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”

Who or What Owns You?

Who buys and sells you? Image via Steamboat Pilot

Which of the following people or things dictates your actions and choices.  Check all that apply.  Answer honestly.

  1. Your mother
  2. Your father
  3. Your step-mother
  4. Your step-father
  5. Your sibling(s)
  6. Your extended family
  7. Your girlfriend or boyfriend
  8. Your husband or wife
  9. Your ex-girlfriend(s) or ex-boyfriend(s)
  10. Your ex-husband(s) or ex-wife/wives
  11. Your job
  12. Your boss
  13. Your coworkers
  14. Your unemployment Continue reading “Who or What Owns You?”

A Funny Thing Occurred to Me While Tripping on Acid

Drugs were an unspeakable evil as a child growing up in the 80’s.  The “Just Say No” campaign bludgeoned me with fear.  Many of my mom’s friends experienced coke-fueled implosions.  Shane fell off the bridge and got brain damage on Degrassi High.

But my adolescence was an unspeakable evil too.  Without drugs, I was like a cold Chihuahua, thin, shivering, plaintive eyes, tail between my legs.  I walked around certain that no one liked me, unpopular with both sexes.  I offered guys no competition.  I offered women no confidence.  Most of my nights in high school were spent alone watching reruns of Quantum Leap.

Shortly after moving to Boulder, Colorado when I was 16, I was introduced to marijuana.  I was working at a bike shop.  One night after we closed, “Shorty,” a buzz-cut, army-fatigue-wearing, 6’5” Wisconsan, who grew skunk-smelling, crystal laden kind-bud (I’m not sure if they still call it that) lit up a bowl.

I took one puff of Shorty’s weed and was sent into paroxysms of coughing.  When the coughing subsided, I spent the rest of the night in the bike-storage room hallucinating that my parents were at the front of the shop. It was not an auspicious start.

Undaunted, I worked past this initial foreboding experience.  No feelings of near-death and extreme terror were going to deter me from squashing my depression.  Throughout that summer, I learned to love marijuana.  When I started my high school, that love blossomed.

Nancy Reagan lied.  Drugs were great. I spent the next few years continuously high. Continue reading “A Funny Thing Occurred to Me While Tripping on Acid”

Anesthetic Ecology 101

"Honey, doesn't watching TV just make you feel so alive?" "Yes!" Image via goodhousekeeping.com

When I got home last night, I split an acorn squash in half and pealed a head of garlic that I put it into a crock filled with olive oil.  I put both the squash and garlic in the oven.  I made some honey-mustard dipping sauce with mayonnaise, maple syrup (didn’t have honey) and mustard.  I turned on “The Godfather,” which I started watching the night before.  I watched the movie while I ate raw broccoli dipped in syrup-mustard sauce waiting for the squash and garlic to cook.

When the squash and garlic were done, I put them on a plate and smashed the garlic, olive oil and a heap of salt into the squash’s flesh.  I also put some Trader Joe’s tater-tots into the oven so I could continue eating after the squash.  By the time the tater-tots were cooked, I ate most of the squash and was uncomfortably bloated.  I ate the tater-tots anyway.  The glut of food directed all of my body’s energy toward my digestive tract, making my theretofore racing mind docile.

I watched the end of “The Godfather” (which I’ve seen at least a dozen times before), and because it was early and I’d watched all of my Netflix DVD’s and I had no internet signal and didn’t want to read, I put in “The Godfather II.”  I watched that for less than a half-hour before my food coma fully took hold.  I managed to meditate for 15 minutes, my posture kept upright by an overstuffed intestine.  I read a few pages of the book “Ishmael” and went to sleep around 11:00.

This is a rare glimpse into what I call my “anesthetic ecosystem.”  It’s a solitary world that flourishes on weekday nights when I have no plans.  It’s where I go when I don’t want to deal with shit.  When I don’t want to maintain relationships.  When I don’t want to overcome fear.  When I don’t want to clean messes.  When I don’t want to help anyone but myself. Continue reading “Anesthetic Ecology 101”

I’ll Do It, But I’m Not Going to Like It

Dan and the cart in warmer days.
Dan and the cart in warmer days.

Yesterday, I was playing Battleship with my cousin’s 5 year-old son. The game started well enough but as soon as I started getting ahead (I’ve got 29 years of strategic thinking on him), he started whining.  He wanted to play, but apparently didn’t want to do it if it meant losing.  His whining got me thinking about my own recent behavior.

My friend Dan Paluska started an art/media project called “Brooklyn Mobile.”  It’s a cart he takes around downtown Brooklyn, asking people if they would like to make Youtube videos.  The intention of the project is to create a case-study in democratized news; the cart allows people on the street to be news-creators as opposed to the questionably motivated Fox News, CNN, CNBC and others.  The reality of Brooklyn Mobile is a lot of teenagers giving shout-outs to their peeps.

I often help Dan schlep the cart around Brooklyn.  The two of us hawk passerby’s asking, “Would you like to make a free Youtube video?”  We make a funny pair:  two tall white dudes with a ramshackle cart asking a primarily black and latino downtown Brooklyn population is they’d like to be on the internet.  It’s a blast.

