Simple Man

I was sitting at a café on Sunset Boulevard. It was an early, cold morning. I sat in the sun and drank coffee. It was a simple moment and absolutely perfect. A man rode by on his bicycle playing very loud music from some kind of music device. It was 1920s New Orleans jazz. I thought there was a certain irony to his musical choice. I knew he thought the same thing as he pulled on his suspenders, looking in his mirror a half hour ago.

People go to great lengths to put themselves on in the morning. I remember playing guitar on a goth tour of Europe. Everyone had makeup and mohawks to attend to every morning. I was often just too tired to get it together. I only wore eyeliner anyway. I stopped taking it off and would just add to it each night before the show. It turned out to be a look I could sustain. People have often said, “You’re such a simple man.” I thought they were busting my balls. But as I sit in the morning LA winter sun, I think that maybe they are right.

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Your Permanent Record

 All throughout my public school education in the Cleveland suburb called Euclid, I was told that anything I did wrong would go on my permanent record and follow me throughout my entire life.

I did a lot of bad things anyway. Most of it was just teen rebellion. I can mark the moment in time when the rebellion started.

I had broken my collarbone playing touch football. It’s a long, terrible story I’ll tell you another day. But I was in class the next day (elementary school), standing in line to use the drinking fountain, when a boy running down the hall ran into my shoulder, displacing my broken collar bone.

I fell to the ground in tears. The teacher came over and I said, “I have a broken collar bone,” and she said, “I saw what happened. That couldn’t possibly have broken your collarbone. I think you’re overreacting.” I explained that my collarbone was already broken, so she sent me to the principal’s office and they sent me home. From then on, I was “Daniel with an authority problem.”

So as I said, my “permanent record” just seemed to be filling up with an incredible list of bad stuff. Some I will not mention, but there were explosives, arguments, attempts at starting a student revolution, etc.

When I got older, I started to enjoy writing and telling stories. I thought I should write a book called All the Bad Things I Did in School. My mother worked for the Board of Education. (I would often hear from authority figures, “I know your mother!” Another threat, of course.) But since my mother worked for the Board of Education, I figured I could get a copy of my permanent record. It would be perfect… all laid out in some detailed list that I could use as chapters. My mother agreed to get it for me.

A few days later, she had acquired my permanent record. She told me the only thing it listed was my grade averages for my last four years of school. I was so disappointed. That permanent record and giant threat that hung over me didn’t even exist. It was a monster under the bed that totally disappeared the moment I looked for it.

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