I am the favored Instrument of the Universe

I’ve been taking these long solitary hikes, and I’ve been evaluating my life.  And the more I think about it, the more I realize my life is awesome.

For every hardship I’ve ever endured I’ve always inadvertently stumbled into something better.  I find a job I love, I lose that job and I fall into an even better version of said job.  I lose a meaningful relationship, a veritable buffet of new ones opens up to me.  When The Universe closes a door, somewhere a wall falls down.  And there are like… a bunch of nazi-gold hidden in the asbestos.  Yeah that’s the metaphor I was going for.

I have an extraordinary and expansive support system of family and friends.  Part safety net, part fire blanket, I’ve always had the support to take risks and to rebound unscathed.  I was never tied down or smothered… there was always just enough give for me to experience the full gambit of things without breaking beyond repair.

I was born anatomically attractive, but never to the point where I could ever coast on my looks.  It was always a slight gust of wind to help push me through the door, and never the reason doors were opened for me in the first place.  And because of my so-so looks, I was forced to develop skills and talents.

Good things constantly happen to me.  But it took several readjustments of my aperture of life to see things that way.  I was never falling or failing.  There were only minor setbacks and meaningful triumphs.  The me I am today, is the best and strongest version I’ve ever been.  And tomorrow, I’ll be even better.  Imagine that.

And I realize, the deck is perpetually stacked in my favor.  It is impossible for me to fail or fall– for very long or very far.  So I look at my success as a writer as a bygone conclusion, and all that’s left is figuring out how long or how round about the course is to get there.  Do I want to be a millionaire while my parents are still able to enjoy it with me?  Or do I want to be old and drooping by the time I’m reaping the benefits of my work?

All that’s left is to put in the hours and the work.  There is no carrot or the stick anymore.  There is just the road.

*Also, my book is coming out in six weeks.*

Bump it with:

The Fire Starting-Pencil-Fighting-Super-Saiyan

pencil fight
(Best stock photo, ever)

Every relationship lately feels like a game of emotional-pencil-fight.  I take what I fundamentally am’ and hold it between my hands.  *whack* you take a nice hearty swing.  Then you do the same, grasping your smooth polished veneer, pulled taught’ over your tender timber and graphite bones. I lean in close and I take a big overhead chop.  *whack*  I just can’t settle without testing your mettle.

Because I’m terrified that I’ll lash my hobbled-heart to you, and somewhere down the line you’ll need to shoulder some of my burden I’ll discover you crumble under the weight of my uneasy gait.  So instead I instigate– I set a fire to see how quickly you immolate.  Wait!  stop drop and roll, and soldier-crawl to the nearest exits.  Do you touch the handles for heat, or do you kick down doors and hopefully… escape?  How long can you hold your breath?  How well do you perform under duress?  These are things I need to know.

I am the Fire-Starting-Pencil-fighting-Super-Saiyan.  Each encounter leaving me a little more battered, but a little more true.  A little less prim-and-polish-“yellow #2” and a bit more wood and grit.   But if you get to the core of things, I promise you’ll see what makes me write.  And I’ll scribble both our names and circle them a thousand times.  I am the Fire-Starting-Pencil-fighting-Super-Saiyan.  But clearly there’s nothing super about me.

Except maybe my hair.

Bump it with:

Blind Date: Now You See Me… Now You Don’t.

I walked out on a blind date.

I think this might’ve been the single most asshole thing I’ve done since I’ve been single.Ten  minutes in, I just realized “nope this isn’t for me” and there was no pleasant way to say all that without needing a significant amount of explanation, so I just walked out, got into my car, and drove off.  This may need a little back story and explanation to really understand the whole experience.

So I’m semi-active on two dating sites, Tinder and OKCupid. While on OKCupid matches people on algorithms and levels of compatibility, Tinder pretty much boils down to:

“Does your face want to fuck their face?

[  ] Yes
[  ] No”

And for the most part my response to this is,  “Meh… what the hell.”  I read somewhere that the way to optimize dating with Tinder is to just like every single person’s picture, which statistically expands your dating pool to everyone who likes your picture, and from there you can prune down your matches to people you actually like, all while getting a slight ego boost from the ones you un-match.  So I do that.  Because maths.

Tinder Unicorn
Unmatched.

