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High Times

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If asked about God, the 10-year-old inside me would pull a picture of my dad.


Father_DaughterEven today, I relate my highest and happiest moments with Him. Granted, my father’s mythical majesty was often fueled by a potent combination of coke, booze, pot, pills, horse…and any hottie he could get his hot blooded hands on.

My mom used to say, “Ya’ dad has a Mars in Leo, and a Venus is Scorpio. That’s PROSTITUTE astrology!”

Dad taught me a lot over the years: how to drink…how to drive…how to drink and drive; how to get through customs with a dozen joints in my underwear; how to seduce women – probably the least practical for me (especially at 12).

My dad was so smooth he seduced my mom’s sister after he and my mom separated…

So smooth, he talked my mother, his ex-wife, into setting them up. I guess mom, being part of the free-love era, figured at least it’s a family affair.

So she told her sister, in a touching letter, to “embrace the love.” Well…not long after mom bestowed her blessing, the pot and positive vibrations wore off. A 20 year epic battle ensued that could rival the romantic tales of Mt Olympus.

Dad played hard, but he also worked hard. He was an uptown boy, but a self-made man. He was first at his college to graduate night-school in 2 years (while working full-time and pumping gas on the weekends).

When he was 23, he converted the ol’ Buck 49 steakhouse into another New Orleans classic, finishing the renovation in two weeks…

Thankfully the restaurant was an instant hit, despite being told by his own father days before opening, “Ya’ gonna’ fail.”

No matter how successful Dad became, like his Sicilian grandparents before him, he continued to build his fortune with his hands, cooking over a hot stove, and on his knees with no gloves scrubbing the floors with boric acid.

Silver Hawk, Chaya’s lover, who stayed with us one summer, once called Dad a “capitalist pig”, which prompted Dad to enter frame at the farm in the biggest black Cadillac he could rent, fish-tail-parking on the gravel driveway, blasting Peter Gabriel and drinking a Heineken.

Knocking the wind out of me with a big bear hug, he whispered in my ear: “I gotta’ box of Snickers in the car.” Then he winked, shot me a high-five, while I covered a growing grin with my hands.

As Mom watched the scene unfold, she slowly exited, rolling her eyes while murmuring, “Daddy Warbucks is in town.”

When I visited New Orleans, I spent most of my time in Mandeville, with Dad’s entourage of friends and rotating girlfriends.

Dad lived on 90 acres of marshland about 30 miles outside of New Orleans, where pine trees and ancient oaks stretched for miles.

There was an old abandoned mansion on the land with a watery dungeon we called “The Castle”. It was built, but never finished, in the 1930s by a Louisiana politician who embezzled state money.

There were alligators, snakes, deer, fox, bobcat, coyotes and lots of bugs.

Once, during a wild party at the Castle, my Uncle Mark was chased into the bayou by a boar.

Almost everyday we’d take a slow boat ride through the bayou, inhaling the same atmosphere as thousands of flowers and trees. Sometimes Pink Floyd would play softly in the background, and other times we’d quietly watch the white egrets, while floating under twisted wooden canopies and cascading grey moss…

Here is the heart of the Ozone Belt, an area known for its healing air and highest lightening-strike frequency in the country.

As soon as we’d hit the lake, Dad would gun the accelerator, turn the music up, and yell above the racing winds, “Wooo hoooo!” Frankie and I would trade turns taking over the wheel, as Dad would follow, zigzagging behind on a solitary ski.

Sometimes Dad’s friends would come along for the ride, and when everyone had enough of the water and had drunk all the beer, we’d turn the music down again and watch the moody sky turn many colors…

I felt so alive back then. It was like life had background music…

High Times With Dad from Adele Uddo on Vimeo.

