Cold is the absence of heat

When I woke up yesterday morning it was 10 degrees below zero on the Fahrenheit scale. That is 80 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it was for me a week ago. That’s not cool! Not cool at all. It is down right sucky! I’ve been thinking a lot about the cold lately. It’s kind of hard to think about anything else, but then I remembered, there is no such thing as cold!

No! Seriously, cold is not really a thing. I’m not talking in an existential sense or in some new-agey mind over matter way of thinking. I’m talking science. I’m talking fact and the fact is that cold does not exist. The world which we have created in our minds is a dualistic world of good against evil but in this case there is no duality. What we perceive as cold is not really cold at all, it is merely the existence of less heat than our bodies would like.

Heat is real. Heat is thermal energy. With more thermal energy, temperature rises; with less thermal energy, temperature falls. At the temperature of −459.67° Fahrenheit or −273.15° Celsius there is no thermal energy. This is called absolute zero and it cannot get any cooler. Icecubes and refrigerators do not cool things by adding “cold energy”, they merely displace heat lowering the temperature.

The same is true for light and dark. There is no such thing as dark, it is merely the absence of light. This is not just a semantic argument. I know what people mean when they say, “It’s really dark in here.”, but that doesn’t make it any more true. We walk around everyday, going about our business, happy as clams believing in this thing called darkness but it is not real. It’s a delusion. And people call me crazy!

But enough fun and games; how about something a little more serious?  What about life and death? I’m not asking a spiritual question about life after death where we are united with all our friends and family who have gone before us and everything is beautiful with clouds and angels and cherubs with harps. I’m asking a real world fact based question with spiritual and philosophical implications.

That fact is, there is no such thing as death. What we call death is merely the absence of life. There is no “death force” to fight against. We can’t fight death because death does not exist. We talk about dying like it is a real thing but the fact is no one dies, we simply lose our life and this is coming from someone who very nearly lost his on multiple occasions. Life is really all we have. We can have more of it or less of it but if we seek death or fight death we are wasting our life energy because death does not exist. Death, like cold or dark is a figment of our delusional minds.

So how about that spiritual question? What about the ultimate duality of good versus evil? As we look around the world it is pretty easy to find examples of evil, but what if this too is a delusion? What if what we perceive as evil is really just the absence of good?

I don’t think that there is a way to definitively answer this question. I don’t think that there is any way to prove the existence or nonexistence of evil, and I don’t see many scientists out there testing the theory. This really is a spiritual question but spiritually we can find an answer. What if we assume that there is no such thing as evil, how would life be different? What if we dealt with what we call evil the same way we deal with what we call cold or dark? What if the only way to  eradicate evil was by providing and protecting good? What if we stopped fighting hate with more hate and accepted that love is the only power we have?

I’m not claiming to have the answer to whether evil exists or not but when I look at the world as it is and try to understand it in the absence of evil, I come up with better solutions. Life is better when I stop expending energy trying to fight evil and focus on doing good. Just as it is when I stop expending energy trying to fight the cold as instead seek heat or when I stop fighting the darkness and instead seek light. Life cannot be lived by fighting death, only by seeking life.

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What would you do if you had nothing to do?

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”

– John Lennon (and many others before him)

We are all so busy but how much of that busy is really living? How much is just a distraction from what is really going on? How much of what we do is really necessary? We have all of these things that we feel like we have to do but what if it wasn’t true?

I’ve become fond of saying that there are only three things we have to do everyday: eat, sleep and shit. I realize that there is plenty wrong with that statement. It’s more of a mantra than a biological fact. I use this somewhat vulgar expression to shock me back into the present moment. Basically, as long as I’m not so tired I can’t stand up, as long as I’m not so hungry I can’t move, as long as my bowels aren’t ready to explode… everything else can wait.

People are so fond of schedules and making plans but is it really because we have so much to do that we would never get it done if we didn’t have a schedule or a plan? Or is it because we are so afraid of what we would do if we had nothing to do?

Don’t get me wrong, I love being busy. I miss how busy I was this past summer. I loved always having something to do. Living was easier even though the things I was doing were hard. Even though I had no time for friends, family, music or home I felt like what I was doing was life affirming. I was living.

But that’s over now. Yesterday I had no plans. There was nothing I had to do. There were still lots and lots of things I could do, but beyond eat, sleep and shit; nothing I had to do.

I spent a lot of time in quiet contemplation waiting for inspiration to strike. I had very little contact with the outside world. It was just me and my feelings. I did cry a little, I laughed a little but nothing that really moved me to action. I wasn’t bored exactly. I wasn’t lonely. I wasn’t anxious or eager or frustrated or angry or in love. I was just content.

