no taste

I just want to say real quick thanks so much to everyone who supports the radio show and anyone who has ever read this blog, or listened to the show. It really means the world to me, if you read the previous blog entry you can see how this whole thing started and how special it is that people actually take the time to care.

I’d always like to write more on here, I always enjoy when I do. I always make up the excuse that I don’t have time or whatever, but in all actuality that’s not even true. I have plenty of time. I have plenty of time to do a lot of things that I tell myself I don’t have time for. So I think the “I don’t have time” thing is just an excuse or my unwillingness to admit that I’d rather watch tv or do something else.

The truth is, at this point on a Friday night at 9:52 PM October 1st, 2021 I definitely have time. I tested positive for Covid on Wednesday morning after leaving work extremely sick on Tuesday. Yes, I’ve been fully vaccinated since February, and yes, it is apparently possible to get super sick while being vaccinated. It is pretty disappointing to have been wrecked by this virus after taking the vaccine. I have completely lost all taste and smell, but I am grateful I am not in the ICU. I love the soapy steam smell in the shower and I love eating unhealthy food when I am posted up like this. With those two primary senses obliterated I have resorted to writing in this blog.

I really love October, there is something about it that is so nostalgic for me. In California we don’t really have seasons, especially Fall, but there are definite things that change around me that make me, a California kid, feel like it’s Fall. MLB Playoffs and Sunday Night Football, Halloween decorations and the feeling like school hasn’t just started, like it’s just under way but you kind of know what you’re doing now.

A lot of people have strong opinions about high school, either good or bad. High school was fun for me. I always loved this time of year in high school for some reason, it was like, okay, I’m settled into school and now things can really start to happen. I didn’t have a bad time in high school at all, it was actually really fun for me. I think I definitely struggled at finding my identity from the beginning, balancing the punk and hardcore scene with being a baseball player, and also partying and smoking a lot of weed.

I was really into skateboarding in 8th grade. My best friend Nate Hesse and I used to watch the Flip videos religiously and steal Thrasher and Transworld magazines from Albertsons. Nate died in 2013 from a heroin overdose, he took me to my first show at the Showcase Theatre and he took me in a circle pit for the first time ever. He also taught me how to sew, and he put us all on to rocking leopard print shit and he made everything look so cool. I probably wouldn’t have found what I found in punk and hardcore music if it wasn’t for Nate, honestly, there’d probably be no YLIA if it wasn’t for Nate.

When I look back on it, I feel like I was kind of destined to become the person I became based on the shit I used to enjoy doing at 13 years old. From age 12-18 I lived in the suburbs, my friend Brandon lived right down the street from me and we skated every day. I don’t know what other kids were doing at that age, but we would spend hours upon hours in parking lots of shopping centers. I wasn’t even getting high or drinking yet, in the suburbs it’s not like the city streets, it’s basically neighborhoods of track homes with shopping centers riddled in between.

There were a few shopping centers we frequented and each one had the same exact layout. Grocery store, attached to a strip mall of random stores, gas station and a fast food place. We would get to the Alberstons shopping center after school at like 3:30 and just start skating red curbs, gaps and manual pads. Each of us usually had a couple bucks, we would move into Carl’s Jr and take up a few tables. We might order a chicken sandwich or fries, but that was it, water cups filled with soda and then just sit at those tables and cause a ruckus. We would spin nickels and slam the salt and pepper shakers down on them hoping to make a hole so that when the next person picked it up, it spilled everywhere. We would talk shit to each other, talk about our favorite skaters, flip through Thrasher, talk about what girls we thought were cute and which kids were posers. We’d go back out and skate some more, go behind the store and see what kind of pallets or crates we could find, make our way back to Carl’s Jr and then it’d be 10pm and time to go home.

There was also a spot that Brandon and I spent what felt like a trillion hours skating in those days, Wilson Elementary School. It was probably a two minute skate from our houses, and it was the best close to home spot we could’ve asked for. The parking lot had red and yellow curbs, manual pads, gaps and a small ledge. Inside the school there were a few sets of stairs, gaps and a bank. I only ever ollied the big five stair, and I think the other big set was featured in a Toy Machine video once in an Ed Templeton part. We never thought twice about hopping the fence to skate inside, probably a good notion that I wouldn’t be following many rules moving forward in my life. Where we grew up there was a culture of people we called “bros”. I don’t think the term traveled too far outside of the Inland Empire, but to us they were the lame dudes who wore black dickies, high black socks, SRH, Skin Industries, listened to Kotton Mouth Kings, loved lifted trucks and rode dirt bikes. We were always beefing with some bro from somewhere because there was way more of them than there was of us. One time Brandon and I were skating the Wilson parking lot and this truck full of bros rolled up on us and started talking shit to us, probably because we had long hair and wore tight pants. They were much older than us, and one of them started getting crazy with Brandon, enough to where we stopped and it got serious. The dude was probably 17 and Brandon ended up kicking his ass, we were 13. They got all mad and drove off in their truck and said they’d be back to smash us out, but never showed. We were so hyped, we had like a celebratory hangout in the parking lot that night and I remember feeling like Brandon was the baddest dude on earth. Brandon threw down with a bunch of people in those days, shout out to him he always had my back, and fuck bros still.

We didn’t have smartphones to post TikToks so looking back on it we really just had our friendships, music and skateboarding, and the weird fulfillment of spending 7 hours in a shopping center. I never laughed as hard as I did on those late nights under the Stater Bros parking lot lights, wishing I was Jim Greco and thinking these would be my best friends forever. Skateboarding wasn’t as socially accepted then as it is now, our parents never thought of it as us being productive and active, it was more like we were out fucking around participating in this thing that only drug addicts and stoners did. I’m glad that stigma has kind of fallen away from skateboarding, because amidst the dumb shit we did, we spent a lot of time being active, learning new tricks and skating miles and miles all over town.

We also took the bus to our junior high school, which at that time, wasn’t the norm for everyone as a means of transportation for getting to school. The bus was poppin though, Brandon and I took the same bus, along with a diverse set of friends that lived in our neighborhood. iPods were a big deal to have then, I remember my first iPod mini and all of my favorite music I put on it from Limewire. I was really into 77 punk and classic rock at that time, it was really just soundtracks from skate videos, I also really liked Hole and The Cardigans. I think we were bus 477, our bus driver was cool, she would let Brandon hook his iPod up to the bus stereo and we would listen The Used and My Chemical Romance on the way to school. I was so happy in those days, life was so simple and fun. I had so many friends and every time I was with them I never wanted to be anywhere else.

When high school started I was in a weird place in terms of who I thought I wanted to be. I don’t know about others, but I cared a lot about what other people thought about me when I was 14. Sure, I had developed a love for punk rock and skateboarding, but I also was a talented baseball player who had a bright future playing baseball if I chose to take it seriously. I was burned out on baseball though, I loved the game (see my other blog about baseball), but I didn’t want to play anymore. And then Nate took me to see the Career Soldiers at the Showcase Theatre my freshmen year in high school. Him and some other friends had been going to Showcase regularly and bragging about how cool it was. I always felt left out because I was too scared to ask my mom if I could go. I had started listening to faster harder street punk like Career Soldiers and The Virus, and I loved it. I wanted to be apart of the Showcase crew so I got my mom to let me go one Friday night.

I went to Nate’s house straight from school and I’ll never forget him and my friend Taylor telling me that you never wear the tee shirt of the band who you’re going to see. I have never done that since that day. Nate’s mom dropped us off in front of the 99 cent store next to Showcase and I had never seen anything like it. Mohawks, liberty spikes, studded vests, patches, beer, cigarettes, bondage belts, it was quite the sight to see. I was really intimidated. We walked into get our tickets and Nate immediately started grabbing flyers off the wall. Showcase always had neon colored show flyers on the walls for upcoming shows. That night was so special, a band called 46 short played and a few others I can’t remember, but Career Soldiers headlined and I was so excited to see them because they were a big deal to us and the scene around there at the time. During the 46 Short set Nate put his arm around me and dragged me into the pit. I was so scared, but I realized you just move in motion to the music in a circle and kind of push the people in front of you. I hit the circle pit many more times that night, and I remember the first time I fell down how many people rushed to pick me back up and ask me if I was okay and put their arm around me to keep going. I never looked back. Each time I sing along, mosh and stage dive to my favorite band nowadays I still feel the excitement and meaningfulness of that 14 year old me. RIP Nate, I love you dude.

Lately I’ve been feeling like all I want to do is just make it through the day. Like all the shit I’ve been through since that first circle pit is starting to catch up with me. From that night at showcase, until this night sitting at home battling the virus that has caused a global pandemic, I have been on a wild ride. I shouldn’t even be alive, heroin addicts don’t usually make it past their 20s, let alone have any kind of productive life. I feel so lucky to have made it out. Sure, I have done a lot of work to get where I’m at, but still, the fact that, me, of all people, escaped that life while literally millions are dying, is still unimaginable to me.

I think that has a lot to do with how I’ve felt lately, coupled with the weight of the world we live in. I’ve lost so many people I love. I miss my mom so much all the time. I spend 365 days watching someone build their self and life back from nothing, and then receive a call that they have overdosed and died. I’ve watched so many people I love leave this world and been able to do nothing about it. It seems like I don’t stop to feel that shit anymore. I just push it out of existence and focus on what’s in front of me, justifying the avoidance and forgetting about the pain. That limits my capacity for risk, and my energy for initiating change. I live in fear of not knowing what’s going to happen next so I want things to stay in this small world where I know how it’s going to play out. I am content with what I’ve done, where I’ve been, where I’m going, who’s around me and what my goals are. I just want to live and be free, happy and share the things I love that make me happy, with the people I love that make me happy.

I miss skateboarding outside of Carls Jr with my friends. I used to sit in jail cells and dwell on how bad I fucked everything up and pray to some god to just take me back to high school, and that when I opened my eyes I’d be 13 again. I never thought I’d be able to sit still ever again and be happy. I thought it was all gone and lost forever, all of it. I tried to take my own life twice, because I hated life. I saw no reason to live, there was no circle pit joy anymore, and Nate was dead anyways. Escaping from that kind of mental existence is probably the biggest accomplishment I will ever achieve. I think lately, I have just felt like that is enough for me. I’m scared of leaning into the loss, the grief, the pain, it’s too much sometimes, but the longer I try to smile, the more tired I get and the more afraid I am of everything. At the end of the day, life is fuckin crazy, for anyone really. I’m just happy to have a close group of people whom I love, hardcore shows, true joy, sunshine, Dodger baseball and palm trees. California on top forever, peace till next time..

YLIA: A Brief History

New Years Day 2020

this condition which I carry, as so do many others, has shown itself to me, and I know now more than ever before, that it is only pure evil. taken from me the closest of friends, the kindest of hearts and even my own mother.  every day I have to understand the severity of this evil, this corroding thread of futility that lies in the shadows waiting for me to stop treating it.  last december it took the life of a person dear to my heart, and left me to question if our efforts to overcome are even worth the cost.  im not ready to cry, I just wish it would stop, but it never will.

3/17/2021

It’s been like a year and a half since I have actually posted something on the blog.  The above paragraph is dated on the last day I opened up the blog to maybe write and post something. The paragraph is in regards to my dear friend Wesley Jones who was found dead in his car on December 23rd, 2019.  He was my best friend that I had made in sobriety.  We went through a year long rehab together, a summer program at the local college together, lived together, worked at the same rehab together, played softball together and he was my go to guy for everything.  I recently started some free grief counseling in hopes of unpacking the loss of Wes, and the mother of my son who also died in November of 2020.

This morning I spent some time reading through all my entries.  A lot of them are telling stories of darker times in my life, where I roamed the streets of different cities addicted to drugs, just trying to get by.  My life was chaotic and wild, filled with pain and hopelessness that was all self imposed.  It made for some pretty good stories though if I must say.  I’m grateful to be alive and have survived it all.

This blog started on a Thursday night in 2017.  That Thursday night in 2017 when this blog started is funny to reflect on.  At that time I was just over 2 years sober, starting my second semester in college, working full time as a counselor, living in my work’s on site staff apartment with Wes, and I didn’t even have my driver’s license back yet.  I was still trying to figure out how to live life as a functioning adult, it’s crazy to think that even two years sober my mind was barely even coming back to some normalcy.

I hadn’t been introduced to community radio yet, and I had only been to a few shows including Sound and Fury fest that year where I broke my ankle stage diving during Bracewar’s Icemen cover.  Hardcore meant a lot to me as teenager and it helped me in a lot of ways, but through drug addiction, incarceration and homelessness over the years, I kind of forgot hardcore was even a thing.  Reconnecting with it in 2015 was a heaven sent in thinking of where I’m at with it now, with the radio show and people I’ve been able to meet.