Anyway, a film company took interest in Brooklyn Mobile and wanted to film it as part of some lame public relations campaign for a behemoth multinational corporation.  Dan is in Costa Rica, so he asked me if I wanted to do it.  Because working the cart is fun and I’m vain, I said I would. Continue reading “I’ll Do It, But I’m Not Going to Like It”

11 Ways to Make Your Bed in Time for Cartoons

Remember when waking up was fun? Image via crystalcomments.com

You wake up.  You peel yourself from bed.  You pee.  You make coffee.  You think about the day ahead.  You wonder how you will face the challenges in front of you.  You eat breakfast.  You check email, Facebook, glance at the news.

You get in the shower.  You let the warm water soothe you.  You are aware of the concerns and responsibilities that await you on the other side of the shower-curtain.  The relaxing shower makes them seem manageable.  You get the thought that today will be your day.  You will do something different today.  You will work out today.  You will eat only raw vegetables.  You will ask your boss for a raise.  You will ask that cute girl out.  You will flirt with that cute boy.  You will tell your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife how much he/she means to you.  You will break up with your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife.  You will read for an hour instead of watching TV tonight.  You will handwrite your grandma a card.  You will go dancing.  You will work on that novel.  You will do things differently.  You will do all the things you know you are meant to do because life is precious and short.  Carpe-fucking-diem.

You get out of the shower.  You get dressed.  You leave the house.  You get on the subway or into your car.  You pull out a magazine or your ipod or turn on the radio.  The enthusiasm you felt in the shower begins to be displaced by the thoughts that hit you when you woke up.  You get to work.  You check email again, start work, deal with whatever needs to be dealt with.  You become too absorbed in your work to ask boss for that raise.  You’ll do it tomorrow.  You go to lunch.  Raw veggies don’t sound filling enough so you get a Turkey sandwich and a cookie.  You see that girl or guy, but are too preoccupied by work and other concerns to talk to him/her.  You want to shoot your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife a loving note, but think it’ll seem weird.  You return to work a bit sleepy.  The day drags.  You don’t feel productive.  You wonder what you’re doing with your life.  You get off work.  You’re too tired to work out or go dancing.  You’re not feeling inspired so the novel will have to wait.  After looking at a computer monitor all day, reading seems like a chore, so you order Thai takeout and turn on the TV.  You watch TV until 11 or so.  You go to bed, a bit disheartened but confident tomorrow will be different.  You do this for forty or so more years and die.

Give up hope of things ever getting better materially or spiritually.  They won’t.  Give up hope that there’s a good time to act.  There isn’t.  We can do something right this moment, and I don’t mean buying or eating something (for some reason, these 2 things represent a lot of people’s ideas of seizing a moment).  We can express our love, write a letter, go to the gym, meditate—whatever your truth dictates.  What matters is that it’s done now.

Stop reading and do something you’ve been waiting for a good time to do.  Do it now.

Failure Is Always an Option

I think this might be my new logo.

I’ve been thinking about marketing a lot lately.  Good marketing is what will compel readers to read what I’m writing.  When that happens I will maximize my contribution to the world and make a bit of dough along the way.  That’s my working definition of success.

The question I’ve been asking myself is, “How should I market myself?  What market demand might I fill?”

In answering these questions, I’ve surveyed successful contemporary spiritual and self-help writers (the market I see myself occupying).  I looked at their brands and asked how their approaches might be incorporated into my marketing and brand strategy.  Here are some examples:

  1. Eckhart Tolle.  Author of “The Power of Now,” he provides his readers a glimpse of reality from an enlightened perspective.  I like what Tolle says, but I can’t claim the enlightened qualification he does.  Unlike the finely-tuned Tolle, the exhaust note of truth I make sputters more than purrs.
  2. Deepak Chopra.  Author of such books as “Perfect Health” and “7 Spiritual Laws of Success,” this doctor provides a fusion of Vedic wisdom and pop science, applied to things like emotional and physical health.  My highest degree is a BA in English, so I’m of dubious academic authority.  And Chopra draws from the deep well of his Indian cultural wisdom.  I’m from the suburbs, where wisdom flows in inverse proportion to the amount of time spent in front of the TV (i.e. all the time).  My emulation of Chopra would surely flop.
  3. Pema Chodron.  Author of “When Things Fall Apart,” she delivers a Buddhist nun’s perspective to everyday problems.  In contrast to the ascetic nun, I live a pretty decadent life.  I’m sexually active, overuse Netflix and love Trader Joe’s tater tots bathed in salt.  Her angle is a no-go too. Continue reading “Failure Is Always an Option”

Tollbooth Operators, Crossing Guards and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mother Theresa has nothing on this woman. Image via blog.freepeople.comLongboat Key, Florida, where I hang out with my family every winter, is about an 1 1/2 hours from the Tampa airport.  On the drive, we pass through 2 tollbooths.  Growing up in suburban Chicago, these types of long, tollbooth-speckled drives were normal.  I decided as a child that working in a tollbooth would be the worst imaginable job:  performing a repetitive, mindless task while inhaling exhaust fumes.

