out of service

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It all started by a waterfall with cliff divers.  Okay and there was also a mariachi band and a large orange monkey. There was also magicians, an old drunk couple with guitars and the gloppy enchiladas that should probably be considered a hate crime against Mexico. Little red flags popped up and me and a bevy of other teenagers would magically appear with chips and salsa and sopapillas (this puffy, fired dough pillow creation best eaten at mouth scorching temperatures and drizzled with honey.) Later, they’d tear me away from all of this glamorous action and sequester me to a hot steamy kitchen where my loud thin Vietnamese manager Hong would yell at me, “Do something!” Suffice to say, I didn’t last very long.

Yep, it all started nearly 30 years ago when I was 15 and working at a ridiculous Mexican restaurant/theme park/Denver anomaly called Casa Bonita. The “it” in question is my almost 30 year on and off again career of waiting tables, working behind retail registers and dealing with the general public. These restaurant/retail gigs have always made for good money makers while I’ve persued drugs or writing or getting sober. Now at age 44, my time behind the counter and I’m sad to report by fake waterfalls with cliff divers has come to an end.

While I won’t say, “I’ll never go back!” to working in cafes, shops or restaurants, I will say for the time being it looks like that chapter of my life is officially done. On Saturday, I said goodbye to the part-time gig I’ve had since I moved to Portland at a culinary shop/cooking class hub. While aspects of it were fun, I did feel a little like the daytime stripper way past her prime. Bitter, slow and armed with one liners ripe for any possible thing that could come up, it became clear that my time in this arena had run its course. The fact that no one got stabbed and my sobriety remained in tact means my time there was success. My new adventure, working as a peer counselor for the State of Oregon will put in me in an entirely different realm of the word service but will certainly take me out of this weird wonderful, fucked up world that I have known since my teen years.

It’s an over-simplification of the highest order and a snap judgement anyone can and has made probably any time they’ve left their house, I can confirm that people are the worst. Entitled, rude, awkward, racist, homophobic, cheap, dishonest, mean-spirited and generally awful, people put it all out there when their shopping and eating out. I also happen to be people too so I know this is true for myself as well. We like to think “everyone’s doing the best they can” but I’d argue that when we’re shopping or eating out that we are often on autopilot and the first things to evaporate are our common sense, manners and general non-shittiness. Like we don’t go places with the intentions of being awful but we don’t exactly set out into the world with the opposite intention either. However, I will say after you’ve worked with the public long enough, you no longer flinch when cray-cray shit flies out of their mouths. Somewhere around Year 500 of me working with the public, I developed a protective shield, one that kept me free from reaction while also making everything and everyone seem funny, human and really not that bad. Naturally curious and nosey, I do actually like talking to people, the big weirdos. So as I took on these gigs in sobriety I was able to have fun with them and promptly forget them when I went home.

Back when I was waiting tables, a friend once optimistically chirped, “But as a writer waiting tables must be a great insight into people, right?”  I’m sure I agreed and muddled sure, sure, sure then followed it up by some insightful, funny story about customers. Yet now I’m not so sure. After all, it’s a micro-glimpse into their lives and not really who they are. Yet I will say as a person who loves to write dialogue, working with the public has been invaluable. Plus, people are really vulnerable(read: insane) when they’re eating and shopping so you get to see them in a heightened state which is great for dramatic purposes. Yet for all the drama and all the years waiting tables only a few good stories remain and they are simplistic at best. Here are a few of the most memorable:

That time I waited on Isabella Rossellini. For obvious reasons– duh!

That time I watched a sleazy guy cut his girlfriend’s steak for her. Despite watching people vomit or get in fights, this sticks in my brain as one of the grossest and oddest things I ever saw waiting tables. I don’t know why but it’s forever lodged in my conscience.

That time I got to escort Harrison Ford backstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. Harrison. Goddamn. Ford.

That time a customer posted a negative Yelp review of the place I worked at and singled out my shitty, snotty attitude. She wasn’t wrong.

That time I got to send clothes to Cher’s house for her to try on and she in turn sent me a signed cd.