But back to that Thursday night in 2017.  I was living in the staff apartment and watching Thursday night football.  I had recently taken an interest in sports writing and been getting wrapped up in memories and love for certain athletes, especially professional sports in the 90s.  I even was at a point where I was considering changing my major to journalism in hopes of pursuing a career in sports writing or broadcasting.  I think it was the opening night of the 2017 NFL season and I was watching Bears vs. Packers, just thinking about how cool the NFC north rivalries were and I had some opinions about the Bears quarterback.  I didn’t have a laptop at that time, just a shitty windows phone, and I started googling how to start a blog or what platform I could use to start writing about sports.  I found WordPress, and created a free account which would eventually become this current blog.

I had no idea what to call the blog.  I had no idea which direction I wanted to take it, but I knew I wanted to write about that Bears/Packers game.  I think the first name I picked for the blog was, “Primetime Classic” as homage to my love for Monday and Sunday night football, and really any primetime sporting event on the big networks.  They are still nostalgic to me.  My mom used to always have primetime sporting events playing on this little white television she had in the kitchen in my childhood home in Virginia.  I think the sunset picture of Dodger Stadium was the first image I added to the blog, and I think it still on my account somewhere currently.  I roughly got the blog set up and then I wrote my first post, you can still read it on the blog if you go all the way back to the beginning.

It was so cool for me to put my opinions and thoughts about sports onto that first blog post.  I wrote the whole thing on that Windows phone laying in my bed late into that Thursday night, feeling like I was Stephen A. Smith already.  I started watching sports differently after that, and I began writing all kinds of different entries about baseball, basketball, the LeBron/MJ debate and whatever I else I felt like writing about.  You can still read all those entries on the blog.  My homie was in county jail waiting to catch the chain to Wasco, and I started sending the entries to him because he is an insane creative writer.

It’s cool looking back on the first years of the blog because scattered in those entries are my reflections on my struggles, my thoughts on real life shit and just expression of whatever trivial stuff came to my mind.  I think when you come from where I came from, sitting down to write something about Barry Sanders and posting it is a huge accomplishment and it is really fun.  When you’re living under a bridge contemplating ending your life, you never think you’ll have your own apartment to sit in and write about your favorite athletes.

After my mom died in 2018 the blog turned into more of a space for me to write about the pain of that loss.  One post I tied in my own grief with LeBron’s finals run in 2018, and how he would handle the loss after he carried the Cavs on his back yet again to face Steph and the Warriors.  Right around that time is when I got the opportunity to get involved in community radio, which is when I think this whole thing really took off and changed directions.

I was still contemplating switching my major. As I got closer to earning my alcohol/drug counseling certification I thought I’d finish that and then turn my focus to journalism or broadcasting.  A friend of mine asked if I’d like to co-host a radio show with him focusing on local high school football and sports.  I was blown away at the opportunity given I had spent the past 9 months dreaming of being a sports writer.  So of course I jumped right into the chance to get on the radio.  I quickly learned the ins and outs of community radio programming, it was a big deal at first, the thought of actually being on the radio talking about sports.

We had our first couple shows interviewing local coaches and players, and I loved it.  However, I wasn’t able to really flex my creative brain.  I kind of had to take a backseat and roll with whatever was happening, which I was okay with.  I think we had a Monday night slot from 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM at first.  I would go to work from 8:00 AM- 12:30 PM and then go to school from 1:00 PM- 5:00 PM and then back work from 5-6, hit an AA meeting from 7-8 and then head over to the station and prep for the show.  I had gotten my license finally and a Volvo wagon at this point so I was able to drive around town which was pretty cool.

After a few months though, I realized how much work it was to cover sports.  I mean there is just so much going on with all of it, that the preparation for each show seemed endless.  Each high school had 20 different sports teams, each college had even more than that, and there was stats for each player and team, and back stories on each of them and each coach.  I attended local games and had a little $20 voice recorder I brought with me that I would get interviews on from players and coaches.  My co host made us some fake press passes that I laminated and made into badges, we wore these to all the games and were able to get on the sidelines, pretty funny now looking back.  It never felt right though, I loved sports and I loved talking about them, but it just wasn’t my thing, it never felt natural.  I rolled up to my co-hosts house once to go to a Friday night high school football game, wearing a Have Heart tee shirt, jeans and some torn up Vans.  He made some comments to me about wearing something different, and I knew after that it wasn’t for me.

Through the sports show I had learned how to program a radio show from beginning to end.  I learned the mixing board, the mic setups and everything else necessary for it to run smooth from top to bottom.  One week my co host was out of town so I had to run the show solo.  I had my aunt come on as a guest because I was living with her at that point, and we always had organic banter that was funny as hell.  She came on with me and we had the best time ever, the show was hilarious and entertaining and it felt like exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Shortly after that I parted ways with my co host and reached out to the station manager about starting my own show, which he was totally down for.

I had been listening to a lot of Ceremony at that time, it was fall of 2018 at this point.  I had seen them at Sound and Fury and The Echo that year and I was listening to The L Shaped Man a lot.  I was so inspired by Ross Farrar, his creativity and pursuit of education, and Society Verse.  I knew my aunt and I had what it took to do a show, I just didn’t know exactly what it was going to be or what I would even call it.  I knew that I wanted to incorporate music, interviews and humor.  My aunt and I had this organic Seinfeld type humor, where we could bring trivial social situations to a humorous discussion and we bantered with each other so naturally.

At some point in 2018 I changed the name of the blog to “Your Life In America” because the writing was starting to shift away from sports and more to my past stories of drug addiction and how different my life was becoming.  Because I was listening to The L Shaped Man so much and wrapped up in Ross and Ceremony, I decided to use YLIA as a homage to Ceremony and Ross and it seemed fitting for what I was envisioning.  I remember thinking I’ll just use it for the radio show too, it’s already a thing, it works for the show, it’s simple and so many hardcore bands got their names from other band’s songs.  I was worried about the copyright stuff so I wrote a letter to Ceremony and Ross and sent them in the mail to Relapse Records and Bridge 9.  I copied and pasted the letter into the Ceremony big cartel contact us box too.  I wasn’t on Instagram at the time so I didn’t realize I could probably send Ceremony or Ross a message and it would have been fine.

I never got a reply so I assumed it was okay and like 2 months ago Ross actually liked one of the flyers on the YLIA IG page so I feel okay about it still.  I remember I texted my aunt and saying, “What about Your Life In America w/ Dillon and Rosie?”.  She loved it and that was basically the beginning of the radio show.  We recorded a few shows on that $20 voice recorder in her room, and then in January 2019 we went live on the radio with it every Thursday.  The early shows are hilarious you can hear them all on the YLIA SoundCloud page, it was literally Seinfeld on the radio. I really fell in love with creating content at that point, different segments, different music, it was all so much fun.  I had the idea of starting a side series called, “Your Life In Prison” where I interviewed friends of mine who had done time in the prison system just to shed light on what that experience does to people.

Your Life In Prison was a hit, it s up to volume 11 now and I have done two interviews with people who actually called from inside the state prison and we did the interview live on the radio.  That’s one thing I love so much about the show, is that I can take all kinds of interviews or whatever I want and broadcast it live on a FM radio station, it’s a dying tradition. When I was in high school there was a guy who played hardcore on the University of Riverside college station every Wednesday.  Me and my friends would call in and request songs and then he would play them and give us shout outs, that was always so cool to me and I love being able to do that now.  Wes actually did a 3 part Your Life In Prison series, where he broke down everything you would ever want to know about life in the California prison system.  With him not being alive now, having those shows up on the SoundCloud page is pretty special to me.

Now in 2021 the show still has only handful of listeners, but it’s still my thing, it’s still my younger self creating something I dreamt of doing.  My life is so busy now, it’s gotten so much bigger, YLIA seems like such a small part of it.  But every time I get behind the mixer I am reminded of what it means to me.  Over the past year I have had the privilege of interviewing some of my favorite bands who made some songs that have become part of my DNA and mean more to me than I can explain.  Being able to do those interviews has been very special to me, especially Jeremy from Fury and Anxious.  Aunt Rosie doesn’t do the show regularly with me anymore, life kind of took us both in different directions and the show is mainly hardcore releases and interviews, but she will always be my co-host.  The birth of YLIA will always be her and I.

Another crazy story related to the show is how I met my current girlfriend.  On the blog awhile back I wrote an entry called “the girl with the pink hair” about a dream I had where I met this girl I fell in love with and married.  On June 29th, 2019 the radio station held a concert fundraiser where I got a 4 hour block to play music and interview all the bands that were playing the show that night.  I had been playing this band Basha in the weeks prior, because I liked their music and they were going to be headlining the fundraiser show.  They were scheduled to stop by the studio around 5pm on the day of the fundraiser show to interview with me.  I was expecting an older female punk band for some reason, I pictured like 4 girls who resembled the singer of Vice Squad. Holly and Amber of Basha rolled in to the studio, Holly was sleeved with tattoos and Amber was absolutely beautiful rockin hoop earrings and the cutest hair style.

Someone had made me some YLIA stickers to hand out at the show and they were scattered across the table inside the studio.  One of the first things Holly said was, “Your Life In America? Is that like the Ceremony song?”.  I was like, “Yes!!!”.  She was the first person to ever make note of the reference and I thought that was so cool.  It was so hot in the studio that day, I had bottled water for them and took the big box fan off the floor and set it on the table right next to all the mics during the interview.  I fell in love with Amber right then, we found out we were both counselors and there was just a connection between us.  We were all going to see Ceremony and Fury the next night too, it was just a crazy hour of meeting them and the interview was great, the whole night was great.  You can listen to the interview on the YLIA SoundCloud page it’s called “BASHA Interview” I think.  The way we found out we were interested in each other was actually through Amber referencing “the girl with the pink hair” story.  Amber and I fell in love, she moved to California and we live together in Carpinteria now with our little orange cat Tom.  But yeah if I never took the action to get the free WordPress that Thursday night in 2017, then the radio show may have never happened, YLIA may have never started and I would’ve never met Amber.  Life is a trip.

I guess this blog post just turned into a brief history of Your Life In America, I am glad it turned out that way.  I knew I wanted to write something on here today I just didn’t know what.  My life has been crazy man, I don’t really know to explain the feelings behind my perception of it every day.  It has been a really hard year for everybody, I don’t really know what to say about that.  There is beauty everywhere at all times no matter how fucked up things are.  I am glad I was given the chance to live two lives.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all my friends, influences(good and bad), inspirations, Amber, my family and Casa De La Raza.  I love you all more than you know.  I am glad I was given a second chance…

remembering october

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Last year I wrote an entry called “september air, the days you’ve come to fear”.  This was a good insight into my odd connection to the weather and the changing of seasons.  I know people always talk about how much they love seasons, and the seasonal drinks and all of that stuff, but it’s not exactly like that for me.  I honestly can’t explain what it really is, but there is something about the smell of the air and the scenery around me that really touches me in a deep way.  There are a myriad of photos on my cell phone of just palm trees and blue skies, palm trees and pink skies, and tons of photos of flower bushes, orange trees and even just palm trees at night.  Also, there are photos of just a simple street in my neighborhood at night, or stoplights and streetlights on a bigger street.  These images strike something inside of me that has this peculiar feeling, and still to this day I cannot describe what exactly it is, or where it originated from.

The central coast takes awhile to really shift into any kind of autumn type feeling, it doesn’t really get cold until January and even then, we still have bright blue skies and sunshine.  However, in October, when the sun goes down, you can start to feel a little bit of that change in the air, whatever that is.

I always loved October as a kid, school was back in full swing, and school was a safe and happy place for me.  October also brought the Major League Baseball playoffs, Sunday Night Football with Al Michaels and Halloween, my mom’s favorite holiday.  This will be my second year not having my mom alive for Halloween and with her birthday being right after the holiday, I know I will be thinking of her and missing her phone call to tell me she’s ritually hanging up the same Halloween decorations she always did.  I used to come home from school, do all of my homework, go out and skateboard with my friends, and then be home in time to watch whatever MLB playoff game was on that night.  Sunday nights were always special to me, I would wrap up all of my homework for the weekend, and then turn on my little TV and watch Sunday Night Football.  They have such a cool way of presenting that game every Sunday night, the voice of Al Michaels, the shots of whatever city the game is being held in, I loved it so much and still do.  There was something about the slight change in weather, the time change, and just being in my living room watching my favorite ball players in cold weather gear, fighting their way through each game on the road to the World Series.  I don’t know if I ever really cared about the games, even as a young kid, I think I found comfort in the atmosphere that those October nights created.

