Rockin the friend zone

There has been a lot of discussion lately about pick-up artists (PUA), men’s rights activists (MRA), so-called “nice guys” and the infamous “friend zone”. I keep seeing posts tagged with #notallmen and #yesallwomen. While I love lively open discussions, and I think these are very important subjects, most of the rhetoric disturbs me at the very core of my being. It’s like there is a war going on and it’s a war that can’t possible have a constructive outcome. It makes me wonder how men and women ever get together. It makes me wonder how our species has managed to reproduce. The fact that it has and continues to happen is equally disturbing because it suggests that we have a system based on power, control, manipulation and inequality… which is exactly what we have. Fighting only reinforces this kind of system and tends to benefit the dominant class. Healthy male-female relationships cannot be achieved through fighting. It seems to me that this should be obvious. This is one situation where there should be no doubt that we are in it together. We all want the same thing. I probably shouldn’t speak for everyone but I believe most people want connection, companionship, love and sex. These are things which we CANNOT get on our own. In the case of heterosexual relationship, these things require men and women working together; so why all the fighting? I’m starting to think that you are all just fucked in the head.

So I’m going to try and be a voice of reason. I’m going to try and interject some compassion and understanding into the conversation. Granted, the only perspective I feel comfortable presenting is my own but hopefully the fact that I have dated both men and women will lend some credibility to what I’m saying. Still, it is the perspective of someone who has experienced this culture as a male. My hope is that women and people who have traversed gender identity will feel comfortable adding their perspective to the conversation in the space below.

First off I want to say that I don’t know very much about pick-up artists or men’s rights activism. My take on the pick-up artist stuff is that it exists because it works. It just seems so gamey and contrived that I can’t see anything real or sustainable coming out of it. I have no interest in that. The men’s rights movement seems to have been born out of a sense of loss but I believe that it is the loss of something that was neither real nor sustainable in the first place so why should I care? I realize that is probably not the most compassionate response, and the truth is I do care, just not as much as I care about other things.

What I do know something about is the “nice guy” archetype and the “friend zone”. One could say that the friend zone has been the story of my life. It’s a pretty common story. It is the story of two people who like each other but one wants something more and the other doesn’t. It happens more often than not. I’ve been on both sides of this equation; or should I say inequality. My guess is that two people feeling the same way and wanting the same thing is so rare that we might not even recognize it when it happens. There are countless books and movies, songs and poems, of unrequited love. I’ve written at least half a dozen songs on the subject myself. In fact the first song with lyrics I ever wrote, probably thirty years ago, long before the term “friend zone” made it into mainstream consciousness, began with the line:

There goes another sunny day
Can’t believe it’s raining again
Just when I thought things were going my way
You said you’d rather just remain friends

It was a painful time in my life  but what’s sad is that the words ring just as true to me today. I continue to fall for my friends who want to be “just friends”. I know that you are not suppose to fall in love with your friends but I honestly can’t imagine falling for anyone else. How could I fall for someone that I wouldn’t want to be friends with? I don’t date in the traditional sense because I find it awkward and artificial. Perhaps one day dating will merely be considered a remnant of a patriarchal society. Also, I don’t find dating necessary to meet people. I meet people all the time and I can pretty much tell who I’m attracted to within a few minutes. I could just jump into bed with them right away, which in the past that has been my modus operandi, but I’ve learned that if I want something real and sustainable I need to get to know them, find out if I actually like them, you know… as a friend.

It’s this approach which makes the friend zone possible. It means I place a higher priority on friendship than sex and this does places me squarely in “nice guy” territory. Frankly, that pisses me off. Not that there is anything wrong with being a nice guy but it’s a stereotype and it diminishes my humanity.  It’s like dismissing the talents of a star football player because he’s a “jock”. It still takes a lot of hard work to become good at a sport even if you have an aptitude for athletics. The truth is that I can be as big of an asshole as the next guy, something anyone who has really gotten to know me and spent enough time with me will attest. My aptitude for kindness is not innate. I was not born with it. It has been forged through my experiences. It’s because I have witnessed and experienced the damage caused by power and control that I reject these things. It is only through suffering that I have come to put my faith in kindness.

I don’t recall exactly how long it took me to come up with the next line for my song but I suspect it took some soul searching. I had a lot of pain and insecurity to work through before I could come up with a compassionate, loving response.

That’s fine, just as long as we’re together
Sometimes that’s the way it should be
Lovers come, then they go and are gone forever
I can see it’s a friend that you need

In the song it appears like this response is immediate but in reality these situations tend to go more like this…

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I snagged this comic from imgur.com where it has recieved over a million views. I think it’s brilliant! It perfectly captures a clearly painful subject in a comical and artistic manner. It was created by a young woman who goes by the name mamamantis on tumblr. She seems pretty cool, that is to say I think we have a lot of common interests. We even have the same incense burner. We could probably be great friends so I hope she doesn’t mind that I use her comic as a jumping off point to discuss my views on the friend zone / nice guy phenomenon.

I know a number of women who have posted this comic and identify with it’s righteous indignation. I can relate to the anger being felt. That feeling that you owe somebody something simply for them being nice to you. I mean, that you owe them anything beyond being nice to them. That’s totally unfair and fucked up. I’ve experienced this from the other end. I’ve had people expect something more from me simply for having sex with me. All you get for having sex with me is that you get to have sex with me. I know that might make me an asshole in some people’s eyes. I realize that sex is not just sex to some people but that’s a subject for another post. This post is about how sometimes friendship is more than just friendship.

Let’s face it, the whole construct of the “friend-zone” is a male invention. It was introduced into the lexicon by men and has been used by men to hurt and subjugate women.  Women have every reason to be pissed off about it. Still, the situation which has produced the idea of the friend-zone is the result of progress made by women. It wasn’t that long ago where the idea of unmarried men and women being “just friends” was unthinkable.  Unless we want to go back to those days we’re going to have to learn now to deal with this new situation. The culture has changed but that doesn’t mean that the people involved have. Men and women behave differently in this situation for what I believe are cultural differences but the emotions behind that behaviour are purely human.

