Tuesday, December 20, 2011

First verse is the best verse! (Being Single Pt. 5)

I would like to thank everybody who reached out to me after my last post, especially to the two men who told me about their own experiences, thank you for that. I'm back now and those feelings are buried where they belong.

On the Mooooooooooon,

I also got a chance to talk to three of my exes, and it was interesting to see how they responded to it. I was with each of these women for at least two years....

The first ex started a conversation with me via text, genuinely concerned about my well being, making sure I was in a good place, and saying a lot of nice things about myself (She once again thanked me for being so wonderful to her while we were still together and apologized for not treating me as well). She's a happy mother and wife now; she met the guy only a few weeks after we split up, but I was never sore about it. Life is funny like that sometimes. She has normal life struggles and a cute family. I like her husband, and even gave him a guitar once.

The second ex wrote me a long email, not wanting to interfere with my life (she goes on adventures into other countries like a bad-ass, but we always seem to get back into touch). We had a very heartfelt conversation (where she also thanked me for treating her so fantastically), but she also wanted to make sure that I was doing well and was genuinely concerned about me. She's always one of my favorite people.

The third ex, however, decided to take a different route. Her entire text was, 'Well written. Would have been useful information to know before we got together.'. Now my reply, 'I didn't know this was about you.' made her call and explain that she didn't mean to sound incredibly self-absorbed and selfish, she just isn't good with words. I never found out if her text meant she would have erased our entire lives together if she knew I had trust issues (a weird thing for a rape victim to tell somebody), or if she would have attempted to overcome them. Considering her lack of empathy towards me most of the time we were together, I know which one I think it is, but I'm sure she'll let me know after she reads this. I don't know if we're capable of ever being friends again.

But I didn't write this to make one of exes look bad. Ex3 is a pretty cool chick like 93% of the time. I wrote this to talk about my favorite part of the relationship, the beginning.....

I met these women in three very different ways (School, Myspace, Drinking on a Monday afternoon), and all of them ended very differently (Leaving me after she met somebody else, Failed marriage, aborted pregnancy after we split up), but some of the feelings towards the beginning were very similar.

New relationships are about discovery and hope, watching parts of yourself long dormant awaken to new possibilities, and lots of intense sex. You find yourself looking for similarities, trying to connect with this person on every level possible. Conversations run long into the night, your eating habits get thrown off, and your entire brain starts to rewire itself because of this one thing. You start to bore your friends, the ones who don't get jealous, and you might even fall of the face off the earth entirely if you don't know how to keep balance in your life.

Despite the massive difference in the ways these three relationships started and ended, the intensity of the first few months, that elusive honeymoon period, helped to keep the relationships afloat for quite a while. Incidentally, Ex1 and Ex2 both had pretty nasty endings. Ex2 was already sleeping with her next boyfriend before I even moved out, and I think I broke up with Ex1 about six times before it finally stuck (I actually told her the last time we got together that I was only doing it so that I could be mean enough to her for her to figure out for herself that we would never, ever work out. It didn't take very long after that). Ex3 made some interesting choices before we split up, but her complete disregard for my feelings certainly helped me run out the door. In each of these scenarios I specifically remember the immense river of emotions and happiness that comprised our early relationship. I have vivid memories of colors being brighter and everything we did together meant something, like it was fated.

Listen, I'm an Atheist and I love me some Science. I know that it's all chemicals and psychology, but when did that ever make drugs less interesting?

Answer: Never.

And here's the thing. I know that the Honeymoon phase can last. I've seen people recreate those emotions with someone over and over again, each time after it drifts away they keep finding new and creative ways to bring it back. We're all human and full of faults, some more than others granted, but everybody loves being there, so why is this illusion so difficult to maintain?

I remember the exact moment it shattered when I was with Ex1 because she commented on it as it happened. We were driving towards a bank in east Boise and I said something mean and cranky in a sarcastic reply to something. "That's it", she said. "That was the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end, if that's how you want to look at it." I denied it of course, I imagine myself pouting here as I valiantly try to defend the best phase of our relationship. But even as I struggled to defend that Straw Man Ambush, a little itch in the back of my skull told me she was right. And she was right, I already had enough resentment built up inside of me for the bile to start spilling out of my big, stupid mouth. And once that resentment gets entrenched, there's always a film of it resting somewhere and it's hard to get back to where everything looks fresh and new again.

Ex1 was right and it only got worse from there. I put up with some behaviors that were completely unacceptable to me for quite a while. As the issue grew progressively worse the intensity of that conflict erupted into several large arguments, almost always ending with a new profession of heartfelt emotion and a promise of things to change. But promises are easily broken and eventually there was just too much burning resentment inside of me for it to ever work out between us. We wanted it to, but it just wasn't possible anymore.

And here is where I think some of my own problems might lie. Maybe the problem isn't that people do things that build resentment, maybe the issue is learning how to get rid of it once it's there and learning how to live with what's left. I can't imagine that in the 300 years my Grandparents have been together that they haven't had long periods of disconnection. But somehow they just continued to keep choosing to be with each other and to make it work. Part of it's the culture, they aren't called the Greatest Generation for nothing, but there's no reason why you couldn't do it today.

But it's hard. It's very hard. Couples self destruct around me all the time. Eventually you learn to see the signs, but sometimes things erupt very slowly. When my last ex and I split, we hadn't been fighting much at all. Sure we were stressed, but we almost never fought about anything, and we were almost never that mean to each other. At some point we just decided we didn't want to be together anymore and we let the emotions slowly tear it apart until it was gone.We didn't even really fight at the end. It was cold, like the Mooooooooooooooon.

Time to pick a new direction.

And this is the end of Being Single. I've got other things I want to rant about, and this whole 'introspectively looking at the past thing' takes a lot out of a fella.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wake up before reading this one. (Being Single Pt. 4)

Once, somebody got me drunk and raped me. 

This should get a little heavy so I'm going to post some cute pictures of my puppies to help us (me) get through this.

This is Lu the rescue pup meeting our new beagle Frankie for the first time ever last autumn.

I would like to start off by apologizing to all the women I've ever been really close to that I've never shared this story with before: I understand that we talked about what happened to you that one time (twice in one case), but you should know more than most how difficult it can be to bring this kind of thing into the open with anybody, and I've always been a secretive person*.

