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29th-Feb-2012 06:54 am - Peace From Broken Pieces
Martian Child
Yesterday morning while trying to face being me right now (and that shit ain't easy, trust me) and have the courage to get out of bed and motivate myself, I wanted to start cleaning my house and turned on some music. The first song to fill the room with loud music on the random playlist was "Story Of Your Bones", by my dear Jennifer Nettles. All of the sudden the reality that someone I love, whose fame and adoration and wealth is deserved and certainly earned, has truly fallen away from me in every way but what originally brought us together through 16 years in love, honor, and cherished friendship. The last time we spoke was after a Sugarland show in my hometown. The last time I saw Sugarland was on my 36th birthday, when they played again in Columbus, this time in the local arena with several thousand screaming, adoring fans - and I cried in joy at the then-biggest state of her rise to superstardom. Before the show I ran into Brooke, Jenn's best friend since childhood back where they grew up in Douglas, Georgia. I asked her to tell Jenn if she saw her to call me, that my number hadn't changed, and that her phone wasn't even going to voicemail. I wanted to walk into a room again and see her before she saw me, watch her face light up and her body jolt, then have her walk toward me - open armed with that wide mouthed smile, take me in her arms and squeeze me lovingly like she always did. I hugged Brooke goodbye hoping she would remember to tell Jenn about seeing me and give her my message. I didn't get to see her that night and ended up crying myself to sleep over it, because it mattered to me that much. I didn't expect anything and gave her ground for being both exhausted and monumentally busy for the duration of that worldwide tour year and was simply grateful to be there hearing her sing in front of me again, and sated myself on letting her stand on my proverbial shoulders now and then when rapturously playing her music for people who hadn't heard her before and still street teaming to secure new fans to her talent.

So there I am listening to the first love song she ever wrote, the one that always made her cry when she tried to sing it and insisted I not make eye contact the first time she sang it for me. When she first told me about it we were hiding in the most remote corner of the Uptown Tap's (her regular Columbus venue for both Soul Miner's Daughter and Jennifer Nettles Band shows) back courtyard outside enjoying our pre-show ritual of showing up early to have face time and play catch-up. It was her first solo Jennifer Nettles Band show after the demise of SMD. She nervously told me about it and how the only way she could write a love song after so many years was to write about Todd, just before they were married in 2000; and about her parents - all three of them, starting with Carla & Marcus, her mother and stepfather. We talked more about her biological father, the wreck that is Beamon, and how he fit the first half of the song. It was a very intimate, revealing conversation and I did my level best to just hold her hands across a patio table and listen to my friend explain some new present in song that she was about to share with me. We had already talked about the break-up of Soul Miner's Daughter after she sent me an email telling me she could explain it over the phone, and I finally confessed to her that I never liked Cory much at all. The first time she had to play without him, due to an illness (but still billed as SMD) she was more nervous before the show than I'd ever seen her. We had a talk and I explained to her that no one came to these shows to see or hear Cory, they came to see and hear her. I asked her what reason she had to think that she couldn't do this effortlessly and she threw me a look and then hugged me, telling me she loved me and thanking me for my faith. I smiled and told her it's a good thing I believe in her when she didn't believe in herself and she humorously, in her exaggerated manner exclaimed "Well ain't THAT the damned truth!" If memory serves, that show was the beginnings of her departure from the band, effectively ending it as she was not only instrumental but irreplaceable as well, and the beginning of her solo endeavor as the Jennifer Nettles Band. During a game of pool before the first JNB show in Columbus before the CD was released, she surprised me with a tackle hug/kiss combo evidenced in the photo (upper left, taken lovingly by Tay with my own camera upon my return from the bar with more beer) which is my favorite picture of us together. She held onto me for a lingering minute, all smiles, and remembered a pending conversation we were to have and then looked at me with that "HOLY FUCK, I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING!" face. She took me by the hand and led me outside where it was quiet and empty, told me about this new song she would be unveiling later and the rest is history. Story Of Your Bones was released in 2000, the year Shane died. Jennifer was on her way for a tour break at Lake Lanier the Friday it happened, and I emailed her then manager Tom the following day to have him break the news to her. She called me an hour later in tears asking what happened, and wanting to know how Maggie and the kids were doing. We cried together before and after I passed the phone around, and from that time on she always made a point of asking about Mags when she wasn't around. I won't ever forget the cracking in her voice when she tried to speak to me that day and how it brought us all even closer together, and all of the love and good energy she sent us for such a crushing time.

I remember reading the news by happenstance that she and Todd had divorced two to three months before I knew anything about it. Unable to reach her in the normal ways I was now facing that she was somewhat untouchable because now she has publicists and handlers and stylists just to name a few, all industry people I've never met. Damien and I were driving somewhere not long after and I cried in frustration as he held my hand, and I explained that she went through a divorce and I wasn't able to be there through any part of it for the sake of offering her love, comfort, and support. I remember introducing her to Damien after phone calls and emails alluding to the new man in my life. She was in the stables courtyard of Rankin Square sitting and talking to Anna when we walked in from the breezeway and she leaped to her feet to greet me with a hug, excitedly whispering into my ear "Is that Damien? Is that HIM? Lord have mercy honey, he's cute!" She greeted him after my proud introduction with a hug and then held my face in her hands while looking me directly in the eye and telling me how happy she was in that moment. It was before a Jennifer Nettles Band show and the band accompanied us down the street to a Jamaican restaurant for dinner. She got her first face time with the love of my life, and on the walk back to the Tap the three of us walked ahead of everyone else. I asked her about her most recent trip to Guatemala for Pasac Segundo, where she went to help with the construction of a new school and insisted that we go together the following summer. She walked beside me, cradling my arm in hers and told me it was nice to see me happy and having something for myself for a change. Then Sugarland and life happened paving the way for brand new stuff. The last time she was at the Tap, it was the first Sugarland show in Columbus. Damien's youngest sister got to meet her and Jenn surprised Mom by remembering her by name. Kristian surprised me in the courtyard by bounding up to me smiling with a guest list and pen in his hand, giving me the bro-hug and telling me to write how many people I wanted on the guest list by name as he offered his back as a desk to write on. He kept giggling and squirming while I wrote names, insisting I add anyone I wished. It was a great night.

One afternoon a few years ago in downtown I spotted a guy that looked exactly like Todd while Christi and I were in the truck and I asked her to go back around the block. I got out of the truck and walked toward him calling his name and he took a look at me and called back to me by name and gave me a big bear hug. We spoke for a minute and he asked me if I knew, and I told him that I did. He asked if I'd talked to her, and I said no. We exchanged numbers before I left and I called him later that evening to talk more and explain that I wasn't the kind to take sides if no one was clearly in the wrong, and that the details were not only none of my business, they were of no consequence. We talked for about an hour or so and I felt a bit better about things for a while. It was wonderful to have been in that place at that time because who knows if I'd have ever seen him again, let alone to have the opportunity to show him I was as objective as always and lend him my support before he went back to Afghanistan as a contractor. Before we ended that call he thanked me for at least the 5th time and told me that while everything was on an upswing in his life, it was nice to speak so openly with someone who had been there through thick and thin with her longer than even he had.

As of this moment, she's 14 albums into her career including the live show and DVD. I was there for the first 10 of them, and that makes me very happy. Recently I found out that she is remarried. It was more news I'd read online, again by happenstance. She has had an entire relationship with and is now married to a man I've never met and only seen one picture of, online. I'm happy for her, but I miss that friendship. All of the emotions associated with this are so raw and unnerving that it's one more thing I simply go to pieces about because of the sadness the distance brings me now.

