Jalapeño Business

jalapeno business

Blame it on 15 years in Los Angeles and growing up with green chili loving parents, but my obsession with all things spicy is nearly at the point where I become one of those people. One of those hot sauce collecting, chili pepper printed apron wearing, spice obsessed people. These people are well beyond the hot sauce in the bag meme of 2016. These people heard that joke from Loni Love 10 years ago and were armed with their own long before that.  These people can identify chillies from sight and cooked in with other ingredients. These people aren’t screwing around when it comes to spicy stuff. I am not yet among them but I could be in the forseeable future.

But I am also not one of those food rules people. Those assholes who say that in order to be human and show your face in public, you have to cook and/or eat in a certain way. In fact, that whole idea of food being only okay if you do it by the way someone on the internet tells you to do it, negates the beauty of food in the first place. A recent, idiotic, local foodie kerfuffle over (deep sigh. help me sweet baby Jesus) “food appropriation” recently proves my point. The openness, adaptability and interpretation of food and how we all choose to prepare it is the one damn thing we have left to help bind us together. We all need to fucking eat and in my mind however we choose to do that is terrific. This said, I do feel bad for those souls out there who have not, as dictated by Sporty, Posh, Baby, Scary and Ginger, spiced up their lives. I wouldn’t tell these people that they had to learn to love hot and spicy and, by the way, goddamn delicious food but I do feel sad they don’t or cannot.  I get why many can’t due to disagreeable stomachs or just plain dislike and I am sympathetic. This week, however, I personally needed spicy food in the worst way possible.

“I just want to burn my face off” was the first thing that came into my mind on Sunday. Over the weekend, I picked up the congested and wheezing summer cold that my husband was laying down. Of the many incredible gifts my mister has given me over the last 7 years, this one was not one of my favorites.  I felt wiped out and sort of unable to enjoy anything including food. For someone like me who loves to eat, not being able to taste food is a particularly shitty side effect of having a cold. So I called out from the day job and sat on my couch armed with reality TV from Hulu, chicken wings from the grocery store deli and two bottles of hot sauce from my refrigerator. In times like these, where breathing is impaired and my energy level is lower than the current White House approval rating, spicy food is the only thing I want.

I guess the old wives, whoever those clever bitches were, say that spicy food when you’re sick loosens up the sinuses. While the hot sauce on the wings assisted in that mission to the best of its ability, the main goal for me is always flavor. Now, I don’t put hot sauce on everything as I believe most dishes are best enjoyed the way they were initially seasoned and prepared but there are foods (lots of them) that benefit from an additional kick. Naturally, my beloved tacos and burritos are such items but fried rice is helped out by a big squirt of sriracha and a bowl of chili comes alive with some red pepper flakes. And eggs in any form, for me, are merely a vessel for Tapatio. After devouring my wings, chugging a gallon of water and sleeping most of the day, it was time for dinner which was of course also spicy. It was time to take matters in my own hands. Desperate sinuses call for desperate measure so I channeled my old boss who was a master at Mexican cuisine and who made salsas and hot sauces that were downright awe-inspiring. She taught me that a genius pico de gallo (literally meaning the beak of the rooster) can be had if you had the skills and the right ingredients. Hence our taco salads for the evening were getting a proper punch in the face with homemade pineapple pico de gallo.

Pineapple pico de gallo

Half pineapple, peeled and diced small

1 jalapeno, diced

Half a red onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, smashed and diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of oregano

Dash of red pepper flakes

Juice of one whole lime

Generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Place fruits, veggies and spices in a large bowl. Top with lime juice and stir. Drizzle with olive oil and stir until the salsa is incorporated.

It’s that easy. The stirring and the olive oil are both super important because they take it from being just fruit with some stuff in a bowl to becoming a legit badass condiment you’ll want to put on everything.  I had half of a jalapeno in mine to start but given the sorry state of our sinuses, the husband and I figured we’d throw the rest of the pepper in there and we were glad we did. Turns out, we picked a really sweet pineapple which could have thrown Operation: Burn My Face Off out the window had it not been for the remaining pepper.

5 days later, I’m still sniffling and not 100%. Thus, the quest for spice continues. Last night, I made our favorite chickpea curry in hopes of a different culture holding the key to cold relief thru cuisine. While delicious, I still feel the same. Still stuffed up and lagging in energy. But better overall. More importantly, I realized something bigger happened in my pursuit to burn my face off: I was having fun being creative and cooking. I’ve been working a lot over the last two weeks and feeling like my summer and my life aren’t big enough or festive enough. No beaches or fancy vacations or summer Instagram moments. From a superficial standpoint, it felt like I wasn’t nailing life these last couple of weeks. Yet these adventures in the kitchen, feeding the people I love and having a hell of a time, they feel bigger and more significant. They feel like enough. After all, my old idea of spicy was buying drugs from a stranger in an alley in downtown Los Angeles and having my nose burn for entirely unnatural reasons. No, thanks. I’ll stick to my delightfully, dull, domestic pursuits. And if needed, I can always had more jalapeno.

