The Balding Husband

“Sounds great honey!”

I’ve been saying this a lot recently. As much as I can.

You see I am trying to win over my wife’s heart. For a while now I have had most of her heart but not all of it. Now I need all of it. Every last square inch.

When a husband has less hair, he needs to find other ways to win more heart.

My wife responds well to, “Sounds great honey!” The more enthusiastically I say it the bigger the smile. On downtrodden days it is harder for me to be enthusiastic, but I force myself since enthusiasm is what is wanted most by people.

We should put in nice gravel all over the backyard: “Sounds great honey!”

Lets get our hot tub up and running again: “Sounds great honey!”

I am going to be going away for a week to go camping with friends: “Sounds great honey!”

We should go into LA today and eat at a nice restaurant and then go to a bookstore and buy a bunch of books: “Sounds great honey!”

Maybe you could trim all the trees today and clean the leaves off the roof: “Sounds great honey!”

Would you please pay all our bills this afternoon and wash the dogs: “Sounds great honey!”

I have been committed to being so enthuisiastic with my wife because I am balding. I can’t believe I am even writing this but I am having to confront the inevitable fact that it is happening to me. It is not a rapid balding but my hair is thinning more and more every single day. Each day that I examine my head in the mirror, I am noticing more and more scalp.

The last time I had my haircut, the stylist said, “I will not cut anything from the back, since you need that hair.” Fuck, is what I thought when she said this. Balding is happening.

I did not think it would happen to me. My mother’s father had a full head of hair all the way up to his very end. My father has a head without much hair on it, but I work hard not to be as angry and stressed as him. As a result, I believed I could avoid his hair loss fate. The last time I spoke with him I considered asking at what age he really started to thin, but I decided that I would rather not know.

As I write this I have a concoction of aloe vera, lemon and castor oil in my hair. I am supposed to leave this concoction in my hair for an hour, twice a week to encourage new hair growth. My scalp is currently burning but they tell me that this is encouraging blood flow.

You see, my wife is 14 years younger than I am. She is just a year or so over the age of 30 and no woman just over 30 wants a balding husband. What would a younger woman like my wife do with a balding husband? Once my head of thick and wavy hair is half of what it was when we first met, how will my young wife cope with this? It can’t be easy for a beautiful, young wife to have an older, balding husband. Sounds superficial, but whether we like it or not, thinning hair is an issue.

So I have had to start being extra nice. Extra enthuisiastic. “Honey, could you come here?” “Sure honey, I will be right there,” I reply and move quick.

I have read that I can compensate for undesirable physicalities (hair loss) through kindness, enthuisiasm and making more money. This is why you sometimes see those very unattractive men with beautiful women. They have these three necessary ingredients.

I don’t know about making more money, but I can certainly be more enthusiastic and kinder.

When a man or woman is physically pleasing to the eye, he or she can get away with behaving like a shit. But once the appealing physicalities start to fall away- we have to stop being angry, greedy, selfish selves. We have to get better at being nice and putting others first. If not, we end up alone.

I have been taking supplaments, doing hair conscoctions, standing on my head for thirty minutes a day, massaging my scalp before bed, orgasming only once a week (sperm retention is said to help in Ayurvedic medicine), only using organic hair products, meditating twice a day for twenty minutes, abstaining from alcohol, eating more fish, keeping stress levels low and exercising- all in an effort to grow new hair or keep the hair I have left. Few things are more distressing to me than taking a shower and finding hair that has fallen out. I have none to spare.

I kick myself for the things I took for granted in my full-head-of-hair-youth.

I can’t afford to be a balding husband. I just can’t. It is too much of a blow to my sense of self. I have always been a man with a full head of wavy, thick hair. Who the hell would I be if I had more scalp showing than hair? The thought is terrifying even though I realize aging often involves coming to terms with these things.

For now, I need to wage a war against hair loss. I can’t imagine subjecting my beautiful, young wife to the insecurity of having a balding husband.

I need to go wash this stuff out of my hair then stand on my head for thirty minutes. I can’t be wasting my time writing. Writing isn’t any good for encouraging new hair growth.

Sit Down Butt (Post #410)

“Randall sit down!” My father-in-law had all ready said this to me several times. I had been standing up all through lunch.

After a three-hour Sunday lunch, we were now at another restaurant. I am not used to spending this much time with anyone, but my wife’s parents enjoy being with their daughter and I (and we with them). When we go out to lunch together this often means we will not get home until 8 or 9pm that evening. This is what happens when a family really loves one another (and gets along).

“ I really don’t want to sit down, but feel free to stand with me,” I said to him. He had been sitting for hours, so I thought standing for a bit might be good for him.

“No way. I’m sitting down just like everyone else,” he said with a smile on his face, after taking a sip of his beer.

“Just sit down Randall! It is getting a bit much,” my father-in-law said again after ten or so minutes passed.

I have not sat down in a week. I will not sit down again until I have resolved, what to me feels like a serious problem. I eat, read, watch films, write, meditate, work and relax standing up. Everything that I once did sitting, I now do standing. There is more pain present in my lower back and legs now, but that is the consequence I must suffer in order to get back what I let go.

Last week I was walking down the street when I notice two attractive young girls standing around a bench. I noticed that they were looking directly at me and smiling as I walked. For a moment I felt my self-esteem rise but it quickly went way back down. I heard one of the girls say to the other, “See that is what Sit Down Butt looks like.” I noticed that the other girl was looking directly at my butt as she said, “Oh god, I see, yeah, that is a Sit Down Butt.” I continued walking, pretending not to hear, but I heard and now regret not stopping. I should have turned to them and said, “What do you mean by Sit Down Butt? You really think this is a Sit Down Butt?” I should have engaged in more conversation  about this subject with them since it has bothered me so much ever since.

Sit Down Butt. I have asked around about what this is since there is not much information on-line about it. What I have learned is that it is a term used by people mostly under the age of 21 to describe an adult who has a flat butt. Sit Down Butt is a derogatory term that is meant to insult adults who look like they have let their butts go. It is also meant as a condemnation of growing older. From the perspective of a young person who uses the term Sit Down Butt, they are describing an adult who they think spends most of their time sitting down, a direct result of loss of vitality and youth. In the young person’s mind, a flattened butt is a direct consequence of what is often referred to as giving up.

One fundamental downside to my job as a writer and psychotherapist is that involves a lot of sitting. The hours spent sitting quickly add up. I once had a nicely rounded and firm butt but I was not aware that it had gone away. I suppose I have been working too much to notice or care about something that I assumed would always be there (this is the problem with aging, it takes from a person everything they assumed would always just be there). But after having my Sit Down Butt pointed out to me by two, attractive young girls- I immediately drove home, pulled my pants down in front of my bathroom mirror and noticed that they were right! I have a Sit Down Butt.

How had this happened, without me noticing? Am I that detached from my body? I felt humiliated. It felt like I had developed Sit Down Butt so quickly. I tried on various pants and noticed that there was indeed no sign of a butt in there. All the sitting down that I had been doing had caused my butt to atrophy! I was (and am) not ok with this since having some kind of butt is a sign that a person is still an active contender in perpetuating the human gene pool. Once a person is no longer an active contender and gene mutations and genetic drifts begin to set in, it is all down hill from there.