Secondly, I'd like to address the inevitable idiots out there who only allow themselves to think with their testicles and who consistently claim that you can't rape men under any circumstances: You people are idiots and I hope that you are shooting blanks because you would make a horrible father.

 Okay, here we go.....

 *- A secretive person that tells the entire Internet instead. Don't ask me, I'm just as confused about the things that I do as you are.


My first wife left me in 99. This was before all of my friends were on the Internet with me (they still had real lives and went out and did things, before WOW destroyed EVERYTHING), and before anybody I knew owned a cell phone. My first wife and I were both virgins when we got married and she was only the third girl I had ever kissed, so let's just call this the beginning of my dating life. She also broke up with me in October, so I got to enjoy the last holiday season of the millennium with a shattered world view (I wasn't even officially an Atheist yet!) mired in the past while it seemed like the rest of the planet was looking towards the future. I was young, naive, and inexperienced, which is a horrible thing to be as a man.

The morning after she told me she was leaving me (she moved onto my couch for three weeks because 21 year olds are idiots), I put in my notice at work, immediately started my three week vacation, then started waiting tables the day that vacation was over. This new job would introduce me to smoking, bars, and casual sex; I was finally acting like I was in my 20's. Before the end of the year, and way before the divorce was final, I started seeing this new girl who wanted to keep her virginity, so we had anal sex every other day for three straight weeks. 

Sorry for that visual, here's Frankie the puppy being cute again.

The Anal Girl didn't last very long, not surprisingly considering I was still wearing my wedding ring on a necklace, and my affections wandered around for a while until landing on what would be the first of many new obsessions. She was thin, graceful, talented, and completely interested in casually eating my heart while watching me die, in other words: the Perfect Girl.

But we're not talking about her right now, she's for later, but you have to understand that I had created a life preserver out of this stinking hell hole and it was filled with thoughts of her. Sure, that was a pretty stupid thing to do, but I am also an idiot so it all made sense at the time.

By that summer I was really learning how to drink. I'd buy a fifth of whatever and leave it in the truck, heading down to the local bar after work to drink socially, and then go wherever the night took me (usually nowhere, because I am a fat and angry nerd). I was waiting tables and discovering a lot of things about people and life in general. I had never really been much of an extrovert before (I've always been an attention whore, but that's not the same thing), and I was slowly starting to come out of my shell and develop the personality that most of us are forced to do in high school (Thanks again parents!).

Yes, we bought our dogs a chair to use as a nest. It was always this adorable.

Many nights after my shift was over, you would find me sitting at Old Chicago, beer in hand, with no destination in mind but the inevitability of our own mortality. Everything was so fresh and raw back then, I still cared SO DAMN MUCH about everything, and I couldn't wait to stop that from happening with sweet, delicious beer. The girl of my dreams was driving me insane, and this was before I saw her naked, and I was just starting to realize how different the world worked than I was raised to believe that it did, but I did have one stable thing in my life: My personal code of behavior.

Despite the fact that Perfect Girl and I were still only in the unrequited love stage, both of us thought the other one wasn't interested, we hung out constantly. I had built up this fantasy/game plan where things would all be done 'the right way'. And the 'right way', for those of you who aren't naive 20 somethings with a hard crush, is to stop fucking other people the minute you realize that you want things to work out with somebody, even if they don't know you are interested in them. As a full grown cynic, that sounds silly to me now, but it was everything to me back then. I was so committed to Perfect Girl, that I was abstaining from sex based purely on the vague possibility that if we did ever end up together it HAD TO BE PERFECT, so I just wasn't interested in anybody else*.

She's only ever done this once, somebody must have told her about Snoopy.
Enter the villain of the piece. She was 'older', not quite 30, also divorced, and a bartender at the same restaurant that I worked at. She was petite and thin lipped, and she absolutely loved to prey on the younger guys at work. I'm almost positive now that she was processing her own pain by using her sexuality so aggressively, but it could just be that loved herself some dick and you don't have to work very hard to get a 23 year old to sleep with you. 

Until she met me, which she took as a challenge, and that's when things got weird. I wouldn't see her every night, but when I did she would wait until I was a couple in and then come over and offer to buy me some shots. And I love me some shots, I don't think I have ever turned down shots in my life, no reason to go back in time to change things now. Under normal circumstances she'd throw out the occasional flirtatious remark and I'd fire back with something more or less clever but clearly stating that it would never happen, which is easy to do when sober. Drunk Mikey, on the other hand, will have sex with you in the bar bathroom at closing time while your boyfriend waits obliviously for both of us around the corner (Sorry dude), but I didn't really know this about myself yet. I had turned her down so many times, and we were friends now, right? We talked during and after work, we shared things like friends do, so she knew about PG and I honestly wasn't that worried about it. I was saving myself for the PG and she knew that, she knew what I wanted in my heart of hearts, who manipulates the naive kid with broken heart who just wants things to somehow be normal again?

This was my lap everyday shortly after I woke up for an entire year. I have never felt so loved.

The night that it happened is hard to remember, there was a lot of alcohol involved. She saddled up to me at the bar (or maybe we met there intentionally), and started laughing and talking like friends do. I'm not normally a black out drunk, this incident is one of the reasons why I stop before that happens, but I do know what happened that night: she bought a LOT of alcohol and I drank it.

Somehow we ended up in my truck behind the Office Max across the street. It was shamefully quick and unsatisfying for both of us, which I find strangely hilarious now, the rest is blurry until the next morning, when I woke up angry.

I have always been an angry person, but this was a confused angry. I blamed myself, of course, and didn't react to it in the way that a woman might have. Sure, I was hurt and confused, but as a single man without any strong family ties (my family had moved up to northern Idaho to flee Y2K), mentors, or otherwise trustworthy adults around, I made kind of a mess of things when I tired to figure it all out.

It's okay Frankie, I still love you.

When grown men are taken sexually advantage of in our culture (AMERICA!) there is a lot of garbage that comes with it, and I dealt with all of it. First of all, I was raised in a conservative and passively sexist family, sheltered too much as a teenager, and completely unaware that it was even a possibility for me to be taken advantage of sexually. I didn't even understand that you could get drunk enough to do something that you wouldn't even dream of doing sober. I also didn't know that people would manipulate you into being friends with them so that they could take advantage of you. I had nobody to talk to, I was too embarrassed to bring it up anyway, so I just ended up blaming myself for the entire thing. Which is the opposite of healthy.