From 2010-2015 I spent most of my life homeless on the streets, consumed by heroin addiction, or in the county jail.  This added an interesting twist to my younger self’s connection with the Summer/Fall transition and those October nights.  The change in weather now meant that I would have a much harder time sleeping outside, or we would have to make sure we had enough gas is in the car to run the heater all night sleeping in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  It’s hard to keep a set of blankets when you’re homeless, I was always on the move, stashing stuff in bushes and being woken up by the cops who would make us throw all of that shit away and then arrest me or just fuck with us for an hour and let us go, rightly so.  Needless to say, those October nights I loved as a kid were long gone. I was merely trying to survive and even if I thought about baseball or my mom’s decorations, I was in no condition to participate in any of it.  I was so lonely, I hated that I had done this to myself and there was still part of me that longed for a better life.  I would walk through these old neighborhoods off of Main Street in Corona, because I had nowhere to go, no purpose or destination.  I was lost.  I would just wander around crying and wondering why I was the way that I was.  Many times I would pass by a house that had their curtains open enough for me to see into their living room. They would be watching the MLB playoffs or Sunday Night Football and that shit tore me up.  It looked so warm and comfortable, I would remember how much I used to love being where they were and I would stop and think about how cold I was, how heroin was my master, and how I would never be able to have what these people had.

I remember one night in particular, in 2013.  I was homeless on the streets of downtown Long Beach, strung out on heroin and I had tried to take my own life a couple days prior.  This night the heroin withdrawal sickness was worse as it had ever been, I had no money and had been left behind by significant other who had taken all of my things and left me with nothing, I deserved it.  I had managed to follow the Dodgers playoff series with the Cardinals through just asking people on the streets, and on this night the boys in blue were in an elimination game 6 of the NLCS.  I was on Ocean Avenue in downtown Long Beach trying to figure out how I could get my hands on some heroin or even just a hit of crack, anything really.  My stomach felt like it was being stabbed with a million needles, I was sweating and shaking, but I was freezing, cold, all the way down to my bones.  I could barely walk, but I couldn’t sit still.  I decided to walk to an Albertson’s nearby to steal some alcohol and just get blacked out drunk, that way I would have the courage to break into some cars or do something to get some money, and if I went to jail that was fine, at least I’d be indoors and wouldn’t have to worry about keeping up with the junkie life.  As I began walking, I saw through the windows of the Rock Bottom Brewery that the Dodgers were down 9-0 in the 9th inning, what a perfect image to relate to the way I was feeling inside.  Defeated.  I stopped and stared through the window of that bar at the TV to see the Cardinals get the final three outs and celebrate their National League pennant.  I remember thinking, “and when I thought things couldn’t get any worse”.

In October of 2014 I was being transferred from Riverside County Jail to Orange County Jail in the middle of the Giants/Royals World Series.  I had actually got to watch game 6 in the house of a guy I bought meth from and as soon as the game was over I walked outside to smoke a cigarette and there just happened to be a cop driving by.  I didn’t have a chance to try and run, I had just lit the cigarette, he rolled up on me, I was on the run from probation and was arrested on the spot.  While being transferred we stopped at West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino and they kept us there in holding tanks for a couple hours.  One of the guards was walking by and I asked him who had won the world series, he told me the Giants had won, that’s how I found out about the fall classic finale that year.

Tonight as I sat in the comfort of my own warm home, in my spare room, flipping from the Yankees/Astros playoff game to prime time college football match ups, 4 plus years removed from any mind altering substances, a breeze blew in from one of the open windows.  It caught me, I knew the smell of that air, it was October air, the California kind.  It took me back to those days when I was a kid, those Sunday nights watching football and those weeknights watching the world series with my dad.  I thought about how earlier today I finished all of my homework for this week, maybe unconsciously preparing myself for a fall night of playoff baseball and comfort.  I got up and walked outside to find that the temperature had actually dropped, I breathed in the air deeply, and the crispness of October filled my lungs, and then my spirit.  I walked back inside and sat down, looked at the Yankee game in front of me and realized that I was one of those people I always thought I’d never be.  Watching my fall favorites in the comfort of my own home, I thought about those who were out there suffering and felt empathy for them, and gratitude that I have reached a place in my life I never thought I’d get back to…

 

 

a way out

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In the summer of 2014 I had got myself into a pretty lowly existence.  At the time, of course, the misery of my life was definitely not my fault, but the fault of all other parties and authorities involved.  I was so derailed by my own self-loathing that it was impossible for me to see that this pitiful place I was in was solely of my own making.

After my son was born on Mother’s Day 2014, I lost all care for myself and really for living in general. The shame of who I had become and my inability to take the role of being a father was crushing me down to nothing. So I did what I always did, I ran, ran away to be clear of anything that would convict me of my faults. Hoping to disappear into the streets of Southern California and never be seen again. I could go on with heroin, my closest friend. And if I died on those streets, that was okay too.

Recently I was engaged in a deep conversation about faith and spirituality, which brought me back to this summer in 2014 that I write to you about. Because it was during this summer that something happened to me that would open up my mind to the idea of some kind of non human Power existing in this world.

For years I did not believe in God. The values and beliefs I had attained through the environment around me and people I hung out with stood against religion and faith in God. I openly owned my disbelief.  I drew upside down crosses everywhere and laughed and spit in the face of those affiliated with any religious denomination.  I did not need God.  I did not need faith or surrender to something I could not see or feel.  I scoffed at those who prayed. I did not want peace I wanted to destroy, I did not want love I wanted to hate, I did not want to surrender I wanted to be in control.

Some time right before July 4th of that summer in 2014, I was knelt down behind some bushes up against a wall at Lincoln Park in Corona, CA.  I had been up on a methamphetamine run for about 3 days, no sleep, nothing to eat and probably no water either.  I leaned up against that wall in broad daylight thinking I was hidden by the bushes in front of me and dug around my arms with a dull needle looking to register in the first vein I could find.  When you’ve been up for that long without food or water, and it’s the middle of summer in Riverside County, you aren’t in the best state of mind.  My eyes were shaky and my vision was blurry.  I was hyper-focused on my task at hand, which is not a good thing sometimes for an IV drug user searching for a vein.  After some time I was pouring sweat, there were ants crawling all over me and I caught a glimpse of the amount of blood covering my arms and clothes.  It was running all over, out of all the holes I had been poking in myself, and then I looked up over the bush and saw a mom and her child staring at me.

What a piece of shit I had become, look at what I am doing, I thought to myself. Realizing the threat of the now disgusted and awestruck onlookers in front of me, I shot the amphetamines quickly into some muscle on my upper left arm.  Oh how I hated the burning and stinging of the muscle shot, but I needed the medication.  That was the last of my poison so I buried the needle, which now had a point in the shape of a lightning bolt and I staggered out from behind those bushes.  It was hot, I was sweating profusely, dehydrated, malnourished, arms covered in dripping blood and track marks, I was dirty and extremely high on methamphetamine.

In this state, the decisions and activities of a person are very unpredictable.  I had an idea to get on the metro link train and try and get to Covina to connect with the mother of my child.  We had been separated over the months after our son’s birth and she also had a problem with the poison.  Surely I could show up at her grandparents house where she was and they would not notice that I had been seeing shadow people, talking to myself,  and wearing the same clothes for the past week without a shower. Maybe they would welcome me in to reunite with their granddaughter, how delusional I was!  I hadn’t had a phone in years, but I knew how to get to their house and I would just figure it out when I got there.  This had become a common theme for me, bad decisions based in delusion and then just deal with the consequences as they arise.

I could sneak on the metro link trains in those days because they did not check tickets.  Every once in awhile the LA or Riverside County sheriffs would be on board to check tickets but even then it would just be a citation.  I got it down to where I would just go from bathroom to bathroom and stay out of sight until it was time for me to get off the train, surprisingly this strategy worked well for me most of the time. The only problem was that I had to switch trains in San Bernardino and the security was a lot heavier there. They checked tickets at the gate, so usually I would have to walk around and ask someone if they could be so kind as to buy me a ticket to Covina, it was like $11.  It always worked out, or the security would be cool and just let me through.  If I had to wait for the train, I would walk down to the Superior grocery store and steal some food, usually a half pound of potato wedges.

This particular day everything in regards to the train travel was going fine.  I was starting to come down from the amphetamines and the heroin withdrawal was beginning to set in.  Luckily I had one and a half Suboxone strips on me for emergency withdrawal situations, this was one of those situations.  I got off the train in Covina and dragged myself to a Target nearby to use one of their display iPads to send my son’s mother a message on Facebook.  With no phone, and her not having a phone either, this was my only means of trying to reach her to let her know I was there.  It’s interesting to walk into a store like Target when your 60 pounds underweight, dirty, sunburned, unshowered and coming down off a 3 day IV methamphetamine run.  She was not replying to my message, and I could only stand by that iPad so long before it was going to become an issue with the employees, not to mention my hyper paranoia was off the charts.

So I decided to leave before she replied, the Suboxone was kicking in and I was getting extremely tired anyways.  I walked around that shopping center digging through ash trays for half remainders of cigarettes and got myself a nice little handful, found a bench to sit on and began smoking the snipes.  The undeniable and overwhelming fatigue hit me, my body was done and I couldn’t stop myself from turning horizontally on that bench in broad daylight in front of many passerby’s and falling asleep.

Some hours later I was awoken by two men holding some Folgers coffee cans taped up with paper that said something about donations in Spanish.  My body and mind needed that rest desperately, so when I came back to reality I was a little more grounded than before I had fallen asleep, but still in a Suboxone/Meth induced haze. One of the men asked me what my name was, I sat up and said, “I’m sorry what’s up?” He said, “What’s your name brother?. “I’m Dillon”, I told him.  He asked me what I was doing there and if I was okay, I really didn’t know, or have the answer to either one of those questions.  I told him I traveled to Covina to try and connect with my son’s mother but was having no luck and that I was tired so I fell asleep on this bench.  It’s funny when you are in the state I was in, you think that people don’t question your appearance or situation, like, I could tell this guy I was just tired and fell asleep here and he would think, oh yeah that makes sense.  But people know.

I lit one of the half cigarettes I had found and started smoking it, nothing better than a cigarette upon awakening on a public bench.  Now being a little more awake I asked the two men before me what exactly they were doing walking around that shopping center.  I assumed they were from a church or something.  I had seen this kind of thing before.  One of them told me that they lived in a Christian based recovery home in Baldwin Park and they were walking around trying to get donations for their home and the church that was right next door to this home.  I had no interest in any of this, so I asked them if they knew where to get any heroin, or if there was a methadone clinic nearby.  They said no, and then I wondered how much money was in each of those coffee cans.  I thought if I could just hit one of them I could probably grab one of the cans and take off running, maybe the surprise would even allow me to snatch the other guy’s can.  I assessed myself, I was too tired, I hadn’t eaten in days and the Suboxone had me feeling extremely tired.  I hoped they would just go away because I had no interest in them or anything they had to say.  I was a consumer and nothing more than that.

They weren’t leaving though.  I asked them for money but they didn’t have any to give me.  I asked them for a cigarette and they didn’t have that either, so finally I asked if they had any food or maybe they could buy me a beer.  One of the men said, “Do you believe in God?”.  Now, being a homeless drug addict roaming the streets you run into all kinds of different people.  I had encountered many holy rollers who wanted to stop and pray over me and speak to me in tongues and shit like that.  Those people were always so unappealing and annoying to me.  I would usually yell the most obscene and explicit words I could at them or spit on them and tell them to leave me alone.  I knew I was going to burn in hell and I didn’t care.  As a matter of fact, if you could help me get there faster,  please do, because I didn’t want to live that life anymore anyways.  These guys were different though, they didn’t make me feel like they were trying to sell me anything or force anything on me, they felt like they genuinely had an interest in me and my situation.

I can’t remember exactly how I answered that question, but I think I said something like “I don’t know, doesn’t matter anyways, does it?”.  And then this guy said, “Well that’s okay, if you’d like a place to stay, food and a shower, we have a house, we can take you there, but you have to get rid of all of your drugs, paraphernalia and even the cigarettes”.  I was tired, dirty and very hungry.  This offer actually sounded good to me.  I didn’t have any needles or dope on me so I wasn’t worried about that, and I also knew I had that half Suboxone left, so I wouldn’t have to worry about the withdrawals for at least 36 hours.  “Really?”, I said back to them, “I don’t have any money, I have nothing, and I have been up for a couple days”.  They told me that wasn’t a problem, all they asked was that I did not bring any drugs into their home.  I knew they wouldn’t have an idea about the Suboxone but I threw away the cigarettes in front of them and made a half ass effort to empty my pockets and go through my backpack.  I followed them to their car, and we were off.

