A brief History of the Universe


There were birds

That flew

There were rocks that crashed

There was life that knew

And stuffs that didn’t.

Some could spell well

and some could lift 10 times their weight

And some were ships

And some were freight.

Some said “hello”.

And others were gas in a giant black hole

Life began here

And continued there.

Time itself bent on the turn of a screw.

Scientists discovered

republicans laughed

Lots of us killed

While a lot of us died

And the same rocks made us fight for and give up our lives

Molecules coalesced and evolved

Rocks became solar systems

And atoms became bodies

And everything, more complicated due to entropy

And then people died

Cause that’s what life does.

And rocks still spun

’round their respective suns.

I loved you,

You know,

As I always have—

Before you were born

And after god died.

Energy danced till the illusion of mass

Made it seem as if we were Not just thoughts and gas,

As if objects were real

And the universe was not one

gigantic bullet in the brain of a gun.

The dinosaurs drank tea with Othello

And a fellow who saved the whole world

By hanging from metal.

The planets spun faster to run

From disaster

And the faster we chattered

The more we each mattered.

And each time the needle skipped on the turntable’s platter

We danced as if Coltrane had planned on the clatter.

We waited

For something

To happen.

We waited

To read

A book

That might

Inspire us

Deeply.

But

When

Nothing saved us

We thought it

A good idea

To be lazy.

We fell in love on purpose

Cause we knew how obvious it was

That the only cure

for boredom is love.

So we kissed and

We fucked.

We had sex and more sex

We asked the girl in 3B

To join us in bed.

We fondled each other like wrapped Christmas gifts

And we kissed every hole as if mystery exists.

I Drank so much whiskey

You called the police

Who removed my pistol from my abandoned teeth.

I felt too intensely

the pain was too deep

and suicide was my one last attempt to find peace.

Technology soared into worlds unimagined

Cars flew as if bees

All disease was deceased

And your doctor brought me back to life

–with the help of a priest.

So, even giving in, hadn’t worked after all

Which was fine, cause the sky was beginning to fall.

Milky way was colliding with Andromeda.

The Universe was having a fart

That only effected those who were living–

And some who had passed.

And the ephemeral mass was returning to gas.

And a universe that once flaunted shapes and designs

Was proved just a matrix of concepts of mind.

Nothing Was,

That Was not.

Though we almost forgot,

That stories exist without names, but not without plot.

The universe, god, time and what not

Was all one infinitesimal thought

Only as real as the dimensions we chose to give it

No longer than the moments we crammed into minutes

No more beautiful than the house that we built and lived in.

So that’s why we got up and loved to the limit.

Birds flew

Once again

And cows chose to chew

And again space grew

Blacker and vaster

And everything that just had zero matter

Once again mattered.

The sad teenage scribblers wrote poems in notebooks

The sun burned hotter than before it was extinguished.

And the ATM worked

And the stars formed new pictures

And the poor became poorer

And the rich became richer

And it looked so familiar

But what could we do?

We pretended that everything was different and new.

That we had never met, or died, or cheated

Pretended the hurt that destroyed our hearts

Had never happened or could never.

We pretended that life was as lovely

As we hoped it would be

Cause it was

And is

And it always will be.

Till we all fall apart at the seems

And the dream

We all dared to dream

Gives in to the pressure

Of much lighter

Things

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Thank You Ms. Reeves (rough draft) 

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This is a small excerpt from a chapter of my forthcoming book–a micro-story in itself:

I grew up poor and neither of my parent’s finished high-school, so the idea that I would one day go to college never even crossed my mind, really. It just wasn’t something we did in our family. College was something that my brain knew existed, but my heart felt was a fairy tail, like a moderate republican. Even community college seemed out of reach and too expensive, until one random day, stocking shelves in Jewel, my friend’s mom came into the store and we began to talk.

“Phil! It’s so good to see you. What have you been up to? Are you taking classes at OCC?”, Ms. Reeves asked me.

“No. I can’t afford college. And I was never a decent student anyway. I’m just working.”, I explained to her.

“But you were always so brilliant. You absolutely have to be in college. There is no excuse. Listen, tomorrow, you are going to go to Oakton Community College and sign up for four courses. My son just signed up so I know enrollment is still open. Put down my address for the bill and I’ll take care of it.” Ms. Reeves laid out plainly.

I felt awkward and didn’t know how to respond, but my instinctual reflex was, “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly ask that of you. I really, really appreciate the offer, I just..”

“Phil. You’re not asking anything of me, and I’m not asking you either.” She clarified, wearing a very stern face. “Now you are too damn smart to not be in school. You just got in trouble in grade school cause that school was too easy for a smart kid like you. College will be different. They will challenge you and nurture your mind.”

I always was a troublemaker in school, since I was a kid. A class clown. I was such a poor student, as far as report cards convey, that I internalized my identity as a poor student and felt like I wasn’t meant to be in school. The ironic thing, that I’m not sure I realized at the time, was that one of the most rewarding experiences in my life has always been learning, and being intellectually stimulated. I always loved being shown knew ideas and ways of seeing the world. It’s the same reason I love reading and love seeing a Magic trick. It’s why I love debating ideas (Often to the chagrin of my less interested friends), and love making love to someone for the first time—discovering new movements and textures and feedback. As much as I loved learning, I always hated class and did everything from writing raps and drawing in my Black Book ,to joking and passing notes to distract me from the teacher’s presentation. I couldn’t help but concede, “Ok. Thank you so much Ms. Reeves. I’ll pay you back as soon as I can. I promise.”