“Randall, common, just sit down buddy. I am begging you,” my father-in-law said. I wondered if he had Sit Down Butt. I wondered if everyone who was sitting down had developed Sit Down Butt.

“Just leave him alone. If he wants to stand let him stand,” my mother-in-law said to him.

“But I don’t understand why he has to stand this much! He has been standing all day,” my father-in-law said to my mother-in-law.

“You don’t have to understand. It is none of your business. Just let him do what he wants,” my mother-in-law said. This is why I love this woman. Unlike my own mother, she stands up for me.

My father-in-law left me alone for the rest of the day.

We went to another restaurant for dinner. It felt as if we had just had lunch not too long ago, but lunch had ended four or five hours ago. Everyone sat down around the table. The hostess looked at me as if she was waiting for me to sit down in the one available chair. I looked at her and said, “No thanks, I will stand.” She handed me the menu. My mother-in-law looked sternly at my father-in-law who was just about to say something.

I spent the rest of the night standing up.

I am determined to get rid of my Sit Down Butt.

What Ever Happened To Vincent Gallo?

vincent-gallo-brown-bunny Today I turn 44. Or is it 45? I’m not sure. I was born in 1971 so I must be 44 today. Or it could be 45. I suppose I am now at that age where a person begins to lose count of their own time on earth. I would always wonder how this could happen when I would observe others being uncertain about their age. Now I understand- one’s age is not what is important anymore.

On my stereo I am listening to one of Vincent Gallo’s earlier albums. The album is called Recordings Of Music For Films. It is an odd, artful, beautiful and melancholic album. The album did not receive good reviews but I feel like there is real, solitary genius in it. Something that a person like myself can find hope and consolation in.


For almost the past two decades the way that I have charted the passing of time has been through Vincent Gallo. Every now and then I will seek out contemporary pictures of him to see how old he looks ( I realize I do this to see how much I have aged). I will look for any recent interviews or work that he has done. Sometimes it feels like I am reaching out for some sort of buoy, looking for some kind of brotherly support when I feel adrift.

I first became aware of Vincent Gallo when I was 27. It was 1998 and we were both in the prime of our lives. He had just written and directed his own film called Buffalo ’66, a masterpiece of independent cinema. In the circle of artists, musicians and social misfits that I hung out with in 1998- it seemed like Buffalo ’66 was the only film I heard talked about that year. It won a lot of young people’s hearts- especially those of us who were anxious about our place in the world and did not like our parents so much.


I did not like going to movie theaters. Even back then when movies cost what now feels like a dollar, I thought they were a rip off. I also did not like the claustrophobia of a movie theatre. I felt uncomfortable sharing images on a screen with people whom I did not know or would never want to know. But I had to see that film everyone was talking about. I had a few beers and then by myself went to see the film in an independent movie theatre in Oakland, California. I ended up seeing the film several more times and bringing new people each time. Even though I was broke, I bought them all tickets because I wanted to expose them to what I felt was not only a great film but it was a film about exactly what went on in my own head.

Isn’t this the point of great art? We resonate with it so strongly because we are able to see ourselves more clearly through it.

After several viewings of Buffalo ’66 I became very interested in Vincent Gallo. This was the time before the internet so I had to rely on various culture magazines for information about him. I was fascinated by his handsome look, his character and the fact that there was someone out there who was around my age, successfully living as an artist. It was through finding out about Vincent Gallo that I was able to find out more about myself.


Before learning about Vincent Gallo I had suspected that I wanted to live a creative life but I did not believe it was possible. I had already dropped out of graduate school for the third time. After several efforts I had given up on becoming a medical doctor. I did not know what I was going to do. I was working as a bartender. I was drinking too much and reading even more. I had panic attacks. I lived in a run down flat with my soon to be x-girlfriend and I was as close to being as poor as I had ever been in my life.


Then I found out about Vincent Gallo and suddenly I felt a purpose. If he could do it so could I. Here was a guy who was a painter, a writer, a filmmaker, a musician and most importantly an outsider. He was deviant and cool and defied social expectations. He was the James Dean of my time (but much more interesting) and as ridiculous as it sounds to say now, I admit, I wanted the fire that he had.

I started dressing like him. Wearing my hair in a similar way. I bought the pleather jackets from Salvation Army, the black beanies, the black combat boots and old jeans. It started to happen more than I intended. Sometimes people would tell me that I looked like Vincent Gallo. There was no greater compliment.

It is my belief that we all need heroes. A person without a hero is adrift in the sea of life. The stronger the influence that your heroes have on you, the more purpose and direction you will have. At an age where a lot of my heroes had died it was too easy for me to feel like 27 would also be my end. Finding Vincent Gallo pulled me out of this fatalistic thinking.


But what ever happened to Vincent Gallo? As quickly as I found him it seems as if he has disappeared (as we get older time seems to work this way). I followed his career with the interest of someone who was looking for answers. I thought that Brown Bunny was a brilliant and brave film but after that I seemed to lose interest in the films he made (although I really enjoyed him in Tetro). He seemed to stop writing and directing his own films and went down a different path.

I paid more attention to his music and his art. His music did not get great reviews but I found most of it to be really good. I would read interviews and as disappointed as I was by his choice to be a Republican and an occasional misogynistic jerk, I still enjoyed his iconoclastic spirit. But in the past few years it has been difficult to find information on him.

I’ve seen a few modeling spreads he has done and in those pictures he does look older. He is going gray like me and like me his hair seems to be thinning a bit. I notice a sadness in his eyes, like there is something he has lost and I too can feel this at times. I suppose this may come with knowing that the prime years of your life are now behind you. I suppose the degree of sadness you feel about growing older is determined by how much you loved being young. Vincent Gallo was the archetype of the Promethean youth. He stole fire and burned down a lot of social taboos, conventions and limitations. He gave despairing young men like myself hope in what felt like a never ending battle to preserve our souls.

Just like my youth, Vincent Gallo has now chosen to disappear. He wrote and directed another film but he decided to throw it away. I notice on his website that for a large sum of money an individual can purchase sex or a date with him. I would love to purchase the opportunity for my wife and I to have dinner with him but I do not have that kind of money.


Maybe the best years of Vincent Gallo’s creative life are now over. I would like to think that in his voluntary retreat from the entertainment world he is still painting, writing, reading and making music. I notice that every few years it seems as if he will come out of seclusion and play at a music festival. I search for some kind of current interview with him but there is very little out there. It is almost as if he does not want to be seen anymore. Vincent Gallo is older now and I presume it is only natural that he has moved into a less visible time in his life.

Now that I am 44 or 45, I see that this is what starts to happen to a man at around this age. The Promethean force that causes a younger person to want to do something great and defiant in the world seems to loosen its grip as we grow older. The ego has less territory it wants to conquer (or less strength to conquer it with). Past a certain age most people become less interested in the ego’s ambitions and more interested in the project of learning how to most comfortably adapt to this thing called aging.