That time I helped Roseanne pick out body glitter and punk rock records.

That time a couple had sex in the changing room at a boutique I worked at.

That time Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks sang Happy Birthday to her friend at the restaurant I worked at.

That time Rene Russo ate in our restaurant while her kids ate Domino’s in her car.

That time I got hit on by a customer at lunch and later hooked up with him in between shifts.

That time a D-List actor rudely yapped on his cell phone and ignored his 4 year-old kid while dining at my work. He even left the kid(!!) alone while he went to the ATM and he didn’t tip.

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That time, despite being really high/drunk I actually made a lot of money. Okay. That was most of the time.

Did I mention Isabella Rossellini already? The point is the fodder isn’t nearly as juicy as you might think. And without the celebrity sightings the cache of my illustrious customer service career completely bombs. I’ve mainly learned that people want to be heard, people want to be noticed and people shouldn’t be fucked with if they’re hungry. Also, this makeshift career of helping other people has oddly opened the door for me to want to help them even more, beyond bringing dessert menus or helping them pick out body glitter.

Service, as fate would have it, is a necessary part of my recovery. At nearly 9 years into this jam, I am constantly on the hunt for new ways to be of service. They say helping others keeps people like me out of our heads and I am all for that. Thus my new career and even writing have pushed me into a life less about Sean. Or at least that’s my hope. Plus, if all else fails I can return to this old wacky world. That’s the thing. Once you’ve conquered it you can do it anywhere and at anytime.

Meet me by the waterfall and I’ll bring you some menus.

 

Bartles & Gays

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When you’re seventeen and somebody offers you a wine cooler while you watch a 300 pound drag queen do a version of “Rhythm Nation”, you take it. And if you’re me at age seventeen, not only do you take that wine cooler but you’ve already taken nearly everything else anyone has ever offered you. I’d like to say it was because 1990 was a freer, wilder time but if we’re being real here I would have been a drunken teen delinquent in even during the Revolutionary War. Getting lit with Paul Revere, y’all! Yet 1990 was unique for me because it was the year that I went to my first gay bar.

Down by the railroad track in an area of Denver that’s now filled with stoned bros stumbling towards sporting events, was a 3.2 gay bar called Stars. In my mind, it was Stars with a Z but when it comes to details from the late eighties and early nineties, I am admittedly an unreliable narrator. Whatever it was, it looked a lot like liberation in that moment. Already a fixture on the teen goth and alternative nightlife scene, I was always in search of new spots to dance, be loaded and be my snarky, bitchy little self. I was also in my coming out phase which officially wouldn’t really happen until later but at seventeen I knew I liked boys, I hated my parents and I loved to dance. That was enough. I was, as our dear Janet says in the aforementioned song, “looking for a better way of life” and I was pretty sure that included kissing boys and getting wasted.

The bar itself was nothing to speak of really. Kind of a hole in the wall and filled with a mix of lesbians, creepy older dudes, drag queens and lots of queer youngsters like myself. Allegedly the bar, was supposed to be 18 and up but my shady ass always found a way in. I remember this curvy, gorgeous biracial girl named Shanni who helped sneak me into a club through a fence on the patio. She seemed like the disco unicorn of my dreams and like a girl I’d never met before. Little did I know that all the gay clubs were filled with awesome chicks like her but I was thankful for her assistance. 1990 lent itself to a “look the other way” type of attitude about underage people hanging out and drinking in bars. Plus, Denver had that whole weird ass 3.2 drinking thing which was basically, let’s face it, a preview for the hardcore boozing coming attractions. The humble trappings and colorfully sketchy regulars didn’t scare me off. I was in love with the place. It blew my brain open to see gays of all sizes and colors being themselves and having a really good time doing it.

The song of the summer was certainly “Vogue” by Madonna. It was that song that gave every homo a chance to be flamingly gay on the dance floor and be as over the top as possible. It was our anthem and the moment that solidified Madonna’s role in my coming out. I remember sipping wine coolers with a friend watching a pimpled, discount version of Madonna lip synch the song and him saying of the performer, “Well, bacne certainly isn’t very vogue.” I had entered the realm of gay nightclub cuntiness and it came with drag queens and a dance floor. I truly belonged.