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use your delusion

gato leon.jpgThere once was a kid who ran a hotel managed by stuffed bears.

There once was kid who drew pictures of Snoopy for hours and hours.

There once was a kid who created intricate dramas for Strawberry Shortcake and her friends.

There once was a kid who questioned if the Muppets were just puppets like everyone said they were and wondered if they could be real.

More than that, he wondered if there was a way that everything he imagined could be real and not just for a few hours but forever. Because this kid, you know me, didn’t belong here. This pink glitter crayon trying to fit in the standard 64 Crayola box then pursued a lifetime of escape. Well, midway through my fourth decade on this planet, I have figured out a way to be here and to be present and to face this thing called reality. Whoopee.

Honestly, and I have said this before and will probably say it again because I believe it to be true, I think reality is overrated. I was tough-loved in early sobriety with statements like, “You’ll need to deal with reality at some point.” But do I though? Really? Are we sure? Because I know lots of people wandering around LA who think it’s still 1999 who are living the same life they’ve lived for decades and they’ve never really dealt with reality. Oh sure, they’re fucking nuts and have hollow shells of lives but the point is they did it. They never faced reality. Which at times sounds pretty fantastic. I mean, have you seen reality lately? Reality in 2017 is like if that term “coyote ugly” was an entire year. You know, we took 2017 home for a night of fun and woke up next to something that resembles a hideous mythological she-beast. Each day brings a new batch of global horrors, blood curdling headlines and brain rotting stupidity. With no respite in sight, things like a gorilla dancing to a song from Flashdance feel like a bottle of ice-cold water in the middle of the desert. Basically, I’ve found myself clinging to anything that doesn’t feel real but also isn’t a chemical because I don’t do that anymore.

See, as a sober person I “get to” be present today. In case you didn’t know, “Get to” is this little two-word combo me and my people say in front of pain in the ass tasks we probably don’t want to do but we “get to” do because we are present and accounted for in our own lives. We “get to” be sober for straight people’s weddings. We “get to” show up to events we would have previously been too loaded or self-involved to care about. We “get to” be present even when we’d rather not. So here, in The Year of Our Lord Have Mercy 2017, we all get to watch the shit show of humanity in realtime. Lucky us. To misquote Airplane!, looks like we picked the wrong year to quit sniffing glue. 

Even though I’m doing this whole reality thing now, I haven’t let go of imagination or even delusion. It’s actually come in handy. Sure, I’m no longer playing with dolls (yet. It’s only June) but my imagination feels fired and ready to take on all kinds of creative endeavors. Meditation helps a lot with this and my practice when not entirely missing in action is spotty at best. But when I do it (like this morning) my brain is relaxed and ready to make stuff. I’ve always had an active imagination and once I stopped using my brain as a storage locker for cocaine and tequila, it has slowly reverted back to its old self. This turns out to be amazing news for someone like me who fancies himself a writer. As long as I’m not using imagination instead of like paying my bills or dealing with the real world then I feel like it’s gift and I can spread it around.

Delusion, on the other hand, is trickier. I was delusional for a very long time in the worst way possible. When you think drinking seven nights a week and not paying your bills is normal, delusion is kind of an issue. So much of an issue in that we I first saw the word mentioned in the Big Book, I bristled. It felt like a very personal dig and something I didn’t want to admit that I was. But the longer I stayed sober and the more aware of my delusion I was, the funnier it got and I realized that delusion is not without its merits. I think in order to succeed on some level we have to a have a tablespoon of delusion. Like we need a tiny bump of the stuff to convince ourselves that we’re talented enough for a job that maybe we don’t have the on paper qualifications for. A sprinkle of delusion helps too when choosing to see the sunnier side of situations and people who could otherwise be perceived as a hellish. Delusion could even be something that helps erase parts of our past.

Take, for example, dear Axl Rose. Lovingly referenced in the title of this here post, Mr. Rose had a long and storied slip into big time delusion about nearly everything. His career, his music, his popularity, his face. Yet like a rock phoenix in jeans two sizes too small, Axl is back on tour with Guns N’ Roses and even sings with AC/DC occasionally. Though big career bellyflops, legendary wack-job behavior and the music industry going in the toilet had left Axl and his music in the dust, his personal delusion that he was still the rock god of yesteryear put him back in the spotlight. Sure, nostalgia has a lot to do with that but Axl being one of those deluded people I mentioned who thinks 1999 never end doesn’t hurt either.

