Tired is a Story, Stories are Tired

From ages 8 to 23, I was an insomniac.  I would lay in bed for countless hours wishing for sleep.  My body would be exhausted, my eyes heavy and burning, but my mind would be alert and racing.  I usually passed out around daybreak, only to wake a few hours later.

I tried to treat body and mind.  I drank chamomile tea. I took melatonin. I had a white-noise generator.  I went to a therapist.  I played games like “stop thinking for a minute.”  I created elaborate fantasy worlds with serial plot-lines to pass the hours in bed and still my anxiety.  When I was 16, I started smoking weed.  Later, Jim Beam became Mr. Sandman.

When I sobered up at 23, my biggest fear was not how I was going to have fun or what people would think of me.  I feared not sleeping.

Fortunately, that fear was unfounded.  By no longer annihilating myself and addressing my underlying emotional problems, I ended up with pretty normal sleeping patterns.  I fall asleep easily and stay that way the whole night through most nights.

While my difficulties with sleeping are gone, my story about sleeping continues to be an issue.  This became apparent to me the other night.

I was helping some friends out and what we were doing was running longer than I had anticipated.  It was about 10PM and I decided I wanted to go home.  The thought “I’m so tired” entered my mind.  I started to yawn repeatedly.  My eyes started to close and burn.

I told the people around me that I was tired as well.  I wanted everyone to comprehend my situation. Continue reading “Tired is a Story, Stories are Tired”

Forgettable…In Every Way

Happy freakin' birthday to me.

I decided to celebrate my 28th birthday at a West Village bar a friend worked at.  I envisioned a casual celebration, where from 6-9PM a steady stream of friends and acquaintances would play tag-team for my attention as I held court on my barstool thrown.

It turned out that my kingdom was not as mighty as I thought.  The first hour no one showed up.  Nor the second.  The third, my friend George showed up with a nice little notebook and pen gift.  A couple other people showed up near the end of my time window.  No more than 4 people showed up throughout the evening.

A realization became clear sitting there those lonely hours:  I was a person people didn’t show up for.  How did I know this?  Because no one showed up.

There were 2 options for handling my realization:

  1. Blame others for my misfortune.  I could have accused friends of being unkind, unreliable, dishonest, etc.  It wasn’t me.  It was them.
  2. Take responsibility for the results in my life.  I could have looked at what it was about me that was so easy to easy to ignore.

Fortunately, I chose option #2.  I saw people didn’t show up for me because I didn’t show up for them.  I saw that I gave up on people.  That I used friends for favors and to stave off loneliness.  I seldom actively took an interest in their welfare.  I rarely went out of my way to help them.  I wouldn’t have shown up for me either. Continue reading “Forgettable…In Every Way”

Guido the Great

The big sexy car that almost killed me.

I was on my cell the other day, pacing down a Cobble Hill, Brooklyn side-street on a lovely Tuesday afternoon.  As I meandered from one side of the street to the other, I heard a V8 engine growl.  A brand-new, black BMW 7-series was barreling straight toward me.

While physics has other ideas, I felt like I could crush this wannabe speed-racer and teach him a lesson about safe driving.  He approached doing about 50 mph.  I stayed in the street and stuck my foot out like I was going to kick his car, asserting my pedestrian power.

Kicking cars is a recurrent act that has resulted in one outright assault and several near-misses.  In truth, I am not that tough.  However my aversion to combat is often overshadowed by my righteousness.

Anyway, seconds after my air-kick, the dude (and you know it’s a dude), screeches to halt, backs up, stops the car, and starts shouting at me out of his window.  I hope he doesn’t have a gun.

“You do not kick my fucking car, motherfucker,” followed by additional, threatening oration that more or less built on this initial thesis.

“You were doing 70 mph and could have hit me,” I replied.

He let off a few more expletives and started to drive away.  I took out a pen and paper to write down his license plate number.  He saw this and didn’t like it.  He stopped again, got out of the car, and got in my face.

“You taking down my license motherfucker?”