What I see in the comic above is two people who are experiencing hurt, fear and anger. To overcome this it’s not enough to change the culture, we need to evolve as human beings. We need to open our hearts and our minds to the idea that we are all just people. We all want and need the same basic things and none of us can do it alone. We need each other. There is no one else out there to save us so we need to work together. I believe that we can heal the world, one healthy relationship at a time.

So it pains me when I see friendships devolve into hatred over hurt feelings. It pains me when I see the prospect for romance dashed by fear. I don’t know how the story between our two super heroes turned out but I would like to think that they both went home, did some soul searching and personal healing, and came to the conclusion that they really do like each other. I would hope that they would realize that their friendship is strong enough to handle a little sexual tension. I would hope that the guy would realize that friendship is not a consolation prize but is actually pretty damn awesome in it’s own right. OR maybe the woman realizes that it took a lot of guts to ask her out. She could have been more sympathetic and understanding when turning him down. Maybe he wasn’t trying to make her feel guilty but was simply feeling hurt and acted like a dumbass. It might even be possible she comes to the conclusion that this guy really does like her for who she is and isn’t just after her for her body and that is really what she wants in a romantic partner. I know that last scenario is pretty unlikely and may only happens in the movies but all of these outcomes have to be better than what usually happens.

What probably happened was the guy went back to his buddies and in a typical male showing of support they said, “Fuck that bitch! She wouldn’t know a good guy if one bit her on the ass. Now let’s get drunk!” And the woman went back to her friends who said, “Men are pigs! All they think about is sex and they will do anything to get it. Who needs ’em, let’s have a drink!” This might do wonders for the alcohol industry but it doesn’t do a damn thing for improving relationships between men and women.

When it comes to human relationships we need to think beyond the cultural narrative. Every real relationship is unique. It is a magical combination of the two people involved and only the two people involved. It stands outside of time and space. We all come to a new relationship a product of our past experiences. We all have baggage. We all have hurt. But we can’t expect the new relationship to be better if we can’t let go of the past. The goal of each relationship should be to make it the best it can be. We can only do this if we are free to be the best that we can be. We can’t do it if we are playing a role. We can do it if we are expecting the other person to fit into some preconceived mold. We can’t do it if we think of relationships as something to be boxed up and labeled.

That said, I’m going to continue to use labels and common vernacular in my writing because I’m trying to communicate an idea and people have a hard enough time understanding what the hell I’m talking about.

So guys: You need to realize that there are countless reasons why a woman might not want to date you besides being a bitch and hating nice guys. I have heard them all and even if they don’t make sense, they are valid. There is no point in arguing. There is no appropriate line of persuasion. Dating is an art of attraction, not conversion. Rejection hurts but it’s her right to reject your offer if it’s not what she wants FOR ANY REASON. You need to be prepared for this because it can go one of three ways; she can accept and you take the relationship to the next level, she declines and you remain just friends, OR one or both of you go to your dark place, act out in anger and everything goes to shit. That last one is a very real possibility and you are the only one who gets to prepare for it. Don’t be the one to fuck it up. She might react with anger. Even if it seems like all the signs are there, you are springing something on her that she might not want to hear. She’s being forced to see you in a different light and it might make her uncomfortable. She may feel lied to because in a sense you have been lying to her. If you have developed feeling for her, you have to tell her, but you don’t get to control the way she reacts. If you are prepared, you can react with the best part of your personality. If you continue to be the decent guy that she apparently thinks that you are, the relationship, whatever it may be, can continue to flourish and grow.

To the gals: If you are going to have a mature healthy relationship it is going to be with someone you consider a friend. It’s going to be with a nice guy, who just might act like an asshole sometimes. The idea that sex and friendship are mutually exclusive is bullshit. The best sex in the world is between people who love and trust each other; even if it takes a while to transfer that love and trust to the bedroom. It can be scary. There is a risk involved. The friendship will never be the same and the romance might not work out. That’s still not the end of the world. People can still be friends after having sex with each other. Sometimes clearing the sexual tension is what it takes to get to a purely platonic state. Of course if you have absolutely no romantic or sexual interest in the guy by all means, DO NOT DATE HIM. You always have the right to say no and no one can make you feel guilty about it. Now if you react like a fiery banshee and kick him in the balls, you might have something to feel guilty about. If you are a nice, attractive and friendly person it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that your guy friend might be into you. Even if you have done everything possible not to lead him on. Even if you’ve totally just been yourself and treated him like a normal human being he still might fall for you… in fact that’s kind of exactly what nice guys find really hot. I know it sucks. You just can’t win. I wish that there was a pill you could take to make you unattractive to men but so far none has been developed.

We all need to do better. It’s way too simplistic to say that all men are assholes or all women are bitches. In fact it’s pretty inappropriate to call anyone and asshole or a bitch. We are all complex individuals with many facets to our personality. Some are really amazing and some… not so much. We all fuck up. The people who try the hardest probably fuck up the most.

We need to realize that we are at a point in time where the old rules don’t apply and the new rules… well, the new rules are still being figured out. None of us really knows what’s going on and that’s a pretty unsettling feeling. The upside to all this is when we realize that we are all in it together. Having a problem where the solution is to come together rather than fight is a pretty good problem to have in my book.

That’s why I found it so disturbing when I saw this meme on my daughter’s facebook page:

There is no friend zone

I feel like it needs a response and I’m not quite sure how to do that. It’s that frustration which has led me to write this post. Perhaps my daughter just posted it because it sounds good and has a cute dog on it but I ‘m still concerned that she is identifying with what I see as a pretty destructive message. It’s not the denial of the “friend-zone” which I find harmful although I do think that the friend zone is real. People do compartmentalize their relationships in their brain and for whatever reason, some people get designated “just friends”. I do it myself all the time even although I really try to keep an open mind. What troubles me is the suggestion that kindness is not real. It troubles me that kindness is being seen as a tactic to get sex. Kindness is pretty much the opposite of manipulation. This meme looks to me like propaganda from the power and control camp as a way to discredit kindness but I actually doubt that is where it came from. It think it comes from the aforementioned confusion and a general lack of understanding about how kindness works. In a way, I find this meme encouraging because it suggests that men are practising kindness in their pursuit of sexual relationships. I think that is a good thing. The problem is not with kindness. The problem is with our expectations.

