What Made Me Wild

050812-maurice-03

 

“Oh, please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!” might be the best line in a children’s book ever. But Maurice Sendak created so many great lines and images and moments, it would be impossible to pick just one. Sendak would have been 85-years-old today (if you haven’t checked out the Google Doodle in honor of Sendak, please do so now) and his legacy is a profound one on me. I remember reading and rereading Where the Wild Things Are over and over again as a kid. It scared me. It sadden me. It made me laugh. Where the Wild Things Are was passed through our family with its ripped pages, torn cover and scribbled on backside. Books like this one along with Where the Sidewalk Ends and everything Jim Henson touched on television were the things that made me want to tell stories of my own. My appreciation for Sendak certainly grew as I got older. When I worked at my parent’s bookstore in high school, I saw firsthand how kids were still in love with his books. It’s a special artist whose works endures and touches so many generations and Sendak was certainly that.

Alligators StoryboardA-L 1_300

 

Last year, I watched the incredible Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak and again my love for the guy exploded. So brilliant, honest and open Sendak isn’t shy about who he is and what he believes. As a gay man, Sendak had to hide his 50-year relationship in fear that it would ruin his career as a children’s book author. Also incredibly moving are Sendak’s stories of his much loved siblings. Being a person who loves their brothers and sister, I related big time. And he was also very, very funny. For proof, please watch his hysterical, no-holds-barred interview on The Colbert Report. 

5046284320_1540d3139d-e1336487337870

 

So Happy Birthday, Maurice Sendak! Thanks for teaching me how to be a wild thing.

Anything Could Happen

The funny thing about optimism is that even though its something I whole heartedly believe in, it can vanish the minute the waters get rocky. Like it’s incredibly easy for me to preach, “Don’t worry. This too shall pass” to other people but practicing in my own life? That’s another story. I’m sort of on-paper, in theory kind of optimist but will flip-flop back to pessimist land in the blink of an eye.  You know, kind of  like the friend of your’s from college who went vegan but still ate chicken sandwiches when no one was around. So knowing this about myself as I do now, I sort of have to work overtime to keep optimism and faith alive.

04ef799b8304b3

 

 

Staying out my pre-programmed Irish thinking of “This world’s going to hell in a handbasket!” can be accomplished if I do things that make me feel good. I was once told that I could slowly achieve self-esteem if I practiced estimable acts. Once someone explained to me what estimable acts actually were (by the way gossiping and buying cocaine did not make the list. Go figure.), I’ve been able to live by this. Mainly, it boils down to thinking of others. If I’m wrapped up in my own garbage, my day is usually garbage. But if I’m busy doing things that make me feel good like helping my fellow-man, my day usually gets better. Sometimes, Its texting somebody I know is having a rough time. Sometimes, its making coffee for a meeting. Sometimes its letting my husband sleep in. And in a pinch, holding the door open for somebody or picking up some thrash can be lifesavers too.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that after a few weeks where I honestly felt crappy and felt like things weren’t ever going to get better, they have. This is largely in part because I kept doing stuff that helped others and myself. Even when it drove me nuts. On this Sunday evening, I am actually optimistic. I’m working on some great projects. My relationships are good. I have some fun events this summer. The amazing thing about being sober is that I have seen my life and other people’s lives change. I beleive that my life is only getting more incredible as the days pass, even if I can’t see exactly it at the time. The song is right– anything could happen. And more than that,  I think it already is happening.

