter.
An experience that I thankfully don’t remember on my own, but have been told about, took place when I was somewhere in my second year of existence. A very bratty me was annoying my overly vindictive father figure. I am not sure what led to the scenario, but it involved me and the family dog. Our dog was a stout, medium-build dog, which happened to have killed and devoured numerous animals both smaller and larger than him throughout his life. His name was Bobo, which reminds me of a clown. Some people think clowns are scary, and maybe that is why he was named Bobo. Anyway, that night’s main event was in the same vein as a bull riding competition. There was only one contestant, me, and in place of the bull was my family’s scary (not in a clown type way though) killer dog. In the extremely disgusting world of actual rodeos, you do not get points unless you last 8 seconds on the bull. From what I was told, my flight off the back of the bucking dog lasted longer than my actual time mounted on the glorious beast. I landed in a heap upside down against the wall. Although my father had yet to hear the expression I can only imagine him standing over the wailing child version of me exclaiming, “Don’t be a boy, Adam. Be a man.””
Once I got a little bit older, I realized that it might have been just as much my own fault for not expressing my feelings/needs to my father, or for not letting him know just quite how much everything he did really meant to me. Sometime in the late summer or early fall of 1999, I started a record label. At the time, comps were all the rage. I was very excited to have some of the very bands that we saw together on this compilation I was putting together. His birthday came around before the CDs had arrived to my house in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, from the plant, so I sent him: a Discman, a prototype of the CD I was making, and a letter to the house he and my mother had shared for 22 years in Northeastern Ohio. The letter just told him that, although we were great friends, I needed to hear that he loved me and was proud of me from time to time. I sent it thinking that even if nothing changed, at least I had voiced my side. A couple days later, he called me crying. He told me that his father had passed away when he was in his early twenties, long before I came around, and they never had a conversation like he and I were having then. He never heard those things from his father, so he’d always just assumed I didn’t need them as well. It never occurred to him that a guy would really need to hear those things. It was a breakthrough in our relationship, and from that point on, every single time my father and I speak, he tells me that he loves me. Did I become the “man” that he wanted me to be? I hope so, but even if I am not, at least I am happy for what he, and subsequently music, mean to me.