Other songs like “Everybody, Everybody” by Black Box, “Two to Make it Right” by Seduction and “Hold On” by En Vogue were also deep in the gay club rotation. Although I worshipped (and still do) at the Church of Madonna, what my mind kept coming back to when I sat down to write this was Janet Jackson. The songs we were hearing in the club that summer were from Rhythm Nation, 1814 which was released in the fall of 1989 but still getting tons of airplay. The children today would definitely describe that record, with its political undertones and brutally honest outlook, as “woke AF.” The mind-blowing thing about that record is that it has a mere three songwriters for the entire album. Doesn’t sound that impressive but when you consider that most of today’s “deeply personal” pop records boast upwards of 50 songwriters it at least proves we were dealing with a different caliber of artist on the radio back then. Sorry, but with 50 writers, nothing can be deeply personal. That’s a group assignment. Anyway, while not overtly gay and far from her all-out-sexual phase of her career, the songs of that record like “Miss You Much”, “The Knowledge” and “Black Cat” had a self-awareness and strength that on some level as a gay man in the making I must have needed to hear.

Ms. Jackson aside, my inner personal dealings with people my age or older weren’t all that amazing. Pretty disastrous, in fact. I mean, I was seventeen and just coming out so I was an asshole. I wanted boys to like me but had zero game. There was always some dramatic falling out with a group of friends that I knew from the club which I was usually smack dab in the middle of it. So thank god there was alcohol. The wine coolers made dancing and talking to boys easier. They made meeting new people easier. They made me easier. Tasting like Kool-Aid’s more ghetto sister, wine coolers were what I secretly really looked forward to the most about those evenings. Not too harsh and grown up in their 80’s appearance, wine coolers made underage drinking feel more normal. They also unshackled me from any other fears I had. That summer, I did cocaine for the first time, had my first three-way and basically checked off all the “I’ll never do that!” boxes off my list. And again, I was only seventeen. No wonder I felt like a Sheen family member by the time I turned 20.

At age 44 as I write this with Janet Jackson videos in the background, I feel for kid with the wine cooler. As if coming out wasn’t enough of a mindfuck, the poor dude had to wrestle with addiction that was already proving to be unmanagable.He had no idea the ride he was in for. Yet I wouldn’t change a moment of it. I wouldn’t go back in time to warn him about his future. Mainly, because that’s impossible and even if I could go back in time, the bitch wouldn’t listen anyway.

Instead what I’m left with is some amazing music, some hilarious fuzzy memories and some times that I loved but don’t really miss. Well, much, anyway.

move bitch, get out the way

I wish the administration of life was interesting enough to justify thousands of words and lots of titillating conversations. But it just isn’t. No matter how hard we all try to make the things we have to do everyday more interesting we cannot. Unless it’s something like rescuing baby sloths but I suppose even that can get boring.  My point is the reason there’s a big, fat, juicy lag in between posts here on the Seanologues is because my boring, old life has been getting in the way of nearly everything. My long simmering move from Denver to Portland, for those of you who are regular readers are aware has dragged on longer than the last Hobbit movie, has finally come to a head. After months of starts and stops, primarily caused by my husband’s workplace and its never-ending construction schedule, it’s finally here. We have a beautiful new home and we’re vacating our beautiful old home on Saturday. Cut, print, moving on.

Yet even though I’m moving across the country, something people do every damn day, this experience has had its own special set of, uh, shall we call them, “Life Lessons” that I didn’t exactly anticipate.

First of all, nobody ever tells you that moving away from people is fucking hard. Not just on you, the person who’s moving, but on the people who you’re leaving behind. If they’re lovely folks who you are close to, a series of  lunches, delightful dinners, chatty coffee dates and tearful brunches transpire that warm your heart and make it suddenly hard to say goodbye. But if they happen to be lovely folks who you are close to but who are just having hard time with this whole damn thing, it isn’t as easy. I didn’t anticipate the “shade”, “clap back”, “attitude” and whatever other internet slang for shitty behavior from a loved one but there it was. This beloved individual had problems embracing me leaving and therefore pushed me away like I was plate of boiled neck bones. It was, or maybe still is, hurtful but not out of the realm. The writing was on the wall and I knew this reaction was coming given other instances with other people, but I’m an addict so my default is always, “Maybe this time will be different!”