And this still affects me today. I didn't grow up mistrusting women, even as a child I knew my mother to be an anomaly, but after my first wife left me without a single warning shot fired (we had one entire fight in our two years of marriage, so I certainly didn't see that coming), and then this event, it didn't take me long to start believing deep down inside myself that women as a sex were simply not to be trusted. When my ex and I split up last month, she was honestly shocked at how many things I just wasn't telling her. It's not that I didn't desperately NEED to share these things with her, or that she wasn't completely open with me, it's just that it was nearly impossible for me to trust her. Relationship after relationship has ended the same way, with women slowly coming to the conclusion that I will never let them in. Sure, I can be warm, friendly, caring, tender, passionate, and intelligent, but inside I am closed off and alone. Always. And it's cold in here, but I've never been able to let anybody else in, I am always convinced deep on the inside that no matter how much I want things to work out that someday (soon) I will be alone again, cast out from the home just like every time. It's a self fulfilling prophecy, I know how it ticks, and I can't stop it from happening again and again and again and again.... Even this last time, there was no fight, just another woman who was simply tired of trying.

And they always keep your dog.

This is the job for a professional, one that I can't afford and probably wouldn't listen to anyway. And even if they ever helped me to untangle this chaos of emotions, I'd still be dealing with a long and cynical history with the opposite sex. I'm not afraid of trying again, I always do sooner or later, but the scars are being built on scars now, and that's hard for all of us.

For those of you who have seen me unload on people who treat rape like it isn't a thing, especially those who try to pretend that a 13 year old boy can't get raped if the adult is an attractive women, now you know why it bothers me so much and I got so angry. For those of you who have heard me say that I've never been raped in those conversations, you have probably never had anything like this ever happen to you before.

Thanks for reading my story. It's okay if you hug me the next time you see me, just don't say anything out loud about this, I have a reputation you know. 

P.S. - Many months later, I tried to salvage some of my broken ego by sleeping with my rapist again. Our friendship was understandably over by then, but we were both drunk at the same bar and I was still raw about it and wanted some revenge sex. She turned me down, of course, and that is the way our story ends.... 

P.P.S. I really miss the dogs.

* - For those of you who absolutely must know what happens, PG and I did eventually admit our attraction to each other, three weeks later part of her family died in a horrible car accident. We didn't make it and now she's happy and very successful in another city while I pretend she doesn't exist (mostly).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Patterns and reflections. (Being Single Pt. 3)

Before we continue on this journey, here is a picture from my mother:

She's being deafly serious.

In others universes, I'm sure there are plenty versions of me who are professors and scientists, but in this one I was home-schooled by a crazy, deaf lady with a third grade education who has been addicted to the Internet since '93 and believes that there is an actual hearing conspiracy against deaf people.* Since I'm 34 I'm going to go ahead and take full responsibility for not furthering my own education and living up to my potential, but childhood can be a difficult self to overcome.

We are fourth dimensional creatures, but we have the greatest difficulty seeing anything outside of the first three. I am nearly blind moving forward into the future, like an earthworm pressing itself through soil, barely able to sense what's about to happen to myself and mostly reacting to reality when it hits me in my stupid face. The past is also difficult. I don't exactly remember being three feet tall, running around the pine tree at my parent's yard sale as a child, but I have vivid memories of those memories and the loss of them would almost be like losing parts of myself, or at least running out of beer (forever).

There is an interconnectedness to the Universe, a certain harmony (with mathematics as notes and vibrating strings as instruments. SCIENCE!) that has rules and patterns that determine our reality. Our species flourished because our big, fat, meat eating brains were more adept at recognizing these patterns and utilizing that harmony for our own ends. Now we have things like metallurgy, twitter, and the International Space Station. Reality is mind shatteringly, almost unrealistically huge and complex. We have developed a powerful set of filters to keep these kinds of things from distracting us eternally, but this is where a lot of secrets lie: on the other side of the veil.

Which brings us to this...

I got this tattoo done after my 2nd divorce in my 20's:

Each insect represented an ex I had at the time of the tattoo, all of them were walking around the single side of the mobius strip to represent the endless replication of the patterns we reinforce into our own lives. My first wife is the one with the biggest ass.

I don't think I intended to place so much determinism into a physical manifestation of my own philosophy, but it is very telling in the dating world that many of us have a "type" or have certain traits that we find nearly irresistible and, damn the torpedoes, we're going full speed ahead. I've tried desperately to find meaning in the choices that I feel compelled to make, feeling that there must be a way to intellectualize this process, but to no avail. And then, instead of trying to piece it all together, I just let my mind relax and suddenly it made lot of sense: everything comes down to sex and violence.

Life wants to exist, and badly. A branch of life decided a long time ago to start consuming other life and it's been nothing since but one long arms race to see who gets to exists forever (protip: NOTHING wins! Energy death of the universe is imminent, try to remember that next time you feel special). Ever since we came along it's been a lot more of the same, just with more flair. Most of the mistakes we make in picking our partners, or in losing our partners, are defined not by our own patterns, but the meta-patterns of sex and violence.

Some lucky animals get to do both at the same time.

Let's take me as a warped example. I have slept with several women who were currently in relationships. I am not proud of this fact about myself but, as I've gotten older, fatter, and unhealthier, this doesn't really happen anymore and I seem to have gained some perspective. It turns out that opportunistic mating behaviors are fairly common in nature, and it was only condoms and random luck that kept me from making those into real reproductive incidents. I was a fairly normal, adult, human male that was given the opportunity to mate without the expenditure of extra calories or responsibilities. This doesn't abdicate any responsibility that I possess for my actions, but it does explain why I felt compelled to do them. Many of our desires and attractions to our mate are programmed into us at a very deep level, and everything built on top of it is always in danger of being unstable. Conflicting tastes, experiences, and cultural influences make it nearly an impossible task to identify an efficient decision making process in the procuring and keeping of a potential long term mate. This is why your picker is broken. This is why you can't trust yourself.

