The Mooch

One of the happiest men I know is a mooch. He lives in a beautiful home in the woods of Northern California. His wife is the one that keeps their proverbial economic boat afloat by working a high income grossing medical insurance job. She works from home and so does he. But his job is different from hers. Rather than sitting on a computer and making phone calls for ten hours a day his job is to keep the house clean, chop firewood, cook, make love to her regularly and as she says it “just be happy and healthy.” She loves him and does not mind that he is 43 and earning zero income. She makes enough for him to live like a mooch.

A mooch is defined as to ask for something or obtain something without paying for it. The noun form of mooch means beggar or scrounger. I can’t help but think that the Webster Dictionary holds a rather negative view of those who have found a way to live happily without paying for it. Maybe the authors of Websters Dictionary have to work hard at a job they don’t really love, day after day and they resent those who do no not have to do this? Maybe some of the definitions in Websters Dictionary are nothing but a form of passive aggressive revenge for a life they do not feel others deserve to live? A way for the authors to use language to strike back at aspects of the world they find contentious? I am sure that if my happy friend was to become aware of the definition for mooch he might become afflicted by some guilt or feelings of low self esteem but then he would probably get over it and go for a hike.

Last night I was watching a film in which the word mooch seemed to show up a few times. I felt my chest tighten and a negative feeling begin to brew inside of me. I went to sleep without giving it much thought. When I awoke this morning the word was still hovering around in my head in the same way that sheep do when you count them before falling asleep. So far today I have cleaned up dog poop, fed the dogs, ate breakfast and took care of some work related issues. I tried to sink my mind into a book about the indie band Yo La Tengo but was not able to concentrate. It is as if some incorporeal force has been trying to bring my attention towards something that I have been trying to ignore. Am I a mooch?

By the age of 40 should a man already be 100% self sustaining? Should he be paying for his own house, car, food, vacations, dogs and living rather comfortably off of the income that he earns through his well to do business ventures? Is this not what our society refers to as successful? And to not have attained this, to be living off of the assistance of others- what does this mean for a man over the age of 40 in our capitalistic, work obsessed culture? Well the authors at Websters Dictionary sure have an answer for me. It means that you are a mooch. Or even worse- a beggar and a scrounger.

So maybe it is this negative lexicon that has been pervading my consciousness today. Maybe hearing the word “mooch” repeated several times in the film I was watching last night triggered something deep within me. I mean after all by the time my father was my age he was a roaring economic success (but he was also a roaring emotional ball of anger and unhappiness). But maybe I have had his capitalistic flag waved over my head for so much of my life that a deeper part of me feels bad about myself for not having lived up to the responsibilities the flag implies. Who knows. I didn’t even know I felt this way before I watched that ridiculous film.

I will say this to those people who decided to define the word mooch with negative undertones. My friend who is the happiest man I know is without a doubt a mooch as those at Websters Dictionary define it. He mooches every time he enjoys a nice bottle of red wine and travels to the Hawaiian islands for a yearly month long vacation. And I myself probably fall into this category (I have always said that if I could just find a way to sit on my couch, read books and have checks show up in the mail I would be a happy man). If being a mooch is so bad then why are we often so happy? If I look back upon the history of famous moochers (scroungers) I only come up with those that I consider to have been generally happy people (Henry Miller, Bernard Glassman, William Saroyan and that black guy who walked around the world and did not talk for years to name a few). Yet the great majority of people that I know who work a lot, are not scroungers and make a good amount of money are some of the more unhappy people I have come across. Even though they work hard and have lived up to various societal expectations when I am around them they often feel very unpleasant. So if mooching is a negative thing then the opposite should be a positive, right? Then why are all those who don’t mooch so darned unhappy?

I realize I am going a bit off track here. All I am trying to imply is that mooching really is not so bad. In fact those who have found a way to make mooching work in their advantage are actually some of the more fortunate people on this planet. If they can just get over their cultural conditioning that wants to make them feel like a low life or failure for mooching they can then have lots of time to pursue various interests or happily sit on their couch and “just let the checks show up in the mail” so to speak. In fact my friend, who is the happiest man I know- loves to spend a few hours every afternoon sitting on his couch (while his wife works in the office downstairs) looking out a huge window which is filled in with nothing but mountain ridges and red wood trees. Maybe being a mooch is not as bad as those at Websters Dictionaries want you to believe? It is 10:43 am on a Friday morning and I should probably go get out of my pajamas now.

