So when I last left you readers I was pondering an indoor soccer team to honor my lost family members- and less than a month later I have almost twenty players signed up and two teams under the Panther Elite banner. We also were just featured on the front page of the Sunday Concord Monitor newspaper- so yeah a lot of big things happening this past month.
I am making sandwiches. Chicken, turkey, ham, on a small sub role with cheese. I am my sister making lunches for her kids- my kid’s just happen to be over a baker’s dozen of soccer players who don’t always have enough food at home. So I hit the grocery store on game days, and then to Dick’s to buy three pairs of indoor soccer shoes for the game tonite, and to look for a goalie jersey with the padding for my rec team goalie- the goalie gloves I just bought him are already broken in from all the practice he does at the park by his apartment complex. There is no soccer nets there but he makes do regardless. They didn’t have any youth sizes so I venture to the soccer speciality store next to the rat pizza arcade with the animatic prog rock band and find the perfect jersey; the one with the special padding on the elbow to help cushion his dives on all the goals he will stop.
I am currently better at making sandwiches then winning games. My sandwiches work well together- the cheese spilts in perfect half to evenly cover the sub roll, the meat nestles in between the cheese- as the bread engulfs it all in a warm hug. My team has yet to gel so perfectly. Although we are supremely talented we have yet to come together as a team. We haven’t won any games yet-we are 0-4, but my talent for delicious sandwich making is spreading and apparently getting players wanting to sign up for the team. Also spreading is the fundraising efforts for funding the team. I am overwhelmed, and humbled by the generosity shown so far. We have raised almost $3, 000 dollars so far!
I think one thing I want to highlight is where these kids come from, and the horrors they have endured. After the newspaper story came out my smallest player, who I am pretty sure is so strong he can carry twice his body weight, and can also charm you with a smile even when when he is being mischievously naughty, asked “So, Coach your brother killed your sister.” I told him yes, and he looked at me perplexed, “Why not you too?“ So I told him, “My brother was suicidal, and she went over to help him. But his brain was broken- like he wasn’t himself because he was sick. So he didn’t mean to kill them it just happened. And that’s why he didn’t kill me. He didn’t mean to kill anyone.” “Ohhh…ok.” Fully satisfied with that answer he got into line simply stating, “I am going to get breakfast now Coach.”
The interaction was unique in he didn’t react in the typical American student fashion- the idea of murder of family was not a unique concept to him and he was more curious at the why he did it. He also approached to ask me very straight forward in the same way he would ask what time the game was- or was he starting tonight.
I coach kids from Nepal, Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, and beyond. Some have arrived as recently as 2019-others as far back as 2012. The Assistant Manager- my nickname because his brain sees soccer better than his body allows him too right now- lost his brother in a car accident this past summer. Sometimes he speaks as he is still alive- even though he understands he is dead. I get it- sometimes it’s just easier to think of that person as still alive because their presence still burns so hard in your heart. These players come from families with intense trauma. They have witnessed their family killed, raped and kidnapped. So my goal is to make lasting new memories from them. Whether the pure enjoyment they get from blasting and singing along to CJ’s Whoopty and being addicted to blue cheese on the ride home from games, or gorging on the mouth watering chocolate covered pretzels my mother expertly baked for them-
it’s trying to make this team as much as family as possible, and give them the confidence they might be lacking. And while our record and on field teamwork is experiencing some growing pains- we are filling the net with memories that can never be forgotten. Which to get corny for a minute is all that really fucking matters in the end.
I think one of the biggest torments of severe depression- or any bout with any debilitating mental health issue- is the absolute solitude nature of its torture. The anger, sadness, and frustration intensifies inside you without anywhere to go becoming a venomous arrow paralyzing you to the world outside of your own thoughts. You become a volcano whose eruption only blows up itself- it’s lava pouring back inside the earth leaving the ground trembling with flaming fears. Such intense self-reflection leads to at times periods where our lenses to life are skewed to reality. Self-absorption becomes our sin because connection to others seems so far away- a distant land too many miles to seek out alone. When you are in the midst of a depressive bout the ability to actively connect with others is a foreign language. Spoken words are never understood anyway when you yourself have lost your voice. So you turn even more inwards losing your connection to the outside world.
For me that loss can plummet to even greater depths where death seems like the best option available. When life is strangling you slowly then suicide seems the comforting solution over that ever present drudgery; that is a life that seems to be rather a slow death suffocating all glimpses of hope, love, and life out of it-dooming you to a life lived cursed as a hollow tomb- a Monet to the outside world- but strictly walking dead inside. It’s not that suicide is ever truly appealing- it’s thought of peace it brings that becomes so alluring.
Thinking back to the past seems more like a vivid nightmare than real life-years either seem closer to the past, or, further from the future then they actually are. A kaleidoscope calendar fills out the remnants of my memories of these fractured times.
Back in those dark days gratitude lists got me by. I learned that when your brain is fighting itself you have to become like the dirtiest player in the game, Ric Flair, and use any tactic at hand to win. The brain can’t think of two things at once- so no matter how bad your depression, sadness, anger, fear, or any of the smorgasbord of emotions that are occurring at the time are- you can always mindfully take a moment to barrage it with some goodwill. Because at the times when you are feeling that low it’s those bright moments you can always cling to as you struggle to climb forward. So use gratitude like Omar used his shotgun and leave your brain shook shouting, “Gratitude Coming” across all hemispheres.
