Minneapolis, mn

I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In many ways, it’s a great city. But in winter the weather kind of sucks. I have a dream of not being here in the winter. I even have a plan for how to do that. But for now, I’m still here. For all I know, I might always be here. I’m starting to think that that would be okay too. It’s a hard life but I don’t have the expectation that life be easy. It’s the hard stuff that makes me feel most alive; to really appreciate being alive. I keep striving to make my life better, easier, and I think that is a good goal. But the fact still remains, life sucks… so what, at least it’s LIFE.

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Life is beautiful

The other morning, to be specific, the morning of Tuesday August 20th, 2013, I woke up with the most incredible sensation. As my eyes opened to greet the day I felt absolutely convinced that life was beautiful and that we lived in a world where everything was exactly as it was meant to be. For that moment in time I was living in the best of all possible worlds.

Then two hours later I woke up for real. I had in fact only been dreaming of this world. But could there be some truth to it? Could it be that life actually is beautiful? Many people have suggested that it is but given that I write a blog titled “Life Sucks, So What?!?” I clearly have my doubts.

Still, for two hours I was living in the best of all possible worlds. I was completely safe, happy and receiving everything I needed or could possibly desire. In that moment what I needed more than anything, to the exclusion of everything else, was sleep and what a beautiful sleep it was.

So this begs the question; does life suck or is it beautiful? I don’t think that I am going too far out on a limb to say that it is both. I realize that this might upset some of my friends who are convinced that life is beautiful but welcome to reality.

Actually, that is the real question. What is reality? I love my happy-go-lucky-life-is-beautiful friends but sometimes I get frustrated because I feel like we are not living in the same reality. Perhaps that is the case. Perhaps there are multiple realities. Or as I like to think of it; reality is just really, really fucking big and no one person can ever see all of it at once. Sometimes we see the parts that suck, sometimes we the parts that are beautiful.  Some people carve out their own vision of reality by only seeing what they want to see. Actually, that might be most people but I don’t have the budget to do the research and frankly, most statistics suck. Feel free to prove me wrong it you want to conduct a study and quantify the beauty of statistics.

My life is as an artist… or philosopher or whatever the fuck I am. I see my job as looking at everything, trying to make some sort of sense out of it, and doing the best job I can at communicating what I see. My job is to connect the dots. My job is to bring the universe back to earth. What I am quickly realizing is that the universe is really fucking big and that there are a lot of dots. I feel like an astrologer looking up at the ancient night sky and thinking, “there has got to be an answer in there somewhere”.

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The truth is that all those dots are connected. They all affect one another. Some connections may be more significant than others, just like some of our personal relationships are more significant than others, but the truth is we are all connected. To be honest, the dots connected by astrologers seem a bit random to me, but so what?!? We all have to make choices in this universe and if it works for you, who am I to judge?

Reality is big enough for everyone. If you want to believe that life is beautiful, go ahead. There is plenty of evidence to support that theory.  If you want to believe that life sucks, it’s pretty easy to do that as well. If you think that there is a supreme order to the universe and that everything happens for a reason, be my guest. If you think we live in completely chaos, I feel ya there too.

On this particular day in late August three young people including a toddler and a pregnant woman were shot in my neighborhood.  While no one was fatally injured there is no denying that this was a tragedy and the outrage exhibited by the community is completely understandable. My heart goes out to all the victims and to everyone affected by this incident. This has got to stop and our communities have got to come together and do a better job.

Still, I feel it’s important to point out that there were 387,750 people in Minneapolis who were NOT shot that day. Our odds of being shot on that day in Minneapolis were less than 1 in 100,000 or 0.0008%. Fortunately I don’t need a big research budget to come up with those statistics but they don’t exactly help much either. Crunching numbers and connecting dots seems pretty stupid when we have bullets connecting with flesh.

On that same day I took my daughter and her dog Toastie for a walk along the Mississippi River, across the Stone Arch Bridge to explore the ruins of the old mill city. It may very well have been one of the best days I have ever spent with my daughter but what I found most profound was that my daughter had a dog. She got this dog just a week before but she had been dreaming of it for two years. She even had the name picked out. So many people tried to dissuade her from her pursuit of getting a dog but she persevered. I encouraged her to keep her dream alive because even if it was unattainable I know that life can only be as good as our dreams.

And her dream did come true.

My dream in which I discovered a world of beauty could come true as well. I doubt that it will but so fucking what?!? Of all the misguided dreams and false hopes out there, believing that we can make the world a better place is one I’m willing to embrace.

