everybody hurts (but some people are just assholes)

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“There’s a lot of people out there hurting right now,” a friend of mine said a few months ago. Sigh. She’s probably right. Given if you’re a woman, a person of color, LGBT or disabled and an American it’s hard not to feel hurt by the current state of the country. The insane collective thought is so disgusting and disheartening that you’d have to be made out of steel not to feel the slightest bit disheartened. Knowing this and taking my friends’ words to heart, I have tried to consider that perhaps maybe some bad behavior can be chalked up to people being in pain. Likewise, I’ve tried to let people off the hook and avoid inflammatory conversations. Being a little extra nice to people behind the counter at coffee shops and grocery stores can’t hurt either so I have made a conscious effort to do that as well. The truth is many people are hurting and therefore they might lash out and act erratically. You know, the old “hurt people hurt people” adage is true. Yet I also believe some people just suck.

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What any of this has to do with old disco Jazzercise ads from the past, I have no idea. But please enjoy the spandex and we’ll sort it all out together. This has been on my mind a lot in 2017. I am über aware of my own short fuse these days and I try to stay in a more spiritual place in my day-to-day dealings. But sometimes, I’m a human being and I’m insensitive. More often than not, stupid shit just inadvertently flies out of my mouth and I have to clean it up later. Such is life. “We are all doing the best we can” or so I keep telling myself especially when dealing with assholes. There is no better place to remember this mantra than the internet.

As a paid social media professional and copywriter, arguing with people on the internet falls under the BBB (basic bitch behavior) category and I try to avoid it as much as possible. When I started doing social media marketing back 7 years ago, the industry rule of thumb was if you wouldn’t say it at coffee or at a party then you shouldn’t say it on Facebook or Twitter. Obviously, that unrealistic, fairytale has flown out the window but I do try my best not to yell in all caps or get involved in threads started by mentally unhinged people. Despite my efforts, however, shit happens and somehow you just wind up there. And that’s exactly what went down the other day.

Without getting into the exhausting, BBB details of this internet altercation, I will say I disagreed with a popular media commentator with a huge following and a person who’s writing I actually enjoyed (up until this point, anyway). I tweeted my thoughts in a conversation that one of my online followers and friends was involved in. Holy shit. This already sounds like the most terrible junior high bullshit ever. I apologize and I’ll wrap this portion up soon. Basically, the dude with the published articles, big following and fancy scarf in his profile photo put me on blast and sent two tweets quoting my tweets and verbally dragging me which then caused his followers to tweet-beat me like I was a human piñata. While not pleasurable, it’s not like being mugged or getting the gay bashed (two legit terrifying things that actually happened to me long ago) so I sort of laughed it all off. I mean, let’s get real. Being in a fight with someone you never met on Twitter is not a tragedy or reason to get upset. Plus, and here’s a pro-tip for you, I turned all notifications off on Twitter forever ago so I had no idea what other people were or weren’t saying about me. Time went on, someone famous died, our president said some stupid shit and my moment was quickly forgotten.

This being 2017 and me being a guy who really does try to be less of a dick on a daily basis, the first place my mind went was, “Well, this dude is probably in a lot of pain.” After all, he’s part of a group currently being marginalized and attacked right now so no harm, no foul. And then I read his other tweets about this topic. Turns out, he’s just kind of an asshole. I wasn’t unique that morning and he lashed out at sevreal others in the same juvenille bitchy way. Him being a just an asshole was actually a relief.  Sure, maybe this asshole-ness is a biproduct of being in pain but none of that was my business. This asshole and his fancy scarf were quickly unfollowed and I’ve probably followed a dozen more assholes since then.

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The moral of this story, other than “The Internet is Fucking Stupid” is the only person’s behavior I can worry about is my own. I have to check my motives when I reach for the dangling carrots of drama and conflict. What’s missing in me, what’s hurting with me that fighting with a stranger on Twitter sounds like a fantastic idea? When my impulse is to read someone or put someone int here palce, the bitch I actually need to be concerned about is me. Because, yes many times my bad behavior is born out of emotional pain but more often than not, I’m just being an asshole.

 

surrender becomes power

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Maybe there’s no such thing as a 100% terrible movie that you get absolutely nothing out of? No, really. Hear me out. There are many, many epically bad films out there but is there always at least something redeeming we can pull out of a movie? For example, there are lots of films that I love which are really awful pieces of shit that no human being should sit through. Yet due to their campiness and sheer horrible nature they somehow become accidentally hilarious and genius. I mean watch Starship Troopers or Showgirls or Center Stage and tell me didn’t enjoy them in the same way you enjoy a bag of Cheetos. It’s not good for you but you sort of don’t care. As a lifelong movie nerd, I came to the hard realization years ago that not every movie is supposed to save your life. Maybe the writing is atrocious, the performances ridiculous and the entire production a bloated mess and you can still get something out of it? Or maybe not. But surprisingly, I did actually get something out of Suicide Squad when I watched it the other night.

Oh, this isn’t to say that I thought Suicide Squad wasn’t a bad movie. It’s a really bad movie. It’s a movie so bad that I found myself shaking my head in disbelief for the entire overstuffed 2 hours and change of the film. It’s so bad that it comes real close to becoming the kind of camp Camille Paglia wrote about. The kind of camp kids get stoned to watch and make fun of. And perhaps in time it will become that sort of camp. But for now it’s just a really big budget film where seemingly everything went wrong.