Youth and Missed Opportunities

I’m not complaining. At the moment, despite having to care for a German Shepherd who has just been neutered, my life is relatively easy and blessed. I have a wonderful home, a way to bring in an income and a loving wife. Domesticity has never been better for this 42 year old, unusually tall and oddly shaped male. For a lazy guy- I have done well enough (by lazy I mean an absence of inner motivation to commit myself to things that earn an income). I have always preferred the world of dreams- especially in my youth.

If I could be young again (by young I mean in my twenties and early thirties) I would wear more black leather, I would dye my hair more often, I would paint my nails various colors, I would explore more, I would challenge authority more, I would commit myself more to something strange and out of the box, I would madly pursue my dreams and nightmares- I would be much less fearful than I was. Youth is not a time for missed opportunities. If one is lucky they will have middle age and their elderly years for that.

Youth is a time of potential/opportunity/rebellion and instead of diving head first into these things, I stuck my feet in. Maybe this is what happens when an aspiring artist/writer is raised in the typical middle class, suburban, nuclear family paradigm. This often makes it more challenging to go against the grain because there is so much pressure to conform. When the kid who was raised in a middle class, suburban environment does try to go against the grain and do something unusual or unconventional with their life, they are seen as a failure. A confused soul. Someone given to reckless abandon. Irresponsible. These feelings of failure and judgement from others can often turn into disempowering anger and despair. At least it did for me.

I wanted to be as outlandish and unusual as possible when I was younger. I did not want to be like “them.” I wanted to tear down the world as it was and reconstruct it in strange, less mediocre ways. I never quite found the drive and courage to go all the way. Somehow my parents opinion slowed me down. I did not have their support to pursue my desire to be an artist and writer and somehow I allowed this lack of support to cause me to doubt my own capabilities and talents. Instead of spending my days trying to turn my youth filled dreams into a tangible reality, I kept them in the back of my mind as I spent all my time buried in novels, dead end jobs and sitting on street corners smoking cigarets and watching the world go by.

Now that I am older it is more difficult to pursue certain ambitions that really do require complete immersion and dedication. One thing that I did not factor into the getting older equation was a dwindling of energy. In youth energy is as electric as lightning. It is an energy that has the quality of an obsession. It can cut glass. It is pure and positively charged and it is this energy that has the potential to break the individual out of the societal box that our entire global culture is designed to keep people in.

In many ways my youth was a missed opportunity. My depression, self doubt, fear and rage kept me from fulfilling my potential. I had great times and have wonderful debauched and poetic memories- but I also have regrets. Youth is a time to not be tethered by other peoples expectations. It is a time of freedom, a place of potential where a person does not have to explain themselves to anyone. It is a time to break glass and not worry about cleaning it up. The difference between those who accomplish their youth-filled dreams and those who do not is simply a matter of confidence, dedication and courage. I myself never did wear all that black leather, I never did paint my nails various colors, I never did dye my hair, I never did madly pursue my dreams. I did not understand what I get now- the entire point of youth is to inhabit and pursue the world of dreams.

Mr. Pickle









I cannot help but feel like the great majority of human beings really are stupid monkeys dressed in clothes. I watch them interact with another, I see their mannerisms and I am often frustrated that I have to live in a society made up of such fools. But I am getting ahead of myself here. This is not how I wanted to start out. Instead I wanted to talk about my father. My father is a man who is filled with impossible expectations not only for himself but also for everyone else. I have had to grow up always facing the trap door of a father’s unmet expectations and as a 40-year-old man I am still expected to be a particular kind of son. A son who fills his fathers emotional holes, a son who smiles through his continual and subtle emotional abuse, a son who does not question the bullshit, a son who takes the money and does what he is told, a son who sacrifices himself for his father’s love and a an unseen son who is a narcissistic extension of his father. Maybe this is why I decided to take the job as Mr. Pickle.


When I went into Mr. Pickle’s sandwich shop I noticed a help wanted sign just above the cash register. Mr. Pickle’s sandwich shop was looking for someone to dress up in the Mr. Pickle costume and stand outside on the busy street corner and wave at passers by and try to direct them into the sandwich shop. The pay was $10 dollars an hour and on the sign it said: “All you have to do is dance around in a pickle costume for three hours a day! We will even give you a free sandwich!” Maybe it was because I only had a little over a hundred dollars in my bank account or maybe it was because I was fed up with my father’s expectations that I looked at the old lady behind the register and asked pointing to the sign, “how can I interview for this position you have available.”


