12 December 2012

"Mike check! 1-2-1-2-1-2!" [UPDATED]*

Twelve-twelve-twelve is as good a time as any to write a wrap-up of the "year that was". This year I chose to stop drinking. Without a doubt, that is the smartest thing I've done all year. That choice may have cramped my social life, but I have to say it wasn't much of a social life if it required alcohol to keep it lubricated.

Other than that milestone, for most of 2012 I just coasted along. Still there are some highlights:

I went to see the Chesapeake Bayhawks - twice! This was my lacrosse year, and I enjoyed it. I got to see two Bayhawks games in Annapolis. (The Bayhawks went on to win the 2012 Steinfeld Cup, the Major League Lacrosse league championship.) Also, I finally got out and tossed some lacrosse balls with a friend, and went to see Crooked Arrows in the theater (cheesy, but sweet).

In April I downloaded Stereo Typical by Rizzle Kicks, and for the next four weeks that was all I listened to. It's an amazing album! I know hip-hop is not everyone's thing, but this album has a lot to give. "Mama Do the Hump" is a fun little knees-up, "Traveller's Chant" is beautifully meditative, and "When I Was a Youngster" is an antidote for the blues.

I bought Pierce the Veil's Collide with the Sky this past fall. I don't exaggerate when I say this album helped me get through the fall. The music is fun, and expresses everything from rage to sadness to hope. I felt some of my life in the lyrics, and to this day I still tear up listening to some of the songs. I obtained a lot of music in 2012, but these two albums by far outshine the rest.

I've read 39 books so far this year. The best of these, IMHO, were:

1.Damien Echols, Life After Death: this is the memoir of one of the falsely accused and imprisoned "West Memphis Three". The memoir is fascinating and inspiring.

2. Augusten Burroughs, This is How: An "anti-self-help self-help book", Burroughs engagingly presents down-to-earth advice on negotiating life's trials, dealing with such issues as sadness, addiction, love and suicidal thinking.

3. John Fox, The Ball: Discovering the Object of the Game: A fun, fascinating and moving book about sports.

4. Ayad Akhtar, American Dervish: A surprisingly subtle novel about growing up Pakistani Muslim in the US. It's a beautiful, touching book.

5. Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World: A literary sci-fi novel involving ninjas, world war, and fallout from the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The prose is fun, and the story is engaging.

6. Thomas Vennum, American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War: Vennum has created a fascinating exploration of the origins and meaning of what became lacrosse. He peppers the book with imaginative re-creations of events in history. An excellent companion volume to Fisher.

*I forgot to mention Collide with the Sky. I cannot write about 2012 without mentioning Collide with the Sky.

11 December 2012

Wild Cards

In less than two months I'll turn 52. I will have spent 52 years on this planet. One year for each card in a deck of cards. I'm thinking of celebrating this coming birthday as the beginning of my "Wild Card Years", every year after 52 being supplemental to the full deck.

This winter is proving unusually tough. No longer deadening my mind with alcohol, I stare at reality every evening, eyes unshaded. Worse, I no longer have that disinhibition that allowed me to "get it all out" at least once a week. To laugh, bawl and allow myself to be stupid. Nowadays it's just mute horror at the realities of existence.

Add to that my cat is having some kind of urinary trouble, and will have to go to the vet as soon as I can pay for it. His behavior is otherwise normal: he's not sluggish. He just wants to pee frequently, and when he does, he just gets a few drips out at a time. I've made an appointment with the vet, after payday. But the wait is making me crazy.

In the meantime, I make sure his behavior doesn't otherwise change. He plays with his toys, gives me 'sugar' when I get home from work, and eats and drinks normally.

And I feel totally inadequate as a human companion for him.

27 November 2012


It's been three months since I had alcohol. I was more dependent on it than I'd realized. It was an emotional dependency, rather than a physical one. Still, I leaned on it too much. A crutch.

I'm glad I don't use alcohol now. I do need to learn how to fill the time with something else. Cable tv and Tumblr can only do so much, LOL.

26 November 2012

I Do Not Deserve This

I spent T-Day chilling at home, and then met a friend for a meal out the early evening. It was standard T-Day fare: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. of which I ate too much. Our 'server' was in drag as Pocahontas. I can't make this shit up. Since it was a buffet meal, all Poca had to do was bring us rounds of iced tea. So she got steadily drunker herself in the back. All in all not a bad day; yes, I'd rather spend the holidays with drunk drag queens than with biological family members.

