Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Saddest Story in the World.....

I am just back from Mass at the Carmel Mission.....

Ass-hats like me can actually still go to Mass....and even take Communion.

They have a book there that lays out the ground rules.....preferably no food within an hour, and you should not be carrying the guilt of a "grave sin".

Even then.....you can still take Communion if you promise to go to Confession soon.

It used to be twelve hours, and Confession within 24 hours.....or the amount of time it took you to come up with even venial-style sins. For adolescents, this was about fourteen seconds.......so I spent my younger life and adolescence completely consumed with guilt for taking Communion outside of Confession.....because if you don't line up at Communion time, everybody in the congregation knows you have fucked up in major or minor ways.....So, you always took Communion....and hoped Jesus had your back.

I like the new deal: no "Grave Sin".

I can live with that......I have not killed anyone in almost forty years.....and that was not even on purpose.....

I was once the Bishop's head altar boy in Reno.....Apparently I am the only altar boy in the history of America not to have been sexually harassed by the priests. I worked weekends with weddings.....Sunday High Mass at the Cathedral, daily Mass at the Convent.....funerals, even exorcisms.....

Reno was famous for divorces....but the ignored fact was that every person getting divorced in Nevada already had his or her next failure already lined up. Reno did twice as many marriages as divorces.....

Nevada was, back in the day: 48% Catholic; 48% Mormon; 4% Native American.

We did all the weddings, and all the funerals on the non-Mormon side. Altar boys got tipped in silver dollars.....I had sacks of silver that I spent on archery equipment and Beatles and Beach Boy albums.....

Being a good Catholic was like being on a good soccer team....or being part of a good film shoot.....the sense of belonging was intense enough to keep you in the life-style.

I altar-boyed. I taught Catechism.....I ran track for the CYO.

(I was good enough to make the National Finals of the CYO. At Stanford. Part of the deal was a massage before your event.

I have never looked back).

Anyway........

My Salvation from Jesus came with a tragic accident......

Nevada is famous as a silver and gold mining state......Nevada is the Silver State. All those silver dollars I pissed away on flu-flu arrows and Levi stretch jeans would buy houses in Marina today.

But....we had mines scattered all over the place.....

Because I was a crazy Catholic prodigy......I still can do the Latin Mass from beginning to end with proper 3rd century pronunciation...

Even though I have no idea where my cell phone is, or my car keys.........

"Ad deum qui laetificat....juven tutem meum......"

"I will go to the altar of God......To God, the joy of my youth......"

The Bishop hooked me up with a seminary in Chico.....there was an exam I had to take to enter into the priesthood, but it was a formality.....the Bishop himself was driving me over the mountains to take the test.....

First weekend of the test......huge snowstorm. Forget it.

Re-schedule for six weeks later......No problem.

The week in question.....the son of the mayor of Reno and a couple of his buds decided to play in the mine tunnels around the town. They found some old ore cars and shoved them along the tracks and were partying hearty in an old mine outside of town. Woo-hoo!

Except one of the tracks dropped off into a shaft, and the kids dropped into the abyss......

Major High Requiem Mass. Bishop required. Head altar boy with major skills required.....

I missed the test.....

I figure God killed those idiots.....just to stop me from becoming a priest.

I may be wrong.....

Anyway.....

Tonight at The Mission in Carmel....

Mass was in the little side Chapel....which is way cuter and less oppressive than the Mission Church itself....

No ghosts....and full-on Cachagua-style single board roofing.....

Mass was for my old friend Carlos Zarate, who died on this day in 1993.

I am a soccer guy. I came to it late in life....I was fifteen. I had a lot of catch-up to do, so I became obsessed.

In high school in New Jersey I found one crazy friend from Germany who would help me practice in the summer....but mostly I spent my time playing by myself.....off walls and in random parks.

I made the school team, and played two years in a rabid soccer town....a kid had been killed in the fifties playing football, so soccer was the main sport in public high school....and got a scholarship to Cornell.

Even at Cornell, I practiced on my own in the off-season, knocking balls off the back of Teague Hall, and using my Irish Setter as a defender to work on my moves and fitness.

When I lived in Europe....same deal. I always had a ball, and cleats....and would work in little parks here and there on my own. The fact that I always wore the same tired pair of Puma shoes even got me in trouble on Ios in Greece for stealing cauliflower....but that is a different story.

When I moved to Carmel in 1976....same deal. Want excercise with a soccer ball? Better have an Irish Setter. Or two.

Which I had.

One day, playing by myself with my two dogs at the field next to the road by the Carmel Middle School.....they were kicking my butt.

Setters are tough. Playing for Cornell, I broke my back, both ankles twice, a bunch of broken toes.....but the dogs were at least as rough as Ivy League defenders....

One day a Mexican kid was playing at the other end of the field with a shitty ball on his own......