I actually feel like I’ve made a pretty good life for myself living in the “friend-zone”. I’ve been more or less single for nearly a decade now. My sex life may not be what it was in my late teens and early twenties but it’s still quite active. I also have some of the most amazing friends a guy could ask for. Almost all of my closest friends are people that I once dated or have been with sexually. Most of the people I have sex with today are my friends. I see no reason why sex, romance and friendship can’t go together. All it takes is trust. That comes from honesty and understanding… oh yeah, and kindness.

 

 

 

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Tales from the tundra

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I keep wondering why I live here. I seems insane but the rational answer is pretty straight forward. This is where my house is. This is where my family and friends are. This is where my band is but most importantly, this is where I am. To be someplace different would require some sort of radical change and as of this moment, it hasn’t happened. So here I am.

I hate to complain about the weather. It gets old pretty quick. Still it’s a major factor in my life and a key character in many of my stories.  It makes life pretty hard sometimes but a hard life is an interesting life. For the past week I have been unable to write anything so the stories have been piling up. I was just starting to believe that the worst of winter was over when last Thursday arrived. I did manage to write a little bit before the full reality of the situation sunk in:

We are in the midst of what may turn out to be the worst blizzard of the season. I was sitting at the bar across from our rehearsal studio waiting to find out whether we would be rehearsing tonight. Venus was freaking out  because s/he couldn’t get out of the driveway due to the neighbor’s car being stuck in the snow. S/he finally decided to cancel rehearsal. It was the right call. Sometimes the weather just gets to be too much. The roads are extremely dangerous for driving plus there would be no place to park downtown. All of the roads are snow emergency routes and our parking lot is at the bottom of a hill that we would never be able to get back up through half a foot of snow.

I decided to grab a slice of pizza and another beer. The meter was plugged for an hour so I figured I might as well get my money’s worth. I slugged through the snow back to my van. Another inch or more had fallen while I was in the bar. I could feel the effect of the two beers which is my indication that I shouldn’t be driving. I knew I was probably close to the legal limit but knowing how high strung I am in driving conditions like the I figure a little anxiety reduction might do me well. I was five miles from home and it’s pretty much a straight shot. I only had to make three turns. I fired up my van and blasted the defrost while I brushed the newly fallen snow from my windows.

It took me several attempts driving forwards and backwards to get my vehicle dislodged enough to make it onto the road. I was on my way. The first two stop lights were green and I sailed through. The third had just turned yellow. Maybe I could have stopped but under these conditions there was no guarantee. I decided to gun it. I made it through but not before the light turned red. I looked in my rear view mirror, through my half-defrosted rear window, to see the red and blue flashing lights of a squad car. I pulled over to the side of the road.

Luckily the police were not interested in me. They were on there way to something more important than a semi-intoxicated rockstar running red lights on his way home in a blizzard.

That was actually just the final story of a day filled with stories. Had I had it in me that night, I would have written another thousand or more words. Now that almost a week has passed I’m hoping I can do it in far fewer.

I awoke last Thursday a tad  hung-over and without enough sleep. After rehearsal the night before I had stopped by Transmission at Club Jager to speak with Simon about performing in one of his Singer-Songwriter showcases. It had been quite awhile since I last attended one of Jake Rudh’s dance nights and I wound up staying later than I had anticipated. Since there was a taxi sitting outside the bar when I left I opted to leave my bike locked up and get a ride home. It probably only saved me fifteen minutes but I knew that the next day was going to be a big one and I could use all the sleep I could get.

The day started out pretty smoothly. The weather service was sounding the alarms but there was no sign yet of the calamity which was about to ensue. I picked up my daughter from her cousin’s house and delivered her safely to her school in south Minneapolis. My next order of business was an appointment with my daughter’s mother and the therapist in Bloomington. It wasn’t for another hour and a half but I figured I should head in that direction just in case.

Arriving safely in Bloomington with an hour to spare I decided to stop for a leisurely breakfast and some inspirational reading to calm my nerves before the therapy appointment.  As it turned out what I really needed calm nerves for was just the drive to the therapist’s office. I rolled out of my parking spot but as soon as I hit five miles-per-hour the whole van started shaking.

“Oh great!”, I thought to myself, “Now what’s wrong?”

I found that once I hit thirty-five miles-per-hours the shaking stopped but there was still a sound that I wasn’t familiar with. I was pretty sure that it was something structural and not an engine issue so I just kept going hoping the van wouldn’t fall apart or explode. In case you haven’t figured it out already, it was just a flat tire.

The therapy session actually went pretty well… at least for me. I don’t think my ex-wife was too happy with the way things went. I’m pretty sure that she went into the session with the agenda of making me look like the bad-guy and somehow forcing me to change my wicked ways. I wish that she would learn that I don’t respond to threats or guilt-trips and that she would have a much better chance of getting what she wants if she just asked. I guess that wouldn’t be as much fun.

She did accuse me of never being willing to drive my daughter; a pretty ridiculous claim given that I had just dropped her off at school an hour and a half earlier.

I simply replied, “I don’t agree with that statement.”

My ex later brought up, “You know, I don’t even have to let you see her. You’re not her legal father. You have no right to see her. The only reason why you have a relationship with her at all is because I encourage it.”

I didn’t even know where to begin with that statement. I felt like she was looking for some gratitude but considering that I had just gone six months without seeing my daughter I wasn’t feeling very grateful. Also, law does not make someone a dad. Being a dad is in the heart and my daughter knows who her dad is. It really has nothing to do with the law or her mother. I have a relationship with my daughter because I have a relationship with my daughter.

The therapist tried to get at what I want. She suggested that I want to spend time with my daughter and have her stay at my house. I understood what she was getting at but I expressed that this isn’t about what I want. This is about what my daughter wants. I am here to help her. Yes, having her in my life helps me. It makes my life better but that is a byproduct. It is not my purpose. My purpose is to give.

