Late Thoughts

It’s two in the morning here and I’m sitting in my work-discarded, cushy, swiveling office chair racking my mind on what to write. I’ve asked people for suggestions at this point and been given nothing, which, good. “I’m a writer, right?” I said. “Shouldn’t be taking the easy way out.”

If only it were that easy. I’m finishing up a novella of sorts and have yet to start my next novel, so there’s nothing update-worthy there. I’m back home from Montana a week now and already back into the work routine. My life is as regular as ever.

Sort of.

Every so often I have to remind myself why I write. I don’t think I’m necessarily very good at it, but it’s cathartic, it’s a nice hobby, and I like to make things. I have friends who don’t like to read and others who don’t like fiction at all. But I do. I fucking love stories. I love lives and all the drama that goes into them. I love plot twists and strange worlds, magic and new tech, break-ups, make-ups, births and shocking deaths. I love stories, ones on the page – typed and illustrated – and ones on the screen.

I love stories I make myself. I like to think I’m not boring, that I have stories I can tell that will entertain or educate or make you think. I write books for other people, and this blog… well, mostly for myself, I think, sometimes, but also because I want people to know me and understand who I am and why I am the way I am.

But entertainment? I love it. I love making something, relationships and locations and histories out of nothing but frustration and airy imagination. I like to give these things to people and take them out of their troubles and concerns for a while.

Creating a product and putting it out is one thing, though. Getting feedback is something else entirely, something nerve-rackimg, devastating and euphoric. Getting a good review is like a drug. For a guy who struggles daily to try and figure out what his purpose on this planet is, hearing that someone is excited to read or having had read something I cooked up in this clusterfuck of a head is like snorting cocaine on a rocket flying to an intergalactic strip club made of candy. Or something, I don’t know, I put words together in a line, I’m not a metaphor doctor.

I have to say, though, I hate pitching my work to read. I feel pretentious, hocking my version of art to someone. But if they read and like it, hell, I love talking about it then. Hearing what their favorite parts are, who their favorite characters are, talking about why I wrote certain things certain ways, or how and why I developed certain characters. I love seeing people enthusiastic about my work.

I’ve got an accomplished comedian friend tell me she’s got my first novel in her bookcase and she proudly shows it off. I had a girl find me and with excited eyes tell me she found in her pocket the napkin I wrote the names of my books on. I’ve sold copies to customers at my day job when I started talking about the Kindle app they downloaded. I’ve had friends read my books multiple times or reach out to me to say they can’t wait to finish them or for me to write the next one. I’ve had a woman who doesn’t likr fiction at all talk to me excitedly aboht my writing because she likes that I don’t think the way she does, that I see and appreciate things that are foreign to her.

Most of these things have happened as recently as the last week. Also in the last week, a woman – an immensely talented artist in her own right – saw my office. It was messy, cluttered, full of books and notes and a fridge with microwaveable shit food. I haven’t shown my office to many people. It’s my sanctum sanctorum (that’s for you, Dr. Strange fans), my think tank, the place I get down and dirty with my feelings and my fictions. It’s my safe place, and I feel nervous showing it because… well, I’m a writer. Right? I feel like garbage about myself sometimes and I worry about what people are going to think about this workplace that means the world to me. And she sees this, this person I want to make the best possible impression to, and she gets it. She looks at me with just unbridled excitement and happiness. She knows what it means to me and she threw her support behind her smile 100% when she saw it, because she knew as fucked up and messy as it was, it was my baby there.

It’s a rush to have people like what I do. It’s a rush to talk about it and spill my secrets. It’s nice to know I can make people smile, make people escape, male people think and feel. It’s a rush to know that artists…artists of all kinds, those creative people, people I care a lot about and whose opinions I hold in high regard… it’s nice to know they think I do a decent job and that they support my endeavors, regardless of where I carry them out.

I have a lot of love for my craft and for my fans, honest to God fans. I never thought I’d see the day.

I put my heart on the page and into my office. Every day I wonder if I’m doing the right thing by even trying to write. Then I remember that napkin. The re-reads. The excitement. The private messages. The look on her face. I spent two hours trying to figure out what to write about tonight.

Writing. For me, it’s always writing. For you, well,

you’ll always get stories from me.

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Father of Mine

I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot lately. Not the one who sired me and left; the one who adopted me and left. I still call him Dad,  but since I have four figures in my life that factor into that role somehow (Father, Dad, Grandpa, Step-Dad), to avoid any confusion for anybody who casually knows me, I’ll call him Rick for the sake of this post. Because his name is Rick.

I had a customer a couple days that reminded me of Rick. He was an older gentleman, late forties or fifties, with a heavy jacket and one of those suitcases with the wheels on it. I was getting him set up with a basic phone, “just a cheap little thing so I can call up a friend when I want to”. I don’t know if he was homeless or just bouncing around. I know he expressed interest in moving down to the lower 48 (California, preferably) and was concerned about the phone working down there. He had a faint whiff of the previous night’s booze, that sort of metallic soundness I used to recognize on my dad. My customer was grateful for the help and shook my hand tightly before he left.

It reminded me of my dad back when he had his shit together, sort of, before his demons began growing up and getting together to buy a condo in his mind and running that ship into shore in increasingly disastrous ways. Then I realized Rick’s birthday had passed by a few days previously. So he’s been on my mind since.

My dad was the youngest of three kids, and the one most likely to do reckless things. He loved to play the guitar and skipped school to go skiing in dangerous places, parts of the mountains that hadn’t been cleared for trails yet. He broke a lot of bones out there and blew out both knees and ankles, which he had to get surgery on later in life.

He had a high school sweetheart, blonde hair, blue eyes, soft southern twang. Her father was the football coach. She was a beautiful woman. She was also the worst person I’ve ever met in my life. But I’ll get back to that.

They eventually broke up and my dad bounced around a bunch. California, Florida, Hawaii, back to Alaska. He’s on the front page of the newspaper somewhere for helping clean up animal corpses from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Eventually, he found himself working construction. Painting, carpentry but primarily heavy machinery. Paving roads, building runways. There are pictures of me on bulldozers as a toddler that are adorable. I was a cutie. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Somewhere along the line, he met my mother and they got married (I think? I’m 90% sure and in the dustiest corners of my childhood memory, I recall some pretty dirty divorce proceedings). Somewhere along the line, she cheated on Rick and got pregnant with me. Rick knew I wasn’t his. He put his name on my birth certificate anyway, intent on loving me and raising me as his own.