Speaking of dreams, given that tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom I want to leave you with these words of another unrealistic dreamer, Martin Luther King Jr:

Pay it forward

Since I started driving pedicab back in March I’ve been trying to figure out an economic model that works for me. I do the job because I love it, it’s good for my body and good for my soul. I need to make money doing it but if money was my sole motivation I would never do it.

My favorite rides are the ones I give for free, or at least not expecting any money. My second favorite are the ones where people totally over tip. That makes me feel good too. I usually I get a good balance of the two but one day a couple weeks ago I had a day where no one over tipped, but no one got a free ride or under paid either. Everyone paid their fair share and I made as much as I usually do. For some, that would be the perfect system and something to replicate but it didn’t sit right with me. It didn’t seem real. I want greater diversity. I want people to get rides even if they can’t afford it and I want people to feel good about paying more if they can.

What I really want is to be able to do my job without thinking about the money. What I really want is to be able to make a living by just being me and doing what I do naturally. I don’t feel comfortable accepting payment for services rendered because I consider the service to be priceless. The idea that you can get someone to haul you around on a bicycle if you give them enough money feels like bribery to me.

So I decided that no one would get to pay for their ride. I’ve saved enough money that I can do this, at least for a little while. In essence, that ride has already been paid for through the generosity of riders before them. My hope was that even though nobody had to pay me anything they would still want to. Since they couldn’t pay for their own ride I would let them pay for somebody elses. The belief being that we are all in this together and everyone does their part to support the community. It’s like I could never charge one of my friends for a ride but at the same time they have been some of the best tippers. I would just treat everyone like my friend. I thought it was a brilliant and original idea, but would it work?

Actually it’s not that original and it has worked. It’s basically the principle of “pay it forward”. Karma Kitchen and Seva Cafe work that way. There are numerous other examples of people paying it forward in real life.

Since I’ve been doing this for the past week and a half I’ve found it to be a pretty sound business model – at least for me. I’m getting the diversity of riders that I want and my income has stayed pretty much the same. Everyone who wants a ride can get a ride and everyone feels good paying what they can pay, even if that is nothing. Those that can’t pay it forward with money I ask to pay it forward with an act of kindness. Everyone has something to give and if we all do our part we can make the world a better place.

The times they are a changing

Fuck! It seems like weeks since I’ve written. Oh look, yup, it’s been two weeks. What could have happened in that time? Well a lot. I’ve been a busy boy but it’s all in the past now. This blog is about the moment… and about my mind and the fact is my mind has not really been in the moment lately. I am in a period of transition – just as much of the world is it seems. The past two weeks have been spent appreciating that fact and poising myself for what is to come.

I expected Pride to be different this year, what with same-sex marriage recognized both here in Minnesota and by the Supreme court. We have our first male player on a professional sports team to come out. These are major milestones in what continues to be a long struggle for equality. What I found different this year was just how “normal” being gay is (at least in Minneapolis). Pride really felt more like St. Patricks day only instead of wearing green and being Irish for a day everyone dressed in rainbows and was gay for a day. It was also a helluva lot bigger that St. Patty’s day but hey, June is a helluva lot better of a time that March to have a celebration. I don’t know how everyone else feels about gay being the new green but I’m pretty okay with it. We are all part of some minority group and we are all judged for it but if we have reached the level of acceptance enjoyed by the Irish – I can work with that. Pour me a Jamison, bitches!

But most of this “period of transition” that I have been processing is purely personal. A year ago, I was engaged to be married, had my son living with me and was seriously struggling after a suicide attempt. I wouldn’t say that my life is any less stressful now but the things I’m dealing with are quite different.

The biggest change, and the one that concerns me most, is that none of my support system over the past few years are still playing that role in my life. They have all either moved away, moved on or been kicked out. I’m not sure that is a bad thing. Much of who we are and what we do is effected by the people closest to us and I am clearly getting ready to do something different. I’m going to need some different people.

What concerns me is that none of the people that know me the best are currently keeping an eye on me. I think that I am heading in the right direction; I think that I am making good decisions; I think that things are getting better; but I could be wrong. Without anyone else around I am left to my own devices.

Perhaps that is what this blog is for. Perhaps for what comes next I am going to need all of you to be my reality check. If I’m truly to do something different I’m going to need as many different people in my life as I can find.

 

NOTE: the title of this post is an homage to Bob Dylan who is playing tonight in St. Paul.

My therapy session

I arrived for my 2:30pm therapy session about 10 minutes late and discovered that my therapist had double booked and was already seeing someone. No big deal. This shit happened. It’s happened before. I’ve missed appointments before too. No one’s perfect. Anyway, if I had seen my therapist today it probably would have gone something like this:

My therapist would begin with his typical opening line, “So, how are you doing?”