As a both a writer and a sober person, I can have it both ways. I get to show up and I get to be honest about being an addict and alcoholic. Also? I’m not delusional about my past and now think it’s all sort of amazing in a harrowing, awful but fabulously funny sort of way. In a second act twist I couldn’t have ever written, I’m now even more creative and imaginative than I ever was on drugs or while drinking. Despite being lost, I found my way back to telling stories and being creative. I’m sure the little kid who ran the hotel managed by stuffed bears is thrilled that I did.

 

my terms & conditions have changed

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On behalf of alcoholics and drug addicts everywhere, I’d like to confirm that we are worse at change than you are. Sure, you might be complaining endlessly about the new Twitter update but some of us are ready to start rioting in the streets over it. Just so you know, we will always win at The Who Sucks At Change More Olympics because we are, after all, a curious creature who can sit in his or her own filth and get high as their world collapses around them and hotly refuse to make a change. We don’t need that meme of the little dog in the hat surrounded by flames– we live that meme, dawg. So it’s even more hilarious that when we get sober, after we have literally changed every thing about us in order to survive, that we still resist and recoil to change.

This morning, my sober friends and I all acted like Twitter was our husband who’d suddenly gotten a facelift and revealed that he’d been sleeping with Sharon Stone. It was a betrayal and one perpetrated by an inanimate object. Insane but that’s how we roll. I panicked then I remembered I hate when anything changes. I mean, I’m still not over Paula Abdul leaving American Idol. I figured I’d eventually be able to get move past it as my Twitter addiction might possibly be stronger than my resistance to change. And after my twentieth morning tweet, my little tech-soaked, oatmeal brain was already used to the new Twitter and we were all upset about something else. It did get me thinking, though. Maybe I have gotten better at change and maybe there are times that I even like it. After all, I’ve certainly changed and not all of those changes gel with the world at large.

At the grand age of 44 (and it is a grand age, lemme tell ya. The new wrinkles, the unexpected gas, the tiredness– all grand!) what I like, tolerate and put up with have all changed. For example, I am going out tomorrow evening after 10pm(!!!) and I am already planning when we’ll leave. Not that I don’t want to have a good time and not that I’m not excited but like I said I’m in my forties and I know having an escape plan is the way to go. This change seems minor but considering I used to not leave my house until 11pm, it’s kind of a big deal. Other superficial changes include rationing out the time I spend annually around big crowds of people and/or waiting in huge lines, not chasing down people to spend time with me and no longer feigning interest in things that quiet frankly aren’t at all interesting. Likewise, I no longer hang out with dramatic people (other than myself), abusive people or untreated crazy people. I am already tired all of the time and these people make me even more so. On a deeper level, some changes have already happened and they all start with my own thinking.

As some of you guys know, I’ve been working freelance as a copywriter and content creator for the last 7 years. It’s a lot of hustle but it is creative and allows me to do what I love. Plus, it’s been good exercise for me as a writer and lets me set my own schedule. However, lately, this part of my writing as a business isn’t thrilling to me and not only that it’s been hard to drum up new work. Don’t think the correlation of these two things is lost on me. I had like 3 rejections in a row in the past week, to places I didn’t even want to write for, that shifted my thinking. It was a lightening bolt: maybe I wasn’t booking these gigs because I didn’t actually want them. More than that maybe I needed to be spending my writing time on something else: my book!

My book, my book, my book. Oh my book. I’ve had this idea for years that many of the essays here and from urtheinspiration need to become a book. Yet it wasn’t a book I wanted to write at three years sober nor one I even wanted to write last year. Intuitively, I felt like I needed my experiences and time to direct it to its best self. Well, I can now say I’m ready. And getting here was a huge relief. I plan on working my side gigs, blogging and working my butt off on my book all summer and letting the universe handle the rest. This seemingly minor change in thought blew my head open. Like the decision some eight-plus years ago to get sober, just making it changed my outlook and perspective. What’s funny is that once I made this decision, gigs from people I love to collaborate with suddenly showed up. There are no mistakes, chickens.

All of my changes, unlike a social media site that is firmly in the category of the “things I cannot change” are part of something bigger, something scary, something called growth. Growth. Talk about the biggest change of all. As I grow up in sobriety, what I want and who I am grows up too. I mean hopefully. That is the actual goal of recovery, as far as I can tell. Keep changing or rot and stay the same. Some of this growth is painful and a lot of it I resist. Still. But at least now I know that I’ll fight it, then embrace it and even grow to love it, only to be met with even more change down the road. I also know that until I’m actually ready to change, I won’t and in the meantime there’s always Twitter to bitch about.