“Nonsense. It’s a gift. My art has been going really well lately. Don’t even think about it.” And with that, my college career began the next day, at Oakton Community College. Though she didn’t exactly remain with me throughout my whole college career, her gift was a pair of good boots that set me up for the long, steep journey through the mountains of higher education—a journey I never would have dared to begin without her love, kindness and a gift, not of money, as much as faith.

High-school, LSD, and Chicago Underground Hip Hop

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As a kid, I did a lot of crazy things, like skitching home down busy streets, diving into pools from 3-story diving boards at midnight, etc. This story is about a day when I did multiple crazy things.

High-school, LSD, and Chicago Underground Hip-hop

In high-school, one of my friends sold Acid, not citric acid, lysergic bliss. So it wasn’t a big hoopla to drop a tab here or there when seeing the world in 3D wasn’t enough dimensions to intrigue us. One fine day, while his parent’s were at work, we decided to go to his house and have LSD for lunch. DJing was our favorite shared hobby, so we went to the basement and started scratching and beat juggling our favorite hip-hop records. Just as Q-bert’s Wavetwisters was starting to scratch us back, his highly conservative, severe parents came home early because of a problem at the plant that shut down production for the day. In a panic, I snuck out the back door and drove away, leaving him to have what I imagined to be a very terrifying, unintelligible conversation with his parents. Unable to go home, for fear of having that same conversation with my guardian, I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do.

For those of you who have never tripped, it’s worth noting that it is very much like teleporting to backwards-land, where everything is hilarious and nothing makes sense. It is a feeling and state of mind best enjoyed in a very safe place, where there are no expectations of you, except to periodically laugh uncontrollably for no reason at all. Unlike marijuana, which you might enjoy sitting in a dark theatre watching a movie, or alcohol, which you may enjoy sitting in a kitchen with friends telling jokes that aren’t funny, and fighting over who loves the other more, a good trip has a very small Venn diagram where attention span and not-freaking-the-fuck-out overlap.

I decided to go to Gramaphone records, my favorite record shop, which always turns me on to great new music—sounds like a great time! I forgot the little detail of having to drive for an hour in rush hour traffic to get there: Hell. As previously mentioned, the two things you do NOT want to do on acid is pay attention to anything, or any task that could end in your death, like driving in Chicago. 2,456 near car-wrecks later, I actually make it to gramophone without any blood on my hands, but I’m so tense and my nerves are so wracked that I’m not very excited to be there.

As I’m listening to records and talking to some of the DJs that work there, I mention how big a fan I am of a certain rapper, when It becomes revealed to me that I am speaking to that rapper, who will remain nameless for reasons that will soon become apparent. Like wide receivers, all rappers have huge egos and are suckers for flattery, so he invites me to the back to smoke a blunt and talk hip-hop. Since I’m tripping balls, I assume he is messing with me, but he eventually convinces me he’s serious and I follow him to the back. We sit on some Salvation Army tier couches and smoke up, listening to a PNS Fresh Produce mixtape.

A few months prior, while attending an Atmosphere concert at the Metro, I asked DJ Dibbs, as he walked of stage, if I could have his shirt, to which he responded, “What? We’re selling them at the merch booth.” To which AAHHYY responded, “No, I want the one that you’re wearing!” To his credit, Dibbs was super cool and acquiesced to my request, took off his shirt, and walked off stage topless. Not only was it very nice of him to literally give the shirt off his back to a random fan for no reason at all except that I was weird enough to ask, but, being as overweight as he was, how self conscious he may have been about rolling off stage with his rolls exposed was not lost on me. Anyway, the point is, back then, The Metro’s backstage passes were stickers and the shirt I received from Dibbs had the backstage pass still on it. There was a date stamped on it, but I decided to act confident to the point of abrasive, and cocky my way backstage—This is no small feet by the way, since my Native America, hairless baby face, and  boney frame make me look 13. After successfully getting myself backstage, I came back for my friends as well, “There with me.” I’d explain, nonchalantly. So, for a very nice couple of months, my friends and I enjoyed free backstage access to Dashboard Confessional shows, Sunny Day Real Estate, Alkaline Trio, and Aesop Rock shows. We didn’t even have to buy tickets, or worry if it sold out, or stand outside in line for a good spot on the floor. AND, we could have all the free food and Heineken we desired, which, at 19, we actually thought was a good beer—How could we know it was Busch light in a green bottle?

–back to the present of the story: I kept the shirt/pass in the trunk of my ’89 Buick Century, or B&C studios as she was known by lunchtime freestylers in high school. After discussing the various states of local, underground, Chicago hip hop, I told him the Metro backstage pass story and he explained that another local crew was gonna do a show that night and it would DEFINITELY, be a good idea to check it out, “It’s funna be taaahhhhght!”.

Hoping that this event would lead to dropping a track with one my favorite Chicago MCs, I agree that this is a great idea, despite my current inability to look anyone in the eye, or complete a full sentence.