The film, in case you didn’t know/didn’t care, is based on a DC comic where a team of popular villains is brought together to fight against, uh I think, it’s alien terrorists? Sure, let’s go with that. Bless the poor person at Wikipedia who spent 1,100 words writing about the plot of this film because trying to describe it is like trying to describe a cup of noodles that got spilled on a compost bin which was then accidentally set on fire. But if that poor soul at Wikipedia can do it, I’m willing to give it my best shot, dammit! Anyway, this group includes Will Smith as Deadshot, a human machine gun who’s real superpower is making Will Smith the least annoying actor in the cast, Harley Quinn, a twisted sledgehammer wielding riot girl who looks like every girl you smoked crack with at a rave, a crocodile guy, a cholo who can set stuff on fire and some Aussie a-hole with biceps and a boomerang. They were recruited by Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis who must have lost a bet to wind up in this shitshow) who now–get this– controls their lives by an app on her phone which can kill members of the squad if they step out of line. From there, it’s a whirlwind of explosions and guffaw inducing plot twists until the big action packed showdown at the film’s climax.

In a film packed to the gills with awful stuff, I’ll narrow it down to two elements that were noteworthy. First off, the acting is really, really bad. When Viola Davis, whom I always find to be a tad over the top, gives the most nuanced performance, we are in trouble. Margot Robbie looks the part but she’s sports a Jersey accent that fades in and out from every scene. Let’s just say she does better in scenes where she kicks ass. Jared Leto as the Joker has already been given a place in history as one of the worst Jokers of all time and rightfully so. Nicholson is still the best movie Joker, by the way, and this is not open for discussion. Every scene he’s in is cringe worthy which is too bad because I’m a fan of Leto, the freaky androgynous sensitive actor/musician. But decked out in gold pants, bad tattoos and a grill(!), his Joker is a joke.

Secondly, the music. Oh my god. Look, I could have picked the script, the direction or the editing to talk about but the sheer shittiness of this soundtrack tell you all you need to know about Suicide Squad. I mean it has an Eminem song on it, for crying out loud. Eminem is musical late night Taco Bell. Sure, lots of people must do it but nobody talks about it. Yet here it is right in your face: an Eminem song and an old one at that! But given that the track shares soundtrack space with “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Super Freak” and “Spirit in the Sky”, we can only assume that the film’s music supervisor was a wedding deejay from Orange County.

I spent my two hours with Suicide Squad laughing and rolling my eyes and occasionally checking the time readout on HBONow. It’s a slog and a disaster but I had a good laugh watching it. I won’t recommend it unless you’re like me and enjoy a really bad movie from time to time. In which case, please watch it and report back to me so we can make fun of it together. Still, believe it or not, I actually got something out of it and it came from Jared Leto’s bling covered mouth:

“Desire becomes surrender. Surrender becomes power.” – The Joker

He says it in a scene, which in an act of some kind of movie PTSD I’ve forgotten, but it’s a line I couldn’t forget. After all, the whole idea of surrendering becoming power is what recovery is all about. I didn’t get my power back until I could surrender to the fact that I had a problem. And the amazing thing about this power of surrender is that once you do it, you surrender all of the time and get even more power from doing it. Omg, Joker. Mind.Blown. But in all seriousness, this is an incredible concept and when I’m in a spiritually fit place, I can still surrender. I’ve surrender about financial situations, relationships, my physical limitations, my character defects. Through this act, I get power back which sounds nuts. But it’s certainly been my experience. If I’m in the right place, I’m surrendering all day long– even if it’s just surrendering to how terrible a movie is and enjoying it anyway.

a hot mess, now at room temperature

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You really need to get your shit together, they told me.

“They” were friends and family. “They” were coworkers. But “they” didn’t exactly say it in so many words as so much gently imply that perhaps maybe there were better ways to conduct my life that didn’t make me feel like a walking, smoking human dumpster. No, I was the one who said it to myself over and over again. “You really need to get your shit together” is pretty much the through line of mental thought I had for the last 5 years of my drinking and using. Let me tell you, that’s a bummer of a message to play on repeat.  Thankfully, drugs and alcohol make it go away very quickly. “You really need to get your shit together.” Oh yeah? Lemme pour tequila and cocaine on you until you shut up.

See, nobody ever wants to hear that their shit isn’t together. Nobody wants to be told, even by themselves, that they are a disaster. We all live a delusion on some level that we are absolutely nailing this whole life thing. Besides, compared to, like, a serial killer or somebody living with kittens under a bridge, my shit was together. So I couldn’t pay my bills and was hung over 7 days a week. At least, I wasn’t wanted by the law or trying to hide a body. These are admittedly low bars to set for the whole “getting your shit together” thing. Alas, with that message playing for so long and things getting progressively worse, I had to “get my shit together.” 8 and a half years later, my shit is together. But is it really?

By telling my story and writing about being an addict and alcoholic, I’ve landed in a magical yet bizarre place. I am incredibly lucky to get to write about my past and my recovery. Each time I do, I feel the burden of my old life loosen and it all gets more progressively ridiculous and more funny as time goes on. It is indisputably a gift and I cherish being connected online to so many other writers in recovery who day after day share their story of getting better. For me, writing about this stuff is therapeutic and if somebody else happens to get something out of it, fantastic. I think of it as a way of being of service so I try not to get fucked up about comments and page views and collective digital approval, which is a drug in its own right. We who write about this sort of stuff are part of a community online which is truly amazing. This community has spilled into my real life and lifted me up in the most unexpected ways.

