For love or money

I miss you, blog. Sometimes it feels like you are my only friend. Obviously you are not, but you are always there when I need you – can’t say that about anybody else in my life. Of course all of my other friends are real people with real lives and you have no life other than the one I give you. Perhaps one day you will grow up and have a life of your own, but for now, you are all mine and I need to write.

My pedicab gig got cut short today as a result of the weather. Around four o’clock today it started down pouring,  a tornado watch was issued and more thunderstorms with forty mile an hour winds were expected. I thought that I could wait it out but the company was concerned about my safety and the safety of the cab.

I didn’t feel like I was in any position to argue, plus I remembered the tornado that tore through my neighborhood on this weekend two years ago. As it turned out there were no tornadoes and the winds that would have sent a pedicab sailing down the road all by itself never materialized. Still, it was a good call to come pick me up – you never know with Minnesota weather.

Back at the station I was talking to Colin, the 22 year old owner of the Pedicab company. The conversation started with me informing him that I would be in Chicago next weekend for a wedding and not working. He elated that this was one of the benefits of the job – you get to work when you want to. That is totally one of the things that makes this job work for me. There are very few jobs that I can actually do and I am very pleased to discover that pedicab is one of them.

I think the people who run the company are really pleased with me. I think that they appreciate that I am not just in if for the money but that I really enjoy what I do. Of course they also want me to make money and routinely remind me that I could make a lot of money doing this. In our conversation, Colin informed me that if I worked consistently, I could be making $1,000 a week.

Okay, even if you could do that every week of the year, which you can’t in Minneapolis, that would amount to $52,000 a year which I don’t consider a lot of money. After expenses and taxes it would be much less – probably $20,000 less. That still might seem like a lot of money to a 22 year old but to someone with a house and a family, it’s really not that much money.

When I was 30 I was making $80,000 a year and it didn’t seem like a lot. I think it has more to do with lifestyle than money. If you love what you do, then money doesn’t matter; if you hate what you do, money is all that matters. One caveat to that statement is that it doesn’t apply if you don’t have enough money to survive. Personally, I don’t understand how that can happen in a country as rich as ours but it does. Discussion of that will have to wait for another day.

I think Colin was curious as to why I would leave a job making 80K with full benefits to become a pedicab driver. His assumption, which was a good assumption, was that I didn’t want to do that kind of work. There may be some truth to that, but the way I see it: I loved my job, it just wasn’t the job for me. I believe that I wound up with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia because I was not being true to myself. I don’t want other people with disabilities to feel that they are to blame for their situation but in my case, getting to take personal responsibility, is what allows me to move forward.

I could see the gears turning in his head. I know it must be confusing how someone who doesn’t have the strength to handle a desk job can haul 400 pounds of beer filled art and music lovers around Northeast Minneapolis for 13 hours. It’s confusing to everyone; it’s confusing to me but it is the reality.

It was a long road to get here and I can do a lot more than I used to but I still can’t do a desk job. I can do amazing things if I am driven by love and passion but very little if I am driven by money. I’m not going to make $52,ooo a year driving pedicab;  I’m still hoping to make about $6,000. But thanks to social security (money paid by you and me) and the value that I have found in kindness, I can make that work.

Wind out of my sales

I have had to deal with all sorts of weather while driving pedicab. As an all-year biker I have a lot of experience with this, but every years, it still comes as a cruel reminder of mother nature’s power. Biking in the cold sucks. Biking in snow sucks. Biking in rain sucks. Still, you can fight your way through it. The one weather condition that will stop you dead in your tracks is high winds.

Last night around 10pm it started to rain lightly. It wasn’t enough to really bother me or the people walking around but it was enough to make taking a pedicab a less desirable option. I headed back to the garage to put on the canopy and rain tarp hoping the rain would continue. It did for about an hour and I was able to pick up a couple rides as a result of the rain.