He drives us to the metro, he freestyles in the car to some Molemen beats and I am in hip-hop heaven. As we walk in, I say to him, quite coolly, “just follow my lead, {wink, head nod}” As I skip the line and walk past the doorman, the doorman asks, quizzically, “What are you doing?!” To which I respond, careful not to embarrass him by questioning someone with a backstage, someone as important as myself–after all I don’t want to get the poor guy fired!, “Oh, I’m with the band” I respond, pointing to the well worn sticker, wearing a facial expression that says, “Oops, it’s cool. I forgive you”. What I didn’t know, but the bouncer was quite happy to explain, was that the backstage passes had recently been changed from stickers to lanyards and he didn’t know how I got that old sticker, but I was officially banned from the Metro for life.

This didn’t go over terribly well with my new friend, who was very excited to see this show. What I also didn’t know is WHY he was so excited to see the show. As the actual musical talent showed up, loading up from the alley, my new friend walked briskly toward them, but instead of doing that half hug/half hand shake that tough dudes do, he decides to start screaming instead. Apparently, they had battled each other at some party and one said some personal shit and a few underground mixtapes later, There was more beef than a rodeo.

“Nigga I know you didn’t think I wasn’t gonna find yo ass!!!”

“Fuck yo bitch ass nigga ass!”

“You crossed the line Homie (this was circa 1998 and people still said “homie” without a shred of irony). I ain’t gone stand for it.”

I don’t do well with confrontation on a good day, I hate it, and believe me, tripping balls doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. One of them breaks a bottle, bouncers come out of the back door, and my dude pulls out a machete from his pants, which is scary because it is a dangerous weapon, sure, but even scarier because…Who the fuck carries around a machete?!?! What. The. Fuck. Honestly, if he would have pulled out an AK-47, I would have been less freaked out—it’s more dangerous, but at least I would have been like, “yeah, that makes sense as a decision between weapons to defend one’s self with {shoulder shrug}” brandishing a Machete is just fucking crazy! And how was he chilling and smoking and DRIVING, with a god damn Machete in his pants!?!?!?

My freak out level is up to eleven and I can’t remember the details, but I wouldn’t be surprised to one day stumble upon surveillance footage of me sucking my thumb in the fetal position. After a few more threats, the performers say to me, “Yo. your boy’z crazy, fuck this shit, we got a show to do.” And move inside. The cops are called and as the sirens begin to squeal, my new machete friend runs off into the night.

Now I am standing alone in an alley, tripping on acid, as cops are coming to my location, and a whole crew of people are feet away who think I’m with the guy that’s trying to cut them in half. Not a great place to be at the moment, so I decide to walk away casually. My car is still at Gramaphone, so I have to take a bus back to it. Thankfully, by now I’m coming down, and ready to just relax and go home. As I near my car, I’m looking out the bus window and I see my dude eating ice cream at a Baskin Robin’s, with the look on his face of a 5 year old without a care in the world. I think to myself, what the fuck just happened? Is this real life?

Ever since then, when one of my dude’s songs comes on my iTunes, I remember that day, and laugh at how invincible I thought I was at that age and how desperately I sought adventure. I have had a whole lot of adventures now, and depending on the day and my mood, and how invincible I feel at the moment, sometimes homeboy is my least favorite rapper, and sometimes, He is the best.

Song for Adele (What did I think was out there?)

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Here’s a song I wrote for Adele. It’s called:

What Did I Think Was Out There

As a kid I was sure that I’d

never find Someone to trust

Till I saw your face and then I knew

I found my first true love

You loved the way I chewed gum

I love how you cry when you laugh

The constellation of freckles

Like stars on your back

 

But I couldn’t help but wonder

Is it cause we’re so young

What are the chances my first love

Could be the only one?

 

I guess I had to test it

I just needed to see

guess I was just young and restless

I just needed to be free

 

But

What did I think was out there?

Who could there be?

Instead of betting on a sure thing

I gambled off the best thing

That ever happened to me

 

 

All those Christmases we spent poor

Heating our home with the stove

And the burning sage blew an uproar

Of beautiful Ash up in smoke

 

But I couldn’t help but wonder

Is it just cause we’re young?

If I had to love another

Would it be just as fun?

 

I guess I had to test it

I just needed to see

I guess was just young and restless

I just needed to be free

 

but

What did I think was out there?

Who could there be?

Instead of betting on a sure thing

I gamble off the best thing

That ever happened to me

But I’m not free!

I’m not free!

Without you, I’m not free

Unemployment & Masculinity (Rough Draft)

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Unemployment and Masculinity

Many times, I’ve heard the question on the radio or TV: “Does it bother you that your wife makes more money than you?” and wondered how someone could ask such a stupid question? Though an unbelievable, more than one time the interrogated uttered an even stupider sentence: “Yes.”

The fact that this is a question that our society even finds askable, shows how stupid and sexist we are. I would love to have a lover that could take me on trips to Europe and show me things I cannot afford myself. I’ll even stay home and play with the kids all day—sounds way better than drudging to a job I hate, in a cubicle without sunlight, staring at a computer all day. I’ve had sugar mamas before and it, is, AWESOME!