We arrived at a house in a neighborhood in Baldwin Park.  I couldn’t tell you exactly where it was.  I’ve tried so hard to remember, but I still don’t have the slightest clue exactly where it is or what the name of it was.  On the drive over they had filled me in about the rules and day to day activities that went on in their house.  I was tuned out, I was so tired and delirious.  I remember it being something about morning devotional, breakfast, singing hymns, bible studies, weeknight church services and chores.  If I would’ve been paying attention and really heard any of that shit I probably would have jumped out of the car at the next stop.  I just wanted to eat, shower and sleep.

It was a cool California summer evening and I sat in the front room/office where I met an African american man who’s name I can’t remember.  I told him of my situation and he listened, he told me I was welcome with his group in this home so long as I followed the rules and did not drink or use drugs.  Again, if I was really listening and realizing that when the Suboxone wore off I would spin out of control, then I probably would have got up and walked out right then.  I had no desire to change my life.  I just wanted to take what I could get from anyone.  I was a consumer.  He showed me around the house and I met some of the residents.  They were mostly Hispanic, ex gang members and convicts, they were all really welcoming and this was new to me.  He showed me to my room and my top bunk, there was a kid in my room and I can’t remember his name.  He was so kind to me, he was sitting at his desk reading the bible and he welcomed me.  He told me to ask him any questions I had, and that he had extra food and hygiene if I needed anything.  Amidst my haze I remember feeling cared about by this kid, he was a kind person and he made me feel like I mattered.  My plan was to eat, take the rest of my Suboxone, take a shower, and as soon as I finished all of that the Suboxone would kick in and I could get some much needed sleep.

My roommate directed me out to the backyard and they had a big plate of enchiladas and a soda waiting for me.  I can’t remember any of their names, but I could tell they were all out in the backyard, because I was the new arrival and there was something they wanted to do.  After being up on a meth run for that long with no food or water the first thing you eat and drink always tastes like the greatest meal you’ve ever had, that was those enchiladas and Shasta cola.  They took my dishes and asked me if I was okay, and then they asked if I would stand up so that they could pray over me before I went inside to shower and sleep.  I had no problem with this, whatever they needed from me was fine, so long as I could shower and sleep. So I stood up and they placed hands on my shoulders and all gathered around.

Now, spirituality to me before this point was nothing more than rain dances, sweat lodges and LSD trips.  Truly, I had no understanding of what faith in God was beyond the corruption of human religion and I didn’t have my own definition of what the spirit or the soul was.  These guys had their hands on my shoulders, they were covered in tattoos, worn looking, like the people I ran the streets and got high with.  One of them began to pray.  He called out to a God who he said had the Power to heal my pain, the Power to rescue me from my misery and suffering, the grace to forgive me for everything I had done and allow me a second chance.  This man spoke with a purpose, like he truly believed everything he was saying and the more he called out to his God the more I listened.  I realized that all these guys were huddled around me out of their own care and concern, no one was forcing them to do this.

There I was, an underweight, homeless, hopeless, sleep deprived, self-centered, dirty junkie under the hands of these messengers of this Power.  The fog of my sleep deprivation, meth induced delirium lifted for a moment, the man’s voice of prayer fell out of my ears and I began to see flashing images of my life.  Silence, the fading sound of my life.  My father, my mother, my newborn son and his heroin addicted mother, baseball fields, high school, elementary school, middle school, teachers, coaches, needles, pipes, more baseball fields and I began to cry.  The man’s voice came back into my ears, he was asking his God to lay hands of protection on me that I may see the light that they see.  I continued to cry, what had I become?  Why had I not realized the true horrific state of my life until this moment?  What was it about this setting that brought this shame up inside of me?  Was their God really capable of the Power they spoke of?  In this moment my prejudice fell to the side, the intangible became tangible, because I felt something that I could not access on my own up until that point.  Something had sparked this inside of me.

About a day and a half later the Suboxone was gone, all of its effects had left my body and the sickness of withdrawal had come upon me.  I must go, I was flopping around like a fish on my bed, restless and ready to punch a whole through the wall.  I walked out into the backyard of that home in East LA and hopped the wall without even thinking twice about it.  I made my way to a smart and final nearby, stole a pack of lighters so that I could light the half cigarettes I had found on the walk there.  The sickness was ripping apart my stomach and my entire body ached all the way into my bones.  I had become very knowledgeable of the southern California train system and I knew that I could catch the metro link out of Baldwin Park back to San Bernandino and then get a bus to Corona.  I met a guy on the train who gave me $20 because he felt bad for me I guess.  I’ll never forget those kind of interactions with those kinds of people.

I arrived back in Corona with nothing on my mind except using that $20 to buy some heroin to relieve myself of the sickness.  I had completely forgotten about the prayer experience, and about feeling whatever that Power was during that moment.  I continued with my active drug addiction for another year, progressively getting worse by the day, physically, mentally and emotionally.  There were many cold nights on bus stop benches and in public restrooms where I called out to a God I wasn’t sure existed. That experience I had in the backyard of that house had a lasting effect on me.  A couple of times in the county jail while I was puking my brains out and shaking from withdrawals I called out to that Power that I felt on that summer evening.  I never knew if it was there, or if God heard me, but I kept calling out.

Eventually the call was answered. You can read my other entry “the hero’s journey: a tale of two lives” for a detailed account of how that call was answered, and where that Power led me.  I will say this, I cannot in my right and sane mind deny that there is a Power that exists in and beyond this world which is not human.  All of my prejudice and ignorance about God and spirituality has fallen to the side.  I was rescued from a place where people don’t come back from, a place where 9 out of 10 are guaranteed to die or go to prison.  I have laid lifeless, with a fading heartbeat and a needle sticking out of my neck in a park bathroom for hours, only to be woken up by the police and taken to the hospital.  I cannot tell you how many instances as that one I have experienced, and somehow manged to live through.  You can call it chance or coincidence, but I cannot.  In my life today I have not only been gracefully granted a second chance, but I have been given the ability to go beyond just recovering from the illness of addiction.  Again, the end of my entry “the hero’s journey: a tale of two lives” gives a more detailed account of my insights and skills that I have been given to help others.

Each time I look back at my journey and see the way the events unfolded in my life, I see the Power.  I no longer believe in coincidence. Each time I think about cleaning my mother’s blood off the floor after her death and remembering that I didn’t have to drink or get high after that, I feel the Power.  Each time I take a moment to realize I wake up in a warm bed every morning, in my own home 10 minutes from the beach, drive a car I bought on my own that is completely legal to drive, the fact that I have paid off nearly $15,000 in legal fees to the court system, have fallen in love with the most wonderful and beautiful girl of my dreams who treats me better than I could ever ask for, have a 3.87 cumulative college GPA with a California State Counseling Certification working in the field as an effective and competent counselor, surrounded, loved, trusted and respected by a group of friends and people after being alone and disowned for so long, each time I realize these things I feel that Power.  I tried every other means possible, nothing worked, I always lost the fight and ended up worse off, every. single. time. I avoided the God idea at every cost, I tried only weed and alcohol, I moved to Alaska, I tried to get the right job, I thought the girl would save me, none of it worked.  When I finally searched diligently within myself and cleared away everything that was handicapping me, I accessed the Power, the Power of love and goodness of my spirit, and my life finally began to change.

When I stop and think about myself as a human being and the complexity of my mind, consciousness, soul(whatever that is) and physiological makeup, I feel the Power.  The same Power that moves the oceans and the tides is the same Power that dwells within me, it is this Power that I accessed that allowed me to feel what love really is.  For me to say that nothing like this Power exists in the world would be preposterous based on my own life experience.  When I no longer wanted to live, when I had given up, when I felt absolutely powerless over everything, something was there to answer my cry for help.  It stays with me each day so long as I believe and seek its guidance, this Power gave me a way out..

 

Sent from my iPhone

the hero’s journey: a tale of two lives

to Dr. Jacqueline Meisel and Dr. Samantha Matern for helping me see this life through a different lens, and to everybody who has been by my side since the beginning, you’re all angels, and I love you more than you could know, this is for you..

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Part One:  The Ordinary World

Inside the mind of our character thoughts have begun to race about the status of his life and where he has ended up at this point in time.  He often reminisces about days when there was no pain, days when there was no suffering and previous years where he still had the glimmer of a future in the back of his eyes.  He wakes up in unfamiliar places, on cold sidewalks, with absolutely no recollection from the night or even days prior.  Remorse, self-loathing and utter hopelessness are common for his insides upon opening his eyes each morning, he is often unsure how he will go on living this way, but he pushes on.  Our character is dreamless, he has reached a point of miserable existence that is beyond the healing of anything human, he has no idea what joy feels like unless it is the euphoria produced by the needle.  This has become our character’s only focus, to reach oblivion, and completely disconnect from his present reality as quickly as he can.  The days of family and friends left him long ago, he walks the streets lifeless and empty, he rarely eats and no longer bothers to hide the track marks on his arms.  He is a thief, he wants to be a good person but he no longer knows how to live, he cares for no one but himself.  Our character’s perception is warped, sick and delusional, he curses those who love and loved him, and he huddles with those who are killing him.  He is deteriorating physically and emotionally, he has nothing, and he is nothing, but a walking ghost, shaken to the core by the futility of his existence.  He has given up, he hates himself, despises everything and everyone, he welcomes death.  This is our hero.

Part Two:  The Call to Adventure

Although dark and desolate, and in the winter cold and frigid, the ordinary world is the only realm where our character believes he can function.  Within the ordinary world he is lost internally, but he is guided by an external compass from park benches to asylum cells and corner stores.  Through his misery, he still finds some kind of effect produced inside himself by a summer night, these nights are easy for him, he sleeps outside without a need for blankets or the detriment of a California cold that leaves him trembling until sunrise.  He finds his younger self while gazing into the sky on a summer night.  We find him here, an eve in late July, our character sits on a public phone counting the rings and waiting to manually end the call before he loses the fifty cents he worked so hard to obtain to make the call.  As he waits and prays that his euphoria provider will answer, he peers over the top of the call box, through his clouded vision he manages to make sight of something that will shake up his ordinary world.  There walks our character’s mother, who has not spoken to him in quite some time, and who our character had been too ashamed to even begin to think about.  She carries a small boy, and our character realizes this child is none other than the one he had brought into this world over a year prior.  He hangs up the phone, rattled with foreign feelings bubbling up at the sight of his mother and son, he wants to run, but he doesn’t.  He is frozen, and before he has a chance to react, she stands in front of him and there they are, and there he is, he does not have words but they do. Out come pleas and calls to look into the eyes and face of his child, and into the holes in his own arms, forced to ask himself why he cannot leave this life.   They are deeply saddened by the sight of our deteriorated and lifeless character, they cry and he cries, but they do not think he will change, they have little hope, but they prompt him to leave the ordinary world because they will always love him.

Part Three:  Refusal of the Call

For the first time in years, our character has been confronted with an odd twist of his own thinking.  Maybe it is the built up tragedy and sorrow he sees in his mother’s eyes, or maybe it is the innocence and warmth he sees in the sky blue eyes of his own child.  Whatever is happening inside of our character he cannot manage it, he cannot leave the ordinary world, he is full of self-hatred and insecurity, surely this moment is not a time for him to be brave and courageous.  He thinks about what he will lose if he leaves, away with the needle, away with the smoke and the bottle, never, too much anxiety as a result of leaving.  He cannot fathom another way of life, it is too much for him, stuck and frozen in the fear of the unknown, obligated to remain apart of those cold and dirty streets.  Mother and son tug at his heart, he feels torn, but he cannot leave, not yet.

Part Four:  Meeting with the Mentor

Our character arrives at the hospital later that night, still ambivalent about the experience he had in the previous hours, burning with the images of mom’s tears and his little boy’s eyes.  Usually he can check out from these kind of feelings, but tonight he feels different, there is another side to this but he doesn’t know what it is or what it means.  The same doctor who has cut open his arms and drained the infections before sits with him and treats his wounds again, he asks our character if this will ever stop, he tells our hero that he will die on the streets if he continues to live this way.  Our character dismisses these ominous warnings, as he always did, but still bothered with this small seed of an unfamiliar feeling to leave the ordinary world.  He quiets this seedling with the obsession to anesthetize every fiber of his being to just make it all go away, surely this would bring him back to his norm, it always did.  He steps outside of the hospital and spots a fellow empty soul, one he had frequent contact with and who actually owed him a favor.  He shared with his fellow miser the peculiar thought of leaving the ordinary world while at the same time needing to obtain a powerful sedative.  And then something happened that our character least expected, the old broken soul told him he would provide him with the substance he sought, on one condition, if our character promised to leave the ordinary world and never look back.  This caught our hero by surprise, he had heard this before from many voices, but not from one just as hopeless as him.  He obtained the substance, and that would be the last time our hero stuck a needle in his arm, for something the old broken soul said had opened a door to the idea of a journey.

