Sing Sang Sung

Ask The Band: Hood Smoke

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Hood Smoke is a delightfully eclectic blend of American Rock, 70’s Soul, Funk with a subtle dash of Pop. Their sound is diverse, and they seem to be effortlessly creating their own sub genre. Sarah Marie Young’s vocals are bold, bodacious and full of vigor. This girl can seriously belt,…

Dad Story #2: The Hurling Fergusons

No recounting of anything from the present for this one, only the story of a fond, funny, and hilariously gross memory from my childhood. I wrote this true story in my English class senior year at Broad Ripple High School, where Mrs. Robb would give me a B+ and write this note: sophisticated writing, but tasteless subject matter :(. She was grading with emoticons before they were cool. Back then I titled it “The Vomiting Fergusons”. I thought to title it something a little more gentle this time around. Dad Story #1 already has a puking story, and if you read it, I mentioned that it was not the last time we would puke together as a family. Here we go.

*Disclaimer: Some names have been changed. I also want to stress that I love and respect my mother very very much. Please keep in mind when reading that there was a 12 year Sarah and now a totally different minded 31 year old Sarah. There are also some details about the poverty we encountered. By no means am I making light of poverty, in it’s many degrees, or trying to paint my parents in a bad light. These were hard times of all different kinds, and everyone, especially dad, was trying their best.

The Hurling Fergusons

After my parents divorced, and things were pretty much divided, my mom remarried Harold and moved to Geist- the kind of neighborhood where the upper class lived. I mean, Reggie Miller of The Pacers had a house in Geist. Sheesh. After being evicted from our old townhouse on the east side and being nomadic for about a year, Dad, Jonah, Jenny, our little dog Keno and I finally settled in to our small but sturdy brown brick fixer upper on 57th and Keystone, by Glendale Mall. I was excited as any 12 year old would be living near the mall arcade.

We had very little when we moved there, but we were happy. The first night in our new home Jenny spent the night at her friend’s house and I can’t remember where Jonah was…probably working. That night was just Dad, Keno and me huddled in the living room, a 10 inch TV with one bent antennae, the backseat of a car placed inside the house to take turns sleeping on, four comforters, numerous trash bags filled with our clothes, some random dishes and utensils, and an extra large Little Ceaser’s pizza that the two of us snacked on throughout the night. Dad was proud of our new home, and all of us sticking together- we were our own sturdy fixer upper family unit. 

Throughout that year we slowly adjusted to our new life together. In the winter our refrigerator broke, so dad put an old cooler out back to store perishables. Do you know how good string cheese tastes after wrapping yourself in a blanket and walking out in single digit weather to get it? Damn good. We made monthly meal plans that revolved around inexpensive food that we could either eat fast, or would last long. One month it was hot dogs everyday. Another was canned corned beef hash. When the fridge was back online we had a frozen burrito month. Bacon and rice. Giant pots of buttered noodles that we ate while resting our feet on the open oven door for warmth and singing silly songs. As we grew, the food got better. Dad made pot roasts. Jenny and I experimented making casseroles with whatever was in the house. Jonah started working at a vegetarian restaurant and picked up some tasty recipes. 

On the mom tip, we had visitation with her on Thursday nights, and every other weekend. Many weekends were waived because we just plain did not like going over there. Her house was completely different. A brand new home in a brand new sub division. High ceilings and high walls with fancy ceiling fans and fancy blinds. Central heating and air, unlike the rusty old fuel tank at our place where we’d have to drive to the gas station over on Allisonville Rd and, after scrounging around for what money we had, fill up a red plastic gas container with exactly $7 worth of diesel fuel to heat the house for a couple nights (dad had it calculated). Big beds and bunk beds and nice carpeting. TV’s in every room. A treadmill. Dad deemed it “HarryLand”.

We hated HarryLand. I always felt like I was abandoning my dad, but he would encourage us to see our mom. He knew we would eat better over there. He wanted that for us, but he would never force us to live there. We would pout before leaving, and roll our eyes in one accord when we’d get back home. Dad would try to lighten the mood: “What, you don’t want to go to HarryLand? You didn’t enjoy HarryLand? How were the HarryBurgers?”. He knew the phonetic sound of HarryLand alone would be too comical for us to stay mad.

