Monday, November 12, 2018

Thank You, Stan Lee

Today we learned that Stan Lee passed on to the next phase of existence.  At the age of 95, he was more than just some comic book creator, and the web is full of writers, creators, and artists mourning his loss. 

Instead of being sad right now, I find myself being grateful for all he gave us, and thinking back to all of those times he was there for me.  Most people don't realize just how present Stan Lee was in our childhoods. 

My first introduction to Stan Lee's work, and Marvel Comics, was when I was just a small child.  The mornings were for cartoons before school at the babysitter's house.  Jeanie.  That was her name and she half-raised me.  Mom worked in a factory and would drop me off at about 6:30AM every morning. 

Jeanie would give me a bowl of cereal and we would watch Ray Rayner on WGN Channel 9 until Bozo's Circus started.  Ray Rayner was weird.  In the summer, during heat waves, he would get the weather report for the week on Mondays and as he wrote down triple digits he would say, "Oh beautiful!" and "lovely!" 

Triple digits.  That's freaking hot and he loved it. 

Ray Rayner would have cartoons, of course.  He had a lot of Flash Gordon with Buster Crabb.  He even had Buster Crabb on the show once and I remember thinking how miserable and unhappy Crabb seemed.  It was like he was pissed off he had to answer questions about this series he did back in the 30's. 

Sometimes, Ray Rayner showed Spider-Man, which would be divided into three segments.  So on Monday, you would see Act I, where the commercial break would normally be, and have to wait until Tuesday for Act II.  By Wednesday, you just wanted to get it over with because you know Spider-Man was going to win but you just didn't know how. 

Us kids would talk about it, of course, and debate the finer points of how Spider-Man was going to win.  All the while, singing the iconic song we've all come to know, from back in the 1960's. 

You know the song.  Sing it with me...

Spider-Man, Spider-Man
Does whatever a spider can.  
Spins a web, any size,
Can't you see, just like flies.  
Look out!  Here comes the Spider-Man! 

But Spider-Man wasn't the only cartoon I remember. 

We had Thor.  Most folks don't know about that but it's true.  It wasn't really a cartoon, though.  Not exactly.  It was a comic book in pictures, with zooming angles on various panels from that issue.  Even the titles were pictures of the cover of that issue.  The Thor of the comic book is very different from the Thor in the films.  Grim, humorless, uptight, stiff, and with a stick up his ass. 

In that cartoon, there were a number of Avengers who made cameo appearances, like Iron Man, Ant Man, and Captain America.  Iron Man back in the 60's was a stiff, nerdy guy who looked a lot like his dad in the movies. 

By the time I was in the Fifth Grade, a comic book store opened in my small home town and everything changed.  Everything. 

It was called Knight Hobby and it had every comic book printed back then, or so I thought, as well as gaming stuff.  Weird dice I'd never imagined, boxes with dragons the outside, figures from various fantasy realms.  It was just incredible. 

My favorite Marvel comic was Daredevil.  My best friend back then, a kid named Pat Pember, was totally into Moon Knight.  There was something about Daredevil that appealed to me.  I think it was the troubled childhood since I was such a troubled kid myself. 

Daredevil, Matt Murdock, felt like "my guy."  I think that's how it goes with comic book heroes.  We find one who has a backstory in which we see ourselves, and we become fans. 

I think that's why I read so many Sgt. Rock comics.  One thing I've come to find is how so many children associate their childhood with war and they see how war vets survived so they adopt those coping skills. 

Brothers and Sister in PTSD, I guess. 

But Stan Lee created intensely rich storylines that crossed over into other comics.  He blended characters and titles so the readers would be exposed to other heroes and villains. 

For about a year or so, the pattern for me was to take my paper route money on Saturday, and ride my bike downtown.  There, I would hang out at Knight Hobby, and and shoot the shit with the older guys who were there.  Kenny Feldman, who was the son of the building's owner, who in turn rented out the storefront to Jim Hay, who owned Knight Hobby. 

I had little to offer the conversations.  They were all just out of high school and I was in the Fifth Grade, but that didn't matter, because I would just stand there laughing at all the jokes they made. 

Kenny had read just about everything and he gave me the best education about comics.  Jim knew I was a kid with a paper route and would make me deals.  It was because of those two I had the first dozen issues of Judge Dredd's American titles, along with a number of independent titles nobody had ever heard of, or would even remember. 