But it also means that it's not (entirely) your fault. Sure, you're a selfish bastard who has to constantly remind yourself that you're not the center of the universe, but so does everybody else. The system is chaotic and flawed. Everybody is somebody else's bitch or asshole. We all try not to be, but we just can't help ourselves.

And I find a lot of peace in that fact. We are all just a complex series of vibrating strings pulsating through the cultural ether for a finite, but stupendous adventure. Meaning is to be extracted.

I think I'll start on that chapter tomorrow.

*-Next week's meeting is going to be at 7:30!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Begining the Quest. (Being Single Pt. 2)

We last left ourselves healing and confused. Breakups are difficult, but most people manage to survive that garbage only to find a lack of direction....

Sometimes our choices are suspect.

So you're (mostly) over your ex now. A lot of people use this as a catalyst to try to change things about themselves that brought them to where they are today. Some people seek out a gym membership, or maybe a new job. I've done both and, let me tell you, not always a good idea.The regret you feel will fade, but the gym will always be filled with enormous douchebags.

He doesn't know where the G-spot is.

It's a normal impulse to want to "fix yourself", but you are an amalgam of millions of decisions and billions of organisms, and odds are you're not going to change by much, but this is still a healthy part of the process. What you are doing is separating the BEFORE from the AFTER, this creates a nice little emotional barrier and helps to create some distance for us. Sometimes this really can motivate us to make good decisions, for instance finally finding the motivation to pursue your career, but at least we're out of the house and not at home in the dark freebasing Ben and Jerry's.

This isn't a bad thing, your previous life was defined by another person, and you probably have a fuckton of time and energy to spend on something, so why not yourself? I like this phase, it's about renewal and moving onward with life. It can be difficult to get started, but change can be a good thing, you just have to make sure that it's in the right direction.

But here we have a pretty big obstacle. Our minds have evolved to recognize patterns and it is really easy to start finding reasons for things that may not have the influence over your fate that you think it does. I'm sure that for every glaring personality flaw that you think that you have, there's somebody out there with a fetish for it. I am personally attracted to outspoken and aggressive women, but I've known tons of women to complain that it's a real turn off for guys. So? Who gives a shit what those guys want, it sure as hell isn't somebody like you, find somebody without self-esteem issues. It's also easy to start to look for attributes in our respective mates, for instance being bossy and bitchy (see what I did there?) that may have assisted in the downfall of our relationships. The fault doesn't lie with them, or even our attraction to that personality trait, but in our realistic understanding of ourselves and our limitations. And for this you need the perspective that only distance can provide.

I can see my faults from here!

I don't recommend this for everybody, but I typically enjoy a long period of celibacy after my long term relationships. I've always been one of those people who transition very easily into serious relationships, apparently I make women comfortable, and the only way to keep from being one of those unfortunate serial daters locked into perpetual habits, is for me to completely abstain. This isn't even an intellectual decision; right now, and for the next several months at least, the idea of being intimate with someone kind of repulses me. Ew.

I'm entering into this phase now. I've been through enough serious breakups finally to have a pretty well constructed road map. This is probably the only time in my life where I feel comfortable showing weakness and I like to take advantage of it. I got to stop by the old house a few nights ago and, after my ex left for work, I walked around the house simply saying goodbye to things. I walked into each room, touching places that really meant something to me and just held our dogs for a while. I woke up the next morning feeling baptized, reborn even. So here I am now. What to do?

I decided to go back to one of my old loves.

There she is.
Microstory: I was an angry kid. In elementary school I used to knock over my desk and throw my books at the teacher, stuff like that. I was constantly challenging authority and getting into trouble. Idaho always dealt with this the same way, by putting me with a masculine teacher who would have me run laps around the field to "burn off my energy" instead of trying to solve the root cause of the problem. I'm pretty sure this is how a lot of inmates are made. For two years we lived in Washington state and it didn't take them very long to hook me up with a child psychologist who had me making model airplanes and talking about my relationship with my parents. This was probably facilitated by me getting kicked out of gym class and deciding to walk home when I was 9 or 10. The teacher freaked out, I vaguely remembering someone mentioning that she thought she was going to get fired for losing one of her students, but Washington state decided to find a solution to my issues and not to just agitate me. Now that I'm an adult and know that this was just a difference in policy, it still doesn't change how my inner child feels about the first society of adults who actually treated me like a real person. It's silly I know, but most of my vacations have been to the Emerald city, and I always feel at home there, so that's where I'm going. I've decided to take a few years off from this normal life thing and chase the only thing that I've ever been good at, being moderately funny on stage in front of groups of strangers.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Cycle Begins Anew. (Being Single Pt 1)

Several weeks ago a good friend of mine asked me to write something about being single. Despite the fact that I had been in a serious relationship for over two years, I still had a lot of strong opinions on the subject (shocking, I know), so I agreed. But I quickly got distracted by life, primarily the organizing and implementation of our annual Halloween party, so I procrastinated.

The next week my girlfriend broke up with me.

I am a prophet when it comes to costume selection.

So, now that I have a lot of free time and the subject matter is once again fresh in my memory, I thought I'd write a series of posts, starting with the beginning of the cycle: the end of the last relationship.


Unless it's your first time around the block, your entrance into the single life is usually born into chaos.

The occasional thrown cookware might also have been involved.

In many ways this is a newer version of you, a rebirth if you will. Technically you're still in the last relationship, emotionally if not locationally, and you will spend a considerate amount of time reflecting on everything (mostly who they're sleeping with already, even if it isn't true). This is a real sweet spot for meeting someone. Many of my serious ex's started their next relationship in this phase of their newly acquired singleness. It doesn't always work out, every relationship starting during this time period will have it's own challenges, but you're used to being WITH somebody and the transition is pretty easy to go from serious relationship to serious relationship. Granted, you'll be burdening your new partner with insecurities as you talk about your ex incessantly, but it sure beats crying by yourself amiright?

I sure as hell don't do it like that, but some people are more lovers than fighters, it's best not to judge them for what the rest of us consider a severe character weakness just because there's nobody around to pick up the pieces when most of us get broken up with.


For the rest of us poor bastards, it means trying to find a balance between the past and the present. Depending on how the last relationship ended, my recent one has been very amicable and mature, there might still be fights with your last relationship, like emotional aftershocks, as both of you adjust to the new reality and still have blame laying around that has to go somewhere.