 

Letting it All Hang Out

When I was in my 20’s, I was attracted to people who said and did whatever the hell they wanted and damn whatever anybody else thought. This was incredibly appealing to me and something I tried to imitate as I had always been the person worried about what people thought of me. With the right combination of chemicals, I could really trick others (and myself) into thinking I was that “I don’t give a shit” kind of guy. The kind of person who would dance on the table and then drink you under it.

f4db2397d76a8f9d2c70870f29df206c

 

Creating this persona and living up to it was a full-time job. Liquor helped me be a bigger, bolder crazier version of myself and it worked for a while. I said whatever I wanted and didn’t care if I hurt anyone and it was fun but not for long.Funny how friends evaporate after you’ve bitched them out a billion times while intoxicated.  Getting drunk and telling people off, an act which seemed cool at 22, was downright pathetic at 35. When I got sober, I had to take a long look at the way I talked to and treated people. It wasn’t pretty but if I wanted to stay sober I had to be willing to uncover all of the demons. The surprising thing I did learn when I got sober is that its still okay to speak my mind and to have opinions. And in fact, compassionately speaking the truth with humor and honesty can be a real art form.

drag 18

 

To prove that I still have that zing but without any of the alcoholic sting, here’s my thoughts on some current stuff.

Arrested Development: The cult phenomenon of this show passed me by the first time so the hubby and I get all caught up on Netflix including the new season. My opinion? Totally overrated but at times hilarious. I ‘m happy I watched it but would be hard pressed to say it bowled me over. The first 6 of the new episodes are true stinkers and should be avoided. Love Jason Bateman, though.

Taylor Swift: I’m a hardcore fan of female singer songwriters but I don’t get her and in fact her music makes me violent.

Gay Pride: As I’ve moaned about before in these pages, the whole drunken mess part of gay pride ticks me off. Since the season is once again upon us, I find myself feeling annoyed. The stumbling in the streets has nothing to do with feeling proud of one’s sexuality. So why don’t we just rename it Meth and Vodka Pride and get honest about the whole thing?

The News: If I start posting about watching CNN and MSNBC for 18 hours at a time, please send help. Nothing is a bigger serenity killer than the news for me. I’m happier not knowing what’s going on and so are the people around me.

Community: Another find on DVD and I have to say it’s quickly become my happy place sitcom. I have two more seasons to watch and I can’t wait.

That’s enough out of me. Let’s continue the spirited conversation and you tell me things your currently loving or loathing in the comments section below. Feel free to disagree. I can take it. And besides, I no longer yell at people, remember?

 

 

 

 

Panic at the Bathroom Mirror

I woke up with an impending sense of doom for so many years, I just thought that’s what everybody went  through in the morning. That feeling of another exploding shoe about to drop. The racing heart right when I opened my eyes. My life was such a shitshow for so long, waking up meant having to endure yet another episode where yours truly did something awful while intoxicated. So now, in those rare moments, when I do feel panic or anxiety I’m jettisoned back to those horrible days. It happened just this morning as a matter of fact.

58255403_panika

It was blazing hot in our bedroom when I first woke up and my phone was vibrating. I try not to even deal with my phone for at least 30 minutes after getting out of bed but I instinctually grabbed it and the slew of messages instantly stressed me out. How was I going to get all the stuff done I needed to? Who should I call back first? Why am I always behind even before I’ve had my coffee? Here I was not even fully awake and I had already successfully thrown myself into a panic. I was sweating and felt anxious but I knew setting down my phone and going downstairs was the right answer. Everything would have to wait until I got a handle on this non-issue I was having. Spending years waking up in situations where everything was far from okay had thrown my morning rituals in some kind of PTSD and I’m still learning how to turn my habits and thought patterns around. Before I descended the staircase, I splashed water on my face in the bathroom and said out loud, “You’re fine.”

After prayer, meditation and a cuddle session with my cat, I started to believe it. Further positive actions throughout the day confirmed my temporary panic was not going to cause me to explode and my day turned out pretty great. I walked down the street and could smell flowers. I ran into some friends at my favorite meeting. I had an amazing chicken sandwich. And an opportunity to help someone in need even came up and I pounced at it. This speedy, mental turnaround is proof that my thinking has really evolved. When I used to wake up in a state of “FUUUUCCCCKK!!”, I usually stayed there and it almost always got worse. Now its a different reality. It’s incredible that I can have those moments, acknowledge them and use  some magic tools to move past them. Today was a good reminder that I can just as easily press the reset button as I can press the panic button.