Using gratitude is one of the simplest tools you have at your disposal in battling these ailments. Whether it’s starting each day by listing five things on paper, keeping a gratitude journal, or just focusing on a tiny comfort in life like fresh socks and underwear will guarantee your first thoughts each waking morning will be full of positivity, hope, and thankfulness. With practice those peaceful moments can expand to peaceful mornings, afternoons, and beyond. Remember the practice of gratitude is just like lifting weights- the more you work at it the stronger you become. And with that strength comes a better connection to oneself and the world around it. Gratitude started me on my journey to wellness, and you best believe it is indeed part of my “code to living” till this day.
One thing I have learned is closure never comes just because you want it- It only comes like a fog covered peak after miles and miles of a laborious trek. Birthdays are a great time to reflect- I turned 39 the other day and was grateful for how much closure I was recently granted. Closure has come for me many times these past two years- first from myself, from the murders, and lastly the former lovers hearts I gripped way too tight- using them as a substitute for alcohol when life was too frightening to deal with shieldless. My actions when the alcohol returned forever ruined those relationships- leaving me with handfuls of frays of ember burning my skin while I clung to the glimpse of peace they once offered was a truly hard drug to give up. My intoxicated actions forever haunt me- and hopefully this SOS will greet them with peace. It’s the least I hope for those hearts I treated with such previously cruelty in the end. It was never my intention- but that’s the problem in intention- or your reasoning, or any bullshit excuse- it never changes how these actions affected others. I am learning from my failures- the process is ever going- so I am honoring those loves from the past by knowing I will be treating the loves of my future with all the wisdom and care I wished I could have experienced with and giving to them. It’s not enough I know- but it’s the only way I know on how to forge ahead.
My current penance has been reflection- taking a year to remove myself from any romantic relationships with any female- be it mental or physical. I really had to learn who I was on my own-without the alcoholic buffer- to realize what I truly offer a future partner- or even what I am looking for or need in one myself. I am writer- a romantic in love with the chaos of beauty- the passion of instant intense connection- usually formed in unique situations that burn so hot in the beginning that no matter what it’s doomed to an ember ending- smoke signals of cruelty. A love only wonderful in prose- but a disaster in reality. Itself an addiction from reality sealed with a kiss. When two tragedies collide it’s not a recipe for romance- but always disaster. A happy ending is never in a tragedy’s future- no matter how much you will it.
So now I trek tenderly ahead. Avoiding the fire and easing into the ocean of connectivity. Treading softly for the future hearts I may encounter.
It’s just over 365 days since my last sip of the devil’s elixir. That’s one year alcohol free-it’s got me feeling like I am CM Punk. It’s funny it probably took me about eight years just for this one year to happen. The amount of time I spent in the ring boxing with the legends of depression, ptsd, anxiety, and booze earned me a PHD in getting my ass whipped. In those early fights I hadn’t learned yet not to lead with my chin-or leave my body exposed for those breath crunching kidney shots that will have you pissing a red amber color witnessed only by fisherman on nights when the sea turn angry. Over the years those rounds left me bruised, beating, and frozen with scars of failure. I couldn’t properly fight back because I had grown accustomed to the misery- that misery seemed the lesser of the two evils- the latter being honestly and truly exploring my emotions to find the root cause of my pain, and engaging in a plan of action to overcome it. I began to be more comfortable living in the misery of the terror- than in the thought of embracing the horror of what was to come. Some rounds I become so intoxicated with hate and anger I would just take an old school beating like Rocky Balboa-just to feel the pain. Other times I would come out swinging- knocking down some of these foes- but always eventually forgetting my way- and getting knocked out once again. Eventually I learned to slip a punch or two, and jab when needed. I learned I could take a punch, and punch right back- till eventually I learned my own unique fighting style and began knocking out these demons one by one.
My loyal readers will know that this blog started out as an outlet to try to find some clarity- well let’s be fucking honest- it was so I wouldn’t kill myself. I was at a point where my head was slowly convincing me that death was a good idea- and I knew if I wrote about it honestly it would be out there- a reality because it was typed. I couldn’t pretend everything was all right if the internet already knew the truth. So began my long complicated journey for mental health clarity, and I knew the only way to get there was to eliminate alcohol. It was the one x-factor that clouded all judgement- and conveniently also been my most effective and best developed coping mechanism since graduating college. Alcohol by the end only brought out the ugly in me. All my self hatred came out through vicious words and thoughtless actions. I still feel the sting of this in wondering if some friendships just became lost due to time and miles away- or did my years living in between blackouts destroy it. Those things still haunt me. Choosing alcohol over love that still haunts me. But alcohol, itself, that shit doesn’t haunt me anymore.
For I learned it never really held any power over me- rather I allowed it to be all powerful over me because it seemed the most endurable terror at the time. Luckily I found you don’t have to endure terror if you are willing to grind for mental peace instead. So grind I did, and one year later I am booze free. And now mostly demon free. Still a work in progress- but now a much less haunted one.
And thanks for all those that been reading from the start- I promise I will post more from now on.
Baseball opens up this week- which honestly does not excite me as much as I thought it would. I am still mad the Red Sox did not pay Mookie Betts, and instead traded him and World Series hero David Price for a bucket of balls. In a sport with no salary cap, and homegrown super star, who is arguably the second best player in the game, to be traded at 27 years old is disgusting. But I will admit the many Works Series rings the Red Sox have won the past 15 years has quelled the anger a bit. But it did make me reminisce to the day when I truly believed I never would see a Red Sox title, and back to the worst year of my life 2004. And from all that tragedy a mammoth Dominican named David Ortiz saved my life- or at least my hope. So I have remixed a story from my MFA novel about the stubborn faith of hope, and the unlikely saviors who show you it exists.