“I feel like no one understands me, no one really gets who I am.”

To which he would reply, “How does that make you feel?”

“I feel sad. I feel lonely. It makes me feel completely alone in this world.”

“Do you really think that you are completely alone?”

“No, I don’t. I know I have people in my life. I know that I am not alone in feeling alone. In the broadest sense I feel connected to everyone on the planet. But what I want is for someone to really get me and I don’t feel like that will ever happen. I don’t think that it is possible. Not just because I’m not sure I even get me but because I don’t think that I am living in the same reality and anyone else. I don’t think anyone is living in the same reality as anyone else.”

Confused or intrigued, my therapist would ask, “What do you mean by that?”

“I think that they way we experience reality is an innerpersonal experience. That is to say that everyone experiences it differently. Of course I’ve had times where I feel like I am having a shared experience with another person but it’s probably a delusion.”

“You think that you are having delusions?”

“I think everyone is having delusions. I think that most of what we take for granted as being real is really just a shared delusion. Our entire economic system is a delusion. Our system of laws and government are a delusion. They only work to the extent that people believe they are real.”

“Do you mean delusion or illusion?”

“I don’t think it matters. I know that mental illness is real and that delusions are a symptom of mental illness but I’m not talking about that. I’m also not saying that delusions are the antithesis of reality. They are part of what makes up our reality. I’m just realizing that much of what we collectively call  reality is really just what we believe to be real and may not actually be a shared experience at all.”

At this point I’m sure that my therapist would have some pithy joke or ancient parable to share.

I would come back with, “I remember seeing this t-shirt that said, ‘reality is for people who can’t handle drugs’. I always thought it was funny because it was a play on the anti-drug campaign that stated that ‘drugs are for people who can’t handle reality’. I’m now understanding that concept in a completely different way. Many of the people I consider to have the best grip on reality are people who have done a lot of drugs. I’m mostly talking about hallucinogens but any drug can have this effect. Drugs, by definition are mind-altering chemicals. I think that we have to alter our mindset in order to see what is really real. I think that our brains are programmed to make sense of the world but the reality is that there is so much more going on than we can possibly understand. Our brains are programmed to see safety, consistency, connection and order even in places where they don’t actually exist.”

My therapist would probably have some words of caution about doing hallucinogens, “I’m not opposed to hallucinogenic drugs per se. There has been some interesting research into their ability to raise consciousness but they do pose some risks as well. You sometimes have a tendency go to extremes and if you are going to experiment with hallucinogens I would just want you to be careful.”

“Oh no. I’m pretty reluctant to take hallucinogenic drugs. I feel like I am about as conscious and aware as I can handle for the time being. What really gets under my skin though, is the attitude that people who drink or do drugs are escaping reality…as if that’s even possible. And it’s not just the hypocrisy that most people who espouse these attitudes drink alcohol or caffeine or are medicated or are addicted to money or power any number of things. It’s that they have deluded themselves into to believing that they have the foggiest idea what reality is. No one person really knows what is going on. Perhaps, collectively, as a people we have some idea but the hubris exhibited by people who think that they get it is beyond me. I’m not trying to understand it all. I’m just trying to do my part. I’ll let other people do the drugs and they can report back to me what they have learned.”

“So, how have things been going otherwise?”

“Oh, I’ve been busy, busy, busy. I went out to Chicago last weekend for a friend’s wedding. I saw a lot of other friends and had a great experience. I’m dealing with a conflict with my best friend. I tried to get together with her Wednesday and Thursday but I don’t think she’s ready to talk. I’m comfortable giving her all the time she needs. I have confidence that we will work through it. I took my son back to Morris on Friday. We moved him into his very first apartment. My daughter went to an LGBT prom on Friday night and had an amazing time. From 8pm Friday night until 8pm Sunday I did almost nothing but drive pedicab. I probably got 8 hours of sleep the whole time but I love it and I can do it which is amazing. I spend last night with a friend and her boyfriend out in the suburbs. We didn’t get to talk much last much last night but had a great conversation this morning.”

If there was still time on the clock he probably would have asked me about my relationships and sex life. That is something I want to write about but it will have to wait for another day.

The bitter red pill

Saturday saw the end of whatever manic phase I was going through, or at last the end of whatever benefit I was receiving from going through a manic phase. Morning was not fun. Mornings are hardly ever fun but I felt hungover which is not typical for me.

I managed to pull myself together enough to squeak out 600 words or so. As I was making my way through my third proofread my son arrived home from college. I hadn’t seen him since January and should have been overwhelmed with joy. I was excited to see him but I didn’t feel like I could fully connect with the emotions appropriate for the situation.

