float

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11-year-old me would be pretty damn excited to learn that one day he would live downtown, in a condo with two cats and someone who loves him. But he’d actually be the most excited that said condo has a swimming pool. 11-year-old me, although a boy from unquestionably landlocked Colorado, was actually a mermaid. This was confirmed when he saw Splash with Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah. Hannah’s character Madison, a once cool for mermaids only name that has been appropriated by suburban moms (When will the horror of mermaid appropriation end, honestly?), was immediately identifiable. For those who don’t remember, Madison comes ashore to New York City and is forced to acclimate fast to a weird, harsh world that she didn’t belong in. I mean as a gay child that was literally my experience everywhere I went–from baseball games to camping trips and beyond. The one place this mermaid child felt at home was in water. Pool, beach, river didn’t matter. I came alive when I could just bounce in the water. My favorite was swimming underwater. It was quiet and I could hold my breath for a long time so it was just me and water and not the other things in daily life that seemed hard and alien.  Like Madison, I didn’t stay underwater and I  always returned to an awkward life landlocked.

Some 34 years later, this mermaid-merman has learned how to live among non-merfolk. Sort of. I mean I don’t know if I’ll ever pass as someone who gets this whole life thing but I’ve found some ways to make it feel less painful and less alien. I should stop using alien in a negative way. Misunderstood mystical beings from other places should be cherished. (Oh when will our stigmatizing of aliens ever end?) The point is I’ve accepted and even begun to love merself. Even when hanging out at my condo pool.  On one of those Sweet-Jesus-Is-It-Possible-To-Die-From-Summer-Exhaustion days where the air is stifling and hot, I trotted out to the pool after work. Just a quick dip, a little float to help rinse off my day. Naturally, the bonus for pool situations for nosey people like myself is to spy on other swimmers. What are they wearing? What’s the group dynamic? Which one of those blonde girls in the denim cutoffs and bikini top is named Lauren? Why is that guy fixing his hair obsessively and taking selfies? There’s a lot to unpack at the condo pool and I’m ready for it. On this day, I was grateful that the omnipresent group of drunk people wasn’t there.

The last time my husband and I went out together, we were bombarded by a group of boozy forty somethings (or thirtysomethings who drank enough to look a decade older). They were day drinking, which was always a favorite pastime of mine, and swimming. The longer we hung out at the pool, the faster we could see them deteriorate. A woman in pigtails on a rainbow raft kept barking at us to push her to the other end of the pool. A large, loud man pounded cocktails from big plastic tumblers and stumbled in and out of the water. The other friends who hadn’t drunk as much packed their things and scooted off before they got messy, an ability I myself never possessed. As for the husband and I, we laughed and paddled to other, more sober parts of the pool. We causally looked at the booze fueled train wreck but didn’t make direct eye contact, for fear of more slurry speech interaction. It’s always enlightening to see drunk people in broad daylight.  Like now it feels so weird and out of place. My daytime hours are so dull and on such an autopilot, I forget that I used to live my whole life like those people at the pool. Yet the minute I wanna get super judgey about daytime drunks, I have to remember that I once drank and took ecstasy on a Tuesday afternoon just for something to do. It’s just a different life now and a sort of return to that mermaid existence where I am again a creature not doing what everybody else is doing.

Th large, loud and now certainly most hammered guy in the group soon was organizing where they all would drink and play pool one they left. In no shape whatsoever to drink more but had enough wits about him to get together a plan for more alcohol was a mission I certainly identified with. How can you enjoy a drunken daytime moment when you have to figure out how and where you can keep drinking? Anyway, we shuffled off to the hot tub as they left the pool in a wet huddle of swerving, yelling disarray. It was amusing from a distance. It was deserving of a few one-liners and eye rolls. But it certainly didn’t wreck our moment at the pool.

As we hopped back in the water, shivering from the temperature shock, the now silent area felt more like those waters where this merchild first floated. Just me and the water and my merhusband. When we went to the Caribbean a few years ago, I remember this amazing smile on his face as we jumped in the warm waves. That same smile comes back sometimes even when we’re in the pool. He doesn’t always fit in on this earth either. He doesn’t like what everybody else likes. But he loves the water and me so we can float through all of this together.