I’m sure for many that sounds wonderful. To me it sounds like Death.

So I shook hands with Death.  I said, “Pleased to meet you.” We shared a beer and watched a movie until I was too tired to stay awake. When I woke this morning I could still smell the scent of his cologne but he was gone.

Keep buggering on

It had to end sometime. I knew I couldn’t keep going like that forever, although I certainly tried. One day I was going to wind up dropping. One day I would have to accept that I live with chronic illness. One day is was all going to come to a screeching halt.

That day was yesterday. After sleeping twelve hours I was awakened by a phone call from my bff. Even though I had gotten twice as much sleep as I usually requires, I still couldn’t move. Every inch of my body was in pain. My brain felt scrambled and I couldn’t focus on anything. Even my vision was blurry. I struggled to muster the strength to make it downstairs to the bathroom only to find that I had exhausted all my energy and crawled back to bed. I spend the entire day in bed only moving to use the bathroom or get food. Chewing seemed like an arduous task.

It’s been awhile since I have had a day like that but there was a time when it was my reality more often than not. It has been a long road to get here from the time I first got sick with chronic fatigue syndrome but it never really goes away. It is still common for me to have a day or two a week that are like that. The biggest change is in what I can do when I am able to move.

Last Wednesday should have done me in. I’m pretty sure that if I had gone home after delivering CityPages, it would have.  Instead, I went to the Bad Waitress for dinner and then to the bar. My bff met me there and I crashed on her couch. We had brought a friend back to her place with us because he was concerned about going home to his boyfriend. It sounded like he was in a pretty abusive relationship and his boyfriend had a gun – not a good combination. He had threatened him with the gun in the past. The three of us stayed up talking into the wee hours of the morning. The plan was for the boy to spend the night but I don’t even remember falling asleep. All I know is that when I woke up he was gone. We did get a txt from him later to let us know he was okay.

My bff had the day off on Thursday but she still got up with me so we could have coffee together. After a leisurely cup of coffee with my best friend I was off and running… and running late. I had to stop by another best friend’s place to drop off some newspapers to help in her packing. She was moving this month.

I really hope that I can do more to help but that may not happen. The important thing is not what we have to give, but that we give what we have. If we all pull together and do that, things will be okay.

Then next stop was picking up my daughter from school. I was twenty minutes late picking her up. Half of that was me running late, the other half was the weather. I was not alone in being late picking up my kid. There were lots of kids waiting to be picked up. We were under blizzard conditions and the roads were treacherous. I was really excited to take my daughter to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for their Third Thursday event. Unfortunately, I didn’t think that would be wise considering the weather. It was hard enough driving during daylight. I didn’t trust myself to be able to get her home after dark. I hate driving at night even under perfect conditions.

Instead, I just dropped her off at her mother’s and headed home. By the time I got home, I had just enough time to shovel my sidewalk (it was already covered with snow by the time I left again), take a piss, rub one out quick, take a shower and get dressed before hopping on the bus. There was no way I was driving anymore and biking seems totally out of the question but I still needed to get to the MIA. I was running on pure adrenaline.

The reason why getting to the MIA was so important to me was because Lisa Germano was playing. She is the woman who borrowed my synth for South by Southwest and I was really looking forward to meeting her. As it turned out, she cancelled the gig. I guess she canceled the whole tour. I don’t know why. Her website has no explanation but these things happen. Kaiser Cartel also canceled and there is no info on their website either.

Oh well. My friend, Savannah Smith filled in at the last minute, so it was good to see her. My bff went with me and another friend who I hadn’t seen in a while joined us as well. Back when we were all single we used to be kind of three peas in a pod. It was good to have that gang back together.

Still, I was struggling. The weather was really wearing me down. As it turned out, it was probably better that my daughter was not there as I was exhausted by the barriers that were being placed before me.

Don’t I have it hard enough?

I keep going because I am afraid to stop. I know when I stop it is really hard to get going again. I feel like I am running while leaning forward. The only thing that keeps me from falling on my face is that I keep moving. I am constantly falling yet constantly moving. Just like the earth is falling into the sun but keeps missing it. It’s physics.

I keep hoping that it will get easier. I keep hoping that Spring will come. I see signs of hope. I see the snow melt. I feel relief is in sight but it never comes. I just have to keep buggering on.

While at the MIA I was asked how I keep my spirits up. I just raised the beer in my hand and shrugged my shoulders.