I'm going through one of the most difficult times of my life right now that has rendered me isolated, lonely, hurt, angry, confused, mournful, bereft, and disappointed for a metric fuck-ton of reasons - past and present - and this song and all of its associated memories was another catalyst for a monumental breakdown for most of the day until several hours after Best Beloved came home to make me all better. Couldn't make myself get out of bed in the morning, and cried. Felt empty and didn't want to see or speak with anyone but Damien (still don't) and cried more. Couldn't get motivated to do any of the things that needed to get done, felt like '50 lbs. of shit shoved into a 10 lb. bag', was flooded with loss and feelings of panic and abandonment, and got the dreaded 'cry headache'. Couldn't get it together and had all manner of stupid, ridiculous, and partially scary thoughts (in hindsight) until I put all of my focus on putting myself together for my man so he can come home to a more peaceful and settled me, then broke down within minutes of him getting home because I had not accomplished all I wanted to get done before his arrival. The manic, broken-brained, shitty pendulum in my head that I'm a slave to had swung in the other direction but I lost time and then he came home early. We sat and talked and he held me while I cried, and I shared with him all that had happened since he left for work. His best magic is the way he can infuse me with love, safety, contentment, protection, support, and understanding - as only he can.

It's not the fact that I'm significantly depressed, stressed WAY out, overwhelmed, overtired, overstimulated, and sleep deprived; or the fact that I'm having some kind of mid-life crisis/menopausal breakdown and am currently driving a flashy, fast sports car. It's the grief, the disappointment, and the anger. My grief has been the most constant and consistent theme in my life (my father came up with that observation) and when multiple things break at the same time so do I - easily broken down into pieces and feeling equally shattered, with no scratch on the surface. I'm not bitching because I happen to be bipolar, have PTSD and three other psychological/emotional disorders - that's just my lot in life and I take responsibility for as much of that as I can by taking my medications as I'm supposed to and accepting my own learning curve about my own mental illnesses. I have no choice but to filter everything through those elements and there's no basis for comparison because it's all I know. It's backed-up grief over the loss of dearly loved family and friends that I have lost to death, and grief I always carry for the ones who let me down and leave me disappointed. It's a combination of my childhood sexual abuse and a lifetime of injustice about it. It's things I'm starting to remember that happened to me when I was much younger than originally thought, horrifying things that started a chain reaction of unraveling in my teens culminating in a clinical nervous breakdown, suicide attempt, and institutionalization after previous months of therapy brought out too much too soon for me to handle at 16. Less than a year later a team of doctors concluded I was manic depressive (now classified as bipolar), anorexic, and that I'd been in a serious clinical depression for at least the past 6 years - and they didn't even know about the cutting and the multiple drug abuses that would go on for years, leading up to my discovery of heroin. It was while I was on a weekend visit home from the psych ward that my mother informed me she had filed for divorce from my father after years and years of bitter fighting and acrimony, and that she was moving out of the house. It's the wellsprings of rage I carry that threaten to make me psychotic should it ever get away from me to the point that there is no kill switch. I could go on but this is already turning into a self indulgent blues jam and I'm exhausted from it and from feeling like I'm made entirely of very thin, fragile glass when I haven't even scratched the surface of how truly fucked up and broken I really am.

Damien and I have decided that it is time to take my doctor's recommendation of going back into therapy with a list he provided on my last visit of psychology referrals for consideration and find the right therapist for me to talk to and finally finish what I tried to decades ago. I didn't come this far and work this hard for nothing and we deserve the life we both want to have. I'm closer now than I have ever been to bringing all of the broken parts into a sustainable harmony I can live with so that I may find the peace I need to accept what has always been unacceptable - so that I can be the best man I can be for both Damien and myself and insure a life of purpose and deeper meaning. I know there is a lot I must learn and relearn and habits I've developed through four decades now that hold secrets and clues to help bring light into so much darkness. In ways I'm terrified of it all, and in other ways I am resolved to the notion that it's finally just time to get it all out and fix myself as much as is possible, once and for all. I'm resolved that no matter what comes from it, I cannot keep trying unsuccessfully to make a life out of this patched and moth eaten memory that bullies and torments me out of nowhere anytime I feel even slightly vulnerable. All it does is diminish what I know to be good about me and replace it with agony, and I have 41 years worth of experience to now say fuck that bullshit and start declaring jihad on the irreconcilable.

For now, I hope for some peace of mind today and the energy to keep soldiering on - brave face or not. I think I've earned at least that.
18th-Jan-2012 01:38 pm - The Most Beautiful Heartbreak
Now and again something finds you when you most need it. Sometimes, if you're really lucky, that thing will open your eyes in a way they've never been before and you are forever changed. The best documentary films are transformative things that don't merely serve to educate, they go into your heart and mind and make a home there for a while. Especially the ones about people - so that you will know they happened.

YOU need to know this story, and see the film so that you will know these people happened. You need to share this story with everyone you know. Make this post viral so that more people can know what I'm sharing with you. Films like this don't come around often, but they definitely have the power to change us. That's worth watching, and ultimately how we keep memories of people alive, because they happened - and that's important.

I must warn you though, watching this is no easy journey. It will test you and force you to find your limits. It will break your heart in the most beautiful way possible. It will devastate and ravage your peace of mind for a while, but if you stick it out you will find a kind of humanity, hope, and deep, unending love you couldn't imagine existed. I'm not being dramatic either. This is as real as it gets. This is a film about tragedy giving birth to activism. It's about friendship and commitment in the face of injustice. It's as much about love as it is about evil, only in the end love wins as it always should.

On November 5, 2001, Dr. Andrew Bagby was murdered in a parking lot in western Pennsylvania; the prime suspect, his ex-girlfriend Dr. Shirley Turner, promptly fled the United States for St. John’s, Canada, where she announced that she was pregnant with Andrew’s child. She named the little boy Zachary.

Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne, Andrew’s oldest friend, began making a film for little Zachary as a way for him to get to know the father he’d never meet. But when Shirley Turner was released on bail in Canada and was given custody of Zachary while awaiting extradition to the U.S., the film’s focus shifted to Zachary’s grandparents, David & Kathleen Bagby, and their desperate efforts to win custody of the boy from the woman they knew had murdered their son.

What happened next, no one ever could have foreseen…

19th-Nov-2011 11:06 pm - The Most Emo I Get
Cameron Museum
Sitting by myself, on the couch.
High pain day, very frustrating with misfiring major nerves.
Scared of this pending surgery and recovery for months
that is only 1/3 of my chronic and sometimes debilitating physical and psychological pain.
Aching for people I love now sleeping soundly 2,200 miles away
who love and sustain me on levels
that I won't get to see again and hold in my arms again until Spring
months away
who help make it all better than the high dosages of 6 different medications daily, 9 pills total each day
making me FUCKING crazy.
Alone in the dark and stillness.
Thrashing in pain and unable to be comfortable no matter what I do
and I don't have a brave face left just to skate on pride with to feel in control of my body again.
Crying and sobbing
because sometimes this shit is just too hard
and I passed my limit for it months ago.
Because I'm being a whiny candyass.
4th-Nov-2011 12:34 am - A-Ha Moment
I just had a significant moment, another "WHOA. HOLY SHIT, I'M *THAT* GUY NOW... FUUUUCK ME RUNNIN'!" moment to add to the growing arsenal. I say these things to honor a moment, not to complain and not to air grievances unsettled - but sometimes a person can only take so much, you know? I live with the absolute love of my life in our idea of paradise (literally a desert oasis - the backyard has Phoenix's largest man-made lake, three blocks from the desert) and we are happy with our lives and our life. Who really gets that fortunate? Who can really say what I just said, and how many do you know personally? That's some serious fucking shit right there. I have nothing to complain about, and it's a waste of precious time better spent on being the best, most kind and compassionate man I'm able to be. I will not squander that on one more second of grief I've chosen and appropriated for myself, fuck that shit, I've done as much of that bullshit as I'm ever doing again.