I want to believe that Vincent Gallo and I are still on a similar path. That we are growing older together even though we will never meet. As I listen to the melancholic piano in his song called A Cold And Grey Summer Day, I want to believe that I can still, almost twenty years later, use him as my guide. I want to believe that he has chosen to withdraw from the world of accomplishment and creative fame and found some peace in a quieter way of life. I want to believe that he too, in his own way, is learning to accept his life as it is. That he too is finding satisfaction playing with dogs, watering plants, cleaning his house, washing his car, buying nice things, making art, listening to music, reading books, sleeping, eating, hanging out with those he loves, spending time in silent solitude, watching films and learning to be present for the time left in this life. Even though all of this might be a fantasy- I want to believe that it is true. After all, I forget who said it but it is through the stories that we tell ourselves that we create a life.


Most importantly, when I ask myself, What ever happened to Vincent Gallo? I do not want to have to Google search anymore for the answer. I want to believe that I don’t have to look any further than my own life and how I am now living as a 40-something-year-old-man, in order to find that answer.

The Climbing Tree

tree When I was a very young boy, maybe six or seven, I used to love it when my parents would bring me to the park by our house. It was not all the grass, open space, wild life and swing sets that I loved. It was the climbing tree. When my parents and I would arrive at the park I would run away from them as fast as I could. In the distance I could hear my father’s voice yelling “slow down kid!” But I did not. I ran towards the climbing tree and then once I got to it I would climb up the tree as quickly as I could. The reason why the tree was called the climbing tree was because it was easy to climb. Everyone was always climbing on it. It looked as if it was bending towards the ground because so many people had climbed on it. The top of the tree was only about ten feet off the ground and the length of it was around thirty feet. I would quickly make it up to the top of the tree and straddle one of the trees branches. Beneath my feet, which were hanging in mid-air, I could see the top of my fathers balding head. I would stretch out the tips of my feet and try to touch his balding spot. He would always look up at me and with a perplexed grin say, “Knock it off kid.”

As a teenager I spent a lot of time in that park. Girls would jump on the guys backs and we would have a race to see who could get to the climbing tree first. The girls would laugh out loud and kick the sides of their male carriers and yell, “faster, faster!” The rule was that whoever lost the race had to tongue kiss in front of everyone. We would all climb quickly to the top of the climbing tree and sit around in the shade of the branches and leaves. It would take a half hour or so to convince the shy losers that they had to make out in front of us but when they finally did we all watched as if we were studying for some kind of exam. It became so silent that you could hear the interaction of their tongues. We would spend hours mingling in the climbing tree. When someone brought it, we would drink alcohol and smoke weed. We carved our names into the branches. Sometimes we would couple off towards more private areas of the climbing tree. It was up in the branches and the leaves that I had my first contact with bare female breasts (I remember thinking that they felt like water balloons). At some point during the day or early evening a parent would always come, stand at the foot of the climbing tree and shout out, “Time to come home lovely children!”

When I returned home during college breaks I would see a few high school friends of mine who were also home. We would meet in the climbing tree, smoke weed and spend hours in the branches and leaves gossiping about what happened to various people we knew in high school. We had no idea then that those were some of the final times we would spend together before going our separate ways.

After graduating from graduate school I returned home to live for a year or so. I was unable to find a job so I spent a lot of time reading novels and writing in my journal in the climbing tree. The sound of the leaves rustling in the wind would often lull me into a restful sleep. I would look up into the blue sky and contemplate eternity. What did it mean to be alive? What did it mean to die? Was there any meaning at all? I would look for various familiar names carved into the branches. My name was still there. It had a heart next to it and under the heart was the name of the girl who let me touch her breasts. The last I had heard about her was that she was married and in a medical residency program. I still had no idea what I was going to do with my life.

After living in Portland, Oregon for a year I returned home for a visit. I was in need of a break from my impoverished life and despite my parents frustration with me, I needed some love and financial support from them. I was working as a bartender in a seedy little bar in downtown Portland. I hated the job. Between the constantly gray weather in Portland and the fact that I had no idea how to improve my life situation, I had fallen into a deep depression. One evening after my parents had gone to bed I decided to walk over to the climbing tree. I brought with me a fifth of whiskey and a joint. I climbed to the top of the climbing tree and straddled one of the branches in the same way that I did as a little boy. I wondered if the branch was high enough and strong enough to hang myself from. I felt like a complete failure and I hated myself for not being able to accomplish more in my life and I hated my parents for giving me so much anxiety and grief about my failures. My friends all seemed to be independently finding their way in life but when it came to independence it felt as if I was constipated. Stuck. In a moment of despair I carved “FUCK LIFE” into the branch I was straddling. The next morning I awoke on the grass, directly under the climbing tree. I had a painful bump on the side of my head and the left side of my body was sore.

A few years later when my father died, I returned home with my wife. After the funeral my wife and I went to sit in the park. While sitting on a park bench we got into a fight. Rather than being sad about my father’s death, I was still angry at him. I took my anger out on my wife. After our fight, my wife and I were not getting a long very well so we never ended up going to the climbing tree. The day after the funeral we returned to Portland.

When my mother died a few years after my father, I returned home with my daughter. I had been divorced from my wife for over a year. After my mother’s funeral I brought my daughter to the climbing tree. I let her make her own way up towards the top of the tree and I followed slowly behind her. As I climbed I could feel my heart palpitating in my chest. I was short of breath and I felt tightness in my chest. When I finally was able to make it to the top of the tree my daughter and I sat silently together in the branches and the leaves. My daughter asked me why her grandmother did not move or talk at the funeral. I did not want to fill her with anxiety about mortality, so I told her that her grandmother loved to sleep. “All those people were there to watch grandma sleep?” she asked me. I told her that grandma was really good at sleeping her way through life and sometimes people like to come and watch her. Then my daughter asked me if I had played in the climbing tree when I was her age. I told her that I had. Together we straddled one of the branches and watched our feet dangle together in the air. I held her tight to my chest and when I looked down towards the ground I could vaguely see the top of my father’s balding head. The day that my daughter and I were returning to Portland, I quickly went to visit the climbing tree with a sharp kitchen knife in my pocket. I slowly climbed the tree and had to concentrate hard in order to maintain my balance. When I found the branch where I had carved “FUCK LIFE” into it, I used the kitchen knife to scratch it out.

After selling my parents home I bought a house in the suburbs of Portland. I had fallen in love with a woman who was a psychotherapist and together we had two children. Even though I was much too old, I returned to school and became a psychotherapist. My wife and I started a private practice a few blocks from our home and for the first time I was beginning to feel good about my life. It had been almost a decade since I had last returned to the climbing tree but my wife and kids wanted to see the tree that I was so often talking about.

My three kids, my wife and I returned to the park for what I knew would be the final time. That day was sunny and I could swear I smelled the far away ocean in the afternoon breeze. All kinds of multicolored bugs hovered all over the grass as my family and I walked to the climbing tree. The tree looked as if it had aged so much from all the years and people who had climbed around on it. One by one my family climbed up the trunk of the tree. The climb was not so easy for me anymore. My back hurt, my temples pulsated and I felt like my chest was going to cave in. Halfway up the tree I looked up at my wife and kids who were all waiting for me at the top. They yelled down, “Common old man you can make it!” I put my head down and continued to climb. When I made it to the top I felt one of my daughters use her hand to pat the balding spot on top of my head. Short of breath and slightly wheezing I looked up at her and said with a smile, “Knock it off kid.”