 

over there

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“Nothing is ever really over…just over there.” – Carrie Fisher

“A writer must really be in a bad place if they start their blog posts with quotes.”- Me

Both of the above thoughts happen to be true for me in this moment. Maybe I’m not in a bad place per say. Like the emotional equivalent of Detroit. There’s no immediate danger or lying on the kitchen floor sobbing. But a sort of sad place? Yeah. Which is odd because I had, by all accounts, on paper, a very happy celebratory weekend. Yet here I am drinking coffee, looking at the misty hill outside my window feeling pretty damn fragile. Fragile is a great word and I’d like to take a moment to whoever it was who started using it to describe not just glass and fancy breakable things on your grandma’s mantle but the human condition. Maybe it was Trent Reznor. Let’s just say it was Trent Reznor, for the hell of it. Thank you, Mr. Reznor because that’s what I am today. Not a crying mess but fragile. There are a couple of reasons for this here fragility.

First of all, it’s not lost on me that today is June 12th. It marks a year after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I remember expressing to a straight coworker last year how heartbreaking I thought it was and they replied, “Did you know people there?” My first reaction was to sarcastically say, “Yes. Because we all know each other.” My next reaction was to snap, “No but people died and I’m not a robot so can’t I be upset?!?” Instead, I just said, “No” and moved on. What broke my heart then and still today was that it even happened. That it happened to people like me and that because it happened to people like me and it happened at the hand of guns, it would be lessened over time and not treated like other tragedies. Thus far, I’m sad to report I was right. One year later, this tragedy has been quietly swept under the news carpet and rarely brought up, despite being the biggest death toll due to gun violence in the United States. It has not brought about legislation changes. It hasn’t even been over-sentimentalized or over-politicized. It’s been so shrugged off that when people like Hillary Clinton have mentioned it I’ve found myself shouting, “Thank you!” Listen, we all know the reason why and we know had this happened at a sporting event or somewhere involving families it would be a different story. But it didn’t so it isn’t. And ain’t that a bitch. All I can do now, today in 2017, is think about those 49 people who lost their lives and shed a tear for them. My sadness for them isn’t over, as La Fisher said at the top of the post, just over there.

Also “over there”? Me the little kid from an alcoholic home. He showed up this weekend unexpectedly. It happens when I’m around family sometimes. This little kid, being just a kid, still gets his feelings hurt by my parents or siblings. He still feels less than his perfect brothers. He still feels like a big gay weirdo who won’t ever be enough. He still thinks he isn’t okay. Me, the 44-year-old sober man, knows that these old stories aren’t true but also knows, despite the mass amounts of work I’ve done to heal my past, that this kid is bound to show up and have his little heart-broken again. My old sponsor like to remind me that family could push my buttons because they were the ones who installed them. While I’d like to think said buttons have been modernized to a touchscreen, the point is I still have them and they were still pushed over the weekend. But the good news is I didn’t react. I was there to have fun and celebrate. My own emotional baggage or hurt feelings could wait until I got home. Clearly, they did wait and I had a moment to cry in my Starbucks yesterday while on the phone with someone who gets it.

The truth is this kid, this part of me, might not fully ever get over old wounds. Pain and grief? They’ll probably always sting too. And that’s okay. I know for a fact that I hurt less than I used to, that it feels good to cry, to have authentic reactions and that it’s okay that, like the hill from my window, it’s all still over there.

Up in the air 

So here it goes. A post born at 20 thousand feet, which is about the recommended distance anyone should be from Reno, the place we just flew over. Not that I recognized it from the window. Some little animated plane on my phone let me know that I was traveling over “the biggest little city in the world.” And thank god no one has me in charge of direction. I get hopelessly lost in places I’ve been 100 times. Nearing my 3 month mark in Portland and I am not out of the woods as far as being completely lost on a daily basis. Or, for that matter, I’m not out of the woods for getting lost in the actual woods.
Therefore, I’m better off as a passenger. I like Iggy and Siouxsie, am a fabulous passenger. (La la la la la la) I show up on time, I sit down, I try to be nice other passengers and then I quietly fall asleep and drool on myself with the inflight magazine I just spent 20 minutes making fun of in my lap. I wake up for peanuts, pretzels and Satanically hot coffee and then fall back asleep. Like I said, I’m good at this.
I’m one of those weirdos that likes flying and I like it somewhat out of spite. After September 11th, it was chic for like over a decade to bitch about flying and airports. After 600,000 conversations about how much everything related to travel sucked, I stopped participating. The truth was I liked travel so if I had to stand in line with huffy middle aged men or try to slip off my shoes without falling on my face, then so be it. Im gonna love it just to piss you off. So there.

