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.

Depression Hiatus

Sorry I haven’t been posting. I’ve been really depressed the past couple weeks. As we all know, when feeling depressed, you often don’t feel like talking about anything, even about how depressed you are. I feel great now though, and I promise to post some real writing today or tomorrow–if anyone cares.

de Phil

via Phillip Garcia.

Transracial, TransIdentity: Identity, Choice, and the Self

transracial

Though this fake-ad from Salvo Magazine has an agenda, the philosophical, ethical, and potentially-political fiat is relevant:

Whereas, Gender and Race are socially constructed concepts on a spectrum, which may vastly diverge from biological norms, and

Whereas, Gender is understood as mobile, controllable,  and protected as a human right,

Race must also be understood and protected as such.

Caveat: Recent scientific research generally agrees that there is no object scientific thing as race. Biologically, two “White” Europeans may have less in common genetically than either has with a “Black” person, who may in turn have more in common with a Chinese person than someone from their own country of origin. (In the context of the outdated view of race as a biological, genetic, definitive thing, the same questions and comparisons are relevant, transplanting “Sex” for “Gender”)

As transgenderism and non-cisgenderism become more widely excepted and celebrated, the inevitable question arises: which aspects of our selves can be or should be protected and where do we draw the line, if we choose to draw one at all.

In a vacuum, the recent populous view that gender should be open to choice by each individual, would transcribe to an individual’s right to choose their race, from social transactions to racial-reassignment surgery. Though sympathizing and supporting sex-reassignment may be an easy act of love for many progressives and queer activists, Racial reassignment likely leaves an undefinable sourness on your tongue. This may be due to the historic context in which one’s “Race” has been used as an excuse to enslave, murder and rape, as well as subversive movements such as the “Black is Beautiful” and “Red-Pride” slogans designed to promote self-love in spite of social pressures to conform and assimilate.

But non-males have been similarly enslaved–There are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in history and the vast, absolutely overwhelming majority are women. Women were granted the right to vote in this country after former slaves and people of color. With this in mind, though Female-to-Male Reassignment is more prevalent, MTF accounts for about 25% of sex reassignment surgeries (SRS) in the US (Gender Center). Would Racial reassignment be similarly distributed, more balanced, or racing to one race? Many studies have found that when one is a member of both a marginalized gender/sexuality and a marginalized race, racial identity tends to trump sexual/gender identity (Violence against WomenRacial Identity, Masculinity and Homosexuality in the Lives of Young Black Men).

Tangential questions that elective-surgery transpire include, what constitutes the self? Which, if any, parts of the body consitute one’s self? and What are the limits of identity?  Many “Wannabes” around the world have an immutable urge to have elective amputations, feeling that they won’t be complete until their body is divided (Wannabe), while those with Phantom Limbs (Ted Talk) still feel parts of their body that are no longer there. Sergio Canavero (head transplant) plans to conduct the first human head transplant–Dogs have already had head transplants, but only lived for up to 7 days (still pretty impressive/scary). Would this really be a body-transplant? If so, would the body have different rights than the head? For example, if the body had raped and murdered someone, would the resulting human pastiche have the right to vote? In our brain-centric culture/paradigm, the answer may seem obviously yes, but heart-transplants have been observed to have much influence on a person’s tastes and personality; How much influence would the presence of an entire body, the result of decades of architecture and experience, have?

How important are physical characteristics to our psychological well-being? Amputees (who don’t happen to be Wannabes), survivors of severe burns, and others with drastic, sudden physical changes often suffer from severe depression and reported loss of identity, but how different are the effects when that physical change is sought after and planned for and what are the limits? Where do I stop being a better looking version of Phil and become a stranger with a fragmented identification of self?

These questions may seem sensational and lacking relevance, but so did many questions around non-cis gender/sexuality, sexual reassignment surgery, and the limits of individuality/identity, before movements around the world opened our eyes to how many millions of people face these questions everyday. Moreover, with the fields of genetic manipulation and ever more complex surgeries become commonplace, these are questions we will no doubt have to answer as citizens, policy-makers, and most importantly, as sentient Humans.

Identity is more than a name or a social security number. It is an essential foundation to our happiness, decision making process, and ability to navigate the social and physical worlds in which we live. Like never before, we will have to fight for our rights to identity and choose which we will celebrate and which we will not.

Ride from Hell

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I recently rode my bike to Green Bay from Chicago and back. The ride up was pretty uneventful, but the ride back turned into a disaster. This is what happened:

               Ride from Hell

I can’t go back; so I just keep pedaling. It’s too hot for a long distance ride but I have no choice. My over-judgmental mother has nearly driven me mad and the deafening boredom of the Oneida reservation isn’t helping. I had planned to leave tomorrow, but I’m already on my bike, so I make a break for home. I stop at the first McDonald’s I see because the phone part of my phone doesn’t work and I can only access google maps with WiFi. As a world traveler, McDonald’s is my best friend; sure, I’m against their unlivable minimum wage and weapons-grade food, but it’s hard to stay mad at anyone {Citizens United} who gives you easy-access bathrooms, nearly free food, and free WiFi, when you’re lost and indigent in a foreign land. Even during Occupy Wall Street, as we protested the coup from multinational corporations and mega-agribusinesses, McDonald’s was the only 24 hour establishment within walking distance with toilets, coffee, and the WiFi we were using to coup back.

I find my route home to Chicago, and hop back on, though my body is not nearly ready for the 200 mile bike ride. I’m sweating and gasping and my legs are already sore a few miles in. The mental stress is the hardest. Knowing that the pain and Boredom has only begun– looking at my progress on the map to find I’m hardly a tenth there. I’ll have to do all that again. And again, and again… If I hope to make it to tonight’s destination.  And then there’s tomorrow.