I would spend my money and ride my bike home regardless of the weather.  Once home, dad would be drunk, so I would go up to my room to avoid being seen.  That was my mutant ability--invisibility.   If dad saw me, he would tear into me, and hurl a long string of insults.  Or put me to work doing any number of chores he wouldn't do himself.  Dad had a habit of sitting around, going through a case of Old Milwaukee, and stewing as he looked around the house. 

So, not being seen was imperative.  If he saw you, there was going to be trouble, so I became nobody.  I became a ghost.  I was invisible. 

Once up in my room in that drafty old house, I was able to relax, but I still had to be quiet.  So, I read.  I read books and on Saturdays and Sundays, I read all the comic books I could afford to buy. 

Those comic books fueled my imagination.  They were fodder for my daydreams so I could imagine a world that wasn't the one I was stuck in.  A world where bad guys got what they had coming and was somehow just.  A world where good guys like me go the girl because we were good guys. 

Eventually, things got worse.  They always did back then.  Jim had to close down Knight Hobby and nobody else in town carried the comic books I read.  It was too young to drive anywhere to buy them in other towns. 

But I hung on to my comic books.  As I got older, I bought more, and got into new titles, like Spawn and Cerebus.  Most of the independent artists back then got their start at Marvel or were fans of Marvel.  Stan Lee was the father of so many visions. 

Stan Lee gave us flawed people with difficult lives who rose up above their own misery to be somebody who stood up for other people.  He understood what it was like to come from complicated childhoods and violence.  He understood what it was like to be somebody who carried darkness with them and preferred the shadows but didn't take that pain out on others. 

Stan Lee didn't invent the anti-hero but he certainly contributed to our modern interpretation of it.  Lee's heroes weren't upright, perfect people.  They were flawed and maybe a bit weird but they still saved the person from peril and got the girl.  Or the boy.  He gave us a wide variety of heroes to choose from and identify with. 

Stan Lee gave us something special.  He gave us characters we could see ourselves in and then he had those characters stop the bad guys, meaning we could, too.  Often, those bad guys were our own demons, and that was the War to End All Wars. 

I'm going to miss Stan Lee but he gave us so much that it would take a person years to get through it all.  He lived to be 95 years old so it's not like he was tragically taken from us before his time.  He gave us more than we could rightly expect from a man, which in a way is a superpower itself, and a great lead for other writers to follow. 

Even as just a man, he was a hero, and a role model. 

So thank you, Stan Lee.  I will never forget your voice in my youth starting cartoons off with, "This is Stan Lee..." and I will never forget what it was like to read issue after magical issue on those rainy Saturdays. 










Saturday, October 6, 2018

Adieu, Dear Friend. Adieu.

We need to talk.

I'm not mad at you.  Quite the contrary.  In truth, this is killing me to say.  This hurts more than anything I've had to do.  It's harder than that day I got on the bus to go to the airport in Seoul while my wife walked away sobbing.

But this has to be said.  It just has to be.

I'm not mad at you.  You were there for me when nobody else was.  You were there for me when I couldn't function.  You made life livable.

It was over ten years ago when we met.  My life had completely fallen apart for what I count as the fifth time in as many years.  Once again, I'd lost everything, everybody, and I was left on my own.

And I gave up.

I decided I was done with this shit.  I was going to eat myself to death and just let whatever happened unfold around me.  I'd lost all semblance of hope.  It was suicide by indifference. 

And then I got an idea.  The Army talks about The Good Idea Fairy and how it visits soldiers, giving them horrible ideas that fuck up everything.  Which could easily explain what happened.

I had an idea.  I'm too smart for my own good sometimes and I figured out how to meet you.

That first meeting was magic.  I was thrilled with myself for the first time in months because I solved a problem.  Your warmth poured over me and you relieved me of things nothing else could.  The burden I was carrying became tolerable.

So we danced.

We played.  We sang.  We traveled.

We survived.

And the years passed.

It started once every other week, maybe once a week.  And then I got smart again.  I had another great idea.  I found ways to meet with you more and more.

And then it became daily.  I'm not sure how quickly that happened but we went from being friends to something much closer.

Maybe we became one.  At some place in our journey, it was a symbiotic relationship.  But it wasn't toxic.  Not in the least.

Because of you, I was able to work a soul-crushing job.

Because of you, I was able to accept that I was alone.

Because of you, I could deal with those buried memories suddenly popping up into the present after being triggered.

