The City of Angels Part Four: Love and Tribulation

I’m just going to jump into this fucker: with DJ gone, RJ and I were more stressed than ever on how to make ends meet. I was working the front desk at minimum wage. RJ was doing desk and shuttle driving and going to school to become an EMT. With my funds rapidly diminishing, I even considered becoming an escort. Not caught up?

Part One: Departure
Part Two: A Perilous Journey
Part Three: The First Month

Yeah, so I wasn’t hearing anything back on auditions. I did get an audition for As the World Turns, but despite being obviously located in Los Angeles, the audition was in New Orleans. Too bad. I would have done a soap opera. I’m good at acting bad.

So with few jobs in the pipeline, one caught my eye, and I swear to God this is true and I’m not necessarily proud: male escort. I submitted pictures and some information about me and had the arrangement explained to me like this: your profile goes up on a website. Someone can select you to be their date to an event, a gala, a red carpet thing, a dinner, whatever. $400 for a three hour commitment, $150 for each hour after that. Company only, sex optional. And honestly, I’d even fake being gay in public for three hours for $400. You want to know how close I was to doing this? The only thing that stopped me was that there was a $100 surcharge for them to build my page, and I was so broke, I didn’t want to throw $100 at a maybe.

Luckily for me, not long after that, I had an interview for a job with Best Buy. I got a haircut, and it wasn’t exactly professional (it was a Mr. T level Mohawk honestly. It looked dumb as hell on me), but I interviewed well. There was a second interview and I think I benefitted from the hiring manager being a fellow Dallas Cowboy fan. I got hired full-time, provisionally for the holidays, at $10.50 an hour. I still maintained my job at the hostel, and worked that schedule around my existing schedule with Best Buy.

The hostel situation got interesting, though: turns out for 2/3 of the year, the owner would rent out fully half of the available rooms to oil and gas workers that would come in – usually from the mid-south to south-east- to work on the refineries. Which meant that we had a lot of hard-drinking burly hicks to deal with on a regular basis. As employees of the hostel, it also meant we had to deal with them whenever they started acting unruly.

RJ and I did the smartest thing we could: we made friends with the biggest of them and the boss as fast as we could. Johnny Ray was a fucking massive man, soft-spoken but quick to defend his friends. If one of his crewmates began to act aggressive and get in my face, Johnny would simply put a hand on my shoulder, stand up behind me and say, “He’s with me. Listen to him.” That ended shit really quick.

Mike Jones, mind you, was the complete opposite of Johnny. He was a lightning-quick-witted man, generous, who had suffered a stroke that had rendered the left side of his body largely useless. And as goofy as he acted, as quickly as he got drunk, everyone respected Mike. When he spoke, they listened. That’s huge weight for a guy who, when he got too fucked up, we would sit him down on a luggage trolly and wheel his ass to his room. I tucked Mike into his own bed many times.

Johnny, meanwhile, skipped out to his own private bungalow early on. He threw a handful of parties out there and if we weren’t working, he would have us work the door for entry fees. We’d receive a cut at the end of the night.

At some point during all of this, I recall asking Zhana’s ridiculous struggling actor boyfriend for audition tips. He said a lot without saying anything and then I overheard him telling her he was always talking to “nobody’s” like me. I was blackout drunk the next time Robbie went in. Johnny told me I threatened to “smack the shit” out of him if he insisted “on talking all that shit”, until Robbie apologized profusely and bought me a drink. I took the drink, but man, fuck that guy.

There were plenty of other amazing people passing through, though. The Russian New Yorker whose name I couldn’t recall, so we all called him Niko Bellic, after the Eastern European protagonist of Grand Theft Auto 4. His last night in town, he asked Selma how much she would charge for a pitcher of Long Island Ice Tea. I think she charged him $13. Fucking ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is how she would only charge me $6 when I asked her to do it again on other nights when I wanted to sit and drink and right.

There was Irish Tommy. He had these ridiculous glasses with fake Elvis chops on them. I remember I made the mistake once of promising RJ I would DD for him and some of the others at the hostel and take them down to Hermosa Beach after I got off work. I was so tired and so grumpy by the time I got back to the hostel that I tried to renege, but he wasn’t having it. So I’m driving. There’s someone sitting in the middle of the front (not a seat), someone in the passenger side, and four people crammed into the 3-person back seat, including RJ, Tommy, and this absolute knockout named Dale.

We’re about halfway to the beach when I pull up alongside a police officer. She glances over, sees how many people are in the car, and I immediately know I’m fucked. The light turns green, the cop pulls back behind me, flips the blue and reds, and I pull over. Now, the driver’s side window on the HMS DB didn’t roll down, and I opened the door to try and explain that. The cop immediately put her hand on her gun and shouted for me to stay in the car; I realized this was the kind of dumb shit that got people killed on accident, so I closed the door and kept my hands on the wheel and begged everyone to shut up. They didn’t listen.

Everything got resolved pretty quickly after. We weren’t far from the beach, so she let us off with a warning and insisted a couple people cab it on the way back. That didn’t happen, of course, but we promised anyway.

There was Becky, the British surfer, and Kirsty, a Scottish beauty who sent me a calendar of her beautiful country once she returned home. There was Guy, a British actor/writer with some bold ideas and no idea how to string them together into something coherent. There was Nick McDonald, nephew of Christopher McDonald (you may know him better as Shooter McGavin), and colossal asshole. Chris, the Australian, who told us a delightful story about playing with his puppy and saying, “Come here, ya little cunt”, and asking RJ if he needed his girlfriend to help him when he was working on the car.

But the best by far was probably Pat the Pirate. A Canadian man in his late 40s or early 50s, he was one of the most genuinely nice guys I’ve ever met. He always bought rounds for people, always had a smile on his face, always video chatted with his daughter. When he talked about her, he just beamed. Hell, there were days I was so broke I couldn’t afford to eat. He’d give me a few bucks to head down to Jack in the Box and get something, and he never made me feel ashamed about it.

The most interesting thing about Pat, though, is that he worked as a lighting tech for concerts and events. He set up stages for a massive variety of people. “I remember shaking hands with George Carlin and smoking dope with Snoop Dogg,” he told me once. “And the craziest party I’ve ever been to was one where Motley Crue did $40,000 worth of damage to a hotel floor.”

When he finally left, it was to go work on a tour with Kiss. We kept in touch for a while because I genuinely wanted to write his biography. He never got me the notes, though, and we drifted apart over the years. I hope he’s doing well. He helped me out a lot.

The point is that there was a revolving circus of diverse people, not all of them savory, but all worth a story. It kept things busy at home while we were trying to get our feet under us with work. RJ was finishing up EMT school with a new friend, Phil, and beginning ridealongs.

And I started at Best Buy. We lived in Inglewood and I worked in El Segundo, but there were a couple of buses that took me directly there. That’s one thing that surprised me about Los Angeles: the transit system is surprisingly clear and easy to navigate.