Yet it ain’t perfect. I don’t share many of the popular recovery stories out there. I’m not a high bottom drunk. I don’t hate calling myself an addict (please do not get me started on that). I don’t do inspirational memes or go on yoga retreats. All of those things are fine but that’s not my sobriety. I’m also not straight (spoiler alert lol) so I’m kind of the lone gay, pink wolf in this pack which is actually fantastic as lord knows miss thing likes being unique. The other thing? I’m not a sobriety expert or sober coach or life coach or life fixer. God no. I’d be terrible at that. I am simply an experience sharer which all brings me back to the top of the post. Sometimes, most of the time, the experience is that I’m still a mess and far from being some sort of mental health icon.8 years in, I really wish I could tell you I never acted like an addict ever again and all of my character defects disappeared in a poof of lavender glitter. Likewise, I wish I could tell you my self-esteem is rock solid and I’m just insanely in love with myself. Sadly, I cannot.

Two days ago, after shopping for new clothes, eating a delicious meal and having time with friends, I still felt empty. That old hole in myself that needs to be filled but given its endless nature can never be, popped back up.  I wanted something, anything to fix me. But today I know the truth about that hole. No amount of Netflix or chocolate or dick or drugs or alcohol can fill it. I should have laid down or reached out or went to a meeting but instead I just drove myself nuts for while until I got tired and went to bed. Yesterday, when I woke up I had an emotional hangover. I prayed. I meditated. I ate a great breakfast and I vowed to be nicer to myself. Lo and behold, I was nicer to myself and I felt better. I woke up today happy and well rested. Yet I realize that this is all a moment-by-moment proposition all contingent on how I take care of myself.

It’s also why I can’t be a sobriety or mental health guru. I’m just some idiot who was fortunate to get help from other addicts and alcoholics and managed to stay sober, one muthafucking day at a time. I no longer drink when life gets hard or annoying (and it does frequently). I have tools I can use and will begrudgingly do so when I’m in enough pain. That being said, there’s a recipe to a happier, more Sean that even if I follow to the letter doesn’t ensure total daily bliss. Even with money in my bank account, a roof over my head and years of sobriety under my belt, my shit isn’t necessarily together. I am still a hot mess but now I’m served at room temperature.

never let me down

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I’m still not convinced that David Bowie is actually dead. He was such a never-ending force of artistry and bold creativity for so long, that it makes accepting the fact that he’s no longer on this planet a hard pill to swallow. Nevertheless, he is actually gone from this realm. But he hasn’t stopped inspiring me.

With a mere 8 days left of my daily blogging fest, I’m slogging towards the end and feeling creatively zapped. I sat down this morning with coffee in hand and knew I had to start reading and listening to things that inspired me. I can’t summon these witty, wise wonderful posts on my own, people. So I had to act fast. If I let a feeling of “Oh, screw it!” takeover, I will be paralyzed and ain’t nothing coming out of this keyboard, honeychild. After falling down, the Google/YouTube rabbit hole, I landed, as I have before, on Bowie. I’m toying with idea of writing posts about different records from 1987 (like I did with True Blue and Tidal last year) so after perusing the Wikipedia page from that year, there he was: David Bowie. How could I forget that Bowie had released Never Let Me Down in 1987?

The record, considered a flop by many, was one I owned and in my 15-year-old brain didn’t think was that bad. Sure, it wasn’t the Changes One, greatest hits cassette that I burned a hole in. Nor was it Let’s Dance. But it was still Bowie for crying out loud. Bowie to me is like that saying about bad pizza- it’s still pizza. Besides, there are some great tracks on the record. Like the title song, for example. It’s Bowie does Motown or Motown does Bowie does 1987. Whatever it is, it’s decent track that holds up today. Also, you can do a lot worse in an 80’s song than “Day-In Day-Out”,the lead single from the record.

And even Bowie himself considered “Time Will Crawl” to be one of his all time favorite songs. The homoerotic dance moments in the video alone prohibit it from being a throwaway track.

Yet the album is far from perfect. Many of the songs are way over produced, a quality Bowie blamed himself for as he handed off the project to other people and didn’t stay involved. Some of the songs songs should probably not exist at all. I mean nobody, least of all our dear David Bowie, needs a song featuring a rap by Mickey Rourke. I swear I’m not making that up.  Plus, the timing of the record is notoriously crappy. After the mega success of Let’s Dance in 1983, Bowie struggled to find his footing. The followup, Tonight, was a commercial failure which breaks my heart to no end considering it features Bowie and Tina Turner singing the title track. That alone should shield it from any negativity.

Couple that with the tanking at the box office of Labyrinth, a fate unimaginable to kids who grew up loving that film and its music, and Bowie couldn’t catch a break. Things didn’t get better in 1987 as Never Let Me Down, despite decent sales, was seen as a flop, critically. Listening to it this morning, and I know this is a mega-fan speaking so my opinion isn’t exactly untainted, I found it to be really good. Charming, experimental, observational about societal issues yet tinged with Bowie’s cosmic optimism, Never Let Me Down, is far from a bad listen. Yet the real reason, I believe, I stumbled on it this morning, is this quote from Bowie in 1995 about the record:

“I felt dissatisfied with everything I was doing, and eventually it started showing in my work. Let’s Dance was an excellent album in a certain genre, but the next two albums after that [Tonight and Never Let Me Down] showed that my lack of interest in my own work was really becoming transparent. My nadir was Never Let Me Down. It was such an awful album. I’ve gotten to a place now where I’m not very judgmental about myself. I put out what I do, whether it’s in visual arts or in music, because I know that everything I do is really heartfelt. Even if it’s a failure artistically, it doesn’t bother me in the same way that Never Let Me Down bothers me. I really shouldn’t have even bothered going into the studio to record it.”