I have to admit something now that I should take to my grave. I think I used to be a Yankees fan.
I want to think I might be making this Yankee story up because could I really have rooted for something so evil? I can’t fathom doing it, but then again why would I make up anything so terrible? It’s definitely a repressed memory as if the Yankees molested me in my youth. I picture having to go on the stand while Don Mattingly looks at me from the defense stand, wispy moustache and all, and winks at me as the prosecutor brought out a doll and asked me where he made me put the New York hat. It’s all too horrifying to remember.
What made me think of this memory was a vision of me at four years old in New Jersey, and standing on the doorstep of my uncle Chris’s house decked out in a full baseball uniform. The uniform had pinstripes. It wasn’t red either. I think I am going to be sick.
I was also going going to be sick because my uncle Chris was at work, and his wife Gi Gi was going to make breakfast. In my memory she is Jersey through and through, and seemed like she could have been a mob wife—you know, polyester pant suit and all, and she probably had big hair. What I do remember distinctly was how she used about a dozen eggs, shells included, to make the worst scrambled eggs in the history of all scrambled eggs. If they made a shiny medal to inadequate and god-awful eggs, she would have won. I am not sure she understood the concept of cooking, but at least to her benefit she gave it the old college try.
So here I am, a chubby little four –year-old Babe Ruth, sitting at the kitchen table covering my plate of eggs in mountains of ketchup that made these runny eggs look like they were hemorrhaging blood, and all the while trying to be polite and eat what’s in front of me in a fucking Yankees uniform. This was a memory that should have stayed suppressed.
In 2003 I thought it was our year. When you’re a Red Sox fan every season has to be the year. But now this was the year. I was living in apartment right off of the UNH campus with Loafy and Justin. Loafy and I had started a tradition to celebrate each Red Sox victory by table diving. Table diving was exactly how it sounds. We had a long hallway in our apartment with a table we used to play drinking games on. The table was blue and sturdy as hell. It had to be through all the abuse we put it through. The goal of table diving was to stand at the far end of the hallway while we flipped the table on one its ends, so when you impacted it you would be able to ride it to the other side off the hallway and be catapulted off as the table landed back on its other side. If you took the table at the wrong angle, you would fly off the side and into the wall where there were a few holes to commemorate table divers whose dives went off course. After each Red Sox win I would wake up bruised and hung-over. And yet after every Sox win I would stare down the table, start running, and leap into that table with sheer exhilaration knowing that any bruise I received was worth it to dismiss eighty- five years of torture.
After the Red Sox won their first playoff series against Oakland, it seemed as if all of UNH headed downtown to celebrate. The police would say we went to riot. The next day on front of the page of the UNH school paper was a picture of Loafy standing on top of a car, “Howard Dean for President,” t-shirt prominently displayed across his chest, leading a chant of “Yankees Suck,” with the headline, “UNH Comes Close to a Responsible Celebration.”
After the Oakland win the Red Sox were going against the dreaded Yankees for the right to go the World Series. Seven games later it was not our year. Aaron F’N Boone broke our hearts in the twelfth inning of game seven, launching a home run off Tim Wakefield. This was only after Grady Little inexplicitly left Pedro Martinez in for too long in the eighth inning and set up our doomed fate. It was as if the Gods were conspiring to make the Red Sox lose in the most brutal ways possible. I felt as if I was at Guantanamo Bay with a battery charger hooked up to my genitals. Why do the Yankees always win?
Then 2004 came and a 6’4”, nearly 300 -pound Dominican man restored my faith. His name was David and he slayed the Goliath of baseball. Everyone writes about the Red Sox winning the World Series after so many heart-wrenching and heartbreaking losses over and over again. Jimmy Fallon even made a horrible movie about it that no true Red Sox fan can stomach. If someone tells you that they like that movie know they are probably some asshole Cowboys fan who grew up in San Diego and has a Yankees ball cap in their closest. But the 2004 series was more than baseball to me. This was a referendum to me that life wasn’t futile and just full of heartbreaking pain. I am not talking about heaven, religion, or any of that bullshit. I am talking about real life miracles. This was a team that was down and out and on the verge of a humiliation, and most importantly elimination. No team comes back from this. History has taught us this much. Who could ever in the wildest dreams think the Sox could come back? We are talking about a team down three games to none to an evil empire that has feasted off and inflicted so much misery on them throughout history. They were the smug villain in the Eighties movies with the hot girlfriend, and here I was rooting for the Ducky of baseball, a team destined to always be second rate. Good guys only overcome these odds in the safety of cinema.
People love to belittle sports as not meaning anything. It’s just a game they say, and of course it’s just a game. But the magic is found in it is its ability to transcend one’s life, and for a few hours make us believe in the impossible. It’s a never-ending novel with twists and turns and the Red Sox was the protagonist I followed through all the bad times and well, more bad times. Sports have this unique ability to put the gifted on a pedestal, where they either succeed or fail on the grandest stage possible. There are statistics to judge them, and championships at the end to reward them. Life is never this uncomplicated. So when I was feeling the worst in life I turned to the Red Sox for hope. Sure, in the end they wouldn’t bring back what I lost, but they could bring something I thought I had lost, and that was hope. And no matter how much life throws at you, you can never let hope escape from you. If you lose hope, your fate is doomed. So I rooted for the Sox with this in mind, knowing after what I just experienced something good had to happen.