We all sat together in the branches and the leaves and I told them about various memories that I had about hanging out in the climbing tree. We all found my name with the heart carved into the branch. Strangely the girl’s name had faded away. When I told them about the first time I kissed a girl in the tree my daughters all yelled out, “gross dad!” My daughters then climbed around on the branches and I sat silently with my wife. We observed all the names carved into the branches as if we were looking at art work that was centuries old. I saw a lot of my high school friend’s names. It had been more than thirty years since I had seen any of them. My wife put her arm around me and I cried a little. I noticed the spot where I had scratched out what I had written in my moment of despair and I decided not to tell my wife about it. I watched the birds and the squirrels and then climbed over towards one of my daughters when she  yelled, “Look! A butterfly cocoon!” We studied the cocoon and then we all carved our names into the branch, just under the cocoon.

My wife and kids climbed down the tree and I told them that I just needed a moment alone. I maintained my balance by holding on to a branch and I looked around. I could see the vague outlines of a lifetime of memories. I saw myself as a little boy, I saw myself in high school and I saw that young man drunk and deliberating over hanging himself from a branch. I could not help but think that if it was not for that tree I would no longer be alive. I leaned over and gave the climbing tree a kiss. I put my aging face up against one of its branches and I thanked it for everything it had given to me over the years. I told it that not a day would go by where I would not think about it. I felt stupid saying these things out loud to a tree but I believed that someplace beyond my human ability to perceive, the tree understood me. I then looked down and saw my children and wife running around in the grass. Slowly I climbed down the tree. Step by step by step until I had made it firmly onto the ground. And then just for fun and without purpose I yelled out, “Time to come home lovely children!”

It was not long after that day that I heard that the climbing tree had fallen down.



The Sunbather

Every afternoon that the clouds are not obstructing the sun, I become a sunbather. I do not wear sun tan lotion nor do I take any of the typical modern precautions against the sun. I am a sun lover and I do not see its golden rays as a threat. I’m afraid of many things in my life but the sun does not seem to be one of them. Instead, I strip down into the nude and shower in the sun light in the same way that I imagine a religious practitioner would bathe themselves in their god or goddess. I see the benefits of sun: a darker complexion, uplifted mood, more sex appeal and higher vitamin D3 levels. As far as I am concerned sun exposure is equally as important as a regular exercise.

However, sunbathing is not without its disadvantages. I have been sunbathing since I was a skinny youth but now that I am in my early forties I am noticing a new, less enjoyable experience when I sunbathe. For as long as I can remember sunbathing has been pure pleasure. Time well spent. Pleasurable abandon. But now after about twenty minutes or so of “laying out” in the sun I notice this unpleasant feeling creeping over me. It is a sensation that is usually accompanied by a metallic sensation in my mouth and a slight pulsation in my temples. I am naked and stretched out on my sun lounger with the sun light showering down all over me yet I am very uncomfortable.

Birds and various other forms of wild life will be active all around me yet my thoughts and a feelings seem to be tethered by a negative and unsatisfied quality. These feelings and thoughts make it very difficult for me to be still. I feel like I should be doing something else, accomplishing more, working more, being more ambitious. I notice this voice in my head that repeats words like “lazy,” “depressed,” “unambitous,” “failure,” ‘looser.” The feelings in my body seem to be shouting, “Get going! You should be doing anything but wasting afternoon after afternoon doing nothing! You do not deserve to do nothing!”

If you were to look at me stretched out on my sun lounger you would think that I am a man without a care in the world. You would not know that inside there is a battle going on between the forces of being and doing. You would not know that I am feeling like I am wasting my life and am terrified of going broke because of my laziness. You would not know what a great effort it is taking to stay still on that sun lounger.

In Eastern philosophy they talk a lot about people like me. When reading books that have an Eastern philosophy influence, I often come across the opinion that people in the West suffer so much because they are stuck in an endless cycle of doing and as a result our minds are always focused on things outside of ourselves. The moment that we stop and turn our minds inward we are confronted with the negative effects of always doing and focusing outwards. There is an immense amount of guilt, discomfort and negativity that is present because we feel that we need to be doing something. In order to avoid these uncomfortable feelings and thoughts we continually do things! Anything to avoid sitting still. While laying out on my sun lounger I am aware of this, yet this awareness does not seem to make enjoying the afternoon sun any easier.

I suppose I have been conditioned by that capitalistic logic which says I do things, therefore I am. I suppose when I am not doing anything my very being gets put into question. Who am I? What am I doing? Do I matter? Am I wasting my life? Maybe the intensity of these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings are the result of the fact that I am older now and am aware that I have less time left on this earth to “make my mark.” When I was younger I would spend my entire days “laying out” in the sun. Lazy and without a care in the world. I had plenty of time then.

Or maybe my uncomfortable feelings are more the result of social conditioning. Maybe in the culture where I live a man is expected to have made something of himself by the age of 40. He is expected to be financially independent and accomplished by the age that I now am. If he is not, then he is seen as a loser, a failure. Maybe now when I am laying out in the afternoon sun the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that are present are the result of my father, my mother, my sister, my in-laws, my wife, my government, my teachers, my culture all telling me that I need to do something with my life! However the irony is that I feel that the most productive and important thing a human being can do at this stage in our overly productive and destructive history is learn how to enjoy just being. To stop doing so much and spend as many afternoons as they can sunbathing.

Just Leave Me The Hell Alone.

images-1I am writing this to help myself. I am letting you read it in the hopes that maybe it will help you. If not, I do not care- not my problem.  Or maybe it is my problem- I do not know where I stand on this matter. Anyways, sometimes I am in a crappy mood. I should write crappy with a capital C. I wake up this way in the morning. Upon lifting my lethargic and heavy head from the pillow I am not sure if a foul mood will be there to greet me, but often times I know I am feeling that familiar blue tone of grumpiness by the time I am standing over the toilet, taking my morning pee.

I just realized that this is a particular chronic problem that has followed me around for most of my adult life. I am 42 years of age now and the other day I was reading through my journals from when I was 27 and came across the line: “I woke up in a foul mood this morning.” Suddenly I realized that I have been waking up with this foul, indignant, bitter mood for a lot longer than I thought. For some reason I thought that maybe it is only as of recent that I have been a grump in the morning time, but I guess I have been a morning grump for a lot longer than I wanted to believe.

When I wake up in a crappy mood one would be best advised to just leave me the fuck alone. I am often as bitter as rotten fruit. If you talk to me I will bark. If you come near me I will freeze up. I will unfairly judge you and I will view humanity as nothing more than a bunch of monkeys dressed up in clothes. I do not always wake up with this tone in my soul. Some mornings I wake up as chipper as a puppy. I am ready for a hug, love and am inclined toward silliness. I am optimistic about the future, content with the present, eager to start the day and to do something fun with my wife. But this only happens a few times a week. The rest of the time I am bitter and foul. I am lethargic and short of breath. I am heavy and congested. I am ready to fight. Just leave me the hell alone.