Because of you, I was perfectly fine eating myself to death.

And then I needed you more.  We needed to be closer.  I needed more and more.  I experimented with different delivery systems and sources.  I studied and applied my intelligence.

We became as close as we could.  You were my refuge.

You were my shield and armor.

And then I OD'd.

It wasn't too serious of an overdose.  I fought to keep from passing out, telling myself over and over, to just keep breathing.

But the hours leading up to that overdose were glorious.  So incredibly glorious!  I felt nothing.  My head was unplugged and I wasn't a wreck.  I didn't want to eat my pistol.  I didn't want to walk in front of a train.  I didn't want to scream until my throat bled.  And on that night, as I drifted into sweet oblivion, I will admit that if I had not woken up the next morning I would have been okay with it.

Even now, I can say that.  You could have taken me into death and I would not have been upset about it.

But that wasn't any kind of warning to me.  I was so happy to know you and I could be so close.  And to have that kind of numbness was a blessing.  I loved you even more.

But cracks began to form in our relationship.  It wasn't all rosey.  You caused health problems that at times were incredibly painful.  You tore me up in ways that might never heal.  I have all kinds of issues because of you.

I didn't care for years about that, either, because you and I worked well together.  Plus, I honestly thought I would be dead, before it became too serious of an issue. 

And then I got worse.  The depression and despair.  Everything.  I kept eating myself to death and it was working.  I crossed some kind of point that wasn't quite The Point of No Return but it was a signpost telling me I was close.

My legs were covered in oozing sores.  They were more than double their normal size.  I lived on sweets and drank tons of soda pop.  I was having issues with my blood pressure, sleep, and a long list of other problems.  I was clearly on my way out and I didn't care.

And then something weird happened.  Friends began telling me how important I was to them and how they didn't want to lose me.  They said I had more to offer and I was somebody they would miss if I were gone.  A couple of them cried as they told me this.  That penetrated. 

So I began to pull away from you.  I didn't want to but I knew I had to.  Life changed and I couldn't afford you anyways.  I had to back off.

But your grip on me was tight.  And you had dug deep into my bones.  Just a little distance from you made me sick.  Withdrawals.

I would wake up throwing up, soaked in sweat, shaking.  Then, we'd dance, and I'd level out.

My doctor said I needed to slowly back away from you because to suddenly go cold turkey would probably put me in the hospital.  The human body can only take so much and you had gotten into every single cell in my body.

So, I slowly backed off.  I tapered.  And for the last year I have been sick almost every single morning.  Not a day has passed where I didn't deal with some kind of withdrawal symptom or a health problem caused by you.

But for a year, I pulled back bit by bit from you, until now.   Right now, our daily contact is just a small fraction of what it used to be.  A tiny amount.  And I need to make the leap and sever this chain.

You need to let me go.

I'm sorry.  You were good to me.  But it's a half-life now and I cannot live like this anymore.

I had to make a choice.  Do I live or do I die?  I am giving life another chance and that cannot happen when you and I are together.

You need to let me go.  Please.

It's time.  It's long past time, really, but we've been taking it slow.  But we're almost done and it's time for us to walk away from each other.

You need to loosen your grip on me and let me go.  You're not killing me but with you I cannot live.  Just the act of moving away from you has caused all kinds of horrible side effects.  My emotions are everywhere.  I'm constantly breaking down over little things.  I can't think straight and I hardly ever leave my apartment anymore because of anxiety. 

If I survive breaking away from you, it will be a monumental achievement in my life.  I deserve another shot at life.  I deserve another shot at being happy.  I deserve to be able to go through life without having to numb myself up just so I can function. 

I deserve a chance to live without being chained to you.  I'm sorry but that's just how it is.  I deserve better than this shit.  I have never been able to say that until just recently.  I have never in my life, ever, said "I deserve something good." 

Now I can.  And that changes everything. 

It's time for you to loosen your grip on me and let me grow into the person I was always meant to be. 

Thank you and Goodbye. 

  

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Our Main Characters are Teachers

I have a number of short stories, novellas, and novels in various states of completion.  My hard drive is full of them.  Some are good projects that need attention while others were half-baked ideas that never really amounted to anything. 

I always imagine my main characters (MC's) just standing around when I'm not working on their story, smoking cigarettes, and looking cool, while chatting with each other.  I wonder if they get lonely and worry if I'll come back.  Do they feel abandoned?