The first night I went out on town after my sister, niece, and nephew were murdered was game three of the divisional series and the Yankees were already up two games to none. I was with Justin and we were barhopping in Portsmouth. The goal was to get drunk. Rip-roaring, shouting- at –the-moon, biting –the- heads- off- bats drunk. We succeeded. But every pint I threw back or shot I took didn’t change how I felt. The Red Sox was how I felt and they played like it. Every inning the score was worse. Every bar we hopped to welcomed us with another Yankee run. It was 19-7 by the end, and I was blacked out. It was fitting the Yankees won with a score that resembled the last time the Red Sox won a World Series. As I puked on someone’s flowerbed it all seemed too fitting. The Red Sox always lost. At least some things hadn’t changed.
I watched game four in my parents’ basement curled up on a futon with a blanket that could be pulled over my eyes to shield me from the inevitable loss I was about to witness. I needed to watch this alone. Rooting for the Sox was I guess like putting faith in religion. You know it’s going to fail you in the end, but each year you still blindly follow, hoping that your endurance and faith will be rewarded.
I spent most of the game with an impending sense of dread. Even if they won this game, there was no way they could pull of four straight. They were playing the Yankees, Curt Schilling was hurt, and these are the Red Sox. I love them, but they are fuck-ups when it comes to winning the big game. I pondered turning the channel. Maybe watch a cooking show on the Food Channel, or a reality show on VHI. Hell, maybe read a book. Or even fly a kite. Anything seemed like it would be better than torturing myself with this game. But I am a masochist, hence a Red Sox fan, and I had to watch every minute, as gruesome as it may turn out to be.
Everything was going according to plan. The Yankees were winning going into the ninth and quite possibly the greatest closer in baseball, Mariana Rivera, was coming in for the close. The Sox were a run down and with him on the mound that might as well be ten runs. Rivera does not blow this save. The Yankees don’t blow this game. History taught us this. But I still blindly believed. I needed to believe in something. So why not the impossible?
And then the impossible happened. Kevin Millar walked and the atmosphere at the stadium changed. I looked at the clock it was 11:58, not quite midnight, but midnight in a perfect world was about to happen. It was like every Red Sox fan was hit by lightning and suddenly realized, you know, we might be able to win this after all. Dave Roberts pinch ran for Millar, and we all knew he was going to try to steal second. If this was a movie, Dave Roberts would have been the aging star, down on his luck, and his career in its twilight. He would know his fate was to steal this base. In the movie everything would slow down. Roberts would saunter out to first and dig in with his cleats, kicking dirt and slowly building his lead from first. The pitcher would stare down the plate and then Roberts at first. The sweat would be sneaking down the pitcher’s skin and he would rifle a throw over to first to try to keep Roberts close. Roberts would dive back safe. Roberts would dust himself off and build his lead again. The pitcher would sneak another look back and then fire a fast ball to the plate. Roberts would be off with the pitch. The camera would pan the crowd leaping to its feet, and cut back in slow motion to the pitch hitting the catcher’s glove with a loud thud and the catcher rifling the throw to second. Then there would be silence as Roberts slid into the back of the second base bag and the tag is applied on him. The umpire would then appear to signal he was safe. The crowd would roar.
And this really just happened! Roberts just stole second! Roberts stole second! Holy shit! I need to high-five something. I’ll high-five myself. Any other game he gets thrown out. But he did it, and Rivera was rattled. This was like when Hulk Hogan slammed Andre the Giant. The impossible just happened and for once you knew the Sox were going to pull this off. Robert’s steal had put the Yankees on the rope, and then Bill Mueller’s single into left them staggering as Roberts scored to tie the game. We were headed to extra innings.
In the bottom of the 12th inning David Ortiz strolled to the plate with fate on his side. Fenway erupted with cheers, and was willing Papi to come through. I was sitting on the futon emotionally drained. But as Papi dug into the batter’s box, and did his ritual of spitting into the hands of his batting gloves, I felt nothing but hope. For once I truly believed the Red Sox were going to come through. And just like that he rocketed the next pitch out of the yard for a home run to win the game. I was in shock. My face was wet with tears, but I was smiling.
This win had helped me find something I feared was lost forever. This meant more to me than any baseball game will ever mean again. You have to realize I never felt worse in my life. My sister and her two kids, whom I adored more than anything in the world, were dead. And I was rooting for a team that cultivated misery, and I assumed they would lose and I could wallow in my pity. I expected that. I mean who wouldn’t? But in the matter of a few hours I went from debating changing the channel because I didn’t need any more heartbreak in my life, to watching the Sox rally on the of the greatest closers in history, and Big Papi hit a 12th inning game-winning home run. The hope they gave me meant more than anything in life. I questioned my faith so much, so to combat this I put all my faith in the Sox, assuming they would fail. But they didn’t. There was hope for me after all.
I get it that people look down on sports as an art form, but those baseball players for the Sox renewed my faith in mankind. Isn’t real art determined by the impact it has on you emotionally? If the Sox can come back even for one game against the evil of the world, that meant I too could overcome the pain that was trapped inside me. Thank God for Big Papi because with one swung he changed everything.
