“feels like I’m slipping/into a dream within a dream”

I am exhausted. I slept for over eight hours, but I had so many detailed and terrifying dreams that I feel I’ve lived several hard and soul-crushing lives. I’ll try to recount them as best as I can.

In the first one, I was the villain, but only because  I was told to be. It was the end of some relevant period and a large ball was to be held. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that we’d done this before. I was given a jumpsuit; some bare, basic affair, meant to be worn as a liner for something more sinister. My counterpart, the hero, showed me what the jumpsuit was meant to augment: a form-fitting criss-cross of steel blades that wrap around my body and protrude thereout as weapons. Think a combination of Megatron from the Transformers film (the shitty live action one) and Shredder from the comic books. I put it on and it was truly terrifying for everyone, myself included.

The hero guided me to “really ham it up this time”; I guess last year’s pageant left some disappointed. Not one to ignore a note, I went all out. I dispersed razor blades in large nets throughout the ballroom rafters, set to fall on the public below like sharp and deadly balloon drops. And for good measure, I wired the whole place to explode. As the night began, the guests arrived.

My friend Brandi showed up with her young son, followed by a young woman I’d met a week ago with an obtuse case of mental challenge. With growing horror I watched more women and children flood into the ballroom, and when my eyes caught those of the hero, his would bore into me with commanding viciousness, as though saying “high stakes, high reward; don’t you fuck this up for me.”

A skip in time occurs and the next scene is chaos: blood, so much blood, and people running and screaming in terror. I am slashing the partygoers into shreds with my Death Suit, and I strategically set loose the razor drops when there aren’t too many guests beneath. My conscience is screaming inside me, and I am beside myself in agony at the violence I observe. The hero is nowhere to be seen. The dead lay everywhere. Most of the people have run away to safety. Seeing that there is little left to destroy, and spurred by the knowledge that none will step to stop me aside from myself, I set the charges to blow.

Then I see the hero.

He is near the mentally challenged girl, pulling on her obstinate wrist and trying to remove her from the carnage-laden scene. She is stock-still, frozen in fear and distrust. I tell him the charges are set and the entire place will blow in a few moments. He drops her wrist and looks at me, smiles, and starts to eat something from a styrofoam to-go box. I repeat that the entire building will detonate in a short amount of time, and he tries again to wrestle the girl to his arms so that he can run from the blast with her, but she will not budge. I walk away from them both.

The plumes of fire and smoke rise high into the sky as I strip off my steel exoskeleton and wonder if I’ll have to play the villain again next year.

I wake from that at 5:27am, perhaps four hours 0r s0 fr0m when I laid down. I think the worst is over, and I should sleep soundly the rest of the night. I am wrong.

In my next dream I am folding a white T-Shirt to place on a clothing hanger, and as I crease it to smaller and smaller dimensions, I ponder decisions I’ve made in my life thus far. With each tangent of my past, the shirt gets smaller and smaller, but the new timeline takes me forward all the way to its end, which is never a happy one. I see myself try to make things work with exes to disastrous consequences, and I even ponder changing my intentions upon meeting certain friends and this results in their lives irreparably ruined. I put the shirt away on the dowel rod, its shoulders extended and its flat front marred by creases and wrinkles. I close the door.

In the next dream, I become famous for all the wrong reasons. I am at a large family wedding; some cousin or step-niece is getting hitched to high-society, and I am enjoying the open bar. I am so black-out wasted that I began to make a spectacle of myself, reading from pages of my anti-establishment manifesto, gesturing wildly with a constantly-spilling glass of booze while I skewer the upper class. Phones begin capturing film and photos and by the next afternoon I am a Meme, a GIF, and a viral sensation.