Then came up the money issue. For all I know this may be at the root of everything. This may be why my ex wants me to adopt my daughter. She may believe that she will be able to get money out of me if I am the legal father. I understand the motivation. I know how hard, and at times, expensive it is to raise a child on your own. But coming after me for money is just silly. I have a little and there is nothing that I enjoy more than spending it on my kids but I’m not going to part with it through guilt or extortion. I’m not entering into a financial relationship with my ex.

I’m not entering into any kind of relationship with my ex. I did that for six years and gave it my all and it wasn’t enough. My ex’s expressed concern is how to keep our daughter from being put in the middle. My concern is that my ex is trying to put herself in the middle of my relationship with my teenage daughter. I wish that it was different. It’s pretty sad that I can’t have a relationship with my ex. It’s sad for me, it’s sad for my daughter and it’s sad for my ex. I love her and wish her nothing but the best but I simply can’t do it. I guess six years of an abusive relationship which ended in my daughter being taken away for me and being falsely accused of domestic violence has left a bad taste in my mouth.  I don’t know, maybe I’m the asshole. It’s got to suck not being able to manipulate me and control me through the systems this society has been built upon. I do really own my ex a debt of gratitude for teaching me how to not get sucked into that bullshit ever again.

Anyway, I think the therapist likes me. I asked her for her help with my flat tire and she put me in contact with the buildings maintenance person. My ex asked why I didn’t have AAA and I couldn’t even respond. The truth is that I dropped it because I couldn’t afford it. This has forced me to ask friends, neighbors and even strangers for help. AAA is awesome and I will probably get it again but having to ask people for help has actually made me a better person.

The maintenance guy was able to inflate my tire enough to get me to Discount Tire. They replaced the flat tire for free and I bought a new tire to replace one that was dangerously bald. The snow was falling pretty heavy at this point so I knew I could use all the traction I could get.

The drive back into the city was horrifying. Traffic on the freeway was moving at thirty-five miles per hour but occasional big trucks would fly by me and splash snowy mush on my van completely covering my windshield. This happened twice. I also nearly ran into a utility pole when I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting the street corner beggar who decided to walk out into the intersection. Even with new tires the road provided no traction and I just slid until I was stopped by the curb.

When I picked up my daughter from school I went to talk to the director. Through the therapy session I learned that tuition hadn’t been paid for a couple months. I wanted to find out how much it was so that I could take care of it. Apparently my ex had informed the school that I am not the “real” dad so they wouldn’t give me the information. I totally understand that. It’s a new school and I don’t want them getting into legal hot water but for the past fifteen years, I’ve never had this problem. If my ex hadn’t made a stink about it, tuition would have been paid.

After that my daughter and I went to hang out with my almost four year-old friend so his mother could go to work. His dad would return in a couple hours and I would be able to make the long trek to the northern suburbs where my daughter and her dog live. By this time most of the cars had made it off the roads but it was still treacherous driving. It took me two hours to get her home and then get back downtown Minneapolis for rehearsal. I picked up my bike at Club Jager which was a challenge to get into my van now that I have re-installed the seats in my minivan so that I can haul kids.

[Shit, I’m already at over 2,000 words and I still have five more days to write about. I should just give up. No one is going to read this but I don’t care. I’m on a roll.]

Friday, I don’t think I did anything. Even if I did I’m sure it’s not worth writing about. Saturday was a much more interesting day.

Saturday was our big gig at The Amsterdam in Saint Paul. The roads were still unsafe to drive on but I let too much of the day pass to get downtown to the studio any other way than to drive. Plus, our drummer needed a ride and he lives pretty close to me so I stopped by to pick him up. I got to the studio about fifteen minutes late which was perfect because Venus was just as late. S/he was concerned about getting the band van out of the parking lot so she had me test it out. I drove down the hill into the parking lot and then tried to get out. I made it to the top of the hill and there I was stuck… actually I started to slip backwards towards the four-wheel drive truck that was at the base of the hill.

Anyway, there was no way we could load out through the loading dock. We would need to load out through the front of the building by taking all of our equipment up in the elevator. I have long since tried figuring out why I do this and have just accepted that it is what I do. It’s stupid as shit but… so what!

We made it to the venue about an hour later than expected but everything during the show ran pretty smoothly. Hardly anyone showed up because the weather was so crappy but that also has stopped bothering me. I think it still bothers Venus and of course we didn’t make very much money but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I actually had a lot of fun at that show because I just didn’t care. From my perspective, it was one of our best shows.

Getting back to the studio was a bit of an ordeal. We made it downtown but at one stop light we found ourselves unable to move. The temprature had dropped turning packed snow into glare ice. We couldn’t move forwards or backwards. Venus came up with the brilliant idea of sticking a piece of carpet under one of the rear tires for traction. It worked but I had to grab the carpet and jump into the van while it was still moving. We didn’t stop for any lights the rest of the way.

Of course I still had to get my van up the hill and out of the parking lot. I backed up to the end of the parking lot to give myself a running start and luckily made it out of the hole. Venus on the other hand had quite an adventure getting home. She had to stop and use the carpet trick a number of times on her own to get home. I’ve been watching a number of rock-n-roll documentaries about the crazy things that rock bands go through. Venus has a good one about hi/r called, Venus of Mars. I just can’t help but think about all the crazy shit that never get’s filmed. I would have loved to see Venus in the middle of Lake Street putting a piece of carpet under the rear tire in fishnets and a corset hoping and praying that she didn’t get hit by some drunk driver. That would be good cinema.

We did both make it home alive. It’s funny to me how exciting survival can be. We humans do all sorts of crazy things to feel alive but when you play in a rock band in Minnesota, just getting home from work can be an adventure.

I woke up around noon on Sunday to find some brilliant pictures from the show the night before. This is one of my favorite.

All The Pretty Horse - Amsterdam

I’m the guy on the right, Venus is on the left and our drummer Jazz is in the middle.

I wasn’t planning on doing anything Sunday. I tried getting a hold of my daughter. I had been trying for days with no luck. This day was no different. I also was worried about a friend of mine who is struggling because of this weather but I couldn’t get a hold of her either. That is really what makes living here suck so much. It’s not just that it is hard for me. It’s also hard for all of the people I care about. Anyway, it seemed like a good day to lay in bed and watch Netflix.