I went in a day or two before I was officially supposed to start and met a good amount of the people I’d be directly working with. My assistant manager, Jenny, was a tremendous sweetheart who became a lifesaver for me later. The other assistant manager, Brittni, was a very close friend. My direct manager, Stephanie, is one of the best bosses I’ve ever ad, and the fact that we’re still friends after the way things turned out is incredible to me. The hiring manager, Kevin, became one of my best friends in the store and turned me on to some video games and movies I’d have no idea about otherwise. Jason and I used to go dsy drinking down to the beach. Jaime saved my ass. And Angie became my rock when everything started to fall apart.

I worked in the front lanes, where most of the registers are at. Now, there are several different departments throughout the store (Gaming, Digital Imaging, Home Theater, etc.) and those departments have reps trained specifically to sell those things as sort of certified experts. And once they close a sale in their department, they’re expected also to try and sell Black Tie Protection (insurance) on applicable devices. That means, of course, that a proper sales rep would know exactly what it covers and what it doesn’t and how to personalize and leverage the benefits for the customer.

But not every sale is closed out in that department. Most are actually grab and gos, so in the front lanes, we’d see just about every product except maybe home appliances. We had to get to know what BTP covered for every department. There was no compensation for selling the stuff, but there was still an expected percentage of attachment, so whenever I had a spare ten minutes, I’d go to each department and learn, and I got very, very good at selling it.

Besides becoming sales oriented, I also met a woman I would come to love very much. I had met her when I’d gone in a day early, but it was a couple days more before I saw her again. Caramel skin. Thick, dark, curly hair. A dazzling smile that came easily, a laugh usually ready behind it. She always made my heart skip a beat, mi boricua princesa.

We got along great early on. We made each other laugh. We spent a lot of time together. She made me feel welcome and being so far away from home and with so much stress going on and only one of my two friends still around, I clung to that. I was lonely, and she was kind and beautiful and funny.

She invited me early on to Jaime’s place for beer pong, and RJ and I went. Turns out he didn’t live too far from where we were staying, so it was convenient for everyone involved. Her and my friendship grew stronger, and Jaime and I became closer buddies as well. He gave me a lot of shit, but I gave as good as I got and I think he respected that.

Thanksgiving came soon after. Knowing I had no one to spend it with, she invited me to spend it with her and her family. RJ had to work and I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could, so I eagerly accepted. To this day, it ranks as maybe my favorite Thanksgiving. I got along great with her family, played around with her dog and stole every soft smile and caring glance I could from her. And man, her mom would not let me stop eating. When you have spent months borrowing money to eat off the dollar menu, a home-cooked Puerto Rican Thanksgiving dinner is like seeing God. And when I literally couldn’t eat anymore for fear of getting sick, of course they made up a plate for me to take home.

On the drive home, we held hands. I don’t think we kissed that night. She made me nervous. I know I couldn’t stop grinning.

It was that weekend or the weekend after that we went to a party, probably at Jaime’s, probably to play beer pong, and she and I both wound up drunk. I don’t think she wanted to go home like that and risk upsetting her parents, so she asked to come home with me. That was the first night we slept together. I don’t know if she had gone in expecting just a hook-up, but I fell for her even more and afterwards, holding her in my arms, I asked her if she would go out with me. “You want me to be your girlfriend?” she asked,  and I responded, “I really, really do.”

She didn’t respond until morning. When she did, she said yes.

December was more or less perfect. We didn’t really go out of our way to tell anyone we were together, but we didn’t exactly keep it a secret, either. Any time we were away from work, we were all over each other. It was fast, it was passionate, it was horribly naive and going 100 miles per hour because it was a love born of youth.

And love it was. I don’t remember what the place was called. It was a sports bar with high ceilings, booths and pool tables. She was sitting on the side of one the tables and I was standing between her legs, about to leave to pick up RJ and bring him out. I told her I’d be back in a few, and she responded with, “Okay. I love you.” And there was a pause as we both realized what she had said.
“Do you?” I asked.
She thought for a minute, nodded and said yes. So I kissed her and said, “I love you, too. I’ll be right back.”

And December was nice and December was good, and I helped celebrate Hanukkah with her and RJ’s mom sent us a care package for Christmas.

Then New Year’s rolled around and the first real hint of how bad things were going to turn out rolled through.

RJ had to work that night, so she and I went together to a party at this guy Jesus’ house. I’m still pretty new around these people. It’s only been a couple months at this point. It wasn’t a huge party, but there was ton of liquor. We started playing beer pong and I was getting tipsy. She was decently drunk and dancing and being flirty. I got jealous. She liked to dance and I didn’t. I still don’t. But she was the kind of oblivious who thought guys were just being sweet instead of blatantly hitting on her in front of me. So I got jealous, and I handled it by doing the absolute last thing I should have: grab a bottle of Jack Daniels and just start swigging from the bottle. A group of friends pulled me into a room and asked if I wanted to do some cocaine. I had done blow a couple times before, I was drunk and in a bad mood, so I figured, fuck it. Let’s go all in.

She found out somehow. Maybe she saw me do it, or I told her. She was pissed, and figured if I was going to do I it, she might as well, too. That pissed me off. She had never done it before, and as far as I know, she’s never done it since. She didn’t know how she would handle it. I was worried about her, and part of me felt she was doing it to get back at me, which – while there are no good reasons to do drugs – may be one of the worst reasons to do drugs.

We got into it. I blacked out and stormed out of the house. Apparently I slammed the door on the way out, something I had to apologize profusely to Jesus for. Not that Jesus. The other one. I stumbled through the road and called RJ to come pick me up. She came out right after and wanted to come home with me. Neither of us were in any condition to give appropriate directions, so it took him some time to find us. It had to have been 3 or 4 in the morning. I blacked out. RJ told me he blared Depeche Mode while she and I argued nonstop.

Nonstop. I came out of the blackout to see her sitting at the foot of my bed. I was standing in front of her, yelling, and I realized I no longer had any idea what we were arguing about. I shook my head to clear it and mumbled an apology. I realized it was now morning, neither of us had slept a wink, and I had to go work a full shift. I staggered out of the room and left her to watch the Rose Bowl parade with RJ.

At some point, I managed to convince the desk manager to let me catch just two hours of sleep. I was exhausted, crashed hard off the drugs and I was still pretty drunk. I went up to the room. She followed me into my bed and we wrapped our arms around each other and she fell asleep with me. When we were good, we clicked so fucking perfectly. When we didn’t, it was usually because I was an asshole and she would bite back twice as hard.

I woke up, and we learned a few things: 1. Shawn the shuttle driver had a meth addiction.
2. Shawn the shuttle driver decided to let that addiction make him think it was okay to do meth and drive the shuttle.
3. Shawn the meth head drove that fucking shuttle over some people and parked it halfway up one of the columns at LAX, and RJ would have to cover the rest of his shift with the larger shuttle that RJ was in no way qualified to drive.

New Year’s wasn’t good for anyone.