I got chills reading that. Why? Because it felt so relatable and shocking at the same time. There is something incredibly human and reassuring about David Bowie struggling to find his footing in his work. This man, this god, this inspiration to millions, had bad times where he felt like his work sucked. What a relief. If David Bowie can feel disheartened by the creative process and hate what he’s doing but somehow still carry on, than goddamnit, I can keep writing for the rest of the month. I can let myself off the hook. I can breathe and laugh about things that weren’t that great. And most importantly, I can keep going.

So thank you, David Bowie. As always, you never let me down.

Betty & Veronica: Queens of ‘Riverdale’

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If I had to, I’d read Archie Comics when I was a kid. I’d rather read Betty and Veronica but I’d do it if that’s all there was at the drugstore.

Look, comic books in the 70’s and 80’s didn’t have this annoying-ass culture that they have now. Everybody read comic books. It wasn’t geek chic or cosplay or anything else. It’s just what we all did. Sure, there was always “that” kid who read them obsessively and rambled off facts about them at the drop of the hat. But I wasn’t him. I was just a kid who liked comic books because it was smooth storytelling with fast results. Ever the addict. Plus, I couldn’t be a full-fledged comic book junkie because what I was attracted to was pretty specific. I didn’t like things that were dark or scary. I didn’t like comic books that had a billion parts and took years to finish a story. And I loved comics with female leads.

As my Wonder Woman obsession is well chronicled on these here pages and my comic book heart belonged to her, first and foremost, there was always room for others. She-Hulk, Batgirl, Supergirl and Betty & Veronica. I was always drawn to female lead characters and heroes. I’d play them in games and dress up like them but there was never the sense that I was in the wrong body or that I shouldn’t be a boy. I just wanted to be a boy who loved Wonder Woman. Dammit. So I’d read Archie Comics if I had to but the whole time I was waiting for Josie and the Pussycats or Sabrina the Teenage Witch or Betty and Veronica to show up. With the new reboot of Archie’s world Riverdale currently airing on the CW, I find myself doing the same thing. But in this case, it’s certainly worth the wait. enhanced-12232-1491342073-1.jpg

Much has been written about Riverdale and it’s obvious (and welcome) nods to Twin Peaks. The show unapologetically takes Lynch’s dark, campy small town and tweaks it for millennial viewers. But the most 2017 thing about the show are Betty and Veronica themselves. After a rocky start, involving Archie naturally, the pair implode the decades long frenemy troupe over a pair of milkshakes: Betty and Veronica decide to never let another boy come between them.

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And just like that, B&V 2.0 is born, bitches. Gone is the life blood of every Betty and Veronica comic ever since 1950. The very thing that made Betty and Veronica tiresome and problematic has now vanished. Instead of bickering over a boy, this new version of our favorite girls is fierce, complex and empowered. The girls, decked out in seriously gorgeous Emmy-worthy costumes from Rebekka Sorensen-Kjelstrup, have a new mission: being there for each other.

Self-involved rich girl Veronica Lodge has changed since I hung out with her in the 1980’s. First of all, girlfriend is no longer rich as her daddy, a Bernie Madoff type, is currently in prison on embezzlement charges. Secondly, she’s now Latina because why the fuck not? Lastly, and most importantly, she’s a girl who’s seen who she was and wants to change. In a great scene in episode 9, Veronica reveals that she was a bully back at her posh school in New York and how she really hurt a classmate of hers’. It taps us into a deeper character than we ever got a glimpse of on the comic book pages.  Yet Veronica, the fierce bitch who always get what she wants, the girl I wanted to be as a kid, is still here too. Just more emotionally in tune and smarter. Think Blair Waldorf after a 12 Step program. In a star making performance, Camilla Mendes creates a reformed bad girl for the ages and who doesn’t love that?

Sweet girl-next-door Betty Cooper, on the other hand, is more twisted than we could have ever imagined and I am here for it. At 10 episodes in, we’ve gotten a glimpse of Dark Betty and let’s just say she’s not just your student council president or favorite babysitter. The show is dancing with a mental illness storyline with dear sweet Betty. As of yet, we don’t know exactly what Betty has but we know her mama Alice (the perfectly campy, unhinged Mädchen E. Amick) isn’t all there either so it promises to get juicy soon. A steadfast friend and believer in the truth, Betty Cooper is still a golden girl but now she’s super interesting because she’s also sort of fucked up.

It’s not just Riverdale’s besties who have gotten a makeover for the better. Josie and the Pussycats are back. After a guilty pleasure 2001 big screen abomination, it’s safe to say their legacy is restored. This version of the Pussycats is an all black girl group (because again why the hell not?) who dishes out the fierce diva-ness required for every good teen show. Plus, the musical numbers are fun and filled with old school Archie references.

Elsewhere in Riverdale, it’s a mixed bag. Archie is still a dude-bro douche but at least this time he’s got great abs and the producers wisely have him shirtless in as many scenes as possible. He’s still clueless about women and kind of a disaster of a friend too. He’s hard to root for but as I noted in the top of the post I never really did. Also, the less we say about Luke Perry as his dad, the better. The new edgy homeless angsty Jughead is a great twist and he makes for a decent narrator even though the casting of his father (the one facial expression Skeet Ulrich) is equally unfortunate. By the way, I officallay feel 5,000 years old when people like Skeet Ulrich and Luke Perry who I used to watch play teenagers are now playing parents to teenagers. But at least Molly Ringwald is playing Archie’s mom!

