Hustle The Most Episode 7: What I learned From My Big Brother!
I think that having brothers and sisters is pretty amazing I grew up with 2 bothers and 2 sisters. We all got along for the most part minus the growing up woes that happen in every house hold. This episode we are going to talk about how 2 brothers that live in the same house with the same opportunities can go down 2 different paths.
Growing up we had this detached garage next to my house that went through many iterations over the years. When I was really little it was red and had thins metal roll up door that was off white with these long red ornamental banding on it. We kept the normal stuff in there ya know lawn mowers, bikes, balls, BBQ grills.
My dad used to have these crazy BBQ parties with tons people people and we would keep all the food and drinks in the patio. My dad had this crazy grill that I think one of his army buddies made for him. It was a 55 gallon steel drum that was cut in half with 4 legs welded onto. When it opened up at it was basically 2 huge grill crates and he would fill it full of charcoal and let it rip.
At one point the entire house and garage got a face lift because we were putting it up for sale. We were moving out of Flint. See my Dad didn’t want me going to Flint city schools anymore. I just had finished 8th grade and the schools were going downhill pretty fast. My middle school had a lot of drugs and guns in it. There were kids that were literally driving to school that were in the 8th grade. I don’t think kids aged out of that school until like 17 or something. That school was eventually shut down a few year later.
So after 8th grade my dad had to make a choice. Send me to a city high school that was much worse than where i had just come from or move somewhere outside the city to another school district.
We picked up and moved to another city about 30 minutes outside the city called Flushing where were rented this little time 2 bedroom house while our Flint house was on the market. Just a few months earlier my Dad bought into this family vending business that my other 2 uncles started and had been running for 25 years. This was great for my dad because not only did it give him a steady income but the new office was just down the road from the new house.
In Flushing the new house was on the same street as the highschool and about 5 minutes from the downtown area. This downtown was like 2 blocks long with 1 traffic light and an A&W so it wasn’t all that exciting to me. Pretty quickly I met some other skater kids and started hanging out with them. It was funny the first kid I met was a guy named Shawn and he quickly introduced me to all the other skaters in the town. It was like “yeah we got a new one”. All these kids came from very different backgrounds but we all hung out together it was a local riff raff crew for sure. I spent about 4 months in that school and made a ton of friends. IT actually started out a little rough for me but ended pretty well. Coming from Flint my academic learnings were so far behind these kids in Flushing. These kids were so far ahead of me that I almost flunked out of school. That first semester I had the worst grades I had ever had in my life. It was definitely a combination of me being academically behind and also coming home from school everyday and dropping my books and grabbing my skateboard to meet my friends at this middle school that we all used to skate at.
My dad had to make the call to move North of Flint to Flushing to better my education but it was a total flop that fell 100% on me. Now I put us in a situation that he had to make another call. He absolutely did not want to do this because it was always him and I doing things together. His next plan was to ship me south of the city to a city called Grand Blanc to live with my mom. This kind of stuff happens to kids all the time and it’s awful.
Grand Blanc to us was like the 90210 of the Flint area. It was a preppy school. If you knew someone that drive a fancy car and lived in a big house then you assumed that they lived in Grand Blanc. I never thought I would live there.
I am sure a lot of people listening come from broken homes it’s more common these day then not. My mom’s house was a whole different world. She lived in Grand Blanc with my brother and Step dad. Her house was very much a take your shoes off when you come in, don’t touch anything and ask before eating anything kind of place. It was basically the exact opposite of my Dad’s house. I moved in over the Christmas Break in the middle of my Freshman year.
I have to take a second out ot tell you that academically this was actually the best move. I was able to get caught up and back on track 100% due to my step dad Jim sitting down with me every single night and going through my homework with me. He explained every algebra equation to me 10 different ways until I got it. He held me accountable and gave me the confidence that I could do it.
If I failed and got it wrong it was ok we would just walk through my the steps and see where I went wrong. WIthout him I absolutely would have not succeeded.
So my brother Jason lived there with us and he was a few years older than me and 2 grades ahead of me. He and I grew up together and lived in different houses during the week and also went down very different paths in our lives. He was way into heavy metal and leather jackets. His room was like a shrine to Iron Maiden. He had all Eddie posters possible on the walls. Eddie is like the official mascot of Iron Maiden and they put him into all these scenes and images.
He had posters stranger in a strange land, the tail gunner, Number of the beast, The trooper, piece of mind and more it was actually pretty awesome. He also had a huge water bed, tons of cassette tape and his own phone line. It was like a metalhead paradise!
My brother was a total stoner most of his friends were stoners. They all rocked mullets and tight holey jeans and leather jackets. I remember after report cards would come out you’d see his friends all showing up with new short hair cuts because their parents made them cut off their mullets for having bad grades.
Let me just quickly clarify that he was my big brother, he was my protector and always looked out for me. At school he literally made these dudes cry that were kind of bullying me. He was always the toughest dude in the room but he also has the biggest heart of anyone that I had ever met. He got it to more fights that I could count and he had a reputation for just leaving a trail of beaten up dudes behind him. He was a total magnet for trouble. If there was some trouble to get in he would find it everytime. He had a lot of “accidents” I don’t mean like normal people that have slip and falls. I mean more like an accident from doing something dumb.