Rick and my mom split up before I turned two. My mom had primary custody of me for a while, but due to reasons I’ve detailed in other posts, eventually I found myself back with Rick. Sort of. Rick was sleeping on his parent’s couch while he worked long days at the construction yard. He’d come home late, pull from the large stock of cheap beers in the fridge and turn on some late night television. He smelled like Budweiser and sweat. It wasn’t pleasant, but that was DAD smell. It was comforting.

You know, there was the time he passed out drunk in my best friend’s front lawn in the middle of the day and told me, his eight year old son, “don’t fucking touch me” when I worriedly tried to check on him, sending me crying home as the ambulance loaded him into the back.

Or the time he and his psycho wife dipped out of Alaska for two years to try and avoid the anger management classes they had to take for domestically abusing each other, with nary a phone call to show for it. Or Frank Zappa when I showed him this fancy program on my computer where I could allegedly illegally download any song you could think of.

Or the time he took me on a shopping spree to Toys R Us. $100 could buy a ton of shit in the early 90s.

Or the time he introduced me to David Lee Roth via a vinyl playing of Just a Gigolo. Or the Eagles via cassette tape in his beat up brown Ford truck.

Or the time I came downstairs in the middle of the night to see him sitting in the recliner with blood all over the front of him because his wife broke his nose with a lamp while he was sleeping, or the time he picked up some young, hitchhiking Kiwi girl who kept telling me how cute I was and I was too young to know what love is, but I was old enough to know her dialect was my new favorite thing in life.

I knew all of my dad’s friends, too. Kirk, who died of diabetes and whose gold chain my dad never removed from his neck after that. Marty, who used to be called the Bonecrusher, but who I recall drunkenly and nakedly slithering out of his hot tub to collapse on his back deck while his friends and my dad laughed and laughed. Danny, who was an amazing guy, whose Rottweilers were the most loving dogs ever, who failed to maintain his brakes and accidentally killed a man and his son when his vehicle failed to stop. Vince, my godfather, who was killed when a drunk driver ran into him, whose son was my first experience with suicide. Mark, who owned a funeral home that I used to have sleepovers in.

I learned a lot from my dad. I’ve got a lot of good stories with and about my dad. He taught me how to smile and say sweetly “Esadah” to someone who had wronged me, because it meant, of course, “Eat shit and die, asshole.”

But, I dunno. I just remember him showing up less and less. When he rediscovered and married his high school sweetheart, they just sucked the life out of each other. It was a slow build, but it happened and all I could see was this man who always had a bit of trouble with drinking, but had a lot of life in him. He had a lot of love for me, and I remember being a kid and listening to my mom and him talking on the phone and I could hear that they still loved each other but I couldn’t understand what they did: that they would never work together.

So when my dad finds his high school love again, it seems like it’s picture perfect. And it turned fucking awful. His drinking increased. Hers did, too, and underneath her beautiful Southern charm lay a petty, selfish, vengeful, violent animal. They were in and out of jails in Alaska, Nevada, Florida, Arizona, half the time because she lied to put my dad in just to admit to lying later and serve time herself. My grandmother, God bless her soul, tried to help them out with money and they slowly bled her. My stepmother would call up and demand more money and when my grandmother refused her, she would cuss and swear at her, at the sweetest and most generous woman I’ve ever known.

It culminated in a prison stint for a couple years in Arizona. Domestic violence. Did my stepmother lie about this one? I honestly don’t know. This woman tried to gouge his eye out with a key once. She tried to run him over with a truck once. She’s beaten him, cut him, broken his bones. Did he finally snap and hit her? Maybe. Probably. Don’t know. I know that while he was in there, she got together with another man and used my Rick’s social security number to commit fraud.

Somehow she’s not in jail. Somehow she managed to reconcile with my dad and they’re back together again. And I feel for my dad because there’s not much left of him there anymore. He can’t walk well because a broken back he suffered on a construction job years ago has come back to haunt him. She’s got her talons in everything he does. He’s a wreck. And I feel for him for that.

But here’s the thing.

My grandparents were getting old and getting closer to passing away. They made it clear to my uncle, my aunt and my dad that their life insurance and possessions were to be split three ways between my uncle, my aunt, and me. They had given my dad money for years to get by, despite his time in jail and prison and despite how much of a blood-sucking harpy his wife was. I, on the other hand, had made it by on my own. Moved to Los Angeles, moved to Seattle, paid my own rent, bought my own food, and I never got so much as a speeding ticket. Ever. In my life. Completely clean record. So I was entitled to a third of their worldly belongings.

This was not an arrangement I was aware of until after they both passed. My uncle came to me to let me know, and though I was riddled with the worst grief I’ve ever known, it was a small silver lining. It was enough money to get me out of debt, out of the state, with a fresh start to my life and even a little spare time to focus on my writing. Their final gift to me was to help me get a leg up on things.

One catch: they hadn’t had a chance to change it in their will before they died. It was still set to be split between my uncle, my aunt and Rick. So my uncle went to my dad again. I thought to myself at that point, well, he’ll probably want to split it, then, and that’s fair.

What I wasn’t expecting was for him to give fully half to his wife and blow the other half without a cent -or even a word- my way.

I like to think I’m not particularly materialistic. I’ve been living out of two suitcases for five years. I sleep on an air mattress when I’m settled down and couches, futons and floors when I’m not, and I’m content with that. I know there isn’t a way to write this without sounding petty or greedy, but I felt wronged and hurt and I saw my hopes for a breath of fresh air slip away. So there it is.

He called me on my birthday this year from a number I didn’t recognize. I was working, so I missed the call, but checked my voicemail later and got the birthday wishes. I considered giving him a call back after work, but then the rest of my life happened.

That’s literally where I’m at in my life with him. I was raised by Rock’s parents from the age of 5. He missed my high school years, my adult years. He didn’t know I almost died in the hospital last year. He took what was left to me and in turn will leave nothing for me, either. There’s a sense of freedom, I guess, in that inasmuch as it means that going forward I know everything I’ve earned, I’ve earned through hard work and dedication. But it leaves me ambivalent to his presence or lack thereof in my life.

Part of me hurts intensely for him, for the dreams he had of a good life, an ideal life with his high school sweetheart and a son that turned into…this mess. His nightmare and the shame I know he feels. Part of me just wants to put all that behind me and just focus on my life and myself and my future instead of getting bogged down with the black sheep of and regrets inherent in my family. I miss my grandparents every day and I sometimes wish I had a close relationship with family members the way most of my friends do. Then again, I’ve relied on myself and felt so alone for so long, I don’t think anything else would feel natural.