After the rain died down the wind picked up. Now that I had a canopy on my cab it was like biking around a with a parachute behind me. The winds were gusting to 40 miles-per-hour. Even on a straight away, I would drop into the lowest gear, and still struggle to move the bike. With the wind behind me however, I could just put my feet up and let mother nature push half a ton of bike and riders down the road. That was kind of fun.

I had my first experience where I really felt like someone took advantage of me last night. Pedicabs will often congregate at The Local to pick up riders. There is always a lot of foot traffic going by and since we are there so often, most people know what to expect. I hate waiting in line to get a ride but the rides I get out of the Local are usually pretty serious riders so it’s worth the wait when I’m willing to do it.

So last night, when a sharply dressed, clean cut guy in his late twenties hopped  in my cab and asked to be taken to the Butcher and the Boar, I thought nothing of it. When we got to his destination he handed me money and I thanked him. Then I looked at what he gave me. It was a one dollar bill. What the fuck?!? Seriously? I mean, I took a couple other rides where people gave me a dollar or less but they let me know that they didn’t have any money before hand. I don’t have a problem with that. This guy clearly had money. He was just gaming the system. He was being a douche-bag!

I’ve got to say that it didn’t sit well with me. I know that my way of doing things leaves me open to being taken advantage of. I know that there are people like him in the world. Still, it shocked me. Most people are not like him. I could have gone in and confronted him. I could have told him that it was a dick-head move, but I didn’t. I let it go. I know who he is and it won’t happen again. If this is the way he acted with me I’m sure that he is this way with other people as well and probably has bigger problems than me confronting him on his behaviour. Scamming people may be one of his few joys in the world. That would be sad but it would explain why this good looking guy didn’t have a date on a Friday night.

All in all, my night turned out really well. Having music was a big hit and made my job even more enjoyable. I got to help people, show people a good time, received several hugs and a couple kisses and even had two very attractive women simultaneously give me a back massage as I rode. Yup, pedicab driving is the life for me!

Living the dream

Who would have thought that everything that I have been through and done in my life would have brought me to this moment? Not me, that’s for sure. I really thought that this was just a stepping stone to something else. Of course it is, everything is, but it is also a destination. It is time to acknowledge that I have arrived. I am right where I am meant to be. I am a pedicab driver!

Last night I sat down to write a new page for this website. I figured it was about time I focused on building it up and making it better. I managed to write one sentence before giving up. I guess my heart just wasn’t in it. I guess the time for that is not now. Now is the time for me to focus on being a pedicab driver. That’s okay. I can let driving pedicab drive my blog writing. Whatever I do will be driven by passion and right now, I’m realizing that all of my passions point to driving pedicab.

It’s the perfect job for me. It even allows me the flexibility to be there for my kids, my friends, my band or whatever else comes up in the moment. But it’s not just a means to an end. I woke up this morning with the realization that it is an end in and of itself.

I have had a rather varied career path but it has all brought me to this point. I’ve been a musician, a dancer, a social worker, a computer programmer, an activist, a deejay, an entrepreneur,  a salesman, a model, a child care worker, a delivery driver, a graphic designer, a house cleaner and more. All have taught me things that I can use as a pedicab driver. The whole processes of dealing with depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia have brought me to this career. Even my life as a drunk and bar-stool vagabond has given me skills essential to this job.

What really brought it all together for me was realizing that I could use my deejay skills and extensive music collection with the pedicab. Yesterday, on my way to picking up my son from college I bought a portable speaker that I can attach to the cab. I’m going to get to deejay for all of downtown! That’s what I call mobile dj – no requests and I don’t do wedding! Just kidding.