Part Five: Meeting with the Mentor II

Our character awoke on the hard battered plastic of a jungle gym in a park nearby the hospital, he had slept here many nights in the ordinary world, but this morning when his eyes opened he had a choice to make.  This is the point in the story where a non human Power must be mentioned, because a thought had entered our hero’s mind that maybe he should take the journey, this thought had not originated him, it couldn’t have, he was too sick to conjure a thought like this.  He would need guidance and help in setting out on this adventure, if this was his choice to make.  He could feel the onset of the grueling torturous sickness of withdrawal that was rapidly approaching, but he hopped off the playground and was headed to the nearest pay phone.  This was it, he did not want to wake up in the ordinary world anymore, he wanted something different and he called his mother in hopes that she would be his guide.  She arrived to pick up our hero within the hour, she would guide him, but he is the one who must complete the journey.

Part Six:  Crossing the Threshold to the Special World

The cruelty of the withdrawal sickness has begun to surface in the body and mind of our character as he rides alongside his guide, up the coast toward the start of his journey.  His stomach feels like it is ripping apart inside, his legs will not stop moving, he throws up out of the moving vehicle’s window, his back, legs and every part of his body ache, and the pain runs down into his bones, he shivers and shakes, he sweats and kicks uncontrollably.  His mother provides him with tobacco and cannabis to try and help ease his discomfort, it helps, but he continues to vomit stomach acid down the side of the car and leave his head hanging out the window.  He contemplates his decision to leave the ordinary world, he is angry and remorseful, but his mother is his protector, his guide, she holds his hand and he cries, he is scared.  He knows that this new unknown world contains ideas and rules he is not familiar with, but he is lead still by the love of his mother and a tiny seedling of willingness to hang on.  His mother will take him to another guide, and this is where she will leave him, at the foot of the threshold to the special world.  Upon arrival, our hero exits the vehicle and vomits whatever is left of his insides all over the pavement, he stumbles into a green electrical box and feels like death, the withdrawal sickness has now overtaken every molecular structure of his makeup and he is defeated.  His mother tells him she loves him, but that he will never see her or his child again if he does not get well, this is where she must leave him to cross the threshold on his own.  He falls into the care of another mentor, an aunt who will protect him and care for him as he approaches the guardian who is guarding the gate to the special world.  There is a place where those who are sick like our hero go to get better, here lies the threshold our hero must cross into the special world, but in his way stands the gatekeeper.  Weeks have passed and our character is no longer physically ill, but there is warfare happening inside of his mind and soul, he needs to cross the threshold before it’s too late.  The guardian informs our hero that in order to cross the threshold into the special world, he must show that he is worthy and prove that he can exist in this place that will treat his illness. He makes calls to the guardian each day to inform him that he is still willing to move forward, he promises the guardian he will not ingest anymore poison and that he will be abstinent for the approaching day when the guardian will decide if he is worthy to enter the special world. Over the next couple of days our character fights a war inside his head, gripping his own hands tightly and brimming over with anxiety. He lies awake the night before he will see the guardian at the threshold and he contemplates returning to the ordinary world, life is easier there he thinks, and he calls out to a God he is unsure exists. He asks for an answer because he knows not what to do. The next day our hero arrives at the threshold to the special world torn in ambivalence as he awaits the guardian, our character has fulfilled the guardian’s requests, although it has been painstaking, he has done his part. The guardian grants our hero permission to cross the threshold into the special world, and the story moves forward.

Part Seven: Tests, Allies and Enemies

It was the beginning of September and our character was on the verge of reaching his 24th year of existence. His first day in the special world was interesting to him, he had never experienced anything like it before. He was shown to a large room where he was given a bed to sleep in, there was food for him, clothing and every other material he may need. He paid nothing for these things. He was in this place with others just like him, others who had been sick like him but had also crossed the threshold into the special world. Some were kind, some were funny, some were loud and obnoxious, some were quiet, some were honest and some lied, and some wanted sincerely to return to the ordinary world, those ones our hero learned quickly to separate from. There was one who became our character’s ally, he was a good man, covered in ink from prison tattoos and he wore spectacles that you would not expect on a man of his nature. One night he sat in the library with our character, he began to tell him of the Spirit and they read the Good Book. Our hero learned about the soul, he connected with his ally, they were two who would not normally mix, but in the special world they became friends, and they sat for many hours and talked late into the night in that library. Our character encountered many allies like this, souls that were once afflicted as he was, they taught him about the human condition and they taught him about life through their own experiences, he started to feel that he may be able to survive in the special world. He learned the beauty of hard work for no money, he cleaned shoes for tobacco and read books about good living. He began to help others in the form of altruism, he began a process in which he looked deep inside himself and uncovered his handicaps. He began to get right with himself and the shame slipped away, he got right with his fellows from past and present, and most importantly he got right with the Universe and the Power which created him. He grew in a Fellowship of companions, and when our hero felt angry about things out of his control or mistakes from his past, those companions were there to lift him back up. When our character learned that his child’s name had been changed and some of those close to him were hesitant to believe he was changing, he was discouraged and confused and fell down, but his companions lifted him up. When he fell down in the ordinary world, he fell hard, his face smashed into the concrete and he bled, nobody helped him up, he just sunk deeper into the barren wasteland beneath the dirt. But in the special world, his allies helped him back up when he fell, he was loved, and most importantly our hero had hope and saw himself becoming a good man.

Part Eight: Approach to the Innermost Cave

After some time in the special world our character had begun to see that he could survive here, he was far removed from his sickness, so long as he worked at treating it. There was a sense of peace about him which he had never had in the ordinary world, he could accept whatever was happening to him without taking a drink or returning to his beloved needle. Living this way was becoming his design for existence, less pain and no suffering, no misery, he liked life better this way. He was even deemed suitable to drive legally again by the state of California. Our hero had many friends, he had friends who he loved, that fell victim to the sickness again and fell back into the ordinary world, this was difficult for him to navigate. Companions who trudged with him on the journey were there one day and gone the next, friends became foes and lied to our hero, he let them into his heart and they took everything they could and left him with nothing. But he learned from this, he observed their mistakes and noted their shortcomings, his true companions stayed by his side and he could trust them, he grieved the loss of others but continued to rise with his close friends. Old mates from the ordinary world tried to pull him back, but he was not living in delusion, he did not need to escape the special world, he was growing here, so he did not return to the ordinary world. He felt pain at the sight and remnants of many things, but this pain he overcame, onward and upward, our hero was alive, and he sought to make his dreams, realities.

Part Nine: The Ordeal (The Dark Night of the Soul)

It was a Monday morning in May and our character found himself rising for the day as he would any other. He had spent the night before with close companions and was feeling particularly grateful and free on this spring morning. His phone rang, the call was coming from an origin that only would be calling him at this time, on this day, if something Paramount was happening. He answered the call, and through the other side of the phone came information that stopped our hero’s breathing for a second, his stomach twisted into a knot and he had no words. His mother had been rushed to the hospital and he was told that she may not live, he was given no explanation as to what had gone wrong, just told that her organs were shutting down and that she was being kept alive by synthetic powers. He had just seen her, he had just celebrated Mother’s Day with her and bought her gifts, he had just begun to be the son he had gotten so far away from being. Why now? What had happened? Why could no one tell him what had happened? He sat paralyzed in his room with no idea what to do, he called a friend who had been with him since he crossed into the special world, his friend told him to go and see his mother and don’t think twice. Our hero called his aunt who we mentioned earlier in our story, she stopped everything she was doing and came again to be with our character, they drove together to what what would be our hero’s greatest test yet. The drive felt like forever, his mind riddled with questions and his ears ringing with fear, still no one gave him answers, all he knew was that his beloved mother who rescued him from the ordinary world was on the verge of death. It was surreal. She was in the same hospital that our character had been in earlier in our story, the last place he put a needle in his arm, and he arrived here with no intention or desire to do anything remotely close to that. He walked upstairs and saw the faces of family he had not seen in years, his family was like this, come together only in the wake of tragedy and do not speak until the next one. Our hero tried to get information about the status of his mother, what had happened? This question burned inside of him, no one told him, were they scared of how he would react? Probably. What he understood was that his mother had been ill, her organs had failed due to an excess amount of drinking and ingestion of pills over the years. This was not the woman he knew, he was confused, he made the decision to go and see her because it felt like the right thing to do. The moment he turned the corner and saw her he regretted his decision, she was already gone, surrounded by at least ten doctors and nurses, tubes and blood everywhere, he began to sob uncontrollably. The professionals buzzed around the room chattering and acting as if our hero did not exist, this was their job, he respected them for this, a Power carried him across that room because he wanted to tell her goodbye, he knew this was it. He arrived at her bedside weeping, she was only forty five, her toes and fingernails painted as they always were, her sandy blonde hair as it always was, he grabbed her hand, it was cold and lifeless, he kissed it, and told her he loved her. That was enough, that was all he could take and he left that room, that was the last time our hero would see his mother, she died shortly afterward.

Part Ten: The Dark Night of the Soul II

We find our hero on his knees in the chapel of this hospital, surrounded by the old ordinary world where he used to drown out his feelings with the needle and the bottle. In this moment his heart was shattered, his soul ripped out of his body and hanging in a dark sky as though he would never feel joy again. This was it, the moment that would define our hero’s journey, would he return to euphoria through his old solution or would he take the skills he had learned in the special world and rise from the ashes. His aunt joined him, she suggested they return to his mother’s home and clean up any mess that was left so that the others did not return to see leftovers of the tragedy. What an angel, she saved him, he knew now this is what he must do, and so they made their way to the house. Upon arrival he saw black blood stains that covered the carpet of his mother’s room, black blood stains on the bed sheets and quilt, her clothes, hat and those crooked glasses she always wore, there was blood on all of it. He knew what he must do, and he needed no substance of any kind to complete his task, he gathered the sheets and bedding and threw it all away. He gathered the clothes and placed them in a corner for no one to see, and there was those black stains on the carpet, it looked like motor oil, this felt like a dream. They got a brush to scrub with and rags with cleaning supplies, our character dropped to his knees and began to scrub the blood stains off the white carpet. Halfway through he stopped, he thought to himself, this is it, this is what I’ve been preparing for, and here I am, and I will not run away, I will not be afraid, he leaned into this pain and finished cleaning. A week passed and our hero remained in his hometown, he did not run, he did not drink, he did not hide, he did nothing of the sort, he was the cornerstone for those around him. He helped his stepfather deal with the mortuary and coroner, he weighed in on decisions that were too hard for others to think about, he cleaned, he listened, and he realized that he could survive in the ordinary world so long as he brought the special world with him. He thought this tragedy should’ve killed him, and it did for a moment, but he had won the fight, he could go on a free man, he lived in the light once again.

Part Eleven: The Reward

Our hero had little notion that he had received the gift he had so long been searching for.  At the beginning of our story we found a man, or, the shell of a man, who had no desire to live, crushed, with all things good completely sucked out of him.  Hopeless and accepting of death at any moment, no love for himself or anything at all for that matter.  Just wanting to be free from the bondage of suffering he had created for himself, but not knowing how.  He dreamed of a life where he could wake and sleep without the substances, a life where he could be a member of the world around him, a life where he could cope and manage things without self destructing.  In our hero’s darkest hour, over the pools of his dead mother’s blood, he found what he had been searching for, peace with whatever this life dealt him no matter how painful it was. This was his reward, to be a free man and to have a life with some kind of purpose, this is what he went on his journey to find.

Part Twelve: The Road Back

Our character found himself a student once again, beginning to study the human condition and mind from an educational standpoint. He had found that he had a gift to listen, a gift to have the sickly souls from the ordinary world open up their wounds to him, and allow him in to help heal. The guardian who protected the threshold into the place mentioned earlier in our story, where our hero began his journey, offered our character a position in that place to help treat the ill coming from the ordinary world.  Day in and day out he talks and listens, he rarely thinks of his mother as he still lives in shock and denial of her death, he feels distant from his significant other and as the summer turns to fall he feels himself begin to fade. The darkness from the ordinary world looms on the horizon of our hero’s sight, he begins to feel afflicted with some kind of lowly pull on his serenity, he still does not think of his mother because he is not ready.  Fall has taken the summer sun and the air smells different, he dreads the return of cold nights and he lacks motivation to treat his old illness, the malady is rallying for a second try at our hero’s place in the special world.

