#IveBeenThatGuy (after #metoo )

 [please share/reblog/#/etc]

In light of the current #meToo movement (and previously #yesallwomen), many amazing friends and survivors have reminded me that, while pointing out how shamefully prevalent sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are, is terribly important, maybe survivors shouldn’t feel obligated to relive their trauma? Shouldn’t us men feel MORE obligated to take responsibility? The fact is, as both the beneficiaries of privilege and the vast, vast majority of the time—the perpetrators of rape culture—MEN MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. We must bear the burden of the work if the problem will ever be fixed. Helping those heal who have been hurt is terribly important—the only thing that would be even better is if we stop patriarchy, sexual harassment, and sexual assault from happening in the first place—and that can only happen when those of us who are most responsible challenge ourselves to take responsibility.
So I would genuinely Love it if any and everyone who feels comfortable admitting that they have EVER been “that guy”, would share #iveBeenThatGuy
It doesn’t mean you are a predator and it doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It doesn’t mean you haven’t grown and changed since the last time you were “that guy”. It doesn’t even mean you acted out of malice or bad intentions—we live in an all pervasive culture that seeps into our minds and habits, which often makes us support systems of injustice, even when we don’t intend to. And that is really the point: patriarchy, sexism, heterosexism, etc., are not problems because a few bad apples hate all women and think rape is their right—rape culture is still a problem because it’s so pervasive, so insidious, so ingrained that it’s a part of ALL of our lives. Men who work in domestic violence shelters have objectified women, including myself. The best, most kind, woke men in the world have used misogynistic and homophobic language at some point in their lives. Men with strong values have sexually assaulted because they did not know what sexual assault really is, cause our culture teaches that many forms of sexual assault are just “boys being boys”.
The problem is not that women/trans/queer folk are assaulted. The problem is that Men keep assaulting. Of course anybody can be a perpetrator and anyone can be a survivor/victim. But the point of this post and hashtag is to address the specific problem of problematic masculinity that uses privilege and power to make cis-straight-men, not only feel entitled, but Obligated to take advantage of that power and privilege to dominate anyone who is not a heterosexual cis-male. If your friend, brother, boyfriend, father etc. may not be super down with this entire article, maybe copy and paste the middle. Because, while some may get defensive (and understandably so—after all the men I’d like to jump on board are not the monsters who we already know are shit, but all those good guys who have at some point been caught up in the momentum of culture), I think any any honest man can admit that they have at least 1 time in their life, treated a women in a way they wouldn’t want a stranger to treat their daughter.
And let’s not forget that ending problematic masculinity helps us men too; While the overwhelming majority of violence and dehumanization of women is perpetrated by men, the vast majority of violence and dehumanization of Men is also perpetrated by other men.
Let’s also pair our honesty with action:
Step 1: share #ivebeenthatguy
step 2: Share a specific instance of when you have been guilty. Perhaps the time you most regret, if you feel safe and comfortable doing so publicly.
step 3:When you see your friend post #ivebeenthatguy and STILL act/talk disrespectfully,  call them out and point out that pretending to be woke for the Facebook likes, and not backing it up with real world change, is lying and wont be ignored.
 step 4: Encourage the men in your life to share; it doesn’t mean they are bad people, it just means that, unfortunately, if we are honest, at some point in our lives (maybe years ago) we have ALL treated a women in a way we wouldn’t want a stranger to treat our daughters.
 Let’s stop treating Only symptoms. Lets treat the actual cause. Let’s start by admitting that just as pervasive as survivors of rape-culture, are us perpetrators, who, even if we are not aware or didn’t intend to, have participated, and therefore it is OUR responsibility to raise awareness of our own part in the problem.

#ivebeenthatguy

Featured post

Compulsive [song]

 

COMPULSIVE

Compulsive Thinka

I drink a 40 full of sweat

with a shot of inspiration

now I’m drunk on geniusness.

I’m not rich

but I’m a billionaire in sentimental value.

Life is not of milestones but moments, so I live to

taste every dessert that crosses my plate,

smell every breeze that cools my day,

listen to every snowflake that falls on my face,

cause someday,

I know,

It’ll be too late.

Compulsive dreamer

I scream a song of compassion

As I write between the lines but read in normal fashion.

I’m no slave

but I do feel pain too

You can be sure that whatever you feel

I’ve been through.

I’m not perfect.

I know what it’s like to hate life.

I know how it feels to contemplate the edge of a knife.

I know the feeling of warmth that her smile brings.

I know the Boundless Beauty of Ordinary things.

Compulsive lover

above a cloud of despair

for every inspiration shattered

2 are repaired

It’s hard to complete this maze if you don’t come prepared,

but it’s twice as hard to finish if you enter it scared.

I’m just a man

who lives but a blink of an eye.

just a man, just as destined as you to die.

just a man, with just a voice, a choice, and a mind

I’m just as strong as the loudest word that I cry.

But just a man is as great as God’s light.

Gandhi was just a man, as was Christ,

just potential mixed with possibilities,

just a man is just enough for me.

Featured post

Diary of an Unemployed Dude: Freelance Mason [true story]

Due to my depression, I lost my job and was unemployed for several months. Also, unlike Normal people, and also due to my mental health, I no longer had a savings account and had to throw away most of my belongings in my emergency move back to Chicago. I am currently writing a book on the odd jobs and various things I’ve done for coffee money. Here is a ROUGH DRAFT of one of those stories:

Diary of an Unemployed Dude: things I do for money when I don’t have it

A Day in the Life of a Mason

Being someone that will do anything for twenty bucks and someone who can read directions well, I have recently developed quite the reputation for being handy–solely with my grandmother. In an effort to help me scrape together enough money for my coffee addiction, Grandma tells everyone she spends time with about my legendary ability to follow instructions, apropos housework. A month later, this brilliant marketing scheme finally pays off and a little old lady named Cruella requested my services. I gave her a ring. A fast talking stutter answered as if she was hiding from the Gestapo. “Huh Huh Hello who is this hu hu who are you lu lu looking for who are you?”

“Hi, this is Phil. I’m Toni’s grandson. She said you might need some help around the house.”

“Oh?”