My family hates my guts, but no direct retaliation occurs immediately. There is a lot of resentment but mostly pity; they show genuine concern for my shortsighted proletariat views. As luck would have it, there is yet another wedding planned the very next night. It is apparently impossible for me to be uninvited, so I am told to attend but to stay out of sight. I relent, too defeated to fight, and agree to stay in the shallow lawn off to the side and keep my mouth shut. In doing so, my fatigue overtakes me, and so I lay down on the grass and throw a blanket over myself, just past a waist-high fence that corrals all the partygoers. I keep my eyes open and watch them mingle during the cocktail hour and eavesdrop on their banal conversations. The most popular topic is of course me. Finally I hear something so disagreeable that I have to speak up. Ironically it is a comment to the tune of “There’s no way he’d be stupid enough to ruin this one, too.” I respond demurely “I’m trying my best.” The conspirators turn to the sound of my voice and see my lying on the grass, the blanket over me, looking up at them, and apparently decide that my behavior is the most insulting thing a person could engage in at such an event. Their outrage is instant and vocal and piercing, and soon the whole congregation is gathering at the fence to look at me with venom in their eyes, this monster with the audacity to take a ringside snooze at such a blessed event. Soon, everyone gathers their belongings and moves the entire party several hundred feet down the grounds so that they needn’t look at me anymore. I feel completely alone.

I start to walk away, through the vast catacombs that are our bourgeois castle, giving way to dizzying staircases that rise into the sky. I start to ascend one when I am besieged by press and paparazzi; I seriously am crazy famous. (I distinctly recall lying in bed fitfully after I woke from this dream and wondering if it increased my blog visits count. sigh.) I am still too fatigued and defeated to fight through them, so I merely lie limp on the ground as they crowd around me shouting and flashing their bulbs. Soon I am cradled by two large hands, which lift me to the chest of their owner, a man that I immediately recognize as a distant uncle. He isn’t, of course, but in this dream world he is. His dimensions are immense; think Yaphet Kotto but two of him taped together. He asks me if I’d like him to carry me up to my room. I try to resist, feeling shame, indignity, and an overpour of affection for his offer; I truly am undeserving. At first he sets me back down at my insistence that he needn’t bother himself with helping someone as detestable as me, but both he and I are assured once I am back on the ground that I cannot take care of myself. He scoops me up again and pushes through the throng of vultures and carries me to my room. As he deposits me on my bed, I ask him why he is helping me. He smiles, then says I’m family. I respond that I have insulted my family with my drunken diatribe the day earlier and now with my inadvertent lazy protest. To this he laughs, then assures me that “They’re all assholes.” We both laugh and he leaves me to sleep.

The final dream seems to be something of a sequel to the prior one, with me in a church pew explaining to everyone in my row that the father of the bride was tickled with my behavior, claiming “To be rich is incredibly expensive; fuck them!” They laugh at this, though relent saying “it’d take a bit more for us to phrase it that way.” I agree, and then my wife and I get in our cars and start to leave, but first check the mail under the slightly ajar fence before the side door of a neighbor’s that is propped open by a wrecked car. They have none of our mail but instead something from their soccer association, so we drive away.

Then I wake up.

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“No one needs anyone, they don’t even just pretend”

Okay, I hope you’re sitting in a stable position or at least not operating heavy machinery. If there’s a seatbelt or other likewise restraint nearby, I suggest you employ it.

I’m about to get political.

If you’ve been paying attention to… anything, you know that the country of the United States of America is going through some… stuff, right now. And that’s okay. It’s 241 years old; it’s bound to go through some phases. Just continue to love it and support it and wait patiently for it to come out on the other side.

Except it’s not okay. It’s not okay, at all. President Donald J Trump is a buffoon, and I don’t mind admitting that I did not vote for him. I voted for the war criminal with the e-mails and shady Foundation. Because she may be evil, manipulative, and greedy, but at least she’s consistent, she’s a politician, and she knows the difference between fact and fiction. No, I’m not admitting to “alternative facts”; alternative facts are called “opinions”, and they are not the basis for policy.

Immediately after the election I read a couple billion articles on how, oh how, the Mango Mussolini was elected. (I can’t take credit for that pet name; a friend used it last night and it stuck with me.) Most of the articles attributed his overwhelming votes of constituents who, surprisingly, weren’t racist or Islamophobic or Xenophobic or calloused or delicate or Satanic or even moronic. No; most of the voters were educated, middle-class Americans who felt that the government, under the Obama administration, had forgotten them. The government had side-lined their interests in the pursuit of nobler, global pursuits of peace and environmental protection and basic human rights. Somewhere along the way, while helping all Americans get the healthcare options they needed, while protecting the ecosystem that has and needs to sustain us for, like, ever, and engendering the rights of all constituents in terms of marriage law and equality, the Federal government trampled on the financial and entrepreneurial ambitions of Joe Schmoe America. Building projects and business pursuits were being shut down because an eagle landed in a tree during construction. Tax breaks were ignored or revoked so money could go to hold up our end of the Paris Agreement. Joe Schmoe America was being choked out of his ambitions by the needs of the larger world, and he was not happy about that.

