blow shit up

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From about May 1st through September 1st, my old neighborhood of Echo Park would explode. Most of my neighbors participated in ongoing illegal firework marathons from sun down to sun up. I’d say it was a Latino thing but it also just felt like an Echo Park thing. Everybody made stuff explode and even if you weren’t into it, you got use to it and learned to ignore it. Even our Echo Park ice cream man sold actual bombs hidden in with the Bomb Pops. I was too busy with the 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job of imploding my own life to ever really light fireworks, aside from a few sparklers. Even a drunken disaster like myself knew that literally playing with fire while inebriated was a terrible idea. But there’s one thing I did love during Fourth of July in my old hood: the fireworks at Dodger’s stadium.

Perfectly visible from out balcony, the fireworks at Dodger’s stadium lasted a few nights on or around The Fourth, depending on the game schedule. Here was a beautiful, big budget, house shaking display of fireworks practically in our house.  It was a front row to all things festive without ever having to leave home. This was key since the Fourth like everything else centered around getting loaded. The problem (or one of the problems, anyway) was that since the fireworks lasted all week, the partying was usually kicked up into a higher gear too. Naturally, when you drink like a lost Barrymore, celebrating the Fourth of July soon becomes not so fun and kind of a hot mess nightmare like the other 364 days of the year. In fact, the holiday is so associated with blackouts and drunken brawls in my mind that I can barely hear the words “Fourth of July” without shuddering.

Flash forward to a 8 and half years sober and in Portland, thousands of miles away mentally and physically from my old LA holidays, I feel more inspired than ever to blow shit up. True, you still won’t catch with matches next to a pile of explosives but the desire the explode is strong in 2017. After two decades of being self-destructive, the way I blow things up has thankfully changed. But it’s certainly still there. I mean so far this year, I’ve moved to a different state, had job changes and a major creative shift. Plus I have a big trip to Europe coming up in the fall and a few more plans to shake things up before the years ends.

Creatively is where I’m feeling this the most these days. I have so many pursuits I’m interested in(more podcasting, more public speaking, more food writing) and things I’m excited to work on (my book!!!) that I’m a little like a kid trying to pick out a toy– EVERYTHING LOOKS COOL AND I CAN’T MAKE UP MY MIND!!!! This kind of excitement is good, in my opinion.When I stay here and focus on the joy of storytelling and making stuff for me and not for some premeditated result then it all feels really cool and fun. These days, I have an overwhelming feeling with creative endeavors of, “Why the fuck not?” Like why not go after things that excite me? Why not try new stuff? Why not make as many cool things as I can? Thus far I haven’t found a good answer.

The only thing that stops me here is fear. Fear tells me I have no talent. Fear tells me I have no time. Fear tells me why bother because there’s already a million people doing what I’m doing. Ugh. Fuck fear. And fear should be the first thing we blow up. Without it, shaking things up, making big life changes and blowing shit up doesn’t seem scary. After all, we need a little smoke, fire and debris when we blow stuff up. It’s part of the process. Nothing changes unless there’s an explosion first. This very planet that you read this here blog on is proof of that. Sure, there is uncertainty after an explosion and sure there are some things that won’t ever be the same. But this is good. To be honest, I think America, on the day where its citizens are all blowing stuff up, is currently blowing up too. And it isn’t cute. But the more things evolve, I think it’s necessary. Lots of times when things explode it’s because the current way of operating is no longer working. I know that was definitely true when my own life erupted in 2009. Each time a personal shakeup has happened, regardless of how painful its felt in the moment, I’ve desperately needed it. And even thoguh my life is good, I need to keep blowing up the stuff, the ideas, the behaviors that no longer works and let new stuff in. And maybe you need it right now too?

So Happy Independence Day. Here’s to blowing shit up. I’ll bring the matches.

 

hit bottom & be alright

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Today you will eat breakfast and go to work. You will come home and eat dinner. Tomorrow you will most likely do the same. And, spoiler alert, on Wednesday you will do it all yet again. Despite the promise of having to dodge fireballs or climb out of wrecked buildings which spontaneously collapsed due to the results of the election, you will be okay and your life will continue. Which I suppose is somewhat disappointing. It’s like if the asteroid in that Bruce Willis movie had gotten bored, decided that hitting Earth was stupid and took a nap instead. We’ve all been sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the worst to come for so long that it’ll feel like a bummer if it doesn’t happen. But the fact of the matter is that despite our,what the genius Sandra Bernhard once called, “post-apocalyptic fantasies”, we are emotional cockroaches and capable of surviving. Besides, it’s just an election, girl. Chill the fuck out.

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“I’m just really nervous,” is what I’ve heard about half a dozen coworkers say about this election. And I get it. There’s a lot at stake and blah blah blah. But,for me,it helps to have some perspective. When I hit rock bottom eight years ago in this exact month, it was during another highly charged election. That election, which coincided with the financial world also hitting rock bottom, felt like the end of the world. I was in California at the time so not only was there a presidential election at stake but a hateful proposition banning gay marriage.Compounded by watching the chattering parrot from hell that was Sarah Palin on television and tuning into CNN daily to see how terrible everything was, I too was really nervous. I soothed those nerves with tequila, cocaine and beer and whatever else I could find. The world felt incredibly bleak. Sure, dousing my life in booze wasn’t exactly helping matters but I was on edge to say the least. Well, other than Obama winning the worst case scenario did actually happen in that state. Prop 8. passed. Nearly two months later I got evicted from my apartment. Soon after that, I ended a longterm relationship and got sober. The start of 2009 was a turdfest of terrible events all set in motion by that November. It was a dark period, honey child. Like Sylvia Plath fucking dark. Like turn on some depressing music dark. Like Dickens orphan dark. Oh and it kinda stayed that way too. I didn’t stop drinking and change my whole life to suddenly wake up in a musical number. The contrary. Things got even harder. But I survived and I was alright.

