wide awake

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8:30pm on a Sunday and there he was. Light brown skin dotted with black stubble. Black hair parted, perfectly framing his face. Apricot pants. A crisp white shirt. Perfectly posed. And perfectly asleep. Like frozen in time asleep. Like Brothers Grimm by way of Disney asleep. Passed out on an incline on the cement steps to one of those charming early 1900’s houses that my neighborhood has in spades. As if he was delivered there in state of slumber, like some human newspaper you’d leave on the steps. Naturally, I am walking. Walking and wondering. How did he get here? Does he live there? Wait. Didn’t that house recently go up for sale? I wondered if I should call someone. I wondered if he’d freak the hell out of you tried to wake him up (Not like I was gonna do it. No way. I knew better. Not waking up sleeping strangers is just one of those City 101 things you never do along with feeding injured squirrels and talking to people with religious pamphlets). I wondered if he was a brunch refugee who had too many mimosas followed by after brunch beers and decided that this set of steps right here looked as good of place as any to sleep it off for a few minutes. This was just one of a dozen scenarios I’d created in the 45 seconds I strolled by this mysterious sleeping prince. My line of thinking could be perceived as nosy but I like to think of it as inquisitive. Besides, this wasn’t like my old neighborhood in LA where the world was your sleeping bag. People rarely passed out in corners over here so I couldn’t help but be curious. Also, I couldn’t help but think about all of what he was missing right here in my cozy neighborhood at 830pm on a Sunday.

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Prior to running into him, I have to admit I was awestruck. It was a dense and kind of foggy warm night. The streets are lined with lush lavender and swaying Rudbeckia. There were noisy crows cawing in the background and crickets singing their own song loudly as if determined not to be upstaged by those black feathered big mouths. And then there were bats. Tons of them. In fact, my neighborhood must have been having a bat convention over the weekend because the little guys had been partying in the air above our streets for several nights in a row. And on Sunday they were out in full force. Swooping through tree branches. Soaring in the moonlight and diving back into the darkness again. The walk already felt like a fairytale and this was all before I ran into the sleeping dude.

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However, these things–swooping bats, glittering moonlight and what-have-you are not new, hot off the shelf items. They’ve been here the whole time. It’s just that I myself have not been here the whole time. As best as I can tell and seeing that it is only August, 2016 has been about an emotional awakening. People will tell you when you first get sober that, “More will be revealed.” This, from my experience, has been true. When I stopped being a human booze and cocaine dumpster, I started to notice all kinds of shit about myself. Some of it was not very pretty. But what they don’t tell you is the longer you’re not a drunken disaster, that even more stuff reveals itself to you. Thus how I ended up feeling like my normal little Denver neighborhood was something from the mind of Hans Christen Andersen. See, Even though I’ve been sober over seven and a half years, I’m still waking up. This is a marvelous thing. The people and stuff around me are more beautiful. Moments with others feel more genuine. Happiness more tangible. Basically, everything I wanted to feel by taking drugs, I’m feeling now stone cold sober. Irony alert.

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I got home on that Sunday night and I was buzzing with excitement. Not because something big had happened or because something was about to happen or like so many nights in the past, because of drugs of alcohol. But because I loved what was happening right then in that moment. The bats, the flowers, the sleeping prince, that walk home in the moonlight. All of it ordinary. All of it run of the mill. But all of it magical and something to cherish too.

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The steps sans sleeping prince

Epilogue: I walked down that same street the following Monday morning. The steps were still there but the sleeping guy was gone. Gone also were the bats and the moonlight. The feeling that my life, faults and all, was perfect just the way it is? Still here and very much awake. 

I walk alone

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this morning on Detroit Street.

This is how it starts. It starts on a tree-lined street in my childhood neighborhood that is now my middle age neighborhood. It starts here. It starts with me. And I’m walking.

Before I go much further, I should take a minute to call bullshit on myself. I am the first person to roll eyes at exercise posts or nutrition posts or articles on how someone stopped being a prick for ten minutes and is now the light of the world. I think a lack of humility about basic, human and humane actions is part of our collective problem. We’re not horrible for 20 seconds and we expect a humanitarian award. Sigh. That being said I love walking. And, I will say this right here, I was wrong for making fun of people who post how great whatever exercise they love has saved their life. I think anything that makes us happy and doesn’t hurt other people is solid gold. So I’m a judgmental jerk and I’m sorry. I’ve never really loved driving and proudly say that I am a non-car owner and have been for awhile. I try to centralize my life so I can walk everywhere. Yes, it’s good for the environment. Sure, it’s good for my body. But mainly I walk because it helps my head.

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a local karate school mural entitled “Fight Together!”

Walking the crazy off is a vital component in helping me be a less horrible human. A couple of years ago, I slipped into a pretty dark depression. I talked to my doctor at the time and I told her I was open to medication but I’d like to explore other options first. I already take an Elvis sized handful of meds just to keep my body running so I didn’t want to add another pill. Now, do not take this as an anti-psych meds stance. The opposite, actually. If you have a chemical imbalance that cannot be fixed any other way, for the love of God man, take your effing meds. Seriously, humanity will thank you for it. My depression, however, is a bump in the road of my larger mental health picture. And oh what a picture it is. What I’m getting at here is my depression has never gotten bad enough that I felt like meds needed to be part of the story. Until that summer. She, my doctor, then asked me a bunch of questions. What’s happening in my personal life? How’s my family? Which of my routines have changed? Insert giant lightbulb emoji here or a picture of a gate in my alley I took, whatever works.

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an early morning shot of a gate in my alley that I’m in love with for some reason

I realized in that moment that what had changed is my walking routine. Whereas I used to walk 40 minutes to and from work I was now only walking about 6 minutes. She recommended that I up my walking and start journalling about my depression(don’t expect that one on the Amazon editors pick anytime soon, by the way)and get back to her. If nothing changed we’d talk about medication. Flash forward 40 days, things had changed. I was walking more and feeling better. Again, let me stress, this is what worked for me and I wouldn’t tell you to do the same unless somebody who actually went to school for this type of shit suggests you try it. I’m just some idiot with a computer and a giant cup of coffee. So don’t listen to me. How about these smart people? Or this study? Or how about this?

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Really, the point of this whole spiel is not to convince you to Go Take a Walk America! Or some crap. It’s to tell you that me, this guy Sean with the big cup of coffee and the sarcastic attitude, feels better after he walks around his neighborhood. I don’t wear special walking clothes for godsakes. Nor do I belong to a walking group. Jesus. Anyway, it’s not just the health thing either. It’s also because as a writer I get to see so much more when I walk. Like the creepy pink baby heads above. Or this clever piece of vandalism:

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push it real good.

Or people yelling at their kids or dogs. Or old people holding hands. Or flyers for weird shit I’m never going to but want to read anyway. I get to see my life up close when I walk and I get to confirm that it’s all pretty amazing.

Even bah humbug exercise me has a fitness app on his phone. On good days, I do over 10,000 steps. Over the last few days, it’s been closer to 25,000. This isn’t mentioned for applause or a special walking ribbon. Clearly, these numbers confirm that I’ve needed the extra help lately. I have been pretty honest about my dismay over the human race as of late and I’m walking that off too. Sure, I’m still me when I get home and the world still needs a brain transplant but I can be human and normal and in gratitude after a walk. Therefore, this how the story ends: I’ll keep walking. Maybe I’ll even bump into you. I’ll be the guy by himself in jeans and a t-shirt taking pictures of weird shit or saying hi to random dogs.