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.
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.
Sometimes’s someone energy can inspire words to flow with the power of Niagara’s Falls. Washing away self-doubt and letting clarity run through your veins. Some call these muses because such beauty is rarely seen in nature. These special beings seemed as if carved from the most skilled carpenters hands, and blessed with those intrinsic values that inspired the poets of yesteryears. Sometimes you find a muse in the strangest place. You can’t seek out a muse- the world seeks one out for you. Mine came from an enchanted forest in a foreign land. A mystic with an elf like joy that cleansed the anger in my soul. With fresh eyes, and a new found clarity the words came back. I realized the sadness that once fueled the pen to paper was bound to flame out like the joy that a simple sparkler gave as the child grows old. The simplicity of that emotion turns to ash as joy now brings the fireworks rocketing to touch the top of the clouds. You can’t control a muse- their whimsical nature leads to a choose your own adventure novel where the ending is never known. Just like the passion they install in you will lead your inspiration on the paper til your fingers bleed truth. A muse is dynamite- it will eventually explode. It is the artist’s duty to ride the ripples to bring such beauty to the audience. A muse is a gift and a curse- just like writing is. Feeling too much can destroy someone so they can inspire many. My words bleed so you can weep with joy. My muse changed my perception so my words can change yours.
The day after Valentine’s Day is always a good day to reflect on love. To think about the wounded roses and thorns lost in the copse of smoldering bonfires where only the lust of smoke lingers. Through the haze thinking about all the corpses of lost loves- most of mine from self-inflicted wounds through the carelessness of my sins. Mundane curiosity makes me reflect for a moment at what could have been- but realizing swiftly that all my actions past faults makes me just grateful for my next chance at someone’s heart. Tenderness abides at the cold oceans wake; for February keeps so many hearts in sleepless hibernation. I am feeling catatonic, and yet so awake. Cuffing season and cuddling I sorely do miss, but springtime is coming across the snows mist. Soon the pollen will fill up the air as the sun beats down on the muddy soils despair, and I will trudge through this journey for three hundred and sixty four more days, knowing my heart is awake even if it’s shadowed with doubt.
Last night I did a random Facebook search and fell into that wormhole we all do on the inter-web. During this search I found a woman I started my sobriety journey with in the Phoenix House Dublin almost six years ago. She was one of my favorite people there because she was such an extrovert, funny, kind, and could always get me out of a rut when I was clueless on those first days how to deal with life without with drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately this night I found out she had passed. Facebook is today’s graveyard these days for those that lost their fight with substance abuse. The wonderful thing was she had not been forgotten- her beautifully written obituary had gone viral, and it was an amazing to witness. So much negativity always occurs after such a death and instead there were articles from People, to Boston.com, to the other various major outlets, and the Boston Globe celebrating a life lost too soon https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/10/16/heart-wrenching-obituary-young-vermont-mom-struggling-with-addiction-gains-attention/27OvnrDlIxCOE3saACHZKI/amp.html
So everyday you wake up realize that even on your worst day- when you thought life was over and you couldn’t go on that there was always someone glad you woke up. Someone’s life that your smile made better. As you trudge on this sober fight remember every morning you wake up sober you are an inspiration. And that every morning when you rise with the sun there is somebody out there who is grateful that you are in their life. And if nobody has told you they are grateful for you today know I definitely am.
I am not big on resolutions-especially New Year’s one. I used to have a blog called Drunk and Focused which I wrote about drinking, culture, music, and even reviewed every flavor of Maddog 2020. But it’s the first day of 2019, and my first day sober once again- and yes I know how fucking cliche it is to get sober on January 1st. Getting sober on the first is on some basic as fuck shit that it could be an American Eagle commercial. This also a chance to prove I am not washed up in the blog game. This site will not just be about not drinking, though I will journal each day of my sobriety, but it will also highlight the myriad of many other things fucking up my mind these days. So I will write about the joys of mental illness, rap music, tv, pop culture, rants, wrestling, why you should never Facebook message people while in a blackout, and a place to share my writing to prove all that student loan debt I am in was totally worth it to get an MFA. So get ready for the return of the LeBron James of this blog game- this time with a 12 step habit.