I love my dad, but he’s a ghost to me anymore. I haven’t called him to wish him a happy birthday and, though it’s been a year or two since we’ve actually spoken, I don’t know that I’m going to.

Kisses Have Pictures Beat

I was on my way home, riding in the back of a cab and staring out the window at the downtown lights in the darkness of night. I don’t know why, but my mind found itself thinking about the last woman I truly opened myself up to, the one that, two years ago, destroyed any notion of trust I had and brought me to my lowest point during one of the most tragic periods of my life.

I don’t know why I thought about her. She broke a promise to be there when my grandfather passed away. She didn’t so much as send me a text when I was dying in the hospital, nor after. We tried to be civil for a while. I reached a point where I decided, after six years of friendship and love, I couldn’t – rather, shouldn’t – have her in my life anymore. When I cut my ties without a word, silence was my response. Well and truly done, then.

You know what I think it was? A couple weeks ago, I saw her at the bar. She was with friends and she was drunk. We walked past each other and someone jostled me on my right just as she put her left foot forward. Our elbows bumped into each other. I flinched. She didn’t. She kept going forward, never noticing me. I kept going forward, quietly relieved.

In the back of the cab, I went from thinking about the shitty parts to the last time it was good. Before she lied, before she left. We had rented a hotel room just for something different
We had sex. It was good, but it was always good with us. Afterwards, we turned the television on but kept the volume low. We lay there, curled around each other, talking for hours about everything and nothing.

She got up before I did the next morning, ready for work. I blinked awake and called her over. I sat on the edge of the bed, arms around her waist, and we kissed. Passionately. Desperately.

I knew it was the last kiss between us that would ever mean anything. It was a farewell and I felt my heart breaking as the door closed, though it wouldn’t be complete for a few months further.

People like to talk about their first kiss. Their first kiss ever, as if more often than not it wasn’t a bumbling, awkward thing. But that very first kiss isn’t the only special one. It isn’t the only one with a story. Often times, it’s hardly even the best story.

I have kissed a lot of women, and I’ve kissed many more times. I haven’t always remembered them. It hasn’t always been women I liked. There have been instances when alcohol or grief or anger has driven me into the arms of a woman who would receive me.

One time I spent an entire evening trying to hit on a girl and when it didn’t go anywhere, I kissed her friend – who I had known for years and worked with – at last call. And while I was attracted to the second woman as well, that was still a really shitty thing to do.

First kisses are weird. They can be bad. They can be great. They can be awkward.

Not too long ago, I finally got to take a woman out on a date that I had fancied for quite a while. We spent eight hours together. Dinner, movies, drinks, karaoke, back to my place to relax. We kissed for the first time and despite how many hundreds of times I’ve kissed someone before, this time I had no idea what to do with my hands. The kissing itself was fine, enjoyable and Lord, she was beautiful, and maybe it was because I liked her so much and I psyched myself up, but as she pulled away from my house, all I could think was that I had fucked it up.

We’re just friends, still, if you were wondering.

The first kiss is something special. Not just the first kiss ever, but the first kiss with each person. The first time you and someone else decide maybe there’s enough chemistry to lock lips. It’s different with everyone.

I had a first kiss with a woman in Texas while Katrina raged around us and Black Sabbath played on stage and that’s the most metal fucking thing that’s ever happened to me. She and I still disagree about a lot of things (mainly my attitude), but I still hold so much fondness for her as a woman, an artist, a musician, and an animal enthusiast.

I had a first kiss with a woman in a Bed, Bath and Beyond. Who the fuck knows why? We weren’t dating long. I liked her a lot, but our relationship was full of whimsy and randomness and so we were surrounded by towels and mattresses and we kissed and it wasn’t spectacular. No fireworks went off. No parade marched through. But it was cute, and it was our kiss, and we’re still close. We had Easter dinner together this year.

My first “girlfriend” was when I was in 4th grade. She was two years older, a black girl, and while I didn’t and still don’t give a shit about interracial relationships, there were some boys in her grade that felt a white guy shouldn’t be hanging around and I got my ass kicked a handful of times for it. Which didn’t stop me for a second because I have more balls than brains sometimes.

We played Spin the Bottle, she and I, and some other kids in the neighborhood. We kissed. That was nice. But then she wanted to “French” and I chickened out. I did. I didn’t want to be bad. Now we’re introducing tongues?! What is that madness?

…I don’t…wait a second.

I have no fucking idea who the first girl I kissed with tongue was.

I do, however, remember being in Germany. After a night of drinking through Oktoberfest, I wound up drinking at a party hostel and dancing on a table with an American girl from the Midwest. We laughed off demands to get off the furniture, we drank our ass off, we stayed up til sunrise. I never actually went to sleep that night, so we ran into each other again as she checked out of the hostel to move on, on to her next destination. I remember she kissed me. I had one hand on her hip and she had her hands on my shoulders. It was a sweet moment, and we both smiled as we separated and she moved out the door.

First kisses and last kisses can be the same, sometimes, and they can be worthwhile.

I have kissed sober and drunk, clean and sloppy. I have kissed with passion and pecked with disinterest, and kissed with a hunger, a need for a connection. Sometimes I got it. Sometimes I didn’t.

I did a theater show once and afterwards, after I had signed some kid’s copies of the program and said hello to my friends and family, a girl cornered me and shoved me against the wall and plunged her tongue down my throat. She said seeing me on stage was just, MMM, yeah.

Which is ridiculous,because I’ve seen recordings of my shows and I’m a terrible actor.

I was in a show with another woman,one I had a small, nothing-serious crush on, and instinctively, we kissed gently before the show started. We both smiled, she said, “We just kissed”, we both laughed and then nothing ever happened again.

First and final kisses can be the same and be completely pointless.

Final kisses…

The last kiss on the lips of someone you care about can be a haunt.

That fucking hotel room.

The doorway of a three-story mansion, my birthday, good food, good sex, good movies but my ex is distant and I ask if she wants to break up and she insists she doesn’t, and we kiss so goddamn tightly and I find out two days later that she got drunk and confessed to a mutual friend that she did, in fact, want to end things.

That wasn’t the last time we kissed, but it was the last time it meant anything.

That kiss with the Canadian girl in the back of a cab in Barcelona where I’m pulling back and desperately cranking the window open because I’m convinced one or both of us is going to vomit at any moment.

Kisses, man. A picture may say a thousand words, but a kiss will tell stories, and it will pull inside parts of you that you didn’t know you had, emotions positive and negative that have no goddamn names.

