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 brain is still a bit foggy like the grave mist of dawn in a land of ghouls. But writing keeps me sober so I type these SOSs to the world. Failure keeps you hungry and hopeful. And I have failed enough to remain hopeful as fuck. I am grateful for failure. It’s how I learn. It’s why I have this chip on my shoulder because I don’t think anybody truly believes I will stay sober- that July 15th will just be another day- just another broken resolution. That my resolve will falter, and my belly will once again surrender to the swill of liquor cascading into its center. But I have a feeling this time you will be wrong. And what’s different is hard to explain- that feeling deep inside your gut can’t always be explained. But when you feel it you know it. And today I feel it. Today I know it. And tomorrow I will keep on showing it. Because these SOSs of heartbreak might not mean that much to many, but at least they get me through the day. And each day that mist will feel further away. And each day my vision will get clearer. And each day that ghoul that clutches on my soul will get easier to push away. For embracing failure gives you a power you never knew existed inside you for it takes away the control that fear has over you. And without fear on your back you can achieve anything you want. And even if you fail at least you learned the next time what not to do. And through that failure you learn most importantly what you need to do. For heartbreak and surrender are the only true path to real love. Be that a love for oneself or another.
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.
Saturday my mind played one of the greatest tricks on me yet. It’s terrifying what lengths it will go to give me an excuse to drink. I was doing my morning meditation which was a focused hypnosis on clearing subconscious negativity. However, I allowed it to imprint a false so-called repressed memory to throw off my whole balance and well-being. As soon as I latched onto this awful thought it became for that moment real, and the only way to get rid of it was to drink it away. My brain was a terrorist who hijacked my common sense, and knocked down my defense system as easily as if it was a tall tower in the N.Y. skyline.
What followed was a drunken stupor of a maze of falsehoods that I tangled myself up in as if it was a comforting cloak of barbwire. Fallacy turning into fact. Hope trampled beneath granite boulders busting my spine. Leaving me paralyzed in thought with hopes there was a dagger resting on my heart. Or an ice pick to silence my brain. Luckily neither was close by.
I wonder how long I am going to stay on this path of reacting and writing versus writing then reacting. There is a big difference between knowing and understanding. Knowing means you can decipher the proper course of action for prevention. Understanding means that a course of action is in use prior to stop the maladaptive behavior before it occurs. It’s why some of the smartest people in the world can be so goddamn dumb sometimes.
This distorted logic is like seeing a chess board two steps ahead of your opponent, but moving your pieces one step behind. It’s ludicrous yet I do it; staying a pawn instead of the goddamn queen. It’s not fate because my own actions cause it to occur. My mind might be playing tricks on me, but I am supplying the ammo to make sure the shots stick. A country rube in a world full of carnies. Allowing myself to be conned every step of the way.
Monday night was brutal. I was at true lost; I finally succumbed that I had lost the ability to be truly honest with myself. I had once again invited in the poison that is the numbness of alcohol, and my brain was debating whether it was a wise choice to end it all. I woke up Tuesday angry. A righteous anger at myself for not doing enough to get myself out of this situation. Yes I suffer from severe depression, alcohol abuse, and mood swings, but I wasn’t even getting out of the corner to box it anymore. I had a game plan in place, but I was abandoning it as soon as I got hit. And when I felt good I wasn’t doing enough reps to maintain it. I was the boxer who got fat and lazy after his first championship, and didn’t train hard enough for his next defense. I don’t want momentary wins anymore- I want to put a full nelson on success. Gripping it as tight as possible as it tries to struggle out of my grasp. So to do this I have developed a stringent new routine for the summer. Simple ideas that have created success for me in the past, and a rugged routine to keep me focused and not swimming in the Dead Sea of emotions in my mind. This will be my bootcamp for the summer, and if anyone sees me slacking call me the hell out on it.