Then comes the silence, and it comes quickly. Phone calls, usually frantic and common at first, tend to peter off as you don't really have anything new to say to each other and every third time you hear their voice you feel your throat tighten up, so it just isn't worth dialing the phone anymore. Sometimes you'll forget that they aren't there anymore and you'll want to call them with something exciting or funny, or you'll actually reach for their warmth in the night, and that is one of the worst sharp, emotional pains I have ever experienced. In one breakup this phase lasted so long and was so powerful that I used to hear her voice in every crowded room, I almost gave myself whiplash every other day. After that, especially when you let your guard down, is when you really start to notice how quiet things have gotten.

Shouldn't somebody be making me a sandwich about now?

If your last relationship had any legs to it, especially after a couple of years or if there's children involved, every decision you made, most moments of your day, were highly influenced by the presence, decisions, and the noises of the people you shared your life with. Suddenly you wake up one day and it's just gone. No more drinking coffee while playing fetch with the beagle every morning, no more bouncing your random thoughts off of somebody you know and trust enough to share with, no more private jokes or shared secrets, and certainly no more of the casual touches you've become accustomed (addicted) to.

And this is hard. There is no shortcut through this process, if you ignore it your memories will ambush you when you least expect it and, I don't know about you, but I have a hard time thinking up excuses for crying during a haircut. Some people never leave this phase of their last relationship, pining for their loss like dog sleeping on their master's grave. A lot of women handle this phase a lot better than most men, most women having something of a social safety net which helps to absorb the blow, but the secret here seems to be to keep active and to set new goals for yourself*.

I would recommend writing it down, it helps.

Eventually your friends adjust to your open schedule, you fall back into the things you loved to do that you stopped doing for one reason or another, and you put your gameface back on for the next phase of your singleness: Lying to Yourself. This is where things get interesting...

(to be continued...)

*- I'm currently focusing on my eyelash growing, but I think I might take up competitive napping.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Boise is for smokers.

I recently became infatuated with the public debate here in Boise, Idaho over a proposed smoking ban that would effect businesses and some of our larger parks. According to the CDC, Idaho is ranked 15th in percentage of smokers with 16.9%; not as good as our obesity statistics, but you take what you can get.

Here's the thing, I've been on both sides of the issue. I used to smoke. A lot.

It's amazing how many friends you don't make singing karaoke on a weekday all alone

As a matter of fact, 85% of the pictures taken of me in my twenties have me smoking at a bar, either singing karaoke or at a comedy show.

I can really be self-obsessed sometimes.

I was infatuated with smoking. Two packs a day was normal and if I was working the door at a club, I could smoke twenty cigarettes in less than three hours. It didn't matter what I was doing, I wanted a cigarette.

Even when I'm sick on NYE and I've lost my voice and still have to perform.

We all know that smoking is more addictive than heroin, meth, and even bacon flavored meth, and you don't have to watch too many episodes of Intervention or attend more than a handful of AA meetings to see the lengths that your average addict will go to feed that addiction. I didn't quit smoking myself until I developed severe asthma, and I still steal cigarettes after six or seven beers despite the fact that it would be equally as healthy for me to enter a needle sharing competition in Garden City. Almost every smoker hates the fact that they smoke, and how many empty promises have you heard your smoking friends and family make to themselves about quitting but to no avail?

The simple fact is that your average smoker is completely screwed. Every single day that they keep inhaling poison into their lungs increases the odds that they will suffer before they die, and that day will come too early for everyone that knows them. For years we have been watching our fellow human beings getting addicted to a product that will almost certainly hasten their demise and it wasn't until fairly recently that the companies selling this product were forced to admit that they were killing us.

20,679 Physicians acquired a lot of negative karma

But we have science now, and a Surgeon General who wants us to quit that shit, surely logic, common sense, and a healthy sense of self-preservation would dictate that our society would rise up and destroy one of the most damaging things that even exists? Governments and activists have done what they can, we've suffered through ad-campaigns, warning labels, and countless hours of nagging from our loved ones, but it will never be enough. Never.

The current crop of smokers are already infected. Science tells us that humans have a really crappy ability to predict statistics as it applies to them, we all think that it's everyone else who gets laid-off or gets an STD, which is why it's so shocking when it happens to us. And brains inflicted with addiction will use every single trick at their disposal to continue feeding the monster that is controlling their actions. Smokers, and the businesses who profit off of their addiction, have resisted every single effort to restrict public exposure. It doesn't matter what statistics we show people or how many of them rot from the inside, these forces will not be convinced with logic or reason, because addiction doesn't operate that way.

And that is where the smoking ban comes in.

Smoking was once allowed in Airplanes and Restaurants, even in Hospitals. Slowly, and with much resistance, things have changed. Now some states don't allow you to smoke within 10 or 25 feet of a public building, some cities don't allow you to smoke in any public space at all. Smokers have hated it, mumbling to themselves about their "rights" while simultaneously showing off their inability to make healthy decisions for themselves. Even some non-smokers, afraid of the boogie man coming after their bottled water or something next, argue that businesses get to make up their own rules. Well they don't, businesses don't get to dump sludge into the river or pollute the airways with smog without regulation just because they want to, this ban is simply regulating pollution on a small scale for the greater good, one of the reasons government exists in the first place. Smokers also like to speak of their right to smoke, like it was god-given or something, but killing yourself is technically against the law (and religion) almost everywhere, just because the two haven't been connected yet doesn't put them in the right.

This is my final point: Boise is a small city, but it is a proud city. We are constantly on top ten lists of places to live, retire, or raise a family. The weather is nice, the people are friendly, and we even have a nice walkway called the Greenbelt that stretches alongside the Boise River for 22 miles because we are health conscious and like to ride our bicycles. A lot of people move here because of all the wonderful and healthy things that are accessible a short distance from town, these facts not only attract people but factor into the decisions of businesses to move here, something that has worked in our favor historically and has positively impacted our local economy. In 50 years smoking will not be a part of this city. Anywhere.

So will our city council decide to step up and make the healthy and inevitable decision to make this a better place to work and live, or will a future city council have to do it for them?