But I also like it because travel, especially for enjoyment, feels important. It feels like I’m participating in my life. It feels like I’m enjoying a world outside my cozy cat and coffee filled cocoon. Quiet simply, it feels fun. What placed me in the clouds and over Reno was precisely that. I spent a too-short 36 hours in Los Angeles with my family for my nephew’s birthday. He’s a great kid with fantastic grades and he was even the valedictorian of his class. All worth the 2+hour flight for sure. But that’s not the only reason I came.

This kid, who is now of voting age and whom we old people can rely on to fix our fuckups, is something more special than a great athlete or amazing student. He along with his two sisters and my sister’s two brilliant kids pretty much saved my life. In 2009 the year I got sober, this kid was 10. Smart, competitive and virtual one-liner factory, he and his sisters were a perfect antidote to the harrowing world of new sobriety. I babysat them a lot over that first year which is hilarious to say because they certainly took more care of me than I ever did of them. Most evenings consisted of epic games of UNO followed by even more epic debates about which movie we should watch flowed by snacks and more debates about going to bed. Under normal circumstances, these evenings would be special but not anything out of the ordinary. Yet when most of your days are spent crying and trying not to drink, these little babysitting moments carry more weight. The amount of joy that all of the kids in my life provided for me that first year feels profound and significant.

And that’s why I’m here, now 20 minutes away from Portland. I get to show up for them today. I can say, “I’ll be there” and actually be there–physically and mentally. Now only a few hundred feet above ground and minutes away from wheels squeaking on the tarmac, I feel really lucky. Lucky that I get to travel, lucky I survived my dance with drugs and alcohol and lucky that this kid helped me so much, even if he didn’t know it at the time.

my expectations have expectations

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Me: Also? I’m a 173 pounds.

Husband: But that’s what you said you thought you weighed, right?

Me: Yeah. But still. It’s not great news.

The Husband: Wait. So you’re upset that something you knew was going to turn out a certain way did just that?

Me: Well, I was just really hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

Husband:(laughs and shakes head)

END SCENE

The preceding little domestic scene happened yesterday after a doctor’s appointment. Without getting to my a boring ass account of my medical history, I can tell you what I wanted out of this appointment and what I got were two totally different things. My teeny tiny request that I be told that my T-Cells were off the charts amazing, I was in fantastic shape and also 20 pounds lighter was sharply denied by the Universe and medical professionals alike. Not only did I not leave without the news I wanted, I left with two sore arms. My consolation to being fatter and lesser healthy than I wanted was two Hepatitis shots in each arm. My hilarious nurse, who also informed that space was scary because, “You just don’t know what’s up there. For real, for real.” told me that given my HIV status I get extra vaccination juju meaning it would be more painful. My immediate throbbing arms backed up her theory thus I can only assume she is correct about space too. For real, for real. But more than achy arms, I slumped out of that clinic with the kind of pain only procured by out of whack expectations.

A night at the Oscars or a full-blown apocalypse and nothing else in between. That’s what my crazy little alcoholic mind wants. The humdrum dull boring results of living a normal human life are of little interest to me. Either be covered in glitter or covered in chaos. This, as you can imagine, puts a lot of pressure on everyday living. Therefore, this doctor’s appointment was doomed to fail from the start. There is no way it would ever meet what my mind had built up around that and I know this now sitting calmly with my mug of coffee at my kitchen table. But yesterday, I felt defeated.

The thing is pneumonia almost killed me two years ago. Since then I’ve worked hard to choke down seven pills a day and stay healthy. It’s been a slog, if I’m totally honest. I want any recovery I have from anything to look like the makeover scene from Cinderella. Alas, this has been anything but. It’s a slow-moving journey to feel better which my new doctor reminded me of yesterday. My numbers dropped down really low in 2015 and building them back won’t happen overnight. This also explains my ongoing energy depletion and sudden feelings of wanting to lie the fuck down. I was told that this too was going to tak some more time. Maybe even a year or two. Again, horrible news for an instant gratification junkie like myself. I was also reminded that my HIV has a resistance in it (which of course it does. Even my diseases are rebellious little jerks.) that makes it harder to bounce back. Not hearing thunderous applause for taking care of myself or hearing that I was 20 pounds lighter put a cloud over the truth.