I tried to put myself in Joe’s shoes and I realized something: I have NEVER, EVER asked my country for anything. Never. My country has supplied me with many things: sovereign borders, maintained roads, police, regulations on myself and my fellow drivers, public schools, so on and so forth. With those fundamental amenities, I have cultivated myself into a motivated individual who gets what he wants from life through the sweat of his own endeavors. I am intelligent, capable, and driven. I don’t need my government to help me.

I am a registered voter, though. So what do I vote for? Well, obviously, the continuation of the afore-mentioned fundamental amenities. I vote for men and women who won’t fuck up the Constitution. Moving forward, what am I voting for? For those of us who can’t. For those who aren’t intelligent, capable, driven. For those who, for one reason or another, need our country’s assistance. To say, oh I don’t know, get married, vote, vie for equal pay, not get shot by police for being black on the wrong street, drink water that won’t kill them or stunt their child’s growth. I vote for lawmakers and representatives who can push this Country forward. Yeah, I capitalized it, because I mean the whole country. Not me.

Fuck me. If I can’t do it, why the fuck should someone else do it for me? If you vote for you, you’re an asshole, and that’s why we can’t be friends.

When the election results came in, friends of mine wept. Deep sobs of sadness. Were they weeping for themselves? Fuck no. They were weeping for the Muslims, the gays, the blacks, the Native Americans, the Syrian refugees, and all women. They were weeping for their students, for their children, for their parents. And they were weeping for the people who voted for Mango Mussolini, who would soon discover that the shepherd they thought they were aligning themselves with was a Snake Oil Salesman, and in short time they would be left with nothing while he absconded across the pond to an untouchable Fortress Bank with everything they’d worked so hard to build. And who will come to their aid when that smoke clears? NO ONE. Because the self-absorbed cockthistle is pissing off the entire Earth, and as he now politically speaks for the entire United States of America, what he says is directly attributed to YOU.

Was Hillary so awful? Yes. She sure as shit was. But you know what she was? She was a politician. And as awful a word as that may sound (and it is; it really is), it’s what we need in the White House: someone who knows politics. Politics is defined as “the activities of governments concerning the political relations between countries”. Donald J Cockthistle has never held a governmental office. Meaning, he’s never had constituents. Meaning, he’s never been held responsible or liable for the needs and safe-keeping of his American brothers and sisters. Hillary has. She knows how to talk to the people who you FUCKING HAVE TO TALK TO GET SHIT DONE, DONALD! YES, I’M YELLING AT YOU NOW BECAUSE YOU DON’T SEEM TO GET THAT YOU CAN’T DO THIS ALONE. YOU’RE NOT KIM JONG UN, but you’re affecting a damn close impression of him, I can tell you that. Holding the highest office in American politics means being a fucking politician! Sleeping with the snakes and offering them mice and then, when they’re fat and full, fooling them while in their food coma into doing what the American people need done: build roads, treat the sick, trade with foreign nations, protect the weak. That’s your job!

And, yes, Donald: it is a job. You have a job, now. You have a boss. Never had that before, have you? This will take some adjustment so I’ll take it slow. Remember how you were head of Trump Industries and everyone reported to you and you were the final say on everything because it benefited you and made you richer and you could put your name on everything? Well, that’s over. Now, you hold the highest office in America, yes. The buck stops there. But you’re not the boss. No, not by a long shot. You don’t make policy and stamp your approval on things to your own benefit or whim. You work for the American People. You work for ME.

angry

I try on an individual basis to help people understand. I sit them down and I reason with them to try to help a maligned constituency. I demonize whoever I need to throw under the bus to get this person to rally behind the people in need. I don’t feel bad about doing it. It’s right.

This past Saturday, all around the world, people gathered in large groups to demonstrate to the government of the United States of America that the rights and health of women was, is, and always will be a paramount factor of the perpetuity of human existence. They said to their leaders that their reproductive health was not something to be regulated by men, to be swept aside in the interest of oil or exports or military dominance. They stood, men and women and children from all walks of life and all around the world, and demanded that the current administration see who they were working for. Look upon your bosses and understand their expectations for you in the years to come. Recognize your responsibility and never forget why you’re here.