Some of the storytelling gets cheesy and veers into old CW cliches but having established itself in a surreal camp realm at the jump makes me be a bit more forgiving as a viewer. Riverdale, with the openly gay Kevin character and a non-chalant kiss between Betty and Veronica, is queer in a no big deal sort of way that feels modern. After slogging through 2 episodes with bland, adult-heavy storylines, the series redeems itself in the latest two epsiodes. Mainly, becuase they’re filled with meaty, interesting things for Betty and Veronica to do. I’m going to stick Riverdale for the rest for the season because when it reallt goes there to full dark, weird and female positive place, it’s pretty darn wonderful. Besides, I’m positive my 10-year-old self would do the same.

I didn’t feel anything. Maybe I need more.

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For a platinum level drug addict like myself, remembering specific times that I was high is difficult to say the least. That’d be like our dear president trying to remember the people he’s blocked on Twitter. There’s just too damn many of them, darling.

As I sat down this morning and sipped coffee, I scanned the internet for prompts, inspirations and something to write about.  Turns out, today is kind of a fucked up day to look for writing prompts. Yeah 1,000 words on Hitler’s birthday? I’m gonna pass on that. Ditto with the 18th anniversary of Columbine. Although as a Colorado native, I certainly have thoughts on all of that but I feel like I covered them pretty well back when the Aurora shooting happened in 2012. After briefly considering a post that would simultaneously have paintings by Joan Miro while talking about Jessica Lange movies, both of whom were also born today, I remembered it was “420.” That “holiday” gets all the eye-rolling and air quotes from me because I think it’s ridiculous. Having just lived in Denver and seen 420 stupidity up close and personal, let’s just say I’ve had my fill with poorly dressed stoned white people people dancing in the street. Still, I was sure I could come up with a funny story about smoking pot. After all, I smoked it for a long time so there had to be fodder in there somewhere. But again, when you’re were high as much as I was it gets rolled into some big cerebral blob and none of it is all that entertaining. What I did remember, though, was the first time. The time it didn’t work.

At my late 80’s mountain brewery town junior high, there were a lot of “Jens.” You know, Jennifers who turned 13 and after trying out a heart over the “i” in 5th grade, suddenly landed on a more casual approach to their moniker. My first time smoking pot was at Cool Jen’s house. Cool Jen is not to be confused with Theatre Jen or Jen Who Wore Her Collar Popped Up On Her Polo Shirts. Cool Jen wore denim jackets and acid wash jeans, lots of lip gloss and listened to Mötley Crüe. Although certainly more stoner/rocker than my new wave listening self, Cool Jen’s appeal was universal. Me and my best friend along with a bunch of other randoms wound up at Cool Jen’s house. We were going to smoke pot. By now, at age 14, I had already drank enough times to consider myself a seasoned partier so pot was the most logical step and it was a big deal.

We’d all talked about it endlessly, trying to figure out what our exit strategies were, how to deal with our parents and basically how and what it would feel like. It felt extra risqué for me because not only was my dad sober but he was also a narcotics officer on the police force. Plot twist/irony alert/of course he was. It would be like if Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter Apple secretly ate Wendy’s and shopped at Old Navy. The rebelliousness of the act was certainly part of the appeal but smoking weed held the promise of getting outside myself and that’s what really excited me. I already knew that drinking made me disappear and was now open to any and all other substances that would help me do the same.

Thankfully, one of the Marks were there to help guide us new pot smokers through the experience. Like Jens, there were a lot of Marks at our school. Unlike Jens, I think they all of them had long hair and smoked weed thus making them truly indistinguishable. Mark lit what I’m 82% positive was a joint (but can’t really remember because drugs) and passed it around. A smoker of stolen Marlboro red’s already, I knew the basics of the act so when it got to me I knew what to do and I was already instructed to hold it in. Some kids coughed and wheezed. Other held it in and let out massive clouds of billowing smoke. Someone lit it for me because I was (and still sort of am) was as coordinated as an aging walrus. I held it in and let it out and passed it on. It went around and round and then it was done. We hung out in Cool Jen’s yard and listened to music. And everybody laughed and had red eyes. Everybody but me. It didn’t work. I was pissed. Maybe I did it wrong? Maybe it was bad weed? Maybe I needed more? Another girl (not a Jen. Maybe a Megan?) there assured that it was normal for a first time and that it doesn’t work on some people. Other kids told me I should try it again sometime. And that’s all I needed to hear. I went on to try it again soon after that and it worked. So did acid right after that and so did ecstasy and cocaine a few years after that.

Some 30 years later, this the part of the story I find really funny. I know there are non-addicts out in the universe who try drugs and alcohol and it doesn’t work for them so they never do it again. This fascinates me! Because every drug or drink, even the terrible ones that made me want to scrape my skin off or puke my guts out, I tried again. Some several times, you know just to make sure. Special K, Gin, Crystal Meth all things I really hated but did for extended periods of time because maybe I was doing it wrong or maybe I just needed more? This is not normal. It would be like continuing to eat Pad Thai even though you had a peanut allergy. What this memory really does however is shout at the top of its lungs, “YOU ARE AN ADDICT AND YOU ALWAYS HAVE BEEN, DUMBASS!” which is something I need to hear and remember on the daily, especially on 420.

 

God probably sounds a lot like Mavis Staples

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Whatever you believe in that happens to be bigger yourself, that happens to be something you can’t explain, that thing that I just call God, because even though I am about as non-secular as you can get, I am also lazy and God is easy. That that thing, God, shows up in the most unlikeliest of places. Like a Rolling Stone article about a recently released live track from 2014 where the Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples cover a Talking Heads song. The song, which may be proof of a higher power in and of itself, opened a whole can of worms for me. Mainly, the undeniable miracle that is Mavis Staples.