The truth is despite lower numbers, the rest of my health is good. I’m undetectable, I’m trending upward and I’m being moved from seven pills a day to two pills. The truth is it is happening. Just not as fast as I wanted. Therein lies the real bitch about expectations and what my husband found so hilarious yesterday. Despite knowing that I wasn’t going to be 20 pounds lighter as I had recently weighed myself. I was disappointed that some unrealistic magic hadn’t occurred. I’m surprised my laptop didn’t just explode when I typed the insanity of these thoughts. It’s akin to expecting that Mariah Carey will be performing at your house on Christmas Eve even though you know for a fact it’ll just be the holiday classics station on Pandora. Which is to say this is all proof positive that my expectations are rarely rooted in the real world. I mean why have realistic expectations when you can have mentally unstable expectations? Go big or go home and while you’re at it pretend that home is Versailles.

Later in the evening, me, my sore arms and mopey attitude got something we didn’t expect: compassion. My husband, the aforementioned scoffer, hugged me and told he was sorry I had a rough day. He took me out for dinner, held my hand on our walk home and, most importantly, helped me laugh at myself. He’s good like that and he also helped me realize that things are good. My life is good. And despite fantastical expectations, my health is good. For real, for real.

 

 

it’s a breeze

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Hold on. Just relax. Because it’s about to get real crystal in the window, dreamcatcher, Shirley MacLaine, spirituality hippy dippy up in here. I’m going to say stuff like “The Universe” and “God” and I might even talk about magic. But I promise it’ll be okay and that you won’t want to vomit. I mean you won’t want to vomit due to what I’ve written but you might vomit because you ate some bad Indian food. I don’t know your life. Anyway, I’m thinking about these things, these topics of beings greater than myself a lot right now and especially how it relates to writing and creativity.

As I was walking this morning at an ungodly hour to go hear alcoholics yammer about their lives, I felt it: a breeze. Breezes are significant to me, believe it or not. (I know, I know. Insert eyeroll.) When I first got sober in Santa Monica, there were these incredible ocean breezes. Breezes so cool and gentle but powerful that you couldn’t help noticing them. Like everything else in the greater Los Angeles area, the breezes were like “Helloooo!!!” As I got to the part of the program-thing I do to stop drinking and hopefully stop being an asshole when I had to pick out a Higher Power, I thought the ocean was a good place to start. After all, it seemed responsible for these punch you in the face breezes and was also enormously vast. The ocean looked a lot like god to me in that moment. Plus on that side of town, it was easy to access and find which was important to me in that particularly fucked up phase in my life. From there on out, the breezes became my higher power’s way of saying, “Hey, boo. What’s up? Stop being ridiculous. Love you. Byeee.” My higher power and this relationship with G-to the-O-to the-D has since expanded. But breezes are still a nice way for us to keep in touch.

This morning’s breeze was no different. It was a little reminder that I was fine. That everything was cool and that I didn’t have to worry about running the show. The breeze and the magical force behind them had this. All of this. Which was fucking fantastic news to receive via the wind as I’ve been up in my own shit as of late. Now, not any more than normal for any alcoholic. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still try to micromanage the outcome of my own life or the lives of people around me. I’ve got a lot of pots currently on the stove right now. I don’t know where all of my finances are coming from or what’s going on in a few relationships or even what my career as a writer holds for me on a daily basis. It’s all an ongoing mystery and as intriguing as that may sound, it’s kind of frustrating for a control freak in remission like myself. Yet this little breeze shows up and reminds me that things are already great and that I’ll always be taken care of.

This all paramount when it comes to being creative. I need all of the outside forces to work in tandem with me to help me finish projects, to help me meet deadlines and to give me the momentum I may not be able to muster on my own. The nature of freelance writing is of the one-man-band variety without the snare drum or snazzy hat that my mind somehow associates with that title. Writing alone is exactly that-alone. There’s no Barbara in accounting to chitchat with over coffee breaks. There’s no snarky inner office email threads to snicker at. It’s just me, the cats and the computer. Whilst I am never afraid of the well drying up and me not having anything to talk about, I do need pushes, pats on the back and gentle nudges. The cats do what they can but they’re on a tight sleep 14 hours a day schedule that cannot be interrupted by my fragile writer bullshit. Therefore, the magic of the Universe comes in handy. By having faith in something bigger than myself, I can keep going. I can take risks that on my own I would never do. I can put myself out there and know I’ll be okay, no matter the outcome. This force, this mystical power, this whatever helps me feel less alone and pushes me to keep going. And for creative people that is half the battle.

