The Deke

Jon Sindell

Monday: Lunch with the Squirrels

Don’t even talk about your dad, Squirrel–my dad’s so uncool he puts your dad to shame. D’you know what he does for a living, dude? He sells real estate, dude, do you know what that is? It’s houses, man, he sells houses to rich people, and gets a big, fat commission for basically doing nothing. And as if that’s not bad enough, he works with landlords who evict people, that is so messed up I don’t care how liberal his so-called politics are! Now take Deke–Deke, that righteous old dude from the open mike! Now there’s a cat who’s cool, dawg! Yeah, dawg, I know I said cat, that’s what they called `em back in the day–back when Deke was our age. No, dude, my dad wasn’t our age, ever. But Deke was, and he was already a poet, too–and not just that, he’d already dropped out of school, ming! Did you know they even had a slogan for dropouts then? “Tune in, turn on and drop out!” See, they understood dropping out meant reaching a higher mental plane or whatever–they were so far ahead of us it’s scary. So far ahead of you, anyway. Me, I’m escaping this mind swamp in a week. You got it, dude, I’ve made up my mind: I’m selling my stuff and putting a deposit down on that room in the Haight, with the Montana twins–or if that falls through, I’ll crash on Deke’s couch, he’s read my poetry and he thinks I’ve got chops. No way, Squirrel, he’s not just a bookstore dude, that’s messed up two ways. First, it’s the coolest bookstore on Haight Street. Second, like I told you: Deke was a Beat, man, one of those old school poets who rhymed like rappers–`fact, Deke says Beats were the first true rappers.  They were even better than rappers `cause they rhymed on the fly–and with music, dude, with bongos and flutes! Bongos, those little twin lap drums, like we saw at that drum circle. No they didn’t sample, dude–they made music! Aw, forget it, Squirrel, you are so non-retro I can’t even believe it! Hey, Squirrel, here comes your Mini Me! Here squirrelly squirrelly squirrelly, bring your puffy little cheeks on over here an’ have some beer nuts! Hey Squirrel Man, leave that brew if you’re goin’ to class! Four hours school is enough for any Bean.

Tuesday: KFC

You and your popcorn chicken. Thanks to your Squirrelly urges, we’re stuck drinkin’ Pepsi instead of The King!  What do you mean, we can’t go to math buzzed? I’m dropping out, remember? Besides, since when do you care about tests? Yeah, I know how that is–but the difference is you let your parents squeeze you, and I don’t let mine, `cause I know it only encourages them. It’s like Deke says, structure is for the power elite, not for poets and seers. Do you think Jerry Garcia was into structure? Yeah, you’re right, Deke does look like Jerry–right down to the Santa beard and those crinkly eyes! Man, they are so not like my old man’s eyes. My old man’s eyes drill into you, like: “Hey, did you do your homework?” and, “Tell me exactly, how do you expect to make your way in the world without a high school degree?” And, of course, the famous, “Hey, did you do your homework?” It’s like, Deke and I were rappin’ at the store yesterday with the Montana twins, and someone’s like, hey Deke, you’re like Peter Pan, man, you’re the leader of the lost boys or somethin’–and Deke just grins and draws this joint out of nowhere, and we all go in back and get high and start this rap song, The Lost Boyz Rap we called it, and we’re drummin’ on books and chairs and everything, and taking turns rhyming, all these brilliant rhymes, like–well, I don’t remember any of `em exactly, but they were brilliant, all this great stuff about Peter Pan, and how they hook you in school, like this principal, Captain Hook, and how they try to keep you scared at home, like the kids in the Peter Pan story. Man it was cool. And Deke says, yeah, well, I’m cool and all that, but I’ve got rules, too. Like Rule Number One: Anyone has pot, everyone smokes. And Rule Number Two: No selling. So I keep my sales stash stuffed in my crotch.

Wednesday: Lunch back of the Dumpster

Weird day yesterday, dude. Here, have a hit. First off, Deke was weird. I ride my board all the way down to the store and slide in real smooth, and I’m all, wassup? and he just stares at me like I’m a retard. So I’m like, he’s having a bad day, and I flip through zines for a while. Then I go, “Hey, Deke, I was wonderin’–what’s your real name, man?” And he gets all beady eyed on me and goes, “What, Deke’s not real enough for you? I’m The Deacon, man, that’s all there is to it.” And I’m all, what-ever. Then he kinda slumps over and gives me this sad old rabbi look and says, “Look, li’l dude, you gotta scram, the Boss Man got his panties in a twist `cause some yuppie princess came in yesterday and there was no one in front, and some “obnoxious people” loudmouthing in back–yeah, us, duh–so I’ve gotta be a Boy Scout for a while.” So I’m all, fine, whatever, and I get out of there and call Ronnie T. He comes over to my house and starts playing guitar, and I start fooling around with that conga my dad got me. So, of course, my dad heads straight for my room with this incredible radar he has for spoiling my fun, and sticks his head in the doorway, with this puppy dog look of his, and says, “Can I jam?” And I’m thinkin’, that is so lame, you don’t ask “can I jam,” you just step in and do it. So we’re all, yeah, whatever, and Ronnie starts playing this Marley tune, and Dad starts playing the other conga, and he’s making totally sure we can see how into it he is, like he’s rolling his eyes and moving his head around like, hey, look at me, I’m jamming with my son! Pa-thetic. Yeah, he was good, but he wasn’t like good good, not rasta good or anything, he was just good like you’re supposed to be a commercial. Wasted day, Squirrelly.

