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.

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For Grams

2015-08 Adam (8).jpgYesterday, I had the honor of speaking at my grandmother’s funeral. My grandmother, Geraldine Magnie was 89 years old and her life, as well her funeral, was filled with love. The husband being an amazing singer and myself being a wordsmith came up with a tribute that hopefully fulfilled Gerry’s love for both of those things. While I don’t yet have a video of the song, I’m publishing the eulogy I wrote here for anyone who was unable to attend or for anybody else who knew and loved Gerry the way we did. xoxo- S.

I’m Sean Mahoney. I’m Gerry’s grandson which would maybe be amazing if I was the only one but the fact is Gerry had 17 grandkids and 10 great grandkids. Therefore, I could never speak about anyone else’s relationship with Gerry as there are so many of us and this eulogy would take about 4 hours if I tried. The truth is she somehow managed to have unique relationships with each of us and some of us even called her by different names. For a lot of us she was just grandma. For the Gregerson girls, she was g-ma. In an act of teenage sassiness for my sister Maureen she was Gerry. And to me in the last years of her life, she was Grams.

I started my life with Grams and my Grandpa Bob just right down the street as I was born in a house on 9th & Fillmore. We Mahoney kids simply got used to having them around. From babysitter and snack giver to sewing instructor and mountain trip facilitator, Grams and Grandpa Bob were just a stone’s throw away for whatever we needed. They were always enthusiastic audience members at school plays and recitals. They were fans at whatever sport we were participating in and genuinely so. These weren’t two people rolling their eyes and begrudgingly showing up. They were always thrilled to be invited and, as all of her friends know, this excitement was something Grams carried into every invitation for every event, big or small for the rest of her life.

We moved out of Congress Park when I was 13 but her love was already firmly cemented. As an extremely imaginative and effeminate child it could have been easy to keep me at arm’s length and not really understand me. But Grams always loved me no matter what. She never tried to change me or steer me into more traditional boy like behavior. In fact, she encouraged me to be even more creative. She cherished every poem I wrote and picture I drew. She took me to plays and musicals to expose me to theatre, a love we would jointly share into my adulthood as she would attend plays that I wrote and productions my husband Michael and I created.

During the last years of her life, I found myself right down the street from her again. In a rental deal that could only be orchestrated by a master organizer like my grandmother, we landed on 10th & Detroit just five houses away from her. My last three years with Grams have been an extreme gift. As a neighbor, grandmother and friend, Grams provided the love support and enthusiasm I had known when I started my life with over 40 years ago on 9th and fillmore. And now I got the chance to do stuff for her. From hilarious navigating the world wide web together to helping her transcribe her writings, any task I was assigned fit my skill set, especially after she figured out I was not the one to call if you wanted things fixed or hauled away. Just over a month ago I helped her renew her passport so she could attend Kay and Terry’s wedding in Mexico. See. I told you she never turned down an invitation. That our relationship had so beautifully and magically come full circle is nothing short of miraculous.

While our individual time together as grandchildren with Gerry was unique and special the one thing we all had in common was The Sound of Music. Whether playing on local tv on holidays during the 70’s & 80’s like it was for us Mahoney kids or on VHS tapes for the McClellan and Gregerson kids, the hills were always alive with the sound of music on 945 detroit. And if you think about it: what a perfect movie for Grams to love. It has incredible songs, an inspirational story, a slew of children and of course lots and lots of nuns. So now, please enjoy the Sound of Music as performed by my husband Michael Emmitt and my Uncle John Magnie. The last time these two played this song was at Thanksgiving two years ago after dinner. As they sang, I looked over to see Grams tearing up and wiping her eyes. It was incredibly touching that some fifty years later she was still moved by this song and it’s message of hope. So Grams, thanks for always making me feel like the most special person in the room and this one is for you.

the election drinking game for people who don’t drink

1491486523020454577-740x416.jpgFor people who don’t turn into a lost member of the Barrymore family every time they ingest alcohol, Monday’s debate was a chance to drink. And drink a lot. That clever little devil the Internet was littered with “Debate Drinking Games” over the past week. You know drinking games like the Star Wars drinking game where you drink every time they say, “the force”. Or the Law & Order drinking game where you drink every time that dramatic music plays. The debate version of the drinking game had things like, “Drink when you hear the word deplorable” or “Drink when they talk about immigration” or perhaps drink because this is the most fucking depressing election of all time (I’m projecting here as I didn’t watch the debates)