It must not be easy to be married to me. My poor wife never knows whom she is going to wake up next to in the morning.

What is even more frustrating is that I do not even know how I am going to feel when I open my eyes in the morning.

And what is most frustrating is that I have no idea why I am this way.

It may have something to do with the fact that I am not satisfied with my life. But this cannot be it. I have a nice life with a god amount of room for improvement. But maybe I am just unhappy with certain things or myself? Maybe I worry too much?

Maybe this is apart of aging?

Or it may have something to do with my health. Maybe I suffer from a particular sleep disorder. Or maybe my unhappy childhood and often-angry father are still playing out inside me. Maybe I have certain emotional blocks that create some kind of energetic constipation. I have noticed that often the mood that I am in in the mornings reflects how I felt before going to bed. If I went to bed in an unhappy mood I will often wake up a bitter man. If I had fun the night before chances are that when I wake up in the morning I will be ready for a hug. But this is not always the case. Often times I just wake up feeling like shit. No one likes to feel like shit in the mornings and I think morning time lethargy, shortness of breath, grogginess and lower back pain could put even the holiest of enlightened human beings in a bitter mood. So this is what they meant when as a kid I was often told: “don’t take your good health for granted.”

For the past few months I have been reading a lot of spiritual literature. I work as a psychotherapist and I feel it is my responsibility as a psychotherapist to not be as stuck and unhappy as some of my clients. I need to be content and in good spirits about my life so that I can show them the way.  My relationships need to be healthy. I do not feel right about taking my clients money when just before meeting with them I had to snap myself out of a foul mood. I should walk the talk; feel on the inside how I appear to be on the outside.

The one spiritual philosophy that has captured my attention is non-duality. In a nut shell non-duality does not recognize a separation between the inside and the outside. We are all one entity playing itself out on the screens of our consciousness. Nothing exists “out there.” Everything manifests in consciousness, not outside of it. This idea gives a person a lot of freedom around how they chose to experience the experiences that they have in their life. A person can choose to get swallowed up by the waves (which are negative emotions and feelings often the result of unfavorable experiences) or they can stay connected with the ocean. After all in a non-dualistic universe, who we really are is the ocean and not the waves.

Often times I begin my days deep beneath the surface of the water, forced under by powerful waves. I drink green tea to wake up and eat something sweet. Sometimes I exercise. I try to come up for air, I tell myself to focus on the ocean and not get caught up in the waves but often as soon as I do this I am facing another wave that is about to come crashing down upon me. Often times before the hour of 2pm- it sucks being me. I have massive amounts of salt water up my nose and my head is sore from getting pounded against so much.  It feels like I have a cotton ball stuck in my brain. “Just leave me the hell alone,” I often catch myself thinking but deep down I know I do not mean it. I want you to love me. I want you to take me in your arms. But just go easy. Be gentle and realize you are dealing with a man who is fighting against a stubborn undercurrent, fierce waves and an ocean that is often far out of his reach. Give me until 2pm- by then I should be all right.

Going Down, Looking Up (Some Reflections on the Verge of Turning 40)

On my last day of being in my thirties, I fell on my face. I had just finished lunch with my 94-year-old grandmother who had eaten more than I. I took her to an organic salad place in town and all she had to say was, “why do they give so much dammmmm lettuce. Stupid. Where is the meat?” I tried to explain to her that we were eating at an organic, sustainable restaurant that was more concerned with health than meat. She told me that the world was finished. That she would rather be at home eating her frozen ham and cheese puffs. I tried to engage her in conversation, in between large bites of lettuce- pieces of which stuck to her nose. But I had little luck getting any meaningful words out of her until I said, “so grandmamma, as you know I am turning forty tomorrow. Do you have any advice on how to grow old gracefully?” She put down her fork, which was searching through the lettuce for any signs of chicken, looked me in the eyes and said “Jared, (my name is Randall) just stay yourself. Stay who you are and don’t let yourself grow old and bitter like all the other old farts your age.” Then she went back to rummaging through her lettuce for any signs of meat.

“Stay who I am?” I thought to myself. Since my grandmother said it I have not been able to get this one simple sentence out of my head. In my desire to find some kernel of truth about growing old gracefully, my grandmother hit the proverbial nail on the head. She had given me the exact answer that I did not expect to hear. Today at lunch I cannot help but think that my grandmother provided me with one of the greatest gifts I have ever received- the gift of anti-aging. As I was saying goodbye to my grandmother, she took her waterlogged lips and placed them against my curious ears. She said, “James (my name is Randall), never forget who you are but in order to know who the hell you are- don’t forget where you have been. Don’t be afraid to look down.” I thanked my grandmother, kissed the wilted side of her face and tripped over her walker as I made my way out the door. Now looking back it feels as if my fall was a kind of petty and painful ritual or indoctrination invoked by my atheist grandmother. I say this because on my way down, my thirties flashed quickly before my eyes.

When I was thirty I was broke, disowned by my mother and father for selling my newly deceased grandfathers Ford Crown Victoria and living in my friends shoe boxed sized closet. I slept night after night on a broken futon under a clothes rack filled with young ladies dresses and cigarette smoke drenched jackets. Beyond the wall that separated me from the ghetto was a tall redwood tree in which lived an owl that kept me up late into the night with its primal and onomatopoetic mantras. I remember laying there on my back, an always-intoxicated thirty-year-old man remembering my youth with disdain and looking forward to a future filled with fame. I was convinced that I was the next great writer or painter waiting to be born into public fame- being broke and living in my friends closet was a sure sign of my devotion to my art. But day upon day passed like wind through the quickly turning pages of a book and before I knew it I was thirty-one, still living in my friends closet. The only thing that had changed was that I now had a plan.

My parents forgave me for selling my grandfathers car because they finally came to understand that having money to eat and pay my share of the rent for a year without working, was much more important than a dead man’s car. Even though they were terrified by how much alcohol I consumed, and how little I cared about my future- they had to admit that I was not dead yet. When I told them that I had decided to move to Portland where it was easier to find a job and cheaper to find meaning and purpose they were excited that I was going to get my life out of the closet. They threw me a very generous going away party where I invited many of my friends and after too many tears and too much rich food and wine I packed my bags and prepared to leave California forever. I took the remainder of the money that I had from selling the Crown Victoria, put it in my back pocket and the following morning I boarded everything I owned onto a train- destination Portland. Sadly, I spent one lonely and depressed night in Portland. I got drunk because I had no idea what else to do. The next morning I was without a clue where to begin so I bought a train ticket and headed back home much to the shock of everyone who knew me. I took up residence again in the closet.