First thing I am doing is remixing the Miracle Morning(use the google machine to look it up.) Basically the premise of the book is to start each morning off with a six pack of mindful activities. So today I put this plan in action. I first woke up and immediately picked up a pen and in my journal wrote ten things I was grateful for. Gratitude lists are the foreign object I like to punch my depression in the face with. It immediately always knocks them back because it forces the power of positivity to the forefront. I feel if I start everyday with a sucker punch to negativity my brain will thank me.
Next is mediation. I used to meditate first thing in the morning in my bed, but now I lie on the floor. It changes my perspective, and signals to my brain the day is beginning. Mediation is a way to calm and workout my brain. I am trying to create new pathways to positive and productive thinking. This eventually leads to my brain’s ability to be more abstract and elastic to complex thinking of consequences and long-term rewards, rather than the monkey brain desiring immediate pleasure.
Next we get to affirmations. Those reps for achieving your goals. Self sabotage has always been an Achilles heel in my life. It stems from a combination of self loathing, fear, and loss of confidence. To counteract those bullshit voices in my head that fear success I combat them with simple phrases that push forward my goals in life, and mental health. It’s definitely corny as hell, but truly effective. Sometimes I just need to remind myself that I love myself, I will write my book, and I will fight forever.
After that we get good ol’ fashioned prayer. Now prayer to me has nothing to do with organized religion, but rather setting out intentions into the big blue sky above me asking for help, and promising to take that aid and use it to assist others in need. By praying it makes these desires and intentions real to my world. For this I humble myself on my knees each day, and ask simply to become a better human being.
Now we get active with some exercise. That way we get the dopamine up and running before we start our day. That little boost is the coffee my body needs. Today I did some push-ups, and tomorrow will be a quick ten minute yoga session with my home girl Adrienne. I like doing ten minutes because it gets a little kick of adrenaline in, and it’s just a warm up for the exercise I will be doing later today.
And finally I make the bed, and read. Making the bed is always important because it gives you a sense of accomplishment that is simple and easy to do. It corrects one potential messy thing in order to kickstart your day to accomplish overcoming the obstacles that will face you in your day ahead. Reading comes at the end as a quick way to wind down and get focused for the day. I like reading at the end as a way to bookend my last activity of the night of reading before I zoom to the slumber of the stars.
Boom the first hour of my day is complete, and I already feel energized and ready to go. A half hour later from 9-12 I am in IOP connecting, sharing, and empathizing with others; all why reviewing and building up my skills of combat against negative and destructive thinking. Then I take an hour to decompress and eat lunch.
From there I will dedicate 1-3 daily to write whether I want to or not. This post itself is being written during that time. I been searching for what the fuck purpose do I have right now, and decided that all signs lead to writing a book so I am going to put the bullshit aside and go with it. I think the fear has always been in the way, and feeling pretentious for saying that’s what I am working on, or is my goal in life. But fuck that I am a damn good writer with a story to tell, and I might as well go all in while I have the time. And this ain’t going to be no self-published vanity book either because I am shooting for whatever fictional planet Space Jam was on.
From 4-6 will be my exercise time- get my Keith Sweat on. That way I can be as much as hunk as he was to the ladies.
Exercise also comes with my lifestyle of good food choices cause you are going to need both for success. Around 7 or 8 I will have my accountability call with a friend. It’s a way for myself to stay accountable, honest, connect with a human, and learn to reach out early before it’s too late. And finally before slumber I get to educate my eye lids with some words in a book.
So my loyal readers if you are wondering what I am doing all day now you know. A bootcamp for my non-disciplined, lazy ass to finally get back into fighting shape. After awhile you just get sick of being knocked down all the time, and you realize instead of complaining or drowning in excuses you just need to punch that motherfucker right back in the mouth knowing both sides are going to bleed, but that you damn sure know you ain’t going to end up on your back anymore.