I give her a second because I assume she’s old, if she’s been hanging with G-ma—maybe she has to sit down for this. Once politeness turns to awkwardness, I proceed. “Sooooooo, do you need help with anything?”

“Yes?”

“Ok. Do you want to tell me about it?”

“Well I really don’t have much money I told your m m mom I don’t have much money?”

“Actually Toni’s my grandmother and that’s fine if you don’t have much money, just pay me whatever you think is fair. I mainly want experience as much as anything else.”

Cruella responded, “Ok, but it’s supposed to ruh ruh rain this week I need to concrete the cracks in my sidewalk and it cant be raining do you have experience with masonry your grandma said you were handy?”

“I have done little things with cement and caulk. I’m not a professional. But I can read the instructions and follow them”, I repond caustiously and already worried about having to deal with this woman.

“Ok well I’ll call my son and ask him when its gonna rain or not and ill call your mom uh uh uh ok?” Her voice is a constant vibrato like she’s scared of using her words and everything she says sounds like a question, even when it obviously isn’t. I let her go and wait for a clear day to start my career in masonry.

After several calls on several different days—all ending in rejection, I am ultimately able to convince Cruella that it isn’t going to rain and today would be a good day for me to come over and look at the job, so I could at least have an idea of what it will entail. I ride my bike twelve miles to what happens to be one of the nicest neighborhoods in the third biggest US city, across the street from a certain zoo, which will all remain nameless for anonymity and liability purposes.

Luckily, it is only 90 degrees, so I will be sweating profusely, but I wont pass out. I arrive, knock on the medieval lion’s head door-knocker, turquoise paint-chips fall off the door to the crack-striped, wooden porch, and a frantic mouse yells from the basement, “I’m down here the stuff is down here I don’t use the front door?”

I walk down to the sunken basement level and take a look at the broken foundation. “Is this the wall you want me to work on?”

“Yeah I can only pay you $100 though I don’t have much money I have to pay property taxes they’re almost $30,000 I can only pay you $100?”

“That’s fine. I wasn’t even expecting that much. I mostly want the experience. Just pay me at the end whatever you think is fair. I trust you.” The fact that she is apologizing for paying me more than I wanted, made me think that this was going to be more than a minor repair. “Remember, I’m not a mason. I’m not a professional. I am smart though, and hard working, and anything with directions I can figure out, though it may not be pretty.”

“That’s fine I just need this wall sealed up the rain’s getting in and this whole wall is caving in You’re mom said you are handy have you done this before?”

“Toni is my Grandmother, not my mother, and like I said, I’m not a professional. I can seal this up for you, though.”

I explain a few more times that $100 is more than enough and a few more times than that that I am still, in fact, not a professional and Toni is still not my mother. She already has the cement and caulk in her living room. I read the directions and begin to mix the cement to fill the major gaps. I am a little nervous because cement is a pretty permanent thing and what this wall really needs is to be torn down and rebuilt; It is so warped that that the wooden porch is about two feet to the right of where the wall meets the ground. There is no way to fix it, but if I can seal the cracks, hopefully I can prevent further damage.

The cement is fun to mix. I put on my hot pink dishwashing gloves because I’m not sure what deadly effects the cement might have on my skin. I fill a plastic tub with a few scoops of dry cement dust, about two pounds, and add one half cup of water. It only takes the slightest hint of water to turn this dust into rock. The droplets trickle down, bubbling, transforming instantly to what will soon be the new foundation of Cruella’s home.

The cement is very hard to work with. I try to meticulously fill the cracks with a small clean clump of clay, but half of it sticks to my trowel, the other half hangs from the wall like a melting Hershey’s kiss. I can’t seem to swipe an even, flat patch.

Now I take a large glob of putty and slather it on like barbecue sauce on brisket. This excess cement allows me to leave a smooth surface despite the extra sticking to the trowel, but the small bucket Cruella supplied will not come close to solving her problem at this rate. I ask Cruella for more cement or money to get some, to which she responds, “Just pick some up from Home Depot. I’ll add the cost to your bill later.” The 1.6 miles ride to Home Depot is easy, but carrying a bucket of cement on a bike during Chicago rush hour is not. I do make it back—barely, and continue the job.

Every few minutes, Cruella comes out to critique my work and ask for help with another chore. First, I was using too much water in the cement, it was soupy. Then I wasn’t using enough, it was clumpy. I wasn’t spreading it thin enough. It was too thin. She brought out a take-out menu with chicken scratch written on the back. It was her resume, which I edited for her; Surprisingly, there were very few mistakes and it seemed well thought out. Back to masonry. Then her door won’t close, so I removed and replaced the dead-bolt. Back to masonry. Then she asks me to clean her blinds. She doesn’t have any running water and the water bottle isn’t big enough for the cement and the blinds–also, she has no electricity, so seeing the blinds, or anything else inside for that matter, are too difficult to see. I take the blinds down the block, to the park, and wash them in the kiddy water-playground. Back to masonry.

The under belly of the staircase needs to be sealed as well, but the cement isn’t sticky enough to keep from falling down. I use the tacky caulk to build a lip on the wall that the moist concrete can rest on until it dries. It’s not pretty, but it will keep the rain out.

She comes out again to ask me to take a look at her garden. I’d rather get this over with and move on with my day, but I acquiesce to her request. There isn’t actually much to see but weeds and knee-high grass, but whatever. Back to masonry. She follows me back to the front where, after seven hours of back cracking work, she gasps and jumps into a panic attack. “Oh my god! This is Awful! It looks Awful! I thought you said you were a professional?!”IMG_0574

“I know it doesn’t look great, but it will keep the rain out and I told you it wouldn’t be perfect. What you really need is a whole new wall. This is a major project.”

“No no no this is all wrong! I can’t sell my house like this! You said you could fix it.”

“I told you, I’m not a mason. And Toni isn’t my mom either–she’s my grandma. Just pay me whatever you think it is worth—$20. I don’t care.”

“I don’t have any money and this is all wrong. Oh my god, this is so bad. I don’t have any money, but I will get you $50 of food stamps if you want.”

“Ok. Fine. Can I at least get the money for the extra cement I bought?”

“I don’t have any money. And that’s not even the cement I like? Don’t worry. I’ll talk to Toni. Your mom and I’ll work something out.”