The truth is that alcohol is a major part of what keeps me going – that and friends, but in my life, the two are pretty intertwined. Music, writing and biking also keep me going but they don’t mean shit without people.

So I decided I would kidnap my two friends and drag them to my work party. It’s not really what you think of when you think, “work party”. I work for CityPages and they throw some of the best parties in town. This one was a roaring 20’s / bootlegger / flapper themed party. Check out some of these pictures from my friend Erik Hess. None of us were appropriately dressed but that didn’t matter. When I walked in I was told that I was dressed in the wrong decade. I responded that I am every decade. Okay, I was dressed in leopard print pants and probably looked straight out of the ’80 glam metal era but so fucking what.

Since I kidnapped them I figured I should pay for the cab. Apparently all of us had money that night because we were all fighting to pay for each other. I’m telling you, if you want to stimulate the economy; give money to poor people. We will spend it! I was fully prepared to spend the $100 I left the house with. Mostly, I just knew that it would be a challenging night and I didn’t want money to stand in the way of me getting home safe. I have no problem spending money on cabs.

As it turned out we didn’t need to take a cab back. Our friend’s girlfriend came and joined us later in the evening. It was great to have a sober ride home. Well, not home, but to the 19 bar. We were too sober to head home but plenty drunk enough to get into a snowball fight – in the car! You kind of had to be there but feel free to use your imagination. I’m not a good enough writer to do it justice.

After the 19 my bff and I headed back to her place with one of her co-workers. On the walk, we had to stop and make snow angels. It’s kind of a winter tradition for us but our first attempt this year didn’t work out so well. I never thought that we would be fulfilling this mission in April.

Snow Angel in April

I love the imprint of my studded belt.

 

The co-worker only stuck around for a little while waiting for her bus. My bff and I stayed up until at least four in the morning. It was a pretty intense night after a pretty intense day. We talked about the death of her best friend and about the significance of our friendship.

I say it all the time but I don’t know if I have ever written it down: this is the best friendship I have ever had – and I have some of the most amazing friendships a person could ever dream of. This woman is just so special to me that I never feel like I have adequate words to describe our relationship. It’s like no other relationship I have ever had. It’s like no other relationship I have ever heard of. It’s like the best parts of family combined with the best parts of friendship combined with the best parts of romance – except without the sex. That is not to say that we don’t have our problems. Our relationship may include some of the worst parts as well. All I can say is that it is amazing, unbelievable and completely unique.

We shared tears that night. We felt incredibly close and vulnerable. I asked if I could sleep in her bed with her. I like to snuggle. She doesn’t usually like this. She likes her freedom to move around. Also, I sometimes grab her boobs in my sleep. I can see how that might make her uncomfortable. On this night however, she was happy to have someone to sleep with.

It was hard enough for my friend to get up Friday morning. I wasn’t as much help as I could have been but I’m sure me being in her bed helped. As it was she was running late for work. I was figuring I wouldn’t be working at all. It still looked like fucking winter outside. In Minnesota, people drive pedicab all year round but even I think that is stupid. I called the pedicab company in hopes that they would tell me that there was no point in coming in. That is not what happened.

They said, “It’s Friday night, there is a big Styx, REO Speedwagon & Ted Nugent show in town and the streets have been cleared.”

Okay, I thought. I’m new at this and they know better than I. If they want me, I’m going to be there. Plus, I know that if I want to keep going I need to stay consistent.  Even if I have a bad night I need to keep buggering on.

I got up, did a load of dishes, went to the store to get cat litter and Drano, came back and changed the cat box, cleared the drain in the bathroom sink and did another load of dishes. Then I hopped on the bus to go home. I still needed to take a shower, shave and wash my blanket for the pedicab. I don’t remember but I’m pretty sure I took time to jack-off as well. As crazy as my life was feeling, I knew that what I was going through was nothing compared to the folks on lockdown in Boston.

Friday was a pretty shitty night; at least it started out that way. I didn’t get a single ride off the big concert at the Target Center. I started working at 8pm but I didn’t start getting rides until after midnight. It still turned out alright. Gay men and drunks are my bread and butter and they totally saved my ass. I know my people.

Saturday was a nicer day so I figured I would go in even earlier. I also wanted to make sure my pedicab was in top working form. It seemed to be but I still was having problems, I presume do to the weather. It was still too fucking cold. Anyway, Saturday was a fun night. Technically, the best night I have had to date. It was also the most exhausting. By the time I was done at 3am, I was beat, and it was snowing. I sent my bff a message to see if I could crash at her place. She lives much closer to the garage than I do and I didn’t think I could make it home. Even if I could, the bike ride in the snow would have been hell.