So how was your day?

thank you nice people. keep up the good work.

Not much to report here on day five. I ran a bunch of errands, did some writing and oh just had my faith in humanity restored. Scratch that. Turns out it was a bigger news day than I  initially thought.

pic_204264146

I guess I should clear up my dramatic statement since I sort of sounded like everyone on planet Earth has been yelling at me and throwing things at me for the last forty years until this random stranger was nice to me today. No, I do actually believe that if I’m kind and friendly to people, I’ll get it back. Time after time, this theory usually delivers. Today it just happened to deliver at my new HIV healthcare providers, a place I so desperately needed it. Being as I work freelance, the offices of Sean INC. don’t exactly provide CEO-type of healthcare and I have to rely on the cheap/free stuff. Thankfully, Denver takes great care of HIV positive peeps wtih its system.  After some chronic fatigue and blood sugar level funkiness for the last six months, I finally kicked myself in the ass, made phone calls and sought new medical help. Yeah, HIV is a manageable condition that doesn’t kill us anymore but you still have to, like, actually manage it. Nevertheless, the minute I don’t feel well I still naturally think I’m headed for this inevitable future:

or this

I told you I was dramatic. Once I calmed the hell down and talked to other positive friends, I was able to get into action and get into a clinic. Today was first appointment of the drop off paper work variety and my case worker turned out to be angel. I mean really. Terrific guy, super friendly, organized, compassionate and even gave me a hug and said, “We’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on. Don’t worry.”Wow! I bet they don’t do that in CEO-type of doctor’s offices! I suddenly was able to exhale and already physically felt a little better knowing I had someone this awesome working for me. It was 15 minutes that truly changed my day. It made me realize how just being compassionate and kind and authentic can really transform the lives of others. So nice people everywhere, thanks for just being your nice selves and keep doing your thang. And I’ll try to return the favor whenever I can.

some survive

As I listened to a beloved member of my fellowship share a heartbreaking story of his brother who committed suicide after decades of struggling to get sober, two things happened. First, the idiotic, self-involved stuff I was worried about  instantly melted away. Nothing like legitimate tragedy to put your “problems” in perspective.  And second, a thought that always hits me when I hear news like this came over me once again: “Joe.”

7.jpgc4fa5a9f-804b-4cf1-929f-c69c594384ddLarge

 

Joe wasn’t my best friend in recovery. Joe wasn’t somebody I hung out with. In fact, Joe was actually someone I was kind of jealous of. Handsome, smart and with an incredible job Joe and his partner were the kind of gay couple in recovery us single losers wanted to be. But Joe and I did have two big things in common: the same home group and we both got sober on January 2nd 2009. When we picked up one year anniversary chips, Joe and I finally exchanged numbers and looked like we were moving towards becoming friends. Sadly, I never got to use his number. Joe and his partner relapsed and struggled to stay in the program. A few months later, Ken came home and found Joe dead in his bathtub. After struggling to get back into recovery, Joe couldn’t take it and like so many of us do, committed suicide. His death hit me like a ton of bricks. Here was a guy with my same sobriety date who seemed to have everything, dead in the blink of an eye. A shockwave of sadness flowed through our group and folks rallied around his heartbroken spouse. At the time, my grief manifested in wondering “Why Joe and not me?” I wondered for a long time why some us get to stay and keep being sober while others relapse and get taken out by this disease. It all seemed so senseless. Wasn’t just wanting it enough?