Today I am going to let go of the self-hatred that consumes and binds to my existence. Instead of focusing on the atrocious abyss albatross hanging from my soul; a necklace designed as ghouls forever on a cursed pirate ship that will never find gold. I will search rather for the beauty deep within the hallows of my bones. Celebrate my successes and not my woes. Applaud my empathy not the sorrow I once behold. Clutching as tightly to the joy as I once did the darkness that wanted my extinguished existence. Turn my thinking into an oasis where fear becomes my tool for a challenge. Embracing failure as the fuel for my ability for perseverance . While enduring the pain for that is the only way to grow. Knowing in the end self-hatred is just a signal for much needed change in this man’s existence.
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.
Frayed and ruined relations flow from remains of a life of liquors past. When drinking I seemed hell bent on destruction of all leaving a wake of harsh, hurtful, and haunting words. Savaging relationships without even realizing what I had said when my breath turned sober. I wonder now where these words came from. These crazy emotions that seem so distant, foreign, and as if another being had said them. Alcohol is a hijacker-a mobster who tells my brain we have your license so we know where you live and if you tell anybody about it’s over for you. So I awoke dumbfounded at how I could have done such actions that now still leave my stomach queasy, and my hands still stained red from the murder of friendships, and lovers past. A simple sorry won’t bring them back to life. These are my scarlet letters etched deep in my bones as a reminder of booze’s hellbent desire at turning love into chaos. Chaos into isolation. Isolation into loneliness. Lonliness into a desire to end it all. But today I choose to wash my hands- a baptism in Gomorrah- and trudge forth with an honest heart in hand. For I won’t be able to mend all the relationships I lost. But I also know I won’t let myself be deceived into destroying another.
I wanted today to follow up a little bit on Fhrate today with the last chapter I dedicated to him in my book. A few people hit me up asking about him, and wanting to know more about him so I will oblige. I been searching for some of his writing I kept but I have had no luck find it yet- but that search will continue. In some ways without him I don’t think this blog would exist. Although many before had told me I had a talent in words I never truly believed it to he told me so. His writing was so impactful on me that his co-sign gave me faith to leap into that writing ocean without fear. The fact he had told me he wanted me- not himself- to write his story still baffles me to this day. I don’t think either of these two chapters really give him the justice he deserved- but at least they give you a glimpse into someone that made a profound influence of my life in such a short time. And whose life was taking away way too soon by his own hands. Here below are two pics of Fhrate- I think both are equally fitting for the duality that was him.
Chapter 17- The Trains Never Stop
I drove by a Denver train-yard the other day. Fhrate’s sad image floated back in my mind. He never made it East. He wanted to though. I talked him out of it. I was living at what was dubbed as the “Hell’s Angel’s Manor” in Dover, NH at the time; and Fhrate wanted to move in with me. He had all these glorious visions of us being each other’s editors for our writing. Even though I knew he was a better writer than me, for some reason he always wanted me to write his story. He was all excited about the prospect of heading East for the first time. He had it all figured out. While I was at school he would explore the area, read, and write. There was one catch though; he had legal issues in Denver to worry about. So I figured that running away wouldn’t help. I figured he needed to deal with that bullshit, and then come out. Also I realize painfully now it was also out of me being selfish. At the time I was selling weed, and drinking daily. I didn’t know if I could change my environment to welcome him. In a way I still carry that guilt with me every time I drink. I know in a rational sense running East wouldn’t make his problems go away- but maybe that would have been sufficient enough for the long run to keep him still alive.
After I left Oakland Fhrate started drinking heavily again. He quit his job and moved out to Portland. He kept drinking and ended up back on the road and rails. Eventually he bottomed out and ended up in jail. Turns out the girl he had been travelling with never told him she was underage. So Fhrate ended up in jail for a bit; but finally he got cleaned up and moved back home to Denver with his parents. There he was sober with a new girlfriend and was finishing up school. Things were looking up for him.