“Yes, I am.”

“You do not want to fuck with me.”  This comment had more than a whiff of truth.  Here was a guy, one I imagined to be of Italian-American ancestry, who had the diction of a high school dropout yet was driving an $80K car and outfitted with the accoutrement suggesting he bought the car (Persol glasses, Rolex, well-fitting jeans).  I imagined his last name to be Gotti or Gambino.

“You do not want to fuck with me,” he reiterated.  “What you jus’ move to this neighborhood, motherfucker?  I was born and raised here motherfucker.  Get the fuck outta here.”

While I hadn’t ‘just’ moved here, I was indeed relatively new to the neighborhood, and I did not think this was a very nice welcome from a local.  And while I believed he was born and raised here, I wondered why he had a Pennsylvania plate (I assumed because insurance is a lot cheaper in PA.  Smart move).  I decided to table that question.

He got right in my face.  “You do not want to fuck with me. You do not want trouble.”

The Oscar for best portrayal of a tough-guy goes to David Friedlander.  As he stood inches away, I didn’t move.  I had a relaxed stance, with my chest out.  I didn’t move my arms.  My unblinking eyes locked on his.

We were both lucky.  I was in a very clear state that day.  Though I didn’t say it, he was not going to fuck with me.  I wasn’t going to let him put me in a bad mood. Continue reading “Guido the Great”

Blown Loads and Blown Lives

Maybe there's more to life then winning at solitary.

When I was 11 I had a pair of orange, paisley-print boxers.  One day, I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom holding them and something compelled me to rub the boxers against my penis.  I did it.  I became erect.  I kept rubbing and a few seconds later I  came.

Few moments in my life are as crystallized as this one.  Later that day, I kept rubbing and kept cumming.  As a preteen and teen, I typically beat-off 3-10 times a day.  I’d usually do it in socks and underwear.  I also had a soft, red wool scarf that I was fond of.

Soon thereafter I discovered pornography.  Initially, I was aroused by just touching myself, but then I found the experience was greatly enhanced by fantasies derived from pictures or thoughts of girls I was attracted to.

In the pioneer days, what constituted porn wasn’t much—envisioning Christine Endler or Lisa Jones; a JC Penny underwear section from the newspaper or, le coup de gras, a Victoria’s Secret catalog.  In later years, I would occasionally score a Playboy or Hustler.  I would keep these magazines for years as I was too embarrassed (and perhaps young) to get new issues.

The internet was a game-changer.  Suddenly there was more porn than I knew what to do with.  At first, I had masturbation sprees—hours spent in front of a screen with dick in hand.  In later years, as my libido waned, my routine became a more civil once-a-day porn viewing.  Surf, beat, sleep.

Nowadays, I don’t look at porn when I masturbate.  I find rifling through the sites, looking for the perfect image or video, more trouble than it’s worth.  I usually imagine a girl—typically one I would never have sex with in my real life—then do my business and go to sleep.

If this seems all a bit too graphic, you are probably a woman.  Masturbation is an unspoken, all-pervading phenomenon; one that, controversial as it sounds, is particularly male.  Many women masturbate; some might even be compulsive about it.  But all guys masturbate, and the majority of us have been compulsive about it at some point. Continue reading “Blown Loads and Blown Lives”

You Will Never Get a Break

In the summer of 1997 I rode my bicycle from Boulder, Colorado to Seattle, Washington to Portland, Maine.  It was an epic journey.  I hated almost every minute of it.

The problem was that I wanted to say I rode across the US more than I wanted to ride it.  This dubious motivation made me want the trip over before it began.  I wanted the medallion of cross-country tourer.  Most of the countless hours in the saddle were spent listening to the nagging mantra, “Am I there yet?”

The only times I enjoyed myself were during the hardest moments.  There were a few mountain passes in the Washington—Rainy, North Cascades and Sherman—where I scaled 20-plus mile passes in rain and 40-degree temperatures.  The conditions were so consuming that I couldn’t focus on the fact that the ride wasn’t over.  As cliche as it sounds, when I became absorbed by the journey, not the destination, I actually had a good time. Continue reading “You Will Never Get a Break”

To Meat or Not to Meat

What do I know, I'm just a caveman writer.