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For those of us who are more Barrymore-like, every day is a chance to drink and therefore it’s a good idea we just avoid it altogether. Besides, my drinking game for the better part of 20 years had looser rules like “Drink every time it’s Tuesday” and “Take a drink every time life pisses you off” and “Have a shot whenever you’re awake.” Unsurprisingly, I was usually playing alone and not having all that much fun. Yet we still have 40 days of this political gum scraping to endure so what’s a sober guy to do? Well, this sober guy is gonna make his own brand new non-drinking game,goddamnit! The thrown together, half-assed rules look something like this:

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The prize? I don’t get to hate myself and I won’t wind up in jail or in the nuthouse! Weeeeee! Okay, I throw in some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as a bonus prize. Besides, look at that whimsical font and little brown bunny! It’s the best game ever. Actually, it kinda is. Smartassery aside for just a moment, I often marvel at how any of us addicts and alcoholics get through anything sober. I was one of those drinkers who thought everything went better with booze. Screw white wine with fish. White wine also went well with laundry and episodes of Young and the Restless. Tequila paired well with waiting tables. And cocaine was a nice accompaniment to everything from New Year’s Eve to Thursday nights at a Silver Lake leather bar. My point is, I didn’t necessarily need an event to get shitfaced. Events were a nice excuse for sure but far from necessary. This being said, however, for the last 15 years every magazine under the sun has wondered if the screwed up state of the world actually makes people drink and use drugs more. Studies from all over show a huge spike in drug addiction and alcoholism since 9/11. No shit. I was in Los Angeles on that day and went directly to the bar, do not pass go, do not collect $200. And that’s how we dealt. Or not dealt in my case. No, 9/11 didn’t make me a drunk (that was divine gift written in the stars or some shit) but trauma and the planet going to shit certainly helped grease the wheels of this hot mess machine. It didn’t matter that I was on the opposite coast. What mattered was I had a what I thought was a legit excuse to get hammered and an excuse I wore out until January 2009. So today when we– and by that I mean people like me who are sober– don’t meet for drinks to bitch about the state of the world, it’s nothing short of miraculous.

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The above trigger warning caught fire on Monday shortly before the debates. It was posted by Hofstra University, where the shitshow was held, as a precaution. Cynical internet a-holes bemoaned the pussiness of millennials and scoffed at their inability to cope. I sighed and shook my head, as I’ve been known to do for the last year and a half. I personally think the warning is a good idea and what the hell– maybe ongoing messages like this to young people could get them to talk about their problems. Can’t hurt. As addicts we don’t get these kind of warnings because, let’s face it, everything would have to come with one. WARNING: The dickwads on this freeway might make you want to shoot heroin!  WARNING: Entering this line at the post office could cause you to drink a box of wine in our employee parking lot. WARNING: America is still America and therefore you might occasionally want to get wasted or slap people but you won’t because you’re sober. So maybe I don’t get warnings on institutional clapboard signage. But I do get to live my life differently. I get to laugh at this ridiculous world. I get to send eye roll emojis to other sober people. I get to remember every moment, even the mundane and depressing ones. And, if I’m lucky, I get to play the game all over again.

Now is Your Magical Motivational Moment!

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Hey you. You with the pensive thoughts and the scribbled in, beat up journal. You have no talent. Everybody else is a better writer than you. You have nothing to offer. Look at all the pageviews and forwards and likes and listens that all of these other writers have. Now look at yours’. Why are you even trying? – The Evil Voice in My Head

Thank you for those kind and inspiring words, dear Evil Voice In My Head. And thank you for saying them over and over again to the point where smashing a rusty railroad spike into my noggin sounds like a viable and hell even an enjoyable solution. And yet here I am writing despite this screeching demon voice. So there. Suck it, Evil Voice in My Head. Because the reality is creativity, even sub par, holy-cow-please-don’t-let-anyone-ever-read-that flavored creativity survives. My desire to make stuff slogs on despite a brain that says, “Maybe you should ditch it all and become a wino who travels by train with a knapsack on a stick.” This survival, the persistence to keep making things has less to do with me being courageous than it does with me being a complete stubborn pain in the ass. Sure, I wanna give up. Sure, I wanna stop. But I can’t. The thing is I’ve stopped before. My creative brain fell into a tequila and cocaine induced coma and struggled to pull itself out for years. Now that it’s back, I try to protect it, like baby hedgehog or something equally as adorable.