Nevertheless, it  wasn’t different and it all made me feel kind of sad and icky. But as somebody else reminded me, it’s nice to be missed.  Which is certainly true. Lord knows I’ve left many places where I wasn’t exactly missed and it was more of a “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass!’ situation. But as I hugged a dozen or so of my favorite folks on this planet on Saturday night, I also learned it’s nice to have people you’ll miss too.

Secondly, moving brings about a chaos that I’m no longer used to. The husband and I are not hoarders or collectors or collectors pretending they’re not hoarders. We’ve lived in a 1924 bungalow for 3 years with itty bitty closets (apparently in the 20’s you didn’t need much room to store your bootleg gin and flapper dresses) so we’ve had to continually purge and get rid of stuff. As a sober alcoholic, this is a good process to me and one not unlike every inventory I’ve had to write in recovery. That being said, we still had a bunch of shit and we’ve had to live out of boxes, bags and piles for several weeks. Even as the nicely packed storage pod pictured above travels onto Portland, I’m currently camping in our Denver house, living out of a duffel bag and eating take out with plastic utensils. It’s uncomfortable and not the cozy life I’ve gotten used to in the past 8 years. But I’ve sort of had a revelation while taking 20 minutes to find my keys or wallet: my everyday life used to be this crazy and messy.  And for years! While I was drinking and using, I could never find shit, accomplish shit or give a shit. So these last two weeks have made me feel really grateful for the simple, boring, pseudo organized existence I have today.

Lastly, the thing I’ve realized is me being ready to move on and the universe being ready for me are two totally different things. Personally, I’ve been emotionally ready to move since my grandmother died last fall. It’s been hard to live in my childhood neighborhood with her gone and making it a little harder to heal, if I’m completely honest. But it became pretty clear that none of this process was up to me.  Our timeline on this adventure has changed over and over and it’s been totally out of my control. Again, for an addict this is an awesome thing. Not being the boss or puppet master of anything is ultimately the best role for me to have. During this adventure I’ve just had to show up, move stuff and say, “Yeah sure. That’s fine” to a myriad of last-minute changes, Plan Bs and ideas that weren’t my own. I basically have had to move out-of-the-way and let all of this happen. This has been an excellent thing. Where we’re going to live, the time frame on which we’re getting there and every other detail that’s happened has worked out perfectly and not at all how I thought it would.

So the moral of the story as always is I don’t know any of the answers and things are just better if I get out of the way.

The Waiting Game

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If you have an aversion to waiting for things, please avoid in living in large cities like Los Angeles. In my 15 years in that town, I’d guess that approximately 1/3 of that time was spent waiting for something. Waiting in line at the grocery stores. Waiting in traffic. Waiting tables. Waiting for opportunities.Waiting to get into clubs. Waiting to get into movies. Waiting for drinks. Waiting for drugs. Waiting for pain to end. Waiting to get my shit together. Therefore, the longer I lived there and the more my shit did come together, the better I got at waiting for stuff. Most of it was out of my control anyway so short of figuring out how to bend the time and space continuum, I had to become better at waiting. Sobriety has helped with that too. At 11 months of sobriety, I remember crying at a meeting and wondering why I didn’t feel better. To which a friend of mine replied,”That’s why they call it slow-briety, honey. Takes forever to not feel terrible.” I thought,”Well, now you tell me.” For an instant gratification junkie like myself, the idea of having to wait to feel better was fucking torture. Yet what choice did I have? So I waited for bad feelings to pass and they eventually did. Much to my disappointment, the good feelings passed too. However, I realized that waiting, as long as I was living my life and trying to grow, wasn’t so horrible. It’s a good thing my outlook on waiting is so darn healthy too because the last several months of my life have been filled with a whole lotta waiting.