Physical intimacy is a beautiful thing. Being close with someone, being accepted by someone and having a mutual need or desire for each other is enticing. That moment where two people feel each other out – does it work, does it not – and you get that heat and that taste, and their hair is in your face or your hands and their clothes are twisted in your fingers and people are watching, or maybe they’re not, maybe there are candles, maybe it’s Bed, fucking Bath and Beyond, and there’s just a moment. A moment where nothing else matters. Whether the kiss is good or bad, there’s that one moment.

I look back on my past with lucidity, and I view the good with the bad with the embarrassing. I’ve had kisses that are forgettable. I’ve had kisses that I miss. Ones that are checkered and that shouldn’t have happened and ones that should have happened much sooner than they did.

Hell, there are kisses that never happened that haunt me for the sake of never being known for sure.

And there will be kisses to come, I’m sure. Good and bad, both with stories. Hopefully, too, one of those will be the start again of something truly special. Something that makes the rest of it just a footnote.

Blondie

This post is not about the band, though I have a soft spot in my heart for them as well. Instead, it’s about my friend Amber, whom I’ve known for a solid decade now and who remains one of my best and most trusted friends.

After graduating middle school, most of my friends went to what was generally known as the “rich” school. I was saddled on a boundary line and ended up at a school that wasn’t quite the most infamous for fights and general dickishness, but it was up there. I spent my freshman and sophomore years there and while I didn’t have many friends, the friends I made counted for something.

My junior year, a new high school opened. This one was higher up in the mountainous region we called “the hill”, and it fucked up the zoning system for schools. I ended up getting sent to the school most of my middle school friends went to just in time for those friends to move to the new school. I was angry, lonely and displaced. I was partying a lot then, too. I wasn’t very friendly and I didn’t want to be friendly. I had friends. Like I gave a flying fuck what anyone else thought.

I mean, I did. I was super sensitive about a lot of things. I just hid it behind a veneer of sarcasm and rage.

I met Amber that year. We shared Marine Biology later (this has some weird relevance). She was dating this kid at the time who was into some sketch shit and who I probably should have been more cautious of than I was, but I always had a problem with common sense. I liked her. A lot. But she wasn’t single, so I turned my eyes towards her friend, instead. That didn’t go well, either.

Romantically, shit just didn’t work out for me there. Truthfully, it didn’t work out for me in high school much at all. But where Amber and Amanda weren’t love interests, they were decent lab partners and really good friends. I remember saving their ass with some poster board project on sea life I drunkenly cobbled together and walked them through because I was a functioning alcoholic at 16. I was and remain a terrible sculptor, though, and our paper mache whale (it was supposed to be a bowhead, I think. Maybe a fin) somehow had no head. It just…tucked into its chicken wire rib cage. We got a shit grade, it got hung up on the ceiling anyway, and when the electricians crawled through the ceiling (that wing of the school was scheduled to be remodeled the next year) some wires got crossed and out of thirty or forty whales, ours was the only one that caught on fucking fire.

Good times.

Amber and I talked on MSN messenger a lot. Do you remember that? It was a solid messaging system for many years. She spoke to me despite her boyfriend’s raging jealousy and even when he made her stop talking to me online, we would catch up in class. Amber is a beautiful girl. Gorgeous, even. She was a sophomore with friends in every class. I was a loud-mouthed loner asshole.

She never judged me. She never truly got mad at me. She never ignored me. She never betrayed my confidence. She was my friend.

At the time, I knew that I had been adopted on my father’s side. I hadn’t talked much about it outside of my closest group of friends,who I lived and worked with at the time. It was my junior year, though, that I opted to try and reach out to my mysterious biological father via an old address my mom had.

I wrote and sent a picture of myself and my date from junior prom. I said some shit about myself. School. Hobbies. That sort of thing. He sent a very basic letter back about how he liked golf and owned a bicycle shop in Sacramento. No picture. Asked for no further correspondence. He was a marine biologist at some point, which makes it weirdly hilarious because in Marine Biology class:

Amber was the first person I told when I sent my letter and she was the first person I told when I got that shit letter back and she gave me a long hug and made sure I was okay and never, as far as I know, breathed a word about it to anyone.

Our friendship branched out some from that class. We would run into each other at parties she got invited to that I would crash. We wrote emails to each other, long ones, in computer class, about our weeks. About our lives. She dated some shitty guys that I told her she was better than. I dated some shitty girls that she told me I was better than.

I graduated. She graduated and invited me to her graduation barbecue. I met and befriended her parents who I still deeply care about. She gave me an old t-shirt that I think used to belong to her brother.

After I graduated, I planned on going to Europe for a few weeks with a friend. I took several photos of Amber before I left and didn’t tell her why. When I got to Paris, France, I found the artist’s district with the most amazing landscape, portrait and caricature artists in the city and when I found the right one, I had him do two portraits (one of Amber and one of another close female friend) from photos. He used only black and white chalk and did an incredible job. It wasn’t cheap, nor should it have been.

My friend and I lost those portraits on the way from Paris to Amsterdam. Of course. So we went back, and I found the guy again and he was packing up his shit and getting ready to go and I begged him to stay and do it again. I offered to pay him double. He looked me in the eye, saw my desperation, did the portraits and only took maybe ten bucks more than he had the first time.

Amber liked it. Her mom loved it. I was happy I could give anything back to one of the few people that helped me get through high school.

College was rolling around. I initially hadn’t planned on going, but something struck the right nerve. I applied to the University of Nevada, Reno and got accepted. I scouted the campus out and fell in love. Before I realized I couldn’t afford it and withdrew, I implored Amber and her mom to check it out based on the fact that it was one of the few campuses that offered in-state tuition rates for Alaskan students. I did not end up moving to Reno. Amber did, and loves it.

Then my 21st birthday ended up rolling around. I had had some pretty hardcore birthday parties (my 20th is notable for many things, none of which were good decisions), and Amber and I got to talking. I didn’t have the money for Vegas. I didn’t have the energy to stay at home with local friends. I wanted to be around someone I loved and trusted who I knew wouldn’t pressure me to do anything.

Hahaha.

So I flew down to Reno for a few days. Right off the bat, we got invited to a Risky Business party, so Amber, her roommate and I ended up at a house party in dress shirts and underwear. Beer pong was raging, I was drinking Jack Daniels from the bottle. At a certain point in the night, my eyes settled on a guy who had tried to play two of my female friends at the same time and had seemingly lost both. But both of those friends were at the party. And one of them leaped on him, in love all over again.