The same article linked to the above disco gospel ballad by Arcade Fire and Staples released in January as a protest song which benefited the ACLU. As I listened to the lo-fi electro beat and the lyrics, which talk clearly about giving power and then taking it away I thought, “Of course, Mavis Staples would be here for us now.”After all, here’s a woman, who alongside her family, provided the soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement.Angry, teary eyed and yet somehow relieved, the song knocked me out.  Not one to slow down, Mama Mavis was also just featured on a brand new Gorillaz track. The song is another one with a powerful message made even more so when delivered by that incredible voice.

I have to be honest. Hearing these two songs back-to-back was incredibly emotional. Not only was I reminded of the fucked up times we live in but I was comforted by knowing that if there’s any hope Mavis will be around to help carry us through all of it. Raw, powerful and honest both songs pack a punch and one I didn’t expect just hanging out drinking coffee at my kitchen table. Speaking of things divine, the timing of my musical Mavis binge was certainly other worldly. I was planning on watching the documentary on her life Mavis! directed by Jessica Edwards, currently airing on HBONow, later that afternoon.

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The documentary, which was filmed in 2014 and made the rounds at festivals the following year before winding up on HBO, couldn’t be any more timely. While I am definitely not that annoying person who tells people they will or won’t feel a certain emotion when watching a film, I will say it wouldn’t be the worst idea ever to have a box of tissues nearby when viewing Mavis! Nearly 20 days of personal blogging has left me a emotional mess so my weepiness at the film could be considered suspicious however you’d have to be a Nazi Cyborg to not be moved by Mavis Staples and her incredible message.

For starters, the film profiles Mavis and Staples Singers incredible rise to fame as gospel singers who wound up singing songs of hope and message for the Civil Rights movement. The band’s personal connection with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is incredibly powerful. Pops Staples was inspired by King’s message and wanted to make music that did the same thing. Coming from Chicago, Mavis and her clan were shocked while touring the South to see the hideous racism and injustice happening to black people. And as Mavis herself notes, the struggle is sadly alive and well today and she’s vowed to keep singing about until, “Dr. King’s dream comes true.”

Staples’ list of collaborators and famous fans reads like a who’s who of rock and roll history. Bonnie Raitt, Curtis Mayfield and recent collaborator Jeff Tweedy are all mentioned or interviewed in the film but the dishiest celebrity dirt comes from Bob Dylan. Dylan, a huge fan of the group, apparently at one point asked Staples to marry him! She reaches ninja-levels of cuteness when talking about their flirtation which “may have included some kissing.”

Yet the tissues came in handy when the film showed footage of Staples working with Prince. The two made a record together that never saw the light of day, sadly, due to his all out war with Warner Brothers Records. As Staples describes Princes genius, we are treated to shots of the pair working in the studio together. While sobbing, I was reminded that nearly a year later, I’m still fucked up about that one.

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Near the end of the film, Staples and Tweedy listen to a newly restored recording of a song by her father from an album he never got to complete before he died. By this time, I was just a full-fledged tear waterfall and embraced my crying fest. It’s a beautiful moment and one Staples herself is touched by too. And of course she is because like all shining divine beings, she’s also incredibly truthful and human.

And that’s the thing about her voice. Far from the smooth voice of  an angel, Mavis gets a little rough and raspy. At times, she looks as if she’s exorcising some demons in the clips of live performances featured in the film. Mentioned more than once in the film, is her desire to keep telling the truth and to keep spreading a message and I’m convinced that’s what gives her voice that edge.

That’s why I’m pretty sure whatever my non-secular unicorn glitter god is it probably sounds like Mavis Staples. Raw, real, not always pretty but comforting to the depths of your soul. Yeah If God sounds like that than hallelujah. Plus with a career pushing past the six decade point, Staples certainly seems eternal. At the end of the film, the artist herself even hints at her own angelic future. “If you don’t see me singing here, look for me in heaven,” she says. “I’ll be walking those streets of gold and singing around God’s throne.”

my therapists poop in a box

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18 days in and it’s come to this: a post about cats. Between yesterday’s post about my ass and today’s about my cats, I’m clearly on a downward blogging spiral. Buckle up!

However, these little creatures are on my mind today because with my husband out-of-town for six weeks, let’s just say that me and the cats have spent a lot of time together. So much so that my older cat Maeby can often be seen sitting by the front door as if she’s planning her escape or at least waiting for another damn human to walk thru the door. You can almost hear moan, “Really? Are we sure the other guy isn’t coming back?” To be fair, Maeby has a special affection for Michael. When he was home over the weekend, she slept by his side and followed him from room to room. I don’t begrudge her that at all. Trust me, I’m sick of me too. Still, I’m grateful for their little furry behinds because believe it or not they’ve helped me a lot.

Maeby, whom we inherited from Michael’s old roommate and who is named after Maeby Funke from Arrested Development, is the shy but sweet and thoughtful type. Happy to say hello but happier still to give you some space. Larry, on the other hand, whom we inherited from a suburban Denver alley, is more in your face. Unlike his older and more reserved sister, Larry will come darting from whatever part of the house he’s napping in just to say hi and hang out the minute you come home. He’s a little more type A and outgoing so it’s no mystery which cat truly gets me. These two are both survivors in their own right, Larry being an orphan and Maeby getting shifted from multiple owners. They know something about adapting to new surroundings and getting settled.

Carefree, crazy Larry and relaxed af Maeby don’t really give a crap about my existential non-crisis of being new in town. After all, they’ve somehow managed to make themselves right at home despite being basically snatched from their old lives against their will, shoved on an airplane for the first time and dropped off somewhere totally foreign.  I think I can handle not knowing where the dairy aisle is at a new grocery store.  When we were first planning this move, Michael and I were a tad worried about how Maeby would react. The last time we moved it took her 3 months to stop hiding and resenting us. Like the good cat of an alcoholic, she can hold a grudge. We were not, however, concerned about Larry. After all, this is the goofball life of the party who actually likes the vet’s office and sleeps in his carrier. Turns out, we were wrong on both counts.