But seriously, I would never date someone because of their money. I’m too easily annoyed to be capable of spending time with someone I don’t like, but if I enjoy being with you and you want to go somewhere I can’t afford, so much that you want to pick up the check to make it happen—That doesn’t make me feel emasculated. If anything I feel sexy that you want to be with me that badly.

On the other hand, as an adult, I like to contribute my fair share to anything, whether financial, or dishwashing responsibilities, driving on a road trip, etc. And not just within romantic relationships, but among friends, family, or even strangers; If there is an elderly person on a packed bus, of course I’m going to give them my seat.

Being unemployed, I have often had to limit my decisions based on whether someone is going to pay for my ticket, meal, lap-dance (JK). and it makes me feel like a child. My dad has lately been paying for my meals whenever we eat out. To some people, this is very normal, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. I moved out after high school and for the past decade, I have always paid for my tickets, meals, etc. So for me, it is a status I’m not used to.

And I’m not talking about the occasional birthday, or special circumstance; right now, nearly %100 of my everything is being paid for by my family or friends. That is a bit emasculating to me. Especially in our highly capitalistic, highly materialistic culture. Not spending money, even if it’s on the internet when no one’s watching, can make you feel a little less human.

Of course, I’ve been privileged enough to have had spending money for most of my adult life, which created such juxtoposition with my current insolvency.

And what about dating? How am I gonna keep the conversation going on the first date when the icebreaker comes my way: “So what do you do?” and I halt the train with, “Nothing.” Surely many women are comfortable and generous enough to be with lovers who have no money, but to START dating someone? I’ve had to take every date to the Lincoln Park Zoo, cause it’s free. I know most of the large mammals by their names!

All jokes aside, it can be hard to ask for help, instead of “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps”. But sometimes, it is necessary, and sometimes it is even beautiful. I wish we could all take care of each other more often (when did this turn into a Disney movie?). Money is our god in this country—they say never lend a friend money, if you want to keep the friend—so it can be hard to feel valuable, worthwhile, beautiful, sexy, smart, or dignified when you have to ask, “Hey, can you spot me?” But it is humbling, an that’s always something all of us can use more of–I  know I can.

Facebook

Usually I post my blog to FB, but this is the other way around. I wrote this this morning, and a dozen people either called or emailed me to tell me that they are going through similar things. It has been an incredible, and humbling morning. It feels good to share in the healing! Keep working, my fellow bloggers, it means the world to someone, even if you don’t know it!

Last year was the worst year of my life. One tragedy after another fell in such rapid succession, it felt like God/ the Universe was playing a joke on me. I’ve always had issues with anxiety, but this all buried me under a very deep depression that culminated with making a plan and attempting to commit suicide. Thanks to the life-saving actions of Ashley Gierke and loving care of my father, Dave Garcia, I was saved from myself and given a second chance at living. I spent a week in a psych ward, which helped realign my physiology, and have done many things to maintain my mental health including cycling/exercise, yoga/meditation, prescription drugs, spending time with family, seeing a therapist when possible and a lot of writing (as you’ve probably noticed). I have been feeling great and very excited to be back in the swing of things and, though it seemed like I’d never get here when I was severely depressed, I feel stronger and healthier than I ever have been. I’m not shy about where I was and am very open to ANY question any person might have for me. I love talking about mental health stuff and if even one person feels a little less despair after a frank discussion, then thousands of hours of work is worth it. I am a professional social worker and I know how hard it can be to ask for help–especially if you are a parent or boss or teacher, etc. and you are used to being the helper. But you might find, not only is asking for help ok, it can be very healing to surrender your pride and open fully to the love of others–it truly is a beautiful feeling!

“Diary of an unemployed Dude”–Lawsuit(Rough Draft)

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Lawsuit

Because of the Temporary Restraining Order, my friend wasn’t allowed to continue meeting with clients so I agreed to help out—for a small fee. We drove a few hours to an undisclosed location. I began handing out info and talking to various potential customers, as if I knew anything at all about the product. People talked to me and treated me like a professionl, though I have no idea why. Since the restraining order was not on me, I could legally engage with these people.

The lawsuit—a frivolous one really, but a lawsuit nonetheless—meant that my friend would have to stay clear of the task at hand, lest she be seen “Doing her job”. As I approach a random office, ready to solicit, a woman is at the closed door writing notes. She asks me what the flyers in my hand are for and I begin to give her my elevator pitch. She is extraordinarily interested and wants to know everything there is to know about the company and myself. Being on a covert mission I decide to answer her query with a spy name, “Doug. My name’s Doug.”

“Nice to meet you Doug. And your last name?”

“I don’t have a last name. I mean…I don’t give out my last name to strangers” I fart from my mouth, sounding like I’m five years old.

She writes “Doug” on her pad and asks me my supervisor’s name: “I don’t really work for the company, I just answered a Craigslist add to hand out flyers.” My story is becoming less believable by the second. I have to get out of there ASAP, but I’m afraid leaving mid sentence will be just as incriminating.

She hands me her business card which, of course, is from the company suing my friend’s company. Meanwhile, my friend is down the hall, jumping up and down and waving her hands so frantically that now I have to create a story, maintain a conversation, suppress my anxiety and stop myself from laughing, all at the same time. Thankfully, my friend ducks behind a wall like an out of shape ninja, so at least that’s one less distraction.