I wound up falling asleep. When I woke up I had a hankering for junk food… something I don’t keep in my house. I would have to venture out into the tundra. The local convenience store is five blocks away but across the street from the convenience store is the T-Shoppe, the local dive bar. Please click on that link. I know if you have made it this far you have already read more than you wanted to today but it’s a good article about a dying breed. The T-Shoppe is one of the last two remaining 3.2 bars in Minneapolis. Anyway, I said fuck the convenience store, the bar has crappy pizza… and beer.

I only go in there once or twice a year but they still know my name. The bartender says, “Slumming it are we?”

I respond, “I don’t think of it that way. I’m just working with what I’ve got.”

The fact is I have some of the best times at the T-Shoppe. It’s always filled with of the an incredible array of the most down-to-earth people you will ever meet. I met a lovely young woman from Alaska. I nice man from Central Mexico. I also witnessed an amazing dance performance by a young woman who was at the bar with her dad. I wound up closing down the bar which isn’t such a big deal given that they usually close by midnight even though last call  in Minneapolis is two AM.

I returned home and continued drinking. Still needing human interaction I wound up making a number of drunken phone calls. I talked to a guy who is working on a computer program that will revolutionize the way we deal with programs that all of a sudden stop working. I also talked to a dear friend of mine who has been going through some pretty rough shit but for some reason hasn’t called me. I do worry sometimes that I might get overwhelmed with people asking me for help but currently that is not my problem.

I woke up Monday with two people asking me for help. I spent the evening baby-sitting my almost four year-old friend and then drove to Northfield, MN to be with my friend who was going through some pretty rough shit. I spent the night there and drove back to Minneapolis on Tuesday for my therapy appointment.

After that I decided that I would go home and do nothing. I would have been successful at the doing nothing part but I wound up watching this documentary on Netflix called “Absent“. It’s about the modern reality of a fatherless society. It really kind of messed me up. I highly recommend watching it.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Time to go to bed. Tomorrow is going to be another big day. I get to see my daughter again!

FUCK!

I’m at my wits end. This is going to be a short post and rant filled. I find myself returning to my need to swear because this situation is completely fucked up.

I haven’t seen my daughter since last September. If I had legal rights I would be inclined to fight but I have never found fighting to improve a situation. Technically my daughter is my step-daughter but since divorcing her mother there is no legal relationship. There is also no other father. It’s just me. I was there for two months before she was born and I was there when she was born and I am the one who has been there ever since. Even when I am not physically there, I am emotionally there. I probably could have adopted her but never did. Maybe this is because I am adopted and have my own issues regarding adoption but mostly it’s because I believe that the parent-child relationship is forged in love, not in law. I could be wrong but this is what I continue to believe.

So I found out in November that my daughter did not want to see me until she could do so with her mother and her therapist present. To be honest, I don’t know where this problem is coming from. My daughter and I have gone long stretches without talking but when we do, we get along great. Still, if these are the conditions, regardless of where they are coming from, I am willing to do whatever it takes. That is love. Love comes first.

An appointment was scheduled for December 19th, 2013. That appointment was canceled for reasons which I still don’t understand but it was rescheduled for yesterday. The rescheduled appointment didn’t take place either. I can’t help but wonder if it even existed in the first place. The explanation that I got from my daughter’s mother, less than an hour before the appointment, was that transportation fell through. She told me that she no longer has a car. She also told me that as a result of not having a car my daughter has not been to school all month. She is fifteen years old. That is a legal issue.

FUCK!

Life outside my head

I haven’t really written much about what has gone on in my life since getting back from Mexico a month ago. Part of that is because not a lot has been going on. It’s winter and I haven’t been doing all that much that I consider all that exciting. A better answer is that I have been living in my head so what has been reflected in my blog has more to do with what I’ve been thinking than with what I’ve been doing. Neither are completely accurate however. The truth is I write about whatever I want to write about whenever I want to write. And even more accurate than that would be that I write whatever I write whenever I write because most of the time what comes out when I sit down at the computer is not quite what I had in mind when I decided to sit down at the computer.

For now I want to abandon the thoughts in my head and recap what I have been up to the past couple of weeks; let’s say going back to Christmas. It’s been an extremely chaotic time with the holidays and weekends and birthdays and random shit thrown in but in a way all of that is pretty run of the mill for me. I just want to capture the essence of what I’ve been up to so that I can move on. I’m expecting this to be a pretty boring post.

For starters, I’ve been spending a lot of time laying on my bed watching Netflix – mostly documentaries. Here is a boring ass list of said documentaries and historic dramas:

  • The Billionaires Tea Party – A left wing view of the Tea Party.
  • The One Percent – A billionaires view of the very wealthy.
  • Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream – A comparison between Park Avenue in Manhattan and Park Avenue in the South Bronx.
  • Surviving Progress – Our progress may be a trap.
  • Ayn Rand & the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged – The life and philosophy of one of our most popular thinkers.
  • The Secret of Nikola Tesla – One of our greatest inventors who claimed to have never invented anything.
  • Lovelace – A dramatization about one of our greatest porn stars.
  • Future by Design – The story of futurist and engineer, Jacques Fresco.
  • Escape from Suburbia – What are people going to do when we run out of oil?
  • Pedal-Driven – Mountain Bike riders work with the government to solve problems.
  • Unborn in the USA – A non-bias view of the Pro-Life movement.
  • Zeitgeist: Addendum – A non-political propaganda film worth paying attention to.
  • We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks – An interesting expose on Julian Assange.
  • Occupy Unmasked – An extremely right wing view of the Occupy Movement.
  • Better This World – A remarkable tale of left wing radicals in my home town.
  • The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress – A story of power and corruption in law and government.
  • Runaway Slave – The story of one man’s move beyond the race paradigm
  • Let’s Make Money – A propaganda film that should make you think
  • Color Me Kubrick – A dramatization of the life of the man who pretended to be Stanley Kubrick
  • American Addict – There is more money in pharmaceutical drugs than in street drugs.
  • Patriocracy A look at the political divide and the unspoken majority who just want to get along.
  • The People vs. George Lucas – The love/hate relationship between the man who created Star Wars and it’s fans.
  • Hungry For Change – What happens when we stop eating food and start eating drugs.