Thursday: Lunch at the Beach

Dude, there’s nothing like celebrating the end of the school week with brews at the beach! It’s not the end? Well it is for me! End of the school week, end of the school year, end of the school life! High five? Dude, you are so middle school! Remember, Squirrel Man, I’ll be waiting for you on the outside. Yeah you will be! You will be, dude, trust me, freedom’s very contagious. Mm, good brew. Man, it was pathetic at the bookstore last night. You should see what The Deke has to go through. The Boss Man put an espresso machine in `cause he’s afraid everyone’s gonna go all Starbucks on him, so now it’s not enough that Deke can recite Beat poetry from heart, and was personally busted in the Free Speech Movement, and sang folk songs with Pete Cigar and everything, now he’s got to make coffee for yuppies, too! Like these two guys in rich boy suits that came in yesterday, they come in and order cappuccino, and while Deke’s makin’ it, they’re on their cell phones talking buy this! sell that! and all this stock market mumbo jumbo. Then one of `em puts his hand over the phone, like he’s a very big deal and says, “Excuse me, Mr. Kerouac, could you please put a little less froth in my cappo please?” And the other guy cracks up like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard! I mean, just `cause Deke wears a beret and works on Haight Street, they think he’s a Disneyland attraction! I’ll bet he woulda popped `em in the mouth if he wasn’t saving up for studio time for his poetry album. And he’s nonviolent, right. And sixty, duh. Hey, mañana, dude. I’ve gotta see those Montana boys about that room–and don’t give me that weak “it’s not The Haight” shit, you can smell the pot, piss, and pizza when the wind blows, so it’s Haight enough for me.

Friday: Lunch in the Schoolyard

Dude, you finally put your cell phone on! Hey, I’m sorry you gotta eat alone, but I closed that–ahembusiness deal this morning, and I’m moving in with The United Dropouts of America, Montana chapter. Hey, I’m sorry, dude, but you shoulda had your cell phone on! Look, just lay low in the shadows and the bad boys won’t bug you. Dude, if you’d just kept your cell on, I’d have walked you to K-Fried! Yeah, Squirrel, we will definitely get popcorn chicken next week. Yeah, man, I’ll miss you, too–those long lunches together ... those cuts ... well of course I remember the firecrackers in the can! And dude, who can forget cheerleading practice! And the physics club! And the debating society! And those honors classes! And of course, who can ever forget hanging out with the pretty people making snide remarks at the nerds! What? You can? You drink too much, Squirrelly! Or not, considering folks drink to forget. Mm, that’s good. Omigod! I’m drinking alone! One of the top ten warning signs of alcoholism! Well, this don’t count, it’s a special occasion ... erp! Lemme ask you somethin’, Squirrelly: did you ever think about the difference between us and our folks? The difference is, they’re all noun obsessed, and we’re all about verbs. Take dropping out. I’m dropping out. It’s something I’m doing. And it’s just something I’m doing. I’m still Jack The Beanstalk, I still smile like a pumpkin, I still love rhymes, and I still stick up for my friends–always. But to my dad, dropout is what I am–or will be in a day. That’s why he’s all, “Don’t be a dropout, Jack!”, like if I drop out, all of a sudden I won’t be “Jacko” anymore, or “best pal,” or “hoopster.” I’ll just be: Dropout. See, it’s all nouns and verbs, dude, that explains everything. You know, I bet I could ace English in a minute if I wanted to ... as if.