I'm settling in for the evening, and I go to take the nighttime meds when I take inventory of the AM and PM medications for this pillbox (which doesn't have space for the mid-afternoon meds) to make sure I'm as diligent about this as possible - because tonight I'm starting the newest addition to the pharmaceutical slave trade in my daily diet, and as I'm preparing to now take 4 pills at night instead of the usual three, which already cause me to question my own sanity during this dosage adjustment, it occurs to me - pills in one hand and green tea in the other - I'm THAT guy now. I made it to 40 years old, which is astonishing on levels. I never imagined I'd be that guy and certainly never wanted to be him, so I've got this new shit to deal with now, right? NOPE! Fuck that, don't have time. Because 1. This is only for a time, and not the rest of my life, and nothing is taking my attention away from my path. 2. I don't really have a 2, so suck it. ;-)

So I'm that guy now, and you know what? SO what. That's right, so - fuckin' - what. Kiss the fattest part of my ass, 'that guy' - don't get comfortable because you are here on borrowed time as it is.

I got stuff to do now, dig?

30th-Oct-2011 12:22 pm - I Think I Figured This Place Out
After 2 years, you'd think I would have gotten hip to this already. I keep telling people that there is something about the pace of life out West that is so much more relaxed and soothing than any other place I've ever been, let alone lived in. It crystallizes for me every time I walk outside, day or night, and smell the desert and look up and can see the constellations and planets in the quiet stillness of night or the deep, unending blue of a daytime sky overhead that stretches on forever.

Even the wind is different here. Back in the South, every breeze feels exactly like the last one - fighting the chains of relentless humidity just to BE. Here, every breeze feels like you're being hugged by someone you love wearing the softest shirt imaginable. I find it impossible to walk outside and not fall madly in love with this place each time.

Then there are the people here that I've grown to love and taken in as family. They're an amazing bunch, and almost every one of them is also from someplace else. Ohio, New York, Oregon, California, Maine, Connecticut, Florida, Texas, Canada, I could go on and on. Every single friend I have that isn't born and raised here says the same thing - they love it here and cannot imagine living anywhere else. We sit and relax and spend time together with the doors and windows open, and invariably one of us stops to point out the fact that we can look out from the living room and there are palm trees dancing in the breeze, and how amazing that is to us.

People don't yell here, and if you happen to see or hear it, it's shocking because it's such a rare thing. I was scared to death to make this move because it meant leaving behind all I ever knew, so imagine my surprise to now understand that such was necessary for us to have this life now, where every day is better than the last and Damien and I are more in love now than we were 10 years ago. We even look at each other like we did in the first months of dating, and I cannot even explain how fantastic that is, let me just tell you.

The price of being a Southerner and never getting the opportunity to travel out of your environs is that you wind up very insulated and your focus on life narrows so that you lose conception of things you would do well to see. I suppose that's true of anywhere, but I am a Southerner so that is the only basis for comparison I have to draw on. I have a lot of issues and a lot of baggage that has followed me around for 40 years now, and here I find the courage to chuck that shit in the dumpster and then pee all over it. It's the thing I think I've figured out the most about life now, life here, that enabled something possible that I never considered.

Once you trek out West and spend some time here, you find peace. You find your most authentic self. You look inward and can accept all that is in there, and it seems all at once manageable where it never did before. You find your missing bravery out here. I've told people that Damien and I have never been happier before, and I think it has a lot to do with accepting this place and letting it enfold us into its giant cosmic hug. We've had to look inward and really put ourselves before all else, relying on one another in ways we never have before and looking inward with a more deliberate eye, and in that process have learned more about one another - our family - our home - than we knew was possible. I don't think we were ever as affectionate with one another as we are now. He will kiss and let me hold him outside in public now, which is a big deal for anyone that knows him at all.

I totally get why the new age thing took out here, because this place does feel magical. That magic is very empowering. California is too much for me, New Mexico is too steeped in itself for me at this age, Texas is like looking through every apple in the bunch to find the one you'll eat, and who has time for that, and everything East of Texas I already know everything I'm ever going to need to know about life there. Everything North is just too goddamned cold for me, so that leaves Arizona as home base - where I feel my best, most authentic self.

I came to live in the Sonoran desert and found myself. I came here to start a new life, sight unseen, and loved it as soon as I caught the glow of Phoenix in the distant night sky driving up the 10 from Tucson on the final leg of the cross-country journey that brought us here. I felt like I belonged here immediately, and that has not changed since - not even once.

I came here and found peace, and so has every person we know that has come to visit us and every person we know that now makes a home here. My only wish is that my other loved ones had the resources to follow suit, because their REAL lives are waiting for them out here.

Maybe this can be my outlet again to vent and get it out. I'm in Phoenix, after all, maybe a little rebirth here is in order.

I want all the great things that ground me to mean what they used to again, instead of living day to day with chronic, sometimes debilitating and unrelenting pain from spinal damage that makes me not notice those things with the same vigor. Instead I hobble around like a man twice my age at 40 and I miss my friends and sisters and brothers so much I'm aching from it. I want to be able to cope with being on so many different medications as a result that I have a panic disorder, a separate anxiety disorder, and I'm back on bi-polar meds again. Then there's Neurontin, Flexeril, Trazodone, Xanax... My whole life now is in 3 separate pill boxes for AM meds, early PM and Bedtime - divided by 6 different doctors, 4 of whom are specialists. yeah, I'm THAT fucking guy right now. I swear sometimes I'm losing my sanity, no joke. I need all that stuff back.

Despite this vile treachery, I must say that I'm still feeling every inch of this GQ motherfucker right here...Collapse )

So how are you motherfuckers?
26th-Oct-2011 09:57 pm - Love Actually
My Daddy is my hero. Not many men can say that, unfortunately. He sends daily emails chronically detailing what life is like at home as the primary caregiver for a spouse and soul mate in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease. In part because it keeps him in the loop with all of the family (like me) who live elsewhere, and I'm the furthest away of his 7 children. And in part because it helps keep him sane and he's considering writing a book about his experiences some time in the future. He struggles with his emotions most of the time, but never as much as when he has to be firm with her to cooperate, and it is frustrating to not know what she understands. He feels a tremendous burden of guilt afterward, in addition to all of the daily stress and personal agony - and I want desperately to take some of that away, though clueless as to how - until he said this tonight, and I wrote him the response that follows.
"I was moving around in the house putting up some items I brought home and she seemed to want to stay close to me following me wherever I went. I hugged her and loved on her and she seemed to like that. Maybe she had missed me while I was gone? I wish I knew what goes on in her mind and what she might or might not know and/or understand."

I believe all of those things, but mostly because you're the go-to, you're the protector, and THAT'S who I believe she knows you are or represent on some fundamental level. It's who she's always known, and what is most perfect about life; so those gestures are thank you's for all the comfort and love you bring day by day and hour by hour. YOU are her normal, her most consistent sense of constancy, and her senses are still telling her from your scent, your touch, your presence in a room, everything you ever represented years before this time would be known - that she knows you the best ways she can, and knowing her, hoping it is enough. Remember this on days when you hit a limit or have a moment and give yourself a break when you have to do something you don't want to do. Sometimes there just is no other way in that moment, and if you wouldn't begrudge her that, I can assure you she isn't begrudging you.