*Video edited by Tom Vanasse

 

Dad’s creativity was often on overdrive:

“Wait till ya’ read this rock opera I’m writin’ Deli. It’s about Diana, Goddess of the HUNT. And wait till ya’ see what we’re gonna’ do to the Castle! I’m making it into a 5-star resort. It’s gonna’ be called FOUNTAINHEAD…”

“Glass brick, stainless steel, and chrome…the walls’ll be transparent so ya’ feel like you’re in water. I want a BIG beautiful onyx statue of Neptune, pointin’ a laser beam into the stars to guide people comin’ across the lake on hover crafts to the mouth of the bayou. I’m gonna’ gut the island and build a Greek-style amphitheater with torches and state-of-the-art light and sound. Everyone’s gonna’ want to play here: U2, Genesis, even Olivia Newton-Ja’wn if you want. And me and ma’ baby girl will always have the best seats in the house!”

Granted…much of Dad’s energy was being stoked by certain substances Frankie and I knew were “bad”, but also expensive – so while we diluted his drinks, we usually spared the plastic bags of white powder from disappearing down the toilet.

Sometimes these substances caused him to see things. But somehow, Dad could turn scary scenes into fantastic fantasies:

“Deli, get this…I was out in the woods last night and I swea’ I saw a space-age army of aliens truckin’ through the trees, comin’ straight for me! They had these little lights swirlin’ all ova’ their uniforms, circlin’ their shoulda’ epaulets…then I realized – it was the FIREFLIES. It was too cool.”

Life with Dad could be as dangerous and unpredictable as it was exciting. One minute, we’d be driving through the Desire projects, while throwing footballs to kids out the drop top…and the next, he’d have a fist fight on the Causeway bridge with a man twice his size.

I now know my dad was much more than the God-image I created. He was quite human with many demons. Despite my efforts to keep the fantasy alive, a heartbreaking reality began to reveal itself.

Yet, at one time, he was my lifeline. As long as we could stay high above the stormy waters that lurked below his spirited surface, I felt safe with him. Maybe it was that I felt loved. Whatever it was, as time moved on, more and more of my energy was spent trying to keep him safe from himself. I continued to dilute his drinks, monitor his speed…his drugs…his state of mind…. When he’d lose hope, I’d always be there reminding him of how great life was…with him in it.

He became my addiction. When he was high, so was I. The rock n’ roll background music was ON! Yet, when he was down and under, I absorbed him even more, doing everything within my young powers to bring us back for breath. At some point silently, I promised: You are not alone. I will suffer along side you.

Eventually the weight of his pain was too heavy for either of us to bear. As with any high-speed ride, a terrible crash was around the corner

24 Responses to "High Times"
  1. Thomas Hall says:

    Wow. What a life… Love the little shot of Frank at the helm.

    It does needle me, somewhat, toward writing some stories from my more prosaic upbringing. If I could get my family members to throw in theirs it would be even better.

    Anyway thanks, and be well.

    • Adele says:

      Thanks Thomas, it’s great to hear from you 🙂 If you ever get to writing about your upbringing, consider me a curious and enthusiastic reader!

      Kelly, still digesting with appreciation your recent analogy, and also love this new ‘golden’ one. Thank you Gator.

  2. Wow, I don’t think I have seen that many photos of squid squishers and tiny whities since Chele uploaded her pics of the Mediterranean all-gay cruise. That being said, if you remember any of those “how to seduce women” tips, let me know.

    Astrologically, your dad may have been a prostitute (LOL, please tell your mom hello.), but I reason more astronomically, and I see your dad as a star. He burned white hot and flamed quickly. Metaphorically, it’s all the same. As children we desperately want our parents to be stars, and we purposefully place them in the heavens. The fact they are all too disappointingly human and can never remain there is more our innocence than their failing.

    I look forward to hearing the rest of the story, my friend…and don’t forget to email me those tips, OK?

    • Adele says:

      Mind, your comments consistently make me laugh out loud, and in this case, cry (thankfully silently). So beautifully said!! As we’ve established (lifetimes ago), you are a wise ‘warrior’ and a generous soul. I promise to email you shortly… 😉

  3. Audrey says:

    I LOVE reading your stories your family is fascinating and so real. I send you a big hug for sticking by your daddy to keep him afloat. No easy task for any person and even more so for a child. HUG!!!