I had been using my songwriting skills on the job but I think recorded music will be better. Here’s the little jingle I wrote as I would sing as I rode around:

Call me crazy, call me insane
But I want to take you to the baseball game
In my pedicab, pedicab
Hey, hey – pedicab, pedicab

I don’t go fast and I don’t go far
I can take you to the stadium or downtown bar
In my pedicab, pedicab
Hey, hey – pedicab, pedicab

What’s lots of fun and totally green
Uses pedal power not gasoline
It’s my pedicab, pedicab
Hey, hey – pedicab, pedicab

Hey, hey, hey – it’s dyn-o-mite
Who wants a ride in my taxi tonight
In my pedicab, pedicab – pedicab, pedicab
Hey, hey, hey

Yeah, it’s stupid but so what. It’s a fucking jingle, my first jingle, by the way. Anyway, gotta lot to do today so I’ll catch you on the flip side. This is just the beginning of everything that comes next…

It was a good idea at the time

I think I’m becoming addicted to the pedicab thing. From Friday evening until Sunday evening I spent virtually all of my waking hours working. I must have put in a good 30 hours over the weekend.

Sunday was the Mayday Parade and Festival at Powderhorn park. I has such a blast driving people around in my bicycle taxi that my face hurt from smiling so much. The rest of my body hurt too but it was pain well earned.

I decided that if the cost of sobriety was not being able to have a drink after the weekend I just had, it wasn’t worth it. I’m sure that committing to two weeks of sobriety was a good idea at the time but in that moment it just didn’t make any sense.

So where did abandoning my plan lead me?

Well, I started at the Leaning Tower of Pizza where I had a margarita. I also got a free small pizza for my Foursquare check it. Bonus! Pizza requires beer though so I ordered a Surly Furious. After that I met up with my bff at her place. We had a beer together there before heading to the 19 Bar.

I hadn’t seen her since her birthday so I figured shots were in order. We met up with a couple of our other friends so I ordered shots for the four of us, Screaming Yodas, a specialty of our bartender.

Beyond that it was a typical night of cheap beer and deep conversation on the patio. The only time I wasn’t talking to someone was when I was making out with the cutest guy at the bar. Secretly, I think he started kissing me just to shut me up. Oh well, it worked. I was actually getting worn out on all the conversation myself. I headed back into the bar so I could sit and just listen to the jukebox.

My bff and I returned to her place for one more beer and a cocktail. She finished her cocktail and I finished most of my beer. We tried to watch a movie but I didn’t make it through the opening credits before I was out. So it goes.

The next morning, Monday, she woke up before I did and made coffee. I think I was actually feeling a bit hung-over. It had been five days since I drank. Maybe my tolerance was low.  All I wanted to do was drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and listen to music. I plugged my phone into her stereo and played the new Cloud Cult album for her. She hadn’t heard it yet although I had posted the video to their first single off the album on her facebook wall for her birthday.

Music is such a huge part of my life and I’ve been missing it as of late. It’s been awhile since the band has done anything, and since I’ve been writing this blog, I haven’t been writing songs. I was very grateful to have rehearsal Monday night.

We are getting ready for the David Bowie Tribute show at First Avenue on May 17th.

Before rehearsal my bff and I got food at Ryan’s pub and then hit the liquor store before heading back to her place. I had a slight buzz going before getting to rehearsal but it was completely gone by the time we were done.

Every Sunday and Monday, Dr. Mambo’s Combo plays at Bunker’s Bar. I’ve been seeing this band play for 25 years. It’s a cover band, mostly funk, soul and pop, but it’s made up of some of the best musicians in the city. Some of the members have changed over the years, or some of the members are different from week to week as regular members are out on tour, but some members go all the way back to the 1980’s heyday of music in Minneapolis. You never know who might show up and sit in with them. Even on an off night, as Monday seemed to be, it’s always an amazing time.

I had tried to see them the week before but wasn’t let in. I know now that it was just a fluke. This night I rode up on my bike with a stuffed backpack wearing tights, a vest and a jester’s hat and they let me in no problem. Their only question was if I had any booze in my backpack.

I said,”No, I was hoping you would have some here.”

Like I said, my buzz was gone and I really wanted to get a drink in me. After a couple more I was right as rain. I was dancing and talking to people and having the time of my life.

