Post number 100

NOTE: This is my 100th blog post. I’ve known this day was coming for some time and have thought quite a bit about how to make it special. I wanted to do some sort of reflective piece discussing my goals and where I am on my path to obtaining them. Let’s just say that that goal, like all my other goals, isn’t following any prescribed timeline. So this post is nothing special for being number 100 although it is number 100 which is kind of cool in and of itself.  

I feel like I have some catching up to do. After taking 10 days off from driving pedicab to spend time with my daugher and focus on the benifit show I have gone back to it full force. Since last Thursday I have clocked in 46 hours driving pedicab. On top of that I spent 8 hours today delivering City Pages. That is an hour longer than it should have taken me but I was moving a bit slower having had only three and a half hours of sleep last night. My only day off was Monday and I wasn’t feeling very social. Writing is a social act for me so I hope you can understand why I haven’t written in a while.

I recall writing not too long ago about worrying that the pedicab thing might cause me to make too much money. That has not proven to be the case this past week. I actually did alright last Thursday and last night but Friday through Sunday was a downward spiral. Sunday I actually lost money. I’m sure that the company would have cut me a break on rent if I had asked for it but I’m not going to do that unless I have to. I look at this as a business and I’m in it for the long haul. Some days are going to be better than others and some days I may lose money. The important thing is that company I lease from are able to stay in business because they allow me to have a job that I can do, is meaningful and moves my life forward. Money is secondary at best.

After having a not so hot Friday night I was really tempted to take Saturday off. The weather was really kind of shitty which added to my difficulty getting in the mood. I went into The Depot for breakfast with coffee and a screwdriver. In came a group of cyclists that stopped by for a shot on their way to Tour de Fat. They were already half in the bag which is really where I wanted to be. If I wasn’t driving pedicab, that is exactly where I would have been.

I still went to Tour de Fat on my pedicab. Since it’s a biking event there weren’t many opportunities to get rides but I did get one.  It was a mother, her toddler and her friend who had come into town from Chicago to support her while her infant son was in the hospital with some serious medical problems. Along with them came a stroller, an umbrella and a couple big bags. It took an hour before they were ready to leave the bar then I drove them to the liquor store and pharmacy before bringing them back to the apartment. It was the type of service that could easily have warranted a hundred dollar tip but I refuse to be about the money. They paid me what it took for them to feel good – just like anyone else. I was just thrilled to be part of their experience. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to be part of that moment.

I know that some of the pedicab drivers that are upset because I do some things for less money than they would and that by doing so I somehow cheapen the profession. I also take care of obnoxious drunks that other people don’t want to deal with. I also spent half an hour helping one of the cashiers at our favorite downtown convenience stores find an ATM so he could deposit money even though he didn’t have any money to give me. I also gave a ride to a homeless woman, clear across town, during bar close, because she had no idea where she was and needed to get to the shelter. I have no idea if any of this makes good business sense but it’s the human thing to do. I just feel lucky that I have the ability to do something about it. Still, at the end of the season I’m pretty convinced that I will have made as much money as anyone.

This weekend though, where I didn’t make very much, my thoughts were on how much I saved. If I hadn’t been driving pedicab and having wonderful, meaningful experiences, I would have been out drinking and spending money. I’m not saying that wouldn’t have been wonderful and meaningful as well but the economics would have been different. Hmmm… that’s got me thinking about drunk economics. I mean Freakonomics is already taken but maybe I could write a book called Drunkonomics.

I don’t know, I’m a pretty cheap drunk these days. Since I’ve been driving pedicab I’m not drinking as much, I’ve lost weight and my metabolism has changed to the point where it doesn’t really take that much to get me drunk. After working Sunday I decided to do an experiment and see if I could bar hop home without getting shit-faced wasted. I fucking love science!

Well the experiment was pretty much over after two bars and three drinks but I was still committed to seeing it through so I grabbed my self some White Castle and kept going. I don’t know why but as long as I’ve been a vegetarian I still crave shitty fast food sometimes. Okay, maybe being drunk had something to do with it, but still… gross.

Next I hit The Otter for some Karaoke. I requested to sing “Use Me” by Bill Withers but had finished my beer and whiskey before they called my name – probably a good thing.

From there I had my choice of bars to hit but I knew that it would be a good idea to put some distance on my bike before drinking any more. Jimmy’s seemed like a good call and it did wind up being a good time. Oh yeah, there was kind of a side experiment going on to see if I could get drunk enough to hook up with a random stranger. I was totally there but apparently not everyone was running the same experiment so I moved on. I had one more stop before I had to head home.