After my buddy Jeremy and I hung out the other night, he invited me to a late concert.  I said no.  I had a date.  Because Jeremy is a vegetarian, I couldn’t share what that date was.

I rode my bike to the Whole Foods at Bowery and Houston.  I snuck in, hoping no one I knew was there.  I milled around the produce section for a few minutes, trying to lose PETA agents who might be on my trail.  My covert ops were meant to obscure my destination:  the butcher.  My date was with meat.  We hadn’t gone out in over 4 years.

I’ve been a vegetarian off and on for 16 years.  My reason historically has been the environmental toll meat production takes compared to a vegetarian diet.  My last spell started when I was dating a Mahayana Buddhist.  Mahayana’s believe in an elaborate system of reincarnation, with possible rebirths in hell realms, ghost realms, and many other nasty sounding places.  One of the lower realms is the animal realm.  Contrary to the idealized version of animal life many people hold, Mahayana’s believe that animals are in a state of near-constant suffering, forever at the mercy of their needs, lacking consciousness to transcend them.  Where you go in the next life depends on your end-of-life karmic balance; basically a matter of how much negative karma you’ve burned off during your life.

A Bodhisattva is someone who tries to rid himself of negative karma and achieve Buddhahood (or at least higher rebirth).  He achieves this by devoting himself to freeing all living beings from suffering.  Aiding to that suffering means lower rebirth for you.

I decided to go veg to cover my bases.  I didn’t want to risk lower rebirth.  But even if Buddhist beliefs were hogwash, I could see that most livestock live lives of nonstop, abject suffering.  This is particularly true of livestock raised in the industrial-agricultural meat complex, where animals are shot up with growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics, force-fed, stuffed into diseased and shockingly small spaces, and killed in brutal ways.  I wanted no part of it in this lifetime, much less pay for it in the next.

Continue reading “To Meat or Not to Meat”

Surrendering is Not Giving Up

I’ve been sick for the last week, which is tough for someone who identifies with being a hot and healthy dude.  No, I don’t make a lot of money (or almost any).  I live in a dump.  I lack accomplishments, awards, degrees beyond a bachelor’s (and it took me a while to get that), but gosh-darnit, I’m healthy.  I get sick maybe once every 3 years (and it’s usually mild).  My bowels move freely.  My nasal passages blow like wind over a Himalayan ridge.  My skin is clear.  My midsection is taut.  My limbs are long and strong.  My fingernails are hard and free from bites or dents.  Random people frequently tell me things like, “You look like you take good care of your body.”  So when that body shuts down—even partially—it fucks with my identity.

The first thing I do is go into diagnostic mode.  What caused this?  Was it hanging out with all those kids?  Was it mold in my apartment?  Was it my recent penchant for eating loaves of white bread (this is my #1 theory)?  Was it negative thoughts and fear?

While I don’t think it’s a bad idea to examine why I got sick (especially when it happens so rarely, making it easier to discern the cause), once sick, the cause becomes less urgent than recourse.  With sickness, as in all things, there are 2 ways of dealing:

  1. Resist it. I can get pissed off at all the things I can’t do.  Maybe I try to labor through these things, pretending as if everything is cool, meanwhile protracting my recovery.
  2. Surrender to it. I can accept that my body is still vulnerable to sickness.  I can accept that all of my plans and designs for taking over the world are subject to the vagaries of nature.

While I don’t want to overstate the significance of my sniffles, my health can be likened a bit to the Japanese tsunami.  Both illustrate how the best plans and precautions can be unexpectedly and completely undermined by forces of nature.  After all, I’m not some sedentary layabout.  I ride my bike everywhere.  I do pilates.  I make sure to eat raw vegetables every day.  I get adequate sleep.  I freaking meditate.  And I still got sick.