In my drunken stupor, I couldn’t handle it. Fuck this, fuck that guy. I took my bottle of Jack  in one hand and steadied myself with the other and loudly proclaimed “You’re a piece of fucking shit.”

Ladies and gentlemen: do not ever pick a fight with someone in a state you’re not familiar with in a house you’ve never been to with a guy you barely know in the middle of a crowd of people who either like him or are indifferent to you, especially if you’re in your underwear.

I was in no position to fight that night, nor were the circumstances remotely survivable even if I were. Amber and her roommate dragged me out of the party into a car driven by…someone that appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Amber and I got in a yelling match when we got back to her place. She broke down in tears and walked away, inside.

Honestly, I’ve rarely felt worse than I did that night.

I had always held myself up as the one person that would never make her cry, never make her feel shitty, and here I was in her state, with her friends, taking her away from a party she was invited to and being an entitled asshole after she invited me to spend my birthday at her place. I still hate it. I felt and feel awful.

She didn’t even mention it the next day. We carried on. We had a solid day, we got dinner at my favorite restaurant, Olive Garden (this was 5 years ago. Alaska didn’t have an Olive Garden,so this was an exotic treat for me) during which her mom and I split a bottle of wine. We played card games and drank margaritas and went on the town for my 21st and I have no idea how four people drank so fucking much but I almost went home with a stripper Amber convinced to pull me on stage (this was the nice strip club) and I lost an entire unopened bottle of vodka (this was in the very much not nice strip club) and I was hung over for like three days after that.

But it was worth it and that birthday ranks with my favorites.

I don’t get to see a lot of Amber anymore. We text when we can. We see each other in bursts when she visits. I know no matter how sad or angry or hurt I am, no matter how much I fucked up, I know she’s there for me. I know she won’t judge me. I’ve done my best to try and keep her knowing the same in reverse is true. That I’m always there.

She has kept some of my darkest and most personal secrets. She has been a support through my hardest times. She has been an inspiration for my art and to continue my art, and she has been present for some of my most incredible memories. I have a love for this woman that is deep and uncompromising and it means our friendship, at least on my side, is inarguable. When my own biological father blinked at the idea of writing letters, this popular girl made sure I knew I had value.

I’d say I’ve got maybe five people in my life I’d trust with anything. Two of them are women. One of them is her. Blondie. Amber. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

Go Out And Get ‘Em, and a Birthday Note

Through high school, there were teachers I hated, teachers I respected, teachers I had crushes on and teachers who left absolutely no lasting impression on me whatsoever. There are very few, though, that I genuinely consider friends.

I was a teacher’s aid for Chad Sant’s more traditional academic course (History, I believe, though I was more concerned with grading papers and giving girls back massages), but the class I was an actual student in was his acting class.

I had never really done acting before that class. I took it because I needed electives, it seemed easy, and a couple girls I had crushes on were in it. Participation was mandatory. There were a lot of improv games: park bench, questions, sausage…that last one isn’t what you might think. We also had to memorize monologues and perform them for the class.

I liked being a smart-ass. I liked pushing the limits and being a class clown. All the same, I had yet to acquire my comfort for the spotlight. I was nervous being in front of so many people and reciting something or becoming somebody I wasn’t or reading something I had written. So it was with complete skepticism that I met Chad’s suggestion I should audition for the school play.

Now, this was senior year. I had never acted on stage before where others had been doing it for 6 years or more. I had quit band after 8th grade because I was afraid of anything that might get me picked on. But Chad insisted, my friends encouraged me and I went in and did a cold read that I thought went fucking terribly. I tossed the script in the trash on my way out, headed to the mall and – I don’t recall exactly – probably got drunk that weekend. I was an angry, lonely seventeen year old. I had a routine.

Cut to a week later when I happened by Chad’s classroom and found the cast list posted on his door. To my surprise, I had been cast as Dallas Winston in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I hemmed and hawed over it for almost a week before grudgingly accepting. I had never read the book. I didn’t even finish the script. Chad brought the movie in for us to watch and that was the first time I discovered that I died in the end and fuck yes, this was actually going to be awesome.

Spoiler alert, but that book has been out almost 50 years and the film for over 30. Matt Dillon played my character. Tom Cruise still had a fucked up nose and crooked teeth. It was truly a different time.

Anyway, the show did not go off without its hitches. In the premiere show for the school, in front of the artsy kids, the special needs kids, several teachers and the principal of the school, the gun I was supposed to pull on the policeman got caught in the pocket of my leather jacket. I let out a frustrated, “FUCK”, at which point I was gunned down, the lights dimmed and I could hear one of the girls backstage say, “Whaaat did he just say?”

I didn’t get in trouble. It still makes me laugh, because it really did warrant at least a detention. At least one. But Chad told the principal to chalk it up to nerves and when I apologized, he turned to me and said, “Huh? Oh. Yeah. Don’t….do that again.”

There are plenty of other stories from that show and the two others (Grease, Pirates of Penzance) I performed in under his direction. But this isn’t about me, as much as I like to talk about myself.

I bring up my experiences in theater because it opened up a lot for me. It opened up a love for the craft I never could have imagined. I’ve only done six shows, some high school drama competitions, a couple Renaissance Faires and a couple short indy films, but holy shit has it influenced my life.

I began writing more – short fictions, poems with plot, starts of novels, screenplays – because I fell in love with the art of storytelling. I owe being an author, screenwriter and poet in part to that.

I moved to Los Angeles when I was 21 because of a want to be an actor/writer. I failed so fucking hard. But that dream led me to one of the loves of my life and some of the best friends I’ve ever known. I felt more at home there than anywhere and I want to move back. The dream of acting led me there.

My theater experience in school led me to a few shows with city theater groups. I met another love of my life through that, in a passionate, ill-advised tryst. Through her, I was introduced to the karaoke bar I fell in love with until it closed. Through experience in musical theater, I was given the opportunity to judge karaoke contests and everything that entailed.

Chad Sant set me on this path as an artist. He took me aside and told me he believed in me. More than that, that he needed me to help complete his casts and bring everything together. Now, that’s bullshit. I was absolutely replaceable. Almost all of us were. But he made me feel like I wasn’t. He drove me to and from rehearsals. He talked to me about life between classes. He treated me like an adult and didn’t hold back when discussing and debating mature topics. He didn’t treat me like I was stupid.

Chad has purchased each book I’ve put out so far. He has brought them into his classrooms and told his students about me. He’s made an effort to keep in touch since I’ve graduated and put in a good word.