“Fine. Let’s just go to the store.”

“Not now, I have to mail something.”

“Ok. I’ll help you mail it”

“No, that’s fine. The mailman is going to pick it up.”

“Ok. Let’s go to the store then.”

“You don’t have a car?”

“I have my bike. And my backpack. I just picked up the cement on my bike.”

“No. You can’t carry groceries without a car.”

“$50 doesn’t get you as much food as it used to. Besides, that’s for me to worry about—what I do with my groceries.”

“No, that’s a lot of food. You can’t carry all that plus I don’t have any food stamps right now. I’ll talk to Toni I’ll talk to your mom We’ll work something out?”

I’m sick of chasing her arguments in circles, so I agree to let her and my G R A N D mother work it out. After a few different brokered deals, Grandma and Cruella agree that next month we will all take a field trip to Aldi’s, with a car, to get some groceries.

I love learning and I love trying new things, so I didn’t mind doing the hard work, for hours, in the heat. I didn’t mind carrying a bucket of concrete on my bike across town. I didn’t even mind that, despite being unemployed, not only did I not make any money on this job, but I spent half of the cash I had from donating plasma on her cement; I actually paid her for the hours of hard work! And that’s just fine with me—It’s a learning experience. What really pissed me off is that she was outside every five minutes, watching me work, observing the process, and waited until I was done to freak out and bail. I don’t like being deceived and I don’t like being dicked around. Just tell me you need help. Don’t bait and switch my good will.

As of the writing of this book, I haven’t seen a dime, or an apple. Though I did go back the next morning to collect the $10 I spent on cement, which she was gracious enough to reimburse. I understand that she is too old to work much and probably has to finagle her way out of a lot of expenses on her fixed income—I mean, she doesn’t even have running water. I don’t harbor any negative feelings about her or the day I spent working there–though I did draw a huge cock in the cement on my way out.

Featured post

A Brief History of the Universe [poem]

There were electrons

that flew

There were rocks that crashed

There was life that knew

And stuffs that didn’t.

Some could spell well

and some could lift 10 times their weight

And some were ships

And some were freight.

Some said “hello”.

And others were gas in a giant black hole

Life began here

And continued there.

Time itself bent on the turn of a screw.

Scientists discovered

republicans laughed

Lots of us killed

While a lot of us died

And the same rocks made us fight for and give up our lives.

Molecules coalesced and evolved

Rocks became solar systems

And atoms became bodies

And everything, more compex due to entropy

And then people died

Cause that’s what life does.

And rocks still spun

’round their respective suns.

I loved you,

You know,

As I always have—

Before you were born

And after god died.

Energy danced till the illusion of mass

Made it seem as if we were Not just thoughts and gas,

As if objects were real

And the universe was not one

gigantic bullet in the brain of a gun.

The dinosaurs drank tea with Othello

And a fellow who saved the whole world

By hanging from metal.

The planets spun faster to run

From disaster

And the faster we chattered

The more we each mattered.

And each time the needle skipped on the turntable’s platter

We danced as if Coltrane had planned on the clatter.

We waited

For something

To happen.

We waited

To read

A book

That might

Inspire us

Deeply.

But

When

Nothing saved us

We thought it

A good idea

To be lazy.

We fell in love on purpose

Cause we knew how obvious it was

That the only cure

for boredom is love.

So we kissed and

We fucked.

We had sex and more sex

We asked the girl in 3B

To join us in bed.

We fondled each other like wrapped Christmas gifts

And we kissed every hole as if mystery exists.

I Drank so much whiskey

You called the police

Who removed my pistol from my abandoned teeth.

I felt too intensely

the pain was too deep

and suicide was my one last attempt to find peace.

Technology soared into worlds unimagined

Cars flew as if bees

All disease was deceased

And your doctor brought me back to life

–with the help of a priest.

So, even giving in, hadn’t worked after all

Which was fine, cause the sky was beginning to fall.

Milky way was colliding with Andromeda.

The Universe was having a fart

That only effected those who were living–

And some who had passed.

And the ephemeral mass was returning to gas.

And a universe that once flaunted shapes and designs

Was proved just a matrix of concepts of mind.

Nothing Was,

That Was not.

Though we almost forgot,

That stories exist without names, but not without plot.

The universe, god, time and what not

Was all one infinitesimal thought

Only as real as the dimensions we chose to give it

No longer than the moments we crammed into minutes

No more beautiful than the house that we built and lived in.

So that’s why we got up and loved to the limit.

Birds flew

Once again

And cows chose to chew

And again space grew

Blacker and vaster

And everything that just had zero matter

Once again mattered.

The sad teenage scribblers wrote poems in notebooks

The sun burned hotter than before it was extinguished.

And the ATM worked

And the stars formed new pictures

And the poor became poorer

And the rich became richer

And it looked so familiar

But what could we do?

We pretended that everything was different and new.

That we had never met, or died, or cheated

Pretended the hurt that destroyed our hearts

Had never happened or could never.

We pretended that life was as lovely

As we hoped it would be

Cause it was

And is

And it always will be.

Till we all fall apart at the seems

And the dream

We all dared to dream

Gives in to the pressure

Of much lighter

Things

Featured post

Rough Draft of Chapter 1

This is the rough draft of the first chapter of my book, So Brightly Black, which I’m in the process of self-publishing and will be launching a Kickstarter campaign for soon.

CHAPTER 1 Admission

“Marble-heavy, a bag full of God” –Sylvia Plath

The cop dropped me off at the emergency room. Not the normal ER that you’ve been to, this emergency room was high security, locked doors, and handcuffs. There were no beeping machines, no smell of citrus Pine-Sol. There were no I.V.s—no medical staff running feverishly in figure-8s to keep up. Unfortunately for me, there wasn’t even a TV on the wall of my room, with those three banal channels: weather, CSPAN, cooking—which might have bored me to death any other day, but today, I thought, I’d kill for.

Maybe the alcohol contributed to my confusion, but it was so empty and dead, I wasn’t entirely sure it was a hospital at all and I wondered if the policeman hadn’t accidentally dropped me off at some post-kegger frat-house? As far as I could see, there were no more than two or three other patients in the wing and they were just laying lazy in the lounge—no sign of treatment, no syringes in their inner elbows, no interaction with staff. They just laid there in the recliners passively letting the TV rain on them like beached whales with blankets.  The nurses, behind thick glass, were laughing and chatting—so aggressively paying me no attention that I wasn’t totally sure I was even there.