Sunday morning I woke up on my bff’s couch once again. She wouldn’t have to get up for another few hours but I needed coffee. I also needed a smoke and nobody likes smelling cigarette smoke while they are sleeping. I gathered my things and headed out the door. I still had no real plan.

In the entryway to her apartment building, sitting on top of the mailboxes were a pair of Roland MA-8’s. “Holy shit!”, I thought. These would be perfect for making music on my laptop. I couldn’t believe that someone would just be giving them away. I figured someone in the process of carrying things in and had just set them down. I went outside and had a smoke on the steps while I contemplated what to do. After 10 minutes, no one had come back for the speakers so I figured they were mine. Wow, sometimes the universe is so awesome!

I had been tempted to just head home but after that I figured I should just keep buggering on and see where this day takes me. I love Sundays and I love drinking with people who drink on Sundays. I’m not saying that it was the brightest decision in the world but you are free to judge for yourself.

Here is what happened:

  • CC Club for breakfast – coffee, 2 screwdrivers and a veggie omelet.
  • Conversation on the patio with a conservative about the smoking  ban. We actually agreed on somethings.
  • Two beer.
  • Played darts with a friend and his buddy. They were celebrating my friend getting fired. I won at darts.
  • Started my bike ride home stopping off at the Saloon, a gay bar downtown.
  • $3 gin and tonics. Gay bar strong. Must have had 3. I was pretty drunk.
  • Sat down with a pretty 22 year old college student who didn’t look like she should be drinking alone. This was true. Even her friend who was txting her hoped that she wasn’t drinking alone. She took a liking to me. Started making out with me at the bar. I’m not one to complain about a hot college co-ed wanting to makeout with me but this was a gay bar and I do have a reputation to maintain.
  • I literally poured her into a cab. The cab driver insisted that I come with – not really his job to take care of her. I agreed. There was no telling where this would lead. She was all over me – biting me – I like biting. My judgement was a bit off but I would never have sex with someone that drunk. Still, there is a lot of fun that can be had that falls short of sex.
  • I get her to her destination and the cab takes off. The woman also makes it clear that she is done for the night. Luckily, I took that cab drivers number. He comes back and returns me to the Saloon where my bike is locked up.
  • From there I head to my friend Doug Anderson’s new bar for a drink. It’s called the Belmore/New Skyway Lounge. I hadn’t been there yet and I wanted to check it out. Call it reconnaissance, not just for the band but as a pedicab driver as well. It’s a great space and the bartender was awesome. Unfortunately, we were the only two people there the entire time. I sincerely hope that he does better on the weekends. I’m sure he does.
  • It’s still early so I thought I would hit Bunker’s and catch one of my favorite bands, Dr. Mambo’s Combo. I pulled up to the door on my bike and the bouncer told me to keep moving. Okay, I thought. I’m pretty drunk, maybe I should just go home. I got about a block away and realized that he did not have enough interaction with me to make that assessment. He had no idea who I was, so I headed back to talk to him. This was not cool. His mind was made up. He didn’t care who I was. He was being a prick and he was sticking to it. Fair enough.
  • Next attempt was BJ’s, a strip club. They had me pegged as someone to not let in off of their surveillance cameras. Seriously, they judged me solely on the fact that I was riding a bike and had an overstuffed backpack.  I even had a nice conversation with the bouncer but there was nothing he could do.
  • At this point I was determined to get another drink. I stopped in at Halak’s. No bouncer, no security camera, no problem. I had a beer there and then headed out for a smoke. I decided that it was time to move on but headed back in to hand the bartender another $5 for not judging me. He said I was no problem and was welcome there anytime. This is why I love dive bars!
  • The queen of all dive bars is the T-shop in my neighborhood. I don’t go there very often because they are usually closed by the time I get home. They are a beer-only bar and usually close by midnight. This night I was getting home well before midnight. I really do love this bar. I love Debbie the bartender. Also sitting at the bar was another famous musician in town. He’s the lead singer in a Tom Petty cover band.  We are both talented musicians and songwriters who make our way in the world playing other people’s music. We had a great conversation about that.

Judge me however you want but there was a movie in that night. Maybe I should have just gone home and had my day of doing nothing on Sunday but I wouldn’t have missed that day for anything. Sure, maybe I would have been able to move on Monday if I had, but Monday would never have been as exciting as that.