I believe these things because it is all I have any right to hope for, but not as much as you all deserve. I believe these things because we all have to take comfort in SOMETHING. But mostly, I believe these things because I believe in YOU.
I am the son of an utterly amazing and selfless man with a fiery temper, and an equally tempered and amazing woman with a bleeding heart and a smile for everyone - but don't turn your back on her. In fact, if either of them is ever pissed off, W A L K. A W A Y. I wouldn't change a thing.
15th-Oct-2011 11:53 pm - Bitter & Sad
An extraordinary loss for the world happened today when a 18 year old young woman was murdered by the 18 year old boyfriend in a deeply troubled and darkly tumultuous relationship that friends had warned her about. This one affects me personally because Monique Cota was my friend, and just like that, I'll never see her smiling, adorable face with the long hair spun from finest delicate silk, the caramel color of her skin magnifying the deep emerald brilliance of her eyes; almond shaped and always soothing when they met yours - ever again.

She was the kind of girl that you stopped to admire, because her radiating beauty, energy, and sense of calm was amazing. All that power at 18 and she never even knew it let alone wore it on her sleeve - and such a thing on her would seem vulgar - and she was anything but. She was the kind of girl that ran on her own frequency.

I also think she was the kind of girl that was so lovestruck that she wanted to save the broken boy and try to put him together so that he might resemble something of a good man, and see in him potential no one else could see and ran contrary to the pleas and criticism of others. Once she realized he wasn't savable she managed to gather herself up and was planning a move to Cali where she had a new job lined up and a promising future with a childhood sweetheart she had recently become engaged to. That was until Eric Coulter lured her to his parents' home and shot her in the face with his AR-15.

She never had a negative or mean thing to say about anyone and she didn't pick sides. She was all at once together and composed and sure of herself, and I never saw a scratch on her. That's why it pains me to think that inside she might have been in pieces.

A gorgeous, gentle, and kind 18 year old child is dead tonight in Arizona, and two entire families are destroyed while a third family of co-workers are also trying with all their might to make sense of it all and find some peace within this rude shock. That's the family of Fry's Marketplace, or as I like to call it, "628", and I know them well. I should by now, visiting the store sometimes just to say hello and usually about 2-3 times per week - so I'm more of an adopted member of the family, but that's the thing about this that's so special - no one there ever treats me like I'm not in that family. That's how I know how big their bond is and what it's made of.

So to my Fry's family, and all of the friends I've made there, my heart goes out to each and every one of you. This entire thing is just a sad, tragic waste and I'm truly heartbroken. I'll always see Monique just as I did a few days ago, when I waved to her at the CS desk on my way out of the store, and she waved back to me and smiled that smile where her eyes narrowed and she showed teeth, still the beautiful and sweet girl I've always known since she started working there. I cannot take any of this away, as much as I want to, but I can help you carry it. So if you need or want that, I will help you carry it. It's the best I've got.

To Monique's other family, friends, and loved ones; I don't have tears enough for what you're going through let alone what is coming, and I wish you as much peace as you can get - because you deserve it.

Fly away now, precious girl.
7th-Sep-2011 01:16 pm - Since You Asked...
This post was originally supposed to be a response to a friend of a friend on Facebook, but it was too long to post there. Start by reading the graphic, so that what I've posted beside it will make more sense in context.

I'm glad you asked these questions and I will take my time to answer with as much detail as possible so that it may help make it clear what my position is on these matters. The reality of these issues (that squares itself with the facts - not opinions) of what the tea party's collective ideologues wish to pass off as the threats to American society simply don't gel with logic, reason, or fact.

My immediate family consists of myself and my partner and our household income just puts us in the middle class. We are not in any credit debt and only owe a little under half of the total amount for our car. No payments are ever late for any of our bills, we live under a strictly maintained budget that allows for retirement, 401K, health and life insurance premiums, household necessities (groceries, utilities, rent, etc.) and all other necessary fees. My family does not create any drain on the economy and we are responsible for ourselves. We are part of the 95% of Americans that enjoy the tax credit offered by the current administration to all who earn less than $250K annually, which you may well be part of in that income bracket. I won't however ask you the same questions about where your income goes. None of this changes the fact that as American citizens, and as I've mentioned before in the previous comment to Linda's post, taxes are the lowest they’ve been in 60-80 years, far lower than under several Republican presidents. Taxes on dividends and capital gains are far below the level at which they were under President Reagan. Furthermore, 68.3% of the capital gains tax is paid by the richest 1% of Americans which have been allowed nearly a trillion dollars worth of exemptions that would give that 1% the same amount in a tax break while giving that trillion dollar tax burden to the middle class, while the bottom 95% of Americans pay just 10% of them, so it is unclear how tea party darlings like Romney, Bachmann, Palin, Cain, West, Huntsman, and Gingrich think a capital gains tax cut can be fashioned as a middle class tax break. These politicians have said they back getting rid of the capital gains tax, which now has a top rate of 15% for most assets held for more than a year. That position puts them at odds with bipartisan deficit-reduction efforts over the past year that have called for lowering tax rates on ordinary income and taxing capital gains and wage income at the same rates. Bachmann has previously called for cutting the 35% corporate tax rate down to 9%, a move that would cost more than $2 trillion over ten years. This call for reducing or even eliminating corporate taxes comes at a time when corporate after tax profits are the highest they’ve been since 1947. Bachmann also repeatedly called for the elimination of taxes on money that corporations bring to the U.S. from overseas, even though such a move has not worked in the past to spur job creation and would cost about $80 billion over ten years. I'd love to know how the American middle and lower class conservatives can justify such ridiculous nonsense in any way that benefits them. Eliminating taxes on capital gains would widen the federal budget deficit. The current preferential tax rates on capital gains and dividends will result in $84.2 billion in forgone revenue for the Treasury this year, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Given that those who identify as tea party citizens see themselves as being a movement created by the working class that claims to use its voice against the seeming injustice of labor unions and an unfair tax burden, it truly irks me that they fail to accept the reality of what truly built, finances, and controls their movement. In short, self professed tea party 'patriots' are being lied to by the wizard when it's corporate self interests that go completely against their own personal self interests behind the curtain, pulling the strings and pushing all of the buttons in an unbelievable Ponzi scheme. Koch Industries, they of the billionaire oil brothers who are taking advantage of the uninformed nature of outrage among a conservative fringe aligning itself as a grassroots movement, underwrites this entire organization by the billionaires in the Koch network of donors. In documents outlining the June, 2010 donor meeting, billionaires like Paul Singer, Ken Griffin, Rich DeVos, and John Childs are regular attendees of these events, which solicit multi-million donations for an elaborate array of right-wing front groups, from tea party organizers like Americans for Prosperity to stealth advertising campaigns like "Public Notice." Unfortunately, many still report on tea party groups like Americans for Prosperity as bonafide grassroots organizations. That's not grassroots, that's corporations as people masquerading as being truly invested in the working class' best interests. YOU ARE BEING LIED TO. The acceptance of lies as a means of justifying anger over the 2008 election results by conservatives is what I find moronic, just as I find it moronic for liberals to continue burying their heads in sand by supporting candidates and career politicians who are failing them as well.