The enemy extends her hand and says “It was a pleasure to meet you. I’m Jane”

My reflex response, “Phil” exposes me. I wanted to keep my story straight—Doug, Doug, Doug! Damn it! It just popped out. I was caught! She crossed out “Doug” from her notes and wrote “Phil” while repeating my (Real) name. I rebounded, “No, Bill”, I said. At least it rhymed. It was a little more believable. She scratched out Phil and wrote Bill, thank god!

Ok. Now I HAD to get out of there. She asked for my last name again and I continued to explain why I don’t give people a last name—even though I’m trying to do business with them. She is quite beautiful and I’m wondering if I can find a way to ask her out before I leave. I might end up blowing my cover, but a fling with the enemy sounds sexy.

Instead I decide to begin a very labored sentence that is long enough for me to walk away and trail off with her fading in the background. I reunite with my friend, who won’t look or talk to me and we walk, sort of together, back to the parking lot. She walks not on the sidewalk, but on the grass under the shadows from the trees about 10 feet in front of me—as if that’s less suspicious.

Definitely not as smooth as we would have hoped, but we should be out of the clear now. I get my money for the few minutes of work and we decide to call it a day early for fear of being further exposed. We grab lunch at a favorite restaurant, where we are very much enjoying our burgers, until the enemy walks into the bar. Luckily, my friend and I are sitting at the bar, so we aren’t necessarily together and my friend and the enemy have never seen each other before. We very calmly finish our lunch without speaking a single word to each other. I go to the restroom and text the escape plan to my friend. We pay in cash so we don’t have to talk to the bartender about the check at all. My friend leaves and waits in the car. I walk past the bar and open the door when the bartender yells, “Hey mister, your friend forgot her flyers!”

List/Challenge (Rough Draft) –Diary of an Unemployed Dude

When, you have no income, it’s not just about finding a career. You also have to avoid spending money and find the little ways to get by without a paycheck. Here are some creative ideas I did and you can too!!!

  1. Suggest a Mexican restaurant, then tell your friends “I’m not really hungry, I had a huge lunch” when it’s time to order. Proceed to annihilate three basket of chips with salsa before smoking the “short” from your friend’s cigarette.
  2. Tell your friend that you miss them and would love to cook them dinner and catch up. Ask if they have ingredients for a pasta dish, which everyone does, and proceed to cook them and your self a filling carb fest that will fuel your non-working-ass lifestyle for days.
  3. Go to the library! Not only do they have tons of good books for smart people, they’ve got plenty of dross for the rest of us, too! My last three library items were MAGIC Mike XXL, Pitch Perfect, and origami for dummies. Go rent Orange is the New Black–just cause you don’t have food doesn’t mean you can’t binge on “The Kitchen”.
  4. When out at a bar with friends, tell everyone that you’re “very picky about beer” and taste everyone’s beer until you catch a buzz, then say, “I guess I’m just not feelin’ their selection”. When your friend responds, but you always drink PBR–It’s your favorite beer.”, just say, “Meh, I guess I just grew out of it. I’m developing a more refined palate.” When your friend points out that you just ate three packets of ketchup, just say you have a phosphorus deficiency.
  5. Take a few sugar packets from McDonald’s and a few crackers from Wendy’s, and shake them up with some creamer from Starbucks for a well balanced breakfast shake. I think that’s what Ensure is made of anyway.
  6. Move to Chicago. World class museums, music festivals, mega library, yoga in the park–All free!! Just don’t move in December, if you want to survive. Winter’s Coming!
  7. Get on a bus and tell the bus driver, “I forgot my wallet”. The bus driver will kick you off at the next stop. When she does, get on the next bus and repeat step one. You will eventually get to your destination, one stop at a time, with the side benefit of meeting a bunch of interesting, cool bus drivers!
  8. Be Awesome! I find that most people don’t much mind hanging out with a bum, if said bum is awesome.
  9. Go to events with suggested-donation entrance fees. They’re just suggestions…
  10. Use the money you made donating plasma to buy a six-pack of beer—you can return the bottles for nickels! That’s money in your pocket!
  11. Don’t self medicate with shopping! It’s so easy to buy delicious food or a tasty craft beer, just cause you’re bored, not hungry. Maybe you like to buy beautiful new clothes when you’re sad or a cup of joe from Starbucks when you get writer’s block. There are myriad stores I would frequent, in person or online, to distract myself from the excruciating pain of existence. I self medicated myself into bankruptcy going out every night for dinner and drinks, buying vinyl and books I never read, fashionable suits and shoes. I never knew what I truly couldn’t live without until I had no choice but to choose. When I was making $50,000 a year I was living paycheck to paycheck and felt more broke than I do now, unemployed, no savings account, making and spending about $20-$40 a week, depending on which little jobs I pick up. I am very blessed to have an amazing, loving family who I am living with and eating with, so you can factor those expenses in however you want, but I haven’t bought anything other than food in the past four months, a third of a year—no clothes, no books or movies (The Chicago public library has literally every book and movie and music I’ve ever looked for). The inability to buy alcohol, take woman on dates, shop for relief, distraction, has forced me to sit with my demons face to face, no escaping, and I honestly don’t know if I’d still be alive if I hadn’t. Some of the most beautiful sights in the world are in your imagination. Some of the most moving and heartbreaking dramas unfold solely in your mind. It isn’t easy to just be—sit in a park without entertainment or distraction. No food, no magazine, no phone– with nowhere to go but inward. But if you can, and you survive, I promise you will be stronger, wiser, and happier, for the highest, most treacherous mountain in the world is that of your own mind. I challenge you to go three days without buying anything—eat every last can of beans in your cupboard, ride your bike to work, live without caffeine. What is the hardest thing to not spend money on? How easy or hard is it? Can you keep going for a full week? Keep your wallet at home and see what it’s like to rely on the kindness of strangers and friends, how it feels to ask for help. It’s not just about saving money, but saving intention.