My childhood assumptions have been replaced by an adult observation:  tollbooth operators seem inordinately happy—not just in contrast to my preconceptions, but happy in a standalone sort of way.  They are almost universally cheery, smiling and courteous.  This is not just a Florida phenomenon.  The Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, the GWB, Midtown Tunnel and other Tristate toll plazas are filled with damn happy folks.  Sure, there’s a surly cop manning the booth every now and again, but for the most part they are courteous, pleasant and cheerful.

I walk 3/4 of a mile every morning to work through my fancy Brooklyn neighborhood.  I typically do it around 8:15AM, right as children are going to school.  My walk down Clinton Street takes me past a couple crossing guards.  Like the toll operators, these women (and they’re all women) seem preternaturally happy.  They know most of the names of both parent and child.  They seem untroubled by the weather, which is pretty damn cold right now.

On the walk I pass many well-dressed people on their way to work.  Perhaps they betray a different affect at work, but going there they look pretty miserable.  Few smile.  Most have sad or anxious eyes.  If I smile or look at them, they don’t seem to know what to do and look away rather than smiling back.  Most of them wear headphones and/or are tapping away on their phones, sending texts or emails; their fixation punctuated by obligatory glances at the sidewalk.

I just finished reading an article by David Brooks in the New Yorker called “Social Animal.” The subheading is, “How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of life.”  The article uses an imaginary case study of a couple’s courtship and all of the neurological mechanisms that inform its development.  I can’t do justice to Brooks’s article, nor his argument (you should definitely read it), but I’ll tell you what I got from it.  It’s the same thing I get from seeing the smiling tollbooth operators and ebullient crossing-guards, people whose job is to interact with other people:  humans want and need to connect with one another. Continue reading “Tollbooth Operators, Crossing Guards and Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Transform Your Life for $550 (or not)

I don't know what this image has to do with this post, but I thought it was cool. Via sfist.com

In the fall of 2003 I was pretty lost.  I had just been spit on by my recent ex-girlfriend—an emotionally unstable, 10-year-my-senior, ex-stripper with an adolescent child—having finally broken up with her after 5 unsuccessful tries.  I was calling myself an actor and model, but would go on a casting or audition once a month at best.  I was trying personal training to make money, but that didn’t seem to be going anywhere either; I hated the work environment and didn’t feel like I was helping anyone get fit.  Everything I did seemed to turn to shit.

My main pastimes at this point were walking around Chinatown looking for interesting food and hanging out on the steps of Union Square.  I was doing the latter activity one day when an acquaintance named Rob walked by.  Rob was a perpetually tan, shaved-head Texan who seemed to dress exclusively in clothes from Barney’s Co-op—clothes that were meant to look downtown cool, but you knew cost $1200.  Though I thought his taste in clothes garish, I liked Rob.  He had a cool, slow southern demeanor.  He always seemed to be doing things like Muay Thai boxing and feeding starving children in Africa.  I thought, “Maybe Rob knows what I should do with my life.”

I asked Rob and he said I needed to go to Dallas.  I’d never been there, so I listened on.  He said that all of the results in his life came out of workshops run by an organization called Millennium 3 Education.  He claimed the workshops would get me in touch with the roadblocks in my life, of which I had many.  I don’t recall him telling me anything specific about what would happen in the workshop other than an assurance that it would change my life.  I said I’d think about it. Continue reading “Transform Your Life for $550 (or not)”

Are You an Individual or a Follower?

Do you believe like these guys believe? Image via bvibeacon.com

Right now I’m reading the autobiography of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and watching a PBS documentary about the Mormons.  Aside from mutual obsessions with the afterlife, you’d probably assume that these two parties have virtually nothing in common.  The Swiss doctor, famous for writing “On Death and Dying” lived a free spirit, constantly eschewing conventional female roles, disobeying an autocratic father and becoming an iconoclast in the annals of modern psychotherapeutic theory.  Conversely, Mormons as a group, are models of conformity, preaching a blind devotion to their scriptures and prophets.  In one of the documentary’s interviews, an LDS (latter-day saints) elder says that Mormons should not question their leadership even if that leadership is clearly in error.

Yet reading and watching the accounts of these two parties, I found some overlap.  The first was a clarity of purpose.  Coming of age after WWII, Kübler-Ross couldn’t wait to serve refugees in war-ravaged Europe.  She fed the hungry and nursed the sick in concentration camps and decimated villages all over Europe.  One can assume that her purpose is to meet the needs of others.  Likewise, the Mormon’s ostensible raison d’être was and is to be like Jesus.  Though some of their tactics like conversion (pre-and-postmortem) might seem questionable in their utility, others like an internal welfare system and disaster relief are not.  Like Jesus, the Mormons clothe the naked and feed the hungry.  In other words, their purpose is to meet the needs of others.  Yes, yes, they’ve made some glaring missteps—Mountain Meadow Massacre, the exclusion of black people until deep into the 20th century—but I don’t think these missteps applied to a collective body are necessarily worse than those of an individual.  I’ve done some pretty stupid, harmful stuff (no murder fortunately); if there were a few hundred thousand of me, my stupidity and harm would be that much greater. Continue reading “Are You an Individual or a Follower?”