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18th-Aug-2011 06:33 pm - On Gratitude
Last night I got some very sad and tragic family news. I will not divulge details, but this affects us all and it is heartbreaking. I needed to calm myself down from being upset about it, so I went to the pool so I could swim my daily laps and work some frustration out. It was 111°F today. I don't mind the heat, in fact I like it - but while stretching out my back in the pool and standing waist deep in the water dripping wet, a nice cooling breeze enveloped me like a hug, and I thought of my dear Shane and how that happened in 100°F heat at his graveside service - and it felt like a final hug from him. I stretched all of my limbs and thanked the Earth for that momentary gift.

I got out to dry off and the sun felt amazing on my back. I sat there in my personal oasis and thought of my beloved Damien, and how he makes everything in my universe right for me without even trying. He can come home when I'm having the worst day and the mere sound of his key in the lock can set everything okay and I feel safe, and free from any harm. I thanked the universe for him and our life together that we have worked so hard for.

Walking home from the pool I caught the scent of honeysuckle, and I stopped, closed my eyes, and breathed it in so deeply I could taste it. I was so grateful for that sense memory and the reminder of what is possible when you stop for a minute and switch gears to humility.

I'm wrapped in love, all the time, and this is how I honor that.
17th-Aug-2011 03:54 pm - Parenting & Imparting Life Lessons
Balloon Boy
I posted this to my Facebook wall because it was hysterically funny, and because I can relate to these parents. I think anyone for whom this resonates will get it, and can find the commonality we share with those who would do such stuff to make a point to their children. Or rather will, as is our collective fate, do this stuff to further terrorize our children into learning the most important life lessons the only way we are certain to know how. We're just wired that way, we'll sink your fucking ship in a minute with an epic prank when your ego gets in your own way. It's just who we are, there wasn't much choice in the matter beyond how we communicate all that. It got me thinking about the kinds of life lessons we should be imparting in our children, so that we send respectable, trustworthy, capable, and intelligent people out into the world when it's their time to fly.

I would like it known that while I read that failblog article with the hilarious pictures, and while I'm writing this down, I'm thinking of and channeling my beloved friend and phenomenal single mom vastlymore, who does this kind of shit to her son Jake ALL. THE. TIME. The beauty of it is Jake is an awesome guy with a fantastic sense of self, sense of humor, and empathy for others. That is a direct correlation between who he is as a person and who has dedicated her life to raising him and sweating how she does it by kicking her own ass to make sure she's doing right by her son. For which I adore her - and then there's her WICKED sense of humor. I understand her in fundamental ways, because she loves her baby boy as much as I love my babies. There are many others who might read this and who feel similarly, but this one goes out to Kristen - because she deserves it, just as she deserves to feel as beautiful as I believe she is.

Here are a few of those important life lessons for our children, Biscuit style. Feel free to add more, or gank these and make them your own if you like.

1. LIGHTEN THE FUCK UP. I respect and appreciate your intelligence and temperament, but you have to know that other people are just going to do what the fuck they want most times, as is their right, whether or not you like it or care, AND YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THAT. Get right with that now, for the same reason you got over expecting to get a new toy each time we passed Toys-I-Lust, and it was okay. I believe in you - the POWER of you - to know when it's time, when it's just over, and when it's just broken. Also, can we agree, Smart Child O' Mine, to cut the shit with the "OMG, I ALREADY KNOW THIS, LIKE, UGH, BOOOORIIING, LIKE... blah blah blah Kardashians blah blah h.i.m. best EVAR blahbitty blah blah blah" bullshit, please? Beautiful child with the gorgeous everything, consider ME for a moment. Train thyself to consider who I am and what I've studied and debated before reacting as though you know more than I do. Being fair, yeah - you might know a thing or six that I don't enough to speak with some measure of authority on the subject, I just know more THINGS than you do, so lighten the fuck up and show some respect. Also, so I won't have to verbally bitchslap you so fucking hard you'll be stunned for the first 10 minutes after before you even feel it. You knew this snake bit when you picked it up, take responsibility - I'll only dole that shit out when you deserve it.

2. I will always be the softest place you'll ever need or want to land on. I will also be the one who walks into the mythical fires of Hell itself, simply to grab you by the hand and pull you out and into my safety. I will respect the boundaries of your privacy as is age appropriate for you, specifically for you, because you're not a child - you're not even MY child - you are a completely unique individual. I just ask to be included in the things that affect you, so I can best encourage you to be the best YOU you are capable of. I will never lie to you - but so help me, if you ever lie to me willfully and intentionally, the wrath that will come down on you will be so epic that intelligent alien life approaching Earth from space will see it and say to each other "UH-UH, OH H A I L naw, we're not stopping and getting all up in that shit - keep going." Be told, and don't think you're clever enough to test me on this stuff. I know you think it's crafty of you to think you're getting over on me, but let me tell you, that ain't SHIT. Any time you try to manipulate me, I'm only pretending to buy it because I'm hip to you and secretly thinking "OMG, look how cute you are right now with this, you really think this is working!" Unfortunately or you, *I* know how to take Mom's car out of the driveway and go joyriding at age 15 on a Tuesday school night, and get in all kinds of potential trouble, without ever getting caught. I was getting in bar fights at 17. Trust me boo, you ain't shit - I can smell deception like a fart in a car, and worst of all, I'm able to seamlessly go from 0 to fucking CRAZY before you even catch on. I'll buy into it like I have no idea what's really going on, and then come out of the ether like the fucking Batman and wreck your whole week - and you KNOW this. My point here is just don't, because this is what the consequences are, and you really don't want to be bringing the redneck out of me. Every sense I have as a parent is finely tuned and driven by pure will and determination, so I'm in your head and heart and will die before I willingly allow harm to come to you - including your own self-harm.

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Double Barrelled
OMG, you guys. you guys, OMG. VRY SRS BZNS.

Okay. The following transpired on the Facething between a guy I went to school with and myself. It's hilarious right out of the gate, but it gets so much better. Like 'don't be drinking or eating anything when you read this' better.

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6th-Aug-2011 09:27 am - This Week In Bachmann Lunacy
Go Obey Your Husband You Stupid Republic
For Michele Bachmann, another week at the top of the heap made for a lot of repetition. She's still beefing with Tim Pawlenty. She's still at war with gay people, because they keep "harassing" the Family Bachmann for being constantly hostile to their interests. As a result, she's still affixing her signature to every anti-gay pledge she can get her hands on, and dodging questions about her family business of ex-gay crank therapy. She's also still terrified of modernity -- high-quality, energy-efficient lightbulbs that save ordinary people money and fast-moving trains that save ordinary people time remain existential threats to America, and freedom, as far as she's concerned.

That doesn't mean that the week didn't contain some new spice. Jon Huntsman, for example, scandalized himself when he called Bachmann "photogenic." So, that happened, in America.

Also happening in America, of course, was the final act of the Debt Ceiling Kabuki, a matter that compelled Bachmann to leave Iowa and return to Washington in order to participate in the end of functional government, forever. Of course, the deal that was wrought was not good enough for Bachmann. She cast her vote against it on the grounds that the end of functional government wasn't sufficient unless it was combined with a default that would also cause the end of the global economy. To make up for her absence, Bachmann spent money on an Iowa ad buy, where she reminded Iowans that she would have preferred that whole destruction-of-civilization-through-a-Treasury-default outcome, "Believe it!"