The Red Sox went on to do the impossible by coming back from 3-0 hole to their most hated rival, something that had never happened in the history of baseball before, and then went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series. Eighty-six years of baggage forever gone, which proved to me you can’t change your history, but you can change your destiny.
The last couple posts I been talking about failure a lot, and one thing I am glad I failed at was committing suicide. I am not going to lie, I kinda half assed it. I didn’t follow any of the the Gravediggaz advice from “1-800-Suicide.”
I didn’t run to the zoo and lock myself in a lion’s den, didn’t confront an alligator and let it eat me raw, or even just hang myself with a fucking barbed wire. Nor did I even follow the plan I had thought of before. To be honest it just kinda happened- it was very passive. I just got to the point where I didn’t want to feel, and didn’t care if that meant not waking up the next day. It started with mixing Ativan and a pint of vodka. That combo proved too weak- it just left me feeling sober. My existence was still on fire- my skin a vampire in the sun. So I added a big bottle of wine to the mix. And still nothing. My brain was still firing missiles in all directions; a kamikaze bombing of my consciousness creating a maze out of doubt, fear, and self-hatred. I was blinded, lost, and just wanted out so next I found an almost full bottle of gabapentin and those easily found their way down my neck into my belly. And finally a handful of sleeping pills to blot out the rest of my existence. Then I found the peace of my bed. I laid down and enjoyed the high I was finally feeling. I had no fear left. I was weirdly at peace that maybe the next morning I wouldn’t wake up; a feeling I wish to never have ever again. The morning did come and I was grateful as hell to see that sun. You see I don’t want to die, and I sure as hell don’t want to live in a world of numbness. My brain loves to trick me into that existence, but today I fight it with the guerrilla warfare that is mindfulness. It is with ruthless aggression I fight for my existence. I am dropping nuclear bombs on the tricks my mind uses to play on me, and embracing the love that surrounds me. Today I want to fucking live, and that feels pretty damn good.
My dear readers you can rejoice for I have returned. I apologize for the delay but my brain’s been a bit foggy these days. The words scattered in my skull; my thoughts a jigsaw puzzle floating through outer space as I desperately fly to each piece to sort them together. The aftermath of my last post led to a stay in the hospital where I came off a cocktail of 8 meds to a new lean new two piece of a mood stabilizer with a shot of antidepressant. So far I feel decent- not too high, not too low. So of course for me that means I feel uncomfortable. It’s funny how we get so comfortable in those undesirable emotions such as turmoil, depression, fear, or pain. Those feelings are like a warm blanket to me compared to contentment, and well just the fucking normalcy of the day. I also hadn’t been able to write so I thought I would cure it with a drink. I figured the drink would spark everything back and break me out of the void I had falling into. In reality it was just my brain tricking me into a return to an old comfortable feeling- the numbness and escape that first sip brings. The fleeting myth you chase every time you succumb to your poison. So I embedded myself into the alcohol, like a journalist in a war town country to a squadron, and gave in and drank. And of course James Baldwin did not enter my soul and come out through words on my paper. In fact the only words that did were lies to myself and others. The lie that alcohol can somehow make me whole- while in reality it’s just making the hole inside me even bigger. The hole of self doubt, hatred, insecurity, and fear. The hole you fall into where lies become the safety net. The hole you know you will eventually be buried in if you keep down the path that the drink wants from you. And a hole dug so deep I didn’t want to tell anyone I had fallen into it again. So I just pretended it didn’t happen, and let the halo on top of my head fashion into a noose. That noose got so tight I needed a drink to loosen it- and since I hadn’t shared my shameful secret from the night before the alcohol slipped right in like a Viking from the shore. His battle-axe a pint of vodka to my heart. I know my defense now is just being honest. Being vulnerable letting everyone know I failed another alcohol test. I gave in like a chump. But through failure comes knowledge. A loss is the best way to learn how to win. So I woke up early determined to write words. To prove to myself I don’t need alcohol to write. To prove to myself I don’t need alcohol to live. And to prove to myself finally I don’t need alcohol to survive. So today, July 15th, I declare my goddamn independence from that demon alcohol. And already I feel that noose loosening from my neck as the sun gently rises on a new day ahead, and I embrace this new journey where getting really fucking uncomfortable is going to be me striving for my new norm.
For my loyal readers sorry for the lack of writing. I am trying to clear my overloaded platter of prescription drugs and dropping them down until I can be on one or two that truly address my needs. A basic detox or prescription meds and alcohol ain’t ideal. I have felt like a kid on a backyard trampoline without that net fence. Some weeks I am jumping higher than I can imagine kissing the clouds with no worry. Then the next week I jump the clouds are too high, and fall onto the freshly mowed grass with a thud- my body imprinted into the land forever. Last night was the worst I mixed Ativan and a full bottle of wine and two beers. For some reason that was not enough to shutter out the suicidal thoughts I was having. So I decided to drown those feelings with a little less than three fourths of a bottle of gabapentin, and baker’s dozens of trazadone. And I honestly at the time wouldn’t have minded staying in a slumber forever. Luckily I awoke- still messed up a bit- but alive. I am headed to the hospital for an inpatient stay. But I will have a lot more writing coming when I get out. And most importantly if you need help for suicidal or harmful thoughts reach out!!! Reach the fuck out!!! Because I really wished I had.
Chapter 6 – What’s An Adjective- an excerpt from my novel from 2008 discussing race, white privilege, and being a white lover of rap music since birth. A man who grew up surrounded by whiteness, trying to write about race. I just tried to be honest- please let me know where I failed.
