I Am Nuçi’s Space -Dusty Huggins: Ides of June

i am nucis image Ides of June

Momma’s Boy

I came into this world May 28th of the year of 1985—cock-eyed, as white as the winter snow, and with the electricity of all of North Georgia’s wild rivers running through my bones. I would call the woman who first held me my closest confidant until her final moments on this earth. I was her heaven, her hell, and her lifelong project for the next 27 years she dwelled on this earth. My brother, Cole, and I lived a life that was as up and down as the bipolar disorder that plagued her beautiful soul. At the age of three my mother and father would reach the point of divorce, a seemingly newfound commonplace for American families. A combination of a struggling alcoholic and a manic and muddled-minded woman were too much for any two young parents to overcome. I was not old enough to remember the three years of life I survived with the dysfunctional duo, but it was the next twenty-five that will forever be unforgettable. Early years are filled with memories of grand holidays and birthday celebrations at our grandmother’s, being the beloved step-children of many family members who reached out their hands to help, and battles between parents that I would not be able to understand until much later in life. Although we were not always impoverished, it would seem we were always fighting for survival. The confusion and disillusion from a decade of divorce battles between parents would be so incremental in our lives that this will be the only mention of such throughout this story that I call life.
By the time I was eighteen, my brother and I had already called over 30 houses home, 6 schools our place of attendance, and viewed many men and women in our family as Moms and Dads. Our mom’s mental disability was easily showcased through her unstable real estate career. At her highest point, our family owned multiple homes, new cars, and everything we needed materially. When she was down, our family would see the foreclosure of our house and would soon call our new car our new home – at least for a few days until the bank came calling for it also. Luckily, as she always did, Mom found a solution at the last minute in the form of a one-room studio apartment below a local pizzeria. Our childhood would be filled with her constant attempts of suicide, admittance into psyche wards, and the most gleeful and loving woman a son could ever know. I vividly remember her first suicide attempt like it was yesterday. Our dear Aunt Amy had us in her arms and tearfully told us that this would be the last time we would lay eyes upon her beauty. She would soon prove the doctors at the local hospital distinctively wrong as she made a full recovery and soon came back into our lives. Life was back to normal, or what we called normal. We would soon be off on to trips to the beach where we would spend all of our money and later pawn her jewelry to make it home. She was an epic and endlessly- loving woman. It was the ride of a lifetime.
On the other hand, our dad would spend Friday nights entertaining us with action movies, sparring between my brother and me to make us tougher while also providing a record player filled with every rock and roll album known to man. That is where I would originally find my passion for Rock. He would spend the rest of the weekend in bed recovering, while Cole and I would roam the mountains of the local wildlife areas looking for adventure. We would test the waters each weekend by venturing into new and unknown wildernesses. That is until Dad would wake up in search for us with a wild temper and a fuzzy mindset. Needless to say, we would put a halt to our adventures long enough for him to drink himself back into the drapes of his shade-filled master bedroom. The only likeness in our two parents was that they had as many aspirations for fun as they had unwanted commitments to a day in bed. Both would, for the most part, leave Cole and me to raise ourselves as we saw fit. The two were filled with immense amounts of love known only to parents, but with the battles they were enduring with their inner selves, they were unable to convey this love that I am sure they had always intended.
The only stable form of family that we knew as children was that of my Father’s parents, Tom and Sue Huggins. A simple, yet strong, Southern Baptist couple with a love for us that I will never be able to fathom. From the beginning, our Grandma and Granddad took us in as their own and did the best they could to shield us from as much pain and destruction as possible; I cannot imagine what life would have been without them. January 27th of the year 2000 stole this stable family unit I had come to know. I would get off of the school bus, as usual, to come home and find my Granddad sleeping in his chair, but on this day I discovered that Tom had left this world abruptly while watching the evening news. The lights and sirens were soon followed by the likes of my still struggling father. I remember him saying “Why not me”? A few years later I would see what he had meant as he attempted a suicide of his own. He awoke in the hospital surrounded by his mother, sisters, and brothers, unknowing of the events that had transpired. The family easily persuaded him to pursue a life of sobriety and he would, once again, be nonexistent in our lives for the next few years. Mom was left with an eldest who was bitter at the world and his younger sibling who was rebelliously desperate to prove to the realm of men that he was good enough to contend. For the next and only five years of our lives, Cole and I would separate ourselves from one another. I am still unsure if it was due to our overwhelming dependence on one another for the past fifteen years or simply a bitterness of our childhood that we both wanted to escape. Cole would give up collegiate scholarship opportunities in golf to spite our father, while I experimented in drug use to prove that I was different from the run of the muck “cool crowd.” My insubordinate behavior would lead to a suspension from high school two months before my graduation. My desperate youth would leave me to believe that it was fashionable to drink moonshine on a school field trip. Life was very confusing, to say the least.