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CHALLENGE: Don’t buy ANYTHING for three days

Comment below: Was going even 1 day harder than you imagined? Were you able to complete the three days? how did it feel?

“Donating” ROUGH DRAFT! Explicit language

Here’s another “Diary of an Unemployed Dude” story–Very Rough! just a sketch right now

“Donating”

The blood sample will determine how hydrated you are, so I always drink two pints of water before donating plasma so I’m not turned away for insufficient water funds. The six mile bike ride to the clinic is hot, sweaty, so I drink extra for those droplets I’ll sweat out. I also eat chorizo and eggs with bacon and ham because eating a high protein breakfast is claimed to help replenish your plasma–though I’m not positive that isn’t just the pork lobby’s position.

The first time you donate, there is a lengthy screening process, 3-4 hours, to ensure that your blood isn’t rotten and you aren’t a heroin gulping gigolo who sucks dick for bus money. Luckily, I only suck dick for Uber money, so I’m good.

I give them three vials and one straw sample of my blood. The first time I gave the straw sample, the same little prick as a TB test, I unfortunately did it on my left hand so I couldn’t play guitar for a week without tearing open the tiny hole. After the vampires confirm its tastiness, I proceed to a counselor’ s office for an interview: “Do you have AIDS.”

Oh shit, I know this one…”Ummmm, no! No I don’t.”

“Are you sure? You hesitated there a bit.”

“Uhhhh, pretty sure, yeah. I’m mean I’m not dead or anything. That’s gotta be a no-go on the AIDS then, right?”

“You wouldn’t necessarily experience symptoms in the first few months. Have you been recently tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections?”

“Not really. I don’t like to get tested cause it just reminds me of how long it’s been since I got laid. But last year my regular doctor ran some blood-work and everything came back clean. I don’t think I’ve sexed anyone up since then. But don’t tell anybody.”

“Well if you haven’t had sex in the last six months, our tests would pick it up.”

I whispered, “Yeah, it’s definitely been at least six months since I had some sex. Don’t tell anyone, though”

I continue to explain that I haven’t been to Africa, injected crack, worked on a farm, or had sex with an animal in at least two weeks. The counselor checks my arms and legs and feet for track marks, then I put my clothes back on. There is an organic side benefit to giving plasma: Anyone who’s poor enough to donate plasma for $20 cannot afford to see a doctor, but this screening of my body and health is far more thorough than any I’ve even gotten from my doc.

To ensure that I haven’t been tattooed in the past year, the counselor catalogs the location and design of each of my tattoos. Left inner forearm–The Giving Tree; Right leg–book and vine with words, “To live, is to be slowly born”; inside of bottom lip–travel toothbrush (so I can tell my dentist I brush my teeth everyday). She gets to my left bicep and asks, “what is that?”

I answer, “It’s a skateboarder. ”

She disagrees, “No it’s not. What is it?”

I volley back, “Yes. It is. It’s from a book by Austin-based artist Michael Seban. Growing up, before it became normal and cool, skateboarding made you an outcast, a nerd. While everyone was chasing girls and going to parties, we’d skate in the parking lot all night, so he drew the skateboarder real ugly to represent how us skateboarders didn’t fit in.”

“Ok, but I can’t put all that on this short line. You do understand that if someone does your next intake and finds anything even remotely different about any of your tattoos than what I write here, you will be banned for life from this clinic.”

“It’s a zombie.”

“Thank you.”

I sit in the waiting room for my name to be called. I have to pee, but the bathroom is behind the locked door and you aren’t allowed to leave the building once you start the intake process, less you shoot up or get a tattoo while you’re out.

Finally, I am allowed to enter the production line. I walk into the room and see a heard of humans laying in chair-beds with tubes in there arms sucking their blood. It looks like a scene from the Matrix. They only pay you $20-30 per donation, depending on your weight, but they charge hospitals hundreds. Radiolab did a great episode, Blood, which talked about the industry of blood and plasma—It’s a racket. Don’t believe those red cross people if they tell you you’re saving lives. You’re making money, for them.

The technician hands me a piece of foam to squeeze and keep the blood flowing in my arm. She sticks the needle into my arm, which hurts, but not much. The blood flows from me into there machine where the plasma, a water based solution with corpuscles and fat globules, is separated for sale on the biomarket. Once the pint glass is full, the machine returns the plasmaless blood to your vein. As the blood flows through the stainless steel needle it must pick up some of its essence because I can taste metal on my tongue and teeth.