Yes, heroes, it's always worth remembering that Bachmann just doesn't have even an elementary grasp of economic basics. And she's taken the appropriate steps to ensure her grasp of foreign affairs matches her grasp of the domestic, by signing professional anti-Muslim crankjob Frank Gaffney as an adviser. (Gaffney trusts Bachmann to identify and eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of America, don't you know! Maybe they will also fight poltergeists, and capture the chupacabra as well!)

But in this day and age, all of this makes her all the more endearing to the GOP base. There seems to be only one thing that could erode her support, and that's if Rick Perry decides to jump into the race. Polls that treat Perry as a serious possiblity continue to return decent results for the Texas governor. Quinnipiac, for example, finds Perry cutting into Bachmann's support fairly significantly in the critical state of Florida. This is why Bachmann's campaign manager Ed Rollins is asking Perry to please, please, please "stay in Texas" -- forever, if need be.

Source: HuffPo

And this, my fellow Americans, is who will be doing her best to continue amassing support amongst the majority of us who are terminally stupid, arrogant, willfully blind oxygen thieves. Consequently, this is also why I am convinced that the majority of people in this country are fucking stupid, mouth-breathing, hyperreligious cretins that I wouldn't trust to run a goddamned lemonade stand.
So, as many of you now know, we had one of the most hellacious dust storms ever here in Phoenix last week or so. This thing was a monster, and the residual dust and the stress of life caused me to have the worst migraine of my life. It raged for 8 days. Just 8 goddamned agonizing days. As soon as it was over, I went out to look at the pool, which looked like river water. I had never seen a dust storm the likes of this one and didn't realize how much I was breathing in when it was too late - migraine ordered. The pain was nothing short of excruciating, I'm not kidding - my worst migraine ever. I'd forgotten how the image of that pool struck me in such a deeply emotional and sentimental way until today, when I was in the now sparkling pool with my bro Ozzy and remembered it intact and vivid.

It was the ritual some boys are lucky enough to have that forms brotherhood bonds with the same boys you knew then who, as fellow adult men would still, even now at 40, lie down in traffic for each other. That's brotherhood. Those guys are your bros. The celebrate you and keep you in check. They cherish every moment of life with you just to have had it and memorified it all for days when you need to be reminded of who loves and accepts you the most - just as you are - flaws and all. They are the ones who can tell you "SIT DOWN, SHUT THE FUCK UP, I GOT THIS SHIT" - and you'll let them handle it, even when you're running way too hot. BROS, motherfucker. RESPECT.

My bros and I used to love playing underwater hide and seek in the pool late at night. With the sun inked in bronze onto out backs and shoulders as is customary for all southern boys in the summertime, putting on our best good behavior faces to stay in good graces with the parents, nighttime was another matter. You were less likely to get caught stealing Mom's car at night. You were not likely to be missing when parents are exhausted and asleep for a good hour already to sneak out and be with the ones you trust most in the world, who would never hurt you or let hurt COME to you without it being mutual and shared, to do nothing but be together doing nothing. We were responsible for more shit than I can tell you that would have landed us in BIG trouble, and that isn't even including the ounces of pot smoked on a riverbank at all hours when any of us needed the other or just wanted to get high and bro-out together. I'd take the fall for them, only to find they'd taken it for me - and we would be grounded from one another and it was bearable because of what we'd proved to ourselves and one another, and it's how we learned to trust. My bros can walk in the room and I light up. My bros can kick my ass when I need it and it'll be like velvet, covering the softest pillow you'll ever be fortunate enough to land on.

Once we realized that muddy pool water made the game more challenging and therefore more fun, we set about throwing dirt into the pool - and the process for that made it another game within. We could dig up big chunks of porous, chalky clay and make balls out of them... A whittled out end of an old 2 X 4 makes an EXCELLENT bootleg cricket bat... What could be more awesome than having a bro stand at the end of the diving board, dripping wet, and to have another bro pitching up a dirt ball while another swings away - creating the perfect dirt explosion to turn your friend into an instant mud-man before jumping into the pool with the craziest flip he can improvise - and THAT'S how WE are going to fucking dirty up this here pool.

So I got the most wretched nightmare headache ever from the dust storm that dirtied up our pool when I was having that memory. To tell the truth, as sweet as that memory is to me, as precious and amazing and perfect as a pure thing can be in this world, the migraine was worth all 8 days just to have it all back. To have the honor of sharing this with some of them who are still alive and equally loved just makes it better. That I can do that even now means I'd suffer another one twice in a row if it makes them feel even one tenth of what the power of memory made me feel when they read this for themselves.

You know who you are. I love you like I will love no other men on Earth, because it can still amaze me that you love me even more, even better as grown men. More now in spite of everything I've ever turned to wreckage selfishly left behind that you had to clean up. So honoring you is just another way of professing my love for you, the loves you've chosen, and all of your children whom I adore as my own.

We're bros - you could never do worse than that. If you know what that means, I challenge you to step up and be better men for those who take the best care of you and FUCK everybody else, man. They either matter or they don't, and if they do then you work your ass off for them. If they don't, they can fuck right off.
3rd-Jul-2011 08:03 am - OH... MY... GAY...
That's what Ozzy calls the appropriate response to 'the gayest thing you've ever heard': OH... MY... GAY.... I was inspired to write this after Best Beloved comes sashaying out of the bathroom, naked, to lip sync to Cher before showering so I'd laugh - he does something different at least 5 times a day just to make me crack up, up to and including making a damned fool of himself.

This was said a few days ago and I'd forgotten about it because it's so gay I blacked out. D playing Cher in the shower triggered the memory, so I am sharing it with you. If you add jazz hands and say *S*P*A*R*K*L*E*S*, rainbows will shoot out of your fingertips and the power of your gay can be seen from space. You might even make Liberace look butch by comparison, and create the new gender identity. Or a Superhomohero, you decide.

So this guy I know was telling me about meeting Chaz Bono and the two of them posing arm in arm for a photo-op. Then he said it, and the power of the gay was so strong I immediately smelled leather, poppers, envisioned a drag queen with fire batons, and heard "OONCH OONCH OONCH OONCH" in the background somewhere. He actually said "...and I was all OMG, I just touched something that came out of Cher's vajayjay!"

Yeah. I couldn't make that shit up.
17th-Jun-2011 12:04 pm - This Just Happened. No, Really.

It's hot today and I've been cleaning since I got up, so I thought I might trek over to the pool to cool down and have a quick 10 minute break. There were two 20-something girls laying out by the pool. Talking like they learned their vocabulary watching The Hills or The OC or some such nonsense. Orange, leathery skin, and practically NO bathing suits at all, they were that skimpy. Like RIDICULOUSLY small. Also chain smoking, wearing belly button piercings, hideous highlights in their over processed hair, and nails that looked like the entire Phillipines worked on them all at once. Lastly, underneath their chaise lounges were high heeled shoes, and I kid you not - the heels were clear. You feel me? Thought so.

I walk in and put my feet in the water just to see if it's warm or cool. It was warm, so I didn't get in - but nice enough that I sat there for a minute minding my own business when I glance over to them, smile, and nod. Cue the eye rolling from both, and much muttering between them. I actually heard "GAHD, I *hate* it when guys are checking me out like that, it's *so* rude." Being that I was the only person around at the moment, I responded by saying "I beg your pardon?" Her friend sat up, put on her VRY SRS BZNS face, and with much attitude, spat at me "You've very rude, that's what she said."

Oh, you stupid, stupid, lecherous little girl...

