In the Dark Brightly

​When I was a kid, the snowmachines would plow the roads in my neighborhood and leave the snow in a large pile in the middle of a cul-de-sac. The neighborhood boys would go out and mess with it and turn it into half a fortress and half a King of the Hill battleground.
The winters in Alaska are long and deep and often clear, and I was lucky in that my grandmother would often give me a little more time to spend outside after the street lights came on.
I’d find myself out on that snow hill alone a lot. In my snow pants and my snow jacket and my gloves and thick hat, I would lay down on top and stare up at the pearls that sat atop a clean black silk blanket. I must have been ten, twelve years old.
I didn’t think about love then, or at least not in the same way I do now. I didn’t think about death, or success, or what it meant to be happy. I was a troubled kid. I grew up in a healthy household but parental addiction and strife were always in the periphery and I was bullied a lot.  So a lot of who I am now was there then. Maybe even the purest, most enduring part: I just wanted to be. I wanted to… I don’t know, experience. Something. Anything of value. I was a kid staring into the cosmos, for a brief moment away from my loving but sometimes overbearing grandparents, away from my dad smelling like sweat and cheap beer, away from my mom asking me for cab money on my birthday. I didn’t know what happy was supposed to be, or sad, or normal. I was just a kid looking out into a deepness I couldn’t quantify and wanting to step out from where I was into somewhere autumn, somewhere with street musicians, somewhere paupers got to share a short conversation with princesses.
I read a lot then, as I’ve written about, in order to escape. And with a mind full of stories and an open sky above me, a quiet night holding me and with the straw colored glow haunting the snow around me… it was still. It was all so still. My wild mind could find a moment of peace to just hope for something different down the line. I didn’t know what I wanted then, and what I’ve actually wanted has changed over the years, but I knew I wasn’t fulfilled. Something in the night sky, this unfathomable depth beyond the stars, spoke to me of fulfillment. That it would be there somewhere.
I’m much older now. I view the same sky with more critical eyes, and more tired ones, and eyes more prone to tearing up for no reason. But that stillness still steps beside me. That calm still takes the coat from my shoulders and the hat from my head. I see the same stars I ever did, and they still tell me that they’re waiting for me to join them out on the patio with a decent beer, but not a fancy one. That high-end, blue-collar shit.
Nearly two decades later, I’m still that kid on the hill. A little more bruised. A little more scared. As home as ever in the dark brightly.

I’m Not Dead Yet

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted an update, BUT I STARTED THIS MOTHERFUCKER TWO YEARS AGO TODAY SO LET’S UPDATE!

I’m not going to wax poetic about what I’ve been up to, because it’s pretty straightforward. I met someone last fall that was unlike anyone I’d met in a long time. Things were good… great, even, for a while and I let myself get carried away. When it inevitably went south, I had no one to blame but myself. It’s a process, dealing with expectations (warranted or not) that you’ve set for yourself when they don’t pan out. Work has been… interesting for me as well, lately, for a number of reasons I won’t list here because it could potentially put me in an untenable situation.

Dealing with heartbreak and loneliness and occupational discont in addition to anxiety and a bipolar disorder and fluctuating depression, in addition to the contemplation of mortality and legacy that always creeps around the corner of every birthday and in the waning minutes of another hour I remind myself I could have been doing something productive, well, it takes a toll. Mentally, emotionally, physically. It’s easy to fall into a routine of spending money on any number of things in an effort to distract myself. If I’m paying for a top notch meal, the succulence and implied luxury trigger an endorphic response that, hey, life ain’t that bad. If I’m drinking in a crowded area, the music, the crowd, it serves to make me feel included even if I have no interest in taking part.

I’ve been in a slump of sorts. I’m trying to reign those base impulses in and begin focusing again on the steps I need to take to get where I want to be. A place where I can be a face among many, where I can start new relationships without all the weight of history and rumor and preconceived notions and tainted impressions. I’ve been trying to be more proactive in saving and in creating.

I’m writing a love story now. The book I was working on, one I did exclusive character spotlights for and whose Prologue I shared here, is on hold. In the wake of a woman, a revenant lingered with a story to tell and no body to do it with. I became the body. I became The Story.

It’s called Read in Denver. It was only intended to be a quick fluff piece, a short story, on the low end of 40,000 words and it has since blossomed into what will probably be double that at least. I’m only around halfway through but as I began writing the novel, I realized I couldn’t just shit out the bones of a work and pretend it was worth anybody’s time. This was a story that bothered me so much I had to halt other projects to work on it. It was a story about art and intense emotion and relationships, and I think all three things require the space to bloom or wilt into what they’re meant to be.