Blood rolled down my arm from I-don’t-know-where. I was still drunk and wasn’t sure if my disorientation was due to my inebriated state or if this really was a strange place (Was the Ginger, who’s sleeping on the recliner, a nurse or a patient? Those are scrubs, but surely a nurse wouldn’t pass out in the lounge?).

I went to rest in my cage. There were no windows in the building, so I couldn’t tell if I was up past my bedtime or if I was just exhausted from being so historically drunk.  Either way, I headed to bed. But not a $10,000 hospital bed that inclines and declines, lifts your legs, and rolls large massage balls through the mattress, mashing your potatoes so you don’t get bed sores. My bed is a small thin mattress, or maybe a large thin pillow, atop a short plastic box with no corners to speak of.

The police officer had taken my possessions, including my cell phone. Fortunately, I’m allowed to use the hospital’s phone to make as many calls as I want. Unfortunately, in current society, remembering the phone number of someone you love is a lost art, and thus, permission to use the phone, a wasted privilege. In addition, the hospital’s phones are landlines next to the nurses, in effect nullifying my number one reason to call anybody in the first place: to complain about how much this facility and its staff, suck!
~~~~~~~~
It turned out, the staff wasn’t so bad; They were nice enough to search my imprisoned possessions for my phone, so I could retrieve a number. The process takes about an hour for each number, but what else did I have to do? I called a few key people, one from each group of friends and family, so as to make as few calls as possible, to let them know that I am, indeed, alive.
“Hey dad, just wanted to let you know I’m fine.”
“Sarah, hey, I’m at the hospital just south of…”
“Louis, you should be the first to know…”
“What’s up Gregorio? Yo, I was wondering if you can tell the landlord that my rent is gonna be a little late? I’m not sure when I’ll get back to the house.”
My buzz had begun its descent. I was still drunk, but now I was also hung-over. I was sliding from painfully bored to painfully spasmodic. I wasn’t sure if one day had passed or two. I had drunk so much the past few months that my liver was weak and aching. At first I had accumulated a flush tolerance to alcohol—I could out-drink a sink. Eventually, I had gone full circle, overworking my liver to the point of paralysis. One drink became enough to have me drunk for hours, and, as many as I had drank… I was dying to see how long that would do me.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When my first visitors arrived, the nurse informed me I had been there for four hours. I sailed into the visitors’ bay, still three sheets to the wind. Sarah was my ex of nearly 10 years, off and on, all together. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, which we fought and beat together, though the toll on our relationship was so heavy and cold, like running a race with a glacier on your back, that she left me when the cancer left her. We were still close and still cared deeply for each other. She was who called the police, who, in turn, brought me to the hospital.
Sarah’s nickname in high school was Snow White because her skin is so fair. Since we met, during freshmen orientation, 18 years earlier, her hair had been light blonde in high school, red during the summer after graduation, brown in college, and for the decade we were lovers, black, at my request—hair that was so straight, so brightly black, like streams of obsidian fireworks shooting down her back. Sarah and I were exact opposites in everyway possible: I liked steak and bacon; She was vegan. I liked spicy foods; She liked sweets. I backpacked through other continents sleeping in decrepit hostels and alleys; she wouldn’t go anywhere out of the country and wouldn’t even think about staying anywhere without room-service. She didn’t particularly like drinking; I couldn’t live without a buzz. We were an odd couple, but we did have one thing in common. We love each other with the ferocity that a pit-bull loves a steak bone.
Kandace is a very old friend from college. She is a miniature Latina with tiny tornados of curly brown hair and a strong personality who isn’t afraid of life. She feels as comfortable in a mob, fighting the police in protest as she does in the yoga pants and multicolored Air-force 1s she was wearing, just like she is as comfortable discussing the virtues of democratized agricultural models as debating who was more ill—Tupac or Biggie?
The room was just outside the safe zone, on the regular side of the hospital’s double doors. I was anxious about seeing anyone I know and forgot to smile as I entered the small beige room they’d been waiting in. I looked at them a beat, walked over, and sat in front of them. I was in pain and I was numb, not just at this moment, but for a very long time. In front of me was Sarah, the person who had called the cops on me, who would not let me end my suffering. She stole my salvation, and all this excruciating pain I’m feeling now is because of her—yet, she immediately visited me and told me she loved me—that she couldn’t live with me gone. If I felt anything at all, it would have been ambivalence.
Sarah: “How are you? You look tired. I called your dad. He said he’d call you.”
Me: “Yeah, I talked to him already.”
Kandace: “Yo, The nurse that let us in, says we can bring you stuff. I could get you some dope magazines. I got a whole pile I need to do sumpin’ with. I bet there’s not a whole lot to do up in there.”
Me: “Yeah, that’d be good.”
Sarah: “ Are you alright? You seem really out of it. Did they give you some drugs or something?”
“No”, I said, annoyed, “I’m fucking depressed. I’m in agony. I can’t sleep, or eat or have three thoughts without one of them being a fantasy of bashing my head over the brick wall, and it’s so vivid and pulling that I’m not sure I can stop myself from doing it. I’m afraid of my own body! I don’t know what I’m gonna do to myself. Every second, every piece of my body is wracked. I can hardly walk. The only drug I’m on is Dying and I can’t fucking stand it!”
Leading with tears, Sarah inhales, deeply, and begins, “I’m so sorry…I wish there was something I could do for you. Is there anything I can do for you? Anything. Is there something I can do for you, Phil?” I hate to make my misfortunes anyone else’s problem, but I can’t help but be honest here; I didn’t have the energy to formulate a fairy tale.
We sat for a few minutes, chatting about nothing until there was nothing left to pretend-talk about. I took leave first; If they had left first, I would have been alone, until the nurse came back.
~~~
I continued playing musical chairs between my room and the lounge, neither upset nor relieved that I was once again alone. At “Lights out”, the nurse was nice enough to give me a sleeping pill. I am an Insomniac; I never could sleep well in the first place and these withdrawal symptoms made falling asleep like trying to whisper a locomotive to a halt, without brakes. All I could do is think: I should have finished. Then I wouldn’t have to endure this. I’m going to die in here now, a slow, excruciating death by liver failure. Why the fuck…? I couldn’t slow down my train of thought enough to jump off and roll out. It wasn’t until 6 a.m. or so that I had finally sunk into sleep, a few minutes before the nurse came to wake me up for breakfast. She insisted I get up at 6:15 a.m. because the police would arrive soon to take me to the next hospital, one with a more indefinite admittance period.