I stood up, and while walking past them to leave made the following statement: "I get it - you didn't know I was actually a great big faggot when you pulled that bullshit just now so you're slow to recognize it when no one is really paying you the attention that you're clearly so desperate for. I can see how you might mistake me for the usual guys throwing $20 in singles at you while high fiving their bros and yelling 'SHAKE DAT ASS, BITCH, AND LEMME SEE WHAT YA GOT!' but I'm not one of them. If you're really serious about not being objectified by people, perhaps you might want to wear more than an eye patch over yourself before venturing down to the public pool, but make no mistake sweetness - you ain't shit. Fuck you both and everyone that looks like you."

Now I'm back to cleaning. Haters gonna hate, what can you do.
I cannot say that all in all I really KNOW who I am, but I can say with some degree of confidence that I'm learning more about myself and who I want to be. I went through a major life change recently, and that's what this post is all about.

Just a few short months ago I did something really extraordinary in my opinion - I lived long enough to have a 40th birthday. I use the word extraordinary to describe that event rather than using, say, 'milestone', because growing up I've never believed that I would live past 30 and so to be a full decade beyond what I always imagined my expiration date would be is an act of extraordinary measure. So, not wanting to let the occasion pass me by without a bit of introspection I decided I would give myself a gift on this particular birthday, something I plan on doing every birthday from now on. The one I gave myself is in 3 parts, and it's more about committing to be better - a better man, a better son, a better father, a better husband, a better friend - you get the idea. The first part was to lighten the fuck up. The second was to continue on learning new ways to become more humble, and the third was to let go (as much as humanly possible) of ego. I call this gift my path towards enlightenment. I simply couldn't imagine living this long and not taking time to fully appreciate and embrace what my life has been, and currently is, so this is what I came up with. The truly amazing thing is that I've learned insanely huge and mind-blowing things just by opening myself to learn more about my limits and boundaries and to really push myself to think critically about my role in everything I can imagine.

My political activism really hit the proverbial wall after the last midterm election. In fact, and to be more to the point, I've completely surrendered to the fact that I simply don't know what I believe in anymore with respect to politics. I know that I'm completely fed up with the two party system; that it will take a full-out revolution for me to personally invest myself again in campaign volunteering, and that I'm resolved to two things that will actually make some headway toward change: time and pressure. Time for the old white people who always turn out to vote to finally just fucking die off, and pressure to bring about the revolution I spoke of before. Once the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that corporations are people, and the President and his allies that I walked my legs off for are revealed to be just a bunch of bullshit artists whose principles (such as they are) are not centered around any backbone or balls, I have no cause to believe in them any longer. They roll over and cave to fear and try to make nice with the opposition all in the name of creating the kind of compromise that allows for goalposts to move at will. It's easier to have a standard that it is to maintain one and I simply cannot abide that kind of weak spinelessness.

I've always identified as a progressive, an independent, and a liberal - but never a Democrat. I can relate to the majority of their platforms and that's where I'm most comfortable, but when you shuck right down to the cob about your principles and morals and values - and come to find where you are right and true - that's how you learn to determine what is fair and equal, and consequently, what is right. The thing about being right is that you cannot be proved wrong, and it takes work to get to that point. When I see such dire conditions in my own country and government and the time to dig in your heels and fight for your principles and standards has never been more apparent - and those powers-that-be who have done their level best to convince us that they WILL fight, that they ARE committed, they WILL NOT back down end up being a bunch of fucking pussies, that's when I really have to reexamine my interest and my involvement. I remember when being a Democrat actually meant something other than simply not being a Republican, something that commanded respect, something that drove people who knew they were in the right to make changes in the law and thereby within the culture that benefited all by being fair and equal. Now it's not enough to be right - they want us to make the opposition LIKE us by falling to the illusion that such things are necessary. That unless we compromise, we cannot make gains for the betterment of all. Well, that sounds reasonable on the surface but if you just scratch beneath that you'll learn as I have that this, my friends, is folly. In fact, it's fucking bullshit. There is no compromising with people who, if you were lying on the side of the road and moments from death by dehydration, would give you the courtesy of taking a wet shit in your mouth. Sometimes there is no compromising with a bully who is simply intent on destroying you - there is only getting your own ass kicked over and over, or getting fed up enough that you arm yourself properly and just wreck that motherfucker to the point that he will never again underestimate you and certainly won't fuck with you for the sake of it anymore. THAT'S change.

I believe that it is your intention that matters in most all things. I've had the misfortune to let a few people get under my radar and betray me, and in the end it was their intentions that made up the sword they fell on all by themselves. So I've had to let them go and write them off and find the blessing in such things as it only serves to make you better when you cut out what becomes toxic or at the very least no longer works. My intention in loving the people I love is to be a soft place to land, a loyal and faithful confidante, a harsh critic to remind you when you're falling short of your standards, and to never, not even once, place a single particulate of the respect and trust I've earned from them at risk - for anyone or anything, ever. Because I cannot live with the idea that I've failed someone that loves me as much as those who love me best and sustain me.

A few days ago I returned from my home state of Georgia after being there for a total of 2 weeks for many reasons, but the main one was love. My family (blood and chosen) needed face time with me, needed my personal brand of support and acceptance, needed to be revered and adored, and mostly to be loved in person. It was a difficult task but I came back home to Arizona feeling I accomplished everything I set out to do in my time there and then some - and on my last day there, I decided to give myself another gift. Many of you who have known me since I was young know that my best friend when I was 15 was a girl named Staci Ward who died the summer of our 9th grade year. Staci and I were inseparable for the fleeting time we loved one another, and before moving across the country almost 2 years ago I meant to visit her grave site but never managed to. I was on my way to spend some time with my family for a nice send off hours before I was to board my plane in Atlanta and I missed the exit that would be the fastest route to my Daddy's house. By the time I passed the 2nd exit, I realized I would soon be near the cemetery and needed to stop just before it anyway to gas up my sister's truck and it occurred to me that I should go to Staci's grave. It was something I really felt I needed to do. I also felt strongly that I couldn't be that close to my dear friend Craig's house without stopping in for a minute or two to at least hug him and see him in the time I had remaining. As I was gassing the truck up, I called Craig and told him where I was and where I was about to go. Craig and I met the same day Staci and I met in the classroom 2 doors down from the one where he currently teaches, and he was with me the day we buried her. Craig is an amazing man and I adore him for his boundless love and acceptance of my entire existence, so I told him I was going to the cemetery and then coming to see him immediately afterward. Of course, he understood me perfectly.

It was windy but clear when I sat next to her grave and began to brush the sand and leaves from her headstone and for the first time ever since she died back in the summer of 1986, I realized I wasn't bereft and sobbing in this space. I decided to honor her, our love, and myself by surrendering my grief over her loss and instead do something I've never done before. I began speaking aloud while looking at the picture of her encased in glass and tracing her name with my fingers and said "Hi, sweetheart. I don't know if I'm right and I'm just talking to myself or I'm wrong and somehow you can hear or feel me, but I have to tell you some things..." I spoke of how much I loved and missed her and that she had never left my heart or mind, how well I've done for myself, about my life now and all of its amazing wonderment, about Damien and everyone who makes me feel constantly loved, and what she might think of it all. After a while, I decided it was time to head over to Craig's house and so I held her tightly in my mind's eye and loved her with everything I have as I said goodbye and walked back to the truck feeling solace and closure washing over me.

Less than 24 hours later I was flying over my new home in my beloved desert oasis that I share with the love of my life, in the town named for the bird that is capable of reducing itself to ashes and then being reborn from them - new, stronger, and ready for the next thing. My gift to myself was appreciation - that no matter how many times I've been knocked down or how many times my life has been one giant ass-whooping, I have it in me to stand back up.
I'm finishing the last of 9 clips with screencaps to ghostofaman, will be live in a few minutes...
6th-Mar-2011 01:41 am - Attention Fellow Perverts
New story posted to ghostofaman, detailing last night's shamelessness.
27th-Jan-2011 11:03 pm - Not In MY Backyard You Don't!