Three years since Joe’s death and two days since listening to my friend’s talk of heartbreak, I know that just wanting it for someone isn’t enough.They have to want and they have to want to do the work. And while we will never know for certain why some of us get to stay sober and stay alive, I like to think there’s a bigger reason. I put myself in dozens of crazy and dangerous situations and with lethal combinations of chemicals. I’m not sure why that stuff didn’t kill me. I’m equally puzzled as to why I chose to hang onto my life-preserver instead of relapse this go round.  But what I do know is since I’m here I owe it to Joe and to my friend’s brother and millions of others to make the most of everyday, to work hard on being less of jerk and to help as many people as I can. I think of it as life-preserver insurance.

the man, the myth, the mayonnaise

A_jar_of_mayonnaise

 

I thought I’d use today’s post to talk about something really fascinating: myself and my upcoming projects! I kid but since I’m blogging everyday I figured today would be a good opportunity to talk about my new memoir with recipes, The Potato Salad Variations. Last winter I self-published A Tough Cookie Christmas, just your average holiday story about a drunken hot mess who get his life together and bakes cookies, and I had so much fun with that project I decided to put out a sequel or companion of sorts. Hence The Potato Salad Variations was born. As food magazine reader, avid Top Chef watcher and overly confident home cook, I’d say I’m something of a foodie and food lover. What’s more is I kind of have a crazy memory for the things I ate and where I ate them. Food, for me, plays such a huge part in a lot of my biggest life moments that I liked the idea of tying recipes in with stories from my life.

The Potato Salad Variations tells three stories from my life using three different recipes for potato salad as sort of the guideposts and markers in my personal history. There was a series of humiliating barbecues which I alluded to in yesterday’s post that lead up to me hitting rock bottom in 2009. Present at each of these functions was potato salad. In fact, the creamy side dish of the gods could be spotted at everything from my baby brother’s baptism to my high school graduation and everything in between. Potato salad, like dysfunction and redemption, has been a constant in my life so it made for a natural, albeit unusual, narrator for these stories. I confess the middle section of stories was a hard one for me write. I’ve talked about hitting bottom in thousands of meetings and told my story hundreds of times but for some reason writing about this messy period of my life was challenging and uncomfortable. That’s usually a good sign. It means I’m not bullshitting myself and that I’m telling the truth.

So I hope The Potato Salad Variations makes people laugh and that readers get something out of it. If not, that’s okay. I do know the recipes rock so at the very least I have that going for me and I know it’s 100% the story I wanted to tell. And in the end, what more can a writer ask for?

The Potato Salad Variations will be released on June 30, 2013 thru Smashwords.com! 

ouch

nabrak_kaca

 

“Oh my god!” is what came flying out of mouth. Not, “Are you okay?” or anything of the compassionate nature. Just a good old-fashioned OMG followed by a “Fuck!” And judging by what I witnessed, I think in hindsight these were the proper responses. As I took a morning walk through the park on my way to a meeting the other day, I heard that noise. You know that painful crash reserved for people walking into glass doors or banging their heads on car doors or falling down a flight of stairs. This particular blood curdling clang was caused by a girl on a bicycle who had ridden face first into a steel sign. This sign which apparently came out of nowhere for the rider is the standard “no littering, hours of operation, blah, blah, blah” thing meant to help parkgoers. In this case, however, all the sign helped do is knock this young lady off her bike. As the bike wrapped itself around the sturdy signpost, her face smacked directly into the sign causing the aforementioned noise. So dramatic was the sound and entire accident, a couple walking their dog ran over to help the girl up. Crumpled, embarrassed and a little bloody, she was helped back up and on her bike where, and this could only happen in Denver, she relit her joint and peddled away.