On Friday I did do some shopping, for myself, and most of the spending was with local establishments. Books from Politics & Prose and Second Story, and a skater t-shirt from Palace 5ive. If you haven't visited Palace 5ive and it's sister establishment Federal, I highly recommend it. The clothes, shoes and gear are sweet, and the staff are friendly and helpful.

Saturday I went to a mall to see the menagerie, and realized once I got there I needed nothing from a mall. Anything I need to get now, I'd do well to buy online. I think I'm going to miss the trips to shopping malls more for the long commutes giving me plenty of reading time, than for any experiences at the malls themselves.

Periodically I checked my online dating site. I had one message, from a guy wanting "friendship". I responded saying if that was what he was interested in, I was fine with that, but not in anything "more". He never responded, LOL.

I've come to realize that my frustration with the dating web site, and with dating in general comes from the feeling I deserve to have a fun, smart and sexy boyfriend. Of course I do not deserve this. If I get it, it will be a gratuitous blessing from the universe and the other person involved. As I've written before, no one deserves love, especially romantic/sexual love — to say such is to imply that some other person out there is obligated to put out for you. Love is a gift; one does not deserve gifts. They are gratuitous blessings. A 'gift' that is deserved isn't a gift, it's a payment.

But knowing this intellectually, and feeling it in one's bones are two different things. Sometimes the loneliness overwhelms my good sense, and I turn into the whiny man I exhibited recently, railing against The Way Things Are for the 'injustice' of not having a fun, smart and sexy boyfriend. Life is inherently unfair. My job is to suck it up.

15 November 2012

Survivng Just Isn't Enough

I've been having some bad days at work. Inadequate tech. Archaic practices. Arcane systems. Human neuroses. The bottom line: a lot of frustration and bass-ackwards processes.

I used to deal with such bad days by promising myself a beer after work. I'd look forward to pouring a delicious ale or stout down my gullet, or in extreme cases, a sip of bourbon. I'd melt away the lingering frustration along with the ability to feel my toes. My brain would soften, and if I weren't alone, I could bend the ear of my drinking buddy and spill out all my frustrations with work.

Of course, that also meant that there was a high risk that the Asshole would come out.

Now I don't drink, and I'm happy I don't drink. There is a difference between not allowing oneself to continue a negative behavior pattern, and pursuing a positive behavior pattern. In other words, I now realize that not drinking has left a void that needs to be filled with something else. It's not enough to not do bad things; I need to replace doing bad things with doing good things.

What can I do that I will relish doing, that I will look forward to doing at the end of my workday, a reason to put up with the bullshit, a stress reliever, a promise I make to myself to reward myself for having got through a shitty day?

12 October 2012

A Good Little Thing

When I was in high school, my mom bought me a t-shirt that said, “I’d like to be an optimist, but I doubt it would work out.” The irony is, every bit of pessimism in my psyche came from her. She is a bitter, sarcastic woman who fights herself to gain any shred of hope, and usually loses the battle. I don’t know what happened to make my mom that way (her mom? marital disillusionment?), but I do not want to end up like her.

People change. Usually people change by drifting further in whatever direction they’ve already been heading. Some people, however, seize the rudder of change and strive to tack in a different direction.

I would not be comfortable with being an optimist, but I also do not want to be a pessimist. Frankly, both views seem unbalanced. I like balance. I like the middle path.

The other day I realized my utter insignificance, and it comforted me more than anything has in recent years. That may sound weird to some, that my insignificance was comforting. Let me explain. I realized that the universe is incredibly vast. I’m one person among 7 billion currently alive on this planet, orbiting one of billions of stars in one of billions of galaxies in the universe. My life will occupy a few paltry years in a universe already 13.75 billion years old. I’m incredibly insignificant. And that means I cannot really do any damage to the universe. I cannot fuck up so badly that the universe will register any lasting damage. I can’t wreck this planet significantly, much less any other planets, stars or galaxies.

What a fucking relief! I’d been raised by fundamentalists, for whom each action and decision was fraught with eternal, immeasurable consequences. God was breathing down my neck, and Satan whispering in my ear, and even how I ate my dinner or wiped my ass could shatter the world. When you’re raised with such dire consequences hanging over you 24/7, discovering your insignificance is a tremendous relief.

And with that easing of the burden, I can now approach life with a lighter touch, and a much more sanguine outlook. What I do doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. I don’t really matter in the scheme of things. So if I undertake changes or actions, I do so out of what I determine to be beneficial or personally significant. Being relaxed could even lead me to be a better person. Who knows?