That same year, Mom would endure her final blow from an emotional standpoint. Her youngest and closest brother would take his own life by noose at the age of thirty-two. She was in shambles. Her side of the family had always been riddled with trials, drug addiction, and penitentiaries; they were Mountain Outlaws to a T. She withstood her treacherous upbringing, but this epic event sent her into a frenzy of despair that she would battle for the next decade. Although she was in a massive haze of hopelessness, she would put me through real estate school in order to become her apprentice in the field. I persevered through school, though I despised it, and came home from Atlanta a licensed realtor. Soon after, I would meet the love of my life. I was twenty while she was seventeen years old and still in high school. Against her family’s wishes and, in spite of my local reputation, she accepted my wild ways and, and we fell in love in true teenage fashion. I would spend the next couple of years working in real estate surveying land, and partying with my closest friends. I had a nice car, my brother had recently built a new home on our father’s land, and I was in love. To say life was the best it had ever been would be an illimitable understatement.
In 2008, the Great Recession hit the North Georgia Mountains like a money sucking whirlwind. The real estate market tanked, homes went up for sale, and the foreclosure signs were soon to follow. I was out of a job in Real Estate and leaned on my background in land surveying to pay the bills. Soon enough there was a call to the back office of the surveying company owners and, I knew what was to follow: I was out of a job and a true failure in my own eyes. I began my trek home only to find myself too overwhelmed with tears to see the road. I finally found the gumption to call my brother, who, as he always had, reassured my ambitions to try my hand at a degree in higher education. My girlfriend had recently enrolled at Young Harris College and, I figured it was time for me to give it the ole college try. I would have the financial stability of a home through my brother’s highly successful landscaping company and created spending money through unemployment and a highly successful entrepreneurship as the local cannabis dealer. This came to an abrupt halt the day before my college orientation when the ATF decided they would make their move on my marijuana operation. After a mere weekend in jail, I knew that the outlaw lives my mother’s family had led was not for me. I then decided I would struggle through my college career, as most young students did, and gave up my extra curricula’s in weed sales for an associate’s degree in biology. In January of 2010 I graduated with Honors from Young Harris College and pointed my aim towards The University of Georgia (UGA) and a career in Optometry. The future seemed so very bright.
As I moved to UGA I left it all, too much, behind. My mother was in shambles that I was moving away, my love of five years and I decided to part ways, and the mountains I had called home for twenty-seven years were in my rearview. But, once again, there was one individual I could never part ways with—my brother Cole. He soon decided to rent a room at our new home in Athens and commuted back and forth on the weekends to visit. Soon enough he sold his business and chased his own dreams of a college degree. I was still in despair from my recent broken heart when I had the first soul wrenching loss of my life. We received a phone call that my grandmother had less than a week to live. To say that I took this badly would be a gross understatement. After all, she was 82 and had lived a remarkable life. Maybe that is why I took it so harshly. How could I lose the most remarkable, loving, and, stable individual I had ever known? I battled the loss of my grandmother like a gladiator of 300; I knew I had lost, yet I was unwilling to accept it. It was the darkest of times that I had endured to that point. I would reassume my drug-ridden ways, but this time I did not dip my toes; I threw myself into the deepest of ends headfirst and without a life jacket. The next year is a flickering film of late nights, missing morning classes and a blur of psychedelic visions that I can still not assure myself of their validity. I was awakened from my nightmare with the paralysis of a night terror. I recall my Uncle’s voice saying, “Your Mom is in the hospital again. It doesn’t look good son”. My brother and I had survived in excess of ten suicide attempts by our mother and routinely assumed she would pull through, as she always had. We would be grossly surprised by what we found the next day in the hospital. Brain dead from insulin injection. Mom was gone. As the oldest and strongest child, Mom willed Cole to make the decision if, and when, it had to be made. Against her family’s will, we made the choice to take her off of life support. Cole made the announcement. On the Ides of June in 2012, my mother would make her final exit. Life was over.
Although I was our mother’s baby, my brother took the loss with more despair than I could afford. As I attempted to make plans for her cremation and memorial, he fell into the abyss of mourning. I would come home one night to find Cole in tears. He would bare his soul to me that had done the unthinkable. After all of the death and desolation that suicide had cost us, he had made an attempt of his own. He had masterminded a plan and attempted it as well. He slit his wrists and began to run to the woods behind our apartment so I would not be able to find him myself. As he did, so he came to his senses and wrapped his wrists vigorously. As he told the story, we sobbed together. We sat silently for a time and soon found a watch and bracelets to conceal his wounds from the public’s eye. To this day, this is my first accounting of this event. In the coming days,  I would confront Cole with my anger over his decision and how much his absence would affect my life for eternity. He conveyed that he did not know what his life meant to mine, and we came to the mutual agreement that this would never occur again as long as we both shall live. I would spend the next few nights opening his bedroom door as quietly as possible to assure he was safe in his bed. We would both grow from this event as brothers, but we still had many mountains to overcome. This is the part of the tale when champions of old make their epic reentrance back into the storyline.
Our father, 6 years sober, came to save the day, as we were incapable of doing so ourselves. In all of our lives,  there are occasions when we must release the reigns and let another lead for a time; this was one of them. With no financial means of our own to cremate Mom, our Dad helped me make arrangements that I was not capable of doing alone. He helped us put our mom to rest and began building ideals of a family reunion. He would work into the wee hours of the morning in search of a home to buy so he and his two boys could make another stab at a family. Months later, he would succeed in this endeavors and Cole and I would run from UGA to be with him and our new home in Atlanta, Georgia.