This girl, was a Tinder girl.  Our conversation was very light and easy at first.  We talk about beer, and about our careers and any number of that small chit chat people do. Within the first day, she was already talking about meeting up.  Suddenly I became acutely aware of that slow sneaking, heavy musky reek of desperation.  Most girls exercise a bit of caution before meeting with a stranger, y’know there are crazies and serial killers on the Internet too.  Heck, I’ve had to submit a credit report, a blood sample, and a carfax before getting to go on a first date, (not literally, but you get the picture).

But she was completely gung-ho: “Hey stranger I just met on the internet, and know inherently nothing about aside from a picture and a little blurb about yourself (remember this, because it will become important later)… lets meet up!”

That was red flag number one.

I’m off the next day, and she’s been pleasant so far and again she asks me if I want to meet up… I figure heck why not. So we start figuring out where to go for dinner, and she begins rattling off the names of a few high end sushi places in the area. And now I’m thinking to myself, I like her, but I don’t necessarily $150 worth of dinner and drinks like her… maybe not even $75 and a Groupon.  Which to me should have been a good warning that subconsciously, I was already trying to minimize my losses, like a part of me had already made up my mind how much I wanted to date this girl, and that monetary sum was somewhere between ramen and happy hour.

That was red flag number two.

So we settle on a ramen shop that’s in the area.  And as I’m driving over I get a series of three texts from her almost simultaneously.

“Oh by the way, I don’t drive.”
“Can you pick me up from work? ”
“Oh and I picked up juice for my dad because he’s sick.  Can we drop it off to him afterwards?”

Christ, I’m not a taxi cab.  Again, I should’ve trusted my gut.  Because instead of feeling like I was given the opportunity to curry favor with my potential future father-in-law, I’m feeling irritated and used.  I google her work place, and it’s two blocks from the ramen shop.  How hard is it to walk two blocks?   Wait what’s that guts?  More foreshadowing of the impending doom to come?

That was red flag number three.

So I get to her work place, and inside are two male patrons, and a girl behind the counter and another girl leaning on the counter from the opposite side.  It’s in these first few seconds, I realize– I’ve been duped.

– – – –

Now I will be the first to admit that my profile pictures on these dating sites show me in the most advantageous light.  It’s the picture where my hair looks awesome, and my chin looks chiseled, and for some reason my biceps look extremely ripped like I was lugging telephone poles around all day.  It’s the picture where I’m at the top of a mountain, or skydiving, or surrounded by a bunch of friends.  But in truth, I’m not that muscular, I hike infrequently, I’ve been skydiving twice and I screamed like a girl the first time (and most of the second time too), and I don’t really hang out with people that often because… well I’m an insufferable dick.  My profile pictures are a glossy, hyper-saturated representation of my life, but for the most part that is me.  If you see me walking down the street, and someone where to show you my profile picture, you would recognize that it was clearly me.

I will also be the first to admit, I’m a shallow person.  I know what type of girl I find physically attractive, and I know what type of girl I find physically un-attractive.  The media has attempted to guilt men into believing liking one type of shape over another is somehow a form of shameful discrimination, but honestly it’s like getting mad at someone for saying their favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip instead of rocky road.  You can’t argue or reason why you like one more than the other… you just do.  And in the grand scheme of things there are people who really love themselves some rocky road, so by all means more for them.   As for me, I know what I like and I know what I don’t like– and I like mint chocolate chip.

But… what I got was a gallon tub of cookie dough, with a bunch of red warning flags sticking out the top like she was a double black diamond ski slope.

Looking back, her first few profile pictures were strategically cropped photos of just her face and cleavage,  so I already knew she was a bigger girl coming in to this.  But her third or fourth picture was a slightly out of focus shot of all of her her doing some sort of cheerleader-esque pose in a t-shirt and shorts.  Not quite big, more like Penny from Big Bang Theory when she puffed up a bit in the later seasons.  (which coincidentally, is how I figure out how far along into the series I am when I’m catching a random episode) That’s who I was expecting to meet today.  In retrospect, that was probably an old high school or college photo, at least five years and fifty pounds ago.

The Bait     And Switch
The bait…                                              …and switch.

You lied.  That’s my first thought.  I’m not angry that she’s big, I’m angry that what little information I know about this girl, has been falsified.  That picture was you at some point, but it’s definitely not you now.  You know what you look like.  You see you in the mirror every day, and that picture, is – not –  you.  That little picture, that little blurb… it’s the twist of the truth; it’s an omission and misrepresentation of facts.  I’m reminded of the days of picture brides, where middle aged women would send a picture of themselves in high school, but by the time they arrived, “ha ha too late Husband, I already here.”  I’ve been tricked.