Wow… twenty-three movies in fourteen days!?! How could I have had time for anything else? Okay, I cheated a bit. That list went back to December 13th but I really wanted to get in the name Ayn Rand. I know that simply being able to tag her will give me a hit or two and I think she wants me to have that. She has given rise to a political movement that is completely counter to everything I believe in but I don’t think most of her followers really understand what she was saying. They just picked up on what they liked.

But that’s the way it goes.

People seem to like Ayn Rand because she gives them justification for being a selfish prick. I say just be who you are! If you are a selfish prick then own it. No one needs to give you permission or justification. I think she would agree with that. But then you can’t complain when all the people around you care more about their own needs than yours. Birds of a feather flock together, bitch!

If you do want another view of the future I would really recommend watching Future By Design by Jacque Fresco. Actually, I would recommend watching all of these documentaries. Some are more biased than others. Some are more opinionated but all have the potential to get you thinking and I highly recommend thinking… in moderation.

So knowing that I can’t simply live inside my head, what else have I been up to?

I went to my sister’s for Christmas. With my parents out of the country I had really hoped that I could just take the day off but when my sister decided to do something at her house I figured it was important to attend. I’m sorry that my other sister was not able to attend but that is the way it goes in my family. We are a group of very diverse people but clearly… somehow… we still love each other.

Usually I spend Christmas night at the bar commiserating with others who either don’t have family in town or just survived another awkward family diner. This year I just felt like going home.

The following night I had rehearsal for our show on Friday. The show was fun. The show was fantastic. The show was what I do.

Hexagon - 27 Dec 2013

Hexagon – 27 Dec 2013

My son’s mother’s sister, who lives in Canada, was there. I helped raise her when she was in high-school and she totally loves me. It was so wonderful to see her again. Also in the audience was a woman who used to live with me and while doing so taught me a great deal about the toxicity of anger and the fear which comes with it. It was really good to see her again after getting past all of that. I also talked with a fan who told me that he could never do what I do but by watching me on stage he feels like he was living vicariously through me. That is one of the greatest gifts I can give as a performer but the truth is, I too am living vicariously through the audience.

The day after a show is usually just a day of rest but I got tired of just sitting around. The weather was nice but I knew it was going to get really cold so I wanted to get out of the house while I still could. I had no plans but I needed a back up battery for my e-cig so I hoped on the bus and headed to Smokeless Smoking in Northeast Minneapolis. My friend works there so I got the “family” discount.

As I left the store he asked, “So, what are you going to do now?”

I said, I have no idea but there will probably be whiskey involved.”

I needed food so I headed to the Spring Street for nutrients and libations. After that I headed to the 331 Club for a beer or two. Next thing I knew there was a dance party going on and I was shit-faced wasted. A friend of mine had sent me a text to see what I was up to but I didn’t notice it until two hours later. I still wound up crashing at her place. Forgiveness it the key to happiness.

The next day was hard. My friend gave me a ride home but I still didn’t know whether I wanted to be alone. It was my daughter’s birthday and I hadn’t seen her face or heard her voice since September. I tried calling her that morning but could only leave a message. I figured it would be a good day to just be alone and do nothing. I made myself a screwdriver to ease the hangover but still having my doubts about being alone I reached out to my Facebook friends. Within thirty seconds I had a phone call from my friend at Smokeless Smoking offering to come pick me up.  I spent the day and night in the loving company of him, his partner and their son.

When his partner dropped me off the next morning I said, “Thank you so much for being there for me.”

To which I was replied, “No, it was you who were there for us.”

Seriously, this is how my life goes but I think it is how life goes when we are willing to humble ourselves to ask for help.

The next day of significance was New Years Eve. Once again I had no plans. If I could have done it I would have done nothing on New Years Eve. It’s fucking amateur night but I needed my peeps. I called a cab and headed to the Cabooze to see WookieFoot. I knew the show was sold out but I hoped that the lovelight would shine on me and I would still be able to get it. It didn’t and I was’t. Luckily there was another cab waiting so I grabbed it and headed to the 331 Club where my friends in the band Rapedoor were playing.

There was a great line up at the 331 that night and it was free but it was still my second choice because one of the bands has a tendency to get naked on stage.  Now I have no problem with nudity but as a stage gimmick it seems over played, especially for a band with so much talent. For some reason that didn’t stop me from stripping off all my clothes and prancing around totally nude when I was brought up on stage.

I got a ride home that night but I couldn’t find my keys to get in my house. Luckily the people who dropped me off knew well enough to make sure that I got in my house. It was cold enough to where I could have froze to death if I spent the night out doors. Instead I spent the night on the couch of some friends in South Minneapolis. By morning I was sober enough to find my keys and make it home.

Thursday I had a therapy appointment. I wanted to spend some time with my friend who let me crash at her place after the first 311 Club night. We actually had a nice evening snuggling on the couch watching movies until four in the morning. Unbeknownst to me this was much later than she wanted to be up. She was pretty pissed off that it had gotten so late and to be fair it was largely my fault. I was a pretty talkative movie watcher that night. Sharing two bottles of wine and a six pack of beer will do that to me… especially since I drank most of it.

She stormed off to bed and I took a cab home. There was a time when I would have had no choice but to sleep on the couch. I feel quite grateful to have the financial resources to take care of myself when these conflicts arise because they will happen… drinking or not. By the way, we are just fine now. In fact we were fine the next morning.

My plan was to go back and retrieve my van but I never got sober enough to drive. I thought that my son would be coming home that day but it turned out he wouldn’t be back until Saturday so I just kept drinking slowly throughout the day. That night I had a meeting with the full cast off Venus’ performance art project. I’m doing the music for it. The meeting was great and I’m looking forward to it but that is about all I have to say about it at this point.

After the meeting Venus drove me to the Spring Street where two of my friends where celebrating their birthdays with an incredible line up of bands in the basement. There is much more that I could say about that night but I’m really trying to keep my posts under two thousand words. Suffice it to say I wound up at the after party and a really cute boy brought me home.