So, reveling in my insignificance, I’m adopting a phlegmatic attitude toward life. However good or bad it gets, it is all so very, very limited in scope as not to matter a whole hell of a lot. And that, to me, is a good thing. A good little thing.

09 October 2012

Great Weekend; One Disappointment

This weekend I struck a perfect balance between time alone and time socializing. It was the most enjoyable weekend I’d had in months.

Friday evening I did my errands, going to Wheaton to pick up a few things, including a ‘motivational’ pair of jeans, and I scratch box for Manuel. I came home and watched tv, then went to bed.

Saturday I got up and watched my Saturday morning cartoons, then headed down to brunch at the Diner in Adams-Morgan. I wandered around Dupont Circle, and eventually ended up at Zenobia Lounge in Georgetown, with turkish coffee, a hookah and my journal. It was inspirational.

Sunday morning I met a friend for brunch. We went to Medium Rare in Cleveland Park. The food was extremely good. The atmosphere was a bit fancy for me (I had to leave my plain black hoodie on, because I was wearing a graphic t-shirt and would’ve stood out like a sore thumb in the sweater and tweed crowd – fashionista-gay I am not), but the company was enjoyable. We walked around town, and had coffee at Illy. I bought too many books.

Monday looked gloomy, so I planned to stay in and finish reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. A friend texted me wanting to know if I wanted to get the lacrosse stick and toss some balls. I did. We had a great time, and I learned a few things. Best of all, I got my stick broken in, and we played the Creator’s game on Indigenous People’s Day.

I returned home, finished Tocqueville, and watched my Monday television shows. The only down note was this: I’ve been reading Vincent Bugliosi’s new book on agnosticism. I’ve been looking for a clear and eloquent defense of agnosticism, and his book promised to take down the arguments of both theists and atheists alike. I had gotten a few chapters into it, and so far, so good. Yes, his style was a little quirky, and at times I had wished he’d gone a little further, or considered some points he did not consider. Then before bed last night I read his chapter on Darwin and evolution, and I was appalled. It was weak beyond excuse, and his argument basically boiled down to: “I’m not a scientist, but I don’t understand evolution, and since I find the evidence inconclusive, I cannot say that evolution is indeed a fact.” Well, Mr. Bugliosi, I’m not a scientist either, but I understand evolution, and geology, well enough to see how evolution must indeed be a fact. I was heartbroken: my hoped-for manifesto was so flawed, I cannot even make myself continue to read it at this point.

01 October 2012

Life and Death

Last week I read Damien Echols’s memoir Life After Death. Echols’s was one of three men convicted of murders he did not commit, in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1994. He was a victim of religious hysteria and paranoia (the people of West Memphis didn’t like his appearance nor his love of heavy metal music, and were convinced he was a Satanist), and because of that he was sent to death row. He survived the ordeal and after having spent half his life in prison was released last year. Echols is remarkably intelligent, a deep reader and a gifted writer (another reason he did not blend in with the usual Arkansan), and his book shows it. I highly recommend reading Life After Death, as a story of survival, of the abuses of the ‘justice’ system, and as a tale of hope and caution for all the misfits out there.

The entire book is very well-written; I’d like to quote two passages:

My life has taught me that true spiritual insight can come about only by putting your hand in the fire. Faith is nothing more than a watered-down attempt to accept someone else’s insight as your own. Belief is the psychic equivalent of an article of secondhand clothing, worn-out and passed down. I equate true spiritual insight with wisdom, which is different from knowledge. Knowledge can be obtained through many sources: books, stories, songs, legends, myths, and, in modern times, computers and television programs. On the other hand, there’s only one real source of wisdom —pain. Any experience that provides a person with wisdom will also usually provide them with a scar. The greater the pain, the greater the realization. Faith is spiritual rigor mortis.
—Damien Echols, Life After Death (New York: Blue Rider Press, 2012), p. 100.

There is only one way to avoid being swallowed whole by malaise, despair, and loneliness, and that is to create a routine you stick to no matter what. A physical routine, a mental routine, and even a spiritual routine. You don’t pass the time —you create it.
I began measuring time by doing thirty push-ups a day, and pushing myself until several years later I could do one thousand. I began doing ten minutes of meditation a day, and then pushed myself until I eventually reached five hours a day. It was only by becoming more disciplined, more focused, and more driven that I could prevent myself from falling into entropy and internal death.
—Echols, pp. 176-177.

28 September 2012


Yesterday morning, I was pondering again Viktor Frankl's assertion that life's meaning can be found in work, love or suffering. Specifically again, work is not just career, but whatever task or creative exercise one can put his hands and/or mind to at the moment. Love is usually thought of as love for another person, but it can also mean any sort of absorptive experience. Suffering is fairly self-explanatory.