The book is fictional. The characters are fictional. Their story is a work of fiction. And yet, more than anything else, I’ve included a lot of things that are rooted in reality. There are scenarios that actually happened, memories that are repurposed for the plot, characters named after one person and modeled on another, lines of dialogue that were actually spoken.

Including devastating ones.

I wanted to pour as much of myself and my experiences into the book to grant an irrationality, a vulnerability, a rawness, a realness that could only otherwise be portrayed in  real time with real people. Is the book good?

Well, it’s not done. I hope it will be good. I hope I can capture things like anxiety and indecision and passion correctly. But of all my works so far, I can see this about Read in Denver: it will be my most personal, honest work.

Also, I’ve designated this year the Story Year. I’ve been occupying a good chunk of my spare time to A) watching a movie I’ve never seen each day and B) reading a lot more. I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in consuming a multitude of stories across a plethora of times and genres.

And you know, thats pretty much all I’ve been dealing with, I guess. Existential crises, the fear of dying alone, guilt at not writing more or more quickly, wondering why I’m still at the job I’m at in the city I’m in, and ways to ignore all of that and push it to the back of the line. I hope to get back on a more regular schedule with my blog posts, but we’ll see. I’m the sad sack who writes novels to deal with putting myself in a position to get hurt. At the end of the day, though, it really comes down to the fact that after work and writing and whatever personal and emotional struggles I slog through, I’m not left with a lot of energy to do much else.

So far, though, I’ve got Read in Denver to occupy most of my free mind. Will the end result be good?  I can hope. I like it so far, I think. It’s at least different than the other works I’ve done and that’s enough to excite me. I wish I could share more with you! The cover, the synopsis I haven’t written yet, the book itself. For now, I’ll leave you with this:

A candlestick was doing its damndest to seduce a feather duster.
“We should all be so lucky,” Mariah said.
“You’d be surprised.”
“What, is romance dead?”
“No. Romance is a clusterfuck.”

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The Time and the Thought

I don’t know how to use Tumblr, really. I go on, I follow some pages I like (usually art and poetry), and that’s about it. Most of my original stuttering is posted to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. A few nights back, I was browsing Tumblr, though, when someone simply asked people to message them what time it was and what we were thinking about. I was in a mood, so I obliged:

“It’s 1AM here. There is the remnant of a rum and coke in front of me and a filled reinforcement sitting just behind it, biding its time, waiting its turn.

What am I thinking about? I’m thinking about how erratic my emotions are. How quickly and deeply I fall in love and when it fails, how harshly I hurt and how desperately I try to move on to the next person to make me feel valued and handsome and sexual and creative.

I’m thinking about a woman who was so sweet and so brilliant and so beautiful, and how something as seemingly trivial as distance has left a chasm between us now. It’s difficult to be intimate and then go back to being friends when whatever spark is between two people erupts into a full-blown electrocution.

I’m thinking about how I’m dissatisfied with my job and how I wish my writing paid the bills. How I wish someone important would take a chance on what I know is good, what thousands of people have enjoyed and what I have no idea how to market.

I’m thinking about love and isolation and how the snow glitters under the street light and how I wish I could battle the cold by pulling someone close into my ribs.

I’m thinking about life and death and how I’m terrified of both, and how the first is still so beautiful and the latter so definitive, and how they hold each other’s hand like strained but dedicated lovers.

I’m thinking I wish I had more people I could talk to that might understand. Instead, I have this dying rum and coke, and its twin I’ll murder after.”

Sex and Online Dating

I’ve been on a self-imposed celibacy kick for a few months now, starting right around the time I decided I seriously needed to stop drinking less.  It’s not that I regret being promiscuous or that I’m going to, I don’t know, save myself for marriage from here on out (I don’t and I’m not respectively), it’s just that I’ve reached a point where just fucking around has put a strain on me mentally to where it’s affected my ability to pursue a healthy relationship.

Not that sex isn’t healthy! Not that even casual sex isn’t healthy! Thing is, though, the last committed relationship I’ve been in was four and a half years ago. Oh, I’ve dated a few women since and been exclusive to them and still even care deeply about them as friends, but I was exclusive out of choice, not an expected arrangement. I don’t know if they were loyal to me; I didn’t care, I didn’t expect them to be. But boundaries set and established monogamy for both parties? It’s been a long,  long time since I’ve had a girlfriend. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been anyone’s boyfriend.