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To illustrate the length and breadth of the waiting in question, let’s go back to the spring, shall we? A magical time before the surface of the Earth turned into a truck stop griddle and when afternoon rainstorms were an actual reality and not something people were desperately dancing for. It was during this season of rebirth that we, my husband and I, got news of a potential relocation to Portland, Oregon. The hubs works for one of those glamorous furniture companies with the drool worthy catalogues and said company was opening a new location. We were curious. Listen, we’ve got a good thing going here in Denver. An adorable house, walking distance to both of our workplaces, my grandmother up the street and my favorite meetings around the corner. Life is good. But we are also in a fortunate place that with no kids, no crazy mortgages or car payments we can sort of do whatever we want. And we are always down to mix things up. So with that spirit in mind, we visited in April. We, of course, loved Portland and decided to go for it. Now, if impatient drug addict me had his way, this is where the story would end and we would have gotten what we wanted and moved months ago. The universe, as it has been known to do, had other plans.

20th July 1946: Queues forming outside a bakery in Streatham High Street, London, on the last day before bread rationing is introduced. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)

See, what I didn’t take into account was slow-moving construction, permits, HR manuevers and endless starts and stops. Honestly?I was fine. Like I said, my little is pretty great so if it stays the same, fantastic. If not, that’s cool too. Plus, I wasn’t moving to fix things or to run away from stuff like I had in the past. It sounded like a fun adventure and that was enough. Seeing as I can write and stay sober anywhere on the planet, I’m lucky to be flexible. It’s been harder on my husband. He’s been in professional limbo and had to endure a series of mini interviews and endless hours of workplace chatter. He’s vacillated back and forth from really excited to “Fuck this. I’m over it.” The holding pattern has taken its toll. It’s hard to retain excitement for something when months have dragged on. But, eventually, we both surrendered to the all-powerful force that is waiting.

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Suffice to say, spring ended, summer burned on and now with fall around the corner, the move is back on the table and– there’s more waiting. But just a few weeks. By early October, we will know either way. The amazing thing that has transpired during this long waiting period (which will turn out to be close to a year when all is said and done) is life. Life doesn’t wait. Halfway through our waiting, we looked at each other and decided that we might as well enjoy everything, regardless of the outcome down the road. This has turned out to be a good strategy. In this time, my beloved 18 year-old niece has graduated high school and is now attending college in Manhattan. We’ve had several trips and will also go to Mexico and LA before the year is out. We’ve also seen plays, films, friends and much more of that on the books too. I’ve done lots of writing and collaborated on cool projects with even more on the horizon. I’ve also dove back into some difficult but rewarding personal work in recovery which has pretty much adjusted my entire attitude while stripping down my old ways of thinking.

So I guess the end of this story is not very satisfying, given the fact that I am still waiting. But maybe it’s not the end that’s important. Maybe what matters is what happens while I’m waiting.

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. 

Brobia

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Dudes. Buddies. Bros. However you identify them, this eternal flip-flop wearing, high-fiving, beer drinking generation of men is so easy to make fun of but even harder to love. Truth is groups of white guys with cargo shorts and backwards baseball caps were my torturers back in my day. Screw gang members or terrorists. I was deathly afraid of large flocks of white guys wherein one or more was named Todd or Chad. With persistence and precision, these first class a-holes made things like walking down the hall or speaking in class a total nightmare. They relentlessly made fun of my big gay teenage self. Although, it should be mentioned I’m pretty sure I hung out with way more girls than they did and they, as meathead mutant jocks, most certainly saw a ton more naked teenage boys than I ever did. Thanks to the combination of getting as old as fuck and getting sober, I’ve forgiven that pack of suburban dickheads (and I say dickhead from a place of love and spirituality, of course). Nevertheless, big groups of loud straight guys still scared the crap out of me for a really long time

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We’ll call what I had “brobia”. I suffered from an acute fear of groups of bros. By the way, what do you call a group of bros? A gaggle? A herd? A pile? Please discuss. Anyway, my suffering around this group was pretty real. I went to meet my husband in a very bro-centric neighborhood (which in Denver could be all of them but more on that in a minute). It was dark. I was alone but then I wasn’t. A large group of white guys who were loud and presumably wasted (Again, Denver. We just know these things.) I all of a sudden was panic-stricken and my heart raced. I crossed the street, kept my head down and did whatever you call a version of walk-running for people who despise running. It was in that moment that I realized that my brobia was real. Call it asshole-induced PTSD. Call it brobia. But whatever I had I needed to get over and fast. After all, I lived in Denver now and these dudes were everywhere.