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Yet there are constant, evil forces at work trying to funk with my creative flow and not all of them in my brain. Take for example, the state of the world. The world is a sad ass, scary as hell, oh good Lord please make it stop kind of place right now. There is no such thing as good news or good people or good anything. From senseless animal killing to senseless people killing to senseless brain cell killing, ain’t nothing positive happenin’ up in this club, honey child. For me, all of this gets compacted every single time I get online. I click on trending topics that make me want to poke my eyes out. I read rants by friends who I used to think were normal, sensible people but who were actually Satan this whole time. I get flooded by threads spewing so much garbage, it almost starts to sound like a parody. But this ain’t the whole story. Beauty is pushing its way through the garbage and saying, “Aw hell no. I’m here too, bitches.” Progress is happening despite our best efforts. And lovely miracles are sprouting up all over. I had three such miracles, so sacred, so brilliant that I won’t share them here in order to keep them next to my heart but let’s just say I believe in life after yuck. Still, I have to do my part to fight negative forces from taking over and stopping this creativity choo choo. Enter the unicorns.

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A few weeks ago, Facebook was getting me down and I mean if Facebook doesn’t regularly depress the ever-loving shit out of you, than you probably aren’t on it very much and kudos to you. But yeah, it was bumming me out. Everything was negative and I felt negative reading it. Soon I wanted to leave combative and negative comments too which I know as someone who does social media management for a living, is a total no-no of the red flag and deal-breaker variety. Like when you start taking Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or any of it personally, you are doing it wrong. Period and non-negotiable. They are tools and they are for entertainment, nothing more. So I knew I was in deep doo doo when I felt butt hurt while reading posts on everything from politics to entertainment to recovery and beyond. I started to act like, “Oh my god I disagree with you and it hurts my feelings so I need to cry all over my keyboard while shitting all over your newsfeed.” Fundamentally, I knew this was unacceptable. My first dramatic impulse was, “I’m quitting all social media but only after long rambling posts about why I’m quitting social media!”This is a fleeting thought always, however, as I mentioned I use it for work. (By the way, nobody gives a crap if you quit social media and we all quit for the same reason so how about we just quit and nobody is the wiser? Just an idea.) The only other option was to practice some boundaries and lean into it. How could I address the things that bother me but do it in a way that makes me laugh and keeps it light? Praise Merlin for Google Image search. Through this handy dandy tool, I started taking fantasy art and making little memes to joke about my malaise regarding social media and society in general. This little fella was my first:

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I laughed while doing it and was inspired to make more. A lot more.

email a unicorn.jpgDuring a recent inventory, my sponsor pointed out to me that being a smartass and making people laugh was a way that I was of service. I have a hard time taking compliments (said every addict ever) but I can see his point here. After all, I’m incredibly grateful for the sober people in my life who make me laugh(Maureen, Isaiah, Johnny, etc, etc) so I can see how that this is of value. And I’m naturally a one liner spewing, corny joke shooting machine so this is something I can easily do. Amazingly, other people have enjoyed my fantasy-filled Facebook follies. Through a series of posts, I’ve been able to laugh about the things that bother me on social media and while laughing at myself and with my friends. Success! This wasn’t about book deals or pageviews or likes or anything else. It was just about moving through something and doing it with humor.

unfollow ball.jpgAs regular readers know, I despise self-helpy, you could fix your life if you only did this stuff. I’m a learner and responder to real experiences. Therefore my real experience is this: maybe it takes a billion blog posts, maybe it takes trying new recipes, maybe it takes new meditation practices, maybe it’s new books or maybe it’s memes with unicorns. But whatever it takes, I need to carry on. And you need to carry on too. Yeah sometimes it feels like we’re pitching our hearts and souls down a dark well and nobody will respond but it juts doesn’t matter. Don’t buy the lie that in order to be creative you need certain stuff or need perfect situations or that it just isn’t the time. Right now is the time. Find yo’ own meme unicorn or crotchet project or romance novel and do it now. Because you need to carry on and I need you to, too.

Embracing the Rosiness of Catastrophe

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An odd thing happened to me yesterday as I watched the first three episodes of season 2 of Catastrophe: I laughed. Not like I’m some fucking humorless rock with no soul but I ACTUALLY laughed. Listen, I’ve tried to see the humor in Melissa McCarthy riding a scooter through cement. I’ve tried to laugh at Andy Samberg movie trailers. I’ve even forced out a snicker during a Kevin Hart monologue. I’m not proud. I just want to belong. I want us to say “Holy shit is that latest Sandler movie the bomb or what?” over a couple of beers, even though I no longer drink. I want to laugh at what you laugh at. But goddamnit. I cannot. I’m sorry. So when the laughs came out of me as I roasted tomatillos (seriously who isn’t roasting  tomatillos on Tuesday and if you’re not, well we might be done here) and watched episodes in my kitchen, I was shocked but relieved. Shocked because despite my best efforts I apparently can’t laugh at anything anymore. And relieved because I remembered season 1 being a brilliant, laugh out loud treat and these episodes, now available on Amazon Prime, didn’t disappoint. In fact, they might even be funnier and it’s where these laughs come from that makes Catastrophe unlike any other show on television.

