Pride and Prejudice

I’ve obviously not been keeping up with my personal goal of posting everyday. It always sucks when I don’t meet my goals but I would rather fail at doing something than succeed at doing nothing. To me, the important thing is that I keep going, doing the best I can and not get too discouraged. My last post was written over the course of Sunday and Monday. It pretty much covered the highlights of Thursday through Saturday.

On Sunday my son returned to college after spring break. I barely had anytime to myself for a week so when he left I felt a calm come over me. That calm that an introvert feels when they are alone and at peace. Most people think of me as an extrovert and quite often I am, but after a week of fairly intense interactions I become introverted. My plan was to go to a one year sobriety party for a friend but what I really needed was time to myself – so that’s what I did.

By the way, time to myself does not mean writing – at least not blog writing. I actually find this to be an intensely extroverted activity. As I’m sitting here writing I’m imagining all of you reading it. Sure, at this point that may only be six people but that is still a lot. That still takes a lot of extroverted chutzpah.

Monday night seemed like a good night to get wasted. I had a couple beers at the Bad Waitress the shared a couple pitchers with a friend at the CC Club. It was almost 10pm and I hadn’t finished my gift shopping for my bff so I headed to the liquor store before meeting her at the 19.

Tuesday I woke up on my friends couch and headed home so that I could pick up my daughter. I hung out with her after school and into the evening. I was pretty wiped by the time I got back from dropping her off at her mothers so I went to bed early.

Wednesday I worked all day delivering City Pages and RENT 411. After that I picked up Chinese food and heading to a depressed friend’s house to see if I could do some cheering up. This wasn’t just bad mood depression. This was real clinical depression but it still helps to have an understanding friend around.

Okay… now that we’ve got that out of the way, this is what I want to talk about:

I’m starting a new fucking job!

Since getting sick and going on Social Security back in 1999 it has been my life duty to get better and move forward, just as it would have been if I never got sick. In other words, I’m not trying to get back to where I was. That would be insane. That is what made me sick. Getting sick moved me from where I was and changed my trajectory but it never changed my goals.

I’m just trying to get better at what ever pace I can manage. I think that is the dream of anyone with a chronic illness or condition. I’m not talking about terminal illness. I don’t feel qualified to speak to that, although technically, we all have a terminal illness.

What Social Security has done for me is give me the time to explore what I can and cannot do without risking homelessness or starvation when I fail. It has allowed me to discover what I am good at so that I can be the best person I can be. I wouldn’t wish my “disabilities” on anyone, but fuck! I wish everyone got Social Security. In stead of a safety net, it should be a concrete floor which no one can drop below. Seriously, no one should be worse off financially than me no matter how stupid or unlucky they are. Stupid people are people too and we need crazy fucking risk takers if we are going to advance as species!

What really pisses me off are people who think that those on disability are lazy and milking the system. Really?!? You don’t think that people would seek a better life if they could? Living on Social Security sucks! Getting on Social Security sucks. I know a number of people who could qualify but struggle on without it because they don’t want to admit that their life sucks more than someone on disability! But hey, if you think that people on disability have it made and are jealous because you don’t qualify, let me know. I will gladly come poke your eyes or cut off your legs. Then you can live the high life too.

WOW… I really got off on a tangent there. It was an important tangent but I really wanted to talk about my new job.

So I’m going to be a pedicab driver. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a bicycle taxi. It’s like a rickshaw pulled by a bicycle. They are common in Asia but becoming more common in major cities in the United States. It’s not so much a transportation solution like a regular taxi, but part of the whole entertainment experience of a night on the town; part classy escort through the busy entertainment district, part tour guide. Yeah, totally up my fucking alley!

A few years back, when pedicabs started showing up in Minneapolis, I began wondering if it was something I could do. A big part of my recovery process has been getting back into biking but could I really do it as a job?

I determined that I could. I had been working as a newspaper delivery driver, as I still am, and really wanted to get out from behind the wheel and over the pedals. My big fear was the sales aspect, the dealing with the public part. I’ve done sales and I’ve been good at it. It was just a long time ago and I hated it. But then I realized, it’s not sales, it entertainment. I can do that! But entertaining fans from the stage is different than entertaining strangers who are standing on the sidewalk. That scared the shit out of me.

I wasn’t ready. But now I am. Almost. At least I’m ready to take the next step.

Saturday I went in to meet with the owner of Twin Town Pedicab. This is the closest thing that I’ve had to a job interview in next to… forever. I was a little bit terrified. I’ve been delivering papers for seven years. I suppose I had some sort of interview for that. I auditioned for All The Pretty Horses six years ago. That was a bit of an interview, but I knew I was awesome. Before that I worked cleaning houses for my best friend. Before that I did web design. I had two clients, both of whom were non-profits I worked with where I was in charge of hiring the IT. Don’t worry, I donated all of my income back to the organization.

My last real job interview was in 1996. I got the job, they put me in a monkey suit, I made a shitload of money and it nearly killed me.

