Roll with the changes

I received a phone call last Friday from Twin Town pedicabs asking me when I was going to start going out again. I guess that is the first true sign that winter is on it’s way out. We’ve had a couple days now of above freezing temperatures so the snow is starting to melt. I don’t want to get too optimistic because I know it’s still going to be a bumpy ride but at least we are heading in the right direction.

Last time I wrote anything of substance I mentioned that I was helping a friend shop for a new car. At some point during the process I decided that a new car was probably the best option for me as well. I was looking at upwards of a thousand dollars worth of repairs to a van that is only worth five-hundred; a van I no longer needed or wanted. The more fiscally prudent thing to do may have been to get a two-thousand dollar car for cash but where is the fun in that. I also didn’t know if that would resolve my constant repair problems. Now that I’m driving my teenage daughter around everywhere, having a reliable, fuel efficient vehicle just seemed like the responsible thing to do.

It just kind of blows my mind. A year ago I was flat bloke and realizing that I needed to cut my expenses any and every way possible. With my vehicle being one of biggest expense I figured it would have to go. The only problem was that I needed it for one of my greatest sources of income. So I set out to create a job where I didn’t need to drive. I did that. I was still worried about how I was going to see my daughter but it was looking like she was moving back to the city. Back in September, the driving job ended and I was ready to dump the van. Then I lost all communication with my daughter. I held onto the vehicle simply because I had no idea what was going on.

Now I’m the proud owner of this…

New-2014-Ford-Fiesta-SE_ID20739620_o

 

It was really such a crazy decision. I never thought that I would own another vehicle again, let alone lease a brand new one. I feel like I’m going back on everything I believe but I’m really not. The only thing I truly believe is that I never want to be beholden to my beliefs. Well, that and love. I still believe in love and buying this car was an act of love.

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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!

January thirteenth

I awoke to find an “Add New Post” window open on my computer screen. Only the title field was filled in. It said, “How alcohol saved my life”.

The night before I watched the movie, “Drinking Buddies“. Accept for the part where a drunk bicycle rider gets freaked out at the sight of blood, I found it to be one of the most accurate portrayals of drinking life that I’ve ever scene in a movie. I felt inspired me to write an honest account of the role alcohol has played in my life. I felt like I could finally do it without coming off like I was just trying to justify bad behavior.

But first I had something more important to attend to… my laundry. I’d kept my washing machine hobbling along for the past year or so but the time had come for it to retire. As a result I’d accumulated five loads of laundry so I loaded up my van and headed to Rainbow Laundromat in Uptown. They have free Wi-fi so I figured I could get some writing done at the same time. That never happened.  Washing five loads all at once doesn’t leave a lot of down time but an hour and a half later I had clean sheets, comforter and a fresh new wardrobe. I still felt like I had accomplished something.

I stopped by the liquor store determined to spend the evening writing but by the time I got home my brain had developed other plans. I didn’t want to spend another night at home drinking; I wanted to get out in the world and be with my people. I hadn’t been on my bike since November and this was going to be the night I stopped making excuses. The weather report said that snow was expected but I didn’t care. I was determined.

[It’s been almost a week since that night but sometimes a little time and reflection is helpful to sift out the fluff. Here are the highlights as I remember them now.]

I managed to find my winter biking gear including my ski goggles. It was cold and the roads suck but I was off and riding again. My first top after picking up tobacco at Sarna’s was the 331 Club. I found myself at the bar next to a man who was sitting alone drinking a Miller High Life; the two-for-one special of the evening. He explained that it’s been hard to find work and money has been tight since he got released from prison but he was really hoping to avoid going back. He explained that he would never do anything to hurt another person, except out of honor and loyalty. These were his guiding principles. He was surprised that I had never been to prison; I guess because he’s not used to talking to people who haven’t. I explained that fear has kept me out of prison and in a sense, fear was my prison. He told me that if you want to survive in prison, all you have to do is tell the truth.

He said, “I just tell them that I believe in God. They think that I’m crazy and leave me alone.”

I said, “You want to hear something really crazy? I think that I am God.”

“I don’t think that you are crazy. Not many people are willing to talk to me but you are.”