We can also say that I didn’t do much the next day other than welcome home my son, who I haven’t seen since we got back from Mexico.

It wasn’t until Sunday that I managed to retrieve my van. That took walking over a mile in sub zero weather but my van still started up just fine. I spent that night at the bar with my friend; the one at who’s house my van was previously parked. Remarkably, that night went much better.

Monday I drove my son out to see his sister and step-mother. Today I went to retrieve him. It sounds like my daughter is doing fine and at the end of the day, that is all that matters to me.

This is it

It’s been a roller coaster ride but I feel like it has come to an end. I’m ready to start again. My mind is clear; I have purpose and understanding. I know who I am and I’m okay with myself. I’m okay with my situation and I’m okay with whatever happens next. It’s one of those rare moments when I actually feel like I have my shit together. It’s in these moments that I realize what I have and all that I have is what I give; all that I have received has come to me through giving.

I got home late Thursday morning with the intention of just being. It was a pretty cold and gloomy day so I didn’t have high hopes. I cracked a beer and sat down to write. Before long I recieved a text message from one of my friends who is going through a breakup. I had recieved a message from her Tuesday night letting me know that her boyfriend of fourteen years was dumping her. She was now ready to talk and I was ready and able to be there for her. Normally I would have wanted to be sober to meet with her but she was going to have to accept me as I was. I knew that she was one of those friends who would be willing to do that.

When she arrived I suggested that we go to Clubhouse Jager to eat. I had been craving Aura’s food and I knew that my friend would enjoy it as well. I really can’t say enough about Aura’s cooking but I’m afraid if I do she will get swept up by some restaurant that I can’t afford. Everything she makes is seriously the best I have ever had. Thankfully nobody reads my blog so I can keep her my little secret.

After dinner we returned to my house and talked for another five hours while I polished off the six-pack in my refrigerator.

I was just there to listen and help anyway I could but in the process I received a great epiphany. I think that I have an idea for a book, or at least an article for this blog. It’s not like I have any shortage of inspiration in my life. I come up with great ideas all the time. I just want to acknowledge that they come to me when I am giving to others. I still have to figure out what to do with all of them but that’s a story for another day.

My friend Alex Velocity has been wanting me to be a guest on his online radio show BANGWAVE for quite some time. It finally happened Friday. I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous but I had no excuse to put it off any longer. I figured I would just go and give what I had to give and see what happened. It was fun and it was inspirational. I love being part of other people’s creative endeavours. You can find the results here.

I was actually amazed that I was able to pull it off but not for the reason one might think. Sure, I have a lot of apprehension about recording my voice. I worry about embarrassing myself but so what; I can handle the embarrassment. The real challenge for me was the drive out there. I hate driving and it took me twice as long to get there as it should have because I kept freaking out and taking wrong turns and the whole time I was terrified of dying. I had a job driving for many years but not because I enjoy driving. I did it because I loved the company and it was something I could do. I had a van because I had a family and I wanted to work so I looked at what I had and I worked with what I’ve got. I loved the job but I hated the driving and that is why quit. That is why I want to get rid of my van. That, and the fact that it’s costing me money even if I don’t drive it. It’s just stupid for me to own a vehicle.

But since I have it I might as well use it to do things that I couldn’t do without it. So I drove and did the radio show. While I was there I realized that I was one third of the way to my son’s school and he was performing his first headlining show with his band 8-bit Johnson. So I drove another two hours to my son’s school. I seriously don’t know how I made it. I was terrified the entire time. I knew the way but it was dark and traveling at seventy miles an hour with other vehicles on the road just seemed like suicide… and I wasn’t feeling very suicidal. I really just wanted to make it to see my son.

I made it in time to surprise him before he went on stage. He rocked the house for a good hour and a half. I can’t tell you how proud I am because pride doesn’t even begin to explain it. What I really felt was an astounding combination of confusion and serendipity.  It was like sifting for gold in the stream to discover that the real value was in the water.  I never raised my son to be a rock star. I raised him to be a good person. Yet there he was, doing both, better than I ever could. Yeah, I came there for him but he gave me more than I could ever have hoped for.

I could have stayed in Morris but I felt my bed calling me. I’m really trying to be productive at home and I know that I’m more productive at doing “home” work when I wake up at home. Plus I was feeling rather energized after seeing my son play and I knew I could make it. The drive home was so much less terrifying. I could see the near full moon shining in the night sky above me and that gave me a sense of peace.

I got home shortly after two in the morning. I was still pretty wired from all the caffeine I had been drinking. There was a text message on my phone from the friend I was with Wednesday night. She sounded like she was having an unsettling night so I wrote her back to say that I was still up and at home if she wanted to talk.

Half an hour later I recieved a text that simply said “Xoxo”.

She never saw my response but it pretty much summed up the rest of my night. I wrote, “<3 I’m pretty tired but way too sober so I’m drinking cheap beer & cheap whiskey and watching Louis CK videos on YouTube. Gonna spend the day at home tomorrow becoming a better person. At least that’s the plan.”

I think Louis CK is brilliant. We opened the BANGWAVE program with some of his comedy. I may have to do a whole post about Louis CK but here is his bit about wanting to be a better person.

You can buy the whole show for five measly dollars on his website.

I woke up Saturday ready to start back up that rollercoaster. That’s when I started this post. I had decided not drink that day and keep my head clear. The problem was it was too clear and I was flooded with thoughts that didn’t seem to give me any direction. I basically just stumbled around waiting for something to happen that was more important than me.

Then I got a text from my daughter, the one I hadn’t heard anything from in over two months. She informed me that she had an appointment with her therapist scheduled. Apparently the deal is that she doesn’t want to talk to me until she can meet with me, her mother and her therapist together. Frankly, I think that is a brilliant idea although I don’t think that the issues have to do with me and my daughter.  There may be issues that her mom has with me or that my daughter has with her mom but having an impartial third party present could help up get to the bottom of it. And if my daughter does have issues with me that she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about without her therapist, I’m open to that too. I think it’s kind of childish but she is a child. I have no idea what is going on in her brain. I’m just glad that there is a way forward and I’m willing to try anything.