Everything was going fine in his life except he couldn’t cure the numbness. After the murders I came to visit my brother Brian in Denver for couple days for Thanksgiving. I kept missing chances to hang with Fhrate, but I figured I would be back soon and we could hang then. Little did I realize this was my last chance to see him alive.
The summer following the murders I was finishing making a dj mix. The last thing I added was Charles Bukowski reciting his poem, “The Suicide Kid.” For some reason this made me think of Fhrate. I hadn’t heard from him for a few weeks, but this was normal with him. And he had told me he was moving in with his girlfriend and wouldn’t have internet access for awhile. I asked Stef, and few other friends of his if they had heard from him and no one had. So I called up his parent’s house to see if I could track him down. His mom answered. I asked if I could speak with Sean. Her mournful voice paralyzed me. “Sean is dead.” Then she hung up.
I went into shock, grabbed a bottle of vodka and slugged it straight. This was the first time my first instinct was to drink when tragedy bestowed me. I hysterically called up my girlfriend Tiffany. Later she would tell me she had never heard me so distraught. It’s weird how alcohol allowed the floodgates of emotion to now course through my veins in time of despair. Gone was the numbness I had experienced in the fall- replaced with gutterail wails of pain. Through tears and vodka I tried to explain. “He’s fucking dead.” “Dead.” Was all I could muster.
A couple days later I called his mom back. She explained that Fhrate’s body had been found at the railroad yard. He couldn’t escape the numbness that trapped him, so he freed himself with a combination of grain alcohol and heroin.
In the end he finally found his way home. Or, at least, that’s what I need to tell myself.
It’s a rainy ol’ dirty bastard raw day today. In group this morning we delved into depression, and the stigma associated with it. Now I could care less if anybody knows I deal with it- as you can tell from this blog. This wasn’t always the case just because I was fearful of admitting that pain because it would became real. I convinced myself it would be easier just to think alcohol was the only issue which proved false. At almost a year of sobriety having gone through and actively working the steps, running a sober house, and having sponsees I was still miserable inside. It was until I was willing to admit to myself that alcohol was just a maladaptive coping system of what turned out to be bi-polar 2 depression that I was able to truly start to work on myself, and the traumas of my past. As you see this path has had a lot of peaks and valleys. But writing has always been my constant hope.
So today I wanted to share a chapter from the book I wrote for my MFA thesis. A book about my twenty something self’s journey running away from lost love, and the murders that happened to my sister, niece, and nephew- and how music saved and introduced me to a misfit of characters that would influence me for the rest of my life. This chapter features two of the most important people I would meet as a naive 19 year old for the first time in the Bay.
Chapter 2 –All I Saw Was Ugly
I spent the night of their deaths staring at a computer screen while talking on AIM. I am telling my friend Fhrate (pronounced like freight as in a freight train) what happened. He seems like the only person I know who would understand.
“I just feel numb, just numb.” I typed to him.
“I understand, man, well maybe not with the magnitude of what just happened, but I feel the same way all the time. I just don’t feel anything, and sometimes I wonder if I even really love my family, or girlfriend. That’s what I miss about drinking, because at least then I felt something. And even if it was nothing but sadness it was better than this numbness that replaced it.”
I first met Fhrate three years earlier in Oakland under a blank canvas sky which captured a yard dead to the world: weeds, soil with no hopes of prosperity, a fence without the guts to stand. This yard led to a house where in the kitchen, sitting Indian-style, was a gutter-punk Buddha, sewing needle in one hand, dental floss in the other, with a hooded sweatshirt adorned with patches resting on his lap. This was Fhrate, with short-cropped black hair, and a fresh razor mark gash on the back of his neck from cutting his hair himself. I was surprised by how tranquil he looked, and how shy he seemed, given the stories he wrote made him come off as a maniac hobo who explored America in a constant haze of drugs and alcohol.
He put down his needle and approached me with a small smile.
“Hi, I am Sean.”