I did wind up getting picked up at the last bar. I can’t really say how that went south but I have a feeling it had something to do with drunkommunication. Anyway, I wound up back at the bar and biking home. I made it home just fine. I was pretty wiped out from the weekend but I was home safe… except I didn’t have my keys to get in the house. FUCK! I had them when I unlocked my bike.  Where could they be?

I tore through all my bags and pockets until I was convinced that I didn’t have them. I contemplated breaking into my own house. I contemplated calling the police because I was concerned for my safety. Crazy, disabled, drunk people shouldn’t be left outside alone at night… but then I realized that we are all the time and that I really was on my own.

I knew that my keys had to be somewhere between my house that the bar which was three and a half miles away. Chances were that I dropped them when I unlocked my bike so I headed back to the bar. I made it to the bar but couldn’t find my keys. I collapsed on the stoop feeling completely defeated when the staff started filtering out of the bar.

The bartender asked me, “What’s wrong J?”

“I can’t find my keys.”

He looked around the bike rakes and picked something up and said, “Are these them?”

“Yes, yes, yes. Oh thank you soooo much!”, and I gave him a big hug.

Feeling all energized I made it back home although I really was still running on fumes and swerving all over the road.

Oh well.

All’s well that ends well, right? Okay, so maybe drunken pub crawls can’t be part of my lifestyle these days. I’m also concerned that getting drunk is not a solution to lack of sex but that is why we run experiments. I’m still convinced that science holds the answer.

To the limit

I receive a lot of commentary about the way I live my life. Perhaps everybody does. It seems to be in our nature to give advice to others and share our insight about how they could be living their life better. Without a doubt, my life is a struggle and it is my daily goal to find ways to make it work better so I welcome their input even if sometimes I wish that they would focus on their own life; even if there is hardly an issue I haven’t already addressed, I do have blind spots and they can sometimes offer a fresh perspective.

One critique that I seem to get fairly often is that I don’t have healthy boundaries.  Sometimes this comes up when actions I take make another person uncomfortable because I am pushing their boundaries. Hey, that’s what boundaries are for, to indicate when you are reaching the limits of your comfort zone so that you can react BEFORE going into a panic. Boundaries are going to be pushed. But they are are not universal and everyone’s comfort zone is different. Sometimes the critique comes from the belief that I am too open, too free, too trusting and that may be true but open, free and trusting is something that I aspire to be.

The truth is that I do have boundaries, I just have as few as I can get away with. The truth is that I do respect other people’s boundaries but I am probably going to push them from time to time, especially if they have not communicated clearly. Boundaries are products of fear. Respecting them may be an act of love but establishing them comes from fear. I’m not saying that is necessarily a bad thing. Boundaries are like a demilitarized zone that keeps two formerly warring states safe from each other.  Establishing a boundary is like putting up a fence on the approach to a cliff that keeps people from falling to their death. These are good ideas.

My point is that boundaries are different than limits. Limits are real. Limits are not arbitrary and exist whether you establish them or not. Limits are like military conflict or falling off a cliff. To be clear, speed limits, by my definition, are boundaries not limits.

I have always been one to push my life to the limit. I want to see just how far I can take things. I find that the most interesting discoveries are made between the fence and the cliff.  I believe that my life gets better not by creating stronger boundaries but by extending my limits, by pushing myself beyond what is safe and forcing myself to become stronger. How can I feel like I am living life to the fullest if I know that I can do more?

This method of living is not without consequences. This past week has really seen me test my limits. As I am sitting here writing this I am frustrated, irritable, and in a lot of physical pain.  It would be one thing if all this pushing myself to the limit was of my own volition but that is rarely the case. There are always factors beyond my control which contribute to me pushing myself to the breaking point.

A big source of unnecessary stress this week has been dealing with the University of Morris over my son’s financial aid and work study eligibility. My son absolutely qualifies and we did everything that we were suppose to do in applying for the program but his application got “flagged” for further verification.  The verification that they need is information from the IRS about my tax return. I filed my tax return in March but it also got “flagged” for further verification. This has delayed the processing of my return to this date. We can’t get the verification needed from the IRS because they have not processed my return yet. Nothing is going to change regarding my son’s eligibility by this bullshit, unnecessary added verification. The school knows this and believes me but are unable to take me at my word and will only accept the word of the IRS. Personally, I think that I am a lot more trustworthy than the IRS but apparently that doesn’t count for anything these days.

So I’m going to search through my bag of papers to be shredded (good thing I’m not on top of shredding papers) and try to find something from the IRS stating that my return was being delayed. Then I’m going to go rent a lawn mower so that I can mow my lawn because the grass is now too long to do with my push mower. Hopefully I won’t throw my back out. It has been killing me since delivering the big Summer edition of City Pages on Wednesday… well actually since delivering the Best Of edition over a month ago.