The problem is that the appointment is not for another month. That means that my daughter won’t be going on the family vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico next week. I tried over the next couple days to work through that issue but it is a non-starter. It is what it is but it was worth trying.

Next came a call from my friend who recently moved to California. She has epilepsy and is going through a breakup so she’s homeless at the moment. She’s got all sorts of crazy shit going on but also a lot of good things are happening.  She’s somewhat like me, somewhere in the middle; not everything is falling apart but it’s not all coming up roses either. We talked for a little over an hour until hunger got the best of me and I had to find something to eat.

With my primary need for food satisfied I returned to my quest for motivation but I kept being distracted by the thoughts in my head. The overriding one was that I still hadn’t heard anything from the friend I had recieved a text from the night before. I don’t typically get bent out of shape over these things. There are a million and one reasons why someone might not get back to me but this was unusual and so I decided to follow my instincts and tried reaching out one more time. I still got no response. It turned out that she had left her phone at a friend’s place and that I actually had nothing to worry about. Oh well, shit happens!

During this time I got a text from the friend I was with Thursday night. She was downtown at the Toad The Wet Sprocket show. She had an extra ticket and wanted to know if I could join her. Of course I could. I obviously wasn’t doing anything else and would do anything for her.

I should mention that I put Toad in a genre that I like to call lowest-common-denominator music. It’s not quite as derogatory as it may sound. It just means good music that is accessible to as many people as possible. Most musicians would consider that a good thing. It is a good thing, I guess, if that’s what you’re in to. I’m glad that people are in to it because most of the songs I write would fit into that category. It’s just not the kind of music that makes my dick hard. I like things that are new, shocking, different and blow my mind. I guess that’s why I play in Venus’ band rather than my own. Still, I respect anyone who can write and perform a good song so of course I was going to go.

That is a good song.

I was also feeling grateful that I had decided not to drink that day. Hanging out with sober people when I’ve been drinking is still awkward to me. I have no problem with drunk people when I’m sober but the other way around is weird.

Still, this was a challenge.  Being in a crowd of people is anxiety producing for me. Also standing or sitting in one spot for an hour is painful. Without alcohol, I felt all of that. Now if this had been a metal show or a rave, it might not have been so bad but this was Toad The Wet Sprocket. There was not a lot of moving around, people slamming into each other or massive amounts of drugs. So my whole body hurt, I had stabbing pains in my chest, a tightness around my throat, pain in my teeth and my right eye was twitching. It was fucking incredible!

But hey,  another day that worked out just fine. I had no direction but enough people to provide me with something meaningful to do. I’ll take that.

Sunday was good as well. I had diner at my parents so we could discuss the trip to Mexico. Then I went to Venus’ annual pre-Thanksgiving day Squid Fest party. I could say more about it but I’m getting bored with talking about my life. I’m going to end this blog post here. I have a feeling that things are about to go in a different direction.

See you tomorrow with something new…

Tally-ho

I slept for another six hours last night from 4am until just after 10am but still awoke feeling exhausted with very little fight in me. I tried to get ahold of my daughter to make plans for the day with no luck. I continued with anything in which I could find inspiration. On this day it involved bleaching and dying my hair and painting my nails. I tried working on a graphic design project but couldn’t stay focused.

Then at one this afternoon my daughter appeared on my doorstep without warning. It was a pleasant surprise but one which I wish I was given time to prepare. Perhaps anticipation of her arrival would have fulled my spirit. Instead I was left struggling to even make conversation and feeling disappointed that I was letting her down. Eventually I was left with no option but to bring her home.

With the thought that perhaps my diet has affected my energy level I prepared a healthy salad. Soon I will be on my bike heading downtown. I’m looking forward to driving pedicab although my body is scoffing me. It is with faith that I carry on in the face of doubt and ridicule.

Not looking back

So now that my daughter is safely returned to her mother’s apartment it is time for me to look back on the past week and a half as a full time parent and reflect on what this experience has meant to me.

… Ah, fuck that! I’m moving on and looking forward. Yes, I love my daughter and it was absolutely wonderful having her here. The time actually went by really quick and I’m going to miss having her here but at the same time there is a lot going on in my life that I’m eager to getting back to.

I will say that yesterday was a nearly perfect day. The day started with my daughter and I biking to the bus stop. We placed our bikes on the rack in the front of the bus and rode downtown. From there we biked to MCTC where her summer camp is. I dropped her off and headed to Moose & Sadie’s for breakfast and to do some writing. I hadn’t been on my bike in a week and it felt so good to be riding again.

I was also meeting Venus at the cafe for one of our band strategy meetings. Venus hasn’t been feeling the most productive lately since so much energy has gone into all this tax audit bullshit and I completely understand that. Still, I think when she looks back on this year she will see it as I do; a year of great transition and re-birth. I told her that I think she is doing all the right stuff and to just keep at it. Most of what she is doing is focused on herself and her art and less on the band. Venus is really coming into her own and receiving recognition as Venus de Mars, artist not just “Venus of All The Pretty Horses”.

I also told Venus that I would be working more on my own music and my own artistic career. This does not mean that the band is breaking up or going on hiatus or anything of the sort. It simply means that time spent doing band stuff will be carved out of what we are doing with the rest of our lives rather than putting the rest of our lives on hold so that we can be available for band stuff. This isn’t really a change, it’s just an acknowledgment of current reality.

After that I got to have a drink with a friend who I haven’t seen in awhile. She’s one of my favorite crazy/beautiful people who has been going through some shit because she doesn’t fit in with this world and can’t understand why that is wrong. Neither can I.

After that I picked my daughter up from camp and we biked home along the Grand Rounds trail. It’s a fantastic and beautiful ride and so wonderful to get to share it with my daughter.

If that had been my day, it would have been perfect. But I still had to drive to Blaine so that my daughter could take care of her cats. That did me in. I fucking hate driving! By the time we got back I had just enough steam in me to stumble through cooking diner before I crashed.

I’m not letting that happen to me tonight. Yes, I spent all day delivering CityPages but now I’m getting on my bike and heading to the bar. Time to get back to my “normal” life.

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