And you know what?  I’m not the only one he does this for. He’s gone to Jessica Singleton’s comedy shows. He regularly goes out for dinner with several of his more prestigious former students. He keeps us all apprised on each other and instills in us a sense of accomplishment not just in ourselves but with these former colleagues we suffered through high school with. He helps us maintain a sense of camaraderie through years without communication.

He’s a good man. A kind man. An inspiring man. He’s funny and smart and he sees potential in people. I wrote before that testing doesn’t equal teaching, and Chad is a perfect example of the educator who goes above and beyond to make sure his students are invested in learning, in being something more than themselves. When he sees the capabilities a person possesses, he pushes them to accept that role and pursue that path.

He convinced me to pursue that path and gave me the confidence and encouragement to keep the journey going. Those dreams and experiences have taken me to some of the best, most adventurous, most instructive, most fun, most challenging moments of my life.

Anyway, it was his birthday yesterday. It isn’t much, Mr. Sant, but here you go:

***

The toll of the bell indicated the day was over. Christian watched his students push themselves out of folding seats and pull their backpacks up from the aisles before filing out of the theater. A few kids raised their hands to high five and fist bump him as they passed. He did so pleasantly, a smile on his face, and wished them an awesome weekend.

After the last of his pupils passed through into the lobby, he pulled the faded red doors shut and locked them tight. He turned and strode down the stairs, carpet torn from decades of trampling feet and inattention. At the front of the theater, he lifted one leg and hoisted himself up on the stage. It had been spraypainted the kind of shiny silver-black obsidian was, but each year more and more slivers broke free, revealing the dark brown wood beneath.

Christian didn’t care. This was his dominion. The stage. In front of the crowd and under the spotlight. He glanced out at the seats, empty now by sight but always occupied by the spectres of captive audiences past.

He turned his back to the audience. It was a faux pas during performance, but he stayed behind for himself tonight, unconcerned with the judgement of memories. Instead, he faced the set piece his students had spent the past few weeks diligently constructing and painting. The prized portion was the massive forefront of a castle, twisted through by artificial trees on either side.

The show wasn’t due to start for another month during which he hoped the rehearsals would smooth themselves out a bit more. They often did due to the power of repetition and the growing confidence of his actors in their own abilities. Unimpressed by the standard recycled fare of shows most schools used, he had penned his own fantasy epic with a compelling romantic subplot. His colleague described it as The Princess Bride meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream and implored him to submit it for more professional venues. Christian resisted, insisting he had written it for his students. He wanted to give the kids an opportunity to be a part of something that had never been done before. Something that would be wholly theirs.

Well, mostly theirs.

While Christian had indeed written it himself, he had yet to reveal where the inspiration for the tale had sprung from. Indeed, he didn’t plan on ever confessing. There was too much risk to his reputation, his life, and those who trusted in him.

He lifted his hands and held them before him, palms pressed together and fingertips pointed towards the set piece. He closed his eyes and slowly pulled his hands away from each other. Almost immediately, he felt the fabric separating. A warm gust of air hit him full in the face, fresh with the scent of berries that carried no name. He could hear the gentle songs of four-winged birds as they zipped on by. The fertile soil of a well-worn path stretched out until it replaced the worn wooden floor beneath his feet. He didn’t need to open his eyes to know the passage to the other realm had opened smoothly.

“Mr. Sant?” a voice asked meekly.

The teacher whirled to his right, eyes wide in surprise. He saw Billy Tamlin standing there, a sheaf of papers barely held in his shaking hand. He was a quiet boy that kept to himself unless he was on stage. On stage, he broke out of his shell into a truly wonderful talent.

“I forgot my script…”

Christian swore to himself. He must have forgotten to lock the back door, the one leading out into the side hall, utilized for quick changes and getting any actors who escaped through the crowd back into the theater unseen.

Well. He hadn’t wanted to tell anyone where his inspiration had truly come from, but there was an expression about best laid plans.

I’m a Man Who Was Raped

Rape is a strong word and a horrific action. I don’t use it lightly and I certainly don’t want to take away from experiences that were more tramautic or violent than mine. That isn’t fair. It would be equally unfair to present what happened to me as anything less than a violation of my body and my comfort. I shouldn’t have to treat what happened to me as a “lesser” rape.

This post already fucking sucks to write.

Some background on me: I’m pretty promiscuous. I am a loyal man when it comes to relationships. When I commit to a woman, I see in her something that makes me want to be better and I am all about that. I don’t and won’t stray. As a single man, however, I love women. I love all shapes, sizes, shades of women. Long hair, short hair, blonde, brunette, whatever.  I don’t necessarily have a type, I just like… aspects. I’m a sexual guy. I don’t apologize for it and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to either, as long as it’s safe and consensual.

When I had sex with this woman the first time, it was consensual. I was in a bad place in my life and I was really drunk, but I absolutely invited it and the sex was…eh, alright. She was far, far from anything I would normally go for and I wasn’t exactly on my A game but it was what it was and I resolved that that was it. The only time. We had talked before about the lack of strings and the “it’s just for fun, that’s it, good game” approach.

A week or two later at the bar, two days before my birthday, she was distraught over details I don’t want to say because some of my readers know her. I tried to comfort her. She tried to feel up on my crotch. I did my best to pull away without making it obvious and insisted on being a support. I also got completely fucking hammered because it was just one of those bar crazy nights.

Bar break hits and everyone finds themselves outside arranging rides. I had talked with this woman and her friends a bit and resolved to grab a cab. She insisted on driving me home. I declined. She reminded me that I could save money by not taking a cab. Hey, fuck it, I’m a cheapskate and I was blacking in and out.

Note: DO NOT DRINK IRRESPONSIBLY. DO NOT DRINK UNTIL YOU BLACK OUT. I have had drinks for many years and made far more mistakes than good memories.

She took her friend to Taco Bell and dropped her friend off while I was passing in and out of consciousness in the back seat of the truck. She forced me to get in the front seat before we continued on and drove me home. We got to my place and she turned off the keys.

“Uh…were you planning on coming inside?”
“Uh, yeah.”
“I’ve got to be up in four hours. I’m really drunk. I’m not in the mood, I dont think I could even perform. I should just-”
“It’ll only take a minute.”

She hopped out of the truck and walked up to the porch and I reluctantly let her inside. On the porch and in my room, I repeated that I wasn’t in the mood, that I was exhausted, that maybe another time. In my room, she pulled my pants down, pushed me onto the bed and began by taking me into her mouth.