The more blood that reenters my body, the more pain I feel until I can’t take it anymore, so I call for a nurse. She examines my arm and tells me I’ve been “Infiltrated”. This means that during the initial injection, the employee pushed the needle too far, past the back wall of the vein, so that the machine was pumping the blood, not into my vein where it belongs, but aimlessly into my flesh. It is quite painful.

After resticking me, now on my left arm, I sit watching the awful Fox News on the TV in front of me for the next hour. This is very boring, but it’s easy and the only money I can count on, selling my body, permanently, as little as the money may be. They call it Donating plasma, but I’m getting paid and so are they, so that’s a pretty far stretch if you ask me. I think, technically, they are “Donating” money to your bank account for your Time, not your plasma.

For whatever reason, everyone who works here is Slavic, though this isn’t a Slavic neighborhood. Wasn’t Dracula Slavic—I could never place his accent.

They pay you on a credit card, which sucks because, unlike the cash that they used to pay when I was in college, I get charged a usage fee each time I use the card or go to the ATM, so I’m not even getting the full $25!

Oh well, I got a little mullah in pocket, so I’m no longer a bum, no—I’m a hot twenty dollars away. Off to my Heroin Dealer! (jk mom) 😉

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to “Donate” plasma? What did I forget to mention? Any questions?

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Mason (Rough Draft)

Due to my depression, I lost my job and have been unemployed for the past few months. Also, unlike Normal people, and also due to my mental health, I no longer had a savings account and had to throw away most of my belongings in my emergency move back to Chicago. I am currently writing a book on the odd jobs and various things I’ve been doing for coffee money. Here is a ROUGH DRAFT of one of those stories:

Diary of an Unemployed Dude: things we do for money and when we don’t have it

A Day in the Life of a Mason

Being someone that will do anything for twenty bucks and someone who can read directions well, I have recently developed quite the reputation for being handy–solely with my grandmother. In an effort to help me scrape together enough money for my coffee addiction, Grandma tells everyone she spends time with about my legendary ability to follow instructions, apropos housework. A month later, this brilliant marketing scheme finally pays off and a little old lady named Cruella requested my services. I gave her a ring. A fast talking stutter answered as if she was hiding from the Gestapo. “Huh Huh Hello who is this hu hu who are you lu lu looking for who are you?”

“Hi, this is Phil. I’m Toni’s grandson. She said you might need some help around the house.”

“Oh?”

I give her a second because I assume she’s old, if she’s been hanging with G-ma—maybe she has to sit down for this. Once politeness turns to awkwardness, I proceed. “Sooooooo, do you need help with anything?”

“Yes?”

“Ok. Do you want to tell me about it?”

“Well I really don’t have much money I told your m m mom I don’t have much money?”

“Actually Toni’s my grandmother and that’s fine if you don’t have much money, just pay me whatever you think is fair. I mainly want experience as much as anything else.”

Cruella responded, “Ok, but it’s supposed to ruh ruh rain this week I need to concrete the cracks in my sidewalk and it cant be raining do you have experience with masonry your grandma said you were handy?”

“I have done little things with cement and caulk. I’m not a professional. But I can read the instructions and follow them”, I repond caustiously and already worried about having to deal with this woman.

“Ok well I’ll call my son and ask him when its gonna rain or not and ill call your mom uh uh uh ok?” Her voice is a constant vibrato like she’s scared of using her words and everything she says sounds like a question, even when it obviously isn’t. I let her go and wait for a clear day to start my career in masonry.

After several calls on several different days—all ending in rejection, I am ultimately able to convince Cruella that it isn’t going to rain and today would be a good day for me to come over and look at the job, so I could at least have an idea of what it will entail. I ride my bike twelve miles to what happens to be one of the nicest neighborhoods in the third biggest US city, across the street from a certain zoo, which will all remain nameless for anonymity and liability purposes.

Luckily, it is only 90 degrees, so I will be sweating profusely, but I wont pass out. I arrive, knock on the medieval lion’s head door-knocker, turquoise paint-chips fall off the door to the crack-striped, wooden porch, and a frantic mouse yells from the basement, “I’m down here the stuff is down here I don’t use the front door?”

I walk down to the sunken basement level and take a look at the broken foundation. “Is this the wall you want me to work on?”

“Yeah I can only pay you $100 though I don’t have much money I have to pay property taxes they’re almost $30,000 I can only pay you $100?”

“That’s fine. I wasn’t even expecting that much. I mostly want the experience. Just pay me at the end whatever you think is fair. I trust you.” The fact that she is apologizing for paying me more than I wanted, made me think that this was going to be more than a minor repair. “Remember, I’m not a mason. I’m not a professional. I am smart though, and hard working, and anything with directions I can figure out, though it may not be pretty.”

“That’s fine I just need this wall sealed up the rain’s getting in and this whole wall is caving in You’re mom said you are handy have you done this before?”

“Toni is my Grandmother, not my mother, and like I said, I’m not a professional. I can seal this up for you, though.”

I explain a few more times that $100 is more than enough and a few more times than that that I am still, in fact, not a professional and Toni is still not my mother. She already has the cement and caulk in her living room. I read the directions and begin to mix the cement to fill the major gaps. I am a little nervous because cement is a pretty permanent thing and what this wall really needs is to be torn down and rebuilt; It is so warped that that the wooden porch is about two feet to the right of where the wall meets the ground. There is no way to fix it, but if I can seal the cracks, hopefully I can prevent further damage.