I tried to figure out how to get out of bed. I was used to sleepless nights, but it had been a sleepless week. A cocktail of drugs, withdrawal, and no sleep had me in a mildly hallucinatory state. I had to vomit. Most people throw-up if they drink too much alcohol. I throw up when I haven’t had enough. My body’s physiology floated on a steady river of alcohol and when that stream got too low, my blood vessels remained stagnant. I’d have a shot when I woke up. I would bring a bottle of Minute Maid orange juice to work everyday, half vodka, to drip, like an I.V., incrementally throughout the day. Then, once home, I’d really be cooking with gas.
I hadn’t had a drink since yesterday, so there was nothing I could do to stop myself from vomiting. The staff saw me throwing-up in my bed, but kept passing, bored. They weren’t surprised. They’d seen me many times before, in other people’s bodies, faces.
Just getting out of bed is a whole production, but the nurse informs me that I must eat and get ready as soon as possible. My cadaver is useless; It takes nearly 5 minutes to traverse the lounge to my tepid breakfast (Lounge? Really? Like they’re handing out dirty gin martini’s while Sinatra serenades the shaking psychos choking down possibly plastic eggs). After chewing for a full ten minutes, I finish a bite of toast, realizing this is the first food I’ve eaten in 3 days. Like a vegan pigging-out on eggs and bacon for the first time in years, my body wasn’t ready for food; I became ill immediately and shivered back to my room, watching the door for police.
Every 15 minutes, for four hours, the police were 15 minutes away. I begged for a Xanax or a Valium, anything to stop the incessant itching and sweating, anything to let my dry skin heal and my moist clothes dry. They won’t give me a single pill—that’s for my next doctor to decide. So Where the Fuck Is He! You wake me up at 6 in the morning, after mere minutes of sleep, and hours later, not a single goddamn word!
~~~~~~~
Finally, my escort arrives. The head nurse assures the officers that I am “good and well behaved”. We drive across town to the next hospital and head upstairs to the psych ward. Admission takes forever, so I lay on the floor with the blanket I lifted from the previous hospital for a nap on the thin blue carpet. Of course, I am in too much pain to actually fall asleep. An hour of tossing and stressing had carried me to the nurse’s question, “Ready to see your room?” But before I’m allowed to see my room, I must strip naked for the staff to inspect my body for rashes that may cause the next outbreak.
I’ve been in hospitals before, more than any thirty year-old should. Besides the many broken bones from skateboarding in my youth and the four or five trips to the emergency room for a heart attack (which all turned out to be anxiety attacks), when we still lived together, Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer and it wasn’t unusual to walk these sterile halls 3, 4, 5 times a week.
I was the only one in the ward in paper hospital clothes. Are all those people in the dayroom visitors? Who are they visiting? There’s not a single person in a gown or paper jump suit? Hoodies, jeans, shoes, socks that slip… I’m not ready to see real people, so I walk down the hallway to my room. The far wall has a hand-painted quotation on it: “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step—Lao Tzu”. My room had neither a lock nor a handle on the door. It just swung back and forth like the wooden saloon doors from an old western. There was nothing to do there, so I braved the dayroom. There were stacks of board games—Sorry, Monopoly, Candy Land, Cranium, etc. There were books, but all the intense or really good ones were missing—it was all pulp fiction and young adult. In the corner stood a cart full of colored pencils, Crayola crayons, construction paper and Elmer’s Glue. The lone TV had two English channels and four Spanish. Several puzzles laid, half finished, around the room on various tables and that’s when I realized I wasn’t in a hospital. I was in a day care!
~~~
This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I’m a good person. I was a Boy-scout. I went to church every Sunday. I volunteered at a rape-crisis/domestic violence shelter for 8 years. I won the “Graduate Student of the Year” award—in Social Work no less. I was supposed to be fixing the world. I wasn’t the one who needed fixing! I was supposed to get a job in the government, end corruption, cure racism, and save the world. What am I doing in here? Why do I want to die so badly? Why is merely existing so utterly painful that I can’t think—except of blood and gore and stabbing myself in the eye with the nurse’s pen? Why am I having fantasies of drowning under a large ship? Why am I dreaming of jumping in front of a train and being obliterated? Lighting myself on fire? Why is violence the only language I can speak? It is exactly like the scene from A Clockwork Orange, where his eyes are taped open and he’s forced to watch all the violent, disgusting shit in the world, incessantly, without respite, until madness takes hold. I don’t want to see myself hurt myself. Why can’t I control my own brain and why is my brain forcing these, of all things, to be so vivid, so terrifyingly real? I was supposed to work at this hospital and fix people with no control over their brain, not be one!
My buzz from yesterday was finally completely gone and without alcohol on my side, all this was too much to take in. It had been months since I had been liquorless and every one of my nerves were exposed and being drilled—a root canal without anesthesia. Every individual object in the room was vibrating violently, all at different frequencies. The lighting was piercing and loud, a bully of a light. My heart pumped more blood than my arteries were built for and I could feel a pressure throughout my body from the inside, out. I realized, I might die and begin to voice my mantra I use during panic attacks, repeatedly, at the expense of looking foolish in front of these strangers: “Most people can’t, but I can. Most people can’t, but I. can. Most People Can’t. But I Can!” By sheer miracle, my doctor had just filled an order for my detox regimen. A nurse hands me two brilliant little blue pills, which I took with haste, spilling half the cup of water down my chin onto my paper shirt.
Valium latches to the same receptors as alcohol, so I got my first fix since my suicide attempt. I stopped twitching in excruciating pain, stopped sweating. I’m not exactly sure what I felt like—not happiness or ecstasy, just numbness, a feeling I’m used to, a feeling I’m good at. And for the first time that week, I slept. I slept with a lion’s commitment. I slept with the deadness of space and the nothingness of numbers. Like a jui jitsu master, I was so aggressively yielding that I finally won a battle with my malicious mind, by succumbing to it.
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Donating Plasma: Diary of an unemployed dude [true story]

Here’s another “Diary of an Unemployed Dude” story–Very Rough! just a sketch right now

“Donating”

The blood sample will determine how hydrated you are, so I always drink two pints of water before donating plasma so I’m not turned away for insufficient water funds. The six mile bike ride to the clinic is hot, sweaty, so I drink extra for those droplets I’ll sweat out. I also eat chorizo and eggs with bacon and ham because eating a high protein breakfast is claimed to help replenish your plasma–though I’m not positive that isn’t just the pork lobby’s position.