Japan wasn’t Haiti.  It had a modern infrastructure.  I’m sure it was as prepared as any highly-populated, seismically-active, island nation could be in dealing with an 8.9 submarine earthquake.  And it still got its shit rocked.

I believe that what is good for now is good for later.  This principle holds true for every system.  Taking care of my body has immediate and longterm benefits.  Cleaning my house provides a nice place to live now and keeps it from deteriorating later.  But at some point and time even the best systems fail, whether that system is respiratory or solar.  It’s what the Buddhists call impermanence.  All phenomena arises and disappears (and I dare any reader to provide an exception).  Rather than trying to ensure that our various systems never fail and getting pissed off when they do (i.e. resisting), wouldn’t it make more sense to learn how to handle this essential failure?  This is not giving up, it’s surrendering.

Giving up is when you stop washing the dishes in your sink because you think, “Why bother?  Everything is going to shit anyway.”  Surrendering to their impermanence is happily washing those dishes, knowing they will one day break, but content with the brief satisfaction they bring you now (and you’d just assume have a clean eating surface).

Be Fearless Like Me!

Let's look at the eye of the f'ing tiger (or lion as the case might be) .

I marvel at my power.  I am an unstoppable force, crushing inner and outer obstacles with the aplomb of a samurai facing battle.  For me, fear is a foe met and conquered.  Behold some of the areas where I have mastered my fears:

Staying home alone. I do not hesitate when it comes to isolating in my apartment.  I will watch one Netflix movie after the next with unshakable placidity.  I don’t even fear watching movies I’ve seen many times before—I have seen both the Godfathers I and II at least 10 times each with the steadiest of nerves.  Nor do I fear consuming foodstuffs purchased at Trader Joe’s while watching these movies.  As unbelievable as it sounds, I can simultaneously eat tater-tots dipped in barbecue sauce while watching Lord of the Rings without a vestige of timidity.

Shutting down my emotions. Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but I have no fear of withholding how I feel.  Whatever the situation may be, whether it’s expressing how I feel to my girlfriend, family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, I can shut down my emotions with lightening quickness.  My mastery is such that I can stuff my emotions down until I’m virtually incapacitated.  I can smother my needs, suppress how I honestly feel, even withhold my concern, with Herculean strength.

Not putting myself out for scrutiny. While many people have difficulty withholding their gifts and talents from the world, such is not my lot.  I have years of experience withholding who I am.  I have library’s worth of unread writing.  I have fearlessly dodged scrutiny and judgment innumerable times.  I know what you’re thinking:  “How do find the strength to withhold all that?  Where do you store all your undistributed gifts?”  Frankly, I don’t know sometimes.  Perhaps this fearlessness is just another one of the innate talents I keep to myself.

Surfing the web, emailing and text messaging.
This one might sound the most improbable, but it’s true.  I have nary a shred of fear wielding these electronic sabers.  I can surf the web for hours, check Facebook links, scour the news, refresh my email inbox, and rattle off pithy texts on my phone, all without churning my stomach with fear.  I suspect I could even approach a woman online if I didn’t have a girlfriend.  That’s how little fear these things cause me.

Not asking for help. I can go years without addressing a need, stewing in pain and toil, never succumbing to the urge to ask for help.  This is made more impressive when you consider that help is all around me much of the time.  I seem to have been born with an indomitable pride that precludes me surrendering to even the most dire needs.

Wasting my precious life. This feat is almost beyond belief.  I know this life is extremely fleeting.  I have had people close to me die or undergo serious health issues.  I know that this window I have here, with all physiological cylinders firing, is a very short.  And yet I appear to no little fear squandering the hours of my days, stewing in resentment, asking for shit I don’t need, looking for my ego to be stroked, not loving those around me, not helping those in need, not sharing my gifts or engaging my world.  My strength is beyond comprehension.

If you too want master your fears, I urge you to keep reading my blog.  It may not be an overnight matter, but with time, determination and assiduous devotion to my instructions, you too can live as fearlessly as I do.