But wouldn’t you know it, some people took umbrage with this? Some people found it inappropriate that so many people of privilege were out there yelling at the bastards. Because it’s too easy for those privileged people to yell at authority. The ethnic minorities, the trans community, the Amur Leopard, the impoverished; they didn’t feel represented by the millions of people in countless cities who took time off work, left their homes, made signs and held court in public space to bring recognition to an administration that was poised to trample the rights of billions. Many felt that the mostly privileged, mostly white protestors were shouting with uneducated voices, or at the worst, uninitiated voices. They hadn’t felt the hardships, didn’t understand what true subjugation was. And where were these privileged white protestors when Black Lives Mattered? It was too little, too late. Or too soon to be taken seriously. If this is your first protest, your voice doesn’t actually matter.

Upon hearing this, I became very angry. Do I understand the genesis of these accusations? Yes, I can empathize. But what is the alternative? No action whatsoever? Sit on our hands and wait for the bomb to drop? Fuck that and fuck you. Don’t tell me my indignation isn’t righteous. Don’t tell me my anger isn’t pure. And don’t tell me not to speak out against a government that threatens us all. Just because I’m not holding your sign doesn’t mean I don’t care about your rights. Let’s be frank for one fucking second:

If we were to make a protest sign that incorporated every group that this government either has or may marginalize, subjugate, or demonize, no one would be able to hoist it. #fact

Anyway, it is my firm belief that Donald J CockThistle, AKA Mango Mussolini, AKA Tiny-Handed Oompa Loompa, AKA Donald Drumpf is an insane person who doesn’t even want to be President of the United States. Sure, he wanted to WIN the office of President of the United States, because he loves winning and that’s something he hasn’t won yet, but he doesn’t want to BE the President of the United States. And I believe this because he’s still saying there is aberrant voter fraud prevalent in the recent election and HE WON. What does that tell you?

Is there a lesson in all this? Do I have something constructive to say or am I just screaming? Well, it’s mostly screaming. But if I can say something constructive, it’s this: be good to each other, look out for one another, respect one another. Most importantly, PAY ATTENTION. Get informed, stay informed, inform others. Shepherd the weak through the valley of darkness, for you are truly your brother’s keeper. If you see something, say something. Don’t worry if it’s not enough; not loud enough, not inclusive enough, not righteous enough. Say it! It’s better than not saying it. What if you’re the only one who can? Then what? Say it!

And if I can venture one more opinion, or Alternative Fact, it’s this: ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do to ensure your country does right by others.

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“Now I’m picturing us opening up wide / Drinking down our days in haze and bliss”

I have been unable to feel as of late. Or I have been unaware of how I feel. And not for lack of trying, mind you. I am asked frequently, and before I offer a knee-jerk canned response, I ask myself. But no answer comes. Most often I lie. Sometimes I admit that I just don’t know, which makes an offhand query become a philosophical rabbithole, often to the chagrin of the person who probed me. I think there’s a lesson in there.

I am now living in the town that I grew up in: Conroe, Texas. I was born at Conroe Regional Medical Center. I attended Conroe High School, of the Conroe Independent School District. I will probably die here.

Donald J Trump is the President of the United States of America and I live in Conroe, Texas. No, I don’t know what to feel.

Interesting fact: if you drive through New Mexico at 80mph, it feels as though you are not moving at all. At 80mph, by the way, you put a mile behind you every 47 seconds. At 90mph, it’s every 40 seconds.

We made good time, despite the fact that a fierce winter storm named Jupiter pushed us quite literally off the road in Kerrville, Texas. While driving through the mostly desert area in the rapidly encroaching darkness of night, the rains fell heavily, coupled with the already strong crosswinds, and traction was lost repeatedly until all traffic slowed to 55mph or less with our hazards on. Visibility was low, and every attempt I made to speed up was met with more loss of grip on the road. It was as if anything travelling over 60pmh was considered by the wind to be wind, and it would fold it in its loving arms and take it home, or wherever it is that wind lives.