Part Thirteen: The Resurrection

Our character and his significant other reach an agreement that they need not continue their romantic relationship. No love lost, but our hero is slipping and his heart is breaking once more. Still he does not return to the needle, he knows he cannot, but this split from the girl triggers him into a downward spiral.  He knows the decision is right, he begins to realize that this has just opened the door to a deeper sadness inside of him, a part of himself buried way down that has been screaming to be heard. The part of himself that lost his mother, but opening up this wound scares our hero, he knows it will bring about strong feelings but he knows that in order to be free he must let it out. Through the winter he is plagued by the grief, he sleeps too much and his vision is clouded, he is depressed, he wants nothing to do with this life and he stands again on the threshold back into the ordinary world. He is baffled at how he could again feel hopeless, under the influence of no substance our hero stands frozen at the crossroads, he wants to run and hide, but he cannot, he has been gifted with the truth about who he has become. There is an angel in his life with whom he has processed his grief, he meets with her the next day and shares with her a letter addressed to his mother.  In this time his heart is ripped from his chest, his soul pours pain out all over the floor like a spilled bucket of water, he cries, he weeps and he sobs at everything from his mom to his child. He wants it all, he needs the feeling, he cries harder and the space with his special companion is sacred and safe, so he lets it all out.  He is resurrected, he feels life again, his vision is clear and he can see the blue sky when he leaves the sacred space. He smells the air and for the first time he realizes that summer is near, he smiles and he has hope again, he smells the ocean and remembers how much he loves the palm trees.  Again, he is transformed, and our hero accesses a higher and more complete level than ever before.

Part Fourteen: Return with the Elixir (The Final Chapter)

Our character returns to his life with a revolutionary feeling of new insights and ideas.  Summer has arrived again and he has been awarded for his accomplishments in his education as well as his work.  He has been told by others, that in his work of helping to heal the perverse soul sickness of chemical dependency, he is gifted, he feels this as he sits day after day with those trying to escape the ordinary world.  He has accomplished things he never thought imaginable, our hero is no longer dreamless but he sees his dreams as attainable.  In the resurrection he obtained a new sense of understanding and perspective, he takes this treasure into all situations and shares it with those who are supposed to hear about it.  He feels connected to the Power of the Universe and the Power that created him, he feels the Power that makes the oceans move inside of him, for he knows they are one in the same.  He is vulnerable and caring, kindness is his guiding light and he hopes to one day have a family, he strives for humility and good living.  He often thinks of the ordinary world and his old life there, but he feels removed, he has found his purpose and he wants to share his enlightened perspective with his own children some day and teach them about this life, that this life is beautiful, so long as you perceive it to be. When he least expects it he meets the girl of his dreams, literally, a girl he had dreamed of and wrote a story about before.  She opens a door to his heart that has never been opened before and he is not afraid to let her in, she is like the best summer day and sunset that he could ever imagine.  And so we leave you here, this for now is the final chapter, and this, this is the hero’s journey..

flowers and you

This time last year I was embracing the summertime as a way to cope with the death of my mother.  I was definitely still in that shock and denial stage of the grieving process, as the arrival of summer last year treated me as warmly as any summer had in the past, like nothing had changed.

The gloom and overcast that lays over Santa Barbara in June is depressing, waking up to it everyday takes a toll on me and I’m almost powerless over letting that sky become part of the way I feel.  But today is different, the sun has been shining since I woke up at 8:00 AM and I am in a far different place this summer than I was last year.

I have done so much grief work around losing my mom, that I really feel like I am starting to get to a place of acceptance and raw realization about the whole thing.  I used to think that stages of grief stuff was bullshit, but after this past year I can say it has very much been relevant in my life.  Someone explained it to me like, grief is a black cloud just hovering over your head and following you around everywhere you go until eventually it becomes apart of you and that’s where you find peace with tragedy.

Sometime in February I found the album “Stage Four” by the band Touché Amore, and listened to it, not knowing that it would sink into me the way that it did.  The album is about the singer of the band losing his mom to stage four cancer and his own grief process that followed.  I like to ride my bike all over town and listen to my favorite records, and for about 3 months straight every time I got on my bike to ride, I listened to Stage Four from beginning to end.  That catalog of songs forced me into the reality that my mom was gone, but it lead me into those feelings in a way that I could manage.  “With the levy set for my heavy eyes”, that part from flowers and you always got me because since I had gotten sober it was so hard for me to cry, I never understood why.  But I would get 6 or 7 minutes into that album and the levy would break, I’d be riding down the 192 thinking of my mom and her pain and the tears were uncontrollable.  The music made it easier though, like I needed to feel it for a little while and it was okay, and then it would pass and I’d come back to the moment and my surroundings.  Forever grateful for that record being made.

Those bike rides and months were special times for me because I felt like I was breaking through to another level of serenity and freedom.  I was doing so good in school, and spring was on the horizon, which meant summer was close and baseball season was near.  My house is surrounded by plants, bushes, succulents, citrus trees and flowers.  When April came all of those plants started producing a smell around my house that was so comforting, I remember telling my aunt I wish I could capture it and make a candle out of it.  School finished and I was so ready to enjoy the summer, the Dodgers, the beach, Sound and Fury, cool plans for YLIA on the radio, quality time with friends and family.  It didn’t happen that way though, and it was no one’s fault, I just didn’t take care of myself, I’m really not sure what happened, I just know that summer wasn’t coming along as I had envisioned it.  My bike rides weren’t even enjoyable no matter how hard I tried, and that was discouraging.  I found myself waking up a couple of weeks ago on a Friday morning feeling like I had nothing left to give, I was drained, and none of the cool stuff I had planned sounded appealing, I just wanted to go to sleep and never have to talk to anyone again.

Luckily, I’ve got a group of close friends with whom I can lean on for support, when my pride is diminished enough to tell someone that I’m struggling.  I reached out to someone close to me who had helped me get out of these holes before, and he was there again to help me get down to the root of what the fuck was going on. I was told that I needed to stop “doing” so much shit for other people, slow down and reconnect with the stuff that makes me happy, outside of work and responsibilities.  So I did.  I reunited with a childhood friend on Friday and we talked for hours about our lives growing up, going to shows and all the shit we used to run around and get ourselves into.  Saturday I got to play music on the radio for like 4 hours and do some awesome interviews, help put on a fundraiser show for our station and met a bunch of really amazing people.  Sunday I got to see Ceremony, but really what had an effect on me was the performance that Fury put on, truly inspiring and electric.  I also got to talk to Jeremy from Fury afterwards, he’s so cool, and I got to give him a YLIA sticker, rad.  This past weekend really lifted my spirits and got me to where and how I envisioned myself soaking up this summer.

I got on my bike this morning and just started riding, the sun was shining bright and the sky was blue, palm trees and ocean breeze, finally I could feel it, finally I have reached the serenity in appreciating the beauty of these days.  The bike trail above Butterfly Beach continues to be a special place for me, I’m not sure why, just something about it.  Maybe all of the plants blooming, it’s so colorful and overlooks the ocean and downtown Santa Barbara, and always smells like honeysuckles, I love that smell.  A special feeling today as I think of possibilities of what’s to come, the human condition runs deep like the ocean’s dark blue, I’m just trying to live, and thinking of flowers and you…

 

for love of the game

dball

The first memory I have of the game of baseball is when I was probably about 3 years old.  My dad had taken me to a local field in Virginia, where we lived at the time, and he threw me ground balls that I fielded and threw back to him without any problem.  We were not using a baseball, it was some kind of rubber ball, kind of like a lacrosse ball or something.  I had a little black glove, and I just remember getting to the ball and catching it, was something that required very little effort on my part.  The memory is blurry to me, and it’s been about 25 years since it took place. But I still remember the feeling, the feeling like I knew where that ball was going to bounce and exactly where I needed to position myself to catch it.  My dad shares that story with me often and tells me that a group of older kids showed up to the field later and I jumped in their practice routine with them, fielding and throwing just as good as them if not better.

The first baseball team I played on was a tee ball team in Midlothian, Virginia, the Cardinals.  I still had that same black glove, and still had that same gift of tracking balls off the bat into my glove with ease, it had only gotten stronger and more precise.  I had also added the skill of diving, and I began applying that to my defense on my first tee ball team, somewhere around 1995-1996, I think.  That was when I found shortstop, my favorite position, I felt like I belonged there and that’s where I could really showcase my abilities.  However, my greatest memory from that team was when I was actually playing pitcher, which was a defense only position in tee ball, obviously because the kids were hitting off the tee.  A kid from the opposing team hit a line drive off the tee straight in my direction, again I instinctively reacted and moved my glove and myself exactly where I needed to be, snagging the line drive for the out.  The spectators cheered, yelled and clapped in support and awe of my catch, I don’t think many 5 year olds made those kinds of catches.  That was my first experience of being applauded and cheered for an unbelievable catch, it still happens today, but there are a lot of things that happened from then until now.

The game of baseball to me is sacred, it’s like nothing else in the world, from the game itself, to the environment in which it’s played.  It is described as America’s pastime, having been around since the 19th century in the United States, longer than any other professional sport.  Baseball is a spring and summer sport, played in the nicest of weather and under the lights in the most appealing of summer nights.  The only major professional sport in our country that is played on the 4th of July, hot dogs, hamburgers, sunshine, green grass, dirt, chalk, sweat, bubble gum, spikes, tape, sweat drenched hats, leather, wood, sunglasses, sunblock, chewing tobacco, chatter and rituals.

Superstition is very present in baseball, don’t step on the chalked foul lines when running off and on the field.  Step into the batter’s box the same way every time, draw a line in the dirt with your bat, do the same thing before every pitch, where your uniform the same exact way every game, especially if you’re on a streak.  Don’t change ANYTHING if you’re hot, change something if you’re in a slump.  Don’t tell the pitcher he’s throwing a no hitter, you NEVER talk about a perfect game or a no-hitter until after it’s finished.  Don’t mess with rituals in baseball, and don’t scoff at the superstition, people take it very seriously.

I moved a lot as a kid, and didn’t land in one place long term until about 2004, so I played all over the place growing up.  I played in Virginia until about late 1997, moved to Utah for 2nd grade, and played one year there for the Diamondbacks.  By that time I had found my niche on the field, shortstop was my domain, forehand, backhand, charging on choppers and throwing on the run, line drives to either side, pop flies, dying quails in shallow center or shallow left field behind 3rd base.  My uniform was dirty after every game, head to toe brown and clay-stained from the dirt, sweat and eye black.  The infield was my home away from home, each time the ball left the hitter’s bat I knew where to go, I knew exactly where to position myself to make the play, and finish with an accurate throw.

Before I can even remember, my parents got divorced, they were young and looking back on it now I guess I can see why it happened.  However, over the years I found myself in the middle of both of them, the fighting, yelling, arguing, constantly torn back and forth between both houses and not knowing what to think or do.  Responsible for remembering things to take between their houses, uniforms,  schoolbooks, clothes, appointments, practices, games and it all became overwhelming for me.  I was too young to realize what was happening, but it makes sense now, the baseball field became the only environment and place I felt truly free and happy.  Game after game, practice after practice, my skill and gift to play defense grew and grew.  When I stepped over the foul line into my land at shortstop, the rest of the world stopped, I didn’t have to think about anything else except playing the game.  Game saving diving catches and timely base hits gave me praise and glory from teammates and coaches, I played as hard as I could every pitch and I began to learn the game.

Baseball requires a lot of awareness and thought.  I began to learn this as the level I played at became more competitive.  Lead offs, steals, curve balls, change-ups, relays from the outfield, double plays, bunts, hit and runs, taking pitches and much more.  With all of this came signs, the coach had to signal to his players what he wanted them to do without the other team knowing the strategy.  Step up to the plate for your at bat, leave your back foot in the box, and put your front foot out of the box, look down at your 3rd base coach.  If he touches the bill of his hat don’t swing, if he swipes down his arm bunt, if you’re on first and he swipes down his leg you’re stealing.  Don’t ever miss a sign, coaches hate that.

Defense is a whole other world of readiness, awareness and preparation.  I began to learn this especially as I got older, and the rules of the levels I played at changed.  As a shortstop, you are the captain of the infield, you’ve got to know where you are going if the ball is hit to you, you command the relays from the outfielders back into whichever base the throw needs to go.  My knowledge of the game blossomed in my experience playing shortstop year after year, how to turn a double play, both throwing and receiving the ball, how to cover second on a steal, double play depth, communicating with my second baseman and pitcher, how many outs determined where the ball was going when it was hit, knowing the score and if we could give up a run for an out at first, when to play in and prevent the runner on 3rd from scoring, what was a force play and what was a tag out, how to navigate a rundown or a “pickle”, how to align myself for a relay from the outfield and listening for where to throw the ball without having to turn to see where the runner was and so much more.  I played and practiced, and I learned and applied the knowledge on the field in the game.  After some time, I’d say around the age of 12, I had developed a mental awareness of what the game of baseball was, and how I needed to play it.