The first time you donate, there is a lengthy screening process, 3-4 hours, to ensure that your blood isn’t rotten and you aren’t a heroin gulping gigolo who sucks dick for bus money. Luckily, I only suck dick for Uber money, so I’m good.

I give them three vials and one straw sample of my blood. The first time I gave the straw sample, the same little prick as a TB test, I unfortunately did it on my left hand so I couldn’t play guitar for a week without tearing open the tiny hole. After the vampires confirm its tastiness, I proceed to a counselor’ s office for an interview: “Do you have AIDS.”

Oh shit, I know this one…”Ummmm, no! No I don’t.”

“Are you sure? You hesitated there a bit.”

“Uhhhh, pretty sure, yeah. I’m mean I’m not dead or anything. That’s gotta be a no-go on the AIDS then, right?”

“You wouldn’t necessarily experience symptoms in the first few months. Have you been recently tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections?”

“Not really. I don’t like to get tested cause it just reminds me of how long it’s been since I got laid. But last year my regular doctor ran some blood-work and everything came back clean. I don’t think I’ve sexed anyone up since then. But don’t tell anybody.”

“Well if you haven’t had sex in the last six months, our tests would pick it up.”

I whispered, “Yeah, it’s definitely been at least six months since I had some sex. Don’t tell anyone, though”

I continue to explain that I haven’t been to Africa, injected crack, worked on a farm, or had sex with an animal in at least two weeks. The counselor checks my arms and legs and feet for track marks, then I put my clothes back on. There is an organic side benefit to giving plasma: Anyone who’s poor enough to donate plasma for $20 cannot afford to see a doctor, but this screening of my body and health is far more thorough than any I’ve even gotten from my doc.

To ensure that I haven’t been tattooed in the past year, the counselor catalogs the location and design of each of my tattoos. Left inner forearm–The Giving Tree; Right leg–book and vine with words, “To live, is to be slowly born”; inside of bottom lip–travel toothbrush (so I can tell my dentist I brush my teeth everyday). She gets to my left bicep and asks, “what is that?”

I answer, “It’s a skateboarder. ”

She disagrees, “No it’s not. What is it?”

I volley back, “Yes. It is. It’s from a book by Austin-based artist Michael Seban. Growing up, before it became normal and cool, skateboarding made you an outcast, a nerd. While everyone was chasing girls and going to parties, we’d skate in the parking lot all night, so he drew the skateboarder real ugly to represent how us skateboarders didn’t fit in.”

“Ok, but I can’t put all that on this short line. You do understand that if someone does your next intake and finds anything even remotely different about any of your tattoos than what I write here, you will be banned for life from this clinic.”

“It’s a zombie.”

“Thank you.”

I sit in the waiting room for my name to be called. I have to pee, but the bathroom is behind the locked door and you aren’t allowed to leave the building once you start the intake process, less you shoot up or get a tattoo while you’re out.

Finally, I am allowed to enter the production line. I walk into the room and see a heard of humans laying in chair-beds with tubes in there arms sucking their blood. It looks like a scene from the Matrix. They only pay you $20-30 per donation, depending on your weight, but they charge hospitals hundreds. Radiolab did a great episode, Blood, which talked about the industry of blood and plasma—It’s a racket. Don’t believe those red cross people if they tell you you’re saving lives. You’re making money, for them.

The technician hands me a piece of foam to squeeze and keep the blood flowing in my arm. She sticks the needle into my arm, which hurts, but not much. The blood flows from me into there machine where the plasma, a water based solution with corpuscles and fat globules, is separated for sale on the biomarket. Once the pint glass is full, the machine returns the plasmaless blood to your vein. As the blood flows through the stainless steel needle it must pick up some of its essence because I can taste metal on my tongue and teeth.

The more blood that reenters my body, the more pain I feel until I can’t take it anymore, so I call for a nurse. She examines my arm and tells me I’ve been “Infiltrated”. This means that during the initial injection, the employee pushed the needle too far, past the back wall of the vein, so that the machine was pumping the blood, not into my vein where it belongs, but aimlessly into my flesh. It is quite painful.

After resticking me, now on my left arm, I sit watching the awful Fox News on the TV in front of me for the next hour. This is very boring, but it’s easy and the only money I can count on, selling my body, permanently, as little as the money may be. They call it Donating plasma, but I’m getting paid and so are they, so that’s a pretty far stretch if you ask me. I think, technically, they are “Donating” money to your bank account for your Time, not your plasma.

For whatever reason, everyone who works here is Slavic, though this isn’t a Slavic neighborhood. Wasn’t Dracula Slavic—I could never place his accent.

They pay you on a credit card, which sucks because, unlike the cash that they used to pay when I was in college, I get charged a usage fee each time I use the card or go to the ATM, so I’m not even getting the full $25!

Oh well, I got a little mullah in pocket, so I’m no longer a bum, no—I’m a hot twenty dollars away. Off to my Heroin Dealer! (jk mom) 😉

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to “Donate” plasma? What did I forget to mention? Any questions?

Lawsuit [true story]

 

Diary of an Unemployed Dude (a true story of one of the many things I did for money when I was unemployed)

Because of the Temporary Restraining Order, my friend wasn’t allowed to continue meeting with clients so I agreed to help out—for a small fee. We drove a few hours to an undisclosed location. I began handing out info and talking to various potential customers, as if I knew anything at all about the product. People talked to me and treated me like a professionl, though I have no idea why. Since the restraining order was not on me, I could legally engage with these people.