I have horrible abandonment issues.  I freak out when people leave me.  Knowing I'm doing that to another person, even fictional ones, bothers me.  But then I have to remember not everybody is like me.  I'm broken.

Do my MC's think of me as a burden?  Do they think of me as a chore they have to deal with in their routine?

"Let's see--I've got to do the laundry, feed the dog, and aw, shit!  I need to be in Ted's story."

Lately I've become very much aware of just how people see me in their lives.  What role do I play?  Do they think of me when I'm not around?  Am I the butt of their jokes?  When they see me, do they think, "Aw shit!  Here comes this asshole.  God, I hate this guy!   He's so weird!"

I'd rather know people are using me for free ice cream than to think I'm a seen as a chore on their list of things to do.  Is there anything more heartbreaking than to know the only reason somebody keeps you in their lives is because they feel a sense of duty or obligation?   Not so much that they owe you but they're a kind person with a good heart and they don't want to be mean, so they are kind to you while scrambling for a way to get away from you.

It's embarrassing and humiliating.  Knowing you are a chore or a duty to somebody shatters your heart.  It's worse than pity, in my opinion, because pity comes from a place of care and empathy. 

Is that how my MC's see me?

Or do they see the nose-dive I'm in, and how despite my efforts the monkeys on my back make pulling up and out of it almost impossible, and think to themselves how they'll be free of me soon?  It's a ghoulish thought, I know, but my MC's are human (mostly) and without me demanding things from them or constantly needing interaction from them, they would truly be free.  No Ted to drag them down or take up their time.

Or is it the other way?  Do they get mad on those bad nights when I'm on the edge and I'm writing letters to nobody in particular while looking at my pistol every few minutes?  Do they say things like, "Don't you die on me, fucker.  I need you to finish this story so my destiny will be complete.  I need you to finish my fate so I can live happily ever after."

I should note at this time that none of my characters ever live happily ever after.  I figure if that's impossible for me, then it's impossible for them.  They're going to die alone just like me.

But I've lied to a bunch of them and told them it's possible.  My MC's totally believe the Happily Ever After ending is possible and if they just do as I say and jump through the hoops I've laid out for them, then they'll be able to ride off into the sunset with somebody who actually wants to be with them and isn't thinking how it's a chore to hang around.

Every once in a while, I'll get an MC who develops faster and in more detail than the others, and they begin to call audibles.  Instead of going to visit their friend the gun dealer, they go to visit a priest, and ask for absolution.  Instead of listening to good music in their cars, they listen to Taylor Swift, and sing along with the radio.  Instead of being a foodie, they're a picky eater who lives on fast food and cheap beer.

These small ripples turn into tsunamis later on.  Subtle changes in an MC in the first chapter create destiny by the fourth act.  That means the whole thing needs to get re-written and switched around.  And most MC's will be defiant about it. 

"Hey!  Look, I'm a real person!  And I honestly think having me tell the story would be better than somebody else."  


Bob looked up with defiance, his arms crossed over his chest, and chin jutting out.  


"Defiance?  I'm helping you!   I'm just trying to help you write something good instead of that schlocky bullshit you usually shovel."  


Bob whined like a little toddler who wanted a cookie or needed a nap.  


"I'm not whining, you asshole!"  


Bob threw his nookie down on the ground and began screaming as he threw a tantrum.


"Oh.  My.  God.  You can't be serious!  I'm not throwing a tantrum.  I'm saying that I can tell a story better than you can and you don't like it."  


But what Bob didn't know was that he was standing on top of a nest of hornets.  


"Hey, man!  No need for that kind of stuff.  We're just talking here, okay?"  



And these weren't just ordinary hornets.  These were Japanese hornets, known for their painful and sometimes deadly stings.  


"Okay, maybe I was a bit rude back there, and maybe I said some things I shouldn't have.  I'll admit that sometimes I can get a bit emotional."  


The hornets were asleep for now but Bob's whining was beginning to stir them and any more sound would be enough to wake them into a fury as they defended their nest from an intruder.  


"I'm sorry!  I just wanted some closure is all."  


Bob looked around at his options, wondering what's next, and if there was going to be a future.  


"It's just that you don't do closure for your characters, and I could really use some.  That's all."  


What Bob didn't realize was closure is for television shows and novels.  Bob, the poor, unfortunate bastard, was in a short story connected to a series of novels.  There would be no closure.  Not for him, anyways.  


"But the people in my life..."