Celebrate Dependence Day

We're whole together. (Full disclosure: I couldn't think of a relevant image for this post).

No home, a big duffel in hand, a bigger backpack on back, I headed to the uptown 1 train to crash on my buddy’s couch.  My body felt like a plucked tuning fork.  I heard every car honk, every splash when wheel hit puddle, felt every distant train rumble, smelled the dankness of cold-moisture and curbed garbage, saw every glimmer off the pavement, every swirl in the florescent lights in the train-stop.

The train arrived.  I sat and pulled out my notebook.  I had just broken up and everything was still and clear.  What had brought me to this place was clear—all the lies, all the needs I suppressed.  I was done.  I had needs.  I wrote down what I needed.  Someone who listens.  Someone who likes reading in bed (or at least appreciates that I do).  Someone who is openminded.  Someone who cares about the environment.  When I rattled off a couple pages of these things, I wrote out a declaration that for everything I listed, I would be willing to deliver the same thing.

I arrived at the 116th street stop.  A light glaze covered the bricks of Columbia’s campus walk.  I gulped in air.  I hadn’t breathed in a while.

I called my mom and told her what happened.  I apologized for lying to her (something I would do a lot of in the coming days).  Dishonesty cannot be not contained.  Lying in my relationship made it easier to lie to friends and family.  Since talking about my relationship was dooming it, I quit talking or showing up.

I got to my friend Chikodi’s place.  It was 1AM.   We talked for a couple hours—about what happened, what went wrong, what was possible now.  2 years of dammed energy were released.  There was no way I was going to sleep, so I pulled out computer and started to write.

Dear…
It’s almost 5 in the morning, I can’t sleep.  I just broke up with _____.  I’m laying on a friend’s couch.  I’ve very little idea what’s next—just a clearer idea of what will no longer be [doing my best imitation of Neo at the end of the Matrix]….I was just thinking about you.  How I’d love a lover who I would be excited to have you meet.  _____ was never that, and I’m sure it drove a fissure in our relationship….I’m sure there was an invisible but palpable toll on our connection, that everything had to be filtered through the lies that maintained my appearance of emotional and spiritual health.  It just wasn’t there…the health that is.
So to long health in a short life.
Love
David

I needed and wanted people in my life.  I was totally dependent on them. Continue reading “Celebrate Dependence Day”

Dames and Dumbfucks

Everything's cool man.

I shan’t mince words.  I’m a liar.  And exactly 2 years ago, my lies created a life where I felt like someone was pressing the butt of a broom handle into my chest all my waking hours.  I was in a relationship and living with a great girl.  She was cute, generous, worldly, punctual, committed.  But she was in a relationship with a liar (me) and we were fucked from the beginning.

The first lie was the most basic one:  I thought that she was, or someday would be, someone other than who she was.  I saw red-flags from our very first meeting.  I rationalized them away to perpetuate the idea of the relationship—something I wanted to believe in.  But rationalizations are not solid building materials for relationships.

The trouble, in short, was we had nothing in common.  Our politics, spiritual views, tastes, communication styles were often diametrically opposed.  I joked about these things at first, but as time elapsed and our incompatibility became more glaring, the humor evaporated.  These issues would come out in fights and feeble attempts at communicating, but I knew, underneath my ideas and rationalizations, the relationship was DOA.

One night in February 2009, we got into a fight.  It was the same fight.  She accused me of not wanting to spend time with her.  She was right.

I would typically cauterize the fight with lies that I wanted to believe were true, but knew were not.  This night, I couldn’t do it.  I knew this fight would go on as long as we were in a relationship.  I knew things would not get better.  I knew she was who she was and I was who I was and given that, we had to break up.

So I told the truth and was promptly asked to move out (it was her apartment so there was no question about who would leave).  She went for a walk and I stuffed as many of my things in a large duffle as I could.  It was a Tuesday night at midnight.  I was a bum, but one with a modicum of integrity. Continue reading “Dames and Dumbfucks”