I lock eyes with her.  She looks away and busies herself.

“Hi” I say.
“Hi.” she says back.

And I stand there awkwardly.  At this point I’m already committed to the date.  I said I would do it so I’m going to do it, pride, wallet, time, and happiness be damned.  She makes no effort to continue the conversation, and resumes talking with the girl across the counter.

So I walk five feet off and flop down in a chair by the door, fumbling with my phone absently.  Maybe she’s busy.  Time passes, and I’m stuck sitting in this chair ever aware of each passing second and the growing discomfort in my guts.  What else has she been dishonest about?  What else will she be dishonest about?  “daddy’ is just the nickname of my drug dealer, and ‘juice’ is what we call our meth, you didn’t ask” or  “You asked if I had AIDS, technically I only had HIV… should’ve been more specific”

I look over at her.  There is so much more of her to look at than I was expecting.  Am I an ass?  Yes I am an ass.  But still… I am an honest ass, with an ass the same size as my picture.  She makes no effort to end her conversation with the girl at the counter.  I stand up again, and walk over to the register.  I hover there awkwardly, like a fourth grader trying to find the right moment to interrupt the teacher from correcting papers at her desk, before returning to my seat unacknowledged yet again.  I’m still willing to bite the bullet and take her out for some food and chock it up to poor reconnaissance on my part.  All she had to do was say something.  Just make some eye contact– something!

I saunter back to my chair.  It’s at this point my guts I’ve been suppressing all this time, begin to take over.  Like a trapped animal, the fight or flight instinct begins to take over me.  Maybe I can pretend like I didn’t see her in there, because I was looking for a girl half her size like in her pictures.  Ha ha.  Yeah that’s fucked up.  Is it?  But if I had told her I was 8′ 2″ and she didn’t see me because I’m actually 5’7″, that would be the same thing right?  All I want to do is not be here, not in this uncomfortable awkward situation with this person I am beginning to resent more with each passing second.  Maybe tell her I’m sick?  Tell her something came up?  A family emergency?  I don’t want to drive extra to give her dad juice, or meth, or whatever it is.  

And then a turning point.

Fuck it.

…I don’t need to spend the next hour talking to someone that I already don’t like.

So I stood up, and I walked out.

And that might’ve been the worst thing I’ve ever done on a date.  And I’m pretty sure the Universe  will be punishing me soon.

Bump it with:

Relics

The great thing about talking to people from your past, they remember who you are.  Their memory is never perfect, nor is it fully intact.  Instead it’s snippets and fragments of who you were.  I reunited with one of my best friends from high school, and he carried with him more than just memories:

 

That’s me at nineteen.  We were making music in our teens, unmotivated by anything else but ambition and ourselves.  If I could do this, then, imagine what I am capable of now.

This was recorded during first major heartbreak as a teenager.  I wrote an entire songbook full of lyrics over that girl.  This is not my first heartbreak, nor will it be my last.  In fact, I tend to produce my best work in the wake of heartache.  I’m on the verge of something great.  I can feel it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

She was always ready with the needle and thread for when I  got caught on that same barb-wired fence.  The same roadblock that I absolutely needed to mount, but instead of triumphing– it ripped my insides out.  And she took the time with gentle hands to undo my vestigial heart from the steel wired teeth.  Gently easing my bleeding, pulsing organs back inside of me.  And with measured loving strokes she tenderly resewed all the damage I had done.  She wrapped me in her arms and laid with me on the couch.

Once I was better– I left her.  In search of that roadblock again.  Until the next time when she found me tattered and dripping, impaled by my own pride and ignorance.  With the same patience and love, she pulled me from the steel brambles and carried me to her bed.  Stitch by stitch.  Inch by inch.  She held my hand and’ nursed me back to health.  

Once I was better– I left her.  To climb the wall I could not climb.  To fall the fall I was destined.  When next she found me she looked at me sadly.  “I’ve sold my needles.  I’ve packed up my thread.”   But she sat with me and cradled my head. “This time, you face your monsters alone.”

And she was gone.