The cement is fun to mix. I put on my hot pink dishwashing gloves because I’m not sure what deadly effects the cement might have on my skin. I fill a plastic tub with a few scoops of dry cement dust, about two pounds, and add one half cup of water. It only takes the slightest hint of water to turn this dust into rock. The droplets trickle down, bubbling, transforming instantly to what will soon be the new foundation of Cruella’s home.

The cement is very hard to work with. I try to meticulously fill the cracks with a small clean clump of clay, but half of it sticks to my trowel, the other half hangs from the wall like a melting Hershey’s kiss. I can’t seem to swipe an even, flat patch.

Now I take a large glob of putty and slather it on like barbecue sauce on brisket. This excess cement allows me to leave a smooth surface despite the extra sticking to the trowel, but the small bucket Cruella supplied will not come close to solving her problem at this rate. I ask Cruella for more cement or money to get some, to which she responds, “Just pick some up from Home Depot. I’ll add the cost to your bill later.” The 1.6 miles ride to Home Depot is easy, but carrying a bucket of cement on a bike during Chicago rush hour is not. I do make it back—barely, and continue the job.

Every few minutes, Cruella comes out to critique my work and ask for help with another chore. First, I was using too much water in the cement, it was soupy. Then I wasn’t using enough, it was clumpy. I wasn’t spreading it thin enough. It was too thin. She brought out a take-out menu with chicken scratch written on the back. It was her resume, which I edited for her; Surprisingly, there were very few mistakes and it seemed well thought out. Back to masonry. Then her door won’t close, so I removed and replaced the dead-bolt. Back to masonry. Then she asks me to clean her blinds. She doesn’t have any running water and the water bottle isn’t big enough for the cement and the blinds–also, she has no electricity, so seeing the blinds, or anything else inside for that matter, are too difficult to see. I take the blinds down the block, to the park, and wash them in the kiddy water-playground. Back to masonry.

The under belly of the staircase needs to be sealed as well, but the cement isn’t sticky enough to keep from falling down. I use the tacky caulk to build a lip on the wall that the moist concrete can rest on until it dries. It’s not pretty, but it will keep the rain out.

She comes out again to ask me to take a look at her garden. I’d rather get this over with and move on with my day, but I acquiesce to her request. There isn’t actually much to see but weeds and knee-high grass, but whatever. Back to masonry. She follows me back to the front where, after seven hours of back cracking work, she gasps and jumps into a panic attack. “Oh my god! This is Awful! It looks Awful! I thought you said you were a professional?!”IMG_0574

“I know it doesn’t look great, but it will keep the rain out and I told you it wouldn’t be perfect. What you really need is a whole new wall. This is a major project.”

“No no no this is all wrong! I can’t sell my house like this! You said you could fix it.”

“I told you, I’m not a mason. And Toni isn’t my mom either–she’s my grandma. Just pay me whatever you think it is worth—$20. I don’t care.”

“I don’t have any money and this is all wrong. Oh my god, this is so bad. I don’t have any money, but I will get you $50 of food stamps if you want.”

“Ok. Fine. Can I at least get the money for the extra cement I bought?”

“I don’t have any money. And that’s not even the cement I like? Don’t worry. I’ll talk to Toni. Your mom and I’ll work something out.”

“Fine. Let’s just go to the store.”

“Not now, I have to mail something.”

“Ok. I’ll help you mail it”

“No, that’s fine. The mailman is going to pick it up.”

“Ok. Let’s go to the store then.”

“You don’t have a car?”

“I have my bike. And my backpack. I just picked up the cement on my bike.”

“No. You can’t carry groceries without a car.”

“$50 doesn’t get you as much food as it used to. Besides, that’s for me to worry about—what I do with my groceries.”

“No, that’s a lot of food. You can’t carry all that plus I don’t have any food stamps right now. I’ll talk to Toni I’ll talk to your mom We’ll work something out?”

I’m sick of chasing her arguments in circles, so I agree to let her and my G R A N D mother work it out. After a few different brokered deals, Grandma and Cruella agree that next month we will all take a field trip to Aldi’s, with a car, to get some groceries.

I love learning and I love trying new things, so I didn’t mind doing the hard work, for hours, in the heat. I didn’t mind carrying a bucket of concrete on my bike across town. I didn’t even mind that, despite being unemployed, not only did I not make any money on this job, but I spent half of the cash I had from donating plasma on her cement; I actually paid her for the hours of hard work! And that’s just fine with me—It’s a learning experience. What really pissed me off is that she was outside every five minutes, watching me work, observing the process, and waited until I was done to freak out and bail. I don’t like being deceived and I don’t like being dicked around. Just tell me you need help. Don’t bait and switch my good will.

As of the writing of this book, I haven’t seen a dime, or an apple. Though I did go back the next morning to collect the $10 I spent on cement, which she was gracious enough to reimburse. I understand that she is too old to work much and probably has to finagle her way out of a lot of expenses on her fixed income—I mean, she doesn’t even have running water. I don’t harbor any negative feelings about her or the day I spent working there–though I did draw a huge cock in the cement on my way out.