There is a saying, “Don’t judge me until you have walked a mile in my shoes.” Fuck, I don’t give a shit if anyone walks in my shoes. Judge me all you want. I just hope that you will take the time to walk a mile in your own shoes. Most people don’t even do that!

Unforgettable days

Six days ago I finally wrote about my day which occurred twelve days ago. I still have not written about the day which followed, the Sunday, the day that is now eleven days history. I have not been putting it off because I am reluctant to write about that day. I have put it off because as time goes by I am worried more about losing the memories of the recent past. That day will forever be etched in my memory. It doesn’t matter when I write about it, it will feel as fresh as yesterday.

You see, that was the day I saved a best friend’s life.

The day before had been spent helping her move into her boyfriends house. It was a big day, an emotional day, an exhausting day. At the end she went to bed but the rest of us stayed up partying. At six or so in the morning she woke up to find us all still awake and hanging out in the kitchen.

She was understandably pretty annoyed with this. I can’t speak to her exact state of mind but I have a feeling she was upset with her boyfriend for inviting people back to his parent’s house and for not going to bed with her.

I wasn’t paying much attention to her arrival at the party but then she collapsed  She has epilepsy and was having a seizure. Her boyfriend and I rushed in to help her safely to the ground where she lay motionless in his lap.  A couple minutes past and she was not showing any signs of coming out of it. I have probably seen her have more seizures than anyone and I could tell this one was different.

I asked someone to call 911, someone who knew where the home phone was, or at least someone with a local number. The ambulance arrived in fairly short order and I met them at the door. I explained the situation and they went to work. The standard protocol is to administer a heavy dose of diazepam. I assume that they did that but it wasn’t working. I heard them say, “We are loosing her”. They cleared everyone out of the kitchen and I broke into tears.

People die from seizures.  In fact, as many people die each year from seizure disorders as from breast cancer. We had already lost one friend with epilepsy in the past year, I could not bare losing another, especially not one of my very best friends.

They loaded her into the ambulance to get her to the hospital. My adrenaline was racing. One of the party guests was pregnant and wasn’t drinking. We made plans to drive her boyfriend and me to the hospital.

—-

They next thing I knew I was waking up on the couch in the living room. My energy had finally given out and I had collapsed.  I had no recollection of falling asleep and now I was alone in this huge house out in the woods. I was alone, trying to get a hold of anyone I could but to no avail. I was alone in a state of panic for two hours before the boyfriend and his mother returned.

The boyfriend had not slept at all and was wiped out. I helped him move my friend’s couch into the basement and then his mother drove me back to my van. I got in my van and headed to the hospital to see my friend, but realizing that this would take me past my friend Scott Harold’s house, I gave him a call.

Scott Harold is the founder and CEO of the non-profit I will forever be tied to called, Rock The Cause. For the longest time I was considered the “moral compass” of the organization. I saw my role as that of preventing the organization from “selling out” to corporate interests. As the organization grew, their need for corporate collaboration became inevitable. I saw my role as an anchor turn into just a drag. I still have my doubts about some of the partnerships that have been made but I have no doubts about the good work they are doing.

For the past many months, Rock The Cause have been working with Zach Sobiech, a 17 year old singer/songwriter who is dying of osteosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that is expected to take his life within months. His story and his music are so incredibly; it moved me to tears to hear Scott tell me about him. I’m in tears now as I am writing about this. If his life does not embody the meaning of “Life Sucks, So What?” then I don’t know what does.

And then on to the hospital to see my friend who nearly died from epilepsy. I was grateful to find her no longer nearly dying. In fact, she was bitching about the food and how this hospital sucked compared to her last one. This may not have been any comfort to her in the moment but it was of great comfort to me. She was actually a pretty difficult patient but I wanted her to know that I still loved her. After spending a good hour or so with her I offered to buy her a coffee and told her that I would check in with her the next day.

Then I needed to get a drink. I had potential plans with this guy but he was not available so I called the woman I had not bought a drink for earlier in the week. She met me at the 19 bar. I explained how not buying her a drink went against my core values. We talked about honesty. We talked about lying. We talked about sex. We talked about all sorts of things until my bff showed up.

After bar close we went back to my bff’s place. We all got comfortable and after some heated discussions about poverty my bff passed out in her bed. My other friend and I were left alone on her couch. We began exploring each other’s bodies. There is much excitement to be found in another person’s body. That is something I haven’t had enough of lately. I just can’t tell you how much I missed feeling a cock in my mouth.

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