And then things continued to be rocky. Towards the end of January, she and I were at a party. I wanted to leave because I had to wake up early for work. She wanted to stay. I walked home. I figured she would crash at Jaime’s. I got up to use the restroom around 4AM. When I came out, RJ had let her into the room and she was laying in my bed. It scared the shit out of me, to be honest, seeing a person where moments before there was nobody, but then I got curious. How did she get there? Who drove her? Which friend? And through some drunken questioning, I found out a guy friend of hers had driven her and at some point they made out. I don’t know if it was someone from work; she insisted it wasn’t, but just a guy she had known for a long time. I don’t know if she initiated it. I know she was drunk and a lot of her guy friends didn’t seem to give a fuck about her relationship status. I do know she felt tremendously, horrifically guilty.

I reacted extremely poorly. I only found out this year that I’m bipolar and anxious and depressed. At the time, I had no idea why I felt things so intensely all the time. I just knew I had a really hard time regulating my reactions. I threw the blanket against the wall. I threw my phone against the wall. I yelled and I cried because I was so hurt. That’s what I woke up to is this feeling of betrayal. Was it because I wasn’t good enough? Did she want to be single?

I scared her. She thought I was going to hurt her, I think, and that appalled me. I would never hurt her or any other woman. The realization made me sick. I sank down on the bed and she came up next to me and she apologized and we both cried and we told each other we loved each other and we made love and we fell asleep on damp pillows.

It would always eat me up, though. I never really got over it. I talked with Angie about it, and Brittni, and my girlfriend’s friend and they all told me the same thing: that she was so guilty over it and all she talked about was how much she wanted to make up for it. And I struggled to keep my jealousy and anxiety and anger and propensity for over thinking under control to middling success. We went out for dinner and a movie once, and I was still so bothered about it that I broke up with her over dinner before realizing it was Valentine’s Day. I immediately recanted and we talked about it and we had a tense movie date after.

Towards the end of February, things were getting tense amongst the employees of the hostel. I found my money was still running tight. They hired on RJ’s friend Phil as a shuttle driver to replace Shawn. The HMS DB had finally shit the bed and RJ was making preparations to move to Seattle to live with a couple of our friends from Alaska. I began to make plans of my own.

In the meantime, my girlfriend and I continued to patch things up. Her friend managed an AMC theater, so we saw a lot of movies together, often for free. One night we had a really great time together and afterward she dropped me off in front of the hostel. She couldn’t stay over that night, so I kissed her and got out. She took off and the manager of the hostel caught me in the parking lot. He wanted to take a walk and discuss how my schedule working the desk would coincide with my Best Buy schedule.

As we walked and talked, I heard a loud shot from behind me. Something moved so close to my cheek, just under my eye, that it tugged at my skin. It cracked into the wall in front of me. I turned and saw a white car with tinted windows suddenly tear through a red light away from me. A half inch of difference is all it would have taken. I hardly left my room for three days.

And even after all of that, the Adventurer still had one good story left for us. RJ was working the desk night shift. Phil was working the shuttle. I was behind the desk with a drink. RJ pulls out a pair of letters a customer had dropped off. Both were similar in content but contained such ramblings as, “I am a man vacationing from San Francisco and am interested in your rooms. I would like to purchase [specific] room at [specific rate] from [this date] to [that date] which comes out to [total].” (He included a handrawn calendar). He also said “I am familiar with both the insides and outside of the closet” and some inanity about his occupation. One was signed “John Rockefeller”, while the other, “John Rockefella”. On one envelope, he had written “Enclosed is a $10 tip.”

“Was there a $10 tip in there?” I asked.
“There sure as shit was,” RJ said.

They’re trying to explain to me what this guy looks like and Phil gets the bright idea to call this guy’s room and pretend to want to meet him for a good time in the shuttle bay, causing him to walk directly by the office. Well, Phil calls and comes on to the guy in a low voice, but he hangs up and cackles when the guy seems receptive. RJ called bullshit, so Phil called again with me listening in. I heard him sound receptive and Phil broke and hung up again. RJ insists we call one more time and I tell him it’s probably a bad idea, that I doubted anyone else knew the guy’s room number and so he probably thought it was RJ. RJ laughed that off and Phil calls again. Before he can say a fucking word, ol’ John asks, “Are you coming or should I go to the office?”

Phil slams the phone into the receiver and he and I double over in laughter. RJ is aghast, repeating “No. No.” over and over, stopping only when a heavyset lady came to check in to a room. While RJ checks her in, a short man in his late thirties or forties steps into the office. Parted brown hair, thick glasses, wispy mustache. Holy shit, of course this was him. He set an envelope and a bottle of orange juice down on the counter. Phil is sitting on the couch across the room, bright red from holding his laughter in. I’m sitting on awe, aware I’m about to witness something beautiful. The lady leaves with her room key.

“I brought you orange juice.”
“I do not want your orange juice.”
“Know what’s in here?” *taps envelope*
“I do not.”
“Male pornography.”
“THAT’S weird. AND uncomfortable.”
John’s eyes turn into dinner plates and he stammers, “OH! OH! SORRY!” before darting from the room. I have rarely laughed harder.

Anyway, as RJ’s departure neared, I arranged to sleep on Jaime’s couch for a month or two until I could get situated. My girlfriend helped me smuggle my things out of the room and over to his place. The morning RJ was set to fly out, we had one last breakfast that we charged to the room. We shook hands, he took the shuttle to the airport. I took the bus to work at Best Buy and never went back. I left behind a bill of $2,000-$3,000; Phil told them I snuck off to Seattle as well, and they tried to hire someone to track me down. Whoops.

A week or so later, Phil called us to let us know John Rockafeller/Rockafella had moved to a dorm room. The cops were called when everyone else woke up to find him in the center of the room, buck naked and masturbating furiously. That’s some vacation.

Part Five: Awry
Part Six: Ruin

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A New-ish Leaf.

It’s been quite a while since I updated my blog. I met someone I really wound up liking and only had a couple weeks to spend with her, so most of my time on those days was spent going to lunches, dinners, movies, comedy shows, and laying in bed with the sheets wrapped around us while we read. It was the best couple weeks I’ve had in a while.

She flew back home a while ago, and I’ve been trying to maintain a certain level of productivity, but I’ve had a lot of thoughts going through my head these days. Not bad ones, strangely, but busy ones. It’s a little tricky getting back into the routine I had before she arrived, but today’s the day! (he said, hoping against hope that Procrastination won’t rear its ugly head and devour him once more as the eagle does Prometheus’ liver).

Anyway. I’ve spent most of the last month sober, which is a massive change in lifestyle from most of the last three years. I went from drinking a half a bottle of whiskey or more on a nightly basis to maybe having a beer on my lunch every once in a while. For a long time, I drank to grieve. Then I drank because I was just angry and depressed and lonely. Then I drank because it was a health issue to just quit cold turkey. I’m over that hump now.

Over the last year, I had another horrific mental and emotional breakdown that cost me some close friendships with people that meant the world to me. It almost cost me my job. It put me in a very bad, unstable place. I’ve come a long way since, and for once I’ve taken action to hopefully keep my head above water. I saw a therapist (and plan on continuing again once the new year starts and insurance kicks in). I’ve got medication. I’ve dialed my drinking back significantly, in fact, almost completely. I’ve started writing again. I’ve been reading A LOT.