But the meeting with the pedicab company wasn’t really a job interview. It still felt like one but really it was a sales pitch. Technically, I’m not their employee, I’m their customer.

I said, “Oh good, I’m a shitty employee.”

That didn’t go over so well. I was met with a suspicious, “What do you mean by that?”

I replied, quite confidently, “I just mean that I don’t believe in working for people, I believe in working with people.”

I guess I passed the audition.

Monday I went in for training on the pedicab. Driving a pedicab can be compared to riding a bicycle like driving a tour van is to driving a Ferrari.  That is to say, not at all! But within ten minutes I had it down and was out on the road. Apparently that was a bad idea. Until I have my pedicab licence driving on the road is totally illegal. Oops. Nothing bad happened but I’m sure I freaked out my trainer. With all the one way streets and dead-ends it took me twenty minutes to get back to the garage. Still, he was willing to get in the cab and let me take him for a spin around downtown Minneapolis. I think I did alright. I nicked a pothole and hit the brakes a little hard once but I’m still learning. I don’t think it will take me too long to get it down. I’m going to make mistakes but that is how I learn.

I still don’t know what they think of me though. I’m sure they have a lot of people who think they can do this but then quit. I’m sure that they are wondering who I am. Who is this weird, looking, weird dressing 46 year old and why does he want to be a pedicab driver? I’m sure they have their doubts. I’m sure they have their prejudices. Fuck, I have my own. I’m prejudging them by assuming that they have doubts about me.

Prejudice sucks, but it is also unavoidable. We all have it. In a way, we need it to make sense of this crazy complex world. It might be inaccurate but we have to start somewhere. I prefer to start with curiosity and intrigue but sometime that will get you killed. We need to be able to make uninformed judgments sometimes for the sake of safety. My problem is with intentional ignorance. I have a problem when someone’s prejudice prevents them from learning about another person. That just makes me sad.

What makes me angry is when someone allows their prejudice or ignorance to turn into hostility. When we take action based on these points of view we are discriminating. When our discrimination about a class of people causes harm it is wrong and unjust. Proposition 8 in California and DOMA at the federal level are wrong and unjust. I pray the Supreme Court of the United States will do their job of protecting the American people by striking down these unjust laws. Those who are being harmed by them cannot wait for people to overcome their prejudices. Human lives are at stake. Children’s lives are at stake. America has a horrible history of treating people unfairly but we can do better. I believe in this country. Please don’t let me down!

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The pursuit of happiness

Tuesday evening I met up with a friend for a beer. He had been going through some tough times. He had recently lost his job and needed to get out of the house. At one point I asked him something about how he was doing or what his plans were and he responded, “I’m trying to have a good time.”

I just recall thinking to my self, “This is one of the most miserably people I know. Having a good time sounds like a pretty lofty goal.” Of course I was really thinking about myself. Of course I wanted him to be happy. I wanted him to have a good time. I just know that from my experience, pursuing happiness as a goal is bound to end in disappointment. Happiness happens, but not when I’m expecting it.

Rethinking what motivates me has been on my mind a lot over the past week. I’ve been called a hedonist before and for the longest time I took no objection to that term. Hedonism is the devotion to pleasure. How can that be a bad thing? Especial when understanding that my pleasure is dependent on the circumstances of the people around me. Devoting one’s life to bringing pleasure to the world sounds like a beautiful thing to do.

As an entertainer I hope that I bring pleasure, happiness, good times and amusement to the world. But is that what entertainment means to me?

I was discussing this subject with my son Sunday evening. He is an actor and musician. We had just seen Propeller’s production of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” at the Guthrie Theater. I felt impressed, inspired, intrigued, incompetent, moved, changed, at times aroused, but not anything that I would associate with being entertained. My son and I had shared a meaningful experience. We felt connected to one another and to the playwright and actors. To my son, this is what art is meant to do; create a shared, meaningful experience.

But for many, music, dance, theater, comedy, television, movies, literature and other arts are just entertainment. That’s fine. There is a sense of satisfaction in knowing that people are entertained by what I do, but that’s not why I do it. I don’t think that most artists would do what they do if they only viewed it as entertainment. The act of creating art is hard work, it’s frustrating, painful and wrought with failure and disappointment. We do it because we have to; because it is who we are. We do it to give our lives meaning and purpose. We do it to feel connected to the world around us.

Yet, there are those occasions where it brings us great joy. Creating something that we conciser absolutely brilliant or putting on an amazing show that connects us with the audience can put a smile on our face.

My bff was relating her favorite Venus story to me this past weekend. We had just put on an incredible performance to a packed house at First Avenue for the David Bowie tribute show, Rebel Rebel (Rock for Pussy) and Venus was on cloud nine. S/he was simple glowing and dancing and having the time of hir life.

Yes, happiness can be found in this life but as an artist, it is not my pursuit. As a person who’s life is filled with adversity, having a good time is not my goal. I am not seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. I’m just trying to keep going in the pursuit of meaning and purpose. If along the way I find happiness, joy and entertainment, I’ll take that too… as long as I can share it with you.

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