I wasn’t the only one have a good time. It seemed like everyone was, but one guy in particular caught my eye. He looked like he had come directly from some corporate job. He was wearing suit pants and a blue business suit. He had shed the tie and jacket but was still clearly corporate  He was also dancing his ass off, his hair, a little too long, flopping back and forth. It made me sad. I knew that this person had more spirit and passion than his work garb would indicate.

He came by me and I gave him a nod, “I hope your job appreciates your creativity.”

He said, “Man, I used to be a painter… now I just push numbers around.”

He wound up buying me a beer and a shot as we commiserated about selling your soul for the corporate cause.  As the bar close approached I still had a beer and a half in front of me. I explained to the bartender that they had been bought for me and that I wanted to do my best to finish them but when it was time to go, all they had to do was let me know.

By the time I got home it was after two in the morning. All the houses on my block were dark and I was feeling pretty good. I went inside, stipped off all my clothes and then walked butt naked out into the middle of the street.

I stood there for a moment, all alone in my sleeping universe and I though, “This is what freedom feels like!”

And it did. That is what freedom feels like to me. It’s not just the being naked aspect. It’s not just the fact that for the first time this year it was actually warm enough in the middle of the night to be outside naked. It was doing exactly what I wanted to do knowing that I was harming no one. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter the most.

In any case, that wouldn’t have happened sober. I’m all for sobriety… in moderation. I’m just glad I didn’t try to push it too far.

And maybe my life could benefit from drinking a little less, but maybe not. I didn’t drink at all Tuesday night. I didn’t do much of anything else though either. I really wanted to do some writing but all I could bring myself to do was lay in bed, eat shitty food and watch TV. At least I didn’t have to worry about my BAC when I went to work delivering City Pages this morning. It’s a yin and yang sort of thing.

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!

Sunday, snowy sunday

Seriously. It’s the middle of April. I can deal with rain in April. I don’t even need every spring day to be beautiful but one would be nice.Yes, I know, it’s awfully pedestrian to bitch about the weather but it does seriously affect my life.

Today I woke up at 9am with one thing on my mind; working pedicab for the Twin’s game against the Mets. Nope, not gonna happen. That game was postponed due to the fact that the weather is really really shitty!

I called the pedicab company to inform them that the game had been called off and asked if it still made any sense to work. They said that if the weather is that bad that there is no point coming in.

“Fine.” I said. “I’ve got plenty of other things going on in my life.”

Which is true, I do have many things going on in my life. Unfortunately, they are all affected by this miserably weather as well. Nope… I really don’t want to do anything today. That really kind of sucks. I so wish I was able to get other things accomplished on days like this. Shitty days just sap my passion. Beyond necessity, beyond survival, passion is the only thing that drives me. Come to think of it, my need for survival may only be driven by my passion as well.

So what can I accomplish on a day like this. Let’s see, should be pretty easy to recount. I made coffee to wake me up. Realizing I had nothing I had to do today I later made a cocktail, afterwhich I took a nap. I woke up and jacked off. Then I made myself a salad. I ate it while watching Doctor Who on Netflix. Inspired I tried to find something more intelligent to spur my brain so I turned to the Aspen Ideas Festival website. Unable to find inspiration in anything there I turned back to porn. That gives me temporary relief from the numbness at least but soon after I found myself experiencing hunger. I made myself a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich.

Now I’m going to grab a beer and return to Doctor Who. I’m still hoping that I can use this day off to write something brilliant. I have so many thoughts in my head, just no will to do anything with them.

When one door opens, god closes a window

One of the best lessons that I have learned from living with chronic illnesses is that I can’t do everything… at least not all at once. We all have limits. We all have to contend with the limits of the human body. Some bodies may be more capable than other but they all have limits. We can work on increasing those limits but that takes time and effort and takes away from doing other things. All earthlings are restricted to 24 hours in a day. Everyday, each one of us needs to eat, sleep and shit. Some people need more, some need less. Some can accomplish more, some less, but we all have a limit to what we can accomplish. We all have good days and bad days but none of them go one forever and even good days have to come to an end.