I was meeting him for the first time, yet, I felt like he was an old friend because of our numerous conversations online, and from reading his stories. Even though I was surprised at how shy he was, I really shouldn’t have been, because the person whom he had written about was a character of his past, a drunken train bum who was kinetic energy in motion, never happy unless in constant flux, realizing the only way to escape life was to be constantly running from or towards new problems.
His eyes were sad paradises of truth and seemed listless when he talked about his dead-end job.
“This girl, well, woman, I think she’s almost forty. I am not sure if this makes her more desirable, or makes me feel old, but anyway she keeps asking me to go to the bar with her, and my other co-workers, and I have to say no. It’s not fun to bitch about your job when you’re the only sober person in the room. Plus, I have that a whole alcoholic thing to deal with. And I would be left in that weird state of not knowing if I should make a move on her because I work with her, and I wouldn’t be able to laugh it off the next day at work on us just being drunk. Plus, I hate that fucking job.”
Fhrate was sober again, which was ideal for him, but somewhat of a disappointment for me. I was nineteen years old and came out to Oakland in search of this great myth. I had just finished On The Road a few months earlier, and I was ready for this wild adventure where there would be loose women, kicks, and all that other bullshit you fantasize about in life after reading that book. Maybe the problem was I wanted Fhrate to be a character in a book, and real life is never that tidy. He was bored with life because he was living it by the rules of what he thought he should be doing, instead of what he really wanted to be doing.
His eyes lit up as we entered his room, and he showed me a map on his wall of all the railroad lines he traveled across America. His face contorted into a grimace when looking at the East Coast, “I have never had a chance to travel that far East yet.”
Next to the map was a calendar of different trains, and Fhrate could tell you everything about each one, and even all about the do’s and don’ts of train hopping.
“All right, first things first-if you can avoid hopping ‘on the fly,’ do so. It makes more sense to get on an unmoving train that one that’s going twenty miles an hour.”
His voice sounded like a dusty vinyl recording of William Burroughs played on 45.
“Also, don’t be afraid to ask workers what trains are going where, but avoid the bulls at all costs. Also, I wouldn’t ride piggy-backs.”
I heard piggy-back, and in my head I pictured two old fashioned hobos, complete with sticks and bandanas tied around each end, attempting to hop a train with one man riding on the back of the other.
“That’s a trailer on flat car. You should avoid those because there’s nowhere to ride really, leaving you exposed to wind, rain, and prying eyes. And don’t ever get on someone else’s box car. It’s just rule of thumb and travel. It is also a sign of respect and it lends itself to caution. However, in the in the event you do get on an occupied boxcar, just acknowledge your mistake, dismount, and find another open car. The real concern is that, while you may meet some real solid brothers and sisters on the road, you may just as easily encounter some fucking psychopathic assholes. If you get on an asshole’s boxcar then that asshole feels he has certain entitlement, like to your wife, wallet, pack, or coat. “
For a few seconds Fhrate grew silent, and seemed to be back on the road longing for that one train to lead him to whatever he was searching for, or maybe, he was thinking instead of just the joy that is escaping from having to search for anything in the first place.
“If you should be in or around a yard, and you know you’re coming up on a hobo jungle, always make your presence known. The tried and true salutation/announcement is ‘Yo Camp!’ Possibly yelling out ‘Hobo!’ will put the resident campers at ease, if they think you are kindred ‘boes. Also I wouldn’t carry lots of cash. “
After the train-hopping lesson we ventured to his living room, and watched a Scribble Jam tape from 1999 to kill time, before heading across the bridge into San Francisco, and over to Stef’s apartment. Stef was a dj who, at 40 years old, was ducking the norm of what life told her she should be doing, and instead living life how she wanted to. This may have been fueled by her love of hip hop, and records, as she was heavily involved in the music scene in San Francisco, where she ran a magazine called Vinyl Exchange, and was also kindly letting me crash on her couch for this trip of mine.
