Tonight was spent in an unexpected fashion: I was in the hospital with my grandfather, who had slipped and fallen outside. He scraped his noggin pretty badly, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. It's OK, he didn't even need stitches. The VA took a CT scan and saw there was nothing wrong. They just put a bandage on and told him to put ice on it for 20-minute intervals.
Still, it's kind of fucked up that this happened today when I told you all I was going to talk about him in tonight's GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS.
First, I should give a great deal of thanks to him. All of the times you've heard about me being in the hospital, dying from pancreatitis or suffering from a mystery illness or trying to live with an abscess or fighting through dental problems, he drove me to the ER. For a change, I got to drive him. I rolled him around in a wheelchair. I stayed by his side while the hospital ran a variety of tests on him. And then, as I left with Gramps in the wheelchair, bringing him out to my car, I brought the wheelchair back to the lobby. On my way, I saw the guy who collected wheelchairs from the parking lot. He was in his own wheelchair, and he thanked me profusely to the point where I started wondering if I was the first person to ever bring a wheelchair back to the lobby to save the poor guy from having to go out and bring it back. It's not like this is a shopping cart you can just leave in the parking lot. It's a frigging wheelchair. I couldn't imagine someone NOT bringing one back to the lobby.
But that's not what I'm here to talk about. I want to discuss my grandfather's youth as a mad man. No, he wasn't in advertising. However, he led the kind of MAD MEN lifestyle you see in Jon Hamm & Co. He went to martini lunches and smoked in the office and all the other things you see on that particular show.
Truth is, he was in men's clothing. He worked in sales at Bonds until it went under. Then, he worked locally at Leonard's until that was sold. All told, he worked in the business for more years than I've been alive, even now. But back in the day? That was something different.
Gramps taught me how to make a real Manhattan. Mixologists get it wrong all the time. If there's ice in your Manhattan, the guy who made it fucked up. A long time ago, I posted Gramps's recipe on MySpace, but since that's no more, I'll post it here for posterity: Take two shots of whiskey (it can be rye, but it's better if it's regular whiskey) and one shot of sweet vermouth. Stir it together over ice. DO NOT SHAKE. Then, pour it into a martini glass, but make sure none of the ice gets in there. Put a cherry into the glass (I skip that part, because I'm an asshole and I hate fruits and veggies), and you're done. Gramps told me that he knew a guy back in the 'Fifties who would drink about 10 of these things and then drive home to his family. Do that math: three shots (two of which are whiskey) times ten. I asked my grandfather if this guy died young, and he didn't. His heart gave out about twenty years ago, which placed the guy in his seventies.
My grandfather told me about the time he was driving home with the woman who would become my grandmother, and they hit a guy in a shady part of town. They looked in the rear view mirror, and they saw a guy back there in the street, but they were certain the guy was pretending, so they drove on. This, of course, shocked me when I heard about it. However, he told me that people who didn't have so much money back then had a habit of jumping in front of cars just to get a payday when they get hit.
And then there were the stag parties. Gramps would get all of his work buddies together, and while their wives played bridge in the living room or parlor, the guys would watch stag films while smoking cigars and drinking scotch.
Surprisingly, these are all things I learned as an adult. You'd think that knowing these things as a child would have informed my career as a writer of fiction. Not so. The world has always been fucked up, it's just that most people don't think about it.
I grew up in a house that was next to a whorehouse. Of course, I never knew that when I was a kid. However, my mom and aunt went to school with the daughter of the woman who whored herself out next door. Johns would drive through the neighborhood, looking for the house, and they would sometimes see my grandmother, who was only forty back then, and think she was the woman they were looking for.
They eventually arrested that poor woman. The family that moved in after her bore a daughter of their own, who would eventually become the first girl I ever played doctor with.
There are certain things you don't expect of suburbia . . .
You never think your neighbor is selling her body to stay afloat.
You never think of your coworkers as guys who would gather together to watch porn while their wives played cards downstairs, and that something like that would be a socially acceptable practice.
You never think of your grandfather as a guy who drank and partied and fucked and generally had a good time.
You never see Gramps as Don Draper, but let's face it. He probably was. I know, in my case, that my grandfather lived up to those kinds of things.
It's not always a good thing. He's sexist, even though he doesn't mean harm. My grandmother once told me that he said, on their first night together back from the honeymoon, that he swore to never do the dishes because that was women's work. He's racist and refers to the mail woman as a Negress, but he means no harm to her. He would actually step in and do his best to stop harm from coming to a woman or a person whose race was different from his own. He's not a hateful guy. He knows that the world has moved on, and he's trying to be better about it. He's not there yet, and he might never be. But he's trying,
I don't know about his feelings on gays. I've never asked him or seen anything from him on the subject. My guess is that he doesn't like them, but he would not want them to be hurt because of their sexual inclinations. If he saw someone being hurt for such a thing, I'm certain he would step in and do his best to help them out of the situation.
My grandfather is not perfect, but he raised me with as much love as anyone could ever bestow upon another person. For all of his flaws, I love him more than I've ever loved another man.
Tonight, I washed blood out of his hair. I treated the wound as best as I could, and I bandaged it with what I had at hand. I looked up the symptoms of a concussion, and I asked him about his experience. Thankfully, he was in the Army, and treatment for him at the VA was free. I drove him there, and the VA checked him out, tested him and made sure he was OK for release. Thankfully, I was right about my diagnosis: there was no concussion, and he didn't need stitches. They let him go after three hours.
In three years, he will be 90. He's got a lot of my medical issues: the 'Beetus, high cholesterol and hypertension. He's had all of these without losing limbs, losing sight, having a heart attack or having a stroke. He gives me hope.
I'm an atheist, so I don't do prayer. He's Greek orthodox, even though he hasn't practiced since he was a boy living in a household that demanded he reject English for Greek in ordinary conversation. As far as I know, he only prayed once as an adult, and that was when he had skin cancer. It was cut off of him, and it was benign, so he was fine afterward.
If you pray, I'm sure he'd be grateful for anything you would say to any Lord that might exist. I even hedged my bets a little. I don't believe in God--or any god at all--but I offered my prayer to whoever might be listening, not because I think anyone's listening, but just in case. I would never ask anything for myself, but for Gramps? I'd ask the world.
Thank you, John Kopoulos, for everything you've done for me. I hope for . . . well. I just HOPE.
Thanks for reading this GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS. It's the most important one I've ever written, and I love you all for making it this far. Hugs and kisses for you all. Goodnight.