I feel like I’ve been having a lot of good days lately. I’m really excited about writing this blog. I’m excited about starting a new job. I really like doing the pedicab thing.  I like having money again. My relationship with my daughter is going very well. I’m so grateful to be spending regular time with her again. I’m relieved that my bff and I were able to work through our conflict from last Friday. Through that experience I learned some important lessons and I believe it made our relationship even stronger. My body is getting stronger too. I’ve been smoking less and drinking less and all those things are good. I’ve been a very busy boy, life is on the upswing and much has been accomplished in the pursuit of my goals and dreams.

But… for all of my accomplishments there are areas where I fall short of my expectations. For every success comes failure. I totally spaced my therapy appointment on Tuesday. I’m not doing yoga which is also something that really helps me. I’m not spending as much time with my friends as I would like. I’m not reading as much as I would like. I haven’t been writing or playing music. I’m way behind on laundry and cleaning. My van needs repairs, as do things around the house, but I haven’t been able to get to them yet. My to-do list keeps getting longer. I don’t know how I’m ever going to get everything done. The reality may be that I can’t. The reality is that I need help. They reality is that I can’t do it alone.

I’ve often heard that I don’t have my priorities right. I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating what that means. To be honest, it has me at quite a loss. Beyond making sure that I am available for my kids when they need me or respond in a crisis, I have no idea how to prioritize.

My only priority is to the present moment. The most important thing in my life is what I am doing right now for it is the only thing I can do. Whatever I can manage to accomplish with this moment that is meaningful, productive, loving or real is the best that I can hope to achieve. If I can make each and every waking moment significant in one way or another I would consider that a pretty amazing life. I can’t say that every moment has gone that way but most of them have. For all the things I may never get to, my tribute is doing all that I do.

Biking up that hill

I’ve been doing this blog for a little over two months now and this is my 50th post. It feels like a bit of a landmark and I really wanted to make it special. I’m just not feeling it today though. I am completely wiped out. After working the Minnesota Twins season opener as a pedicab driver, making up with my best friend and then going to the bar yesterday, then spending the afternoon and evening with my daughter today, I don’t have much left in me.

Still, I want to share a couple stories about my two favorite fares yesterday. The first was a couple of young women who were standing outside Cowboy Jack’s across the street from Target Field where the Twins play. They came over and asked me for a light. I light their cigarettes and engaged them in conversation. tI turned out that they couldn’t get into the bar because one of them had left their ID at Darby’s.

I told them to hop in my pedicab and I would get them there and back. We didn’t discuss the fare. I just wanted to help them and make sure that they had a good time.

I knew that I had heard of Darby’s but I couldn’t for the life of me remember where it was so I got on the radio and asked where it was. Once they told me I felt pretty stupid. It’s in the same building as City Pages so I drive by it every week. I even have a gift certificate for the place.

The ride there was a blast. Everytime we stopped they would pull out their phones and we would take pictures together. They totally loved me! The ride there was pretty easy too; just one little hill getting over the Washington Avenue bridge after which it was all downhill.

I dropped them off at Darby’s so they could run in, retrieve the lost ID and get cash. They came out and handed me a twenty. I was very grateful. We took some more picture and they boarded the padicab for the return trip to Cowboy Jack’s.

This is where it got hard. Darby’s is at the bottom of a very steep hill on a really poorly maintained road. I guess most drivers won’t even go there. I don’t give a shit though. I was just curious to see if I could make it. Worst case scenario, I would make them get out and push. They seemed up for it. Luckily, I’m a badass and made it up that hill. I’ve realized that hills are my secret weapon. Watching me struggle to get up a hill is pretty entertaining and tends to lead to bigger tips.

When I got them back to Cowboy Jack’s we took more pictures, they each handed me a twenty and I gave each of them a big hug. That was a total of $60 for half an hour of supper fun, fairly exhausting work. Still, it was the best fare I had all day. Perhaps the best fare anyone had all day.