Bob thought about his life, and the people in it, and he realized he wanted them to be happy more than he wanted to be right.  Or find peace.  


"I don't get any closure, do I?"  

Bob slowly walked away while fishing in his pockets.  There, he kept a couple of pills tucked away.  Three, to be exact, and he knew they would make this moment less painful.  He swallowed all three at once, and washed them down with some Mt. Dew.  He doesn't curse, he doesn't cry, he doesn't say a word.  He thinks about tomorrow, and how it doesn't look much better, but really all he wants is today to just disappear.  


Sometimes, our characters get out of hand, and you need to wrangle them back under control.  Some people talk about how our characters belong to us so we may torment them.  I don't believe in that.  I hate tormenting people.  Contrary to what you might think, I'm a very kind man, and never want to make anybody feel worse than what I've been through.  Even if they are fictional. 

My characters work through stuff.  They endure.  They survive up until the end when they die because that's what we all do, eventually, and I want them to go up until their Fate. 

I think they hate me.  On some level, I think they really hate me.  None of them ever get laid, they're alone, and usually I take everything away from them that they've ever had.  But we write what we know, right? 

I've tried being nice to my MC's.  I really did.  And let me tell you, they were happy bastards when they found out.  They were cracking jokes and making even me laugh.  They were the life of the party. 

And then it came time to actually put them through their paces of being happy.  It was time for them to find love, to enjoy life, and all of that happy shit.  And I just couldn't do it. 

I tried.  I really did.  But in the end I just couldn't do it.  I became jealous and started to look at my own life, and the things I've done, and want to do, and it just became a mess.  I became too depressed to continue and those stories all languish unfinished on my hard drive. 

Unless I decide to drag them into my world and unleash monsters, demons, meth addicts, crackheads, and voodoo priests.  If they're miserable, I'm comfortable.  I don't say that in a sadistic sort of way, even though it sounds like that, but I just haven't grasped what it's like to write characters who are happier than myself. 

And that's why I think they hate me. 

I'm working on new story.  A deeply flawed character and I'm not so sure what I'm going to do with him.  The more I write him, the more he becomes me, and that means I need to develop him.  It means I need to do for him what I need to do for myself.  And that's a shitty, shitty road. 

Plus, I'm obstinate, and I don't change very easily.  I wish change was easy for me because it would make things much better in my life. 

So this is why my MC's are always a certain way.  I have a very hard time writing characters who aren't deeply flawed, depressed, and static.  It makes for a very difficult character ARC to write.  It's like pounding steel or sculpting water. 

This character I'm writing currently is going to realize he belongs where he is and that's his home despite how badly he hates it.  He will remain deeply flawed.  He has much farther to go before he reaches bottom and that might prove to be just as difficult to write as making him out to be happy.  As for right now, he isn't going to get a Happily Ever After.  I just can't bring myself to write those. 

I mean, if I don't get one, why should anybody else? 







Sunday, July 29, 2018

Maybe I'll Get Fired For This

For the first time since the beginning of this blog over 7 or 8 years ago, I have been asked to take down a post.   I'm so stunned that I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I promise you, though, when I've organized my thoughts, there will be a long, detailed post.  It's a slap in the face.  Pure and simple.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Dealing with the Latest News and Social Media

This isn't about politics. 

I will not do that here. 

In recent days, I've been increasingly depressed.  I'm lashing out at people, getting angry over stupid shit, and starting arguments and picking fights online.  I've been having a harder and harder time controlling my anger, waking up grumpy, and ready to piss people off. 

In fact, I've been making people angry and then walking away, just to really rub salt in the frustration of it all. 

All this time I've been wondering what's wrong with me.  Why am I falling apart like this?  Where is this depression coming from?  And why am I waking up ready to shit on the entire world?  I realize now that's going on. 

Social media is full of posts about the latest issue to piss people off--children being separated from their families at the border.  The children are taken into custody and held there until family members who have already come to the US can be located, and told to come get these children.  Then, the kids are handed over to family members.  Parents who are divided from their kids are understandably upset and in one case, a man killed himself out of anguish. 

I lost my family because of US immigration laws.  The only thing I ever wanted in life--a family--was taken from me.  It destroyed me.  I'm still not over it and we're coming up on 18 years.  It is still raw for me to this day. 

The news being blasted on social media has ripped open these wounds for me.  I am reliving a lot of the emotions I endured when this first happened.  The horror of knowing your family is torn from you by a system that will not, and will never, show mercy or empathy.  Nobody cares. 