The food at HarryLand was a whole other world too. The new fridge was always stocked full of all kinds of high end food for every meal. Like pizza crust you could buy and make your own pizza with fresh ingredients. I figured everyone in Geist had food like this. Lots of Cherry 7up- soda was a luxury, so a no show at our house. And a seemingly never ending supply of beef and turkey jerky. Meals were balanced at HarryLand. I guess I should have been grateful for the food, but I would have rather eaten pizza from a box on the floor and been comfortable at home with my dad rather than eat a home made pizza with this strange new dude my mom was in love with, forced to watch COPS on the newest TV 1994 had to offer.

So this brings us to the night in question. A cold Thursday. Jonah was 16 and had his driver’s license. Harold and mom lent him a car so he could drive us back and forth on visitation days. We left dad and our humble home for the evening, particularly depressed to go to HarryLand, but hey, at least Keno was allowed to come.

That night for dinner Harold made meatloaf and mashed potatoes, with mom’s staple addition of some kind of fruit and small curd cottage cheese. This particular night it was pineapple. If we ate all our food, we would get to eat Breyer’s Praline Pecan Ice Cream as a reward. The evening started off like any other one: we pulled in to the driveway, ran in uncomfortably, immediately and awkwardly hugged my mom AND Harold, an agreement we made with my mom after she begged us to be nice to him, followed by a sonorous scuttle to the “kids room” where, as soon as the door closed, with tv on and up, we writhed around making the ugliest faces we could, fake gagging and choking ourselves and each other until we fake died. 

When dinner was ready, we once again scuttled out of the room to Harold’s glass dinner table, and mom served us. I looked down at my plate. The meatloaf was pink! At my age I couldn’t even wrap my head around any meat being less than really white, or really brown. It looked absolutely gross. Like Fancy Feast cat food. I was going to eat Fancy Feast for dinner. Jonah and Jenny noticed this too, but somehow managed to stomach it. I  just couldn’t do it.

I sat there after the table was cleared, just the edges of the meatloaf on my plate nibbled off, mashed potatoes eaten, and untouched pineapple and cottage cheese. My mom was furious. You see, Harold was the kind of guy that if you didn’t like his meatloaf, it meant you didn’t like him. And this was HIS house. My mom was fully committed to seeing that he was liked and respected. She barked at me in her scary filipino mom tone to finish. We had a stare down. I tried to bargain with her and promised to eat all the pineapple and cottage cheese. But no, the pinkish Fancy Feast would have to be eaten. After plugging my nose and shoving down about half of it, I cried and the battle was over. Mom even gave me a scoop of ice cream. I realize now that this was probably really hard for her. I still don’t know or want to know the complexity of my dad’s and her marriage, and she really seemed to like Harold.

Finally it was time to go. We hopped in the car and started our way back, a little lethargic from the food, each of us processing this new way of life with our own brand of slow anxiety. It was a sad and quiet ride. About two miles from our dad and our home, Jonah decided to stop for gas at the neighborhood Speedway. 

Jonah got out of the car to pay inside as Jenny, Keno and I sat in the car quietly. As he walked back to the car, instead of walking around to the gas pump, he stopped in front of the passenger side door where Jenny was sitting and tapped on the window to get her attention. As a joke, no doubt to try and lift our spirits like the good big brother he was and is, Jonah hawked what might be the biggest, nastiest loogie I have ever seen. It was giant- complex, with different gross colors and consistencies. Jenny squealed with disgust. I yelled too, laughing a little. Now that would have been enough to snap us out of our funk, but in all of his Jonah glory, if you can imagine, he bent over, placed his tongue firmly on the cold window, and licked the loogie back up as slowly as possible. Yuck.

Jenny was a goner. She started gagging, and then began to barf full speed on the floor in front of her, all over Jonah’s algebra book. Jonah didn’t care, he was laughing his ass off. This was more for him than it was for us! Well, you know what comes next- we must not forget the family dog, Keno. Seizing this once in a doggie lifetime opportunity, he hopped to the front and started eating Jenny’s puke. 

Jonah got the pump in the gas tank and opened the driver side door, still laughing. But as soon as he saw that sight of Keno frantically lapping up pineapple chunks, he lost his dinner too. Now both of them were gagging and barfing all over the car. I tried to hold on, but in my laughter and growing nausea from the sounds and smells, I knew I only had a few seconds to open the door. With haste I yanked on the handle. Locked. I tried to pull the lock up. Childproof locks. I scooted to the other door, by the gas pump. This one was locked too! Longingly looking out the window I started rolling it down with the handle. Sweet relief! But, the window, oh the childproof windows on this ‘93 Ford Taurus only go down halfway! Down but not defeated enough to puke in the car, I stuck my huge for a 12 year old head sideways through the window as this pink (fancy feast) and milky (ice cream) stuff poured out of the side of my mouth and down the window, down the car door. My eyes scanned the gas station lot and I unfortunately made eye contact with a middle aged fellow looking at us frozen, jaw open, face aghast. No one helped us. We were sick alright but laughing, screaming even, so everyone who saw us was perplexed. After a few minutes of this, the episode finally ended and we were all puked out.  