    I love the pictures and seeing your momma who I have danced with lots in Austin. I see that I have danced with both her younger heart and her now heart and that they are one in the same. I miss her warm energy. I am waiting to hear the next part of the story but I kinda don’t want to know either- sounds not so good in the way it would effect the hearts of all.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    All the Best! Audrey

    • Adele says:

      Audrey, thank you so much for this kind comment and for tuning into the unfolding family saga 🙂 Yep, the next one promises to pull on the heart as you say -the best way I seem know how to open my heart is to break it occasionally. Hope you reunite soon with Clarita for a little Texas-style boogie! xo

  4. Kelly says:

    The photos and the video really provide an evocative feel to your stories, Adele. Thank you for taking us on a ride in your “Way-Back Machine”. I know that a trip back to the past can bring up difficult memories as well as wonderful ones, but I hope that on balance, the tough times make the memory of the fun ones even sweeter.

    Keep mining, Gator. You’re striking gold. 🙂

  5. nancy says:

    i am pretty much speechless adele. i am sure it took courage you weren’t even sure you had to write about all this. very touching and honest. maybe my favorite yet. you seem to be opening up more and more in your blogs. i admire you and your writing. blessings, nancy

  6. TC says:

    I can’t say anything; I’m too overwhelmed with emotion. So much love to you for sharing your life with us all. Oh, and thanks for a cute pic of me (finally, cause I didn’t think it existed!) You are an amazing woman. XO

  7. carol says:

    You bring back so many memories, thanks

  8. Lyn Dillin says:

    Another awesome post. Adele, the vimeo is excellent. Thank You!

    • Adele says:

      So glad you liked the vimeo Lyn 🙂 It really brings the images to life. The editor, Tom Vanasse, did an amazing job. Thanks lady.

  9. gena says:

    Deli. Its like reliving history. I don’t know if u know. Your dad and I were very close in college and I was the one who set up your mom and dad.he was an amazing person. And I loved him very much.the time we spent together was much calmer in a more innocent time.of course I was such a goody goody I probably wouldn’t have known if anything was goking on. He.taught me to drive a stick shiift in the parking lot at pontratrain beach. I know I didn’t spell that right. Anyway. It brought back many memories of him

    • Adele says:

      Wow Gena, thanks for sharing that, and more than that, thank you for introducing my parents! Had it not been for you, I may not have been 😉 I love that he taught you to drive -He taught me too, though I was too nervous to learn on a stick (especially while he read the newspaper and smoked a joint ;). I remember him telling me you introduced them. I think my mom originally had a crush on your otha’ brotha (wink wink). He loved you too. We all love ya! x

  10. Julie says:

    Wow, you just took me on an incredible journey through your life. I especially loved the video. I love your blog so much, it’s always the highlight of my fortnight (Aussie word for every two weeks lol). I think in many ways, myself and i’m sure many others can relate to the emotional highs and lows you shared with your Dad. I know i’ve gone through some highs and lows with my folks lately. Thanks my friend. I’m gonna go hug my parents the moment i see them. Life is short and this wonderful story reminds me of how blessed i am. Blessed to have my Parents still with me and blessed to have YOU in my life to remind me.

    • Adele says:

      Blessing back to you mate! You’re so right about life being short -get all the hugs you can my friend! Thanks so much for your generous words…and for teaching me what ‘fortnight’ means in Aussie land 😉

  11. Alan says:

    AMAZING, Princess.

  12. Lizajane says:

    your dad was the best combination of weird, delightful, hilarious, creative, and FUN.

  13. ddavis2 says:

    I eagerly await the next “part” of this story. I can only imagine what it will be. My heart tells me this entry had to have been particularly difficult for you to write.

    Until next time….

    D

  14. Lynn says:

    Beautiful Adele, it reads like a memoir….

  15. Sarah T. says:

    This is my favorite blog post so far!! We get such a wonderful portrait of your father, told so lovingly and with much humor. We feel the little girl and also see the wise woman you now are. Brava! xo

  16. beaniidean says:

    Sometimes I wish I could go back to the time when I thought my parents had all the answers. And believe me, I asked a lot of questions, so it was probably pretty early! LOL.

    Thank you for reminding me that I really need to call my father more often. He is not a star, but a continuous burning ember, and I’m sure the wisest person I’ll ever know.

    Your words are beautiful, Adele. Thank you.

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