6a0120a5c8d9a9970c014e875258a3970d-800wi

As I kept walking, I wondered if she’d even remember the entire affair later. Personally, I know had dozens, if not hundreds, of ouch moments while inebriated and probably even more that I don’t remember. I’m not the most coordinated soul in the best , most sober situations so add any kind of chemical to my system and some falling down is bound to happen. Stairs, specifically, were my longtime nemesis. Falling up or down them while completely shitfaced was kind of my speciality. After a long night of drinking, tumbling up or down the steps to my apartment became not that big of a deal. Yet it was a painful, midday slide down their stairs after I’d been asked to leave a barbecue where I’d drank myself into a coma at like 2pm in the afternoon that would be my last drunken, stumble down the stairs.Of the hundreds of times, I’d made an ass out of myself this one stung the most. Not only because the fall itself was incredibly painful- I bounced on my ass down concrete steps into an unforgiving wrought iron door. But because it felt like a new low. My drunkenness had officially crossed over into the pathetic-guy-who-gets-blackout-drunk and ruins a barbecue territory and I wasn’t coming back. It took me another 4 months– and some other huge disasters to finally pull my head out of my ass and get help.

accidentes-trabajo-compensacion

 

Now, that was my last drunken tumble but last time I fell down some stairs, I was sober. Newly sober in fact. I was crying on the phone to my mom, as I did pretty much for the first year of sobriety, and it was pouring rain like it does in February in Los Angeles. I was calling her from the campus of Santa Monica college where I had recently enrolled in school. As I hung up with tears in my eyes, I missed a step and went flying down the stairs, cutting my hand open on the sidewalk. A trio of well-dressed African-American girls with chic umbrellas came running over, “Are you okay? You fell pretty hard!” they said. I nodded and mumbled something and ran out of there. Aside from wanting to die, I was okay.

Why I felt compelled to talk tumbles today, I have no idea. Maybe I needed the reminder to help other people who fall down. Maybe I needed to feel grateful that my days of drunken calamities have been over for a while. Or maybe I just needed to remember that everybody crashes and gets back up and rides off. With or without a joint dangling from their lips.

everyday I write the blog

elvis-costello-and-the-attractions-everyday-i-write-the-book-rca

 

As I professional writer, ghostwriter, playwrite, copywriter and all-around monkey behind the keyboard, I pretty much write and blog everyday. Sadly, I don’t get to write over here as much as I would like. So when I recived the challegne to blog everyday in the month of June, I hopped at it. And as a person in recovery, consistency is kind of a big deal. “They”, that nefarious they who like to boss you around when you first come into 12 step programs, bang this into your head in the early days of recovery. “You need to go to 90 meetings in 90 days,” they say. “You need to pray everyday”, they tell you. “You need to call another drunk or junkie several times a week”, they order. The only thing I every did with regularity for over 20 years was get wasted and totally fuck up my life so I was skeptical that discipline and routinely doing anything other than that would even be possible. Nevertheless, I was kind of out of ideas seeing as though my own programs of fixing my life which consisted of everything from snorting Benadryl, half-assed studying of the Kabbalah, hiking away my hangovers, even less than half-assed attending of guided Shambala meditations, drinking non-alcoholic beer and smoking weed and beyond failed miserably. Maybe just shutting up and showing up everyday to meetings could work.Maybe little but revolutionary changes in habits every single day could save my life.  And one day at a time for the last over four years, it totally has.

Since that time, I’ve done some amazing and previously impossible things for over 30 days. A month without a cigarette turned into nearly 3 years without one. 30 days without sugar turned into 60 until the dreams of donuts and giant plates of pasta became impossible to deny. A month without meat turned into nearly a year. 30 days of making gratitude lists over 3 years ago has now turned into a daily ritual that has truly transformed my health, life and spirit.  The point is I can do lots of stuff for 30 days and since writing is something I do anyway, why not blog for the next 30 days? Besides, its a nice outlet for me right now. Having just closed a show and working on two book projects in various stages, blogging here feels like a relief.  Will some great idea spring from this month’s worth of posts? By the end of the month will I have some big revelation? Who knows. But what I do know is that none of this will happen if I don’t blog. Besides, I’m a big dreamer and I’ve seen amazing stuff happen in my own life by just making little changes everyday. And you never know what could happen! As Elvis puts it, “Even in a perfect world, where everyone is equal, I’d still own the films rights and be working on the sequel.”