My newest and greatest friend Clay McConnell would join us, as he was also looking to move to the area. I began a mediocre job at a local distribution center and drank my sorrow away at night with my new best friend. We shared in our love for music and also in our desperate need for completion. Clay bought a guitar and I borrowed my uncle’s bass and we were ready to roll; we would start a rock band! Little did we know, playing rock and roll took work, work, and more work. We did not concern ourselves too much with the work as we were keeping our minds occupied with something that we loved dearly. We had the passion of the night to drive us, plus the distractions from the light to hide us. Looking back, I am thankful that there was no one around, besides my brother and dad. Those nights held off notes, chords that would make a cat cry, and brotherly fights rooted in our incapable hands and musical knowledge. Unfortunately, the distractions of music and alcohol could only hold my attention for a short time. My restless nights were spent wondering how God could do such a thing to a human being that he called his child. I despised life beyond music and my closest friends. I buried myself in a bottle and contemplated my own exit from this world on numerous occasions. If not for my promise to my brother, I just may have. Life seemed impossible, unfair, and not worth living.
Clay soon moved back to our hometown of Blairsville, Georgia as he had found a new love of his own. A young girl with a pretty smile could tempt him to the mountains, but could not draw his attention from our musical aspirations. We would sharpen our musical abilities while we were apart. When given the chance we would spend our sleepless hours discussing our newest discoveries in music theory, the next moves in our, so called, band, and our dream of playing live.