What’s weird is that, for the first time, I feel like the world is truly open to me again. It’s scary some days because with so many avenues of opportunity, I don’t know where to start. I saw a TED talk once about how the plentitude of choices can sometimes work as a detriment to the consumer. How when presented with too many options, someone can be deterred or frozen into inaction. I feel that same way sometimes now, but it’s also kind of exciting. I haven’t felt as determined to set out on a new path than I did six years ago when I first made the biggest change I had ever done.

Six years ago, I was a wily-eyed 21-year old with dreams of an acting and writing career (the former is laughable in retrospect; I still hold out hopes for the latter). I was going to take the world by storm through sheer brazenness and bravado. My grandmother paced back and forth in the kitchen, fretting. Bless her heart, she was worried about all the little details, convinced that any number of things would kill me during my journey into a better life.

To be fair, she had every right to worry. I was setting out with two friends, one car between us, $2,000 of my own with no job lined up, no other known associates, no place to live and I was moving to a city I hadn’t been to since I was seven years old. It’s an absolute miracle I managed to make it as long as I did, and it absolutely involved a lot of drinking cheap wine and vodka and eating two weeks’ worth of food on $30 (thank God for the $1 store).

My grandfather just sat quietly as my grandmother paced, and when she moved into her bedroom he stood up, came over to me and gave me a tight hug. All he said to me was that he was proud of me. My uncle had talent as a musician but never pursued it, instead settling for a career (that, by his own admission, he did love). My aunt married early to a pilot, had three kids, got divorced and married another pilot. My dad was also a talented musician but a troubled life that involved hard women and harder drinking. My grandfather told me he was proud of my talent and proud of me for attempting to go out and make something of it where his kids did not.

I mean, six years, a few failed auditions and three novels that don’t sell later, I don’t know how great a plan that was on my part. I’m $30k in medical debt and never got out of the nomadic mindset. I sleep on an air mattress and could pack up and leave in 20 minutes or less (is that a bastardized line from Heat? You know it is). And there’s a certain kind of freedom and a certain kind of loneliness wrapped up in that. I do want to settle down some day. I want a family. I like being able to come home and have my own room to plop down in and escape from the world sometimes. I spent two years on couches, futons and floors and it wasn’t the greatest, you know? But I also like knowing that I can pick up and go.

Even though I haven’t.

Even though, really, I couldn’t.

See, here’s my problem: after a year of scraping by in Los Angeles, an unemployed stint in Seattle, scrabbling for my feet in Redmond, being on solid ground again in Anchorage only to hit rock bottom all over again three years ago, I hate feeling poor. I hate eating cheap shit. I finally found a job that pays me well and reliably, but for the past two years, I’ve been living check to check because it’s so much easier to live IN THE MOMENT. You know what I mean? I like going out and having $15-30 lunches and dinners, good food that other people cook to me. I like going out and having drinks with friends, and I don’t drive and I’m impatient, which means I spend a lot on cabs every time that happens. I blew money on single issues of comic books when I know it’s better and cheaper to wait half a year and pick up the trade paperback, and I know that it’s all going to go into storage anyway. Living check to check leaves no money for emergencies, no money to move, no money as a safety net. And it’s that last thing that really makes a huge difference in my life, because my grandparents are dead. My dad is newly out of prison and already blew my inheritance on legal fees and the abusive harpy wife that put him there. I have no idea what’s going on with my mom. My aunt and her husband are saddled with medical problems. My uncle would help me in a pinch, but he’s already helped me so much and it isn’t his place to help me at all. His parents ADOPTED me. I’m a nephew he didn’t ask for and one he has already done so, so much for. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

So if I pack up and leave on a whim again, I’m on my own. 100% and that’s fucking terrifying. Exhilarating, but terrifying. See, I could save more money. I could try to transfer down with my job (instead of working for a local credit union, I work for a nationwide company; instead of being there for five months, I’ve been here for over two years). I have friends down there now. Connections.

But I had no money. I have no safety net.

And yet.

And yet.

I can’t fucking live here anymore. Not on anything like a permanent basis. Sobriety has brought a sense of clarity that I smothered over the last few years. I’m stuck in a sea of comfort in Alaska. I’m stuck in this cyclical loop of going out to the same bars, eating at the same restaurants, staying home to avoid running into someone I slept with every day of the week, or someone who has heard a rumor, or a former friend, or friends of people I may have wronged or made an ass of myself to.

I like bigger cities. I like reliable weather and normal sun cycles. The seasonal depression wrecks me every year. I like being able to have a measure of anonymity when I go out. I miss the beach. The real fucking beach and the sounds of the ocean. I need to be somewhere I can make actual connections with other authors, with more readers, with publishers, with people who might know people. Anchorage is home, it will always be sort of home to me, but it’s hostile to my soul and it’s easy to grow complacent. I can’t be complacent. I have a heart that cries out for travel and for seeing new things and meeting strangers in passing and for collecting stories of myself and others.

Long story short, I’ve decided to cut back my expenses, to budget money from my check and – for the first time in years – set money aside in my savings account. I need to survive one more winter and maintain some discipline and hopefully by next spring… by next summer at the latest, I’ll have solidified a plan to take another leap. And even though I’ll have a little bit of a safety net again, maybe this time I’ll focus on not missing the fucking bar I’m jumping for.

Oh, and hopefully I’ll have a couple more books out by then, too.

I’ve always wanted to be someone my grandparents could be proud of. But I want more than that. I want to be good at what I love to do. I want my friends to be proud of me as well. I want to be able to experience life more fully. I’d love to fall in love with someone else some day, but I also want, more than anything, to find love in the creases, cracks, shadows and backdrops of the world.

Decisions, Decisions

I’m beginning to feel as if I’m approaching a crossroads, or that I may already be at one. This would mean more if I didn’t constantly feel this way with irregular severity; you’d be surprised how anxious I get decided between two places to have lunch every day. Still, even though I wake up each morning wondering when I’m going to change what I’m doing with my life into something I enjoy more, lately I’ve been plagued at night  by rack after rack of details. Let me break it down.

1. Professionally (Writing)

I’ve been so terrible at maintaining consistency with my writing lately. I haven’t written more than a couple thousand words on my fourth novel. I’ve been exceptionally lax in updating this blog. I’ve replaced free time and motivation with sleeping too little and drinking and flirting and fucking too much and reading where I can, which is nice, but always pausing before I put pen to paper or hover my thumb over this app.

I haven’t submitted Waypoint to any more agents or publishers, despite the fact that I’m aware it won’t magically manifest itself onto their desks with a kind letter and a gift basket. I feel like it’s a good book that needs to find itself in front of the right reader. I feel like it has a solid, small but positive and vocal following of a few thousand readers, and that it (and its sequels) are things I can be proud of creating.

It still always manages to slip my mind. I just… don’t do it. I forget to look up the next publisher on my list, or if I do, I forget to look up the submission guidelines, or if I do, I forget to put the submission together.