Interesting fact: most women in Texas will tell you two generations of their family’s history upon first meeting you before they even learn your name or offer theirs. I had forgotten about this phenomena sometime in the past fourteen years, but it is as true today as it was so many years ago when I drove around on these streets and shopped these stores. It happened with the cashier at the 4-pump Exxon in Kerrville, the receptionist at the storage rental facility in Conroe, and the bartender at Montana’s Shop Talk down the street from where I’m currently staying (Mom’s; there, I said it.) The latter had us to herself for the better part of an hour, and somehow, despite the fact that she filled the air with so many words and names and stories, she managed to divine that my wife and I were “evenly yoked“. She even drew us a diagram so that we could grasp just what that meant and how rare and blessed it was.

This is a land trapped in Time. I have seen more churches out of my car window in the past five days than I have in the past fourteen years. Confusingly, I have also seen more sex shops and billboards advertising sex shops. Cindie’s, Adam & Eve’s, Zone D’Erotica, Katz’s, and Eros, just to name five. Churches, bars, and places to buy dildoes. Drive-through liquor stores. Waffle Houses and Cracker Barrels and amazing mom-n-pop diners and delis. Pink Taco Cabana buildings everywhere. So much real estate up for grabs, McMansions for sale, and Carvana (yes, this is an actual thing). It is bizarre and surreal and yet all very familiar.

As I’ve told many about this adventure, I am “writing a new chapter in an old book”. Now if I just knew the tone of this tome…

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Now the page is soaked with tears / flipping backwards through the years / how I wish that you were here

I made the mistake tonight of looking through old photographs. It started as a moving exercise, a chance to declutter some more stuff as we prepare to move across the nation. Then I got the brilliant idea to shove a few duplicates in people’s Christmas cards this year. I always like to do a gimmick, you see. One year I wrote jokes, another I included cards from other holidays; this year would be random photographs. Seemed harmless enough.

So I poured a glass of whiskey, put on some music, flipped on the fireplace, and started sorting. It went smoothly and rather than feel the pangs of regret or the nostalgic pull of the past, I felt a scientific detachment to the images, a genuine sense of wonder at the youth and experiences within. I made three piles: one to keep, one for the cards, and one for trash. I took my memories in my hand and literally, physically cast them away. Still, none of this affected me.

My stacks in place, I set to work. I went to my phone to collect the addresses I would need to mail the cards, which sent me through text feeds, on Facebook, and through email. This opened a new can of memories, and somehow this can had fermented. Whilst fingering through chats and photo dumps, meme exchanges, and holiday salutations, the feelings began to pull at me. I went to distract myself through Facebook feeds and came across this little gem:

 And he’s right. I get sad ALL THE TIME. And no, my life doesn’t suck. I just get alone sometimes or feel alone sometimes and I think it’ll never change; I’ll never not be alone. It’s like if you’ve ever stretched and had a muscle lock up, say in your neck or leg or whatnot, you have that initial reaction “Well, this is my life now; bent in this formation for the rest of my days. It was fun being functional…” Eventually it releases and you’re fine but in that moment you were absolutely resolved to be that twisted version of yourself forever. That’s what these late night sadnesses are for me. They come on and I’m convinced they’re the last new feeling I’ll ever have and I’ll just carry this shitsack of loneliness around my neck throughout the rest of my miserable life like luggage.

The hard parts came when I’d see a photo of someone and not remember their name; I’d have some remembrance of who they were, of why I took their photo, and I got over my ignorance and forgetfulness. The real gut punch came when I’d see a face that I did remember but either convinced myself or knew with certain conviction that I’d never see again. Be they dead or someone I’d had a falling out with, I just knew that person was gone from my life forever. And I hate forever.

Facebook gave me delightful videos of photos sliding through time of people I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with frequently and built indelible memories alongside; we thought it’d never end, the perpetual battle of us versus them. Then it did, and this video curated by an algorithm is all I have.

I think the lesson, however, is to constantly create memories; constantly smile at the camera, grab the hand next to you, dig into the shoulder, square your feet, and fight! Some day soon those pictures may be all we have.

 

Posted in Depression, Sayonara, San Diego | Tagged | 1 Comment

“I just want to scream ‘Hello! My God, it’s been so long / never dreamed you’d return!'”