Seasonal Alcoholism

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The people on the patios. Oh, the people on the patios. All the oh, so many people on oh, so many patios. They drink on the patios. They smoke on the patios. They drink even more on patios. In fact, they drink so much on these quaint little patios that you start to wonder if anybody anywhere does anything else on patios. Oh sure, you might see a half-eaten order of some pedestrian artichoke dip on the table or a few barely picked at hot wings. But these people are really on these patios to drink. They so look comfortable on these patios too. Like the minute it gets warm, the people defrost, as if they’ve been sitting there all winter. Like they live there. Me? I just walk by all these patios. Sure, I can sit with the sober girls and drink our iced coffees but we quickly move on. We’re not meant to linger there. It’s no longer our turf and we know it. The patios already have their people and we are not them. And sometimes, God help me, I’m like fuck those people on those patios.

A newly sober friend and I were talking at the tail end of winter about what a trap the allure of patio drinking is once the weather warms up. We mainly laughed about how a quick trip to have a few drinks on a poor unsuspecting patio turned into a real life drunker version of Sondheim’s “Ladies Who Lunch.” Perhaps not just drunker but gayer. Like “Ladies who Lunch” at a leather bar. Shots, cheap beers and a restroom handjob–and one for Mahler! Something about patio drinking just seems like it’s something we’re supposed to do though. I mean every episode of House Hunters has at least one scene of a lady with bad hair saying, “I could just picture drinking wine out here, couldn’t you, Chad?” As if entire pieces of property were sold strictly on how cocktail friendly their patios were. Maybe they were and it actually doesn’t sound that insane. I’ve bought a lot crazy shit to further facilitate my drinking so buying a house with the perfect outdoor space to get loaded in isn’t too much of a stretch. The pull of patio drinking is just that strong, y’all.

One day at like 6 years sober, I called my sponsor in Denver and blurted out, “I walked by a patio and people were drinking margaritas and it looked like a really good idea!” I was freaked out that momentarily my brain was so easily romanced back into the pull of patio drinking. He laughed and reminded me it was summer and I was an alcoholic. But it isn’t just the patios of summer that are a trap. It’s also the weather. When I lived in Los Angeles in a series of apartments with no air conditioning, something I would not recommended, I convinced myself for several summers that I drank more during that season so I could pass out at night. Surely, I could have gotten a swamp cooler without the amount of tequila I drank but who had time for logic when it was SO HOT! Summer also brought about outdoor festival season in Los Angeles which was really just a great excuse to drink outside. The same goes for backyard barbecues, Fourth of July and outdoor sporting events which I of course do not attend but don’t get it twisted I definitely found myself at more than one Dodgers game based solely on the allure of beer and hot dogs alone. Summer and drinking just went hand in hand yet for a dedicated drunk like myself self, couldn’t that be said of all seasons?

I remember an episode of Oprah (how every great story in literature starts, by the way) with Kirstie Alley. The Cheers actress and Scientology devotee is something of a mental health barometer. Ask yourself is this something Kirstie Alley would do say or think? If you answered yes, please pause and rethink whatever it is your about to do. However, in this particular interview the star of Look Who’s Talking and Look Who’s Talking Too said something I’ll never forget. She was spending an entire hour with La Winfrey discussing her weight which is such an odd thing that we ask actresses to do. This entire genre of interviews and books that are basically “Former Hot Star Became A Pig But Then Became Hot Again!” is just fucking bizarre to me. But I digress.

Anyway, she had become hot again and she was telling Oprah that for her, binge eating really started around Halloween with the trick or treat candy her kids brought home then it went right into all the delicious food for Thanksgiving which lead to candy and cookies at  Christmas which lead to a big dinner on New Year’s which lead to Valentine’s chocolates which lead to, well you get the picture. What the beloved star of Veronica’s Closet was trying to illustrate was her pigging out really didn’t get a break and the mere idea that Halloween was a trigger was laughable. My drinking, much like Kirstie’s eating, was all-season and her story was immediately identifiable. Stars–they’re just like us! I didn’t actually need it to be summer or Halloween or Easter to get drunk. Sure, those things made it easier for me to hide behind the guise of being “festive.” But I was just as happy to drink alone on a bland Wednesday in August and that was the truth. The allure of summertime drinking wears off quickly when I remember it usually lead to summertime vomiting or summertime screaming matches in parking lots. Oddly enough those things usually came along with springtime drinking and holiday drinking too. Getting to that place, snaps me back to the reality that it isn’t the patios who are the problem. It’s me.