Because it's trendy now, social media is full of righteous outrage, and everybody is screaming about the children.  But that's okay, as I'm sure they'll move on to something more horrible later down the line, because there's always something more horrible.  This world is such a terrible place, and our species is so violent and sadistic, we can be assured that there will always be something worse in our future. 

There was no angry social media posts for me when I was dealing with Immigration fucking me over.  When I told people about how my wife would call me on the phone crying because she was worried about her safety, and how our daughter was so skinny because she couldn't afford much food, I would be met with a shrug of the shoulders and a "wow, that sucks." 

That was it.  Nobody gave a shit.  And there was nobody there to help me. 

I was going to sneak my family into the states through Mexico.  I got as far as speaking to Mexican workers who had made the trek several times, and I quickly realized how dangerous it was.  I was pretty much guaranteeing my family would be severely hurt, if not killed, and if they were arrested, I'd never see them again.  At the time, my daughter was a toddler, and it would have been pure hell on her. 

I also thought of making the Northern route.  There are passages through Canada into Idaho, Washington, and Minnesota we could have tried.  It would have been expensive, too arduous for my wife and daughter, and I would have risked serious consequences if caught.  In that area, it wasn't so much ICE as it was DEA agents, who would have instantly labeled me a drug runner despite not having any drugs on me at all, just because they knew they could pile on the charges. 

In my research, I had come across a story about that exact thing happening.  The guy didn't have any drugs on his at all, and he was with his wife and baby, hiking down a trail into the US.  They were caught by the DEA, and he was labeled a drug trafficker.  His wife was arrested and sent back to Thailand with their baby, and he was thrown in prison.  I've been searching Google for the link to that story, but it was about 17 years ago, pre-9/11, and I just can't find it. 

Just reading that story was enough for me.  I knew it would be a horrific risk and the odds were so far against it working, it was best not to even try.  Plus, I just didn't have the resources to try.

But here's the thing--I knew the risks.  I knew that if caught, my daughter would be divided from not only myself, but also my wife, and it would be traumatic for them both.  I knew it would be so horrific that I didn't even try it. 

With all of these news stories, I have been reliving all of the emotions I went through back then, and it has been difficult for me.  This never goes away.  It never leaves me.  I am always carrying the loss around and I can't get rid of it no matter what I try. 

The closest I have gotten to some kind of healing is realizing that with all of the things that went wrong, it's obvious to me Fate had plans for them, and those plans did not include me.  Fate needed them to be on their own, together, for whatever reason and whatever lessons.  This was not about me.  This was about the path they were supposed to walk, and Fate knew I would carry them as best as I could, so I had to be removed from their lives. 

You have no idea how painful it is to write those words.  But it has been the best way for me to deal with what I have lost.  This past weekend was Father's Day and it sucked.  I like to think I would have made a good dad to my daughter.  I try not to think about all of the horrific things that happen to girls who grow up without a dad.  When those thoughts do come around, I want to die, because that way I don't have to see the hurt and pain in my daughter's life. 

I'm trying to take a break from social media.  I'm trying to keep my mind clear of the bullshit.  Plus, I'm trying not to be angry at people.  But I'll admit there is a lot of anger there. 

But rest assured--there will be something even uglier in the press soon, and we can all move on to the next reason to be outraged. 


Monday, June 11, 2018

Anthony Bourdain and Calling it Quits

I'm not much for celebrities and I don't follow gossip pages.  But I adored Anthony Bourdain's work and looked up to him.  He was a late bloomer who moved forward into some amazing levels of achievement.  He and I had things in common and he was my hero.

Waking up to the news he committed suicide gutted me.  It was like the guy who spoke for me and at the same time educated me abandoned me.  He was the leader of us fucked up, depressed, addicted, empathic, sympathetic people.  And losing him gutted me.

Saturday was a rough fucking day.  I'm done trying to sugarcoat it and be nice.  I'm so done with everything.

Tony's death opened a conversation online about suicide and depression.  Online, on places like Twitter and Reddit, people opened up about their experiences and for the first time, people talked about what it's like when you're ready to go.  People are finally talking about what it's like for them when The End comes and they know it's time to go.

I found it to be something special.  I'm not sure if I'd call it liberating or comforting, but it was special and it meant a lot ot me.