My Funeral

Some people spend all their lives dreaming about their perfect wedding, or their perfect birthday party.  For me, I’m planning the perfect funeral.  Now this isn’t a cry for help, or any proof that I’m suicidal or anything of the sort.  I’m a happy camper, and I’m not going to die until I’m good and ready.   I just think it’s important to be prepared for this sort of thing and have at least a decent plan.  Otherwise, the last and lasting memory people will have of me will be left to chance.  I want my funeral to be epic.

Funerals are by far the best party, because it’s the only party that is truly about me. Any normal celebration, wedding/anniversary/birthday I’m constantly concerned about other people:  “Oh are my friends going to get along if I seat them together”  “Are my folks having a good time?”  “Is everybody being properly entertained?” “Has everyone had enough to drink?”  “Has anyone had too much to drink?”     When I’m dead, none of that will matter.  All that will matter is me.  I’m dead, look at me pay attention to me and be sad.  Very, very sad.

Besides, Other people are supposed to plan those parties for you.  A wedding is a cooperative plan.  An anniversary is a cooperative plan.  A birthday… well people who throw birthday parties for themselves… that’s just sad.  Almost as sad as a funeral I suppose, especially if no one shows up.

So here’s what I want:

A Closed casket Funeral
If I’m dead I am not looking my best.  If I die old, then the years and time will have taken their toll on me, wearing down a once handsome and chiseled visage to a sagging mass of wrinkled, incontinent elderly.  Ask any elderly person how they see themselves when they dream; they see themselves as a spry and able 20-something year old.  Old age is a disease of the body not of the mind.  If I die old, I don’t want to be remembered as old.  I want to be remembered as my mind remembers me, which is right around the age I am now.

If I die young, well chances are something pretty bad happened.  Disease, cancer, being cut in half because I wrapped my car around a tree truck doing ninety miles an hour in the middle of the night, or dying in a hail of unfriendly gunfire.  In which case, I’m probably not in good shape to be on display.  I’ll be like one of those returned electronic devices that are resold at Best Buy.  You just show off the box to give people a general idea of what the product looks like, because inside it’s missing a few screws and the top is cracked.

A closed casket makes the most sense.  Embalmers and makeup artists can try to work their magic as best they can, but it’ll never be quite as good as alive me.  I want the best photos of me from my social media (facebook, instagram all that jazz) to be plastered up all over the place.  I want to look alive and vibrant, even though I am dead and static.  I want people to remember that I was a handsome devil.

An excellent Soundtrack
Funerals normally have such drab and forgettable music.  I want my funeral to have an epic soundtrack that represents all the high and low points of my life.  None of this Enya crap, but heavy stuff that makes you think and sink:

Joseph Arthur – In the Sun
Death Cab for Cutie – What Sarah Said
Death Cab for Cutie – Follow you into the Dark
Ben Howard – Oats on the Water
Thrice – Words on the Water
Chevelle – One Lonely Visitor

An Open Buffet
I want a cafeteria style open buffet.  I want all my grieving friends and relatives to be eating side by side, shoulder to shoulder.  I know some Buddhist/Asian cultures don’t believe in eating meat at a funeral (something about the risk of the person being reincarnated into one of the animals), but rather I want there to be copious amounts of meat.

A Video with a special message
After the majority of people have finished chowing down and they’re just milling about trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their afternoon,  I want a special pre-recorded video message to play.  In this video I will be sitting in a chair, smiling.  People will see me alive and vibrant, and they’re feel that first twinge of sadness and loss.  And then I’ll start talking:

“Hey everyone, I just wanted to thank you so much for coming to my funeral.  I really appreciate all of you taking the time to mourn me.  Each one of you have touched my life in such a deep and profound way… in the days and weeks to follow while you’re mourning me and missing me, I want each and every one of you to remember, that even though I’ve passed on there is a piece of me inside of each and every one of you.” 

And then I will pause and smile for an uncomfortable ten seconds, just so people truly let those words sink in.

“…in fact, just to show you how much you’ve touched my life, I’ve made sure there is a piece of me inside of each of you.  How was lunch guys?  How about that meat?  Did it taste familiar?  Did it taste like… ME?

and then I’ll begin to laugh maniacally for as long as I possibly can.  At this point people should be getting sick.  They should be throwing up their food and clamoring for the restrooms.   Aunties and uncles will turn ashen knowing they’ve eaten their nephew.  Hopefully someone will have fainted.