Perhaps if I had better boundaries I wouldn’t find myself in this position so ofter. If I created more of a buffer I would be able to better handle these unexpected circumstances. The problem with that is that it would mean cutting out some of the things that I love doing; the things that give my life meaning and purpose. Also, when you have come back from a place where just getting off the couch to go to the bathroom is a struggle, setting artificial limits seems like a step backwards. At least when I hit my limit, I KNOW that I am doing the best I can.

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.

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.

Burning the candle at both ends

I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud but I did it. I managed to get through the day. I woke up this morning at exactly 10am in an absolute panic.

I ask myself, “What day is it? What do I have to do today?”

“Oh yeah, it’s Wednesday. I have to deliver CityPages and shit I’m running late!”

While driving to the paper it dawned on me that today was the big Best of the Twin Cities issue.  It’s three times as big as a regular issue with a glossy cover and hard spine. This is the biggest issue of the year and a good deal more work to deliver. It’s the kind of day where getting a good night’s sleep would have really helped.

That’s not what happened though. Instead I stayed up until four in the morning talking on the phone and drinking. What was I thinking?

My plan was to spend the evening writing a new blog post. I have a couple great ideas for articles I want to write. Instead I wound up going over and over my last post, rewriting and correcting errors. Turns out I’m a pretty shitty writer, especially when I’m drunk. Sure the words flow easier when I’m lubricated but perhaps that is not always a good thing. Since my blog is starting to get some attention I think I owe it you, the reader, a fresh re-read in the morning before hitting that “publish” button.

By the way, I did just reread that last post and still made a few corrections. I offer no guarantee that future posts will be much better. I really need an editor!

So I never got to writing last night. Instead I took the time to drunk dial some of my friends. I got to talk to one of my closest friends who lives out of state. We only had about 10 minutes to talk but it was really good to catch up.

I went on facebook to see which of my friends were up. There I found a musician friend of mine who I hadn’t heard from or seen in months. I’m used to him randomly drunk dialing me but it had been quite a while since that happened. I wanted to know how he was doing so I gave him a call. Turns out the reason I hadn’t heard from him was because he has been sober for the past three months.

I told him I thought that was wonderful and promised my support in any way possible. We talked about sobriety, the importance of friends, bands, music, songwriting, and writing in general. We talked for almost three hours.

By this time, I figured that one of the mutual friends we had been talking about would be home from the bar. I decided to give her a call. I knew that she would also be supportive of our friend’s sobriety. I talked to her for a couple minutes and then she handed the phone to her co-worker who was hanging out with her.

I don’t know if I have ever talked to my friend’s co-worker before but we talked for a good half hour last night. This was another great, deep conversation about age, knowledge and wisdom.

Next thing I knew it was approaching four in the morning. I really needed to get some sleep. I needed to work in the morning. Really, what was I thinking? I never should have gone to the liquor store the day before the Best of… issue.

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.

Such is life

Okay… so where the fuck was I? I really haven’t written about my daily life in a week. From that we can assume it was one hell of a week! S0 let’s see if we can catch up.

Wednesday: Worked. That’s all I can remember. I’m sure I did more but it has escaped me.

Thursday: Saw my daughter. Went out with a friend from high-school. Actually, he’s not really a friend from high school. We did go to high-school together and we did know each other but he was more a jock / party guy and I was a musician / druggie. Anyway… we are friends now and it was awesome to hang out with him. We had a great time. He crashed in my bed… I crashed on my couch – he’s totally hot… but married… to a woman. Nothing happened.

Friday:  Woke up still a little buzzed. Kind of drank throughout the day… slowly. I still had to work pedicab that night so I took a nap.

Friday night – Sunday day:  One big blur of driving pedicab.

Sunday night: 19 bar. Saw good friends. Crashed on my bff’s couch. Actually fell asleep as she was telling a story, butt naked on her couch, halfway through the shot of tequila she poured for me.

Monday: Made coffee for my friend so she could get to work on time. She got called off til 12:30pm but I’m still glad that she got up earlier so we could have some sober time together. Did some dishes before going to my therapy appointment. Then I went to a massage appointment. Then I had coffee with a good friend that I’ve experienced a bit of a falling out with. Things seem to be better now… one step at a time.

Today: Yeah, I was hoping to write last night but by the time I got home I was too exhausted. I watched Doctor Who and fell asleep. Got up early but got more absorbed in reading than writing. Reading more is one of my goals so not a bad thing. I did get distracted by a couple phone calls. That kind of did me in so I took a nap before going to pick up my daughter. I’m still planning on writing something amazing tonight but I’m starting to doubt whether that will happen. It’s 11pm and I have to deliver papers in the morning. Once again I got side-tracked by reading other people’s blogs and making comments. Oh well… such is life!

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.

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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