Let's just stare at each other quietly.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The one where Mikey defends Mormons.

The guy being interviewed on the Sunday news show just said, "Values are not specific to any one religion, as we've seen.".

Tom McClusky: Senior Vice President, FRCAction

I understand that it's this guy's job to lobby for the will of James Dobson and he's a professional spin doctor for the right, but to watch him defend Mitt Romney for being Mormon has been an interesting experience because I'm forced to agree with him.

For those of you who didn't get bored enough to stop reading before the third paragraph but still don't know what I'm talking about, Robert Jefferies is the senior pastor of a Baptist megachurch is Dallas, Tex. During a republican political event, Jefferies supported one candidate and took a shot at a different one, specifically because he wasn't a 'Real Christian'.

Real Christians, shortly before selling all that they own to feed the poor.

Having spent some time belonging to one of the most populated churches in the Boise area, I've experienced the energy that a large group of people worshiping at the same brings to a room, and it is very powerful. I really enjoyed my time in evangelical christian churches, they are a very active group of people and, if you belong to a big enough one, there is something going on every weekend. I've been to church camps, picnics, barbeques, river floats, Olympic style gaming events, car washes, and an entire host of other activities all underlining the importance of having a social gathering place for society to meet and to bond at, but almost none of it, aside from two summer mission trips I went on as a teenager, having much to do specifically with being a 'Real Christian'. Anybody could have been there and I wouldn't have known the difference.

The biggest rule for Christians is to love their god using all of their mind, will, and strength, and then to love their neighbors as themselves. This rule came directly from the mouth of the boss man himself. While he was busy not mentioning gays, abortion, or masturbation, he spent a lot of time on how you should treat each other. If you really want to go to heaven and hi-five Jesus, the best way to spend your time is getting your hands dirty helping the poor, sick, and imprisoned. Jesus didn't spend a lot of time giving two shits about someone's immigration status or ability to pay for health care, but the evangelical branch of politics sometimes seems to do almost nothing else. For Jesus it was about genuinely caring about your fellow man, even going so far as to get rid of your physical attachments so you would not be distracted away from the purity of that love. Jesus never asked for 10%, he didn't hoard gold like a pirate.

You know it's Holy because it's expensive.

As far as I'm concerned, every single major branch of Christianity that I have ever experienced in the solid third of a century that I've been around can shut their hypocritical mouths until they literally put their money where their mouth is and do something to prove that they deserve the title themselves before they start labeling other Christian sects.

And for the record? I have met thousands upon thousands of Christians in my life and hundreds of Mormons and, person to person, the average Mormon living here in Idaho is living closer to a life of faith than the average 'Real Christian'. Take it as you will, but go out on any Mardi Gras and you'll see a lot more Christian tits getting flashed around, and there's more Christian violent offenders in our prison system than everybody else put together, even after you adjust for population. And the number of Atheists in prison? Less than 1%.

So maybe what McClusky should have said was, "Values have nothing to do with religion, whatsoever".

Because they don't.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Napalm Justice!

Like most stories where I lose my temper, this one starts off with me behaving myself. I was about to perform at the second stage of the night, a monthly open-mic that normally focuses on unplugged musicians, but this time had decided to book a friend of mine, Olek Szewczyk, in a half-hour feature spot. A few of the other locals had decided to head down with him, why just have one comedian, when you can have four? I managed to bully myself into the choice third slot behind my friend, and waited to go on stage.

The first act was this young musician, a pretty girl with a short skirt and an entrancing voice. Our little sidekick Sam was immediately twitterpated, Olek appropriately said something inappropriate, and I cynically tried to calculate how long it would take for her dreams to get crushed*. Olek eventually took the stage and awkwardly made his way through the first 25 minutes of his set.

Awkward is his specialty

It was a loud room of drunks in an indie bar, but the front several tables were paying attention and I thought he was doing an excellent job. He had just cracked a joke about having only five minutes left and had started on his closing bit, explaining an awkward conversation he had with his mother over her love of a vampire television show. It's not a filthy bit, I've heard worse on network television, and he was only two minutes into it when I heard this voice pipe up from behind me.

"Time to go," it was an older woman middle aged from the sound of it, and I assumed she was talking to a loud, drunk person behind us when she repeated herself. And then again. And again. It was on the fifth or so repeat, and when she had moved to stand almost immediately behind me, when the audience and Olek all suddenly realized that she was talking to him.

"Time to go." She was trying to use her Mom voice on him. At first I smirked, my traditional face for mocking people, in expectation of Olek's reply. What I did not realize at the time was this was the first time he had ever dealt with this situation before. Normally the rooms we play in are more under our control, I had just chased out an entire table of drunks at the previous room a couple of hours earlier when my MC decided he should just ignore them (I walked up, took the microphone away from him, and announced loud and clear the traditional mantra of every MC, 'sit down, shut up, have fun')**. Olek handled it quite well, allowing her to fully make an ass of herself, culminating in her demanding everyone to raise their hands who wanted Olek to get off the stage. Nobody did, he said something sarcastic, and we all stared at her as she backed down and went back to sit at the bar. I barely stopped myself from telling her what a bitch she was, somehow forcing myself to mumble it so as not to disrupt the show.

It was at this point that the girl running the show asked me if a musical duo could go up real quick because their specific audience had to leave. Of course I agreed and I watched Olek rally and finish on a high note. We all applauded and Olek came down to sit next to me. While the musical act, I never caught their name, spent the next ten minutes getting ready, Olek and I got into a discussion about whether or not he should apologize to his heckler.

"Fuck her," I told him. "Selfish people like her, who feel so self-important that they think a bar full of people literally half their age are as easily offended as they are, and are then subsequently bitchy enough about it to stand up and yell at someone who is almost finished with their act, only thrive because people are passive-aggressive in how they treat them." He decided to go and talk to her anyway, like a damn rookie, while I considered more permanent solutions to hecklers in general.

Nothing gets your point across like immediate violence

On a normal night this is where it would have left off; I would quietly judge Olek for capitulating with terrorists, which is exactly what I told him he was doing, while I distracted myself with my surroundings and desperately tried to enjoy the "music" from the stage.

But it didn't go that way or I wouldn't be writing about it.