Clay worked nights at a local retirement home, and I despised being in the darkness alone, so we would reform our bond and strengthen our musical vocabulary. For the first time, we enjoyed every moment we were to share in our musical kinship; it was my saving grace. During Clay’s ventures back to the mountains I found a life of weekly sobriety that did not need alcohol to find a good night’s rest. My brother was now a positive advocate of weekday sobriety, and I would fall into suit, as nothing else was working. I would soon find that I was constantly being promoted at work, on the verge of gaining a Bachelor’s in business management, and finally becoming happy with myself. My brother was in school, my father and I were working, and I felt secure for the first time in my life. It was time to get down to business. With my newfound clarity, I would begin to spend more and more time picking, writing, and honing my newly found addiction as much as possible. As Clay’s newly found love weakened, he would make his way back to Atlanta, and we renewed our endeavors for a Rock and Roll band together. Before, we did not even understand the language of music. But now, we were, at least, Neanderthals that could pass interpretative grunts back and forth to convey our musical meanings. Months later we would meet a friend, and soon brother in music, Justin Nelson. He and a local studio owner with immense talent, Mike Rosenfeld, would begin a musical journey together. We began building songs and ideas of what music we would like to make. Within a year “The Ides of June” would make their first attempt at live music. I remember a brief moment of being content after our first show. The feeling of playing in front of a crowd was blurry, electrifying, and soon, over, as was our original goal of playing a live gig. We were as amateur as they came, but to have climbed that mountain, three years after picking up an instrument, was epic. After that fleeting moment, I realized many things. Of the most important recognitions, I realized that it is not the goal or event we always look forward to that matters so very much, but it is the journey we travel to reach that mountain. After this

I would soon find that I was constantly being promoted at work, on the verge of gaining a Bachelor’s in business management, and finally becoming happy with myself. My brother was in school, my father and I were working, and I felt secure for the first time in my life. It was time to get down to business. With my newfound clarity, I would begin to spend more and more time picking, writing, and honing my newly found addiction as much as possible. As Clay’s newly found love weakened, he would make his way back to Atlanta, and we renewed our endeavors for a Rock and Roll band together. Before, we did not even understand the language of music. But now, we were, at least, Neanderthals that could pass interpretative grunts back and forth to convey our musical meanings. Months later we would meet a friend, and soon brother in music, Justin Nelson. He and a local studio owner with immense talent, Mike Rosenfeld, would begin a musical journey together. We began building songs and ideas of what music we would like to make. Within a year “The Ides of June” would make their first attempt at live music. I remember a brief moment of being content after our first show. The feeling of playing in front of a crowd was blurry, electrifying, and soon, over, as was our original goal of playing a live gig. We were as amateur as they came, but to have climbed that mountain, three years after picking up an instrument, was epic. After that fleeting moment, I realized many things. Of the most important recognitions, I realized that it is not the goal or event we always look forward to that matters so very much, but it is the journey we travel to reach that mountain. After this premonition I reveled in the moment for a brief second, then set new goals. The stages of life, at least my life, move in this manner.
As long as I can remember there have been older, and wiser, individuals giving me pieces of advice that I would readily brush off, as I knew it all. As I made my own mistakes and had my own realizations, I grew. Instead of stages in life being framed in my mind as, becoming a teenager, getting a license, graduating college, I look back on these grand epiphanies I had. Much of my childhood anguish was built around not being cognizant of my surroundings and how the world was unfolding around me. I was in a hurry from the onset and refused, for the most part, to take advice from the majority individuals. I remember being 20 years old and not being able to take any criticism, constructive or otherwise, from anyone close to me without bursting into tears and lashing back out with negative comments of my own. This was until my brother calmly said, “Dusty, what is wrong man? Why can’t we have a discussion about something that bothers me without you being in defense mode?” At that moment I realized I was being unstable and unfair.