Anyway, to understand where I’m at with this celibacy thing, it’s probably best to understand where I am in terms of how I view sex and sexuality.

I grew up in a modest household with a Christian grandmother and a mellpw grandfather, but I had addict parents and a step-father who owned and ran strip clubs. My mom was a dancer, and my dad was sort of a player when he was young. There was a very liberal mindset on the fringe areas of my youth that fascinated me. I was never taught to body-shame. I was never taught to be ashamed of myself or my sexuality. I was always taught to be respectful of people in general, but especially women.

Anyway, at some point growing older, it all seemed simple to me: if you’re being safe, if you’re being honest with your situations and everything is consensual, then there shouldn’t be a problem. Your sex life is none of anyone’s business, nor is theirs yours. Feel free to save yourself for marriage or for a select few or however many you want. As long as you’re safe, honest, and clearly consenting.

Now, I’ve never been good with women. Romantically, I mean. Our relationships either failed due to infidelity (theirs), depression (mine), differing plans for the future (ours) and probably countless other things that I never even noticed.  I’m a great friend (or I try to be) and I’m a romantic at heart, but I’m terrible at picking up on hints from interested women and I constantly (or have in the past) feel like they’re going to wake up one day and realize they could be doing so much better.

Anyway, sex. Because sex has seldom been a problem over the last 8 years and yet, AND YET when it all began, there were all the indicators that I would be fucking miserable at mixing sex and relationships.

I lost my virginity when I was 15 to a girl my age who was not a virgin and who I liked very much until she cheated on me a week later and wound up with three kids before she was legally allowed to drink. I was distraught, temporarily, as teenagers are wont to be, but found solace in the arms of someone else not long after, albeit briefly. This woman I loved deeply and her family was close to me.

But this isn’t about love, silly, it’s about sex, and I didn’t have much of it. Like, count on one hand the times total in the three or four months between when I lost my virginity (it was an early February) to the last instance (late May? June? Shit, it might have been an October, this was over ten years ago) and then I didn’t have that kind of contact again for years.

I had opportunities, don’t get me wrong. I partied a lot, a lot, and people get frisky at parties, but the only two people I had slept with I cared deeply about, I was super-duper depressed in general,  and so – back then – I WAS saving myself. I just didn’t know for who or what.

I was really into this girl when I turned 18. She introduced me to a bunch of weird music that I liked but would never have discovered otherwise, and we would end up at each other’s houses fooling around but never go all the way. I liked her a lot, man, and I constantly asked her out but she wanted an open relationship (the other guy’s name was Kenny. My first name is Kenneth; this pissed me off to no end). I didn’t want an open relationship – she was the only woman I wanted – but I was willing to make an exception if it was the only way I could get her. Then she FLIPPED OUT on me when I went on a friend date with a friend-girl.

You see? Healthy relationships. I told her that I couldn’t handle the double-standard, especially when I was being yelled at for a non-romantic relationship with a friend who had been there for me through some heavy shit. I broke it off. I was headed to Europe in three weeks and while I would have been faithful had we been in a relationship,  I wasn’t about to start one just to leave right away.

Here’s the thing, though: 18 and single or not, I still knew jack shit about talking to women. A few email addresses and drunk kisses aside, my trip abroad was sexless. This did nothing to detract from the incredible experience I had, and I was more concerned with the hand I paralyzed and spent two months fixing, but my hormones were out of control and I grew frustrated.

When I finally had sex again, it was terrible. I was so bad. I felt so bad for her for agreeing to that. Holy shit, let me tell you, I’m astonished that word of that didn’t spread, that I wasn’t mocked in the streets, that I ever regained the confidence to give it another shot.

I ended up in a relationship not long after that, though, and she was a lot more patient with my inexperience. It helped that there was an actual relationship involved, too. There is strength in an emotional connection to support a physical relationship.

That relationship did end, eventually, though. Not prettily. I’ve found break-ups are seldom neat and romantic notions don’t help for shit when someone tells you they don’t love you anymore.

A strange thing happened then, and I’m not sure how or when: where I failed in relationships I began to excel in flings and one-night stands. Now, I have never misled a woman for sex. I’ve never lied about myself or the situation. If I wasn’t interested in a relationship, I would make that clear and if she was uncomfortable with that arrangement, it didn’t happen.

There were a myriad of reasons for the experiences. Mutual attractions. Mutual emotional desperation. The need for release or just to have fun. Though I’m not friends with most of them now, the reason why has almost never been because of that.