There were a set of fields at Curry Middle School in Tustin, CA that I played at from probably ages 8-10.  This is where I can remember starting to connect the environment of baseball with the game itself, and really began to feel the magic that is within that.  The fields were all dirt infields and the outfield grass was average, some smooth spots but mostly clover patches and potholes.  There was always a smell of cotton candy in the air mixed with grass and then sunblock coming from my own face.  These fields were where I first felt intimidated in an at-bat, stepping in the box against a couple of kids who threw hard, striking out but always battling.  I remember the first time I saw a field prepped for a championship game, it was an image I’ll never forget, perfectly watered and dragged dirt, a bright white chalked batter’s box and foul lines, that was my stage and I was always ready to perform.  As an infielder you come to be very aware of the dirt your’e playing on, if it’s rocky and undragged you have a bit of fear that a hard ground ball will pop up off a pebble and catch you in the teeth.  You come to be extremely grateful for nice infields, especially watered and dragged.

These years were my first experiences playing on the All-Star teams for whatever age division I was in that year.  It was fun, traveling to a different city with a group of kids you had played against all year now all on one team, given a jersey that says “Tustin Pony All-Stars” on it, as opposed to the usual Marlins or Cardinals regular season jersey you would wear.  These games are my first memories of really feeling nervous on the field, like wow, now we are really playing for something, being a part of a walk-off hit or late inning comebacks by your team is one of the greatest things a baseball player can experience.

As my skill and playing of the game progressed, my home life seemed to get worse, which pulled me into worlds of fantasy through books, movies and most importantly professional athletes.  Kids have favorite players growing up, but the athletes I idolized were more than my favorites, they were my dreams of escaping the stress of my life and I got lost in what they meant to me.  Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter, Mark McGwire, Randy Johnson, Omar Vizquel, Manny Ramirez, Jim Edmonds they were all like movie stars to me, and without them I would have been hopeless.  My dad started taking me to Dodger Stadium and I got to see Gary Sheffield, Mike Piazza and something about Dodger Stadium in those times left an imprint on me.  Thus began my love for the Dodgers, and still today, loving Chavez Ravine.  I was also going to Angel Stadium a lot, and I got to see those great Angel teams with Tim Salmon, Darrin Erstad, David Eckstein, Garret Anderson and Adam Kennedy.

When I finally landed in Corona Pony around 2001, I stayed.  I played baseball out of Corona for the next 9 years, and my early years there I was apart of some amazing teams.  I want to say I was 10 or 11 when I played for the Angels and we had an undefeated season, we went on to play all stars and made a decent little run before being knocked out by a team from San Diego.  That year we played at the Corona Civic Center field, which had an old school feel and a grass infield.  It’s weird when I think about myself and my development as a player, I never bragged or talked smack, being on the field and playing was just something I did, and I was good at it.  It wouldn’t be until I made an acrobatic diving play and got huge amounts of cheers and positive affirmations that I had little glimpses of how skilled I really was.  I never thought I was the shit, I just showed up and played, that spoke for itself.

Things between my parents got worse and worse, and I was right in the middle of it.  Always uncomfortable after games because sometimes they would both be there, and both made sure I knew that they didn’t like each other.  I always wanted to go to my teammates houses and spend the night after games, I never wanted to be at home.  When the game was over and we had to start walking back to the car to leave I hated it so much, if I could’ve lived in the dugout I would have, I never wanted the game to be over.

As I grew older, I started playing what they called “travel ball”, basically, the more talented kids would travel and play in tournaments on the weekends.  I stopped playing Pony ball and just played travel ball.  I was okay with that because the travel ball was fun, it was intense, and I got to consistently play at a competitive level.  I made some really close friends on those teams through that time, we had a lot of fun and I played shortstop every inning of every game, every tournament.  We played in Las Vegas, San Diego, Colorado, Arizona and all up and down California.  They had created these parks called “Big League Dreams” that were replicas of Major League stadiums and they had one in Chino Hills and one in Jurupa.  For the kid that idolized big leaguers and athletes the way I did, stepping onto a Fenway park replica to play a game of my own was a dream come true.  We had little rivalries with different teams like the Monterey Park Angels, Rancho Quakes, Santa Clarita Express, HB Vikings and Chino Hills Storm.  One of those years I got hit by a high inside fastball right in the elbow during a chilly morning game, and broke a bone in my elbow.  I ended up playing the rest of that game and the following game because we only had 9 players that day, I couldn’t bend my arm, I played right field and tried to bunt every at bat.  I was in a bent cast all summer and missed the USSSA World Series at Big League Dreams.  The following summer I played a World Series tournament in Longmont, CO and traveled with another team to Steamboat Springs, CO directly from there, they had recruited me to play shortstop for them for that tournament.

By the team I reached high school, I had spent all of my time outside of baseball, skateboarding and going to punk rock shows, and developed a passion for that as well.  I identified with the music (see my other entry “A Life Altering Substance”) and all of my friends were skateboarders, we all went to shows together.  I made the freshmen baseball team without any issues at all, but baseball was no longer my priority.  I had dyed black hair and wore tight pants, went to shows at the local venue and hung out with a crowd of kids at school that were not anything like my teammates.  I had played so much effing baseball before high school, once I got there I was already tired, and with that came the loss of motivation to get better, I didn’t want to lift weights or do anything outside of the bare minimum required to be on the team.  I remember feeling like baseball wasn’t fun anymore, my parents and people in that community talked so much about size, weight, velocity, who knew who, transfers, politics and a whole bunch of other bullshit that I didn’t want any part of.  They were all right though, that stuff was the reality of advancing to the next level.  I didn’t hate the game, I never did and never will, but I disliked the people involved and everything that came with them.  Mix that with an extreme amount of stress and fear from the dynamic of my home life, and I needed relief, and I found it.  I found it in alcohol.

Alcohol turned to weed, weed to pills, pills to cocaine and ecstasy on to meth, and eventually what I had really been searching for, heroin.  Throughout high school I tried to balance and live in two different worlds, punk rock shows and everything that entailed, and baseball, because I could still play, I was gifted with natural abilities to play the game. However,  my work ethic in the baseball program was non-existent, I did absolutely nothing to improve my self physically outside of practice.  In fact, I was harming my body with all of the drugs and alcohol, but I still played and I maintained good grades.

I still loved being on the field, I still loved playing the game, I remember playing in a tournament on spring break during my sophomore year and the weather was beautiful, I’ll never forget that spring break.  Sophomore year was some of the best baseball I ever played, I hit around .375 and only struck out once, and only made one error on defense all season, I played every inning of every game.  Junior year rolled around and my antics and behavior off the field had crossed into my reputation as a baseball player, I wasn’t getting called up to play varsity because the coach knew I drank and did drugs.  I still hit over .300 and played lights out defense, but I wasn’t getting stronger or faster and looking back on it now I probably had an air about me like I didn’t give a fuck, because I didn’t.

I started showing up to games stoned, and was high at school every single day, by the time practice came, I was hating just being awake, let alone running poles and sprints.  I smoked about 5 or 6 huge gravity bong rips one time before a game against Corona high toward the end of my junior year, showed up to that game and hit a line drive RBI single up the middle in my first at bat, went on to go 2-3 with 2 RBIs. I had played perfect defense too,  until the last play of the game. 2 outs and we were up by 1, runners on 2nd and 3rd and I fielded an easy ground ball that should have ended the game and got us the W.  A spike on my right cleat caught the loop on my left shoelace and I fell to the ground like a tree that had just been chopped down, both runs scored and we lost the game.

I was kicked out of the baseball program at the end of my junior year and honestly, I was relieved, nobody would have ever known that, but I just wanted to hang out with my friends and party.  Over the next year I played for a travel team, and actually played in some incredible tournaments.  We played in Atlanta, Nebraska, San Diego and Peoria, AZ a couple of times at the MLB spring training complexes.  I always played well, nobody ever doubted that, the plays I made and the effort I put in was commendable, but it was nowhere near my full potential.  However, I was always off trying to buy weed in those cities, plotting and scheming how to party and get high whenever I could.  The summer of 2009 was the last time I played competitively, in a tournament at Grossmont college in San Diego, my cell phone was blowing up in the dugout the entire time because I was selling weed.  I remember telling my teammate, “I don’t know why I’m even here, I could be making so much money right now!”.  That was it, that was the final straw, wasted talent, a lost child in the depths of addiction, I didn’t care if I ever saw the field again.

By the end of 2009 I was completely addicted to Oxycontin, drinking and smoking weed everyday, basically escaping reality through substances in any form I could get.  It’s crazy because I remember being asked to fill in on a hardball beer league team, and I was actually homeless living in my car at the time.  I somehow managed to get some gear together and the morning I was supposed to play I was actually dopesick(Detoxing Heroin) and realized I couldn’t play in that condition so I took some Suboxone, showed up to the field and hit a triple in the right center gap my first AB.  That would be the last time I set foot on a baseball field for 6 years.

I was homeless, living on the streets, addicted to heroin and so far gone and disconnected from reality that I had completely forgot I ever played baseball, or even knew how to play baseball for that matter.  The power in that statement is truly heartbreaking.

I ended up in rehab in 2015 and finally got my life together, I was like 30 days sober and was asked if I wanted to play catch by another resident in the program, I said sure why not, I didn’t have anything better to do.  The first ball he threw to me was a short hop, I knew it was going to be short and that I would need to pick it before it even came close to hitting the ground, so I scooped it up and smoothly threw the ball back to him with a fluid motion.  I realized in that moment that I knew exactly what I was doing, I remembered that I knew how to play the game.  I called my mom the next day and she sent me my brother’s old A2000 infield glove. I began playing catch with various residents in the program, we used to ride bikes to the SBCC field at night and hit each other ground balls and play long toss.  My friend Cody was a ball player just like me who had a heroin problem and landed in program with me, we connected, we played long toss, it was awesome.

With about 8 months of recovery I met a guy at a meeting and by chance, he was trying to put together a sober softball team.  He said he was holding a little practice on the Sunday of that weekend and that I should come out.  Again, I was in rehab, I didn’t have anything better to do, and now I had the A2000 which my brother had formed and broken in perfectly, so I rode my bike to the practice.  Within 5 minutes of taking ground balls at shortstop they knew I could play, I had never played softball before, but to me it’s the same thing, I read the ball the same.  They told me I should probably get a bigger glove, no way, I was sticking with 11.5 inch Wilson, I still use it today.

I played in my first sober softball game in April of 2016, I loved it, I dove all over the place, I made plays all over the field, I hit, and I remember feeling like I had found my 5 year old self again.  I am forever grateful to Rory Slikker for that, I would’ve never ignited my gift again if it wasn’t for him, thanks Slik.  I have remained sober since then and played in tournaments up and down the coast, we even went to the “Big League Dreams” replica park in Palm Springs where I played as a kid, and won the Clean and Sober Softball World Series there last Fall.  I played on an all turf infield Dodger Stadium replica in Vegas in March, I probably made 25 defensive plays in 3 games on that field.  Back came that praise and glory from spectators as I acrobat-ted and slid across the turf making spectacular plays at shortstop, I had found it again.  My family has been able to see me get back on the field and do what I used to do. During so many tournaments I cross that foul line and jog to my domain, shortstop, smelling sunblock and grass, uniform covered in dirt, and forgetting about everything in my life off of that field.

