Always listen to your bartender

I hadn’t been out on my bicycle in nearly two weeks and I was starting to go stir crazy. Even in the winter, I make bicycle my primary mode of transportation but lately between work, picking up my daughter, helping other people and then snow I’ve had to drive. And it drives me crazy.

Friday was a beautiful day and I was not going to let it go to waste. As soon as I was done writing I hopped on my bike and headed downtown. I went to the bank to deposit my tax refund check. I still want to close that account and open one at a credit union. I was going to use my tax refund to do that but now I need it for other things.

After taking care of my banking I received a text message from my bff. She wanted to know if I was going to Cause Soundbar that night to see Rape Door and Dumpster Juice. I said I wanted to but had a big day on Saturday and thought I should stay closer to home. If I was a normal person, I would totally be there but I have issues and life is hard. Okay, normal people don’t go see bands named RapeDoor and Dumpster Juice but they would be better people if they did. If I did, I would need to crash at my friends place because there would be no way I could make it home on my bike. Still, I didn’t know what was going to happen; my day was in the process of unfolding.

Feeling hungry, I headed to Club Jager for food and happy hour beers. They have great food that’s pretty cheap, wonderful bartenders who take good care of me and a happy hour crowd that is always up for some lively conversations. Plus, it’s centrally located to whatever I might do next. I was still waiting to hear back from a friend who was going through some hard times so I wanted to remain available for him.

After my two beers and a meal of artichoke dip I was ready to figure out what would happen next. My friend had gotten back to me and wasn’t going to be able to meet up. When I’m biking and drinking, I don’t like to stay in one place too long. Moving around helps me from getting too drunk. I had a choice between heading to Northeast Minneapolis for a couple more drinks then heading home or heading south and winding up at Cause where I would be stuck until bar close.

I proposed my dilemma to one of the bartenders. She suggested that I play it safe and stick closer to home. At this point that sounded like a good idea.

Then I got engrossed in a conversation with another bar patron so I ordered needed one more beer. He was having beer and a whiskey. I thought that sounded like a wonderful idea so I ordered a whiskey as well.

When it was time for my conversation companion to leave I took his seat at the bar and started up conversation with my new neighbor. This procedure repeated a couple more times and I had another round of beer and whiskey. By this point I was feeling pretty invincible. I thanked the bartender for her advice but informed her that I was going to head to Cause anyway.

I mean what’s the worst that could happen. I’ve done crazier things and I’ve survived. Yeah, there was that one time when I lost an eye but most of the time nothing bad happens. I have a pretty low bar for success. As long as no one dies, winds up in the hospital or jail – all is good!

Recently someone posted this quote on my wall because it made them think of me.

“I would rather die of passion that of boredom” – Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh may not be the best role model for responsible behavior but I do share his passion for life… and probable some of his mental illness.

By now it was dark out and the temperature had dropped significantly. The ride south was pretty rough. Before I made it to Cause I had to stop and warm up. I popped in at the Leaning Tower of Pizza for a quick beer before continuing the last half mile to Cause. They are only open from 4pm – 2am but I think half time time they are open it’s happy hour. Unfortunately I was there for sad hour. Oh well… I just needed to warm up.

I made it to Cause just before the first band went on. I had a couple of $25 gift certificates for Cause from CityPages so I headed to the bar to see if I could use one of them. The bartender said “sure” but I needed to use a credit card to open a tab. “Fair enough.”, I said and ordered a beer.

By this time the place was filling up and I knew most of the people there. It was a constant barrage of:

“Hey, hows it going?”
“What have you been up to?”
“It’s so great to see you!”
“ I’ve missed you!”
“Can I buy you a beer?”

At this point I was feeling like my Club Jager bartender had no idea what she was talking about. I definitely made the right decision. As I was trying to burn through my gift certificate, people kept buying me drinks. At one point I had three beers in front of me. I had to start giving them away. I completely lost track of what I had ordered or even how much I drank. I knew I needed more food so I ordered a slice of pizza, but to be honest, I don’t recall if I ever got it. I was so “in the moment” I didn’t know what what going on.

Despite what people might think, I don’t go out to have a good time. I’m all for people having fun, but that’s not what motivates me. I’m motivated by a need for survival and a need to make life meaningful. I go out primarily because I need human interaction or I will go crazy but I also go out to make other people’s lives better. You know… to make life suck a little bit less.

Without a doubt I was doing that but to my surprise I was also actually having fun as well. I was enjoying the music and the people and dancing and having a really good time. This majorly depressed person who lives almost solely for other people was, in it’s most pure sense, enjoying life!

Oh yeah, making bad decisions is totally worth it!

Maybe…

The night came to an end and everyone filtered outside. I still needed to take care of my tab so I walked up to the bar with my $25 gift certificate. I presented the piece of paper and asked how much I owed. The bartender seemed irritated and just told me it was twenty-five bucks.

