A good day

Today has been a good day. In fact I’ve had a couple of good days so far this week and it’s only Tuesday. I woke up yesterday with a strong sense of guilt. Actually I woke up with a strong sense of embarrassment but after I let that go the guilt quickly emerged. This is not an uncommon experience after a night of heavy drinking but I think it’s more common when whiskey is involved. Sunday was a whiskey night.

Anyway, I felt like I had an apology to make. I’ve been doing a lot of wrestling with shame, guilt and apology. Frankly, I haven’t seen the point to any of it. I have seen guilt as imposed by the outside as an attempt to control and shame as a lack of self-love. An artist should never apologize for their art and no one should ever apologize for who they are. If you are being a genuine authentic person, you should never need to apologize.

Or so I thought.

I have apologized however. I do see their social purpose and benefit of apology but I’ve not really understood what it meant and how it was associated with guilt and shame until recently. To be honest, I still don’t understand it completely but I think I’m on the right path.

Brené Brown has a couple of TED talk videos dealing with shame and guilt that I have found eye-opening. I highly recommend watching them both (in order) but the main point I want to convey here is that guilt is saying, “I did something wrong”, shame is saying, “I am wrong”.

But understanding this still didn’t help. I still couldn’t see the difference. When I’ve done something that hurt another person they hardly ever say, “you did something that hurt me”, they usually say “YOU hurt me”. As I result I hear, “I am wrong” and I’m not willing to take that on.

It was only yesterday, AS I WAS WRITING “Do what you do” that I realized that I am not my actions. That is not to say that I’m not responsible for my actions, only that they don’t define me. It just means that I can separate the two. It means that I can separate shame and guilt. It means that I can apologize for what I did without having to apologize for who I am. This is a good thing. Considering that I’m going to do what I do, I may have to get really good at apologizing.

So back to my story…

I felt like I had kind of been a dick to my friend the night before and that my actions may have hurt her. I sent her a text message stating as much and it turned out that I was right. I had made a situation personal that didn’t need to be and that prevented me from being the compassionate empathetic person I want to be. I’ve got my hang-ups and insecurities and I do that. I also have the ability to recognize it, take responsibility for my actions and apologize.

Fortunately I was also presented with an opportunity to make amends. Her favorite bar-tender was leaving Mortimer’s after eighteen years on the job. She wanted to go say good-bye to him. She was going to drive to see him but driving to drink is stupid. Cold weather biking kind of sucks too but if you have a friend that bikes all winter long, maybe it won’t be so bad. I got to be that friend.

So vowing not to drink whiskey, I set out to help my friend get across town to south Minneapolis by bicycle. There are a couple of things to know about cold weather biking. The first is to dress in layers so you can stay warm. Second is to not sweat. This means biking slower. It also means taking breaks so we stopped half way at Clubhouse Jager for a drink. On the way back we stopped at the 311 Club.

To not bore you with details, let me just say it was a successful night. I was able to polish off a couple of glasses of wine in my friends garage before I was completely done. I crawled into her bed, chilled to the bone, but quickly warmed up sandwiched between my beautiful friend and her awesome pit-bull.

I woke up this morning at about two in the afternoon. I wasn’t moving too fast, as is typical for me, but I was pleased to not be hung-over given that I drank a total of thirteen drinks the day before. I snuggled with my friend some more before embracing the day.

I’m in a period of transition between working my ass off as a pedicab driver and tackling a really long to-do list of all the things I have been putting off. The wonderful thing about having a really long to-do list is that just about anything I do will move me forward. Today I decided to tackle mowing my lawn and fixing the drip in my bathtub.

I borrowed my friend’s power mower to mow my lawn. Most of the year I can do just fine with my push mower but the first time I mow and the last time I mow I really need the power of a gas mower. In the past I have rented, but having a friend who will loan me theirs is even better. Fixing the drip was easy, I just needed to take the time and get the part. Today was that day.

So life still sucks but it is what it is and what it is is a lot. If you keep it simple, do what you do and pay attention you may find that some days are pretty damn good!

Love is greater than guilt

So we have a large homeless population in Minneapolis. I had a couple from Austin, TX in my cab last night. The woman works with the homeless population in Austin and so I included a tour of some of our homeless facilities. She was amazed at how big they were.

Personally, if I was living on the streets I would rather be in Austin, TX than Minneapolis, MN… certainly in the winter, but I guess I had never thought about whether we had more or less people who were homeless than other cities. But I do think about people who are homeless a lot and I am very grateful that they are part of my life. They have taught me so much about survival and what is important in life. My senior intership in college was working at a drop in center for homeless youth. I love that as a pedicab driver I get to help and interact with people who are homeless all the time. I love when I have a good night like last night and I am able to give money to people who are homeless.

Most people who are homeless do not have jobs but that does not mean that the don’t have money or ways to get money. In this society we all need money to survive and being homeless does not exempt anyone from that reality. Unemployed people living on the street find ways to get money from government services, private charities and from you. The charities and government programs are a pretty set deal. The best opportunity a person has to improve their situation is with you. You are the variable. Whether or not you give to this other human being is what makes the difference.

But this isn’t really about the homeless. This is everyone. We all survive by someone giving us money. We may say that we earned the money, and certainly we did, but there are other ways to get you to work. Slavery may have been outlawed but we are not so removed from it to forget that it existed.

At least when we are giving money to the homeless we are doing it out of our own free will, right?

Not funking exactly! The homeless use the same tactics to get money from you that corporations do. These are the same tactics that politicians use. They are the same tactics that get us to buy lottery tickets. They are the same tactics that every business uses. They are the same tactics that pedicab drivers use. They play on our emotions. They use our love, hope, fear, joy and guilt to get us to give them money.