The game of baseball is a part of me, it makes up part of the way my human condition is composed.  Baseball stadiums have been described as cathedrals, I see them as that, beautiful works of art setting the stage for the game that only certain individuals can appreciate.  I know life is full of losses, but I hope I never lose baseball again, tell them I’m never through, for love of the game…

 

a life altering substance

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One of the definitions of substance is “the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists, and which has a tangible solid presence.” I believe that music can be defined in that way, a CD is physical matter and when played it creates a solid presence, imo. There is a type of music that most of the world doesn’t know about, a type of music that altered my life from the moment it was introduced to me. Hardcore.
Now most people hear “hardcore” and immediately go to pig squeal type screaming, or growling that cannot even be understood. Or, just a thought of something that doesn’t sound appealing or suitable for the average ear. Hardcore music is not pig squeals or growls, it is punk rock with a twist, heavier and more melodic.
Lyrically, hardcore bands range from straight edge drug free vegan messages to dark, pain filled poetry with a lot of common threads sprinkled into all of that. Love for the city you come from, deep resentments against people who have betrayed your trust and/or having fallen away from the ties you once had. Angry, vulnerable, emotional, passionate, prideful, proud, tolerant, intolerant, love, hate, hope, hopelessness, fear, faith. But not Faith in God, if a band chooses to speak of God or religion it is usually opposing both. However, I find that a lot of those songs are speaking to just a spiritual struggle, and the disgust of the corrupt human beings who are conveying “God’s Message”. Society Verse by Ross Farrar helped me with all of that. Anger, rage, love, hate, pain, hopelessness, hope, dark, light, depression, worry, fear, angst, death, life.
There is another aspect to this music that will be hard for me to put into words. Since I began listening to hardcore I have never looked at cold nights, rainy days, summer nights, summertime, the sun and the stars, nighttime, clouds, streets, streetlights and sidewalk pavement, wet pavement after the rain, the city or the lights of the city the same.  Bands like Sinking Ships, Go It Alone, Verse, Have Heart, Ruiner and Champion have a way of describing these sensory environments that has changed my perspective, the way I appreciate and visually notice the world around me, the way I smell the air each time I walk outside.  The difference between summer air and winter air. “Its getting so much colder now but my heart is still stuck in that summertime.” ” somebody told me that the rain would always come to wash away the pain.”
Ceremony, Sinking Ships, Have Heart, Ruiner, Defeater, Go It Alone, Rotting Out, Verse, Lights Out, Trash Talk, Miles Away, Champion, Gorilla Biscuits, Carry On, Comeback Kid, Killing the Dream, Terror. The words and music of these bands have got me through some of the darkest and tragic times in my life. When I no longer had heroin, I had hardcore. Its really a beautiful thing.
All this being said about the content of this genre and I have yet to speak of hardcore music performed live.
The first hardcore show I ever attended was a  Ceremony show at Showcase Theatre in 2006. This was my first experience of an attention getting, simple but intricate, introduction and preface to something extraordinary.  A trait I have acquired and held tight over the years, grab the attention of the audience with something simple but thought provoking. Ceremony did this by dimming the stage lights and performing only the guitar riff of the “Violence” leading straight into a rambunctious opening song.
A wave of kids stomping back and forth across the floor. Above the knee shorts,
windbreakers and worn Vans planting on the stage and front flipping into the crowd. Sweaty, adrenaline filled kids swarm toward the vocalist and begin screaming the words to the song along side him, on top of him or one top of one another. When those words connect to your heart you want to scream them as loud as you can, as close as possible to the person with the mic.
Most bands have a fan favorite, or a song that has turned into an anthem over the years. This song is usually played at the end of the set, not always but sometimes. At that Ceremony show in 2006 when they broke in to “I Want to Put This to an End” the entire place went off, even more so than they had for the prior 30 minutes. Fighting each other to get on the stage and pile up like that wall of dead bodies in “300”, except these ones were alive. Alive and yelling, “I find problems I’m a fucked up kid, I’ve got problems I’m alone again.”
I found myself in the middle of all that pouring my angst and pain out with a group of people who were feeling the same, side by side. The years following I lost touch with myself and who I was, what I sought in pain relief I found in drugs, unfortunately. I became powerless, and completely disconnected from reality and the world around me, with that came loss of connection with the music that touched my soul as a kid.
About 9 months into sobriety I stumbled across Final Fight somehow on Spotify and awoke my dormant connection with hardcore.  Being sober almost 4 years now I have dove deeper and deeper into the power of this music which I discovered when I was 15. It is different now, I don’t worry about what the “hardcore kids” will think of me, how should I dress, how do I stage dive and circle pit at shows, none of that shit matters to me. To me, its much deeper than that, I’ve experienced pain and suffering in life that is beyond measure. The same pain I hear in the words of Ruiner and Go It Alone, over heavy instrumentals that make you wanna stomp your feet and jump off the nearest standing object.
Thank you hardcore, for changing my life..

the girl with the pink hair

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I woke up from a dream this morning in which I fell in love and married the girl of my “dreams”. There were other events happening which made the whole thing a lot more confusing. There were giant robots that would come attack the small town I lived in and I was a member of the squad that fought against them.

The town I lived in was similar to Westside Santa Barbara and at one point I ran into an old friend walking down a set of stairs. He walked passed me and I recognized him by the way he wore his beanie, I yelled “Devious” and he turned around and saw me. Our conversation I can’t much remember, but he was a person I got high and ran the streets with in real life. He looked out for me and actually was a good friend. In the dream I let him borrow my car and he stole it, I never saw him again.

There were glimpses and sightings of people I ran the streets with throughout the entire dream, but I just passed them by.  At one point I realized I was dreaming and walked up to the nearest person and told them I was dreaming, and their face blurred and vanished.  I woke up, and fell right back asleep.  It is strange when this happens, waking up in a dream but still seeing the images the brain has created for my dream state.  Caught in some kind of limbo between a woken state and sleep.

In the dream town there was a corner that resembled Montecito Street and Castillo Street,  with 711 and Chevron on opposite corners.  Down the road was an area that very much resembled Pershing Park except the trees looked more like Evergreen trees and they were very tall. This is where the robots would land and our squad would deploy from a station across the street and fight them with machine guns and rocket launchers. There was a warning system when a robot was approaching, and the city would be alerted by sirens and megaphone announcements. Very much like the movie Pacific Rim, actually exactly like Pacific Rim.

I was walking to a coffee shop when the sirens sounded that a robot was approaching.  I wanted to get the coffee before I made my way back to the station, and when I opened the door there she sat. The girl with the pink hair.

For many years I have been attracted and drawn to any girl who resembles Liv Tyler or Kat Dennings. Fair skin, blue eyes and black hair. You get the idea, I guess that’s my “type”. I have been single for about 4 months now and not feeling the need to rush into anything or really having a desire to pursue girls. I have been thinking frequently though about my Liv Tyler and if she exists.  Maybe the girl in this dream was a manifestation of those recent thoughts.

I sat down at the table across from the girl with pink hair and she smiled at me.  I don’t remember the conversation, but I remember a feeling that I overcame that initial fear of asking a girl out.  The next image I remember was walking down the street holding her hand and looking over to see her smile again, she was beautiful.  I felt loved by her, a kind of love that seemed like it would never go away, the kind of girl that would stay by my side forever, no matter what.  It’s hard to remember any of the conversation but I remember flashes of images, me and her underneath sunshine and blue skies.  I like to think our conversations consisted of punk rock bands we both loved, California, movies, the Dodgers and talks about going against the grain of society’s norm.

The next image I remember clearly was some kind of flash to the future and we were on the beach, the girl with pink hair was walking away from me toward the shore.  Sunshine again and blue skies.  She looked back at me and she was older, and even more beautiful than before.  Her hair was a lighter shade of pink and now had some dark brown mixed in with it.  I’d like to say I have been in love in real life, this felt like that times a million.  The next dream sequence I was laying in bed with her and she looked a lot like Liv Tyler, she was wearing black shorts and a black tee shirt and her hair was black with a single streak of bright pink.  I kissed her and it felt so real, I felt love and compassion and like I had finally found the girl I have been waiting for.

The last scene I remember was being in a restaurant, seemingly way later in my life.  I was sitting alone at a table and I felt like I had aged, but I was alone.  I felt empty, like I was missing the best thing I ever had, missing her smile.  I turned around and saw the girl with the pink hair, she was kissing another man, her hand was pressed up against his face.  One of those kisses, you know hand on the side of the face fully engaged in romance.  I was filled with rage, it was almost like she knew I was there and she was doing it to make me hurt.  I got up and ran towards them, tackled the man and threw him against the wall and choked him.  Then I woke up.

I woke up to rain outside my window, it was surreal.  I immediately wanted to find the girl with the pink hair. I wanted to fall back asleep so I could see her again.  I felt like I was deeply in love with the perfect girl, and I had experienced a lifetime with her in one night’s sleep.  I have been thinking about her all day, wanting to believe she is real and that one day I will actually meet her.  Psychology will say this was a symbol of some feeling or thought that has been rattling around in my head and my unconscious needed to get in touch with it.  If I believe that, then I lose the mystery and existence of her.  Lately, I have been okay with being alone, I truly have not desired a significant other.  With her it felt perfect, like she was the one I could spend the rest of my life with, maybe that’s how people feel who get married to their soulmate.  I’d like to think it was some kind of sign to let me know she is on her way to cross my path, and this is what the future will hold.  As the rain falls outside my window, I sit at the screen and stare, I hope to meet you one day, the girl with the pink hair…

saturday night, in my room

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I started smoking cigarettes consistently when I was 16.  I smoked regularly until I was 24, with the only times of abstinence being while I was incarcerated.  Even then, I’d write a couple poems for some soups or chips and hustle myself up some tobacco to roll in bible paper and smoke.  I had no belief in God back then, so burning through Deuteronomy didn’t phase me.

Some of the tobacco in the county jail was referred to as “pig spit”, dried up chewing tobacco that guards had spit on the floor.  Trustees would collect it, dry it out and sell a dime sized clump for $2 or $3.

When I was in treatment a couple of years ago I decided to quit smoking.  I used to wash and clean people’s shoes for money, and I would buy a giant bag of Red River tobacco for $22. I decided to quit mainly because I had began exercising regularly and I was noticing the effect cigarettes were having on my capacity to breathe while running.  It was much harder than I expected, and I went back to those Red River rollies many times before I finally kicked the habit.  I chewed tobacco and nicotine gum for a couple of days to fight the craving, but I finally was completely nicotine free.

A drug addict is drawn to sugar, carbohydrates, sex, caffeine and nicotine more than the average person because of the release of serotonin and dopamine those chemicals and sex create.  Drugs like Heroin and Meth release an immeasurable overload of serotonin and dopamine, take that away and we are drawn to anything else that gives us a small taste again.  However, I won’t end up living under a bridge or back in jail because I drink lattes and chew tobacco.  Go to an AA meeting, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

My period of nicotine abstinence ended in 2015-2016 after I was given a newly popular nicotine vape.  It produced the same effect as a cigarette, except it tasted like strawberry lemonade and didn’t leave me with the stale tobacco smell.  I could also take puffs off of it in quick intervals as opposed to the ritual of the Marlboro red.  I continued with the vaping up until 2 days ago when I made the decision again to kick the habit.  After almost 3 consecutive years of vaping it has been much harder to get off the junk than I anticipated.  I made it through Day 1 and 2 with some nicotine lozenges but they were so chalky and unenjoyable that I decided to by some skoal snus.  Not exactly chew, a lot milder and I have made it through with a couple of those today.

I have been doing more things lately to express myself creatively than I have ever done in my life.  When I was younger and throughout early adulthood I always had visions or ideas that I wanted to turn into action but I never had the ability to do so.  A lot of those ideas and “plans” came under long sleepless nights of amphetamine use and scattered conversations with odd people, and I eventually gave up hope on ever doing anything with my dreams.  My dream was never to host a radio show or have a website to write about whatever I wanted, or to counsel addicts/alcoholics on the road to recovery.  I always thought I  would be the next up and coming white rapper(so delusional) or some dude that knew somebody that made it big, and I could be along for the ride.  It’s crazy how it all worked out.

Life changed over the last couple years, I got sober and began learning how to be a productive and responsible member of society.  Those dreams and desires to be creative and share something cool with the world still ran inside of me, but now I could actually accomplish things and turn thoughts into actions.  This landed me with some realistic ventures where I could do just that.  I really felt this today as I was making the playlist for this week’s radio show and talking with some friends about upcoming interviews.  I feel it now as I am writing this, in my room surrounded by objects and pictures that all tell a little bit of my story and the things that drive my inspiration.

Walls with images of Barry Sanders, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Rocky Balboa, The Clash, Banksy, The Sound and Fury Fest and a photo of my son next to a childhood photo of me where the similarities are strikingly apparent.  A seashell with a little bit of my mom’s ashes hanging above my bed, inter-tangled with a couple of crosses and a picture of Jesus Christ.  Star Wars, and too many Dodger bobble heads and memorabilia to list.  My bed, one of the first “adult” purchases I made in recovery, blanketed with the most comfortable comforter I got out of the rescue mission’s donation room almost 4 years ago.  Coffee and top ramen, popcorn and peanut butter.  My beta fish Cosmo, tons of textbooks, fiction and nonfiction books.  Vans, more Vans and dickies and more dickies.  Sweatshirts and jackets, tee shirts and work clothes.  My gary fisher mountain bike given to me by a man that helped save my life.

I could write a book about everything attached to what is just here in this room, only a glimpse into the libraries of stories and memories I have inside of me.  The journey I have been on that has led me to this moment, Saturday night in my room…