So I’ve got to ask myself: do I still really, really want to be an author as a career? Somewhere inside me, the answer is still a resounding YES. I still carry around heaps of notes and notebooks. I update color-coded files in my phone on a daily basis. I write excerpts for future novels and stash them in those files. I have concepts that I think are ambitious and entertaining and I’m excited to bring them out and share them.

And Jesus, I’ve already written half a million words in three books in four years, so I’ve proven I can and will put in the work.

Do I still want to write the book I’m currently “working on”? I think the answer to that is positive as well, but I’m skittish about it. Earned or not, my I initial trilogy landed me a reputation among my peers that is more favorable than not. They really enjoyed those first books, and though I have no degree or professional experience to draw on, though I feel woefully inadequate, people ask me for writing advice and I feel flattered that they do so.

My newest novel lacks a lot of the grit and maturity of the Convergence trilogy. It’s a lot more straightforward and action-filled and even a bit slapstick here and there, and I’m concerned that even though it’s obviously supposed to be a different genre and style of prose, I feel clumsy trying to put it together on paper and I worry that people will dislike the finished product as it will likely be completely different than what they expected.

I’ve been planning the book for probably ten years. It’s a concept that’s very dear to me with a story that seems pretty fun. I want to get over that mental block, but I’m not entirely sure I know how.

Except to take the time. Sit down. Force myself to stop watching Netflix or jerking off for a few hours and tough through it. That might do it.

Sigh.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum: I read a quote the other day that was along the lines of, “If you aren’t writing to say something, then what’s the point?” and while I’m an advocate for the importance in writing as a form of escapism (both for the writer and the reader) and the necessity of entertainment to keep the weight of the world’s stresses at bay, there is something equally valid in those that write to illustrate passionate ideas and ideals, those who touch on cultural, social, sexual, mental, emotional, intellectual and religious topics. There is something captivating about those ruminating on life, something that taps into the primal node tucked somewhere behind the rib cage, next to the heart.

Nietzsche. Bukowski. Kerouac. Angelou. Thompson. Hemingway. Oates. Poets and travelers, journalists and philosophers. Men and women who wax poetic on love, life, loss, and the lust for more from each day, from each other, and from themself.

Here’s the thing, I think: it requires a certain type of narcissism to believe one can really pick apart the intricacies of those topics. It takes a confidence to put definitive insights onto a page and push it out into the light for the open eyes of strangers to see. While I have always endeavored to write things as clearly and as detailed as I’ve experienced them and the insights I’ve gleaned personally from my experiences, while I have been and will always be honest about the failures I’ve endured and those I see around me, while I will tell you how I believe certain things can be improved or the frustrations I have in whatever regard, I just don’t think I could be so fantastically sure of anything as to write it with such fervor that people would quote me years down the line as if I ever knew what the fuck I was doing ever, with anything.

Would I write about love? Hahahaha. Hahahaha. I have, at length, and I’m still no better at it. I could give no advice that would feel helpful beyond a “What Not to Do” list, chief entry being “Whatever the fuck I did”.

Social studies? Race relations? I have opinions that I don’t feel qualified to give. I know the struggles of being broke, homeless, in debt, bullied, but the fact remains that I grew up as a middle-class white male and that has always and will always give me inherent advantages over others. While I hope to bring as much light to some of the conflicts tearing (still) our people apart, while I want to share conversations and perspective pieces from those more directly affected, I don’t feel I have the proper insight to contribute in a fruitful way.

Do I write about mental health and disorders? I’ll write about my struggles and hope people can continue to relate and maybe find some peace in that, but seeing as how I’ve historically handled my breakdowns with as much grace and aplomb as a whale tapdancing on glass, maybe I should keep my high horse stabled.

So with all that said, I’m torn. I’m torn between finding my way back to pursuing entertaining and commercial writing as a career, taking the steps to treat it like a career instead of letting my anxiety shuffle it off until I can drink the nightmares away for another evening; and writing something deeper and more impactful for people to take to heart and mind. I want my writing to mean something. I want people to be affected by my words.

2. Professionally (Occupation)

Let’s be honest, though, it’s going to be a long time – if ever – before I can fully support myself and pay all my bills with my writing. That means I’m going to need a day job. I do have one. I’ve been here for two years and one month, but the way things have been going, it looks like I might only be here a few months more. I’m just not very good at it, and to be honest, some days it’s difficult to want to be.

My job pays well, but it’s tedious and stressful and my boss has grown difficult to work for. What was once an excited, competitive atmosphere has turned into an intimidating, bullying spectre sucking any joy out of the air that could be found. I find myself popping xanax on days I’m lucky to see a panic attack coming and escaping to the bathroom to get away long enough to breathe when I don’t. I’ve reached a point where, despite working with salespeople I generally like and even admire, I count the very minutes from the beginning of my shift to lunch, from lunch to end.

I’ve worked varying forms of retail for 13 years. I like people. I do. I get really annoyed with them and I’ve grown increasingly introverted as I grow older, but deep down, I love meeting, talking to and learning about people. And yet at least twice a week it hits me that a common part of my job is processing payments for people too lazy to do it any of the other three ways one could it do on their own. What mediocre, pointless, trivial bullshit.

My job isn’t exciting. It’s the same thing day in and day out, and because of that, I feel drained at the end of each day, and because of that, I’ve been blowing my money on things to try and stimulate any sense of reward from the base of my skull. I’ve been living check to check, but now I know I might not be here for much longer, and I’m going to need to save up. Something has to change. I need to do something different, but I need to make sure I’m in an okay position when that shift happens. I suspect I’m going to be grumpier than normal for the next few months.

3. Romantically

This is far and wide the aspect of my life I’m least worried about. Yeah, I’m heartbroken. I’m lonely. I’m pushing thirty and the last serious relationship I was in was six years ago. The last two that seemed they could turn serious ended so poorly it completely shut me down for months. It’s difficult for me to open up, and even more so to find a connection with people I open up with. When I do, I fall pretty hard and I give my affection fully. I love deeply. It has given me some of the best moments of my life, and it has also historically not often ended well.

I would love to have a connection and to be in a relationship, to share experiences and memories with someone special, but I’m not trying to force anything. I’m gradually learning to just let things happen as they may.

Still, I’ve learned I’m fucking terrible at talking to women I find attractive. New women, I mean. Like, someone I’ve just met. If it’s someone I’ve known a while or at least met a few times, I’m able to relax and it’s a completely different scenario. Crushes are had. Sex isn’t uncommon. For a chubby, nerdy guy who too often lets his hair grow out to an awkward length, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t attention from multiple people at almost any given time.

And I like those women. They’re friends and lovers and there’s a shared trust, comfort and intimacy there. I’m a huge fan of sex, even in a casual regard, because I think there’s a created, emotionally charged release that adds passion and closeness. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s fun, and it’s nice to feel desired and to make someone else feel that, too. And I’m good at creating those connections, even if sometimes I’m terrible at the act itself. I know for a fact that I’ve conducted myself poorly on occasion, but have remained friends with that person afterwards and become closer for it.