My story is not uncommon among sober people. For those of us who’ve battled drugs and alcohol surviving is kind of what we do. Coming out on the other side of near life destroying events is our thing, dawg. It would be our talent in the Miss America pageant. During this non-stop WTF-fest of an election, sober pals and I have laughed a lot. The idea that maybe this country just needs to hit bottom, admit it has a problem and then get help has been tossed around more than once. It’s a funny analogy and certainly one we’re familiar with. But it isn’t the craziest thought ever. After all, everything being really, really jaw-droppingly bad and having to start from scratch worked for us so why couldn’t it work for a whole country? Hungary, Greece, Egypt all have hit bottom. England seems like it hit bottom but could have a few relapses in them before they get better. France’s rock bottom looks like it’s around the corner. The point is, everything crashing and all of the shit hitting the fan at once is a good thing. If that’s our collective path then I say okay. Bring it on. After all, acting like unhealthy, toxic and unsustainable ways of living are just fine and dandy sure sounds a lot like how I used to live as an addict. Might as well embrace the shittiness and work hard to get better.

Yet there’s another option. Maybe you’ll wake up on Wednesday morning and everything will be okay. Because if you’re able to eat, if you have people in your life who love you and have a roof over your head everything is pretty okay right now so why wouldn’t this fabulous okayness continue? There’s no reason. This existence that you’ve carved out where things are pretty damn great, thank you very much, won’t be shook by a person with a job in a house that happens to be white. This is the truth. I said this to my 20-something co-worker, who enjoys being right almost as much as he enjoys his Vape pen, and he responded, “Yeah but what if…” followed by a chain of world events that could happen but won’t exactly happen right now or on Wednesday morning or even by the end of the year. Basically, we are okay and will be okay even if the world isn’t.

With a little emotional intelligence, gratitude and unexplained magical protection from the universe, I’m gonna be okay. I know this because my doom and gloom mind which regularly says, “This time you’re really fucked!” is proved wrong on a daily basis. My cats, my husband, my family are all gonna be alright too. We’ll all get up on Wedensday and eat breakfast and go about our days and come home and eat dinner. It’ll all keep going, in the beautifully boring, free of fireball way that it always has. I’m going to be alright and you are too. In fact, we already are.

 

 

I Won’t Ruin Your Barbecue. You’re Welcome.

solo cups.jpgFor the eighth Fourth of July in a row, I will not ruin your barbecue. As much as I know you’d like me to show up at your dignified, patriotic while still being kitschy backyard fiesta, I will not. This means I won’t arrive at your function already buzzed even though it’s only 2pm. Ditto I won’t fall down in your entryway at 5pm. And, finally, I won’t sneak away from the party to send a series of crazy text messages trying to find cocaine. I know you’re disappointed but that’s the way it is.

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See, the summer of 2008, I used up more than my share of “Hot Mess In The Middle of The Afternoon” coupons. There was a series of backyard summery jamborees hosted by my best friend and at all of them I was the biggest mess in the room. This is a feat because outside of a Hemingway family reunion never has there been a group who can drink their faces off like this group. Nevertheless, this was the summer where my drinking went from festive to horribly sad in about 60 seconds. A friend at one of these get-togethers even remarked,” Wow. Sean, every time I see you at one of these things, you’re pretty drunk.” This was a friend who’d been jailed on drug charges so she knew what she was talking about.

Now, I was a good guest on paper. You’d invite me for my witty banter. You’d invite me for promptness and ability to help out in the kitchen. And even if you didn’t love me for my personality, you loved me for my potato salad. Which, by the way,is pretty rock star. I take particular pride in my white person culinary abilities to nail all of your mom-type mayonnaise based salads (chicken, egg, potato,what-have-you). But as the shitstorm of alcoholism becomes a category 5, it ain’t all cheeky jokes and deviled eggs. Soon after a few drinks, you were always checking your watch and wondering when I’d leave. Now, to my credit, I was never a yeller or a drunken crier. I was more the politely drink myself into a coma type of guest. Messy for sure but contained messy. Well at least until that summer. One barbecue, which could have been Fourth of July but who knows really, stands out as the deal breaker. As I was trying to leave, knowing that I was wasted and had to get out before it got even worse, I took a tumble-down some concrete stairs. The hangover, the scraped up hand and the throbbing, bruised tailbone were unbearable. I woke up more humiliated than usual. It was painful on lots of levels but mainly because I had five months sober. I say had because until May of 2008 I had patched together five months of sobriety with no help, no support and no clue that when life happened (which it did and always does) that I would go to my only coping mechanism– booze. By later in the summer when my literal fall from grace occurred, I was still writing things in my journal like, “I’m drinking again but it’s really not a huge deal.”Well it was a huge deal and by January 2009 the party, backyard or otherwise, was finally over. I asked for help for the first time ever. I did all the stuff a lot of other people did to get sober. I felt bad for a long time but I didn’t drink or use drugs. Slowly everything improved. Oddly, that tumble during that barbecue that could have been on the Fourth of July was a big catalyst in me getting sober. I mean it took a few months. Like I said, slowly.

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So no, I won’t be able to make it to your daytime drinking, grillin’ and chillin’ Fourth of July extravaganza. It’s better off this way. I’m better off this way.

But I’ll totally make potato salad sometime if you want.