It turns out the heckler was the reason I got bumped, specifically because she couldn't be bothered to sit through anybody else, and she honestly expected the rest of us to bend before her will. And that's when my switch flipped. You see, I am the stereotypical redhead when it comes to short fuses; I have exactly 15% of the average persons patience, especially when I'm completely sober, and my life is a series of struggles against my own impulses to stab random offenders in the neck with nearby utensils and writing implements. In the 3rd grade I threw over my desk and chucked all of my books at the teacher, when I was eleven I hit a neighborhood kid in the face with a rock because I heard he was bullying one of my younger siblings. I've matured as I've grown, but that seething anger at pretty much everything sometimes still looks out at the world and wants to watch it burn, especially when I'm on stage, which is probably why I almost never get heckled myself, ever.

Give this man some rum and/or a gun. SOLUTIONS!

Needless to say I, as I sat there and watched the burnt-out middle aged half of the musical act ramble on about how 'everything is just a dream, man', in between bad cover songs that the unnecessarily attractive daughter of our heckler could never remember the lines to, I just kept getting more and more upset. By the time it was finally my turn to get a microphone, I had no less than three minutes of specific and accurate observations on her and why she should hurry up and die already.

And it felt good. It felt good in the way that it always feels good to be justifiably angry***. I locked eyes with my prey and I told the whole room how I felt about her. She was already in a hurry to leave, but after I dedicated my set to her and started telling the most offensive jokes at my disposal, she couldn't flee fast enough. I felt like an anti-body protecting the host from disease and it took my entire set to another level.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that for a moment I almost checked myself. After the second sentence the girl running the show went up to the heckler and started to apologize but, immediately after, the sound guy stood up and started to applaud when I explained how disrespectful she was being and the entire audience agreed with me, so I barreled on. And here's the thing, I'd do it again. Not necessarily to defend another comedian, he's since sobered up and regretted his apology, but because selfish people like that need angry people like me to keep them in line. We all secretly want the douche bags of this world to get punched in face, some of us were just born to help that happen.

*- Considering how cheerful her voice was when I complimented her on the way out of the bar, I cut my estimate in half.

**- Yes, exactly 'like a boss'.

***- Justification sold separately, not valid in all 50 states, use with care.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dear Pastor Mike...

 Someone in the Idaho Atheist group on Facebook posted a link to this -

Pastor Mike wants us to set up a national registry for Atheists

Go ahead, read it and then ask yourself why so many of us are against religion. The comment section is locked out, so I decided to write him an email and then post it to my blog. If he responds, which I doubt, I'll keep you posted. First off here's his picture.

The face of brotherly love.

I put in on here for INFORMATION purposes only. It's important that rational people know who wants to put them into internment camps (allegedly).

Here's the email:

Hello Pastor Mike,

First off, it is certainly not my intention to offend. As a twenty year Christian I have some insight into the way that Christians generally feel towards us atheists but, after reading your blog about the registry, I just have some questions for you if you have a moment to spend. 

Q1) Considering the subject matter of Matt. 23 (Jesus yelling at religious leaders for their hypocrisy), it seemed odd to me that you quoted verse 33 and directed it towards non-believers. Was this a mistake on your part or was it intentional because it fit the tone you were going for?

Q2) Considering that Atheists are one of the most mistrusted, slandered, and ostracized group in America, and especially because of the fact that less than one percent of convicted felons are atheists, isn't it grossly unfair to compare us to ex-convicts and sex offenders who are almost universally Christian?

Q3) Statistically less crimes are committed by Atheists, we don't proselytize, and we are completely indistinguishable from 'normal' Americans, so how long do you think it would take for your hypothetical registry to turn into a witch hunt or to force your fellow Christians into McCarthy like levels of paranoia?

Q4) Speaking of Communism. Your picture suggesting that a lack of religion will lead to a communist state is humorous, let me tell you, would it be okay if I make a similar poster suggesting that a Christian state will lead to Nazis?

Q5) Do you actually misunderstand what Atheism means, or do you intentionally label it as a religion because it fits your agenda? If Atheism is a religion, is bald a hair color and is silence a type of music?

Q6) Would it be possible to sign up for your registry? If your flock is anything like you, i.e. the opposite of everything that Jesus taught about how to treat unbelievers, I would hate to have them come to one of my comedy shows and accidentally have a good time fueled by Satan.

Full disclosure: I am posting this email and any ensuing conversation that I doubt we'll have to my blog at beardedatheist.blogspot.com  Thank you so much for your time, I hope you have a wonderful day.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to be a good 'open-micer'

This is specific for the Boise, Idaho comedy scene, but some rules are universal.

First off, what is an open-micer? An open-micer is someone in the comedy equivalent of little league,  someone who either is too new or not good enough to perform in anything other than at an open-mic. In some cities, like Boise, comedy clubs are infrequent citizens, so open-mics might be the only opportunity that you have to perform at all. There's no shame in it, the funniest stand-up comics in the world have all had to start somewhere, and even experienced comics will come out and play with the rest of us from time to time.

There is no average open-mic. If you're lucky, the local comedy club will run a room a few times a month for you, but you might have to start out at a coffee shop going up on stage between a slam poet and a musical act; the rules, however, are pretty much the same:

#1 - Show up. Show up early and show up often. Most open-mics have sign-up times and lists; many don't put the set order together until right before the show starts but, either way, make sure you are there. Open-mics are like gyms to athletes, and if you don't work out your comedy muscles, don't be surprised when you get all soft; even experienced comics need stage time to resharpen their skills once they've taken some time off. If you show up late, don't be shocked if you don't get on stage. We live in the modern world now and if you can't find some way to communicate that you might be getting off work late, the world is going to blame you for it.

#2 - Be prepared. It would be nice to be talented and awesome enough to be hilarious every minute on stage without having to think or do anything about it. If you are already that good, what the hell are you stealing someone else's stage time for? For most us, there is an entire process that goes into writing and performing a joke and, if you don't have that process down yet, you should figure one out. Most open-mics are pretty lax about performers bringing up a setlist to work out some new material, but you're going to be a lot more confident and more funny, if you're 'off book'.

#3 - Be funny. The audience is expecting to laugh. The general rule of thumb with setlists is to close with your best joke and to open with your second best joke. The audience is doing you the favor of letting you work out new material, but make sure to keep a couple of good jokes at the ready just in case you falter, your new bits don't go over well, or the guy in front of you really sucks and they need to be roped back into the show.