There were a lot of people trying to figure out why Tony did it.  Or why Kate Spade did it.  Both of them hung themselves.  Everybody said they had everything.  As with any suicide, there are rumors, and nobody knows for sure.  To an outsider those rumors about this and that might seem like a small reason but you never know what it will be that finally pushes you over that edge.

It's like standing on a bridge made of woven straw.  You hear snaps and pops as bit by bit it disintegrates under your weight.  And then something happens and that's it--you're done.

For me, it's different.

I have tethers that keep me here.  Connections.  People.  Potentials.  I don't have dreams and I don't have hope.  It's the odds of something happening.  It's the odds that something will be here for me once I pull out of this nose-dive.  Maybe I'll have a heart attack tonight.  Or maybe a stroke.  Maybe my heart will finally give up trying to keep blood moving in this morbidly obese body and just stop.  Every day that I'm here, there is that chance, and I can't say I care much.

But what are the odds that even if I do crawl out of this pit I'm in that I'll figure out what I'm needing and find it?  Low.  Very low.  We're talking Las Vegas odds and as we all know, the House always wins.

But I know the Powers That Be aren't going to let me out of here so easily.  I know they want me to fight and earn some kind of happiness.  Nothing will be given.  No more tools will be offered.  No more hands of support will be sent.  I have what I need to move forward and it's all up to me now.

What holds me back is knowing how many times I've been down this path and had everything and everybody taken from me and I feel like I'm a sucker just for thinking about doing it again.

In my first day of First Grade, I had a Hot Wheels car in my pocket at school.  During recess, a kid wanted to see it.  I was a trusting sort, so I handed it over, and he threw it against the ground as hard as he could.  I picked it up and he asked to see it again.  I was a trusting sort and never knew this kind of behavior.  I gave it to him again and once again he smashed it into the ground.  My little toy car was all fucked up.

I feel like life is like that.  There's no guarantee that what we want is on the top of this mountain we're supposed to climb and I've climbed enough of them to know how worthless that journey can be.  I'm tired of feeling like the sucker who took the fool's bet.  Friends tell me it's not the destination but the journey and frankly it pisses me off.  I have no interest in that journey. 

I don't know why I'm still here.  I don't know why I even wake up in the morning.  I don't even know what I want.  I can't think of a single dream.

I exist and that's all I do.

And sometimes, I leave fingernail gouges in the dirt while I drift away.

I guess it's different for all of us.  I don't think it would be easier for anybody if  did it.  I know I'd hurt people and that tears me up.  I've had it done to me and I know what it's like.  I can't say I could do it to somebody else.  So that's a big tether that keeps me here.  I just watched a video of Chef Masa in Japan break down while talking about the loss of Anthony Bourdain.  It was heartbreaking.  And there are tons more videos like that of people who knew him and didn't know him breaking down because they were so devastated by his loss.

It's not about him.  It's about how somebody who had so much going for him took that option when so many of us are barely surviving with little to show for it and not much hope for anything more.  We're still here.  We're still waking up in the morning and putting one step forward at a time.  And this world is so awful.

Death sings the sweetest songs when the world is dark.

But I'm still here.  I don't know what to do to get beyond this but I'm working on it.  I wake up, I work, and sometimes I get the courage up to leave my apartment.  I did that yesterday but today just wasn't in the cards.  Tomorrow is another day.  And that sums it up in the end.  Tomorrow is another day and I'm not going to beat myself up because this one didn't amount to much.  I woke up, I worked, and I got through the day.  Sometimes it's the best we can hope for and it's the best we can do.

Sometimes, those are the nails dug into the dirt to keep us from drifting away into the darkness forever when there just aren't anymore tethers holding us here.  It's the best we've got and it works for another day.


  

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

I Love You in a Bowl

I love you.  

It's three simple words I have wanted to tell a number of women in my life but never could because of various reasons.  Most commonly, because it's too powerful of a statement and often the fastest way to get rid of somebody is to tell them you love them.  

Or worse, they will assume something is wrong with you because you love them.  They'll ask you why and how and then you'll have to go into a long monologue detailing all of the reasons your heart latched on to them like a facehugger from Alien.  

There have been times I have wanted to tell someone I loved them just because I felt to not do so was a sin against the fortune I had been given, as if not taking advantage of that moment somehow offended the gods, because they moved mountains for that moment to become a reality and I was wasting it. 