Like Eggers’ before me I can guarantee to you that when I see a young black man holding a baby I will smile. I tell you this for a few reasons. First so you like me. I really need you to like me so I can be completely honest with you readers. I mean, sure, I am full of anger and prone to drunken bouts of pure asshole, but for the most part I am a good guy. In fact I am pretty color-blind as well. Well, not the bullshit liberal sense of not being able to see color, which in itself is racist as fuck and puts a blind eye to the challenges people of color endure, but in the sense of not basing judgements based off of it.
But I am not going to lie because I make judgments of people every day based on their appearance. It’s why we use adjectives. Us writers love them because they not only put things into cute categories; but they are also a good for use with people. That’s why when I was asked by a black man named D, “What’s an adjective?” It struck me as this could be the beginning of a story. Actually I did not think that at all but we can pretend that right? So let us start over with a story about an adjective. And you are probably wondering the time frame of this is and well we are in spring 2007 now.
This adjective question would be asked by D, a musician from the Marcy Ave Projects, whom I had just met outside a bodega where I had purchased a 40-ounce beer for seven dollars. I would have haggled over the price, but the place had the feel of a storefront where they move drugs, and well, I didn’t need an ass whooping over a couple bucks and I was thirsty after all. (Side note look at my subtle racism believing a bodega was a drug front.) I was at this bodega because my girlfriend Tiffany and I had got off on the wrong subway stop in our search to see the Bonde Do Role show in Brooklyn. Outside of the store we asked a black dude if he knew where Studio B was and he tried to direct us into the Marcy Ave. Projects a couple blocks down. D, who overheard this, jumped in the conversation.
“Yo, you’re saying there is a new club in the projects? I have to see this.”
Now I was talking to, and smiling at two black men, neither of which held babies. D was holding a Styrofoam cup with beer in it, and when he noticed my own brown paper bag gave me a pound.
“Ha-ha, my man knows the deal, brown paper bag and everything.”
After some discussion we figured out the club was not in the projects, but rather toward Williamsburg, and the hipster section of the borough.
D, with no other plans for the night, decided to tag along with us and thus became our tour guide. As we walked the city the landscape transformed. The cleanest projects in the land according to D vanished, “I mean we don’t have any shit or piss in the hallways, or anything like that,” The bodegas had instead been replaced by a Parisian style cafe filled with white faces enjoying wine and large meals.
“So where you two from?” D asked.
”Right outside Boston in Manchester, NH. Tiff is from New Jersey, but we both live in Boston now.”
”Manchester? I have a bunch of boys who moved out there and love it. They were saying it’s cheap as hell, and you don’t have to worry all the time. Around here you want to act tough, you have to be on guard, because people will test you on that and if you’re fronting they will fuck you up. But I am done with all that bullshit. I used to slang, and what not, but now I just concentrate on music. I am bringing rock straight out the projects with my band.”
”You’re in a band?”
”Yeah, I play guitar, rap, and sing. I mean, I never been trained to play the guitar or anything like that, but I picked it up on my own from listening to the radio. The only problem is my band never wants to practice and really get down to work. They just want to get high and jam out, and never want to put in work on songs with hooks and shit like that. I mean no rock band has really came from the projects, and that’s a gimmick we can use to get noticed.”
So, here I am walking the streets of Brooklyn with my girlfriend and a black dude from the projects. I am drinking a 40, and D has some sort of drank in his cup, and we are talking about rock music on the way to a show from a group from Brazil that does their take on booty music.
Only in America.
Now here is the important adjective question that D will ask.
“Yo, do either of you know what exactly is an adjective? Is it like an adverb or something?”
”Nah, man it’s just a word used to describe something else. Like that car over there is red. Red is the adjective because it describes what the car looks like,” I said.
”All right, I get it, but yo, that’s kind of messed up. Why don’t they just call it what it is, like a describing word, or some shit then, instead of confusing people and calling it something weird like an adjective?”
I never thought of like that, but D had because he knew he had to look at all the angles if he wanted to get out of his situation he was in. He knew that he needed to use whatever advantages he had going for him. If this advantage was the stereotype that black guys from the projects were not supposed to make rock music then why the hell shouldn’t he use that novelty to get him in the door? He made this even clearer when I told him I booked bands back home.
”You should have me come play a show, and you can promote the fact I am a black guy from projects playing guitar in New Hampshire. Hell I don’t care how you want to use me just as long as I can get some money out of it. We both can get paid, you feel me?” D said and then laughed and gave me a pound.
”You know I am right because ain’t nobody doing what I am doing yet.”
As we passed the cafe we came up to an art show flushed with skinny faces wearing angular haircuts, skintight t-shirts, and jeans that seemed to be painted on. Each outfit was put together with meticulous care to ensure the image portrayed would actually show how little they cared about how they were dressed. It was absurd, and they used this seeming aloof nature in order to hide their own vanity. Because the only thing worse than not being hip was to admit that you actually cared about being hip.
Of course I was also dressed hip; but I was hip just cause I was a naturally fly motherfucker, and I knew by rocking a Big L t-shirt, a dead rapper who is adored and loved in some circles more than 2Pac himself, yet unknown by many of the kids in skinny jeans, would prove just how much hipper I was than everyone else. But it’s not like I cared about anything like that, or would even think about what my t-shirt would represent to others. Hell, let’s just say it was the only clean one I had, so I can continue this story with disdain for those who care how they look but pretend they don’t.