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Nicknamed by some blogger somewhere, “Menver” is chockfull of bros. If Colorado was to have a state type of person, it would be bros. Denver is called the Napa Valley of Beer therefore it’s the Holy Land for bros. Add in an overtly fanatic sports culture coupled with several man-filled colleges and universities and you’ve got yourself a bronado. So bros were unavoidable (unavoidabro? yeah. I’ll stop with those puns now) It would be like having a fear of spiders and moving to the Amazon. You better learn to live with them or perish. Thankfully, not only had I changed, the little city I left fifteen years earlier had changed too. Yes there were now more bros than ever thanks in large to a pot-induced population explosion. But this generation of bros was little more gay friendly or maybe just more self-involved enough so that I wasn’t on the radar. Still, I was a tad cagey around these types. Two miraculous things happened, though. Theatre & recovery.

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When my husband and I were running a theatre company we worked with straight guys all of the time. No really! A lot of actors are straight. Crazy right? More than that they were really cool. I soon ended up with a bunch of goofy type A personality brothers who were very talented and extremely loveable.Soon big groups of these guys were ones I was happy to see and not ones that sent me running across the street. Another set of straight guys that helped me ( and continue to on the daily, btw) are the ones I met in recovery. At 2 years of sobriety when I moved back, my exposure to sober straight guys was limited. See, I got sober in Los Angeles where they have like a billion gay meetings a week and even the “straight Meetings” weren’t all that straight. And the cool thing about recovery is that you’re immediately bonded together with other people who tried unsuccessfully to kill themselves with drugs and alcohol so it doesn’t matter if they’re gay, straight or whatever. (Lots of people who fall into the whatever category in recovery, by the way.)  In Denver, though, recovery was decidedly more heterosexual and more male. Still, it wasn’t long until I found my people and many of them straight men. We speak the same language so much so that the externals of who we are and where we come from just melt away.

This new place and new age in recovery also helped me see some not cute things about myself too. It has been pointed out to me more than once (slowlearner.com) that I can’t really bitch about intolerance and prejudice if I myself practice those same things. Fucking ow but true. This meant all the religious groups and groups of people (bros included) whom I thought wronged me needed to be let off the hook, forgiven and released if I wanted to live free of resentment and not like a big, annoying asshole. Ugh.Tall goddamn order but by now I’m willing to give anything a shot to hang onto my sobriety. The other thing that’s come up doing the work? I, Sean Paul Mahoney, have a major seeking the approval of straight men issue. Granted, I pretty much seek approval from everything from potted plants to anonymous coffee shop waitresses but when it comes to getting men to like me, it’s problematic. From falling in love with unavailable straight men in my early 20’s to doing drugs with hideous dudes who I just wanted to be friends with, the issues are deep, honey child. Oh! And it turns out, my issues don’t have anything to do with groups of straight men!

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The issues are mine and mine alone. Thus this love boat of dysfunction turns right back around and docks in the harbor of forgiveness (we’ve moved on from bro puns and segued right into nautical metaphors. be excited.) Sure, there’s a lot of guys who said and did shitty things to me in high school. And yes I’ve been harassed by straight guys out in the world. It sucks but does it give me a free pass to fear and hate a whole group of people? Hell to the no. Plus hanging on to old shit is kind of the worst thing ever that an alcoholic can do, so I’ve had to let a lot of things go. Now does this mean I’ve abandoned making fun of bros? Absolutely not. As I mentioned, it’s too easy and they’re everywhere and most importantly it’s still funny. But I am working on loving them (in a non-sexual, non-creepy way), one bro at a time.