In a feline plot twist, our older lady took to apartment living like someone’s recently divorced mother-in-law while Larry had a total meltdown. Within our first 30 minutes here. We lost our damn cats. We went to the grocery store and when we came back, they were gone. Like vanished, which is nearly impossible as it’s a large loft-like space with almost zero places to hide. As Michael panicked and ran down the massive hallways, I heard a little meow. The little rascals had wedged themselves behind the refrigerator and snuggled up together. Flash forward to a few hours later upon returning home from IKEA, we were greeted with howling coming from a unknown source. One of our critters was obviously in distress but they weren’t back in the refrigerator hiding spot. With a visual on Maeby, we knew it was Larry. After another panicked search, we discovered that somehow the lunatic had fallen in between our two upper kitchen cabinets. The physics of all of this is still perplexing one month later but all I know is after I hopped up on the counter, I spied his skinny long black legs pointed toward the ceiling. I tried to grab him but my arms are too short and I was afraid I’d hurt him. After mulling over the idea of making the world’s most embarrassing 911 call, Michael was able to somehow pull Larry’s lanky, disheveled body from the depths of our fancy modern cabinets. And this was all in the first 4 hours.

I wish I could report it’s been smooth sailing ever since that ridiculously traumatic day but I cannot. Larry still cries at night as if he’s wondering where the hell he is and where all of his old stuff went.  He’s found other places to hide but is thankfully keeping himself out of peril. But they spend their afternoons together watching birds from our huge windows and nap with me during the day. They chase each other and sleep for 14 hours. While none of this may sound very therapeutic or relaxing for me, I swear it has been.

As an alcoholic and drug addict who’d usually forget to feed himself, it still blows my mind that I can care for and keep other living things alive. Therefore, having Maeby and Larry to look after has been a relief. “Turning our thoughts towards others” is a tool of recovery and nowhere does it state those others have to be at all human. Feeding them and cleaning their litter box gets me outside of myself which is always a relief. In fact, cats are often referred to as the “Unsung Heroes of Mental Health”. Animals for people like me who also struggle with depression, are great for the soul, self-confidence and reducing stress. The simple act of them being here when I return from a day out running around my new city, makes me feel more at home. Just by being present for these two, I’ve reaped the benefits of their magical powers and I’m a better person for it.

Maeby is back to snuggling up to me during morning meditation and Larry is, well, still the Larryest. As I was turning off lights last night getting ready for bed, I couldn’t find him.”Oh terrfic. I lost Larry again. ” I searched all the usual hiding places and some new ones to,just in case. Nowhere to be found but I was tired enough that I headed by to my bedroom. After one last-ditch glance around the room, I found him. He was snuggled up inside a basket by my side of the bed. Turns out, we’re both a little more comfortable than we were just a month ago.

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eventually, you’ll think about your ass

tumblr_mdm66xNgHD1rrajnno1_1280.jpgEventually, you’ll think about your ass. And by think about “ass”  I don’t mean, ass in general, like “ass” as a greater entity. As in getting yourself some or a piece of. And I am also not talking about thinking about someone being an ass. If you are awake and reading this, you’ve already done that 40 times today. Nor do I mean you’ll think about someone else’s ass which again has probably already happened today. No, I mean “ass” as in the one attached to you. Eventually, you’ll think about your own and wonder where it all went wrong.

Someday soon or maybe it’s already happened, you will walk by your ass in a full length mirror and say, “Well, fuck.” You’ll give it a double take, questioning your first glance. Surely, that whatever that is can’t belong to you. Or you’ll wonder if there’s a lightbulb burnt out in your bathroom. Or perhaps it’s the angle you’re staring at it which it makes it look so depressed. Maybe it has dimples where it didn’t before. Maybe weight changes have left tiny tracks across it. Maybe it was happy and now looks sad. Maybe it used to be solid and now jiggles. Or maybe if you’re like me, you’ll notice that what was once high, tight and smooth is now a flattened, saddened shell of its former self. Like if 2016 was an ass, it would be yours.

In an act of aging gay male rebellion, I do not however spend a lot of timing romancing my younger self. When your younger self is glitter and cocaine covered coke whore and not a male model this is easy to do. Nevertheless, I don’t spend hours looking at myself and wondering if there was a twink wandering around nearby whose youth and life-force I could suck dry in between spray tanning sessions. I’m okay with my impish, Moby-ish looking self and know what my physical strengths. I have nice blue eyes. I have dreamy dimples. I have soft and attractive hands that proudly tell a life story free of physical labor. I have good skin, nice legs and calves, thanks to walking everywhere and I have a great ass. Or I used to, anyway. In fact a random drunk guy at a beer bust at a leather bar in Los Angeles once said I had “the best ass in the city.” Which me even remembering is remarkable for lots of reasons primarily of all the compliments I’ve ever been given this is the one I’ve cherished? Sigh. So much for not being a vapid, shallow gay man. Anyway, the point is my backside was my magical power in the gay world. Sure, I didn’t have abs or massive biceps but none of that mattered when you got a glimpse of ” the best in the city” ass. So imagine my surprise when I noticed at age 44 it didn’t exactly look like it would win any awards.