That connection, those bonds, those are easy to me, and I value them. But trusting on an emotional level, on trying to arrange dates, on gauging a woman’s romantic interest in me, on working out compliments and genuine relationship building conversations… in those instances, I am a bumbling, mumbling mess. I think I really suck at dating, and it bothers me because I would like someday to have a family.

Be that as it may, I know I need to get my life together, first.

4. Life

I do not know what I want to fucking do with my life. I live lightly, and I kind of like that. Most of my things are either expendable or able to be stuffed into the storage unit I’ve had for years. My bed is a borrowed air mattress. Anything essential can be narrowed down to two suitcases. Realistically, I could probably make it one. If I had to, I could drop my phone bill down to $30 a month and rely on Wi-Fi for any Internet related things I needed.

I’m at that age where I kind of really need to figure out what I want to do and make a plan to do it (and then stick to the plan, obviously). I considered Greyhounding and hitchhiking and couch-hopping around the states. I have  friends everywhere, and it would give me a golden opportunity to see amazing – and probably awful – things all over the country. But how much money would that cost? Bus fare, hostel rooms. I can eat on a budget, I’m no stranger to the Dollar Store Diet. Emergency funds? Laundromat costs? How long could I last?

I’ve considered moving back to Los Angeles, as I have every day since I left. I’ve considered moving to New York. I think I’d like it there. I’ve even considered Pittsburgh because for as much as I hate the Steelers, I really liked the atmosphere there, the food, and the fact one of my best friends lives nearby.

Hell, I’ve even considered trying to find some kind of visa to move abroad and work a while. I love to travel, and I especially love other cultures.

All I know is things need to change. I need to change. I’m just flustered by all the choices, because I’m really, really good at making the wrong ones. I’m just starting to hit an age where the right one once in a while would be a welcome change.

First Sight

I want to meet her while standing at a railing, the two of us looking out over a dark blue river, likely abroad, likely one of those old countries where half the roads are still cobbled and every building has stories to tell. We would stand there in silence for a while, me mustering up the strength to say something, her waiting for me to get there, and finally I would say, “Beautiful.” She’d say, “It really is,” but we’d both know I was talking about her.

I want to meet her in a tavern. Not a bar, but one of those worn-in places where folks nip in for a lunchtime pint and you can people watch through window panes stained with age. We would catch eyes from opposite sides of the counter. I would raise my drink in a toast. She would lift hers in return and accompany it with an assured smirk and a small wink. I’d finish my beer and order a fresh one, then walk around, through a room occupied with a handful of regulars but otherwise empty, and we’d talk. For hours. The topics would range from the personal to the inane and the sky outside would slowly darken until the street lights glowed from outside and the evening crowd filtered through the door and we smiled at each other over the lips of our glasses.

I want to meet her in a bookstore. It’s a small affair, privately owned. The shelves are stacked tight with used novels, dog-eared and broken-spined. The pages are yellowed with age and worn with love until a day came when there was no longer room in their home or in their hearts and the paperbacks are given up for adoption. I would walk by her and she’d whirl around and ask my opinion between two books. I’ll have not read either, so we’ll read the backs together and work out a list of pros and cons until a decision is eventually made. “If it sucks, I’ll kick your ass,” she says.  “Take my number so you’ll be able to find me,” I agree.

Or maybe I’ll meet her at a group dinner. It wasn’t supposed to be a double date. Just a group of friends agreeing to meet for a meal and a few of us hadn’t met before, but she and I suddenly hit it off and start having our own conversation off to the side, the rest of the group be damned.

Or maybe we’ll meet on a plane, seated next to each other by chance and conversing because of boredom, and the seeds are sown for what starts as a long distance relationship and possibly blossoms into more.

Or perhaps we won’t meet.

Or perhaps she’s someone I meet again, someone who has been or is in my life. A circumstance changes or a reunion is had, a random meeting in a grocery store that turns into a lunch to catch up.  Maybe I know her already.

Maybe I don’t.

My hope is I’ll meet her, our eyes meet, and I feel that connection again. The kind of current that runs both ways. That kind of tension that raises the hairs on the arm. That flicker downwards as we look at each other’s lips, wondering what that first kiss will be like, taste like. The kind of rapport that leads to a whole lot of nothing that feels like everything and simultaneously lasts a heartbeat and forever.

If she’s out there, I’d like to meet her. It doesn’t really matter how, I suppose.

Today Has Been A Day

When I went to lunch today, I considered catching the bus to the airport, buying the cheapest ticket that would still get me out of Alaska and just figuring things out somehow when I arrived wherever I was going.

I obviously did not do that. I thought it would be better if I saved a little more money first. Then, we’ll see.

Some days I feel confident and charismatic, creative and smart. Even a little funny. Then there are days like today that just *crush* me and I don’t know why. It’s like some days I’ve got nothing to talk about or the words just spring forth, a tree bursting through concrete. Then days like today, I’ve got SO MUCH to say, I think? probably? But fuck if I know what the words are. They’re wrapped up as a cannonball in my ribcage. It’s a pressure, like my heart and my lungs are going to tear out of me to make way for some book that has an answer or asks a question or is filled WITH A SCREAMING OBSCENITY OVER AND OVER. This is Jack’s bullshit angst. All work and no play makes Jack tear down a door with a hatchet.

I’m so angry and frustrated with myself, and I’m sad that I can’t articulate that I’m fucking feeling everything all the time. I’m in love with beautiful things and I lust for the world. I crave intimacy but value solitude and the introspection and observation that comes with it. I’m scared of hurting – myself and others – because when a good person comes into my life, I never feel good enough for the friendship and/or relationship.

I love my job, truly, but it’s not me. I want to be out. I want to explore. I want to travel and just make it by the skin of my teeth if I have to and meet new people and hear their stories and write about them, and I can’t…quite pull the trigger. I can’t scrape together the guts or brain out the math because I’m bad at these things.

I don’t know what my life is, but I don’t feel like I’m doing very good at it or what I’m supposed to be doing or the best way to do it, and it builds up in me. This restlessness and this desire to be free while I’m following the same goddamn routine, putting the same work clothes on to deal with other people complaining about the phones they don’t need five days out of every week just so I can have money that FUCKING I CAN’T EVEN FINISH THIS SENTENCE. I’m bored with my own paragraph, because the routine is drivel and writing it down is giving me a fucking aneurysm because it shows just how much it takes over my life.

I feel crazy. Standing in a food court, trying to decide which unhealthy concoction to poison my body with and being on the verge of tears because who the fuck knows why is not normal. I don’t want to end up as another one of those artists that gets to a point in their thirties or forties and just gives up on everything. I don’t like quitting.

It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. I’m going to get a hot dog and a soda and watch Run All Night (you’re welcome for the plug, Liam. Have your people call my people) and go home at some point and work on this book and take a bath, maybe, and get some sleep, hopefully, and go back to work tomorrow and look at pictures of the Maldives or New York City or flowers or some shit while someone tries to come up with a good excuse to not have to pay their data overage fees.

This is been Positive Thinking and Life Assurance with K. Jered Mayer. Tune in next week when I’ll be discussing the Satanic qualities of single-ply toilet paper.

