You’ve already heard the A-Side, the story of the sheltered Presbyterian-raised Midwestern boy who leaves behind his insulated world and moves from city to city, adept at avoiding conflict, at ease amongst strangers, and in search of anything and everything. You’ve memorized that story- if not this one then some variation. You know about how he finds the girl, gets married, and moves her across the country where they settle, have a baby, move to the suburbs, and roam through life as a child’s parents. We love that A-Side hook, the catchy rhythm, a comfort zone where that one alteration excites you as it blends into something otherwise familiar. This A-Side life where you shake an identity for an archetype: You’re a Dad, You’re a Financial Analyst, You’re a Chicagoan. Oh how cozy, how safe. Let’s live in the shade and do our duty, buy the American dream, and raise the world’s next soldier.
Fuck that. Snap out of it and open your eyes. Search. Flip through the details of your life and soon you’ll chart inconsistencies. ‘Facts’ contradict Facts. Besides, aren’t half-truths also half-lies? That neighbor who used to sleep in her driveway, the one your parents told you was just tired? True, but she was also a violent drunk. These lies that shrink a child’s world, protect us from a far uglier truth- it’s all bubblegum pop, hooks to save your soul. We pass this down, don’t we, our generational lies? To protect our children we redraw our parents. My Dad’s dad wasn’t sick, he was fucking lazy, defeated, victim to his own weak nerves. My Dad’s brother? He wasn’t ‘different,’ he was a paranoid Schizophrenic.
A year ago I held with trembling hand one of the handles on my mother’s coffin. Thirty-four is way too young to say goodbye to a parent, but there I was on a chilly, rainy Cleveland morning tossing dirt on wood. I began 2010 a childless, non-practicing Christian, broken and passionlessly employed, a mother’s son and a girl’s husband; I ended 2010 a motherless non-practicing half-Jew with a seven-week old son, a mother’s husband, a man who pulled one string and unraveled everything he knew about his life and the world around him. So begins the B-Sides Narrative.