“No, really. How much do I owe you?”

I suppose it’s possible that my tab was exactly $25 but that seemed highly unlikely and her attitude about the situation did not provide me with any confidence that I was getting a straight answer. I wanted to be able to tip her appropriately but that would have taken a level of interaction that I didn’t feel was possible in this situation. I was planning on tipping her at least $10 regardless but all I had were twenties. I would have needed change and I didn’t get the impression that she wanted anything more to do with me. I wish that I had just left a twenty and been done with it, but I wasn’t feeling it. I was feeling judged and rejected so I just left.

I got outside and quickly realized that I was missing my hat; my brand new fancy green & purple sparkly hat that my friend had made for me. I needed to find it. I headed back into the bar to look but was told that I would not be allowed back in. Was it something I did? Was I being belligerent. I usually don’t get out of line when I’m drinking but I guess it’s possible. I had been having a great time, feeling tons of love and now I was being treated with disdain. I was confused, unsure if I had acted inappropriately or if I was simply suffering for the sins of drunks that had come before me. In any case, I wasn’t going to argue. I wasn’t going to make a scene. I knew I was drunk and my band has played this venue on several occasions so I didn’t need to make any more of an impression than I already had. It was time to shut the fuck up.

They were kind enough to let my friend back in to look for my hat. Although she was not able to find it someone else did and brought it out to me. Whoever that was, thank you so very much. It would have been a unbearably cold bike ride without that hat. As it was, the two mile ride was close to intolerable. Temperatures were just above freezing and it had started raining. In my opinion, these are the absolute worst biking conditions. Add to that, drunk and tired and I had good reason for gratitude after making it safely to my friend’s apartment.

I striped off my sopping wet clothes, hung them in the shower and collapsed on the couch. I had made it, I survived; just as I had done so many times before. My friend asked if I wanted a shot of whiskey.

“Sure,” I said. “I’m safe. Nothing bad can happen now, right?”

“Just don’t piss my couch.” she replied.

The smile melted from my face. Oh yeah, that. The most horrifying, embarrassing consequence to pushing myself too far and drinking too much. A reminder of my limits so painful that I have actively blocked it out. But it’s true. I have peed her couch, not once but twice. In fact over the past three years or so I have had two other accidents while sleeping at other people’s houses. It’s never happen at home, only when I’m staying with someone else. I wish that was something that I could keep private. I wish no one else knew about that. I’m not one for keeping secrets about myself but if there was one thing I wish I could keep hidden from everyone, it would be that.

But I can’t keep it a secret because, you see, it happened again. I woke up the next morning and I had wet the bed. I was mortified. I felt defeated, helpless and alone. The only comfort I could take was in knowing that I would survive this. Having been through this before, I knew what I needed to do make things right and that it would not be the end of the world. I knew my friend would still love me and that I could repair any damage I had caused.

I also know that I’m not alone. A quick Google search of adult bed wetting returns over a million results. I know that there solutions but denial is not one of them.

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I think we are gonna crash

Over the past six years or so I have seen my financial situation get slowly but steadily worse. For the most part this hasn’t been a problem. I don’t need much. I don’t live lavishly, I don’t take vacations, I don’t drive much and I don’t need anymore stuff. Most of my money has gone to supporting my kids, caring for my friends and spending time with the people I love. This last year, however, has seen my income cut by 40% and my living expenses go up considerably, mostly due to increased auto expenses in order to see my kids who both live out of town, but also due to increased housing expenses; my mortgage has gone up $100 a month as a result of higher taxes and insurance cost.

I have done everything I can think of to cut expenses without jeopardizing my mental or physical health but it still isn’t enough to make ends meet. The past six months have been tooth and nail just to make it through. By putting off purchases and repairs, some creative financial juggling and some unexpected monies showing up just in the nick of time I have been able to squeak by. I knew I couldn’t keep it up for ever but I held on hoping for a miracle that never showed up.

I tried to refinance my home but I have too much debt, not enough income and not enough assets. Even though I had been paying my mortgage every month for the past 14 years without fail, and refinancing would have made it easier for me to keep doing that, I was told I was too broke to lower my mortgage payments. That’s fucked up!

I don’t have any savings because I’m carrying credit card debt. Any extra money I’ve ever had I have used to pay down my balances. Then when I hit hard times I turn to the credit cards just to get by. Now, that isn’t even an option. I am maxed out. For months I’ve just been making the minimum payments but in December I couldn’t even do that. I had to call one of my credit card companies to see what I could work out. This card has been closed for years so all I’m doing is paying interest and paying down the balance and I haven’t missed a single payment. I was able to refinance at a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment. They let me slid for December as long as I paid them $125 by the 5th of January. I could do that and I though this might just be what I needed to balance my budget.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how much my van would cost me in January. This was the month where I could no longer put off needed repairs and I needed my van to do my job and see my kids. I had to spend the money. Once again, January saw me just squeaking by.