The premiere episode of Season 2 finds us against all odds laughing at dementia, a dog dying, postpartum depression and sobriety. Not the things big ha-ha jokes are made of but just what you’d expect from a show this smart. The setup for Catastrophe is an easy one: American guy named Rob visiting London meets an Irish woman named Sharon they have sex Sharon gets pregnant and the two are forced to fast track a relationship and figure out what the hell they’re doing. Like everybody, Rob and Sharon (played by and written by Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan) come with considerable baggage. He’s a recovering alcoholic with an insane mother (played by my spiritual godmother Carrie FIsher). She’s slightly neurotic with a father experiencing dementia and a brother who seems prone to financial drama. As a couple Rob and Sharon are in uncharted waters and we the audience are along for the ride. The second season starts roughly a year after season 1 ended which is smart because the real life time between the two seasons was about a year. In that time, their first child has been born and Sharon is pregnant with baby number 2.  Sharon’s transition from career gal to full-time mom, Rob dealing with temptations at work and familial insanity on both sides are a few of the pots simmering on the range for season 2. In Catastrophe-land there are no sitcom tropes like the wacky mistaken identity episode or the misheard conversation episode or the stupid camping episode. Instead, we get to laugh at (and identify with) the real. Created by Horgan and Delaney, many of the storylines are pulled from their own lives– she got pregnant late in life, he has been sober for years. And that might be the secret to the show’s success. Part of what makes me not laugh like some communist gymnastics judge is the jokes usually ring hollow. Here, I’m laughing at what Rob and Sharon are going through because I’ve been there or know someone who has or I can at the very least feel compassion for these characters while chuckling at the fucked up-ness of their lives. As a person who’s sat through countless 12 step meetings, I can tell you part of what “keeps me coming back” is the ability to laugh at dark horrible crap and watching people get on the other side of that. Catastrophe embraces much of that same spirit. Life is not perfect for us the viewer and it isn’t for Rob and Sharon either. We identify with them. We root for them. Most amazingly, we laugh at them. For this stone faced, barely  smirking television viewer, this is the miracle of Catastrophe and it’s these catastrophes the make the show so deeply funny.

I’m talking

hello

“Talks too much.”

That’s what they always said. They, ubiquitous they. They who fill out report cards. They who guide boring class field trips. They who lead tedious classroom discussions. They who never understood the true value and genius of my side conversations. They had no sense of humor. They were only interested in policing creativity. Truth? They were probably underpaid and exhausted by smartasses like myself who knew it all and had to comment on every. fucking. thing. “Not everything needs an editorial, you know,” an old friend once told me. While this friend and even “they” were probably right, I just couldn’t help myself. I still can’t. talking too much in the digital age, as luck would have it, is a good thing. As a blogger, a podcaster and a tweeter, I am now offered endless opportunities to never shut the hell up. I write plays and my favorite part has always been long stretches of ambling dialogue. I wrote a show once and someone who read it told me, “Wow. You really love people just standing around talking.” Guilty as charged. When I finished a new show last year, something didn’t click. Although, it was a monologue show (a wet dream for someone who likes to write shows where people just stand around and talk) there was something missing. that something? Me. seemingly overnight, I couldn’t fake wanting to write for other characters anymore.It started to ring hollow. It felt like I was pushing phony conversations I didn’t actually want to have. Turns out, the character that couldn’t wait to open his mouth was the character who wouldn’t shut up during class all those years ago. Turns out, I wanted to write for me.

That’s how we, you and I, got here. It’s me talking. My old beloved blog where I met so many people and learned so much kind of talked about my journey of being recovery and that was sort of it. And while I’m still in recovery and not some fucking crazy person who woke up and thought they could drink like a gentlemen, I want to talk about other stuff too. Life has given me opportunity to write about pop culture so I’ll talk about that since it’s an obsession and something I love yammering about. And I’m gay so I’ll talk about that because that still seems like something people get all fucked up about. And of course I’ll talk about being sober and the other assorted mental health delights I get to have. The images here are all mine or manipulated and changed by me so they become mine. I’m learning to talk with pictures too so maybe my next monologue show will be standing around showing you pictures. I know. You’ve already bought your ticket. So if you’d like to use any of them, reach out to me. I’m no professional photographer and just another tool with an iPhone who likes taking pictures of his french fries. Translation: I’d be thrilled if you wanted to use them and will probably be very easy/accommodating. I guess I should also mention that in true monologue style I’m not really going to get my grammar panties in a wad and edit 4 billion times. I want to talk and have a brain vomit, sort of stream of consciousness ramble. Like Jack Kerouac crossed with a drunk Care Bear. Or something. So yeah. I’m talking.

(thanks for listening)