Monday: The Last Lunch 

This is it, dude, the last supper–one last lunch for The Squirrel and The Bean. Heck yeah I’m going through with it! But ... the “it’s” different now. How? Well, my last day of school was Friday, right? And I celebrated by cutting, right? Well, guess who decided to notice I was still alive? Dean J. And he called my dad to tell him I cut, and my dad went all over town looking for me, and found me at the bookstore, chillin’ with Deke. And it was like, a showdown, man, like The Matrix. First they’re kinda checkin’ each other out, like gunfighters. And Dad looks at me and goes, “You’re not in school,” which was the duh of the day, but he holds back from getting too mad, `cause Deke’s there, and Dad’s worried about his Dad Of The Century medal. And Deke goes, “Maybe I oughta let you and the youngblood work this out in private.” So Dad goes all formal on him and says, “Excuse me, we haven’t met. I’m Dan Campbell.” And he sticks his hand out for a business-type handshake, but Deke gives him a soul shake instead. And then they start making this chit chat like I’m not there all of a sudden. It was ... weird, they were like kissing up to each other, like some bizarro adult conspiracy or something. Then Deke starts talking about how bad the book business is with all the chain stores taking over, and my dad’s all, hey, I sympathize, it’s a real problem. Then Dad’s like, hey, I’ve heard you’re quite a poet; Jack’s told me all about you; except it sounds like he’s trying to hold in a crap. And Deke goes, “Yeah, The Bean’s got a great ear,” and Dad looks at me and says The Bean real low, as if it’s totally lame to be called that–as if I haven’t told him a million times my friends call me The Bean. Then Dad gives Deke this look and says, “You know, I’ve written some poetry myself, man (man!). I’d much rather be doing what you’re doing than selling real estate.” And I’m puking. Then Deke nods his head at me and goes, “Well, hey, you know, you really oughta encourage his poetry, he’s drying up in that so-called school.” So all of a sudden Dad does a complete `tude 360 and snaps his head back and says, “Excuse me? You’re telling me how to be a father to my boy?” And Deke goes, “I’m not telling you, man, I’ve just been there, and I picked up a few things along the road.” And I’m all, The Deke was a dad? And then I remember The Boss said that Deke had a kid but split when the kid was a kid, and the kid’s grown now, and he tracked Deke down and they had a few beers, and I guess I’d suppressed it, repressed it, whatever, `cause that’s not too cool. So my dad’s all, “You shelter runaways, and you shelter truants, and you’re lecturing me on how to raise my son?” And Deke’s all, “Just listen to yourself, man, calling him my son. Sure, you begot him, and sure, you’ve given him your best shot and all–but this my son stuff is a power trip, man, he belongs to the universe–like we all do. And sooner rather than later, you gotta give him up to it.” And now Dad’s eyes are sort of popping out like ping pong balls, and the veins on his forehead are all pumped up like when Mom tells him to go lie down for his blood pressure, and he’s all “Give him up? You mean, give up on him, don’t you! Well I’ve got news for you, my fine feathered friend, giving up is not in the Campbell vocabulary–though it may be in yours.” And he keeps on blasting Deke, and it was ... cool. And while Dad’s sputtering at him, Deke’s giving me this look, like he’s rolling his eyes and smirking at me. And what was really funny was, it was the exact same look you gave me behind the Princely Pal’s back when he ripped into me for board-sliding that rail last week. So Dad finishes his rant and he’s all, “Let’s go, Jack”–but I can see from his face he’s not sure I’m coming, `cause it’s the same look he used when he came to grab me away from that bonfire at the beach last year, and I didn’t go that time. And I’m not sure I’m going this time, either. So he turns to go, and I sit there, and then all of a sudden, this force kind of pulls me off the stool like I’m a water skier being towed by a boat. And I go with him. What? No, it’s not the last time I ever will. I’ll tell you what I mean. What I mean is, I’ve had it with his bullshit and Mom’s, and how they always know best, even though their life’s so great, they’re always, “Oh, the bills” and, “Oh, the stress” and, “Oh, my back.”  Yeah they sure know best, like tossing a few bucks to the food bank and catching a play now and then make them all that–and they like own my life, `cause I’m just a fool who doesn’t know jack about what I should do with it.

So you know how he’s always threatened to put me in The Phoenix, that last chance school for misfits? Well, he put the fix in with Dean J to get me transferred there, and I’ll tell you, the dean and the Princely Pal couldn’t be happier, `cause the school gpa is gonna go up about a point with me outta there. So Dad gets his TV voice on and he’s all, “This’ll straighten you out, Jack. They won’t tolerate any of your nonsense, and they’ll challenge you, too. And believe me, son–you’re gonna come out of it a stronger person.” Oh, I believe you, Dad–father always knows best ... except when he doesn’t–and he don’t. And to prove it, I’m playin’ him. How? By doing the exact opposite of what he expects. By showing up at the new school every day and doing every damned thing I’m supposed to do, just so I can look him in the eye the glorious day I leave home for good and say, “See, Dad? I did everything you asked me to, and I still hate school, and I’m still not going to college, and I’m still not gonna be a robot like you and Mom, ever.” And then he’ll see I was right all along, and I’ll be done with his bullshit forever. Hey let’s drink to that, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ahhhhhhhh-men!




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