When I was thirty-two I spent much of my time in a bar. I worked as a waiter and was in love with a nymphomaniac alcoholic. She was also a waitress at high end restaurants, but she kept losing jobs because she would show up to work beautiful and drunk. I had moved into a studio apartment, which had a pool where we would spend our afternoons sunbathing, drinking and reading. By nightfall she was always slithering her words and sounded more like an out of tune piano than the articulate poet that she was. I tried to return to graduate school for the third time to finish my master’s degree in English Literature but I was still convinced that I had a future as a famous writer and/or painter so I decided yet again that I did not need a master’s degree. Instead I drank and read and filled my mind with lustful thoughts about an alcoholic who was once President of her college class. Sometimes she would disappear for days on end and my heart would be frantic while my mind was convinced that she had taken off with another man or woman. So I would camp in the ivy outside her one bedroom apartment, spend my nights smoking cigarettes and drinking Budweiser beer and waiting to spy upon what was going on. The problem was that she was never out with anyone. Instead she was cheating on me with several bottles of whiskey- drunk for three or four days straight.

One morning I awoke in ivy, covered in cigarette ash and realized that I was now thirty-three. I had spent most of the last year of my life in pursuit of somebody that was not there. I was drinking too much and finding garbage bags filled with whiskey bottles hidden underneath my girlfriend’s bed. My heart was starting to beat irregularly because of all I had put it through and I realized that if I did not get my mind, body and soul together I may come to an early end. I spent my thirty third-year working as a waiter in French restaurant that rarely had any costumers. The owner would spend the evenings banging his spatula against the crepe makers wondering what he had done wrong. “My product is good. It is a nice restaurant with unique food but no one ever comes. I don’t understand!!” he would whine. My answer to him was always the same, “location is everything. A homeless shelter across the street and the ghetto are not good ingredients for a busy French restaurant.” “Merde!!” he would growl and then tell me to open a bottle of wine which we would proceed to drink. However that French restaurant was not as much of a curse for me as it was for him. In fact it was a blessing. Not only did I get to drink a lot of good free French wine but I also waited on a beautiful twenty six year old woman who would later become my wife.

When I was thirty-four I learned how to stand on my head, meditate, drink a bit less, give up smoking and live with a woman. Things with the alcoholic nymphomaniac had fizzled out and I had found myself in a relationship that had the potential for health and happiness. After my new girlfriend and I had discovered a dead body in the apartment beneath hers (he was blackened to a crisp and lying face up on the edge of his bed- the victim of a painkiller overdose) she decided to move into my studio wall-to-wall carpeted apartment. She loved me because I reminded her of Jack Kerouac and because she believed in my heart (which was still irregularly beating along). She was finishing up art school and even though we did not know it then she had a future ahead of her that was filled with success as an artist. She introduced me to organic food, clean sheets, baby soft skin and home cooking that made me consider giving up the pursuit of art and instead getting a real job so I could afford to have her cook for me every night. Together we lived in that studio apartment, overcrowded by too much stuff and two big egos that had a hard time learning to live together.

When I was thirty-five I proposed to my girlfriend in a cemetery that I spent a lot of time in. Day after day I would go to the cemetery with a book in my hands and contemplate the fine line that exists between life and death. Even though I realized that as a married man there would be those who would expect me to live a more conventional, career driven life I hoped that by proposing to my girlfriend in a cemetery she too would realize that there were more important things in living than working. She said yes to my brief proposal and I spent the next eight months evading preparations for a wedding, fearing over a future that felt out of my hands and working hard to lose a fifteen pound overweight stomach bulge that was the result of eating too much and many home cooked meals. My fiancé was furious by my reluctance to engage in helping her plan the wedding and I was just as confused by my apathy. I though about Franz Kafka who found himself in a similar predicament. He called off wedding engagements several times because he knew that his indoctrination into domestic life meant the end of his writing life. In the end he chose his writing life and I chose married life. But unlike Kafka I have not written some of the greatest novels of my time- but I did have a great wedding (where the rabbi made out with the brides maid), buy some nice furniture and a dog.

Thirty-six passed by and was spent mostly in couples therapy. I came to find that my wife’s issues were equally as dense as mine but I was no match for her quick wit, wisdom and disdain. In order to please her and her family’s career aspirations for me I got my first real job teaching English at an inner city high school. My anxiety started to become more chronic and was more of a normal state for me than tranquility and calm was. I became continually worried about money and my ability to become the writer and/or painter that I once was certain I would become. For the first time in my life I was working five days a week for more than ten hours a day. I was making more money than I had ever made in my life- thirty five thousand dollars a year. I was teaching inner city freshman how to read a book and liberate themselves from the heavy fist of white male oppression. I was also spending my evenings driving around in search of sex because my sex life at home had all but dried up. Even though I never had the guts to cheat on my wife (well not yet at least)- just the idea of the possibility of sex with a stranger kept the muscle that is also referred to as a penis from atrophying.

Thirty-seven went by without any sex. I was married to a woman who worked more than I had ever worked in my entire life. Her determination to succeed as an artist was enviable but my idea of being an artist involved spending much more time sitting around and contemplating the unsolvable mysteries of the universe. I was still teaching high school, but I had to find another job because the school where I taught was shut down since California did not want to pay money to give minority inner city kids an education. The recession was in full swing, there was a war being waged in Afghanistan and in Iraq, George Bush was still President but soon a black man would occupy the lead in the white house. My wife and I had moved into an old Victorian home with hardwood floors in the Oakland ghetto. But there was a small stream and a redwood tree behind the house and from my opened studio window I could hear the sound of birds chirping and bullets passing. I was settling into married life, struggling with an intense anxiety problem and spending too much time masturbating.

Thirty-eight was the year that I began to have a mid life crises. My wife was accepted into a prestigious graduate school so we moved to Davis, California and while she was away at school (which was most hours of the day) I was left on my own. I had no job, no friends, very little money and not much ambition to do anything but dress like I once used to in the 1980’s. I started listening to new wave music again and wore black eye liner and black nail polish. I started smoking cloves again and dancing alone in the privacy of my room. My diet had become healthier, my heart beated a bit more regularly, my insomnia was not as bad but there was still something inside of me that grew unhappy and jaded. I started to feel like my life was a failure and to combat these unwanted negative vibes I began meditating more and reading spiritual self help books. I learned to go on two-hour mindfulness walks, I purchased a dog, I got a job as a bartender and did what I could to assuage the gut feeling that being a successful writer and painter was as far from me as winning the lottery was. I enrolled in graduate school to become a psychotherapist and I found a therapist whom I still see once a week. My therapist helped guide me back to what now feels like a place where hope and love have the potential to reside. My anxiety started to leave me alone and while sitting in a restaurant in San Francisco on my thirty-ninth birthday I was able to acknowledge that “yes, I have a good life.”

After I tripped over my grandmother’s walker I struggled to get back onto my knees. I landed straight on my chest and face. My grandmother was too weak and giggly to be of any help to me so I lay there and thought about being thirty-nine. It had not been a bad year. My wife and I were getting along and I had learned to accept my fate as a future psychotherapist who was excelling in graduate school. I was interested in things I had never heard of before such as: family systems theory, Gestalt therapy, Client Centered therapy and cybernetics. I had to let go of my need to be the next great writer or painter and traded in my paintbrushes for textbooks. I would spend some days drawing, reading and writing but now it was more for play and less for destiny. I worked in my garden, walked my dog, visited my therapist, lost my beer belly, ate organic food and meditated every morning at seven thirty. Even though I know it is a cliché I go to say it- life was good. But somewhere beneath the surface of my flesh and deep down around the fringes of my belabored soul- I was unsatisfied. Maybe that is why now I sit here writing at my desk in my parent’s home where I am living. I am yet to know of anything that lasts forever and my marriage was also unable to escape from this eternal truth. All I can say is that two people who loved and love each other very much grew apart in the same way that two leaves that grow from the same stem can spread out in different directions. Shitty things happen to the best of us.