”How the hell do you white people wear jeans so tight? You’re nuts must not have any room to breathe.”
”I don’t get it either. White folks are strange,” I said.
It was funny as I interacted with D we were able to bond over the fact that we didn’t pretend the notion of race didn’t exist, and instead embraced and made fun of it. I was a white boy from New Hampshire, and he was black kid from the projects, and we understood it was a strange relationship but also one that we could use to our advantage. It was like the Dave Chappelle routine where he tells the audience, “Every group of black dudes should least one white guy in it for safety. I am serious, because when the cops come around, someone has to talk to the police, and that’s when that white friend Ernie comes in handy.”
From the art crowd we were able to find a threesome of hipsters who knew where Studio B was, and even happened to be headed in that direction. We followed them as my girlfriend chatted up front with the two girls, while I lurked in the back with D and cracked jokes about how the one guy with them was probably nervous that we were going to try to jump him, and steal the bicycle he walked with.
They led us to the club and we stood in line and waited to get in as D told us his theory on why rock music wasn’t as good as it used to be.
”Man, nobody writes with metaphors and shit any more. I want to be able to think about a song and what the singer is trying to say. All these new bands just come out and say it. I get it you are angry, but find some other way to say that shit other than ‘I am so angry. That’s why I love Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. Think about it-when he was talking about Polly wanting a cracker you had to think about it? And you knew he sure as hell wasn’t talking about a pet parrot of his.”
”He wasn’t?” I said with a grin.
”Ahh, fuck you, man, but you get what I am saying though. That’s why I don’t listen to any of that new shit.”
”What do you listen to then?”
”Shit from the same time as Nirvana, you know, like Stone Temple Pilots, Green Day, and Tool. The good shit.”
I cringed at the last three bands he mentioned. First because I am an asshole when it comes to music, and those bands to me represent all the shitty people from my hometown that hated rap, and still listened to hair bands without shame. Well, not Nirvana, I liked Nirvana, but those other bands sucked. But then I realized he had probably never been exposed to any rock other than what was played on the radio (and of course I assumed this because it was an easy assumption, because black people from the projects could not ever want to listen to rock, and yes, I am that dumb sometimes). Cobain to me was a voice for mostly bored and jaded middle-class white kids, and it was odd that he had been able to penetrate into D’s world and impact him much in the same way. And then I cringed at my own thought and realized that growing up I had rejected those bands, and instead listened to rap music which impacted and spoke to me in a way rock never could. Growing up I had always hated when people would ask me why I listened to black music; instead of white music like rock. Even worse were those who had no idea about what rap music was, and would dismiss it as not music because they didn’t play instruments, or even worse as nothing more than just “niggers talking.”
The line crawled forward and D bounced around with nervous energy.
”So who exactly is playing tonight?” D asked.
“It’s a Mad Decent show with Diplo, Bonde Do Role, and Blaqstarr. Diplo is this dope ass dj and Mad Decent is his label. Bonde Do Role is this Brazilian group that does favela funk, which in English basically means ghetto funk, or booty music. They are like 2 Live Crew and raunchy as hell and use beats that sample everything from Alice in Chains to that ‘Final Countdown’ song from the ‘80’s. And Blaqstarr is from Baltimore and does b-more club which is like a cross between house and rap music. It will be a real hype show. “
”I am guessing it will be if y’all came all the way out for it.”
”Yeah, plus my man Chris Lemon-Red works for Mad Decent, and I used to dj with him before he moved here.”
”Then why we standing here in line? Go talk to your man and get us in.”
”Nah, waiting builds character.”
”Fuck character, I just want to get in there get me a drink, and start dancing with one of these fine white girls,” D said with a laugh.
As we headed to the front, D seemed worried when he finds out there is $12 cover to get in.
“I don’t think I can afford this. My budget is kind of tight.”
”Fuck it, you helped us find the place, so I’ll take care of it as a way to say thanks.”
After I paid I couldn’t help but think of William Baldwin’s Another Country, and the relationship between the black musician Rufus, and his white friend Vivaldo. Rufus always despised it when Vivaldo would try to help him, and would interpret this as not a simple act of kindness between friends, but rather, a paternal nature that made him think Vivaldo was doing this so he could feel good about helping out the poor black man who would be so helpless without him. Which left me wondering, would I have paid for D had he been a white guy instead? And I realized then, had he been a poor white guy from the projects, I would have been less likely to trust him at all, and even less likely to pay to get him into the club.
But I soon forgot all those worries as the music rained down, and the bass cleansed me free. The dance floor was a Where’s-Waldo picture of gangly white flesh, and then in the whitewash a black face, D, fearless and with no shame, could be found walking up to any girl on the dance floor.
I saw Lemon-Red at the merchandize booth and headed over to say what’s up. He was surprised I had made it out the show, and then introduced me to Diplo.
”New Hampshire, huh,” Diplo said, “That’s the, ummm, shit. I know nothing about New Hampshire at all. “
”Don’t worry, most people don’t.”
I told Lemon Red I would catch up with him later and went back to find Tiffany and D. Tiffany asked me if that was Diplo, and I told her yeah.
”He is not as cute as he was in the pictures I saw of him, but then again he was doing Zoolander poses in those.” She then left to take more pictures of the folks at the party for a project for a class she was basing on the NYC club scene. Most of the people she took pictures of had no problem mugging for the camera with their practiced look of disinterest.