They say, and by “they” I mean other hippy dippy spiritual types, that you can’t be in fear and in faith at the same time. To which I often reply to them, “Oh yeah? Well, I’m a multi-tasker! So we’ll see about that.” But they’re right. I know that at the end of the day all of it is a decision. Am I going to decide to feel isolated and solely powered by Sean’s insane ideas or am I going to rely on something else? By now, I know the answer. By now, I know that I have a choice. It all can be miserable, even writing, if I choose to make it so. But it can also be a breeze.

 

you with the sad eyes

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Cyndi Lauper, Gay Pride Parade West Hollywood, 2003

When it comes to life encompassing black holes of depression and despair, it’s helpful to have a benchmark. It’s helpful to have a moment so damn bleak that nearly everything in comparison feels like a Smurfs cartoon. It’s helpful to remember these periods in your current life too so you don’t take it for granted or mistake temporary blahs as the end of the world. I’m lucky, and use that word with a wink and a shoulder shrug, that my 30th year on this planet was one of two personal benchmarks when it comes to despair.

The story goes like this: On November 30th, I turned 30 accompanied by the most over-the-top alcoholic birthday party ever stacked to the gills with drag queens, live bands, cocaine, family members and a trip to Disneyland. It was a happy weekend but that’s where it pretty much ended. By mid-December, I slipped into a depressive state so easily that I didn’t even know it at the time. Okay, okay. I was drunk 7 nights a week at this time so trying to figure out what was depression and what was just the remnants of the daily hangover was darn near impossible. Nevertheless, I was depressed and numb and incapable of feeling my life and when I did it felt like shit. I was working at the big theater complex in downtown Los Angeles at the time and thank god. I’d hide out and watch the LA Opera or listen to the philharmonic and cry in my usher uniform. I watched the touring production of 42nd Street so many times, I feel like I could still perform a one-man-show abridged version of it for you today. 42nd Street in Less Than 40 Seconds! In addition to the drama I watched on stage, there was plenty to be had in my real life. Unable to pay my bills, fighting with my boyfriend and generally being a hot drunk mess took up a lot of time and energy. The ongoing blahness of my life was so commonplace at this time that it was hard to remember when I felt anything else. Yet there are pockets of time that I remember, moments where I was giving it the old college try to feel better or at least feel something.

One such moment was Gay Pride weekend in 2003. By June, drinking and working at the the performing arts complex were all I really did. The social part of my alcoholism floated away with the birthday balloons and now it just served the purpose of erasing my days and knocking me out. Yet when it was announced that Cyndi Lauper was performing at Pride, I woke up. I HAD to go. Cyndi Lauper was everything to me as a kid. She sent me a message in videos like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “She-Bop” that it was okay to be a big, loud colorful weirdo and to be myself. I credit her for letting me follow the beat of my own drum at an early age. Therefore, my attendance at her performance the night before the parade was mandatory.

As sworn Eastsider who avoided West Hollywood at all costs, I sucked it up for Cyndi. I worked a matinée that day and then hopped on a bus from downtown LA. I stopped at the liquor store for a mini-bottle (or two or three) of vodka before entering the festival. While waiting for Cyndi to go on and my friends to show up, I wandered around drinking and watching random second stage acts. I distinctly remember being impressed by the Mary Jane Girls. By “Mary Jane Girls” I mean like one of the originals– the talented JoJo to be precise, along with a few new girls. “JoJo and Some Other Bitches” just didn’t have the marquee value of The Mary Jane Girls though. Nevertheless, I thought they were amazing. I mean if you could survive both Rick James and the blistering midday sun all while nailing a performance of “Candyman”, you deserved all the applause possible.

By the time the sun went down, I found my people. I know there was more drinks involved. I know Cyndi looked incredible. I know we were sort of bummed that most of her set was remixed super-gay dance versions of her most popular songs. I know we left and drank more. But as far as the other details of that night, I can’t help you. That’s a another bi-product of a year spent under the blankets of depression: the precise moments seem to melt into one blob of ickiness. What I am sure of today in 2017 is that I felt let down by the moment, overall. At the time, I thought it was all the gay pride hoopla and circumstance that left me feeling flat. Gay Pride in West Hollywood is always more of a corporate affair that could rub even the most optimistic homos the wrong way. Of course, now I know it wasn’t gay pride. It wasn’t West Hollywood. It sure the hell wasn’t Cyndi. It was me.

The combo platter of raging alcoholism and depression made everything feel like a bummer. There wasn’t enough cocaine, tequila, glitter or 80’s music to make me better. Yet somehow, I hung onto this life of despair, in varying degrees for another 6(!!!!) years. Things got a whole hell of a lot worse before they got better, as is usually the case. I never made it back to gay pride in West Hollywood which had more to do with the headliners than any resentment towards the festival. More depressingly, I haven’t seen Cyndi Lauper again in concert. I feel like I owe myself a Cyndi amends for sure. But as far as feeling and really getting this idea of Pride? I think I know it now more than ever.