I guess with now nearly a decade sober, I should have some bravado about reclaiming patios. I should start a movement so formerly drunk people can now sit on patios for as long as they want, dammit! But that sounds like a lot of work and sort of dumb. Like maybe people sit on a patios for so long because they’re hammered and can’t stand up? Or maybe it’s too damn hot to sit outside for my delicate ass anyway? But maybe me and my sober girls have our iced coffees and bounce off of summer patios because we have shit to do, honey.

cruel summer/best summer ever

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Right up there with griping about the earth being round and politics being terrible is complaining about seasons. I mean, honestly. There’s no surprises here. Winter’s always cold. Fall’s always slightly melancholy while spring might be a little too optimistic. And summer? Well, summer is the Beyoncé of seasons. Everybody tells you to love summer. Everybody else has a great relationship with summer. Everybody posts how magical summer is. Everybody is having the best summer of their lives. Everybody but me. Much like the aforementioned songstress, I don’t get summer’s appeal. I hate sweating. The movies, for the most part, are crap. I’m usually working and therefore cannot embark on a life changing summer odyssey. And I have no interest in participating in anything that would constitute in best summer ever behavior. Except for eating ice cream. But if we collectively decided that spring was the time when we’d eat more ice cream, I’d be okay with that.

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I will own my immoveable and snotty behavior when it comes to summer. Like many aging (gasp) hipsters, I still cling to the “everyone loves it therefore I must hate it” philosophy. Childish yet true. Seeing as this particular summer has been incredibly sad, violent and, for a lack of a more poetic phrase, fucked up, I’m left with a stronger distaste than ever for the season. Yet a crazy thing has happened: I might be really having the best summer ever. Now they don’t usually put crying, writing and self-realization on posters for the best summer ever but as I’ve mentioned, there’s been a little bit of that going on. Okay. A fuck ton of that going on. Emotions, like current temperatures, are running high. If there’s something to feel, I am feeling it.Don’t have time to feel something? Fear not! I will feel that shit for you.  Like the shite blockbuster in 3D that you spent too much money to sit thru, my emotions are loud, pounding and in my face. My emotions, as directed by Michael Bay. Somehow, I’m keeping it together. I’m getting out of bed. I’m calling people back. I’m going to meetings. I’m trying to find ways to be helpful instead of self-involved jerkface. Despite my gloomy inclinations, I’m even having fun.1970s-mens-underwear-ads-6

Not that ^ kind of fun but fun nonetheless. “Fun” I should mention is also a concept I find overrated.  I know. What am I the devil? I hate both summer and fun. Yeesh. Maybe not so much overrated but subjective. Like lots of things I think are fun (reading and drinking coffee on my patio) are not other people’s idea of fun. Likewise things like sports, mountain climbing, shooting guns at targets are not my idea of fun. I love that we tell people, “Have fun!” like it’s some kind of order. Have fun or else! Have fun or spend your life like Sylvia Plath. These are your only options. (Sidebar: what was Sylvia Plath’s idea of fun?)

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But yes. I am having fun. Outdoor concerts, train trips to the mountains, strolling around arts festivals, having friends over for game night and, yes, lots of ice cream excursions. And I have naturally found plenty of pop culture to obsess about. The Great British Baking Show isn’t just a reality baking show on PBS but a TV program I actually want to live inside of. (I could yammer for 6,000 words about the show but Linda Jones of NPR totally nails it. ) I’ve gobbled up a weird James Franco movie and the snappiest Sinatra movie about heroin for Sloshed Cinema. I finally watched Trumbo and shuddered at the realization of how paranoia and fear still exists today and enjoyed spending 2 hours with Bryan Cranston in a bathtub. What I’m getting at is even though I have summer issues(just like Seventeen magazine but more bitter) I am really enjoying myself.

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Two thoughts from minds with more perspective than my own will hopefully help me wrap up this seasonal blathering.

1.)I was given the advice during my first sober holiday season to “embrace it or get crushed by it” meaning I could lean into a season known just much for suicides as it was carolling or I could wallow in how fucked up my life still was. I chose the former. Maybe this summer I’m doing the same thing. which brings me to….

2.) The husband and I were talking about this thing called summer and he said something very profound. “Well, yeah you can absolutely have a great summer and make the most of it even if you don’t love it or if it’s hard.”

And that was it! Maybe I was making the best of hard times and maybe I was still heartbroken or sad. Who says I can’t be both? Nobody. So maybe your summer sucks too but you’re finding joy somewhere. Or maybe on paper everything looks good but you’re still mangled. Or maybe things are just hard and there doesn’t have to be a best summer ever. All of it is appropriate. Besides, no one’s getting graded on summer. No one’s failing or getting pulled over for doing summer wrong. The way I see it is if I’m living my life a little less horrible than the day before, I’m okay. My summer is okay. Fantastic even. But just for the sake of being festive, I’ll double down on the ice cream. You know. For summer’s sake.