That was when I opened my mind and started looking at life more as a philosopher and a giver, rather than the fashion of woe is me. He pushed me into this, but I HAD to realize it myself. During my expulsion from school, I did not realize its significance or, for that matter, care that I had until I arrived home to hear my mother crying to my grandmother on the telephone that she had failed as a parent. Her doubt in her achievements as a parent affected me and conveyed that I was responsible for more than myself. My actions took a toll on all of those around me. My mother’s constant suicide attempts always seemed to me like cries for help and attention. After she achieved her goal I realized how truly in agony she had been for so long. I wished so dearly that she could see how much we missed her, as I still feel she wanted us to know. I wish she could have the realization that she was truly loved and is still extremely missed by numerous souls. Her actions will ripple through my existence forever. I realized she was truly gone. After years of lying in the bed filled with tears and missing her, I finally had the epiphany that this was something that must be done. I could never have moved on with my life without a mourning period in which to do so. This was not an epiphany that came to me while I was lying in bed crying. It came to me as I sat on my porch in the sunlight with my acoustic guitar. I looked down at the guitar my best of friends had all chipped in to buy for my birthday and smiled. I was loved. The sun was shining. I was playing music. Life was okay. The realization that life is not a fairytale written in books was of the most importance. To have the consciousness that the sun shedding its light on my skin sent a wave of dopamine and endorphins through my

My actions took a toll on all of those around me. My mother’s constant suicide attempts always seemed to me like cries for help and attention. After she achieved her goal I realized how truly in agony she had been for so long. I wished so dearly that she could see how much we missed her, as I still feel she wanted us to know. I wish she could have the realization that she was truly loved and is still extremely missed by numerous souls. Her actions will ripple through my existence forever. I realized she was truly gone. After years of lying in the bed filled with tears and missing her, I finally had the epiphany that this was something that must be done. I could never have moved on with my life without a mourning period in which to do so. This was not an epiphany that came to me while I was lying in bed crying. It came to me as I sat on my porch in the sunlight with my acoustic guitar. I looked down at the guitar my best of friends had all chipped in to buy for my birthday and smiled. I was loved. The sun was shining. I was playing music. Life was okay. The realization that life is not a fairytale written in books was of the most importance. To have the consciousness that the sun shedding its light on my skin sent a wave of dopamine and endorphins through my

The realization that life is not a fairytale written in books was of the most importance. To have the consciousness that the sun shedding its light on my skin sent a wave of dopamine and endorphins through my body unlike any drug I had ever done. I realized this moment of awareness was what life was all about. There will always be highs and lows, but without the night, we unintentionally discount the beauty of the light. I truly believe that we lose ourselves in the darkest of times, but in these dark times is when we truly find ourselves. We must allow ourselves to revel in these dark times, but not forever. We are doing our lives a great disservice if we do not put massive efforts into not letting the darkness eclipse our light. Beauty is right in front of us, but it is easily overseen without a conscious eye.
I would like to assert that I am a firm believer in therapy of many sorts. I found mine in the power of music and in the love of all those around me. The power of words, love, and compassion cannot be overlooked or overstated. I strongly encourage each and every individual to find his or her hunger in life. It is never too late to stop and take a step back. I was 27 years old and had to endure my mother’s death before I found mine. Please do not make the same mistake. Life without desire can be tolerable, but life with aspiration is beyond extravagance. It may be a family. It may be art. It may be a career. Maybe it is all of the above. Find yourself and chase it as you deem fit. This life is yours to live. Go. Live. It!

All of my love,
Dusty Huggins

Terrapin Use their 15th Anniversary to raise funds for Nuçi’s Space

Image Terrapin Carnival

 

Terrapin Brewery generously included Nuçi’s Space in their recent anniversary celebration by donating a portion of the ticket sales and allowing us to set up an information table.  It was a carnival theme with games, cotton candy, and a popcorn machine all being executed by some of Nuçi’s brightest and best volunteers.

We are so thankful for our dedicated volunteers who not only help us keep the Space running on a day to day basis, but also go above and beyond to make big events like this possible!

 

Words and Pictures by our crew of amazing staff and volunteers, big thanks to Jesse, Christine, Cindy, Alex, Mark, Crystal, Kristin and Dave, Heather, Katelyn, Brooke, and Micki.