In Stef’s room, through the maze of old rap posters and flyers, was a single rose hanging on the wall. It was a rose Fhrate had giving her. This was a side of Fhrate he usually kept hidden from the world, and this sweetness was first thing alcohol would take from him as it transformed him into a different person that seemed hell bent on self-destruction. That flower sums up the paradox that was Fhrate, and his constant struggle with alcohol, which always seemed to lurk in the darkness of his soul just waiting to fuck up whatever good things he had going at the time. Stef cared about him enough to understand this, and a set a steadfast rule that she would not be around him if he drank. So maybe the flower was Sean’s way of telling her he understood, and was sorry for all his actions, and any time he may have hurt her before.
The next night I met up with Fhrate outside the club for the 10th Anniversary Anticon show. Outside the club I met a friend of his named Ian, and his bottle of vodka. He offered me some, so we headed into the back alley to pass the bottle back and forth, while above us the third shift stars went to work.
More people joined, and then the bottle was empty. To combat this we retreated to the inside of a convenience store, where Fhrate, the only one of us over twenty-one, bought beer for us. Outside the club a circle formed, and the beers were passed back and forth. Fhrate couldn’t resist, and joined in.
A fractured memory later, drunk, with ears ringing, we decided to keep drinking after the show with a graffiti artist named Demo, who had flown down to the show from Chicago. He was there with his girlfriend, a fiery little brunette, and her honey-skinned friend who just wanted to take pictures of San Francisco.
They invited us back to their hotel and by 3 a.m. I was hunched over the toilet puking, as Fhrate was out getting late night grub with Demo. Fhrate never returned, and disappeared after conversing with some homeless folk, and losing Demo in the process.
As the shadows of morning crept through the blinds I lay awake. From my hiding spot, a hard bed with starched white sheets and mattress springs that scratched and dug into my exposed spine, I noticed the wall was a sickly pink, like a diseased flamingo begging to be shot at the merciful hands of a poacher, and even when I closed my eyes I couldn’t stop my head from spinning and twirling as if I was on the deranged teacups of a dead Disney Land. Out the window was a seedy motel. The proprietor of sin was a dirty soul with a vast paunch belly built on greed. He had an unshaven face caked with gray whiskers and pockmarks. His eyes were wasted on only that which was perverse, blind to the notion that the girls he thought of as whores were really just angels lusting for their wings.
Silence was broken. Awoke in haze. Commotion down hall. Banging on doors. Yelling, then Fhrate. He wore the results of his slumber on concrete with eyes as red as a brand new kickball. I quickly got out of bed to deal with him, and get him out of the motel before he did any more damage, or woke up any more guests.
Fhrate needed more booze, but was broke. Then an idea came to him.
“I have this fifty dollar Gap card I got for a present, and as you can see,” he pointed to his gutter-punk outfit of Carhart pants, and a black sweatshirt with patches he had sewn all over it, “I am never going to use it, so we can to sell it, and split the money.”
We approached the Gap, navigated through a crowded market area filled with sight-seeing tourists with fanny packs and fresh faces, while Fhrate antagonized a homeless man sleeping on the street, and woke him up by kicking him softly.
“Rise and shine. You can’t sleep all day.” The man grumbled a little bit, but just rolled onto his other side, and went back to sleep. I was beginning to understand the belligerent drunk side of Fhrate, but yet I was fascinated by his actions and even thought this is what it must feel like to have walked around with a young Bukowski.
Outside the Gap a Jesus freak was telling the world, “Repent For your Sins,” and “AIDS is God’s cure.” Fhrate approached him with a grin and put an arm around my shoulder, “Jesus wouldn’t mind that we fuck all the time, right?”
We entered the Gap and I did most of the talking since Fhrate was half drunk, and dressed like an undercover prophet in thrift-shop garb. I approached a lady shopping alone who had an ass that looked like a nerf football stuffed in spandex.
”Excuse me, would you be interested in saving ten dollars? I have a Gap card I am selling that’s worth fifty, but I’ll sell it to you for forty.”