In pondering these I realized that they all three could be summed up in one word: struggle. To make an effort, to focus oneself in the experience of another person or thing, or to endure suffering means to struggle. Through struggle we find meaning.

I think most religions and philosophies worth considering give due place to struggle, but I think the Sufis express it best. They consider the highest form of struggle (jihad) to be the struggle with one's ego (jihad binnafs). That means to tame one's ego in order to move toward wiser and kinder living.

Although I'm agnostic, I do appreciate the work spiritual persons have done in the past to make themselves wiser and kinder. I think I can learn from that dedication, that struggle.

So my task, as I see it is to struggle to grow 'spiritually', adapting wisdom of the past to my agnostic present, and to become wiser and more compassionate.

26 September 2012

Preparing to Put Myself Out There

I thought it would be helpful to outline what I’m up against when it comes to posting a profile on a dating site, and furthermore finding someone to date. More specifically, who I am as a person limits my appeal, and the appeal of others to me, and that will make it much more difficult for me to find someone. Here’s a summary:

Agnostic: I’ve tried very hard to make myself believe, but I cannot. I really, really wanted to believe because I think having a faith community makes it easier to find a life partner. Being among people of the same faith gives one a ‘family’ and a pool of persons one can draw closer to, especially if there are a number of lgbt persons in the faith community. But I cannot fake believing in God, particularly the one of the Abrahamic religions. I’ve tried. And I could get along with Buddhists if it weren’t for the fact so many white Buddhists are as bad as Evangelical Christians. Some seem to view carnivory with the same horror Evangelicals view the Folsom Street Fair. I don’t want that judgementalism in my life.

Metro-dependent: I haven’t driven in 18 years. I don’t want to drive. Therefore the exurbs (and all their denizens) are as remote to me as Richmond or Philadelphia is to someone with a car. I’d prefer not to have a long-distance relationship, and that includes the long-distance of DC’s exurbs.

Trying to lose weight: Gay men in DC mostly fall into two camps: the gymbots who’re already fit, and the rest who’ve given up, embraced obesity and even call themselves ‘bears’. I fall into neither camp. I’m trying to lose weight, which means watching what I eat, cutting down on and/or cutting out certain very common foods, and trying to get some exercise in, without turning fitness into a full-time job. It would be nice to meet someone who could support that effort.

Living with a weird cat: Manuel is special, and he doesn’t take kindly to visitors. He sheds like a beast, too, and getting all his dander off me is impossible.

Bookish, but with a certain pop culture streak: I love reading, but I also love watching Teen Wolf and listening to Pierce the Veil. I actually have a fairly low tolerance for art films, having seen more than my fair share during one particular relationship several years ago. That carries over into going to the theater, which to me is usually nothing more than an excessively expensive live-action art film. When it comes to “art”, I’ve paid my dues.

Into tattoos and piercings, and wanting more: this is definitely not mainstream in DC.

Not drinking (alcohol nor doing drugs): In DC this is even more non-mainstream than being tatted and pierced. Usually those who aren’t drinking in DC are going to meetings. I don’t go to meetings; I’ve simply decided I don’t like who I am when alcohol disinhibits me (i.e., I become even more of an asshole!). And since I want to avoid for the time being venues that remind me of drinking (and consequently tempt me to drink), there is quite a list of places I do not go to. Not only that, but I’ve just started building a list of places I can go to that I don’t associate with alcohol. It’s almost like I’m straightedge, without the bullshit obnoxious attitude.

Introverted: I like people, but dealing with people takes energy away from me. Usually at the end of a workday, I’ve a very small fund of energy to draw from.

25 September 2012

Gay Dating Is a Shit Show

An acquaintance of mine said gay dating is a 'shit show', and I agree. I pondered for a while why the situation has proven to be so dismal, and I have several ideas, but unfortunately no solutions.

First of all, gay dating is a relatively new phenomenon, and everyone is still trying to figure out how to do it. For most of gay history, we didn't date. We hooked up, and that was it. Most went on to marry women, and still hook up on the side from time to time. A few formed stable, life-long partnerships with other gay males, but even those partnerships were initiated by a hook up, not dating. We simply do not have a long history of dating in our community. A mere 10 years ago, there was a program in DC trying to teach gay people how to date, because the concept of dating (as opposed to serial hooking up, which might eventually lead to a relationship) was still so novel among us.