Before I knew it I was standing on a busy street corner dressed in a Mr. Pickle costume. The Pickle costume covered my entire body so I was only wearing my underwear and shoes and socks. There were two little holes through which I could see and a small hole for breathing. It was one o’clock in the afternoon. Armies of cars passed through the intersection as I heard the old lady, my now boss, come outside of the sandwich shop and yell, “dance pickle, dance!!!!”


On my second day on the job it was almost a hundred degrees out at twelve o’clock in the afternoon. Dressed again in only my underwear and shoes and socks, I had brought with me my iPod, which helped get me into the mood for dancing. I listened to the Smashing Pumpkins, Fugazi, The Jesus Lizard and TV On The Radio as I became that dancing idiot in a costume that every person passes by at some point in their life, on some street corner….somewhere. As the armies of cars passed by I tried to catch their attention by waving my arms, moving my tight hips and bobbing my head back and forth. The faces in the cars all looked long and depressed. It was mid afternoon and the majority of people looked as if they were already buried deep in the superficial worries of the world. I knew that if I looked like I was having fun possibly I could grab their attention and get them to join the party by pulling into the Mr. Pickle Sandwich Shop’s parking lot. But very few did so. Instead I felt like more of annoyance. People honked at me with bitter looks of disdain. Some people flipped me off but the majority just pretended as if I did not exist. By three o’clock I was covered in sweat and green lint that came from the pickle costume. As I sat down eating my free vegetarian sandwich I thought of my father and suddenly a smile appeared on my face.


The day that I told my father I wanted to be a writer it was as if someone had died. I was a fresh college graduate with a drinking problem and a future filled with potential. He had hoped that I would be a doctor or a stockbroker- someone who would reflect well upon him when he talked about me to his friends.  With great authority my father worked hard to direct me down the straight, safe and legitimate path. But I kept falling off the path and it was always emotionally pain filled to get back on it. When I finally drew the line in the sand and said that the life he had envisioned for me was not a life I wanted to live I was met by toxic projections of unspoken disappointment. To this day I am still working hard to detoxify myself from the continuing exposure to this toxin. Years of despair, self-blame and feeling disempowered in the face of an adversary who was unable to love me for who I was, unable to let me do what I needed to do for myself without punishing me, had weakened my ambition and my body. Rebellion had taken up so much of my life and unmet expectations had left me feeling like a failure. As I ate my Mr. Pickle’s vegetarian sandwich I could not help but feel the absurdity of it all. I had grown up in an affluent country club and as a result of a long a tiring battle fought between father and son, I was now a sad, angry, despondent 40 old man dancing on a street corner dressed in a Mr. Pickle costume.


The following afternoon I could not stop yelling, “fuck you!” at all the cars as they passed by. I was a crazed pickle dancing to the music of the Dead Kennedys, jumping up and down and screaming at all the cars as they passed by. I felt a rage that I had not felt since my father hit me or since he told me that he loved my mother more than I. In my sock was the 40 some dollars that I had made the day before and when I felt it scraping against my leg I remembered my father bragging to me about things such as the modern mansion in which he was living, his world travels and decadent dinners. The intersection was filled with cars moving every which way. Everyone was in a hurry to get somewhere, rushing their life away without any idea that they were doing so. “Stupid fucking monkey’s” I kept yelling as the cars obediently marched in line. The people in the cars and the pedestrians walking down the street must of thought that Mr. Pickle was losing his mind. My screaming became louder as I thought about the stupidity of all the obedient people in the world. I also thought about my father and the lifetime of injustices that I felt were perpetrated upon me by him. In the midst of all my rage I noticed that I was having some slight difficulty breathing through the small hole that was now filled up with green lint. Saliva ran down my mouth as I continued to shout, “stupid fucking monkeys, stupid fucking monkeys!!!!!!!” while listening to the punk rock sounds the provided a musical background to what had become an uncontrollable inner rage.


“Mr. Pickle? Mr. Pickle?” I felt someone moving my head and when I opened my eyes I was looking up at two unfamiliar faces and a big blue sky. It was a young boy and his father I assumed. “You okay?” the father asked me. He took his hand in mine and helped me up. The young boy looked at me with wide eyes and surprise.  The father said, “we saw you dancing around and then you suddenly fell onto the ground. Are you ok?” I shook myself off in the same way that a deer does after a fright and said, “yes I am fine thank you.” “You sure?” the father asked. “Yes I am sure thank you for your help,” I replied. The father then patted me on the shoulder and said to his son who looked on in surprise, “Mr. Pickle is ok. Say bye to Mr. Pickle.” The son waved at me and said “Bye Mr. Pickle.” I waved at the young boy and watched the father and son walk away hand in hand. I felt a bittersweet smile form on my face as I thought about the irony of it all. I then turned around and saw the old lady standing by the open door of the sandwich shop. She was looking at me with an intimidating look of disdain. Still dressed in the Pickle costume I stared at her. I could feel the stinging pain of a few open wounds on my leg. As I dropped my shoulders in defeat and closed my eyes I heard the old lady yell, “you are fired! Take of my Mr. Pickle costume and get the hell out of here.”