#4 - Write more jokes. The biggest enemy is always complacency. During a recent interview, Louis C.K. said that the only way for a comedian to get any better is to throw away all of his old material, otherwise you'll be tempted to fall back on it. I do it, hell, every comic is tempted to fall back on the old material instead of going through all the work of putting some new stuff together. The only way for you to achieve any of your goals as a comedian, even if it's just making the same audience laugh over and over again, is to bring something fresh to the table. The best comics write every single day, either new stuff or fixing the old stuff. Either way, this is one of the best ways to get better.

#5 - Don't be an Asshole. Showing up drunk, being wasted on stage, yelling at the staff, not tipping your waitress; all of these offensives are observed and opinions are made by your peers and the audience. You could be the funniest comic in the world but, if nobody likes you, nobody wants you around. Comedians by nature can be very contrarian and confrontational, but be as charming as possible. If possible, tip the staff extra. You'd be surprised how much the opinion of the staff can change the atmosphere at an open-mic. If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to drink. Most open-mics have a specified time they expect you to be on stage, don't go over that time. At all. Comedy Clubs and open-mics in Boise usually use a light to let you know when your time is almost up, make sure to look for it. Ignoring the light is the second most common reasons why some comedians disappear after a show and are never heard from again. Every minute you go over your time, I have a new fantasy about where I want to stick an icepick.

#6 - You don't deserve anything. Odds are you're only half as funny as you think that you are. If you're like everybody else on this planet (protip: you are), you grossly overestimate your own abilities and only listen to opinions that validate what you want to believe. You should be thankful that someone has put together a location and audience for you to perform in front of. If you don't like how something is run, you are always free to experience the headache of organizing and managing your own room but, trust me on this one, it's a shitty job. Remember this the next time you want to bitch about how quiet the audience is at this location, or where the room wants the comics to sit while waiting to go on stage. Even headliners in comedy clubs are frequently forced to sit in green rooms during the show and sometimes aren't even allowed to talk to the staff. Always be respectful of the other performers, the audience, and the staff, and especially to the person hosting/managing the show. The biggest headache of my week is working with my fellow comedians, and every time someone complains about their placing in the show or how much time they get that night, I get one inch closer to shutting the room down entirely.

#7 - Be supportive. The audience that comes to an open-mic can be a fickle thing. It can take months to build a regular audience, and you still will have shows where only three people show up. If you are genuinely interested in working on your craft as a stand-up comedian, this is an excellent time to learn how to market yourself. In some places you aren't even allowed on stage until you bring in three people, and no bar is going to keep a room available unless there's people there buying drinks. It is in everyone's best interest to do everything you can to keep that stage available. In one instance, my then girlfriend, a fellow comic, and I spent three hours in the summer heat passing out flyers we made on our own to get less than a handful of people to come to an open-mic at our local comedy club, but at least we had someone to perform in front of that night. If you are a smoker performing at a non-smoking show, but only come inside for your set, you get your own level of hell where midgets spend eternity poking you in the legs with sharp sticks.

#8 - Have a good time. Stand-up comedy is entertainment, it's about escaping your crappy job and watching someone who can make you laugh. YOU ARE SURROUNDED BY FUNNY PEOPLE. If the audience is nervous because the show is in the daytime for some reason and they can see themselves laugh, if the last six comics completely bombed and the MC is drunk and messed up your name, if you are brought on stage immediately after a tear-jerking speech at a benefit show for premature babies (this happened to me), walk up to that microphone and have a good time. Comics who are enjoying themselves are ten times funnier and twice as likely to get laid after the show*. If you suck at every other thing on this list, do this last one. Life is a mess and the good parts are too short, so the next time we're standing next to each other and I'm handing you the microphone after ordering the audience to clap for you, try to remember that for the next several minutes you get to be a comedian, and that's one of the coolest jobs in the world.

* - Results may vary based upon attractiveness of comedian.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Soviets in space...also, crippling depression...IN SPACE.

50 years ago today, Yuri Alekseyevich Gargarin was flying through space; the first of a lucky percentage of us to sail through the upper atmosphere with little more than hopes and calculators. And, like most children growing up in the States, I believed that I too could one day grow up to join them.

The world is a cruel place.

A couple of days ago I noticed that one of my Facebook friends was experiencing some trouble dealing with certain aspects of our reality, the shitty parts mostly, and that an older woman, probably family, was trying to console her with that positive thinking pablum. I left some stupid comment about how inside this eggshell of our existence is a loneliness that never sleeps, ending it with some joke about how the universe is made out of rainbows and candy, but that juxtaposition started the ol' wheels to turn. Because the world really IS made out of rainbows and candy, as well as tsunamis, radiation leaks, and African Rape Camps.

Maybe positive thinking is an excellent survival mechanism for the psyche. Not 'The Secret' kind of positive thinking, where if you hope for things hard enough they just happen (If I wanted to do that, I'd still be praying), but the kind of thinking where we retrain ourselves to notice but not to let into our hearts the emptiness that surrounds all of us at all times out into eternity forever. Sorry, I'm new at this.

Maybe I should stop selfishly building resentments until my relationships are carved out, maybe I should stop pouring over article after article after article of things that are fascinating but do not help in keeping things bright and shiny.

But wait... WE WENT INTO SPACE PEOPLE! And it certainly wasn't an easy journey for all of us. But we did it, and we didn't do it by positive thinking. Like that last, horrible link, illustrates; we, as a species, can do nearly anything with enough expenditure of energy, time, and blood


Maybe that's a part of growing up; realizing that most dreams do not come true, that there really are monsters walking the streets at night and that they look just like you and me. But still, the universe is full of rainbows and candy, foot-rubs and beer and bacon. It may never be all the things I want it to be, and maybe my life has helped me be a little bit of a curmudgeon at times*, but if I can't learn to enjoy the moments I am lucky enough to have, why am I still here at all? I guess life is mostly about balance.

Meanwhile, in reality, I'm about to head downtown to plan for our next game-show with a good friend. Maybe life is learning not to bitch too much about what you can't control. Figures.

* - Over 90% #notmeanttobefactual