My primary source of income is Social Security so when that money came in for February I went on-line to pay my credit card bill. Instead of a bill for $125 like I expected I saw a bill for $250 with $125 being past due. Instead of my due date being the 5th of the month as we discussed, they switched it to the 26th. I never received a bill or any notification that they were doing this; not that I could have made another payment in January anyway, nor could I pay $250 by February 26th as the were requesting. So, I paid the $125 like I had planned and figured I would deal with this when I got back from tour.

Once I got back from tour I was able to deposit money in my checking account. I tried to take out $20 just so I would have some cash in my pocket but was told that funds were not available. This made me nervous  I could understand the deposited funds not being available right away but I should have had $70 in my account even before making the deposit. The whole day I was stressed out; wondering how much money I had, what bills I could pay or not pay, what I could sell to generate more funds and generally just working myself into a frenzy. I really try to never stress about money. I saw how disastrous it was for my parents growing up but there I was, falling apart over money.

Once I finished work I was able to get on-line. I saw that two automatic payments had been made from my checking account while I was out of town sending my balance into the red. I didn’t think this was suppose to happen. I thought the new Federal regulations passed in 2010 protected me from becoming overdrawn. Apparently it does not apply to automatic payments. Anyway, my deposit was enough to cover the payments and leave me with a positive balance. It didn’t appear that there were any overdraft charges so I thought all was good.

My next concern was my credit card payment for the computer I just bought so that I could start writing this blog. I hadn’t received a bill yet so I had no idea when that payment will come due. With no-interest financing I didn’t want to fuck it up.

I went to log-on to that account but was told that my ID and password did not match. What?!? It was the same ID and password I used last month to check my account before buying the computer. So I tried it again. Still no luck. I tried every combination I could think of but I still couldn’t get into my account so I clicked the link to have them reset my password. Fifteen minutes later I received an email saying that they didn’t have an account linked to that address.

WTF! I know they have my email address, they sent me the receipt for my purchase, goddamn it! What the hell is going on here?

So I picked up the phone and called the number on the back of my card. I just wanted to talk to a human being and figure out what was going on. Of course I had to make my way through a maze of computer prompts before that would even become an option. Actually, that never became an option. I got to the point where the computer voice told me that I would be transferred to the next available customer service representative but instead I was transferred back to the same computer voice now telling me to enter my card number. I complied but was told, “I’m sorry, I did not get that. Please enter your card number.” I tried again and got the same response.

“Fuck you! I just want to talk to a real person!!!”, I yelled into the phone but the computer voice just repeated over and over, “I do not understand your request. I do not understand your request. I do not understand your request.”

At this point I was shaking with frustration. My heart was pounding and I was ready to explode. I stopped myself just before hurling my phone across the room. I took a deep breath and said, “I’m done.”

I’m done with credit cards all together. I mean, who am I kidding?  I have no business using credit cards. Using credit to survive is fine when you know that things are going to be better in the future and you will be able to pay it back. I honestly thought that would be the case. I figured at some point I would be able to sell my house and get out of debt, but that’s not happening. My house is worth $50,000 less than it was in 2006 and it’s continuing to lose value. I see no chance of my financial situation improving, not in the near future, perhaps not ever. It’s time for me to stop borrowing and live within my means, measly as they may be.

In a moment of clarity it all made sense. A feeling of calm came over my body and I knew what I had to do. I had to break up will my credit cards.

DEAR CREDIT CARD COMPANIES: I can’t deal with this anymore. I’m sorry but you mother fuckers are on your own. I’ve got nothing left to give you. I tried my best. I hung in there as long as I could but now it’s over. We had a good run. You made shitloads of money off of me over the years but the gravy train has run out of track. Come after me if you want but I have given you my last dime. Literally, I’m broke; completely, totally, undeniably and utterly fucking broke!

… well not completely broke. I still had a little bit of available credit on one card. Okay, now this was clearly a dickhead move; maybe a little vindictive, maybe a last ditch effort at survival, maybe a purely logical decision; but considering that I was about to trash my credit rating I thought I might as well go all in. I was going to run up my credit card as far as I could. I headed to the liquor store and spent $70 on booze; 5 liters of wine, 1.75 liters of whiskey, 1.75 liters of vodka and a 30 pack of beer – enough to get me through the month for sure.

I still have $55 dollars left. Hopefully that will be enough to fill my tank, get a little food and toilet paper – then I’m done. I will spend what I earn and no more. And I’ve got a plan. I can do this. It is going to be okay.

By the way… my bank did sack me with overdraft charges, $37 for each payment, $74 in total. Yeah! Mother fucking bank, I’m done with you too! Tomorrow I am closing my account and as soon as I have some money saved up I’m opening an account at the credit union.

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