You, the People

My co-worker asked me today what my favorite thing to do was. “And you can’t say writing.” It took me a moment, but when I replied with “traveling”, it was with absolute conviction.

I do, I love traveling. Different states, different countries, it doesn’t matter. I love seeing different cultures, I love eating foods local to the area, and I love feeling the street beneath my feet. When I travel, I walk around a lot. Certain places have the “must-see” landmarks, and I check those out – the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sangrada Familia in Barcelona, Bill Hickock’s grave in Deadwood – but I don’t do it on a tourist bus or with a group of like-minded visitors. I like to go off the beaten path, I love seeing the city and the people who make it come alive.

I remember being in Dublin with my friend Sean and we got lost wandering around. We ended up in some neighborhood walking past a guy on his back, fixing his car and some kids out playing in the road. I will take that 10/10 times before I take someone pointing out landmarks with a practiced speech that doesn’t quite distract from the half-dead eyes looking through and past the audience.

“I love exploring,” I told my co-worker. “I’m restless by nature.”

That’s why Alaska fucking sucks the life out of me. The nature’s gorgeous, best in the world. Anchorage is easy to grow comfortable in. There’s work here, and good money in it, but it’s not for me. It’s funny how the biggest state with so much open space makes me so claustrophobic. I need variety, I need people, I need new.

“I love seeing new places, trying new things. I love meeting people, man.”

The minute those last five words left my mouth, I realised that they were absolutely true. I update my Facebook and my Twitter fairly regularly with stories about awful customers or asinine questions I’m asked, and people occasionally think I hate my job, or that I hate people. Hell, sometimes I think I hate people.

The truth is, those customers are rare. That’s why they stick out so much, that’s why they make such fun stories to tell and retell. Honestly, though, I work retail and I have worked retail for almost thirteen years because I goddamn love people.

Don’t get me wrong: if I could support myself with my writing, I would in a heartbeat. I’d even take a pay cut if it meant I could write full-time. I’m not a materialistic guy. I love diamonds and flashy shit, I love video games and cushy shit, but if I made enough money to buy a van to live out of, a gym membership so I could score showers, and enough to eat at least once a day, I’d fucking do it in a heartbeat.

But I don’t. Not yet. So I work retail, and I’ve got to tell you, even if one asshole can ruin my day, they are few and far between. You meet loads more interesting, hilarious, tragic, beautiful people working a customer service job. As a writer, that’s the best goddamn material I could have.

And traveling? I love meeting new people. I love the locals, who tell me about their lives and their culture and their families and the holes-in-the-wall. I love the tourists, who tell me of their travels with the same kind of free soul and wide-eyed wonderment I’ve got going on in my own cage of a body.

My first day in Munich eight years ago, Sean and I arrived early. Too early to check into our hostel, in fact, so we tottered down to the laundromat to clean our clothes. The machines were unfamiliar to us and the instructions weren’t in English, either. The German owner didn’t speak a lick of our language either, which was frustrating for all parties involved, but after spending several minutes trying to demonstrate how to operate the machines, he just did it for us. He must have seen the relief and embarrassment on our faces, because the tension immediately left his, and he laughed and smiled.

Sean and I dropped our stuff off at the hostel afterwards and went to Oktoberfest when it opened (10AM, if I recall correctly) and…well, it was an experience. I met loads of interesting people, all of whom I could write about at length, but it was after the festival that stuck with me.

Sean and I wound up at the hostel just down the street from ours. It may have even been next door. That hostel was the party hostel, and where a couple Australians we had met in Barcelona were staying. We hung out there a while, drinking more, and chatting. I wound up dancing on the table with a woman from the east coast. What the hell was her name? It started with an L. Maybe a D. Brunette, pretty. We danced on the table until we got kicked off, and I lamented that I wasn’t able to get a photo. She dared me to jump back up, promising to snap a picture for me. I did and she did and we laughed and bought another round.

The next morning, I was in the lobby of my hostel using the computer. She was on her way out, on to the next destination. I walked her to the door, we chatted a bit, and she kissed me. I kissed her back. She left, and we never spoke or saw each other again. She may never even have thought of me, and that’s fine. For me, it was an experience and experiences are stories. I think you know I love stories.

I fucking love traveling. I love people. That’s where the good shit is at. That’s where all the interesting nugs are buried.

I fall in love every goddamn day with people. Not necessarily a romantic love. I love who people are. I love their motivations. I love what makes them, them: their fears, their hobbies, their weird quirks, their first loves, their disastrous sex stories, their tearful losses and reunions, the girl or boy that got away and the one who didn’t that they can’t stop talking about.

I get frustrated with people who don’t appreciate life, with the things that they have. I get frustrated with people who are unnecessarily mean or who are unnecessarily difficult, and that’s hypocritical, because that has been me. I admit to being an asshole. I’ve hurt people. I’ve talked some shit. I’ve been selfish, and those are all things I try to work on, because I don’t like hurting and I don’t like hurting others.

You fuckers are so goddamn beautiful, so intelligent and creative and strong, you’ve got so much drive. You’re capable of so much, and I love meeting you. I love learning and writing about you. You’re everything that is right with the world, when you want to be, and I’ll travel all over the world to share in a little piece of that.

Oktoberfest, Or That Time I Crippled Myself

When I was eighteen years old, four months after I graduated high school, I blew all the money I had saved up to take my 23-year old friend Sean and myself on a three week trip around Europe. We blew way too much money and spent too little time in some places (as little as a day in Rome and Venice, as long as four or five days in places like Dublin and Barcelona), but the main reason we were going, our ultimate destination, was the Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich, Germany.

I have so many stories from my short time in Europe, but this post will be dedicated to our time there and the month or two that followed.

Sean and I arrived in Munich around six in the morning, shuffling off the train that had whisked us away from a flooded Venice. We wandered around the city until we found first our hostel (not the party hostel, but the one right next to the party hostel; it was too early to check in, so we stashed our packs in a pair of lockers) and then the fairgrounds. The festival didn’t open for the day until 8 or 10 or so, so Sean and I backtracked, grabbed our dirty clothes out of our packs, confusedly managed the washing machines at a local laundromat and then took a short nap.

We awoke refreshed, found our way back to Oktoberfest and were promptly astonished at its majesty. Beer “tents” that were more warehouses that could fit hundreds, each with their own signature brew, live music and the finest German cuisine. Frauleins with a half dozen monstrous steins full of ale in their arms, baskets full of fruits, breads and cheeses. Typical Americans that we are, Sean and I found the nearest unreserved table we could, ordered a mug of the house beer and chugged it down.

Holy shit. The beer was strong and delicious but it was also heavy, and the heat coming off of so many people in an enclosed building helped it rush directly to our head. We resolved to take the second one slower and with a meal.

We wandered around a bit afterwards, making new drinking buddies, trying out different tents and marveling at how completely unimpressed the local Germans were. Of course they were! This was an annual part of their culture. It was essentially a massive state fair for them, albeit with a bunch of obnoxiously drunk foreign tourists clogging up the thoroughways. There were games to play (ring toss, balloon/dart games), souvenier shops (we bought two steins. Sean immediately broke his on mine; mine has been lost to time and too many moves), and rides.