At that point, I got it all done as fast as I could to get it over with and I rushed her out of my house. I went to sleep on the verge of tears.

Could I have physically stopped her? Yeah. Could I have been louder and caused a scene? Yes. But I was barely conscious drunk. I was afraid of being the belligerent one. My dad had been sent to prison for six months on a false count of rape before my stepmother admitted she was just pissed at him for something completely unrelated and filed a false claim. I was terrified that in my state of impairment I would hurt her.

The next morning, I texted her to tell her that nothing about the situation made me feel good. I felt pressured and taken advantage of and we should call things quits. And she felt terrible, apparently, and apologized profusely and took to Facebook to vaguely rant about how much of a piece of shit she was.

I felt awful about it. I’ve had many one night stands and some of them ended with me greeting the morning and thinking “probably shouldn’t have done that” or “not proud of that one”, but I own those. I had those experiences with purpose. Never had I ever felt so hurt and disgusted with myself as I did with this one.

I got drunk one night and texted my roommate to see if she was awake. She came downstairs to find me sitting on the floor with a bottle of rum in my hand and held me while I cried because I felt like a piece of shit. I told a guy friend about it, expecting him to make fun of me. He said, essentially, “If it was you taking a girl that drunk who wasn’t down for sex and manipulated them  into it, you would be in jail.”

I didn’t press charges. I don’t think it was intentional or meant maliciously. That doesn’t mean it was right. The lady has a kid, though, and I didn’t want to drag that kid through such a horrible experience when I’m a man and I should be able to write it off.

Because I’m a man.

Right?

Do you know how shitty it is to have to try and defend myself about this? To other men? To women? I told a female friend about this and her response, no shit, was “You have to stop putting yourself in these positions.” Can you fucking imagine telling a woman victim that? I would never.

I was so hesitant to tell anyone because I felt it made me look weak. I was trying to court a girl who knew the woman in question and I didn’t say shit because I didn’t want to ruin my chances. I didn’t want to… I don’t know.

I’m very pro-sexuality, pro-promiscuity, anti-slut shaming. I think sex is beautiful and fun when you’re being smart, safe and communicative. But that doesn’t mean you want to sleep with everybody and it doesn’t mean you’re always in the mood. You don’t expect that shit to happen to you.

I was beyond intoxicated. I said I wasn’t interested multiple times. I was coerced and pressured under the influence to let her into my house. Deep under the influence, I scared myself out of being more loudly vocal or violently physical in restraining her. She touched me, she had sex with me and she left. I felt sick. I still do. And I understand why more men don’t report it: image.  Reputation. Disbelief.

But I can’t anymore. I was raped. It wasn’t violent. I wasn’t in fear for my life. I wasn’t physically restrained or beaten or threatened, but I was definitely not in a capacity to properly help myself and I was taken advantage of.

I feel like shit about it, like I deserved it somehow for being a poor boyfriend in the past, or a shitty person in general. I don’t know. But I needed to get it out.

Male or female victims, know this: it is not your fault. It was never and will be never your fault or anything you did. You are beautiful and strong and braver than anyone who would transgress against you. There will always be someone there for you. I wish to God you never had to go through such vulnerability and violation.

You are loved.

Santa Wears a Black Hat

Terry Stahlman was born in Seattle Washington. As a young man he bore a striking resemblance to James Dean. He carried that look with him into his twenties,  even following a stint in prison following a string of robberies. He tried to escape when he was 17. It didn’t go well.

After he served his time, he moved up to Alaska, some twenty plus years into its statehood and still in that period of time where the law was, you know, whatever. He made friends with biker gangs. In the 70s, he opened what was, for many years, the biggest strip club in Anchorage. He operated a gambling distribution. He was director of a halfway house for a while, which was darkly hilarious in that he would consume three times a day the amount of narcotics it would take to normally kill a man.

Terry has been in and out of jail and rehab centers and courtrooms for years. He once put up bail money for Mechele Linehan before retracting it for medical reasons. Maybe you heard about her.

The man has died and come back. He clings to life like a Terminator. He has an overpowering voice and a laugh that terrifies. It’s always his way or no way. When sober, he was one of the shrewdest businessmen I’ve ever met, a self-made millionaire time and again, remaking his fortune every time he kicked the drugs that made him lose it. He was frightening.

Now in his 70s, he is a frail old man laying in a hotel he no longer owns, high more often than not and ostracized by his children. His legacy is a tarnished record, a footnote for an era that no longer is. He is publicly regarded with scorn and disgust and raucous laughter.

He was my stepfather.

My mother danced at his club for many years and, as such, I grew up accustomed to the exotic dancing industry. When she and my adopted father split up, she married Terry not long after. When I was 4, my half-brother was born.

I grew up not knowing for a long time that things were different or wrong. I spent most of my childhood living with my adopted grandparents. My adopted father was drunk on the couch. So staying with my mom and Terry was…interesting. Exciting. As terrified as I was of the man’s booming voice and the yelling he would do at my mother when he had had too much to drink, we also went on a lot of vacations. Disneyland, Hawaii, Texas, Seattle. My grandparents were lower middle-class. We had our trips to Montana every summer, within a budget, but as a child it was the trips to hot places around tons of people that blew my mind.

I remember being three or four, peering out of my bedroom door in the early hours of the morning, awoken by arguing. My mother was walking down the hall to me. Terry hurled his briefcase and caught her between the shoulder blades. She went down hard. He bought me a lot of Christmas presents that year.

Beaches! Palm trees! Toys and money! Disney characters and live shows and expensive restaurants. When my brother was an infant and I was four, my stepdad left us in a room at a casino in Las Vegas to go have lunch with a friend. He told me to call 911 if there was an emergency. When he returned to the room,  the police were there.

I had called 911. I had had a bad dream. They almost arrested him. For a long time, I told that story because I thought it was hilarious. I still think it’s hilarious, but you should never leave a 4 year old and an infant unattended, least of all in a Vegas hotel room.

My step-dad and my mother divorced but stayed close. My brother stayed with Terry because my mom was incapable of taking care of him. She went to Texas and California and came back pregnant. When my sister was born, Terry took care of her and my mother. My sister’s drug dealer father paid attention for a hot second before disappearing completely. When my mother went back to rehab, Terry took it upon himself to adopt her and raise her as his own.

He took to the news to talk about the struggles of raising a mixed-race child because her mother was in rehab and biological father dead or in prison. The news.

The title of this post comes from a news article back in 1999 or 2000 for the Anchorage Press. I tried to find it, I swear. There is nothing I can say about it that gives the actual article justice.