Earlier in the day I had my other favorite rider. I stopped by Lee’s Liquor Lounge to see if I could pick up a straggler who was running late for the game. Instead I met a homeless man. He asked me how much it would cost to get him across the bridge to the mission. I told him to throw me a couple bucks and I would get him there. He ran into the bar to grab his backpack which presumably contained everything he owned. This man had next to nothing but for five minutes he had a chauffeur. I think that is pretty awesome. It sure made me feel good. I hope that I have many more opportunities to do things like that.

One of my biggest concerns in setting out on this pedicab adventure was how I would deal with the money aspect. Everyone told me that I could make a lot of money doing it. Certainly that is a good thing but it also worried me. I’m not motivated by making money, I’m motivated by making memories. What I am finding is that by caring for my passengers, the money follows. I’m sure I could make more if I focused on the money but it would probably kill the joy I feel. I am discovering that I enjoy people giving me money. It does make me feel good. It doesn’t matter whether it is two dollars or sixty dollars, the act of giving and receiving is meaningful.

Knowledge is power but belief is action

Yesterday was my first day as a pedicab driver. Tomorrow will be my second day. Today is hell.

Every muscle in my body aches. Even my brain feels fried. The important thing is I survived and I’m sure it will get easier. I like this kind of pain because it means I’m getting stronger.

I was telling my mom about the new job at Easter brunch today. She seemed surprised that I was trying to do it, you know, considering my age and all.

“You’re really going to see if you can do this?” she ask.

“I think I just proved that I can,” I replied.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the age of Star Wars and those immortal words of Yoda still haunt me, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

I never try to do anything. If I have doubts, I will surely fail. I only set out to do something when I believe with all my heart that I can do it. Secretly, I believe I can do anything.

Sometimes I’m wrong. Sometimes I do something and I fail. I’m okay with that. I know that I can’t do everything. I know that I have limits. But in order to do anything I need to believe that I can. It is important to distinguish between knowledge and belief. They are not the same thing but they both have purpose. To put this in figurative terms, beliefs are thoughts we keep in our hearts, away from our brains where they can be killed by facts and logic.

I also know that I make mistakes but I believe in making mistakes. Making mistakes is how I grow and thankfully making mistakes never completely shaken my belief in myself. My second to last fare of the evening last night, I knew was probably a mistake.

It was almost bar close and I was heading down to the nightclub district to position myself for the hoards or drunken people that were about to spill out onto the sidewalk. Instead I found this woman stumbling down the sidewalk, all alone, talking on her cell-phone, and appearing to not have a clue as to where she was going.

I asked her if she needed a ride and she climbed into my pedicab. Then she handed me her cell phone and told me to talk to her friend. I’ll call him Michael. He lived about a block from my old apartment. It was maybe two miles away, which is a pretty long pedicab ride but not too far. It also meant going up the biggest hill that I had tried to conquer with a pedicab but I believed I could do it. This woman was in my care and I wanted to make sure that she got where she was going.

I quoted Michael twenty dollars. A taxi ride would have cost maybe ten but at bar close there was no way she was going to get a taxi. Who in their right mind would pick up someone who didn’t know where they were going and didn’t have any money? Clearly I was not in my right mind. I was following my heart, not my head. I was doing what I believe in.

I did make it up that hill, by the way. Sure, it nearly killed me and my passenger kept kicking me in the ass telling me to go faster. I told her, “Keep it up, it think it’s working!” Michael did pay me the twenty dollars we agreed on. He could have screwed me and there would have been nothing I could have done about it but I believe that most people aren’t out to screw me. I’m a pretty nice guy and we all know, nice guys don’t get screwed. I also made it to the 19 bar for bar close where I picked up another short fare. It was actually another guy who never screwed me although I think he would have if I had played my cards right. All in all, it was the best hour of my night.

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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