Because of the relative newness of gay dating, we've resorted to trying to import the dating model from straight people. But the world of dating among straight people is in flux, and I don't think they even know how dating should be done. For most of history, straight people didn't date either. The families negotiated a marriage, and it was an economic deal. Then as individuals asserted more independence, courtship came into play (even though the marriage deal was still largely economic). Only in the last century, and only in the "Western World", has heterosexual dating arisen, and as women in our society gain more power, the dynamics of dating remain in flux. Who asks out whom? When and how is sexual activity initiated? Etc. Furthermore, there are new studies suggesting that straight women are adopting more of a hook-up paradigm. As if instead of gays learning from straights, they're learning from us.

Finally, because gay communities tend to be more insular, I think there is a tendency for one to have his reputation destroyed before he even gets a chance to prove himself to other people. Gay men gossip, and viciously so. I've been on the receiving end of the gossip, and to my eternal and deep shame I've done my share of spreading the gossip. I know of people who've left town because they needed to start over. And often, the bit of gossip in no way represents the real character of the person. One bad night of acting out, and suddenly you're known as the world's biggest asshole.

People change, and some people actually mature, learn from their mistakes and grow to become better persons. But with decades old gossip following that person, he often doesn't get the opportunity to show the world he's changed.

The only hope I can offer is simply this: learn what you are in control of, take responsibility for those things, and leave the rest to others. In other words, keep trying, keep putting yourself out there, keep offering to prove yourself, and give others the benefit of a doubt. There are seven billion people on the planet. Chances are at least one of those persons would be worth dating.

24 September 2012

It Was a Good Weekend

I fought off a cold all weekend, but I enjoyed the time nonetheless. Saturday morning I got up and watched my cartoons, then bussed down to Dupont Circle. I went to Second Story books to pick up a copy of Husserl I'd seen there a few days earlier. It had occurred to me that I've never seen any Husserl on bookstore shelves before, despite the fact he taught both Heidegger and Sartre. From there I hit a few stores then Metroed out to the burbs, picking up a lacrosse stick pocket stretcher at PJ's Sports, and bussing to Tysons Corner Mall.

The mall was bustling. Even one of the shopkeepers mentioned how packed the place was. I guess people are still doing their fall/back-to-school shopping. I didn't pick up much at the mall, but I did get a meal at Elevation Burger.

Sunday was even more enjoyable. I met an old friend for brunch — we tried a place down in Clarendon, where we both had ridiculously delicious french toast. We did the Clarendon shopping thing (I picked up a volume of Heidegger), and had great coffee at Java Shack, which is now officially one of my favorite coffee shops in the area. We also caught up on about 6 months or so of life news. I'm glad we did.

So while Sunday night was my usual downer, it wasn't as nearly a devastating downer as the recent Sunday nights have been, and I'm starting my week on a relatively good note (although I'm still fighting off that cold). I think I would do well to try and spend some time with friends on Sunday afternoons. I think that makes me feel better over all.

21 September 2012

Tumbling Down, Crawling Along

This week has tried my patience. I cannot point to any one particular event or difficulty. It simply started bad with the general bummer I had on Sunday, and never got much better. Since I will not shut my brain off with alcohol, I've had to sit in the full light of my life as it is, in all it's blandness and restrictedness.

I felt particularly bad the other night when a young man whose blog I follow on Tumblr expressed a lot of discontent and self-loathing. He wasn't quite suicidal, but he did sound very down on himself and his life. I tried to communicate care to him, but beyond that, I couldn't in all honesty say, "It gets better," especially since a lot of what he was bummed about are the same things I'm bummed about (loneliness, feeling unlovable, being overweight, etc.). I let him know I was concerned, but I could offer him no advice. I felt very inadequate, and it was only my concern for him that outweighed that enough for me to say anything at all.

I will say this about Tumblr: the community is pretty good about taking care of each other. Yeah, there are some haters; but usually when anyone expresses genuine sadness or even suicidal thoughts, people rush to send them messages of support. Who knows? This world might get better yet.

My weight seems to have hit a new "set point": ~194 lbs. That's good compared to a year ago when it was ~210 lbs. But I need to get it lower. I like to drop at least another 20 lbs., but I would be happy with 15. The biggest struggle I have now is that my traditional way of dealing with ongoing bummers is to eat (especially if I'm not drinking alcohol).

I need to start focusing on other things I can do to occupy my time. The evenings are just so fraught with opportunities to make things worse. I need to fill them with ways to make things better. I need a hobby, other than reading, surfing the web and watching television. Something that engages my attention fully for hours.