And I’ll be laughing and laughing from whichever afterlife I’ve arrived at.

…probably hell.

Bump it with:

Karaoke Therapy

Lately I’ve been self medicating with Karaoke Therapy.  This consists of me singing at the top of my lungs in my car during any period of driving.

There are a couple of rules that I made up for some reason:
Windows need to be rolled up entirely, because heaven forbid any strangers hear me belting out whatever song I’m mangling at the moment.
There is a direct correlation between the volume and ferocity of my singing, and the speed of the vehicle.  So at a stop sign I’m singing mezzo-piano (semi-soft for you non music-types not in the know) but on the freeway I am belting and wailing at the top of my lungs.  Somehow driving has become an aerobic activity.

And a couple of things I’ve noticed:
A passionately singing driver, i.e. fist pumping, steering-wheel-drumming, mouth agape spitting out words in rapid succession… looks almost identical to an angry road-raging driver.  So while I’m piping out my off-key rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” somebody is looking in their rear view mirror thinking “wow look at this angry asshole”

The One Left Sitting

A few nights ago I witnessed something that truly resonated with me.  I’ve been mulling it over the past few days, trying to figure out exactly what it meant.

An elderly woman is sitting in the restaurant at a booth for two.  She sits there, gazing intently at the front door waiting for her companion to come.  She empties her water glass, and I promptly refill it.  She restlessly pushes her bread and butter plate around on the table, furrowing and un-furrowing her anxious napkin.  Her water glass empties, and is refilled again.  She is of the generation before cell phones were used to negotiate awkward lapses of stimulation, so there she sits, un-stimulated staring down the door with ever increasing fury.  Her lips change as the minutes pass, from a politely optimistic  smile, slowly drooping downwards through her neutral mask, and then settling into a disappointed scowl.   All of this witnessed, not as an evening that dragged on second after second, minute after minute as it surely must have been for her, but as  life-slide snapshots every time I was in her vicinity or at her table.  Her evening was compressed into a mere twenty minutes of my time– but I witnessed it all.

Finally her date arrives, sweating in his haste and muttering apologies.  Forty five minutes late.

He sits.   Her water glass is refilled for the third time, as his is filled for the first.

They speak, not in the happy tones of a couple united, but the angry barking tones of people misunderstood; two opposing forces negotiating the terms for the evening.

They order.  “I’m depressed” she says as I’m walking away.  I feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise up.

I drop off the food. The conversation has not lightened or progressed. He says something trying to be funny.  The joke misses its mark, or is deliberately deflected.

“…You don’t understand, I’m really depressed.

They eat.  I clear some plates and refill their waters.

“… you just don’t understand.”   She sighs, exacerbated.  He sighs too, either out of sympathy or his own frustrations.  This upsets her more.

She asks for me to call her a taxi.   He’s still eating.  She must have seen the confusion on my face. “It’s just for me.”  She says.  He winces, as if she just struck him.  He orders more food, either out of defiance, or perhaps as a clever ploy  to make her stay.  She leaves anyway.

When I return to the table she is gone.  He has switched seats, now sitting in her spot eating alone.  Slowly, deliberately he cuts his food.  Slowly, deliberately, he pierces each piece and lifts it to his mouth.  Slowly and deliberately, he chews each bite as he sits there in silence.  His gaze never leaves the empty chair across from him and the heavy weight her absence creates.

The night goes on and I am distracted by other tables.

I return to him as the restaurant is dying down.  His table has been cleared.  He sits there in silence.  His face, unhappy and beaten as he stares at the empty chair across from him.  His silver eyebrows drooping from his forehead matching his sullen frown.  He has taken no pleasure in his food, no pleasure in the date, no pleasure in the night.

His coffee cup is cleared.  The check sits on his table, the restaurant’s way of trying to politely nudge him on his way.    Still he sits in broken silence.  He has no phone to thumb through, no book to read, just him and the empty chair across from him.  The staff watches him distantly.  What is he still doing here?  A broken man, on the remnants of a broken date, someone who should have cut his losses and slunk home the moment she left without him.  A sad lonely man who disappointed the woman he loves.  Or perhaps a man suffering deliberately because he wants to understand.  A man determined to understand what she felt– so he forces himself to feel it.  The anxious disappointing start of her evening becomes the tapering disappointing ending of his.

He was the one left sitting.

…and if he gets the chance, I don’t think he’ll ever be late again.