Jonah graciously drove us next door to a Dunkin Donuts and stole a roll of industrial strength brown paper towels so we could clean ourselves and the car up. We tried our best, luckily only dry heaving a little but mostly laugh/crying. The rest of the ride home was quiet, but instead of the quiet, heavy weight we carried of the whole divorce situation on our shoulders, we were quiet with a cathartic peace. We purged HarryLand, physically and emotionally for one night. What a story we would tell dad when we got home.








 

Dad Story #1: Bed

It’s scary how skinny he is. Like those pictures you see of emaciated Jewish prisoners in concentration camps or starving refugees or ravaged AIDS victims in Africa in mass hospital rooms. Of course he isn’t experiencing anything like they did- but that’s what it makes me think of. Here my dad is in what little flesh he has left on him, his bony legs poking though the heavy duty Target beige fleece blanket to make his bed seem more home-like, and less like a nursing home hospital liquid-proof bed. He’s doing better though, although the new facility is not as nice as the old one he came from. It’s older, seems dirtier, but he likes it and the nurses and therapists have just the right vibe to make him feel comfortable. Jenny and I are grateful for that.

Earlier that day, dressed in polka dotted pajama pants and a stretched out gray tank top, I drove straight to the cd duplication company to drop my album masters off- this factory coincidentally is in Indianapolis. I embarassingly had to map it. Once I got to the area I realized how close it was to the apartments I grew up in, Carriage House East over by 42nd and Mitthoeffer, so I drove there for the first time in at least 10 years, with Martin in tow, both of us fighting the intense summer heat due to my car’s air conditioning puttering in and out.

Once I was on 42nd street, it all started coming back to me- and so many things were unchanged. The McClure’s gas station we used to walk to was still there! The crappy nearby apartments with the creepy looking black gate that signified we were almost home were still there! As I turned left to our complex, Carriage House Phase III, so many memories flooded back.

Dad taking us to Lawrence Baptist Church. Mom and dad waiting at the entrance with us kids until the #105 school bus came. Dad coming home from work in the blue pick up truck we could hear from down the street. Mom making blueberry pizza. Cooling our feet off in the small pond in the park on a day like today. That same day neighborhood kids Nick and Morgan got into a fight and Morgan’s family looking for him with a baseball bat after he pulled out a giant chunk of Morgan’s hair. Going to Zionsville to see the 4th of July fireworks. That time my next door neighbor Lil Bit’s four year old sister had a biting problem and bit my pinky so hard it drew blood. Jonah chasing after the guy who stole my and Jenny’s big wheels. Stevie getting ran over by a car and surviving. Hearing gun shots during dinner to which my mother sternly replied, “EAT YOUR CORN!”. So many memories.

As you drive in you see tale tell signs that these are government assisted apartments. There are always a lot of speed bumps. You see the nicer town houses with two doors per building, and then the cost efficient apartments with one door that leads into the foyer of all the apartments in that building. And a big office building with a tall American flag in the driveway. And those signs everywhere that say things like, “Welcome home! Your new home ahead!” and parking spots with signs that say “Future resident parking!”. Optimistic signs intended to give those hope who usually get turned away because they just don’t have the means to independently buy or rent a place to live…but give a sense of exile too.  

We were one of those families that needed government assistance. We got our Christmas presents from the Salvation Army truck that drove around during the holidays in the 80’s (do they still do that?). We started off on food stamps until my mom started cleaning houses and my dad picked up the third shift delivering bulk newspapers on the weekend. Our meals usually consisted of canned salty meat by-product: spam, vienna sausage, corned beef, Manwich on special days, canned vegetables, and white bread and butter. We were happy kids though. I had my little stuffed toy Soft Puppy, Jenny had her corn husked dolls and Jonah had his book of Knight Rider bubble stickers. All was right in our world.