So here is my story:

I finished early last night; before bar close. I headed to the Saloon where a number of my friends go for Hard Mondays and still had time to down a couple of strong cocktails before heading to McKenzie for a good beer before the night was over. There I met a guy who was in town from San Francisco to record with my friend Matt “the Doctor” Fink of Prince and the Revolution. There is a whole nuther story there but it’s a bit off topic. Still, we talked until 2:30 am and they said we had to leave. I returned to the Saloon to get my bike and ran into a few friends who were still hanging out. After they left I found myself with the homeless guys who hang out in front of the Saloon.

I didn’t have much to offer but I did have an airline bottle of gin and cigs to go around. A couple of guys insisted on giving me money so I accepted it. In my line of work people insist on giving me money all the time. I kind of have to take it or I don’t get to keep working.

[There are actually about three or four more stories that could go here but I’m sorry, I can’t actually write about everything. If you feel like you are missing anything read the last 70,000 words I’ve written… or stay tuned for the next 70,000,]

At the end of my stay one of the guys asked me if he could get the money he gave me back. This put me in a very awkward position. I will give anyone anything that I can when I am motivated by love. I gave him a cigarette out of love. He gave me money which I received as love and now he wants it back. We had a little conversation and this is what I left him with:

“We had an exchange that was based in love. If I give you money, the money you gave me, it will be tainted with guilt. The love that we shared has more value than the money in my pocket and if you carry that love into the world you will find more money than what you gave me for a cigarette.”

He agreed with me and I hope that he did find more money. If not, I totally own him 53 cents.

Here is my million dollar idea for which I only expect a penny on the dollar:

Stand at the end of a freeway exit with a sign that simply says, “I Love You”. I would suggest using some colored markers and making it pretty but here is the key: hand the drivers who give you money a flower. It could be a wild flower that you pick from the roadside or feel free to come pick flowers from my yard. They say that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar but I don’t think that is true. Besides, who the fuck would want to catch flies anyway? I’m just saying that you can catch more money with love than guilt. For all I know I might be wrong about that but still… as long as you can get what you need – fucking do it with love.

Nights like these

After a very relaxing soak in the hot tub, my muscles finally released from two long days spent crammed into a sedan, I smoked a cigarette, finished my beer and was ready for bed. I slipped into my skull and cross-bone footie pajamas and took my place on the couch. Jules checked in with me to make sure I had everything I needed. I told her that one advantage to having CFS, perhaps the only advantage, is that I have no problem sleeping. It is true, at least for me, at least now. I know many people with CFS also suffer from insomnia and I did in the beginning but now I live everyday to the fullest, push myself to the limit and sleep like a baby.

Last night began no different. Jazz was on the blowup mattress beside me. I asked him what time it was to which he replied, “11:50”. It has now occurred to me that he didn’t take into account the time zone change and that it was actually 10:50 pm but in any case I closed my eyes and was sawing logs by eleven.

Now it was my turn for disrupted sleep. The night before Jazz spent much of the night in agony after eating some bad jalapeno peppers; Venus was tossing and turning all night worrying about her audit. Last night I got a taste of both.

Usually I can get a good six hours of sleep before my bladder sounds the alarm. Last night I only made it til 1 am. I woke up, checked my phone and stumbled to the bathroom. At least Jazz was sound asleep. I returned to the couch and laid down. It took me a little longer to fall asleep this time, but maybe only half an hour, although my head was starting to fill with the thoughts of the day before.

At 2:30 am I awoke again. My stomach gurgling, my intestines in knots and a pressure building upon my sphincter with the force of Niagara Falls. Perhaps it was just a fart but not wanting to take the chance nor risk poisoning my drummer I ran once again to the bathroom. I will spare you the details but let’s just say I made camp on that toilet for the next 20 minutes eliminating the toxins that had built up in my bowels.

I laid back down but quickly realized that I would not be falling asleep anytime soon. I figured I might as well go have a smoke and work through the thoughts in my head. I’ve been really troubled by what Venus is going through with the IRS. It seems like they are asserting that the life of an artist is not a worthy profession, that it’s not a legitimate way of life. This scares the hell out of me as I imagine it does many independent artists. After 14 solid years of battling CFS I know that the only thing I can do is be an artist and philosopher, and the world needs artists and philosophers. Even if I’m not the best artist or philosopher it is still the only thing I have to offer. Sure, I’m a good father, I’m a good friend; but as a career, as a vocation, as a way of live… this is all I have left. So why do I feel guilty? Whose voice is in my head because it sure isn’t mine.

Jazz made a comment last night suggesting that the IRS is coming after Venus because they believe she is trying to write off her vacations as a business expense. “Really?!?” I thought. People consider this a vacation? As insane as this supposition sounds to me, I understand where it is coming from. We do enjoy what we do. But isn’t that suppose to be the goal. Aren’t you suppose to do what you love? Aren’t you suppose to love what you do? When did enjoying your job become a bad thing? And honestly, this is not a vacation. I can’t even remember the last time I took a fucking vacation. At this point I’m not even sure what a vacation is. Sure, what we do may look like fun from the outside, and we do have fun, but I think a more accurate description of what we have is life fulfillment, at least on a good day. The rest of the time all I can say is that we have sustenance, but that’s enough to keep me going.

At 4 am the yawns find their way to my chest and I fall back to sleep. It’s now 7 am and life is beginning to return to the world. I decide to retire the fight, get up, make coffee and start my day. We have another 6 hours in the car before we reach Scottsdale, AZ. That’s where we get to do what we came to do. Tonight however, Venus has a solo show which means that Jazz and I get to kick back and enjoy ourselves. Hopefully I can squeeze in a few more winks during the drive because I do plan on having fun tonight; as much fun as I can muster.

Leaving Albuquerque

Leaving Albuquerque

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