We hooked up and started knocking the ball around.....he was a natural striker, and hated my dogs for their persistence and skill.

After a few weeks of ad hoc soccer we started talking.......the kid was in high school, and there was no soccer culture in Carmel whatsoever.

Carlos.....his mom was a maid for the San Carlos Agency, who rented houses for part-time Carmel folk....grew up on 13th Street in Carmel....just behind the Glass House.

Carlos was part of the long string of Mexican.....I use the word instead of "Latino" because there was a time when it was not a perjorative.....residents and workers in Carmel. There have always been local Mexicans in Carmel who have been here longer than the white folks. I used to buy geese from a guy on Green Valley Road who was born at The Mission and used to pick vegetables for the padres in the forties......

Carlos grew up on Carmel Beach.....he surfed. He played soccer......

Carlos turned me on to the whole hidden world of Mexican soccer. There were teams and leagues scattered all over Seaside and Salinas.... and Carlos wanted to get the Carmel kids involved....because he knew that soccer was way more fun than surfing. Grass is always sitting there, waiting. Tides are flaky.....and irrelevant to grass-fed fun.

So......we set up some teams and games, and got the YMCA involved.....and got a league going.

The league continues to this day......and provides most of the funding of the local YMCA.

Carlos was in Middle School.....and then in High School. We worked together to kill gophers on the Carmel Middle School fields. I bought some wood and we built some shitty goals. Carlos had a friend of his mom's who worked on boats in Pacific Grove who welded us some soccer goals that were so heavy and gnarly that they made a statement.

The YMCA faded, and we started a real league.....we hired a professional soccer guy, built fields down below at the Middle School....and soon had 700 kids playing soccer.....year round.

By 1993, Carlos had graduated, fallen in love, married, and worked for a super-caterer.

Still, he was loyal to his Mexican roots....which meant going back to Mexico at Christmas time each year. His wife was super traditional.

In '93, Carlos drove back to Mexico to visit his in-laws with his wife and his beautiful four-year old daughter, Jessica.

It is a really long drive....At one point he had his wife take over, and he took a nap.

His wife was really tired, as well......and missed a turn, and crashed the family car into a truck in the middle of BumFuck, Mexico.

Carlos woke up in the middle of a nightmare. Twisted steel. Fire. Terror. Shit flying all around.

He grabbed a ride with the cops to the local hospital.....in terror at what had happened to his wife and daughter.

The cops dropped him out front, and he ran inside the hospital calling for his daughter.

The nurses tried to stop him....but he dragged a couple with him as he ran back to one of the two examining rooms.

His wife was being worked on by the docs....

He ran next door to the other room....with nurses hanging off him.

Stop.

Stop.

He arrived at the door of the examing room just as the docs were pulliing the sheet over his daughter's face.

D.O.A.

Carlos dropped dead on the spot.

His heart broke.......

Literally.

He was 29.

I would go on about this and that.....

We got the Middle School to name the field after Carlos......

But, the Principal was a baseball guy who hated Mexicans.......

Now the field is a track.....

Right next to Carmel Valley Road....

No Carlos anywhere.

Soccer is for those......objectionable brown people....and those difficult ADADHD people.......

Which is why I take Laureles Grade whenever I have to go to Monterey......just to not have to drive by Carlos' field.

Wake up, Carmel.......you folks are living in Alta California.....always a part of Mexico.

And not all of your kids fit the Baseball/Basketball/Football mold......

So.....today Carlos Zarate's old friends gathered for Mass at the Mission in Carmel.

It is the feast day of Saint Angela Merici.

Saint Angela Merici was an Italian from Lake Garda born in 1474. At that time there were no schools for children of any kind. It was a perfect George Bush world of super rich folk, and random fuckhead workers.

Angela Merici, for whatever reason, decided to set up classes for children. First she had to educate herself and her friends, which was no easy task in 15th century Italy.

She and her friends persevered.......They were not nuns. They took no vows, wore no weird clothes.....continued to live at home with their families.....but educated the children of the poor so they could have better lives.

For me.....a perfect Saint's Day for my friend Carlos.........

2 Comments:

Blogger jacek said...

Sir,
Great story. Great writing. It is there with the best of John U. (R.I.P). Might be even better if you drop a few ... ;)
Yours,
jacek

11:51 AM  
Blogger CO2man said...

I went to CHS with Carlos and played on the soccer team with him. He was awesome on the field, the best and nearly only thing we had going. He never let it go to his head and did his best to teach the rest of us to play. He caught a lot of shit from the other teams when we played in Gonzales or east alisal him being the only mexican on our team. (some of the kids from durney played part of a season but they never hung in, had to work I guess, but they kicked ass too) Anyway, I knew he had passed but never heard the story. Thanks
Mike

9:45 PM  

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