The past six months have been a wavering line of uncertainty, peaks and valleys that undulated through space and time, and soon (in less than one month) that line will end…

…and resume 1500 miles east of here.

After 14 years, I am moving back to the place of my birth, the city of Conroe, Texas. I have many feelings about this, similar to those that have warbled the line of my emotional existence these past many months. Let’s try, shall we, to refine some of the highlights.

map-san-diego-to-conroe

I first arrived in San Diego on January 6th, 2003 with forty dollars in my pocket, a bulky, heavy-breathing desktop computer in the passenger seat, and a car that desperately needed to be put down after its exhausting journey, a la that terrifying scene in “True Grit”. For the first month or two things were amazing and terrifying; everything was so new and wonderful, my eyes drinking in the street names and burroughs and businesses that would be my haunts for years to come. I also struggled to find work, selling CDs and DVDs to sustain myself in the meantime, as well as the plasma from my blood. I got a job doing business-to-business sales, hawking an office supply delivery service, but I made one sale and felt so wracked with guilt about it that I quit the next day. I then got a job at Hollywood Video, shelving DVDs while becoming immersed in a film course syllabus of my own design. Shortly after that I started working at Borders Books & Music, and that kept me afloat for the next six years.

I spent my time in coffee shops, hyped up on caffeine, furiously scrawling my burning missives, melting the hours before me in a merciless heat of fiery anger and searing regret. I wrote letters to friends, I smoked cigarettes to scald my feelings and cauterize my hemorrhaging heart. I begged for that great change to find me, slowly dawning on the truth that I had traveled all this way to find it, myself, and to remain inert at that moment was to undermine all my bravery. I perused the cork-boards at the coffee shops looking for opportunities to express myself and found a casting call for spoken word poets for a limited-run stage show exploring the subculture of urban poverty. I made friends, found local haunts, performed before crowds, and felt alive. I had arrived.

Not one to rest idle, I found a rock band to front, called Moonshine Junkie. All of the band members were considerably older than me, and the disparate nature of influences helped to illustrate that fact. Despite that, we wrote good songs together and played shows to paying audiences. It was a good time. The band wasn’t a great fit, but it was a step in the right direction, and I had fun. After posting my own scathing review of a show wherein we performed rather poorly, I was ejected from the band. I didn’t weep.

I returned to the stage, finding a small black box theater near my neighborhood, and was cast in three one-acts after my first audition. I joined the unofficial ensemble cast, a group of talented broken souls who returned every three weeks to audition for the next round of shows, locked in an eternal pursuit of being someone, anyone, other than themselves. This went on for longer than it should have.

During this period I met a fellow with the same name as me who encouraged me to get back into the restaurant industry, make more money, and make people laugh. Then he died. I worked at both the bookstore and the restaurant until I ascended to management at the restaurant, left the bookstore, and the brick-and-mortar retail industry imploded. I was not directly responsible for that last part.

The theater folded, and the actors were sent bleary-eyed into the “real” world. We did not fare well, and soon began renting art spaces for weekends to produce our one-acts to small paying audiences, rehearsing in one another’s small apartments in preparation. It was an illusion, a fading projection on a threadbare scrim that inevitably washed to eggshell and dissipated entirely. I answered an ad for a metal band seeking a new frontman, and that’s when I met the members of Worth Every Scar. We were spurred on by the support of a wonderful man who would be our unofficial producer and release our first record. He, too, died. We recorded nine songs over two EPs, underwent one small tour, and I screamed a lot. It was wonderful. We did this for longer than we should’ve been allowed to, then disbanded when our guitarist moved to Arizona to get married and start a family.

I met the woman who would become my wife during that time, and we began co-habitation and building our social circle, for better or worse.* I began recording my own music at home but that is hardly worth exploring. I was hit by a car while riding a bicycle in 2009 and thanks to an insurance settlement bought her a ring that would’ve been otherwise unattainable. In 2011 we married and shortly after I re-connected with the drummer and bassist of Worth Every Scar and we formed a new band called Moosejaw. Things were great, and seemed to be heading into even greater eventualities.

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Hey kids, this is what a rockstar looks like. I guess.

Then in 2013 I lost my mind. From this point, if you’ve read this blog, you know the rest of the story.