I stopped what I was doing so that I could focus on him. I wanted to hear about school, his girlfriend, his theater projects and his music. He was eager to share his new EP with me. It’s really good stuff. These are some amazing kids, amazing musicians, amazing songwriters and it’s impressive what they can achieve with such limited resources. I listened intently as we discussed music and more.

———————–

Then I was eager to get back to writing. My son was eager to get to writing as well. Unfortunately, blog writing and song writing do not go well together. I couldn’t concentrate. I found myself surrounded by music and getting frustrated. I was getting frustrated with my son. This was not his fault.

In fact what he was doing was brilliant. It just wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted him to stop. I wanted complete quite. Well guess what? What I want doesn’t fucking matter. I don’t get to order the world to meet my needs even if I have the power to do it. I could have told him to stop playing and he would have, but that would have been fucked up!

I was frustrated and annoyed but I kept it to myself. I wish that I could have felt the joy I know I have when I hear my son playing music but in that moment, it was no where to be found. Despite all the ways that I wanted the world to be there was no escaping reality.

Embracing, accepting and whenever possible, rejoicing in reality has been the theme of this past weekend. In a way, it’s the theme of my life.

—————–

My friends, my close friends, those that hold a truly special place in my heart, we often talk about “real” people. I love evaluated, delineating and categorizing things. I don’t like doing this with people. People are far to complicated to be placed in boxes. The fact that we do; I believe to be at the core of many of our social problems.

My therapist says that there are two kinds of people: those who believe there are two kinds of people and those who don’t. I kind of like that but my favorite is; there are 10 kinds of people: those who understand binary and those who don’t.

So who are these “real” people. I mean all people are real, right? We all do things that are fake. We all lie. We all lie to ourselves. We all have blind spots and aspects of life we choose to overlook.

But how many of us really want the truth. How many of us would really prefer the truth to what we have convinced ourselves is real. I have my own take on reality but I’m not prepared to get into that right now. In place of my own thoughts I want to present this:

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in itdoesn’t go away.” ― Philip K. Dick

Who is really willing to give up belief to live in reality. Who is so willing to embrace their doubt so completely as to give up their faith. Who is willing to take faith in the unknown and trust that reality it is better than the lie. Who, if standing before Morpheus, would take the red pill.

These are the noble souls we call real people, not because they would be the ones to take the red pill, but because they already have. Most were never given a choice. Most were slapped upside the head with such a heavy does of reality that they could never escape. I don’t know if this was the case for me. I feel like I was granted the opportunity for a mythical life of fantasy. I just never believed it. I kept trying to wake up. Now I am awake and it’s not pretty… but it is real. I’m not trying to escape, I’m just trying to survive.

Some of my friends are trying to get back in the Matrix through drugs, alcohol,  money, sex, violence, work, religion, self-righteousness, fantasy, denial… all  powerful forces, all things I participate in at times, all things that are no competition for reality. That is because they are all part of reality.

Okay, that is part of my take on reality. To say that reality is only what exists when we stop believing is to deny all that we believe in. Our beliefs, even if false or inaccurate are still real, they still exist and therefor cannot be separated from reality.  Sorry to get all existential but I am kind of an existentialist… just being real.

So I have a friend. One of those special friends, a real friend. Someone who is not trying to become part of the Matrix. Someone who is trying to become who they really are. Someone who by quirks of fate was not born who they really are, yet was born in a time of scientific and technological advances to allow them to alter themselves and become who they really are, as all of us have the choice to become who we really are or to alter ourselves to become who we wish we could be. I’m not saying which is right. Who I wish I could be, my ideal person, is probably a far better person than who I actually am, yet I believe that I am here for a purpose and whatever that purpose may be, I will be.

Saturday night this person wound up sleeping on the floor. Probably because of my shifting moods. As the night came to an end for me I was not cordial. I was demanding, insistent and done with being awake. I was done and the couch was mine. I didn’t like that I was being rude but I was done pushing myself beyond my limits. I knew the cost of doing that and I wasn’t willing to pay it again.

The following night I was able to convert the couch into a bed and found a hansom soul by my side. The gratitude of this occurrence did not escape me.    This too was a person I would conciser a real person yet the feelings were not the same. I believe that all souls have equal value. I wish that I could treat all the same. I wish that I could be the slut that I used to be but something was different.

As morning came I needed to tell this gorgeous creature, as beautiful as may be, we did not have the chemistry that I desired. But real and in my honesty there was no opposition, disappointment perhaps, but no denial. We were real.

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