See, Terry fancied himself a cowboy. He loved country music. He loved horses. For all the fur coats and gold nugget jewelry he wore, he also had himself some goddamn gorgeous cowboy hats and boots. He owned and rode horses. He chewed tobacco (fun fact: when I was three, I told him I wanted chew, insisted on it and he packed a little bit in my lip. I’ve never taken chew again and seldom smoke. Alternately, I asked him what breasts were when I was three and he gave me a Playboy to peruse while he went to an AA meeting. I have actually enjoyed breasts since. Nicotine < the feminine form).

For many, many years Terry would spend thousands of dollars to give toys to a local organization that helped abandoned, abused and impoverished children. Terry is gruff, he is an addict, he's often a misogynist, but he can also be incredibly generous and there is nothing on this world he loves more than my brother, my sister and the sister I gained through his third failed marriage (the one after my mom).

Santa came for these kids every year. Sometimes more if there was an event being held or if the organization was struggling. Santa was a 'baccy chewing, swear word spewing, loud and proud man in a black hat.

Terry once told me that my mother, free spirit that she was, had been engaging in flirtation – maybe more – with a man who reciprocated despite knowing who her husband was. Terry had some people put the man in the hospital and then paid all of the hospital bills. Just to prove a point.

The man loved drinking, drugging and having women (make no mistake, he often considered women "things to have"). He liked to gamble and he liked to fight. One thing more than any ever, though, is he liked to throw his money around. Money was power for him.

The strip club that Terry owned in Anchorage (he had another in Fairbanks) was built on property that belonged to a bar right next to it. When the lease came up, the bar refused to renew it. Terry sued unsuccessfully and the bar tore the club down and built an expansion in its place.

Terry went on to buy an absolutely skeevy motel from a drug-dealing pimp named – I shit you not – Muhammed Ali. I worked there on the weekends when I was 14 years old, mostly alone. It was my first job. I worked ten hour days at $7 an hour under the table as the desk manager and occasional house-cleaner. There was plenty of clientele left over from Ali's day who would try to offer me pot or cocaine for rent money or who would ask what our hourly rates were.

Do you know how many adults will try to fight a 14 year old boy when they're being asked to vacate the premises they can't pay for? In certain parts of Anchorage,  the answer is "a lot".

Terry built a new club out of the back of this motel because of course he did. It was nice, too. Small, but fantastic carpeting, leather seating, exciting lighting, a new sound system and beautiful, talented women. When I turned 19 I dated one of the girls from there briefly and I was friends with many of them. I would drive them home, pick up their drink quotas on slow nights and get the worst of the customers away from them.

Then I disappeared for a bit. Terry got back on heroin. The girls left for better clubs, the people who knew how to run the club got fired for arguing and Terry replaced them with the cheapest,  shadiest, most addicted criminal pieces of shit he could because he didn't have to pay them much. This was a trend that continued for many years as most of his fortune went towards medical expenses and drugs and he found it harder and harder to quit and come back.

Terry always gave my mother a place to live when she needed it. He gave my adopted father a job. He gave me a car and clothes and helped my grandparents out constantly.

When I was 15, I found out I was adopted. Not long after, I got suspended from school for three days for telling a teacher to go to hell. These two things were not related, but when I went to my step-dad's house to spend the night with my siblings, he sure thought they were.

He went off on me. He said truly terrible things that cut deeper than any bullying I had ever gone through. I left the room and stewed for twenty minutes. I went back in and closed the door behind me and I gave it right back. I chastised him for treating me like one of his workers instead of like family, the brother of his son, someone he had known since birth. I ridiculed him for lambasting me over what I said considering how he treated people, especially women.

He came in close to my face. My hands went up defensively. The tip of my right index finger brushed his chest. His eyes went dark. He dropped into a crouch. He screamed at me for coming at him,  for daring to touch him. His forehead snapped into the bridge of my nose and broke the cartilage on the right side. My back hit the wall, my ass hit the nightstand.

“I’m out of here,” I said. I opened the door and my 11 year old brother was standing there, terrified. I convinced him I was okay and to go downstairs and I apologized because something came up and I needed to go home.

I got tissue to stem the blood from my nose and stood at the door waiting for the cab to arrive and take me home. Terry spent half an hour standing there trying to justify it. When the cab arrived,  he pulled out $200 in twenties.

“You can take this and tell the cab you don’t need them anymore. You can take it, go for a ride and get a burger, come back and keep the rest. Or you can go home and at least you’ll have some money in your pocket.”

“I don’t need your fucking money.”

I walked out. I went home. I paid for the cab. I ignored his phone calls. A week later I got a letter from him, apologizing, telling me that he was wrong. I was finally a man. He couldn’t believe I had refused his money. It changed our relationship from then on.

I haven’t spoken to him in a few years now. I don’t recall why. An argument of some sort, I’m sure. He gave me employment, my family a home, gifts. As difficult as it was growing up in that house, he has given my siblings profound determination and strength and conviction not to end up like him. He provided limos for my proms and paid for my birthday parties.

He degraded me, hurt me, hurt my mother, hurt others. I’ve seen the seediest parts of this city. The worst gamblers, the most violent biker gangs, the failing strip clubs, the underbellies of addiction groups.

“He’s going to be dead soon. That’s what happens when you surround yourself with bad people. You die alone.”

My brother said that. About his father, who he also hasn’t seen in a year or more. He asked me this last weekend to go with him to see him soon, though, and get closure before that moment happens. It’s a poignant statement and a harsh one. It is also true.

Terry Stahlman is one of the hardest, softest, scariest, most boisterous, cruelest, most generous, smartest, most foolish, most industrious, laziest, strongest, weakest people I have ever met.

He taught me a lot about myself and about life. He removed in me the fear of man. He taught me the dangers of addiction. He introduced me to the beauty of women. Because he was two men vying for control of the same body, I learned many things about how not to act, how not to treat people. I learned how to be stubborn and the danger in being unyielding. I learned how to be strong from him and that there are greater powers than wealth.

Terry is not a good man. He has done terrible things to many people.

Terry is not a bad man. He has done incredible things for many people.

Terry Stahlman is a flawed man with horrendous demons. They have cost him his businesses, his wealth, his homes and his family. Before long, it will cost him his life. There are few who know him better than I and even fewer who will know him for more than his discretions.

It isn’t necessarily right that he should only be remembered for misdeeds. It probably isn’t fair. It’s just what happens when you surround yourself with bad people.