So now I’m headed back to Texas. Mer and I are ready to put down roots, and the soil here is just too damned expensive. The cost of living here is so high that, although we are afloat, it is a tentative buoyancy, at best, and its fragility creates a permeating anxiety that makes it nearly impossible to breathe much less enjoy America’s Finest City. The decision is a sensible one, and good things will come of it.

But… America’s Finest City? What about that? What about everything I haven’t done? Sure, I performed my poetry, sang in three bands, performed in countless stage productions, wrote and directed and produced several of said productions, wrote a book, made a feature length film, published a short story. Met people, dated people, lost people, got married, found a career, and found myself. San Diego has been exceptionally good to me, while being hard on me the whole while. It’s made me work hard, made me malleable and adaptable and unbreakable. It’s forced me to be a stronger, smarter, undefiable person; yet also gentler and kinder. It’s opened my mind, sharpened my opinions, informed my heart and soul. I love it here. I don’t want to go.

And now begins the intrinsically human juggling act of

“Of course I want this.”

“I don’t want this.”

“It’s for the best.”

“It’s going to be great.”

And, hey, you know what? It’s going to be great. To be back “home”, folded into the loving arms of my family, my community, the place where I was born. To return after all these years with the improvements of my pilgrimage. To add to the family my beautiful wife of whom I am eternally proud and grateful to have found. To bring my talents to the workforce of that region and spread the knowledge I have acquired. To dig my feet and soul into the soil and feel a connection, a groundedness, a sense of permanence. To be Home.

And yet, interspersed throughout the day is the refrain: “I do not want this”

It feels like a failure. Like we’re retreating. Like we’ve been conquered. Running, screaming and crying and bleeding back to the tiny encampment from which we launched this attack. And that’s what this was: Meredith and I came here to punch the world in the feelings and make sure it knew who the fuck we were. To be noticed. To be the best versions of ourselves. We left our comfortable nests, lined with the fat feedings of our parents and support structures, and set out to this hostile, alien land with no safety net to grab it by the balls and lead it around to our own choreography. But we failed.

I know this isn’t true, but this is what it feels like sometimes. Blame it on the physiology of my (clearly) malformed brain. I don’t want to feel this way but I do.

“I change by not changing at all / small town predicts my fate / perhaps that’s what no one wants to see.”

 

* – “for better or worse” pertains to the social circle, not the wife. That part worked out fine.

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“It sucks me in when you’re aloof”

“How are you?”

How?

Are?

You?

Such a thorny inquiry. So much room for interpretation. 

Could it be “What is your emotional state?”?

Or “How is your emotional state governing your sense of self-worth at this moment?”?

Or, more likely, “How is your perception of self governing your worth to others in your general appraisal of usefulness?”?

It’s typically the latter. You ask “How are you?” but the greater answer lies further not in how I am, or how I perceive I am, or how others perceive I am, but rather in how I am perceived and its usefulness to the greater consciousness. 

I could respond “I’m just okay”, but if I’m doing as I should and performing admirably, then I’m perceived as “Goddamned great!”

I could respond “Getting by”, but if I’m barely so then I could be categorized as “troubled”. 

“How am I?” 

You can answer that better than I. 

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“you say ‘take this’/’this medicine; it’s just what you deserve'”

“Hey, Eric. You don’t share your feelings that often. Why is that?”

Why is that? Because in my chest, where my heart is supposed to be, there is a small red box, and inside that small red box is a putrid yellow hair monster that will swallow you in a single gulp, catching your skin along its teeth as it pulls you further inside it with its over-sized grey tongue.

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Is that what you want?

I am beyond furious with the news of the Orlando massacre. I want to scream, loudly, my voice bellowing, a sonic wave spreading around me forcing everyone in its path to bleed:

“I DON’T WANT YOUR FUCKING GUNS”

Your shotguns, your handguns, your antique guns, etc. Yes; even your AR-15s. I don’t want to take them from you. I don’t want Obama to take them from you. I don’t want you to lose your precious rights because our precious rights are precious to us and they are “Freedom” and they are “Liberty” and they are “Red, White, and Blue and Bald All Over” and no one wins if I or anyone else oppresses you. I don’t want your fucking guns.