For 8 years of my life, we lived like this. I think it was 13 years for my mom and dad. Then one day, which seemed like one day in my head but in actuality it was a much longer, my parents weren’t together anymore- more on the inner workings of that in a later story. After much debate, my mom moved out of our townhouse, and it was just my dad, the three of us kids, and the family dog, Keno. My dad started taking these divorced parent classes which usually ended with him coming home, sitting us down and saying, “It’s not your fault…” followed by “I will never leave you kids…”. It always made me feel weird and embarrassed, but later when I became an adult, I realized how important it was to hear those words.

Jonah also became a sort of protector/care taker to Jenny and me. He was a teenager by then, so he could delegate chores over the summer when my dad was out working, give final judgements in arguments-which always consisted of someone letting someone borrow something sports team themed, then do his brotherly duty by letting us watch him play Mario Bros. for 5 hours, cook us some ramen, and boss us around as we all clamored to clean up the house minutes before dad walked in the door (the loud truck muffler). Jonah was still a kid though, and I have memories of him and his friends on the front porch lighting a hairspray can on fire, playing football in the big grassy area on the side of the apartments, and his neighborhood bike gang riding down Aristocrat Lane. During some school years, he had an entreprenerial spirit, running a Jolly Rancher sales business in the back of the school bus. 

Dad really tried to sustain some normalcy to our lives while we were at Carriage House without mom. He tried to fry rice like she would, but we would always end up with soggy undercooked rice with limp green pepper slices. This was usually assuaged by him letting us eat a tea cup full of whip cream. One time when we were all feeling kind of orphaned by my mother’s absence, we came back from playing outside to find the house smelling like freshly baked brownies, and my dad bouncing around the house with this semi-cooked brownie molded around his index finger, and a little faced molded into it. He came to the door to greet us by saying, “Hi kids, I’m Mr. Brownie!”. We all laughed so hard that every single one of us puked. I’m not joking. Jenny was first- she was always first to lose it, followed by Jonah gagging from the smell, and then me. Disgustingly and hilariously enough, that would not be the only time we would all vomit together as a family.

The room situation changed in our townhouse. Upstairs, my dad gave Jenny the master bedroom, I had Jonah’s old room, and Jonah took the big room Jenny and I used to share. My dad started sleeping downstairs on the couch in the living room, sometimes on the floor. This sleeping arrangement would prove to be the new protocol for any place we lived. Kids in a room of some sort and dad in the big living area on a couch or the floor. I would never witness my dad sleeping in a bed he called his until, well, very recently. 

Now it’s all about his bed. That’s what they call it in the health care industry. Do they have a bed for him? How long will Medicare pay for his bed until Medicaid takes over? Oh, they only have a long term bed? Dad, you want your bed cranked up? How about you try just sitting up in bed, and then maybe progress to getting out of your bed? This is unacceptable in my mind for my dad to be so bed-centered. I try to accept his reality, and with each trip back and forth from Indy to Chicago, I relent, little by little. My dad lives in a bed, I think. He has to right now. I will continue to see him, and let him know that his kids will never leave him.  

Pillow Paws

In many hospitals, they put these non-slip socks on the patient’s feet called “pillow paws”. They are really plush, various colored socks with traction dots. On each sock there is a smiley face and under it reads, “pillow paws”.

I saw these socks for the first time in December of 2009 when my dad had a stroke. They were bright yellow. And they were socks that my dad would never, ever, ever wear. He was much too cool for socks like this. He always had pretty good foot hygiene, so much so that he set the bar pretty high for clean man-feet in my book.  He never wore any outlandish smiley face socks, but usually the basic workman’s black or gray cotton socks with an occasional random burgundy pair. From a young age I noticed he always clipped his toenails on a regular basis too. I know this sounds gross, but keep in mind he was the sole custodian for us. The only, always there, parent. As a girl this was my role model, so I need to give props where props are due. My dad had clean feet.

So now, in 2013, after a long stint in the ICU (yellow socks again), then a specialty hospital (yellow and blue), and now a skilled nursing home (yellow, blue, gray), my dad only wears these socks. 

Tonight, these socks really got to me. And without going into tedious detail about all of my father’s tubes and meds, special needs, mental health status, etc…:

I found out my dad had not been sleeping in his bed for a couple days, which looks like a hospital bed. He had been sleeping in his chair. The nurses can’t force him to get in it, but my sister implored me to try to convince him to get in, and check his legs and feet for swelling.