I mean, I love women in general. I love the first time a woman and I come together because there it’s incredibly intimate. Even if, in the large scheme of things, it means nothing, there’s an intimacy to the whole experience. You discover each other’s likes and dislikes, the erogenous zonez, everyone kisses differently, wears their hair differently, puts on a different perfume. It’s exciting, it’s fun. That’s the point.

Then it stopped being fun for me. Not because of the sex or the women,  but because all of these other aspects of my life were falling apart and I felt like a piece of shit. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically, I was withdrawing from all of my friends, I wasn’t writing hardly at all and I hadn’t been for months. My life lacked substance beyond the day-to-day and I started realizing you can only live in the moment for so long when you’re not doing anything good for yourself.

I decided to be celibate while I figured myself out. This is weird for me for two major reasons:
1. It’s difficult for a guy who was super shy and awkward and didn’t have sex through 99% of high school to pretty much always having options to go back to not having sex at all. I realize that it had reached a point where I was doing it less because it was thrilling and more because I was desperate for companionship, but, again, I was pretty honest about that up front and it took me a long time to see that as a problem.

2. People really want to have sex with you when you really don’t and some of them will get offended when you turn them down. If you’re reading this and you’re one of them: I’m terrible in bed. Just ask anyone.

Anyway, this focusing on myself shit has been really good. I’m drinking a lot less, saving a little more money, and writing a LOT more. I’ll be putting another book out at the beginning of next month. I’ve been waking up rested after having been more productive and I would say 9/10 mornings I wake up generally happy. I’ve been focusing a lot more on trying to make time for friends, online and over the phone if I can’t do it in person.

I’ve started trying to date again, too. Like,  seriously date. Dinner or coffee or a movie or fucking anything that involves me spending time with someone I like and find interesting, and it’s nice because I can go into it with a clear mind, a better understanding of myself and my goals, and comfortable in trying to develop a relationship of real substance.

It hasn’t gone well so far.

Soooo on a lark, I signed up for OKCupid. I’m not even mad about it. I’m not embarrassed. Shit, I dished out $50 bucks so if anyone likes my profile, I can see who it was because I am genuinely bad at noticing.

So it works like this, this online dating shit: you fill out your profile. What do you like? Your favorite foods/tv/books/movies, what are you working on, etc. Message me if: this and that and here or there. Then you can answer from this endless stream of questions. It asks you a question,  what you’ll accept out of someone else’s responses,  and how much it means to you (a little, somewhat, very).

The more questions you answer,  the more it can tell you who matches your interests, likes and dislikes, and whose interests and opinions oppose yours. I’ve had it for a week or two now, and I have to say: it’s ridiculously accurate. I’ll see a profile with a 90% match and they’ll list off a dozen books, films and shows I like, list hobbies that line up with my own and so on and so forth. It’s exciting and frightening all the same.

Things I’ve learned so far:

1. My best matches seem to be in Los Angeles and New York and looking for people in their general area only. This seems to confirm things I already know.

2. Women who match me 55% or less locally have been blowing up my profile.  I can’t imagine why.

3. I’m hesitant to reach out to someone locally because Anchorage is a place where mouths like to run and I seem to have cultivated a much more negative opinion about me than positive, some of which is justified, some of which is from years ago, and some of which is completely false.

But there has been some rumblings of interest and that’s refreshing and a bit encouraging for me. So we’ll see how it goes, and maybe I’ll meet someone at a bookstore or something, if not online. Maybe the woman of my dreams will send me a private message.

Anyway, I’m not sorry for having been sexually active or for being open about my sexuality, and with one exception (an incident which was not my fault), I have zero regrets about that part of my life.

And I’m no saint now. My libido is high and I doubt that will change. Growing up requires introspection in every part of one’s life, though, and I’ve seen that mine lacks a good amount of healthy, supportive, communicative relationships. It so happens that certain aspects need to change in order for me to change that,  and I’m happy to have made those changes.

My relationships with my friends have improved dramatically over the last few months because I finally had enough courage to ask for help, to ask for someone to talk to, and to ask for a few encouraging words when I’ve needed them.

I want to be able to share the love for life and art and this world and so much else with someone, too, and I want to do it without these knee-jerk thoughts and impulses and feelings I’ve had for strangers that catch my eye. I’ve had a pretty shitty track record with that.

Will OKCupid work in the long run? Who knows? I have a couple friends who got married off of it. I’ve had two other friends get married after meeting online in other ways. Right now, I’m taking it a day at a time without the pressure of sex or awkward silences, and with a good amount of information about me (and her) already up front to parse through.

Worst case scenario, nothing happens and I just made you read about my sex life.