Here is a great example. My friends and I hung out in the front yard at my dads house all the time. We were always out there skateboarding or throwing the football or whatever. We had no problems ever. My brother got dropped of one day for the weekend and he’s hanging out in the front yard for like 10 minutes then he comes running in the house with blood all over his head and face. And I was like “what happened” and he was like these dudes were driving down the street and threw a 40 bottle and hit me in the head. How does this only happen to him?
I knew my brother better than anyone I think that he forgot that sometimes. We grew up together and we were glued at the hip for years. The truth is that there was always another side to the story. I don’t know what really happened in the front yard that day because he was the only one out there. Here is what probably happened: Some dudes drove by in a car and my brother probably said something stupid to them and there was an altercation and one of them probably threw the the 40 bottle and hit him in the head and then they sped off. So part of the story is probably true, the blood was real but it was always the how and the details that were always a little off.
So let’s jump into my official first day. My brother usually rode the bus to school so my mom told him the night before “ make sure you show your brother how to ride the bus”. I think she meant where do I get on, which bus and where does it drop me off. We started school at 7:15 AM so we headed out at about 6:40 were heading to the bus. We left the house and started walking down the street to the bus We got like 3 houses down from my house in front of these big pine trees we we stopped and we were standing in the snow and I remember being like uhh is this the bus stop? And as soon as I got the words out of my mouth here comes my brothers stoner girlfriend barreling around the corner in her red Buick Skyhawk with the music just blasting. She stopped and he was like get in. This was totally something out of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. We were definitely not riding the bus.
We got to school and parked in the lot and one of his friends pulls out this big joint and my brother was like YO my little brother is in the car. Which I thought was pretty cool he was always protective of me. He never wanted me to be around that stuff. I was always thankful for that. I got out and they blazed up of course. We did ride the bus home tough so when my mom asked us how the bus was when we got home we were like ya know it was fine. There was truth to it because we did ride the bus, we just didn’t ride it both ways.
After about 3 months of living there my brother actually ran away from home and I ended up moving into his room. I got the big waterbed and my own phone line, it was awesome but it was bittersweet for sure. I ran into my brother about 4 months later at this place in downtown Flint called the Capital Theater. We were at this metal show and the band Overkill was playing and I was walking by the bar and all the sudden someone grabbed my arm and then I heard “hey little brother” and it was him.
He was standing there wearing these holey levis and some big tongued Adidas hitops. He wasn’t wearing a shirt but he did have his head shaved bald and had huge black and grey flames tattooed on his head starting from his hairline and went back to about the middle of his head. I gave him a hug and he asked if I was good or needed anything. I said I was good but he gave me $20 out of his sweaty pocket and said to get dinner on him. After that he disappeared into a sea of dark sweaty drunken moshers. I didn’t see him again for a few months after that.
My brother eventually ended up living at my Dad’s house and my Dad had this idea of turning the garage into an apartment type space. He pulled the roll up door off and put up he put up this kind of barnwood front with a few windows and he painted it to match. It was like this little cool bachelor pad. It wasn’t finished inside yet but he moved a bed out there and was crashing out there anyway. I think my brother lived there for a few weeks until he ran away and stayed with a few of his buddies. My dad always gave him space and always gave him another chance but I guess my brother didn’t really like any sort of rules over him.
At the time my drums were in the basement at my dads house and the guys I played with had their amps and stuff there. It was a concrete basement and it was really really loud!
With the new garage facelift It was like the bedroom situation all over again. He rolled out and we rolled in. It wasn’t finished but there was insulation on the walls but no dry wall and the ceiling. There was drywall but it was stacked in the corner. My guys and I eventually finished the garage with drywall with the help of my buddy Eric uncle. We painted it and throw down some carpet and that became the band hang out space for the next few years.
We did everything in that garage. We had small skate ramps, guitars, drums, a TV and VCR, a fridge, couches and more it was awesome. I spent all my time in there, playing my drums and watching music videos and listening to music. In the winter we had a heater and in the summer we had a window air conditioning unit. There wasn’t much that could keep us out of the garage.
Looking back on it things seemed normal at time because we were living it but the reality is that is that things were actually pretty messed up. My brother always struggled with drugs and drinking and the law. He was a total magnet for trouble. It all came down to decisions. That was his crux. If there was a choice to go left and everything would be ok or go right and there was a risk of danger and excitement he would he choose to go right every time. It’s sad to say but having him in my life was like having having a book of things not to do in life and he was writing it for me every single day.
Maybe this was his way of protecting me maybe he was doing these things to himself so I would know what would happen to me if I did these things. He was always trying to protect me and look out for me and I will always be grateful for that.
My brother Jason passed away in 2008 in the our garage.
So what did I learn from watching my big brother?
I learned that sometimes you can have 2 brothers grow up in the same house with the same parents and same opportunities and you can end up down very different paths. This apparently is a lot more normal than I thought.
I also learned that people learn differently and it’s ok to fail. Failing means that you probably tried and something just went wrong along the way. Retrace your steps and figure out where things went wrong and do your best to fix them.
I learned that parents sometimes have to make a call. If may not seem like the right call to you at the time but they are probably doing the bet they can.
If you are kid and you are listening to this. Cut your parents some slack. They were kids once too and they probably understand more than you think.