In what technically is my backyard (and actually a shared courtyard) there is usually an afternoon gathering of children who play together when they get home from school. It's oftentimes anywhere from 4 to 10 kids, and I'd venture a guess that they range in age from 5 to 11. Two of them live in the condo I walk past to get my mail - a brother and sister named Nate and Angel, respectively. We always speak to one another when I'm getting the mail or if they are out playing closer to my door. They're all good kids, and they get along well and occasionally get very loud in their excitement from playtime - you know, being children and all.

When the notice went up a couple of months ago that coyotes had been spotted in the neighborhood, I warned Nate and Angel to be aware of them, especially if they were out in the evenings. They informed me in earnest that they weren't allowed out after 6PM, and I told them that was fine but they might be out with their parents and just to keep an extra eye out. They walked with me down the sidewalk to learn what I knew about coyotes, and by the time I reached my door, Nate thanked me for being so helpful, going so far as to tell me that I was so nice that I was like his cousin. He wanted a high five and then the two of them bounded off to play with their little friends.

Any time I'm outside and they're able to see me, it's always "Hey Brad! How are you today?" Their parents are nice as well, and I've also met the other neighbor kids' parents and complimented them all on how sweet their children are. When my friend Lira was here a couple of weeks ago, we happened to be out walking when Nate fell down and skinned one of his hands and a knee a bit. I helped him up and told him to go and wash his hands and get his Mom to check him over to see if he needed bandaging. He seemed a little embarrassed at having fallen in front of his friends and on the way up to his front door, Angel stopped him to see what happened and he snapped at her loudly and angrily. A bit later that day I saw him again and asked him if he was okay and did he hurt himself at all, he informed me that his knee had a new band aid on it but that otherwise he was okay. I took the opportunity to remind him that I understood he might be embarrassed about the situation, but it wasn't very nice to yell at his sister when all she wanted to do was check on him to see if he was okay. He gave me a bit of a half smirk, reached out to shake my hand, and then told me that he wanted to be a nice brother and tell her he was sorry. Off he went, and I watched from across the courtyard as he sauntered up to his little sister and gave her a hug, then sat her down on the grass and spoke to her for a minute or two. She hugged him back and all was right in the world again.

This afternoon I was in my kitchen putting a pan of lasagna in the oven when I heard the familiar screeching and laughter from the kids. Through my open windows I could see them running around and riding scooters, talking about secret hideouts and who was going to be the bad guys - and then without warning the mood turned dark. One of the upstairs neighbors, a fairly big guy in his late 20's, began screaming at the kids and hurling profanities at them. By the time I made it to the window, all 10 of them were on the sidewalk in the center of the yard looking up in astonishment and fear at this angry man chastising them for being too loud. By the time I got my shoes on and made it onto my patio they were looking around at each other as if they needed somewhere to hide when I called to them, and Angel first met my eye. I asked what had happened, and to come over and talk to me when she began to sob - then two other girls and another little boy, and eventually Nate - all crying their little eyes out, telling me that the man had threatened them and said he had called the cops on them.

Oh H A I L naw.

I told them to go get their parents, I'll be down there in just a second. I walked out the front door to greet a still very much crying and deeply hurt and scared brother and sister, waiting on me to walk with them. The other kids were waiting as well, clearly afraid of walking below this guy's balcony. It is noteworthy that I never found out who the guy was, nor did I really want to know, because I wasn't going to make this about him - it was about those babies as far as I was concerned. By the time we all got down to the other neighbor's place, Randy, the father of a couple of the kids, was already outside. I told him what I knew so far, and did my best to console the children that were still visibly shaken and that I wasn't going to stand for this. My neighbor and good friend Ozzy was coming home from the gym about this time and caught up on what had happened before heading back to his place, intercepting Damien on the sidewalk and informing him that someone was yelling at the kids and I'd gone off to handle up on the situation.

I went with Angel and Nate to speak to their father about what had happened, explained it to him, and with both children there made it clear that I was never going to let anything like that happen again on my watch. Their Dad is a great guy and he thanked me for looking out for them and for filling me in on the situation. I reminded him that he had great, polite, well behaved kids who always speak to me and with whom I would keep an eye out for, and I wasn't about to have them feeling unsafe in their own backyard. Angel was so upset that she just went inside while Nate stood next to his father, occasionally heaving and sniffling and wiping away tears. I bowed down to his eye level and told him that he had done nothing wrong, he had nothing to be scared of, and that I was not going to let anything bad ever happen to him when he's playing by my place and that I wouldn't ever let anyone bully him like that again. He stammered and nodded his head and said to me "You're always my nice friend, you always help me like when you told us about the coyotes so we wouldn't be hurt or killed or anything bad." His father rubbed his shoulders and looked me in the eye with a huge smile, shook my hand, and before I left to go home I told Nate that if he or his sister ever had any trouble to come and get me if I was closer than Mom & Dad, and I asked him to tell his sister the same thing. I told his Dad not to worry about them, and that he knows where I live if he should ever need me for anything regarding the kids.

Just before this, Damien came walking up the stairs and stood behind me, listening. As we walked home I filled him in on everything. He was relieved that I hadn't gone ballistic on the guy, which is probably what I might have done had the kids not been outside still. Damien knows how I get, especially when someone is mistreating kids, and imagined a worse case scenario involving taking money out of our savings for my bail.

Five minutes after we got home there was a knock at the door. I answered it and standing there was a red eyed, still visibly shaken Nate. I said "Hey Buddy, what's up?" He said "I just wanted... *sniff* ...to say... *sniff sniff* thank you for helping us not be... *sniff* ...afraid. You're like my best friend since I moved here." I crouched down and told him "Well, that's what friends do - they help each other to not be afraid. Don't you worry about that guy, there are lots more grown ups around here who are not anything like him, and even if there were, we'll handle it. Go - go play and have fun, okay? Thank you very much for coming to see me, I appreciate it, but I want you to go and have some fun right now, alright?" He high-fived me and off he went, and within a few minutes the joyous noise of children playing in my courtyard were the only sounds you could hear.

Now that that's all said and done, LET me hear a motherfucker say one goddamned ugly thing to any of those kids again, and see what happens. I'm from GEORGIA, bitch - YOU DON'T KNOW ME, we don't cotton to that shit, okay? Not in MY backyard, you don't!
27th-Jan-2011 11:25 am - 66 Years
It's been 66 years since Auschwitz was liberated.
The conditions must have been unfathomable.
A few precious, innocent lives were saved.

Remember the holocaust.

Never forget it happened.

Because there are those that would prefer you did.
Regretfully some who pretend it never happened.
Some who change their minds about that.

So I ask you to please remember that it did happen, for the sake of us all.

"Work Brings Freedom" © Brad Smith, 2002
Link to this post at will.
13th-Jan-2011 02:01 pm - Question For You All

If I were in the position of needing to submit a writing sample for the purposes of securing a paid internship for a major political action organization, and you have personally read something I've written previously that resonated enough with you that it would be your choice for said submission, what would it be?

Go through my LiveJournal tags or Facebook Notes to help locate something I've written that you think would best represent my writing style, and post a link to that entry (or entries) as a comment to this.

I would really appreciate it, and thank you in advance!
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