What it is about tragedies that happen in the bathroom that make them harder to deal with? Is it the lighting? The intimacy of the setting? Or the fact that you went in there to do one thing and discovered something awful instead? Whatever the case may be, it happened last year as I stepped out of the shower. The old mirror with the shitty brass frame that lived in the linen closet broke the bad news: my ass had flopped down. Gone was the “you could bounce a quarter off of it!” posterior of the past and here was this butt that looked like it gave up. Like it just decided to quit. Suddenly, I had the “I can’t even” of asses. I went to bed and woke up with middle-aged white man ass and I was not happy about it. Like what the hell? Didn’t the goddess of great body parts owe me a few more years of great butt-ness? I didn’t know it would just vanish at midnight like Cinderella’s coach and horses. I thought we’d have another decade or so together. Just to make sure, I put on my glasses and checked out the situation in two different mirrors. Son of a bitch. After, failing the three mirror test the writing was on the wall, or on my ass rather, I was getting older. Despite having multiple people (all of whom I promise I do not pay) tell me regularly that they thought I was in my thirties, my ass knew the truth. I was a forty-four year-old gay man who’s last free pass in the hot to trot gay world had literally gone south.

But really why did I care? I’m married and not out there shaking my stuff five nights a week trying to land a man. So who gives a crap if my butt had seen better days? The answer lies, as it often does, in a Google search.  In preparation for this piece, I Googled, “How a butt ages.” The search results are as hysterical as they are depressing. “My Butt Keeps Going South As I Age-Help!” an article from Prevention was my favorite. Titled with the same urgency as say, “My Husband is Cheating on Me-Help!” or “My Teen is Addicted to Crack-Help!” it says everything it needs to about how we feel when we find out our ass has fallen into a deep sleep and probably won’t wake up. Other results like, “Ways Your Butt Changes, By Decade” from Cosmopolitan and “Spending All Day On Your Butt Ages You By 8 Years” from Men’s Health are so damn sad sounding that I considered just buying big, billowy men’s caftans and riding my days out left on this planet with my ass in hiding. This little search tapped into the bigger reality: aging is hard and unavoidable.

One of the things we people who’ve stopped killing ourselves with drugs and alcohol do  is practice “accepting the things we cannot change.” Aging, despite what Men’s Health and science might tell you, certainly falls into that category. Despite having the interests of a 13 year-old girl and the mental focus of a 22-year-old, I have to accept that I’m aging. Granted, I know I’m only 44 and not 87 but time is marching on, and to paraphrase Dolly Parton’s line from Steel Magnolia’s eventually you realize it is marchin’ across your ass. For me, accepting this is easier than say, getting butt implants or-gasp- doing lots of exercises to reverse the aging of my ass. I am trying, as a whole, to be a person of quality. A person who has rolled with the tides of adversity and come out the other side. Therefore, my state of my rapidly sagging butt can’t be something I freak out too much about. Now that the shock has worn off, I do know that when I die and people get up and say nice things about me (again totally uncompensated to do so) the guy who said I had the best ass in LA won’t be there. Instead, or at least, I hope, people will talk about how I wasn’t awful and that I tried to do nice things or that I at least made them laugh.

So yeah, eventually you’ll think about your ass. Or maybe it’ll be your arms. Or the skin around your eyes.  You’ll wonder where it all went wrong. But then you’ll move on. I promise you will. You’ll wonder about important things like what you’re having for dinner or when’s the next time you’ll get to lie down.

Sunday Reads– Again.

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Oh hey, Sunday.

Well, here we are smack dab in the middle of the season of bunnies & tulips. The sniffles, exhaustion and pure Sunday-ness of the current moment are prohibiting me from saying something about spring and renewal and religion and or even chocolate. I mean. Me not coming up with 500 words on chocolate? There is clearly a disturbance in the writing force. The old battery pack is drained and my body is sending me a clear message to take it easy or suffer all week-long. Message received, body.

However, I’m carrying on and much of today will look like me resting, nibbling on candy and reading. Here’s a list (I promised you it would happen!!) of things I liked and read or want to read:

Rachel Syme on Cynthia Nixon Playing Emily Dickinson: Ever since I read about A Quiet Passion, a new film about Emily Dickinson starring Cynthia Nixon, I’ve been dying to see it. Here, in The New Yorker, Rachel Syme talks to Nixon about the film as well as her career.

Alex DiFrancesco on Disappearing Before Coming Out: Whoa. This is a tour de force about disappearing and coming out as transgender. I was blown away and cannot recommend it enough.

Alison McNearney on Fabrege Eggs: Okay, so I am a straight up nerd for art mysteries and I will be gobbling down this story about the missing Fabrege Eggs along with some Cadbury Mini Eggs later.

Emily Nussbaum on Colbert: I don’t always agree with Emily Nussbaum and that’s a good thing. Her analysis of television comes from the place of a fan who wants to see it at its absolute best and sometimes it’s peppered with some harsh truths. This piece about Colbert will be devoured and enjoyed by me today (and probably tweeted about later.)

Yours Truly on Lots of Shit: If you can’t promote yourself, how the hell are you gonna promote someone else? Can I get an amen up in here? RuPaul misquoting aside, I’ve been writing everyday this month and if you’ve missed a few, Sunday is an excellent day to catch up. Why not read about my man crush on Aquaman? Or my take on the new documentary Strike a Pose? How about taking in spring flowers even as the world collapses around us? Or maybe read an unexpectedly popular post about potatoes?  In all seriousness, I’m so grateful for the new subscribers, followers and forwards that April has gifted me. I’m glad this crazy ass idea of writing ever day is paying off. So thank you for that.

That’s all for now. Back tomorrow with an essay about, well, my ass. So that’s something to look forward to. Enjoy your own Sunday and as always tweet me or leave links in the comments section of what I should read!