The lawsuit—a frivolous one really, but a lawsuit nonetheless—meant that my friend would have to stay clear of the task at hand, lest she be seen “Doing her job”. As I approach a random office, ready to solicit, a woman is at the closed door writing notes. She asks me what the flyers in my hand are for and I begin to give her my elevator pitch. She is extraordinarily interested and wants to know everything there is to know about the company and myself. Being on a covert mission I decide to answer her query with a spy name, “Doug. My name’s Doug.”

“Nice to meet you Doug. And your last name?”

“I don’t have a last name. I mean…I don’t give out my last name to strangers” I fart from my mouth, sounding like I’m five years old.

She writes “Doug” on her pad and asks me my supervisor’s name: “I don’t really work for the company, I just answered a Craigslist add to hand out flyers.” My story is becoming less believable by the second. I have to get out of there ASAP, but I’m afraid leaving mid sentence will be just as incriminating.

She hands me her business card which, of course, is from the company suing my friend’s company. Meanwhile, my friend is down the hall, jumping up and down and waving her hands so frantically that now I have to create a story, maintain a conversation, suppress my anxiety and stop myself from laughing, all at the same time. Thankfully, my friend ducks behind a wall like an out of shape ninja, so at least that’s one less distraction.

The enemy extends her hand and says “It was a pleasure to meet you. I’m Jane”

My reflex response, “Phil” exposes me. I wanted to keep my story straight—Doug, Doug, Doug! Damn it! It just popped out. I was caught! She crossed out “Doug” from her notes and wrote “Phil” while repeating my (Real) name. I rebounded, “No, Bill”, I said. At least it rhymed. It was a little more believable. She scratched out Phil and wrote Bill, thank god!

Ok. Now I HAD to get out of there. She asked for my last name again and I continued to explain why I don’t give people a last name—even though I’m trying to do business with them. She is quite beautiful and I’m wondering if I can find a way to ask her out before I leave. I might end up blowing my cover, but a fling with the enemy sounds sexy.

Instead I decide to begin a very labored sentence that is long enough for me to walk away and trail off with her fading in the background. I reunite with my friend, who won’t look or talk to me and we walk, sort of together, back to the parking lot. She walks not on the sidewalk, but on the grass under the shadows from the trees about 10 feet in front of me—as if that’s less suspicious.

Definitely not as smooth as we would have hoped, but we should be out of the clear now. I get my money for the few minutes of work and we decide to call it a day early for fear of being further exposed. We grab lunch at a favorite restaurant, where we are very much enjoying our burgers, until the enemy walks into the bar. Luckily, my friend and I are sitting at the bar, so we aren’t necessarily together and my friend and the enemy have never seen each other before. We very calmly finish our lunch without speaking a single word to each other. I go to the restroom and text the escape plan to my friend. We pay in cash so we don’t have to talk to the bartender about the check at all. My friend leaves and waits in the car. I walk past the bar and open the door when the bartender yells, “Hey mister, your friend forgot her flyers!”

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unemployment and masculinity: Journal entry

Unemployment and Masculinity

Many times, I’ve heard the question on the radio or TV: “Does it bother you that your wife makes more money than you?” and wondered how someone could ask such a stupid question? Though unbelievable, more than one time the interrogated uttered an even stupider sentence: “Yes.”

The fact that this is a question that our society even finds askable, shows how insecure and disconnected we are. I would love to have a lover that could take me on trips to Europe and show me things I cannot afford myself. I’ll even stay home and play with the kids all day—sounds way better than drudging to a job I hate, in a cubicle without sunlight, staring at a computer all day. I’ve had sugar mamas before and it, is, AWESOME!

But seriously, I would never date someone because of their money. I’m too easily annoyed to be capable of spending time with someone I don’t like, and I’m not even capable of faking my emotions. But if I enjoy being with you and you want to go somewhere I can’t afford, so much that you want to pick up the check to make it happen—That doesn’t make me feel emasculated. If anything I feel sexy that you want to be with me that badly.

On the other hand, as an adult, I like to contribute my fair share to anything, whether financial, or dishwashing responsibilities, driving on a road trip, etc. And not just within romantic relationships, but among friends, family, or even strangers; If there is an elderly person on a packed bus, of course I’m going to offer them my seat.

When unemployed, I have often had to limit my decisions based on whether someone is going to pay for my ticket, meal, lap-dance (JK) and it makes me feel like a child.  I moved out after high school and for the past 16 years I have always paid for my own way, so for me, it is a status I’m not used to.

There have been times when unemployed when nearly %100 of my everything is being paid for by my family or friends. That is a bit emasculating to me (not less male, but less Adult male). Especially in our highly capitalistic, highly materialistic culture, not spending money, can make you feel a little less human, strangely.

And what about dating? How am I gonna keep the conversation going on the first date when the icebreaker comes my way: “So what do you do?” and I halt the train with, “Nothing.” Surely many women are comfortable and generous enough to stay with lovers when times get tough, but to START dating someone? I’ve had to take every date to the Lincoln Park Zoo, cause it’s free. I know most of the large mammals by their names!

All jokes aside, it can be hard to ask for help, instead of “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps”. But sometimes, it is necessary, and sometimes it is even beautiful. I wish we could all take care of each other more often Money is our god in this country—they say never lend a friend money, if you want to keep the friend—so it can be hard to feel valuable, worthwhile, beautiful, sexy, smart, or dignified when you have to ask, “Hey, can you spot me?” But it is humbling, an that’s always something all of us can use more of–I  know I can.

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First Date [poem]

I admired you through a telescope for 18 years.
Somehow, this shooting star fell into my backyard.
I asked, with bated breathe,
“Will you go to an improv show with me?”
My stars were aligned and thank heavens, you agreed.
Car-less, you picked me up in your Xterra
I said hi with a hug–
touched your freshly-lotioned, muscular shoulder,
inhaled the lavender cascading down your hair.
The music was thoughtfully turned down, so we could talk.
you regaled me with your trip from the stars down to earth.
I tried to impress you with any story I was proud of–pushing the limits of truth,
cause I wanted you to like me so badly.
you smiled and giggled, like a Geisha without fear.
a smile like kryptonite to my doubts and inhibitions.
your giggle–a kiddie-roller-coaster,
gently moving me in spirals,
up and down.
Though I hadn’t seen this white-dwarf
since she flew in a different constellation
light-years away, eons ago,
we collided so naturally–generating our own black-hole,
where nothing we let into each other that night, would ever leave either of us
not even the light gleaming from your eyes.
We sat with excitement, to see the performers–
none more than the performer sitting next to us,

to see if each other was as talented
as we dreamed we could be.