She looked at Fhrate and then looked me up and down. It was the first time I really felt like an outsider to regular folk society, and realized this woman probably thought we were drug addicts who stole the card from a nice young married couple, probably with an adorable new-born, and were fiends dead-bent on going to take this money to shoot up, and would then go on some raping and kill spree like she was taught in the anti-drug movies of her high school days.
”No,” was her answer as she quickly walked to the opposite side of the store. That scene repeated itself for the next twenty or so minutes until we found a black girl, who realized we were not trying to swindle her, who bought the card off us. As we left the store, a mother and her daughter walked in and Fhrate screamed, “Aid’s is God’s cure for all the yuppies and their children, and I am here to infect you all!” I pushed him out of the store, and with money in his pocket Fhrate headed to the corner store, where he bought a bottle of Long Island iced tea, and some smoked malt liquor that tasted like it had been brewed in the womb of a grizzly bear. As we walked Fhrate apologized to the homeless man, and showed him his bottle of booze, which for some reason made the homeless man smile, and understand there were no hard feelings. On the corner a dealer was slanging dime bags of weed and Fhrate, who never smoked, decided to buy a bag off of him.
Content with his booze, Fhrate and I headed back to the motel to see if Demo and his crew were still there. When we arrived we found just the honey-skinned photographer, who only warmed up to seeing our return after she found out we had weed. Fhrate tried to roll a joint but couldn’t get the papers to stick.
“You can’t even roll a joint?” she said.
“Can you?” I asked.
“No, but I figured one of you could do it. It’s not that hard.”
The joint was not going to work, but I had an idea.
“Hey, do you have a can? Like a Coke can anything like that?”
“How the hell should I know?” she said.
I found a Pepsi can and rinsed it out, and then crafted makeshift bowl out of it. We smoked as Fhrate kept drinking, and by the time Demo came back, Fhrate was freshly drunk. We explored San Francisco for a couple hours until Demo and the girls finally ditched us after Fhrate caused a scene in a pizza place by berating the workers.
”Y’all communists and Fascist bastards who think they control the world through your three-dollar slices of pizza. My shit tastes better than your pizza, you fucking cunts.”
We spent the rest of the day wandering the city as ghosts left to haunt themselves. Fhrate kept drinking, and I shambled after him.
As the sun started to set, lust hung in the air, billowing like wispy white clouds that hover over the immense Rocky Mountains. I was lusting for knowledge, a lust to end the confusion that engulfed me like the heavy morning Pacific fog of a decaying shipyard. Rusted steamers, cracked masts, torn sails, the ghost of wanderers past: nothing but ugliness and lost dreams.
Fhrate once told me if you stay up late enough and search long enough under those stars, that the whore we call America will finally show you her beauty. But I was three thousand miles away from home and all I saw was ugly.
The night grew cold, and Fhrate became more distant and drunk. We walked to the BART station where Fhrate could hop a boat back across the bay to Oakland. He had already spent all his money from the GAP card on alcohol and weed, so I paid for his ticket. His eyes were hollow, and he seemed like a shell of the person I had met a few days ago. His sad figure haunted me as it disappeared into the darkness, and I wondered how long it would take him to find his way home. I returned to the street only to shudder at my own reflection as it passed me by in a store front.
Reading this back it’s painful because both Fhrate and Stef have passed away. Fhrate through suicide a couple years after I first met him in the flesh, and Stef from a heart attack at only 55. Being so young, dumb, naive, and lustful for adventure I was greatly shaped by their influence on my life at that young age of 19. It’s strange for people, who I physically in person had such limited amount of time with, became so vital in my personal growth at the time, and to this day. This occurred because of the internet’s ability to close the gap of connection. Even through a lockdown one of the blessings of the internet is that ability to stay connected. As I continue this voyage to find clarity knowing I can still explore human connection in this world- and I hope through my writing I can keep connected with you all.