We went on a roller coaster. I don’t know why. We were both drunk and I’m terrified of heights. Just seemed like a thing we were supposed to do. When they snapped the safety harness in, however, they managed to pinch Sean’s scrotum. A whole roller coaster ride with a pinched scrotum. He wasn’t in the best of moods after that, and he probably won’t be again when I share this post and tag him in it, letting everyone know what happened to his ball sack.

Afterwards, and after my friend had a few long minutes to recover, we met up with Australian friends Jared and Joanna whom we had previously become acquainted with in Barcelona. By “we”, I mean Sean left to find them at the train station while I got lost around the fairgrounds. I don’t know how we ended up finding each other again, but we did and we continued to drink until Oktoberfest closed for the evening.

We made our way to Jared and Jo’s hostel (the aforementioned party one, next to ours) where things got a little…out of control.

I don’t remember the name of the girl who got up to dance on the table with me. I do know I was the first one on the table, she was the first one to get up and join me, she was from the East Coast of the U.S.A. and I thought she was beautiful.

Between six and ten other people took to the tables and we were forced to cease our shenanigans on threat of removal. Fair enough. One more drink, bartender, I clearly haven’t had enough.

We drank until that hostel shut their bar down. Sean, my American dance damsel and I made our way back to our hostel and proceeded to drink until their bar closed. I ordered extra beers to drink while I used the computer while Sean went to bed.

Time passed. I didn’t notice, lost as I was in a booze stupor and the glory of the Internet.

Around four or five in the morning, Sean returned from upstairs and took a seat next to me. My friend is usually a boisterous man, full of piss and vinegar and ready to take the day by the face and flush it in the toilet. Not this morning, though. This morning he was timid, silent for several long moments. Eventually, he blurted what sounded like a confession.

Sean was sleeping in one of the upper bunks of our eight bed room when a bunch of intoxicated Australian men burst into the room, laughing. They began wrestling each other. Clothes began being removed until the Ozzies were all naked and one hopped up on the bed to try and force feed Sean a cheeseburger. My friend, confused and half-awake, politely refused and excused himself down to the lobby where he planned on waiting for them to calm down.

I stared at him, half-comprehending the story. He said nothing more and eventually left again. I followed him not long after and, to my dismay, found that not only had he been telling the truth but one of these undressed fellows had commandeered my bed and was snoring happily.

I could have raised a fuss. I did pay for the bed, I was within my rights to demand the man to vacate. On the other hand, all of these bunks but Sean’s now had foreign ball sweat all over the sheets. Pass. Back to the lobby.

Somewhat exhausted, I befriended a British man, an Irishman and a couple women from a country I can’t fully recall. The Brit had stocked his backpack full of beers from the train station and was more than willing to share them at no cost. I got my second wind. We drank and conversed for a few hours more until Sean awoke and we decided to hit the festival for a few hours before catching our train out of Munich to Berlin.

Rinse, repeat. I was well toasted enough that Sean had to steer me with one hand on my shoulder back to the hostel to grab our things, from their to the train station, and onto the train. By this time, I estimate that I had been drinking beer and liquor for around 32 hours straight. This happened.

When I awoke, my left hand had fallen asleep. It didn’t go away after five minutes. It didn’t go away after twenty minutes. Six. Hours. Later. I had fucked up tying my shoe. I had struggled to button my pants. My entire hand was pins and needles and curled into a shadow of a claw with zero grip strength and very little control over my fingers and my ability to clench.

We arrived in Berlin and headed to the airport. While we waited for our flight back to Dublin (where we were to stay for a couple days more before heading home), I purchased a box of orange tic-tacs. I shook one out into my left palm and watched pitifully as it rolled off my hand and onto the floor because I was unable to tighten my grip and hold it. I recall the moment as being incredibly sad.

I updated my MySpace – this was 2006, give me a break – with a…what did they call them? Bulletins? I think it was bulletins. I posted a bulletin saying I was almost positive I had permanently paralyzed my hand and that, frankly…it might have been worth it because Oktoberfest was awesome. It was a brave face I put on, though, because I knew something was seriously wrong.

We ended up in Dublin and met with my friend Karen – a local – and her friend. We got dinner, and lunch the following day. I clumsily handled things with my gimpy hand. We went to a performance of a comedy tour where I accidentally implied I tried to fuck a moose once because certain phrases mean different things in different countries.

The highlight was our last night in Dublin. I spent it with Karen and we found ourselves at a university choir concert. A light show was playing in the background and we sat on the steps, she under one arm, while a beautiful rendition of She Moved Through the Fair drifted across the night like a silk ribbon. It’s one of my fondest memories, bunk hand and all.

Sean and I got home fairly uneventfully, considering the hijinks the rest of our trip entailed. I went to the doctor as soon as possible, having seen no progress in my hand in close to a week. After a grip strength test (which revealed I had none) and no answers because of it, he recommended me to a chiropractor, a physical therapist and an electrotherapist.

The chiropractor was a one-and-done. He popped back into place a vertebrate that had rotated 90 degrees. BUT THAT WASN’T WHY MY HAND WAS PARALYZED. Seriously, how the fuck did I twist my spine up?

The physical therapist fitted me with an arm brace and a hand brace that would help keep me from hyper-extending any tendons. I was also given one of those stress balls to try and work my grip strength back up. By the by, if you have zero strength and your exercise is to repeatedly try to squeeze something really hard, you’re going to get really fucking frustrated really fucking quick.

The electrotherapist is where we saw (and spent) money. They taped down a bunch of diodes to my body, along my torso, hand, arm, shoulder and spine and sent electric currents through them one at a time, trying to pinpoint the nerve blockage preventing me from using my hand. And she found it!  Due to thin blood and stressed nerves (likely due to over a full day’s worth of drinking) and some shitty position I must have fallen asleep in on the train, I had compressed the median nerve in my elbow.

Only the median, not the ulnar. The electrotherapist had never heard of a case where the median was compressed but not the ulnar and wanted to submit my case to a medical journal. I looked into it afterwards: it’s rare – the reverse happens more often – but not unique, so no, I’m no medical marvel.

Between electric shocks and physical therapy, I was eventually able to regain feeling and strength in my hand after a month and a half of paralysis. It’s not as strong as it used to be and sometimes it does funny things like shake or spasm, but holy shit, I’ll take that over that static, weak feeling.

I told this story at a party once a year or two later and this guy goes, “That! That right there! I want a drinking story like that!” Hahaha dude, no you don’t. That shit sucks. I mean, if it happens, it happens but please do not try to recreate a freak accident that involved a horrendously inappropriate and irresponsible amount of alcohol consumption.

A few quick, final notes:
1. Drink responsibly. Seriously.
2. GO TO OKTOBERFEST! The beer! The food! The music! The people! The beer!
3. As much as I would love to say I did, performing “the stranger” on myself while my hand was jacked up didn’t occur to me until well after I had recovered. Talk about a missed opportunity, although considering I couldn’t grip for shir anyway, maybe not.

Prost!