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.

Hey Ninety

Old people. Everywhere. All over my life. For like the last three years. I am not kidding. I live in the world’s longest screening of the movie Cocoon. This not me being unkind. It is just a fact.

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My 89 year-old grandmother lives one block away. The 102 year-old man and his 90-something year old wife life across the street. My blue bathrobe rocking, loud talking, Bronco fan landlord in his 90’s lives next door. My sponsor? In his sixties. Every person who volunteers at or visits and a lot who work at my non-profits arts organization day job? Most of them are 60+. Lord knows why I’m now participating in this real-time version of On Golden Pond but I am. And I love it. Beyond all of the cliché things were supposed to get out of old people (The wisdom! The in-depth stories of the past! The accidental racism!) I kind of just like hanging out with them. Listen, I have found people in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s(which sounds like an amazing oldies station, btw) are just a lot cooler than most people. People in their 20’s are essentially babies. They need our love and support. We should have a telethon for them and hold them close to our collective bosom as we read them Lena Dunham stories and rock them to sleep and pray they don’t wake up until they’re 30. People in their 30’s are freaked the fuck out. We need to get out the way and let them go thru it, honey. While people like me, in our 40’s, are starting to change our minds. The things we cried over. The things we thought would end us. The people we invested a lot of stock in. All mean nothing and it’s a freeing and mildly fucked up place to be. People in that kick ass mixed tape age bracket, however, kind of don’t give a fuck.

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Their company is relaxed because, and I am guessing here, they’re expectations are lower and they’re not tied up in all of the shit I get twisted about. I also like hanging out with them because they tend to have a more developed sense of humor. In their twilight years, the lucky ones, have moved onto a Jedi-level of smart assery that I find truly aspirational. My grandmother, although certainly more frail and slowing down, drops one-liners and blue jokes with the casualness of the guy who delivers her paper. (Yes, she still gets a newspaper and reads the whole thing everyday even though she can barely see.) Laughing with her and making her laugh is a delight so satisfying I can barely put it into words. It’s deeper than laughing with friends. It’s like the soul food version of laughing. It’s like the Nietzsche version of laughing. The shit lifts all the clouds and I feel like I’ve reconnected to this person who’s been here my whole life. Plus, being around all sorts of examples of aging on a daily basis gives me a crystal ball into what it could look like for me, how I could choose to live and that happiness doesn’t have to expire. There’s also a level of acceptance and one-day-at-a-timeness relationships with older people require that I as a person in recovery can totally get down with. They are who they are. They ain’t gonna change at 90 years old so you can love and enjoy them as is for however long or you can struggle and fight. What’s it gonna be? I choose the former (or at least try to) and spiritually it teaches me a shit ton about unconditional love and expectations and letting go. Also, when you regularly chill with old people, you get over this “OMG you guys I’m so great because I helped the elderly” bullshit we tend to tack onto these kind of relationships. The way I see it, THEY’RE doing me a favor by putting up with my confused ass, not the other way around.

But really all of these relationships are a gift. My grandmother, who by the way, is not the easiest person to get along with, has always been in my corner. She not only came to my first play which was basically 90 minutes of dick jokes and Internet humor but loved it and brought all of her friends. She has poems of mine I wrote in the 5 grade. She’s in love with my husband and cried when he sang the “Sound Of Music” (her favorite movie, natch) a few years ago at Thanksgiving. She has told me to keep writing and keep helping people, no matter what. She has also recently decided to stop seeing her doctors or take meds and just ride this thing until it ends. Which I totally get and respect while selfishly feel terribly sad about. After 15 years in Los Angeles, the universe plopped me block from the house I was born in, down the street from my grandmother and smack dab into an ongoing Golden Girls episode. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I get to read emails to my grandmother. I don’t know why I routinely get to wait for an old lady to find the exact change in her purse while I’m at work (which she almost always has but it takes a minute and sometimes things that are pennies are actually buttons or bus tokens). I don’t know why but I do know that it’s exactly where I need to be right now.