Being sober, HIV positive, married and expressing myself like I always wanted to as a kid is a life I could have never imagined. I feel freer at 44 on zero drugs than I ever did bombed out of my mind in my 20’s. I’m actually proud of myself as a gay man and sobriety has truly helped me get there. Not sure if that’s what Cyndi had in mind when she sang, “Your true colors are beautiful like a rainbow” but that’s certainly what it means to me today.

Previously On The Seanologues

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You know what I miss the most about old Aaron Spelling shows like Dynasty or Melrose Place, I mean besides the shoulder pads and catfights? I miss the voiceover before each episode, usually done by a cast member like John Forsythe or Heather Locklear that said, “Last time on Melrose Place” or “Previously on Dynasty…” It was this 45 second way to catch up on everything you missed or forgot over the last week. So dramatic and cheesy and so something we wouldn’t do today because we just sit down devour a whole series in one sitting like Garfield does lasagna. Wow. A Garfield reference and Aaron Spelling references. Way to keep it current. Anyway, I was thinking of recaps and more specifically recapping this here blog. It’s on my mind because today the is the year anniversary of The Seanologues! It got me thinking how in the world would I ever recap the last year?

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”- Lewis Carrol

Okay fine, Lewis. That’s where I’ll start. I sat down last spring with an idea that I wanted to talk about everything. My old beloved blog was mainly recovery based and I loved it dearly but I wanted a new space to say more. The upshot to getting older for me is that I now feel okay saying whatever the hell I want, whenever I want. The more years I have, the less fucks I have to give about what people think. Thus, The Seanologues as an idea was born. My first posts I wrote about pop culture and while they’re fine posts, I don’t really cut loose until two weeks into the journey. A real, real shitty thing happened in the world, that thing being the attack on a gay club in Orlando on June 12th. The news, unlike any headline in a really long time, devastated me. It felt personal. It felt awful. And I felt hopeless. I turned to this blog and wrote down my feelings. I wrote it just for me. I cried when I wrote it and I released it. This blog was suddenly more than just a blog to me but also a tool to channel what I was feeling. Turns out, this thing I wrote the day after Orlando struck a chord with other people too. I’m forever grateful to anybody who commented or read that piece. It gave me the motivation to keep going and changed the course of this blog.

After the doors of honesty had been blown open, there was no looking back. Which is fantastic because the last year of my life has been a roller coaster. From travel to death to moving and lest we forget major world news, the signs were clear that I pick one hell of a year to write honestly about my feelings and my life. However, just being a blah, blah, blah space to whine about my life wasn’t enough for me. As a writer, I wanted these pieces to be entertaining and able to stand on their own. To the best of my ability, I tried (and sometimes failed) to keep pushing the content to say more. I didn’t want to repeat myself or write things just to make other people happy. Time and time again, what I learned was the pieces that sounded the most like me were the ones that were the best.

I bring this up because if you are thinking about blogging or writing and don’t know where to start, be a good narcissist and start with yourself. Seriously. Your tone, your story, your perspective. Ain’t nobody got those things but you. For me, the honesty thing works best when I can have a laugh at myself. As the year went on, the posts I felt the best about were the ones that told some truth I never said out loud but were also really funny. Two benchmarks for this blog happened when I talked about being a drunk mess at summer barbecues and when I talked about my ass. These tell you all you need (or perhaps more than you ever wanted) to know about me as a writer and human being. By making these uncomfortable things to talk about more amusing, I let myself off the hook as an imperfect human being. This is integral for me as a writer and person in recovery alike. I need reminders to lighten the fuck up on a regular basis so if writing one liners helps me do that than so be it.

I continued to write about pop culture and the more I did it, the better it felt and sounded. Finding a way to interject my voice into a topic I love was tricky at first but with more time, the pieces got stronger.  Again, if it was something that moved me and I was passionate about it, I could really have fun writing about it. This came into focus in April as I blogged everyday. Forcing myself to create new works each day utterly changed me as a writer and it’s something I cannot recommend enough. By the end of the month, I felt my voice was more defined and I could talk about anything including pop culture in the most Sean way possible.

So what happened over the last year? I grew up. I fell apart. I leaned in. I moved on. I changed. I stayed the same. But mainly, I kept going. And The Seanologues will keep going too! In fact, many of these essays you’ve read over the last year will make their way into a collection I’m planning on publishing as a book. This means I’m starting at the beginning, as suggested by the King, but I’m far from reaching the end.