But no, I've had to hold my tongue far too often in this life.  There are women I loved a long time ago and still love today but can't say a word because it would complicate things beyond comprehension.  Telling them how I felt, and continue to feel, would fill the room (or intertubes) like a rapidly expanding and combustible gas.  It would become something so awkward it would border on toxic.  

So what is a man to do?  

I cook.  

I have lost count how many times I've made special dishes for women just so I could say "I love you" without words.  Instead, I spelled the words out in dairy, sugar, and strawberries.  Rather than eloquently recite a poem professing my fondness, I spelled with apples, oats, and brown sugar to make an apple crisp.  



I have told a woman "I would do anything for you" by means of sushi and I have told a woman she was the first person I thought of in the morning and the last person I thought of when I went to bed by giving her a slice of custard pie.  


And then there is ice cream.  



I got my first ice cream maker about 13 or 14 years ago at a St. Vincent of DePaul thrift store for only $5.00.  My first batch of ice cream was terrible but soon after I got the hang of it and embarked on a path of decadence that has taken me to all manner of pleasure.  

I'm constantly making ice cream.  Even though I'm spending money I can ill-afford to burn, I am making ice cream almost every week.  And then I take pictures of it and post them online.  I'll come back to the videos I posted on Youtube in a few paragraphs.  



As for the ice cream itself, I give that way to people I care about.  Neighbors, friends, and the select lady here and there.  There have been women who have begged me to bring them ice cream and women who have begged me to stop.  And when those moments came, I asked myself, "does she know I'm telling her how much I care about her with these bowls of ice cream?"  

I've had women be genuinely surprised at the ice cream I've given them, expecting some lame DIY kitchen effort, only to find a well-rounded and developed flavor that was rich and scoopable.  


I'm good at what I do.  

So what about those who are important to me but are too far away to actually try anything?  That's where the pictures and videos come in to play.  Food pron.  I've been posting a lot of it recently because I want watch them and get hungry.  On Twitter, I've been tagging people lately, because I want them to have happy things sing for their attention instead of dreary news stories about yet another stupid thing.  

The other reason I post food pron is envy.  My life ain't that grand so when I find something in it others want, I brag about it.  



I've found that when I post picture of my latest ice cream batch, people tend to feel better, because just seeing ice cream elevates their mood and makes their day better.  I love doing that for folks.  Especially for the ones I care about.  

Sometimes I get frustrated.  It's like showing a woman you're madly in love with picture of a dozen roses and telling her how great they smell.  I'm sure she'd love to get those roses in her hands.  Or at least be in the same room as those roses.  

It's frustrating for me, too, because I want to put that ice cream in her hands so she can decide if it goes in her belly or not.     

I used to think the fastest way to a woman's heart was through the ribcage.  But after speaking to a few of them, I learned that old say, "the fastest way to a woman's heart is through her stomach."  That's not true, either, but I'm going to go with it for now.  



There are videos on my channel dedicated to specific people.  And there are videos out there still dedicated to certain people but I kept their names out because I wanted to respect their privacy.  



Or maybe I was afraid.  Because honestly, it's easier for most people to just say, "I love you" or "I'm madly in love with you" than to make and edit, the post, a video showing them making ice cream.  

You have to be careful who you say "I love you" to because it might be the last time you speak to them.  Nobody wants a big, creepy guy in a van mysteriously falling in love with them.  Uninvited love is scary.  I am incredibly aware of this and often say little, if anything, because I'd rather be the quiet one in her presence than the talkative one she avoids.  

It's a trade-off we creepy guys have to make.  

There are times when I've asked women, "do you want some ice cream?" but the real question I was asking was, "could you please stick around for a few minutes because I really enjoy your company."  

I treat ice cream as an edible sonnet dedicated to how much I care about someone.  And while that someone might tell me it looks and sounds good, what I hear is, "I love that you're putting in the work and effort to make this for me because it shows me just how much you care."  


I'm not naive enough to think a woman will fall madly in love with me because I can make stuff in the kitchen.  Far from it.  In fact, I think it works against me on some level, because it detracts from the sparks and sexual tension that has to go into a budding relationship.  But it gets a woman's attention and that's what I enjoy--the attention.  The rest just isn't in the cards right now and I'm okay with that.  For now, anyways.  

I'm sorting a lot out in my life and this is the one thing that's going well.  Ice cream is there for me and as I tell the ladies, I'll make sure it's there for you, too, if you let me.  Because in the end of it all, I just want the people I care about to be happy, who isn't made happy by ice cream?