All day today I was in and out of the nursing home. Running errands, stuff like that. Every time I came back my dad was still in the chair, sitting there with his glasses on, hair in a ponytail with the TV blaring. After a difficult conversation, I got to the bottom of the no bed situation: 

My dad is afraid he might die in the bed.

A few days ago, the guy next door died. My dad knows he’s in a nursing home. He knows this kind of stuff happens. He is severely anxious and can easily get psychotic. I assured him we didn’t bring him there to die, and that this place is also a transitional rehabilitation center, this was why he was here and it may take a long time, but we all believe with therapy he can get to a better quality of life, and we all love him and are there for him. 

He agreed to let me take his shoes and socks off to check for swelling. When I knelt down to untie his shoes, I saw the little traction dots poking out at me. I took his shoes off and there was indeed swelling. A lot, but not anything I hadn’t seen on him when he was first in the hospital. There they were, the pillow paws smiley faces smiling back at me, stretched and distorted on my dad’s swollen feet. I pulled the socks off, which had left imprints on the smooth balloons that were his feet. His toenails were long, but his feet still seemed like the clean ones I remembered. 

My dad saw his swollen legs, his swollen feet and the pillow paws, a product of his anxiety and fear to die alone in a nursing home bed. He knew he needed to get in that hospital bed to reduce the swelling. I stayed with him until the nurse cleaned him up and I helped him into bed, massaging his legs a little and hugging him to say goodbye. He was still clearly anxious and shaky, and I told him I would be by in the morning.

Leaving the nursing home, I wondered why I couldn’t just stay there a little longer, but I needed and wanted to go to my sister’s house to rest. I would see him early in the morning, right? In the car I thought of him, scared and feeling alone. I remembered when he was there for me, the summer before my first year of high school, when I was having my first panic attack.

I was sitting in the living room aka my dad’s room of our house on 57th st., watching Star Trek: The Next Generation in one of the many recliners my dad had collected, instead of beds to sleep in. I always gave my dad a hug before I went to bed, but that night I remember being so jittery, rocking back and forth and then all of the sudden walking to my room. I couldn’t even remember if I said anything to him. I laid on my dark pink couch (another bed replacement) and I couldn’t breathe. I thought my heart was going to explode. I thought I was dying.

I walked back out to the living room, my dad watching Letterman, the soft noise of audience laughter in the background. He turned around and saw how uneasy I was, asked if I wanted to watch the rest of Letterman and got me a paper bag to breathe in. He told me a story of the first time he drank coffee and how he got so nervous he had to breathe in a paper bag, just like me, but he ended up being ok, just like I would be. He told me sometimes something can happen in our lives that acts like caffeine in our system, but the effects are never long lasting. He told me I could lay on the floor right by our little black g.e. fan and even take the face off the front to feel the blades- something he knew I loved to do. My dad let me stay up and watch Conan O’Brien and we just talked and talked until I fell asleep. He was probably tired, and looking back I’m pretty sure he would have liked to just go to sleep, but he didn’t.

There’s no real anecdote here. I could go in a lot of different directions. Maybe I should have just stayed and told him that story of me panicking. It seems so moot compared to what he’s going through. Maybe this whole story illustrates how different our relationship is now, or my stark realization after realization after realization that one day, my dad is going to die and I am not ever going to be ready for it. Ready to see him frail, being changed by a nurse, living in a nursing home, sleeping in a wheelchair. Those other patients don’t look like my dad! They look old. Not MY dad! He’s not one of them, right? Right?

I’m just left hating on those pillow paws.




Simple Love- Sarah Marie Young 

I miss you
All day
All the time

I’m dreaming
Of ways
Our escape

And what we’ll have my dear is a simple love
Why waste it on something else
Cause when I look at you I see no one else

We’ll pack light
We’ll save
To go anywhere we want to go

I’ll think up
Some games
To keep our mind off the driving
 
And what we’ll have my dear is a simple love
Why waste it on something else
Cause when I look at you I see no one else 

Questions

2011 to 2012
ok that’s one.
2012 to 2013
so that’s two.
wait, did that start in 2010? how many years has it been?

every year when summer’s here i swear i can see snow falling outside of my window.
when leaves get crunchy in fall the sun looks like a shining ball on april flowers blooming.

when will i enjoy the present season?
 

With warmer temperatures today, it is now time to ask for this lovely snack.

My cover of Running Out Of Fools, written by Fred Ahlert, most notably recorded by the one and only Aretha Franklin. Love this song.