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.

Meditation Is For Loosers.

I used to meditate every day. In fact now that I do not meditate every day- a certain guilt lingers in my gut. I feel like I am missing something. But I find it difficult to assume the lotus posture from day to day. Instead I get caught up in the silent fury of the day and try to spend as little time as I can erasing my thoughts. The other day a millionaire friend of mine said to me “don’t worry, meditation is for loosers.” I thought about what he said with intense consideration. I wondered if I was looser. “If you need to sit in silence and get all the thoughts out of your head….then you should live with cats and dogs,” he said to me when we were discussing meditation. “We are living in tough times, maybe the end of time as we know it…and as far as I am concerned when the plane is falling out of the sky I want to be around people who are going to work hard, brilliantly to bring the plane back into flight rather than people who are just going to sit there with their backs straight, clear their minds and focus on breathing. Meditation is for people who can’t handle the heat or the stress of their own mind…as far as I am concerned they are loosers,” he said before excusing himself from the room to make a gin and tonic.

Maybe meditation is for loosers. The minds of men and women, which become so compounded by unruly thoughts, needs to be controlled. But do we really need to assume some Asain posture and focus on our breath until the mind stops jabbering back and forth. Can’t we just find some activity that we love doing, some book that we love reading, or some worth while form of activism and pre-occupy ourselves with doing these things rather than turning off and going into a state of vegetation. A meditation teacher of mine once said that in a time of crisis meditation was one of the more pro-active things a human could do. I always thought that this was a nice way to rationalize away his inactivity….his looserness.

The world is in a state of degeneration. Every species is in decline. The human animal is destroying itself quickly. The sea is turning black. It makes sense to think “why not slow down and meditate. If everyone in the world did this we could avoid global warming, wars would end and things would return to a state of balance.” Maybe so, but like my millionaire friend said, “when the plane is going down I want to be around people who are doing something.”

Yesterday I saw a sign that said “Meditate For Global Warming Inside.” I went into the room which was filled with all different kinds of people meditating. Hundreds of human beings sitting silently together sharing the same silent air. Incense was burning and there was a Tibetan man in Buddhist garb sitting on a throne in the front of the room directing the meditation. A women waved me over towards an empty cushion upon which I sat and assumed the lotus position. After a few moments of settling my restless mind I focused on my breath and began to relax. As I shut my eyes the woman besides me whispered into my ears, “imagine the possibilities.”

After twenty minutes of sitting silently in meditation I could take it no more. I kept hearing my millionaire friends voice saying “meditation is for loosers.” I kept thinking about all the things I could be doing with this time. I could be finishing the book that has taken me weeks to read. I could be making art work, I could be walking in the woods, I could be paying bills, I could be doing all the things I am constantly putting off- but instead I am sitting here doing nothing. The Tibetan in the front of the room said “be mindful of our restless minds. Don’t allow our thoughts to carry us away. Stay here now and be nobody. Emptiness. A vessel of the divine.” I did not want to be a vessel of the divine. I wanted to be a vessel of myself- so with rage in my gut I stood up and said much louder that I expected to “meditation is for loosers.” The whole room of silent, peace loving meditator’s turned around. Some looked shocked others looked enraged. As I turned around and walked out I had heard someone yell at me “you are the looser!”

Maybe I am a looser. I am almost forty years of age and I am yet to have any idea what I am going to do with my life. I still take money from my parents and my credit is horrible. Depression often sneaks up on me like an entity that wants to steal my soul. I spend a lot of time staring and blank walls mystified by the fact that I am in the prime of my life yet I have little ambition. The desire to make money and succeed is as strong in me as it is in a slug. I’d rather spend my days playing my trumpet than working away my life. It is possible that I am a looser. My millionaire friend is always impressed by my ability to do nothing. When I tell him that my strategy to prevent global warming from destroying humanity is to make as little money as possible and to stay at home as much as I can, he sneers at me in disbelief. He like most people does not understand my form of activism. “You should just spend your days in meditation,” he says to me. I know what he really means. He is saying to me, “you are a lost cause, a looser who can not save the world and this is why you should meditate.” We are at the edge of the roof, maybe it is not such a bad idea to just sit down and be still.