“Give me your dammmmmmm hand,” my grandmother said as I was stuck in a finally revelry about being thirty-nine. I reached out my hand and surprisingly my 94-year-old grandmother was able to help me onto my feet. She was holding onto her walker and had wrapped a leather belt around her waist and strapped it to the door to brace her body so she could help me up. I felt a bit dazed and confused. There was a bit of blood on my shirt since I bit my lip sometime during the fall. “There you go kid, back on your feet. That’s right!” my grandmother said as she undid the belt from her waist. I dusted myself off and got a first taste of how much more pain an aging body feels than a younger body. “You all right?” my grandmother said with a look of genuine concern on her face. “Fine, fine” I replied with a half smile and half embarrassed grin. “Well you just listen to me David. There will be a lot of falling down in your life. Promise you that. But as long as you always get back up that is all that gives a dammmmmm. After you fall as many times as I have, have as many bruises as I do and are still alive at 94 you start to really, really realize that anything is possible in life. That is the best part about getting old. Now brush yourself off, have a good birthday and get out of here.”

The Butt Of A Joke.

I was sitting in a Mexican food restaurant eating a burrito by myself last night. I was thinking about all the harm that my parents had caused me in my life and my thoughts were turning into a merry-go-round of self-pitying memories. I was sad and forlorn, so I decided to put punish myself by putting extra hot sauce on my burrito and eating as many jalapenos as I could. I watched the crowd of people who seemed much happier than I, all eating their food and caught up in the story of their lives. I felt like an outsider- like someone who had been disinherited.

As I made my way through my burrito (I was so caught up in my thoughts that I no longer tasted the burrito) an attractive teenage girl approached me. She could not have been a day over seventeen and her bleached blonde hair and black eye makeup told me that she was still stuck in that adolescent stage of trying to be someone who she was not ( a stage that I am yet to grow out of). She stood there besides my table, looking at me in the eyes, looming over me like a ghost that had come to deliver some fatal news. “Excuse me sir,” she said in a voice that did not yet seem to suffer the ravages of puberty. “You know you are a really really handsome man, in an older man kind of way.” I was taken aback, somewhat mystified by what was taking place. I did not smile or respond. “I really like the grey streaks in your hair,” she said smiling at me in a slightly seductive kind of way. As quickly as she appeared she walked away. My eyes followed her across the room where she joined three other giggling teenage girls who were watching the whole thing. Together they laughed while looking at me and then left the mexican food restaurant. Before the teenage girl entirely disappeared from my sight, she blew me a kiss and then gave me a wave goodbye.

I sat there with my burrito going limp in my hands. I looked around the room to see if anyone else had just seen what had taken place. The self-pitying thoughts that were spiraling around in my head were now gone. Now I was just trying to make sense of the interruption that had momentarily violated my privacy. “Handsome in an older man kind of way?” I thought. “What is that supposed to mean?” I tried to make sense of this by telling myself that it was probably a teenage prank. The kind of prank that I used to play on other people who had been subjected to the laws of aging. But now I was the butt of the joke and I was uncomfortable with how it felt. I slowly put my burrito down, took a deep breath and made my way out of the restaurant like someone who was trying not to be seen.

The Fuck Up Specialist

I was just sitting in my fly infested backyard trying to soak up some of the morning sun. I had a book in my hands but the words were not really penetrating my tired mind. My knee ached, my elbows pulsated and I found that the sun was irritating my eyes. I got to thinking: “How have I gotten to this place? Childless, 11:31 am, Wednesday morning, 39 years old, hung over, still half asleep, tired and bruised in my fly infested backyard?” There was a big world outside and many people were in an act of productive and ambitious motion, while I sat still not wanting to get up. The night before I worked for seven or eight hours at my job as a bartender, which has left me feeling like I have been run over by a heard of elephants. My body was sore and in my backyard I was barley able to handle the thoughts spiraling around in my forlorn head. But I was able to answer the question that I asked myself.

I am an artist. I have hundreds of un sold paintings collecting cobwebs in my garage and two novels that will most likely never be finished. Neither my paintings nor my writings are my great art works. They are more like self-absorbed average relics that I have created along the path that I often call “my life.” My greatest art is the art of fucking up. I can even be so brave to say that I have perfected the art of fucking up more so than most people. I have been fucking up longer than I have been writing or painting. I have spent more energy fucking up than I have doing anything else. It is fair to say that the reason why I was sitting still, unfocused, bruised, achy, tired and agitated in my backyard this morning is because I am a specialist in fucking up.

I still remember my first fuck up.  I was seven years old. Everyday I took the school bus to and from school and one day when the student filled school bus let me off in front of my house I had the overwhelming urge to pull my pants down and expose my naked butt to those students who were still on the bus. It was my own way of publicly saying “fuck you” to a school community that I could not stand. But I fucked up. There were more productive ways that I could of exercised my grievances but I was too young to know how. It was as if a part of me knew that all of these students were destined for a life of success and I was destined for the opposite. My public display of naked aggression got me kicked out of the private Jewish school that I was attending and thus began my work as a fuck up specialist.

I fucked up in school hundreds of times. I did not listen to teachers. I cheated and I only thought about girls and blowjobs. I was kicked out of several schools before the age of 15 and I even ran away from home for a week (to stay with a 19 year old sex crazed blonde in Malibu) at the age of 16 (this was a catastrophe that I will not go into here). Even though I was attending beautiful private schools that had excellent academic programs and various opportunities for students who cared- I could care less about any of this. I wanted to drink beer, get naked, listen to music and make life difficult for all authority figures. I wanted to fuck up.

When I think back now to all the opportunities that I had in high school and college I often get chills. I think of some of my fellow classmates who went on to have very successful careers. Enrique Iglesias, the prince of Saudi Arabia, David Sassoon, Robert Mondavi, Eric Weiss (the current president of Capri Sun) and many others all seemed to have found a way to have enjoyed the debaucheries of college but then get their shit together enough to go on to have successful careers. Even though I smoked weed with all of these people, several times, I seemed to be the only one who was destined to become a specialist of fucking up.

For more than a decade and a half after college I continued to fuck up. I fucked up good relationships with women, I fucked up in graduate school (I dropped out of a Masters graduate program a few months before finishing) and I fucked up my own health by the amount of booze, marijuana and negative energy that I ingested. At the age of twenty-nine I was committed to the art of fucking up. I was convinced that there was virtue to be found in fucking up- but I was not sure yet where to find it. I spent years and years in and out of odd jobs, I read thousands of books about existentialism and romanticism, I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and tried to erase every memory I had of a childhood that was filled with so many opportunities for success. I was a fuck up specialist and I was convinced that my fame would be based upon my ability to fuck up. But fame never found me. Only fuck ups did.