“That’s because I think that you are God.”

He didn’t believe me that he was God and maybe he was right. Still, he did look like God to me.

Next, I stopped at Club Jager to see if they had anything going on. To my surprise they were setting up for their monthly metal night. I vowed to return and headed off to Grumpy’s Downtown where a friend of mine holds a movie night on Monday’s. He was showing Robocop and Total Recall (the good one). I was more eager to see my friend than I was the movies. We had found ourselves in a three AM online spate recently and I wanted to make sure we were still “cool”. Our argument was over the placebo effect. I took the position that the brain has the power to heal and he was arguing for science and medicine. This is a pretty life or death issue but it’s not like either of us are wrong.

Then it was back to “Metal Night” at Club Jager. I love metal music but mostly I love the metalheads. Seriously, some of the nicest most loving people you will ever meet.

One of the guys I met described himself as a Satanist. He said, “This music is very spiritual to me.”

“A Satanist, huh?” I had to ask, “What do Satanists believe in?”

He told me, “Love.”

“Hmmm, that’s what I believe in as well. Maybe I’m a Satanist.”

The bike ride home was hell. Snow had covered the streets and it was still falling pretty hard. I just kept telling myself, “I can do this, I’ve been through worse.” It was slow going but I finally made it home. I had survived another day!

I woke up the next morning invigorated and feeling alive. I posted the following to facebook:

OMG Last night was amazing. I highly recommend doing stupid things. The world is just one big playground. A playground that could kill you but oh my god, not dying is sooooo much fun!!!

It was at that point that I realized that the day before was just any other day. It was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day I nearly died; the day of my car accident, the day I lost my right eye. I call it my re-birthday. Every year I celebrate January Thirteenth as the beginning of my new life but this year I totally missed it… or did I?

No bad days

It’s been a while since I have posted anything. In part that has been for lack of time but mostly it has been lack of desire. I just haven’t felt like writing and I kind of do what I want to do. It’s not like I have a lot of wants and I’ve actually been working on reducing the ones I have. That said, I can’t think of anything that I would rather be doing right now.

You see, for the past four days I have been is Los Cabos, Mexico. While back home in Minneapolis, MN people are getting pelted with a snow storm, I’m basking in the sun of 80 degree days. As I’m writing this it’s nighttime but I’m sitting quite comfortably in shorts by the pool drinking cerveza. I don’t need anything more than this.

Obviously, I did bring my laptop to Mexico but I probably won’t be posting much. I don’t know if it was subconscious or completely by accident but I forgot to pack the power cord for my computer so I only have six hours of battery life. To be honest, that’s about all the time I want to spend online.

My reason for being here is not a much needed vacation. I really don’t need vacations. I’m here to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday which was today. He and my mother have been coming down here every winter for the past decade or so and this year they wanted to have the whole family with them to celebrate.

There is no way that I could afford to do what they do every winter but this is the life. My whole time here I have been trying to figure out how I could make this my part time home. It’s not the hotel or the swimming pool or the fancy dinners that interest me. It’s just the sun, the warmth and the people. I’m actually finding being a tourist and having everything taken care of for me a bit unsettling. I really want to be working here.

I’m going to enjoy this time off and I hope that I return to the States rejuvenated and ready to get to work on my dream of never spending another winter in Minnesota.

Life is like riding a bicycle

I’m on the verge of falling apart. I can feel it in my body – the tightness in my stomach, invisible hands wrapped around my throat, the tingling in my back as if to warn me of some impending danger. Regardless of how many times my evolved brain tries to convince me that everything will be okay, no matter what happens I will be fine, my reptilian brain is on high alert.

My residual animal defence mechanisms know that winter is coming and after months of intense stress I may be too weak to survive it. My body is ready to fight for it’s life. I’m on edge, I’m anxious, I’m exhausted and depressed. One wrong move and I’m liable to bite someone’s head off.

The threats are real, the pain I feel is real but my ability to cope and adapt is more developed than my body gives credit. The greatest battle being waged is within myself. The greatest threat to my survival is me. In an internal struggle for power the best chance of survival is balance. Like riding a bicycle, the only way to stay balanced is to keep moving… or stop and put your foot down.

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