Improv is not for everyone,
but she was smart enough to get it
quick enough to follow the tangled storylines
funny enough to laugh without pretense
and fun enough to laugh when the jokes made no sense.
Our first adventure was so synced
what we both needed,
what we had yearned for.
The whole world was magic,
every molecule appreciated,
the possibilities were on fire.
Our hearts skipped a beat
but then danced to catch up.
the air was so intoxicating
we asked for autographs from the volunteer performers
on the stubs of our free tickets.

We walked to the truck
hand in hand,
with the organic ease
of an old couple walking down the beach they were married on
50 years past.
Of course I took your hand–it fit so perfectly in mine.
Off course I took your hand–you were so
open and sweet
like a perfectly ripe peach
ready to eat.
like you loved me all along,
my hand just followed your lead.
There was no question at all,
that this night was pure bliss
and we both wanted to end it
the way it began
on fire–
though we had no plan,
we both knew just where to land.
I stopped you before
you could fork toward
the driver’s side door.

I let you get closer, slower–no need to rush.
We both knew we wanted to touch more
than we’d ever before.
I looked at you plainly–
no sexy smirk, no tricks, no questions or smiles,
just peaceful eyes–
smiling as they do,
touching just to say ‘hi’ the way eyes do,
to say “it’s time, let’s savor the moment, as you let free your lips”.
We floated deliberately to meet with a kiss.
a kiss so sure.
a kiss so brave–you let me touch your most vulnerable private part–your lips.
and I held them with mine
to show you you’re safe.
I held your face in my hands
so you wouldn’t escape
till I painted my love for you
with my lips on your face.
We both knew immediately–it was love at first bite.
It seemed foolish to say out loud,
but we both knew this was true love.
The star I had wished on
had fallen from heaven to let me orbit her, and worship her,
bask in her life-giving light.
As she’s basked in mine
since that very first night.

Transracial Identity: what are the limits to Identity?

Though this fake-ad from Salvo Magazine has an agenda, the philosophical, ethical, and potentially-political fiat is relevant:

Whereas, Gender and Race are socially constructed concepts on a spectrum, which may diverge from biological norms, and

Whereas, Gender is understood as mobile, controllable,  and protected as a human right,

Race must also be understood and protected as such.

Caveat: Recent scientific research generally agrees that there is no object scientific thing as race. Biologically, two “White” people may have less in common genetically than either has with a “Black” person, who may in turn have more in common with a Chinese person than someone from their own country of origin.

As transgenderism and non-cisgenderism become more widely excepted and celebrated, the inevitable question arises: which aspects of our selves can be or should be protected and where do we draw the line, if we choose to draw one at all.

In a vacuum, the recent populous view that gender should be open to choice by each individual, would transcribe to an individual’s right to choose their race, from social transactions to racial-reassignment surgery. Though sympathizing and supporting sex-reassignment may be an easy act of love for many progressives and queer activists, Racial reassignment likely leaves an undefinable sourness on your tongue. This may be due to the historic context in which one’s “Race” has been used as an excuse to enslave, murder and rape, as well as subversive movements such as the “Black is Beautiful” and “Red-Pride” slogans designed to promote self-love in spite of social pressures to conform and assimilate.

But non-males/ non-hetero males have been similarly raped, murdered, and enslaved–There are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in history and the vast, absolutely overwhelming majority are women. Women were granted the right to vote in this country after former slaves and people of color. With this in mind, though Female-to-Male (less privileged to more) Reassignment is more prevalent, MTF accounts for about 25% of sex reassignment surgeries (SRS) in the US (Gender Center). Would Racial reassignment be similarly distributed, more balanced, or racing to one race? Many studies have found that when someone identifies as both a marginalized gender/sexuality and a marginalized race, racial identity tends to trump sexual/gender identity (Violence against WomenRacial Identity, Masculinity and Homosexuality in the Lives of Young Black Men).

Tangential questions that elective-surgery prompt: what constitutes the self? Which, if any, parts of the body constitute one’s self? and What are the limits of identity?  Many “Wannabes” around the world have an immutable urge to have elective amputations, feeling that they won’t be whole until their body is divided (Wannabe), while those with Phantom Limbs (Ted Talk) still feel parts of their body that are no longer there. Sergio Canavero (head transplant) plans to conduct the first human head transplant–Dogs have already had head transplants, but only lived for up to 7 days (still pretty impressive/scary). Would this really be a body-transplant? If so, would the body have different rights than the head? For example, if the body had raped and murdered someone, would the resulting human pastiche have the right to vote? In our brain-centric culture/paradigm, the answer may seem obviously yes, but heart-transplants have been observed to have much influence on a person’s tastes and personality; How much influence would the presence of an entire body, the result of decades of architecture and experience, have?

How important are physical characteristics to our psychological well-being? Amputees (who don’t happen to be Wannabes), survivors of severe burns, and others with drastic, sudden physical changes often suffer from severe depression and reported loss of identity, but how different are the effects when that physical change is sought after and planned for, and what are the limits? Where do I stop being a better looking version of Phil and become a stranger with a fragmented identity of self?

These questions may seem sensational and lacking relevance to some, but so did many questions around non-cis gender/sexuality, sexual reassignment surgery, and the limits of individuality/identity, before movements around the world opened our eyes to how many millions of people face these questions everyday. Moreover, with the fields of genetic manipulation and ever more complex surgeries becoming commonplace, these are questions we will no doubt have to answer as citizens, policy-makers, and most importantly, as sentient Humans.

Identity is more than a name or a social security number. It is an essential foundation to our happiness, decision making process, and ability to navigate the social and physical worlds in which we live. Like never before, we will have to fight for our rights to identity and choose which we will celebrate and which we will not.

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