Everywhere I go, These Wisconsinites glare at my bike like I’m the devil, returned to turn them all gay and drag them to hell. My Brown skin and slightly fashionable eyeglass frames make me indistinguishable from Kim Kardashian to these good ole boys and gals. I’m the only one who ordered a tea instead of Coors Lite at the Supper Club. I was the only one who was using the phrase “he don’t know shit from Shinola” with a tad of irony.

Since I’m not uncomfortable enough, two wild dogs start chasing me down. Technically, they weren’t wild– they belonged to the farmer who’s farm I was passing. But I’m from Chicago; if there is no barrier between my leg and your dog’s teeth, that beast is wild. One dog wouldn’t bother me much; I’d just dismount and keep the bike between us and jab until the dog takes a sharp pedal to the gums–but with two, it’s much harder to keep them both on the bite-less side of the bike. As the lead canine snapped closer and closer like the t-Rex/jeep scene from Jurassic Park, I swerve to beat the teeth, into the gravel on the side of the road, which quickly slides me into a deep ditch, head first, with two angry dogs growling at me. My stationary, supine pose is confusing the dogs, who 4-legged moonwalk back to the farm, still yapping.

My body is lucky to have missed the steel drainage pipe, but my bike isn’t so. Only 50 miles into my ride, my front tire is flat, rim twisted, both brakes dysfunctional and worst of all, the fork supporting my front wheel is bent back so far that it is essentially connected to the frame and completely unrideable. I tamper with it for a while, but there isn’t anything I can do. I have to carry the bike leaning on one wheel like a wheelbarrow. Holding the rest of the bike up gets heavier and heavier, block by block. My arms are too tired to keep this up so I have to either ditch the bike on the side of the road or find a random metal pole that my lock could wrap it’s arms around, in the middle of a cornfield.

The next house has its lights on. It’s nine pm, which is midnight on farmer time, so I’m surprised anyone’s awake. I knock on the door and the third attack dog of the soiree comes a barkin’.  There’s only one, so this Irish Setter has no chance in this fight.  The human comes to the door and I ask if he can call the sheriff or someone who might be able to take me to the nearest dog-less oasis.  Fortunately, the nice cheese-head was pretty handy and helped bend my fork back to a rideable angle, by pulling it.

I got back on the bike but my tire was still flat and, without the granted lights of a city, changing the flat was out of the question. I had to pump up the tire at the end of every mile.  My weather app had forsaken me and it was too cold to ride in my minimal attire, so I got off and walked. Sans the slightest clue where to stay, after an hour and a half in the stabbing cold, hypothermia began to crack in. I see a McDonald’s, where I stop and look up the location of the nearest hospital.

Heading toward the hospital, it’s getting colder by the minute and the 20 degree discrepancy between the forecast and tonight’s cold makes it clear I should have made this journey on a different day, more prepared. Finally, I reach the hospital. It’s closed. The lights are off. No one in sight. There are no bars or Walmarts or any place that might be open at midnight. I’m panicking now. I begin to circle the campus to find closed door after closed door. A sign appears, “In emergency —>”.  I find the small emergency room in the corner of the campus and enter with a shiver of relief. I sit down in the waiting room and begin to thaw. Luckily, no one bothers me for a few hours, but eventually a woman approaches me to ask, “are you waiting for someone?”. I reply, “No. I just need some shelter. I’m riding my bike to Chicago and got in an accident. I’ll take off as soon as it warms up a bit.” She smiles and walks away sweetly.

After trying to sleep sitting up in a chair, failing, I lay on the ground. It’s too uncomfortable to sleep but at least I’m out of the cold. As soon as the sun gains the horizon, I head back to the road. It’s still cold, my bike is still not fully functional, and now I’m more exhausted than ever, sleepless in Sheboygan. Two blocks in, I’m confronted by the highest, steepest mountain of a hill yet. I get off and walk. The hill is so far up that I can’t see around the bend. There are no sidewalks, so as I trudge through the shin-high grass, the lake of dew soaks through my canvas shoes, my socks and toes. I am already out of breath and energy, one mile in.

At the top of the hill I find another McDonald’s, where I stop to regroup and plan. I search for trains and buses to Milwaukee, where I’d have a place to stay, but there are zero. I can’t go any further. My body is broken. My bike is broken. My mind is delirious with exhaustion. I call my sister, my father. I can’t stand to give up–I don’t want to ruin anyone’s day to pick me up, but I’m desperate. I have no more money, no energy, my ankle was sprained in the accident and my muscles are on fire. I go stand in the road with my thumb up, but no one picks up hitchhikers in our paranoid, isolated culture–especially when that hobo is a roughed up brown man with a giant helmet who looks like I can’t even walk safely (my bike was back at McDonald’s, locked up). No one so much as made eye contact with me. I have no idea why, but I felt ashamed, like I was doing something wrong. Standing in the middle of the road, my begging thumb felt like a dunce cap.

I return to to my booth with a cheeseburger and wait for my dad’s girlfriend, who lives closer to the Wisconsin border and doesn’t have work today. I feel so helpless. Hopeless. Broke and broken. What was I thinking? What made me think I could ride to Green Bay and back, without money, food or a place to stay? God, I feel stupid. I begin to weep. Disturbing the happy fast-food patrons with my despair. I’m overwhelmed both with the sadness of a shipwrecked father and the grace of the people who love me so much to make sure nothing happens to me–who would drive to Wisconsin at the drop of a hat to pick me up. I want to save my tears for my reunion with my family, so they could see just how moved I am by their unbelievable love. I can’t help it though and I continue to let my tears salt my half-eaten BigMac as I wait for my ride to arrive and take me home.