My friends were as fucked up as I was. Starving artists from rich families. Depressives. Grown men who wore all black and stared at the ground. Yoga practitioners who were addicted to coffee and weed and were obsessed with pubic hair, orgies and stretching. Men with anger issues and alcohol issues. Men looking for companionship and love but unable to find it with anyone other than prostitutes. A community of drunken fuck ups flocked to me in the same way that a fly may be attracted to a teard. And I opened my arms to all of them. But one fuck up I will never forget. I will not use his name here but he made forty six million dollars by the age of 34. He was a Princeton graduate who made his money by writing the program for what became a website called Ticket Master. His father won an academy ward for doing the sound effects for the first Exorcist film and my friend seemed to have inherited his father’s genius. He also inherited his addictive behavior. At one point in my early thirties when I was homeless and needed a place to stay I moved in with my millionaire friend and thus began a yearlong graduate course in fucking up. To make a long story short my friend fucked up so bad that now he is no longer a millionaire. He has disappeared- no one knowing where he moved off to. His addiction to prostitutes, cocaine and real-estate turned most of his assets into dust and made him into a much better fuck up artist than I.

Now that I am almost 40 years of age and working as a bartender I think I have found the virtue in fucking up that I was looking for over a decade ago. It is through fucking up that we are forced to examine the way we live. Every time I fucked up, whether I liked it or not, I had to think about myself in relation to my fuck ups. “Why did I do it?” was often the question I asked myself and even though most of the time I ignored the answer and continued fucking up- I was collecting a kind of wisdom from my fuck ups that I have not really been aware of until now. I believe it was Socrates who said that an unexamined life is not worth living. Fucking up as much as I have has caused me to spend much of my current existence examining my life. I look deeply. I write. I paint. I keep a journal and I am a student of psychology. I do all of this not in attempt to find answers to how and why I became such a great fuck up specialist. Instead I do all of this because I enjoy exploring the questions. I realize that I am an imperfect human being and it through the examination of my imperfections that I learn the most about myself. It is through examining my fuck ups that I am able to get more clarity, better insights into questions like: “How have I gotten to this place? Childless, 11:31 am, Wednesday morning, 39 years old, hung over, still half asleep, tired and bruised in my fly infested backyard?” For now- this is the best I can do, and for once in my life this does not feel like fucking up.

Stuck In High School!

After 37 years, I am still in high school. It is a mystery to me how this has become my life. After all I do not know if being stuck in high school is the epitome of the American dream or a nightmare. Maybe I am repaying a karmic debt from a past life or maybe I am paying penance for the things I have done in this life- what ever the case may be, I am still stuck in high school.

I am currently sitting in a history class while students are taking a written examination that I designed with the intention of making test taking entertaining. Occasionally I hear small explosions of laughter as students read some of the more comical questions that I have inserted in between the more serious ones- “how many times a day did Abe Lincoln masturbate?” For the most part the room is so silent that I can hear the hum of the freeway which sits just behind the school. I am the Teacher of these students but at the moment I feel like them- stuck in a place that I do not belong. I am always perplexed by the similarities that I find between myself and my 15 and 16 year old students. It is true- I am twenty years older than most of my students but like them I am still pre-occupied with sex and what I am going to do with my life. It is as if a large part of me is yet to grow into this thing I often hear referred to as maturity. I feel as if I have never left high school, my body has aged but my spirit or soul is still stuck at 16. It is a difficult phenomena to explain- but as I sit here writing in my notebook and my students are taking their examination- I feel strangly equal to them. It is as if we should all just be friends and ditch school.

When I was in high school, the first time, I was an apparition. You could see my physical body but my soul was some place else. I was stoned most of the time and Teachers only knew my name because I was the tall lanky guy in the back who never spoke and was seen by all as being weird. At school dances I would get drunk on liquor that I stole from my fathers bar and stand in a corner trying to spy on couples who were making out. Sometimes I could be found lying in the school hallways, broken down into an agitated state of tears crying out “get me out of here!” I did not read a single book nor did I do more than was asked of me. I was preoccupied with blow jobs and death and not once did I get a grade that was higher than a C. My father had to pay off the principle to let me graduate after 6 years of high school.

Now some 20 years later I am still stuck in high school. Somehow the fury of the fates or divine consciousness has managed to transform me into a Teacher. It is like a great magic trick that has been performed in front of my eyes. The trick is on me and I stand there trying to figure out how the magician has created the desired effect. I am perplexed and can not seem to come up with an answer. I am in a state  of absolute dis-belief. How did they do it? It just makes no sense.

The Man Who Wanted To Stop Time.

me I needed to find a way to stop time. The constant passing succession of calendar days was making me dizzy. By the time I bought a calendar for the new year it was already the next year. The years keep passing like wind. As I get older the months pass so quickly that I am all of a sudden balding and going gray. I seem to have less time as I grow older in time and I am afraid that before I know it everything I love will be demolished by time .

In an attempt to stop time I have tried perpetual masturbation, week long meditation, month long episodes of fasting and drinking binges that went on for years. I have tried to become a Buddhist and accept the inherent emptiness in all things, but the thought made me sad and anxious. My meditation teacher worked with me to be more accepting of time rather than trying to do away with it all together. “Courage,” he said “is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” He kept trying to get me to have the courage to accept time but all I wanted was to find a way to stop it, dead in its tracks.

Our society is made up of little excerpts of being on time. “Rapid Service,” “Overnight Shipping,” “The World On Time.” It is almost as if we think that we are lengthening our lives by speeding time up. A stranger who I happened into an interesting conversation with at a cafe said, “Time is a man made construct to express time as an illusion. You see, time is a concept that we use to express birth, growth, degeneration and death.” Interesting I thought. Maybe I could stop time if I can learn to forget about the past, loose all my memories and forget about yesterday. Then the thought came to me, “If I do not have a job, friends, wife or places to be- then I would never have to worry about being on time. I could live outside of time!!”

I thought about this for a few days and realized it would never work. If I forgot about my past and gave up my responsibilities I would end up lonely and poor. I do live in a society that is addicted to time. We use time up quicker than we can appreciate its passing- this is why I always hear people lamenting the passing of time. We exist in a psychological state that feels the absence of time. We live with a loss so great that the only thing we can do to medicate our pain is move quicker or drink and eat more.

I suppose that it is impossible to stop time. Time is a movement forward and no matter how much I try to sit still or walk backwards..time still seems to pass me by. I grow older without even having the time to experience being young. The more I look in the mirror the less I can see an image of myself reflected back at me. Time seems to be erasing all things that I felt to be familiar. My aquarium remains unwashed, my clothes stay dirty and my heart seems to grow more weary with the passing of each day.

I woke up this morning realizing that time is apart of being human. I could stop it no more than I could stop rain. If I concentrate hard enough during my meditation, I can forget about time- but still my hair turns gray and wrinkles appear on my skin. I returned to my meditation teacher this morning who quoted T.S. Elliot. He said, “Time past and time future are all contained in time present.” Then he handed me a pen and asked me to write a few Haikus. This is what I wrote:

Look at the dust/this is me,/tomorrow.

Inquire mind,/tell me,/nothing.

Not knowing/My days pass/I am free.

Stuff becomes/Nothing./So unstuff.