But you’re goddamned right I want the sale of high-powered, high-ammunition PEOPLE KILLERS reined the fuck in! Yes, I said “people-killers”, because if you need to shoot 800 rounds a minute with a 100-round clip to hunt geese, you don’t fucking deserve to eat. Now, do I know that guns don’t kill people, but rather it’s people that kill people? Yes; I do. I’m not a fucking idiot. Do you know what else kills people, with the help of people? Capes. Tools designed for right-handed people in the hands of Southpaws. In 2013, a man in Belarus was killed while man-handling a beaver into a selfie, and it bit him in the leg, catching a major artery, and he bled out. Did we blame the beaver? You’re goddamned right we did! And I can guaran-fucking-tee you that some asshole heard that story and considered the legal and fiscal ramifications of weaponizing beavers.

A gun at rest does not kill a person, unless perhaps dropped from a great distance, and let’s be honest: you’d have to be trying pretty fucking hard for that to be effective. You know what else wouldn’t kill a person at rest. ANYTHING! Except perhaps a virus. But for the sake of conversation I’ll choose something, so you can have a tangible example and we can move on with this discourse. Something purely innocent, but can be used by an angry, disillusioned, and/or tortured soul to cause death and terror in the hearts of Americans. Let’s go with a baby blanket.

So there’s an AR-15 and a baby blanket sitting side-by-side on the floor. What would you like your child to crawl towards and begin to manipulate in their tiny, underdeveloped, lack-of-self-preservation-guided hands? Take all the time you need.

The baby blanket? Cool. Now take the baby blanket from the baby and give it to an angry, disillusioned, and/or tortured soul. Sit the tortured soul down and ask it questions. Who does it hate? Why does it hate them? What would it do on any given day if presented with many examples of this hated specimen? Bombarded by, even so? After you’ve tallied the results, get to Google and find that angry, disillusioned, and/or tortured soul some place to cull the herd of hated, and send him there.

With a baby blanket.

Chances are, he’ll be able to choke at least one person to death before he’s apprehended or possibly even spotted. But try to sell me on a body count along the lines of

49 Dead, 53 injured????!!!!!?????

I challenge you to tell me the last time that you did ANYTHING that affected 102 people in one night. Anything. Walked into a crowded pub and farted after eating nothing but fish, cheese, and butter all night? Maybe. Maybe 102 people will be subjected to that. But can you imagine ever having killed 49 people in one night? Wounding 53 more?

I had a very violent dream last night. I was in a movie theater, completely alone, watching a black-and-white film. The film stopped on one frame and held it for a long time. It was a a man, finely dressed, standing before a concrete wall. He wore a small smile, and his face was weathered with jagged edges. The screen jumped and I stared at his sparkling eyes and knowing smile, then the film resumed.

Only now I’m in the movie and I’m an assassin. I am in the man’s house, and as he rounds the corner into his bedroom I smash him in the chest with a hammer, killing him. Unbeknownst to me, his four bodyguards spring to life, aiming at me with bows and arrows. Only they’re each upwards of 80 years old, and when they let their arrows fly they do so slowly, lazily, and land on me with no effectiveness whatsoever. So I unsheath my katana and dispatch three of them quickly. The first man gets his leg chopped off, the second is skewered through the stomach, and the third slashed across his body. I sit down on the bed, watching blood drip from my sword to the carpet below, and remember that my wife had asked me to bring her some blood as a souvenir. I find the request odd; obscene, almost, and I’m reflecting on this when the fourth man starts waving his hands frantically and shouting in panicked yelps “John! John! John! Isn’t the cocktail party tonight? We have to go to the cocktail party, John!” I nod, and whisper “yes”, and then in one measured swing I take his head. I find a clean white sock in the man’s bedside drawer and wipe the blood from my blade. I tuck the sock in my pocket for my wife and walk out of the room.

I woke from this dream very disturbed, but as it lingered with me throughout the day, I pondered its timing and meaning. In my head, in my sleep, I killed five people. With a hammer and a sword. But what if I’d had an AR-15? I could have dispatched of ten times as many. Is that something to celebrate?

 

Anyway, I’ve veered dangerously off-topic. What I meant to say at the start of all this is: This is why I don’t talk about my feelings. Because once I start I don’t know when or if I’ll finish or if any person may be left standing after the deluge. Hence the picture of Dot Warner’s pet. That’s what I think of when people ask “Why don’t you share your feelings?”

 

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