Over the course of the night we lost D, and the next day I would find out from a message he left on my cell phone, where he first apologized for bouncing without saying goodbye, and that he had drank too much and needed to leave before he acted a fool and got himself in trouble.
By 4 am the show was over. Tiffany and I left the club and grabbed a couple slices of pizza, and then headed for the subway. Our subway car was pretty much empty except for us, two girls coming back from the club, and a passed-out black man. As we rode through the tunnels of a sleeping city I noticed the girls were snapping pictures of the passed out man and laughing. To them this man was nothing but someone to mock so they could laugh when they showed the pictures to their friends, and put them up on their MySpace and Facebook pages. As we rode they grew bolder and posed with him, mean-mugging and crossing their arms, as if in modern black face; Amos and Andy would have been proud.
And then I went home and instead of using pictures of me smiling with the black man, I wrote a story where the whole world could see just how much more enlightened I am by my thoughts of race, and how I would never exploit it for someone else’s entertainment, and that I was so much better than those girls at the end who took pictures with the sleeping man. But you, reader, you know better than that. And you are probably thinking of a few adjectives you can call me, and I would agree.
But I think D was right in the end-let’s stop hiding behind vague descriptions, and just say it how it is from now on. But then again wouldn’t that mean Polly really just wanted a cracker? I am all confused now. How about you just take whatever you want out of this story, and hopefully you were entertained, because this was just an interlude in tragedy, a chance to make you laugh for a moment, and hopefully help you understand the narrator outside the context of dealing with tragedy.
I am a human you know, which I think is an adjective for person. Plus, as a young kid, I grew up wishing D’s life was mine, while never realizing he probably grew up wishing he had my life. And in the end, regardless of the bullshit, I can’t blame him. But I do thank him for making me realize the true meaning of adjectives.
Reflecting on what I wrote over 12 years ago I am not mad overall. I rejoice in the reality I was able to recognize my white privilege and not be a slave to it either. What I feel I failed on was my silence. At the end of this story I mocked and judged those white girls for their actions, and took a bullshit moral high ground. It was my unique privilege as a white male to feel superior without having to act. My silence to their acts made me complicit. I too was mocking this man by staying silent and judging those who mocked him. By letting it happen I was just like a cop who lets his partner stand on the neck of a man who can’t breathe. I know I personally need to get better. And I will continue to strive for that. In the meantime I won’t hesitate to call out bullshit behavior- it’s the subtle racism that is prevalent where I am from. When you don’t have to deal with black men in your daily life it’s funny how easily racism pervades. When you can’t be checked for saying the n word in a rap song you won’t be surprised how many white folks say it. I was taught at an early age by Wu Tang to always say nuh instead of that word. It was ideal because it always reminded me I had no reason to utter that world-it was never my right and thus nuh right in saying it. Radio edit for the win.
My apologies to my loyal readers but like that good ol’ chap from Mad Men Pete Campbell last week was as he eloquently stated, “Not great, Bob!” To prove this point this past weekend I am going through my records and find my 808 State New Order remixes from Rephlex Records. I was super excited because I had forgotten all about been having this record. So Excitedly I put it on my turntable and it’s the goddamn Eagles live album. Yes, the fucking Eagles. What kind of sociopath would do this to me?
To top it off even if it had been the right record it wouldn’t have worked because both my Technic 1200’s are on the fritz, and not working.
While organizing I also came across some letters from my nephew, when he was in prison, who I haven’t seen or heard from in years. They hit me hard and instead of you know maybe talking to someone, writing a gratitude list, or just fucking writing about it here I decided the best plan of action was alcohol. My brutal mistress.
Sometimes I am the sociopath when it comes to drinking because I know all it does is hurt me and everyone who cares about me. Yet for that mere moment that was all my brain chose to see. It’s pathetic really- it’s easier to confess here than to confess my feelings before a sip of sin is on my tongue. It’s even worse now because I made sure to damage a relationship in less than a week of drinking. A sweet soul that had inspired so many beautiful words that I utterly burned at the altar of intoxication- not even remembering the careless words I uttered to destroy her impish nature.
So know I am going to be Michael Jordan, and make alcohol my grudge against the world. The grudge against my past self. Nobody did petty like Jordan because he was the prince of mindfulness always in the moment, and always clinging to any slight to keep him focused. With this mindset I am going to look at alcohol like the high school coach who cut him, and treat it as vicious as he did his teammates when they were underperforming. No matter what I will be fully conscious to the moment to not let myself sleep walk into the easy facade that brews from the falsehood of peace through a drink.
Now back to my nephew. I have already lost two- one through murder, and then not even a year later another who died shortly after birth. I never met that nephew, and because of the blinding nature of that previous loss I sometimes don’t even think to mention him when discussing family that have been taking from this earth. In a way I feel I have lost three now, and that letter just made it sink in more. I haven’t read them all yet- I put them away for now. But I do wonder how he is doing these days. I hope he is enjoying the clouds zig zagging through a sea salt blue sky from the rooftop of a car, and not the bars of a prison. And I hope in the future memories of him will make me think of hope and not despair. Think of gratitude and not drowning. Think of myself as an uncle he can be proud of, and not worried about.
So with this I am going to embrace this failure as fuel for the fire. The pain as a learning experience to be better. With the simple mind state of just don’t drink it. And all I know this week, like the Dude before me, I will not being opening up any more records with the fucking Eagles in them.