Addiction, And The Trappings Thereof

The recent passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the subsequent public reaction to it has left me in a bit of a state, especially when I feel disgusted by the lack of sympathy present there. People called him stupid, looked down on him as an addict, et cetera. And that’s just not fair. You can feel free to harbor as much disdain for the culture of celebrity as you damn well please, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a human being who largely acted as a foil to much more successful characters, and that’s not an easy way to live. Many of us portray ourselves on a certain level to shield ourselves from the truth, or maybe our jokes and our anecdotes serve as a very real reminder of where we are, where we’ve been, and what we deal with on a day-to-day basis, almost like a miroir noir of the things that others see in us. We look at our darkness and don’t pay enough attention to what people love about us, because it’s just too much at times.

I took my first drink at 13 years old. 

I didn’t just take my first DRINK, I took my first drinks. 10 shots of Jose Cuervo, and remarkably I was still standing. Not vomiting. I had an affinity for the sauce before I knew it had an affinity for me. First cigarettes came not long afterward. I smoked my first joint at 14. Recreationally took my first prescription pills at 15. Painkillers. Xanax. Basically everything that you don’t want at that age, I had. I drank with my uncle and my co-workers after construction/floor installation jobs on the way home from our gigs, every weekend. Sometimes more often than every weekend, especially during the summer. Beers with my stepdad and my friends during barbecues. Joints, blunts, bowls, booze, pills, all of that on a regimented basis. I spent most of my mornings during my teens smoking a joint just to even out. It was…not fun. But it was fun. That was the whole problem, it was all framed as “fun”. A good distraction. Go and meet some girls and hang out and get fucked up and make out and maybe get laid. Drive home while buzzed, do it again, over and over. 

And it was killing all of us. I remember a good friend of mine losing his little brother, not more than fifteen years of age, due to an Oxycontin overdose in a shitty trailer in Alabama. My best friend, Shannon, who was like an older brother to me and provided me a lot of the ways and means to which I’d get fucked up, died of an overdose as well in his mid-twenties. He left behind a wife and kids. They found him in a pool of his own blood in their living room. It’s not easy.

I’ve been in a lot of really bad circumstances over the years. Booze-fueled car accidents. Sitting in weird houses with weird people all whacked out on whatever the fuck they could get their hands on just to not deal with life. Meth (which I never touched myself, but watched many people get stuck on - WINTER’S BONE and BREAKING BAD are more true to life than you will ever understand), everything else. It was hard. I’ve had guns pulled on me, fucking snakes thrown at me, etc. I’ve threatened to stab people before if they didn’t get away from me. Crazy drunks at parties. Pulled guns on older guys who were wanting to beat my ass because I was the young guy at the party whose girlfriends were flirting with him. It wasn’t fun, but it was life. 

So seeing a lot of the self-righteous reactions to the passing of an actor, one who ended up being stuck with his demons and having fallen through after decades of sobriety, is really galling to me. I’ve just finally started making an active effort to fix my life and confront my problems head-on, and while it hasn’t been without its occasional setback, I’ve been in rooms with and met tons of people in L.A. who have similar stories, if not worse. They didn’t grow up in the backwoods of the South, but their struggles are no less despite whereever they were planted. It’s all hard for all of us, whether you grow up in a house of addicts/substance abusers or if you’re one yourself. It’s not glamorous, and it sure as fuck isn’t a subject that’s ripe for mockery or derision. Nobody chooses these things, mostly. They happen. It’s circumstances. Poverty, lack of education, lack of opportunity, et al. 

We all love to hear those Horatio Alger-type stories of people pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, because it reinforces that whole Republican bullshit ideal that if you can just work hard enough, you’ll make your way out of a bad situation. But it’s profoundly untrue and it’s very dishonest. It’s the literal antithesis of the American Dream. We medicate ourselves to separate our conscious from the harshness of reality. From being exploited by a multinational corporation for meager wages. For not having medical insurance and suffering from so much pain that just getting fucked up makes you get away from it for a bit. From the insecurity of any sort of soluble future. 

And so, recently it became clear that I have a problem with drinking. 

Actually it’s always been clear, it just wasn’t clear to me. I lost a lot of things due to it. My dignity, relationships, jobs, etc. It’s all just sort of bled together at this point, but at the same time it’s a hard thing to let go of. I grew up in a climate where problems were not discussed. Instead of going to a therapist or getting on medication, you did what you could to escape. Drink, drugs, fighting, fucking, whatever happened to silence the gnawing inside that told you that you would never escape, that everything was meant to be utterly fucked and that you would never survive, just like many of your predecessors didn’t survive. Men didn’t talk about stuff like pussies, they bit the bullet and charged on, and sometimes bit a bullet from the end of a gun in the process. My dad was one of them - not that he shot himself, but he did absolutely drink himself to death. There were many anecdotes about how likable and funny and charming he was…until he got sloshed. Then he turned into a monster. Incoherent, abusive, angry, etc. It likely stemmed from his father, who had similar traits along with supposedly just being a downright mean person from birth.

I spent a very long time telling myself that I wouldn’t end up like my dad, and I didn’t. At least as far as the physical abuse goes. Getting obliterated because you’re so out of sorts that you don’t want to live anymore but you’re not dumb enough to kill yourself in a more immediate fashion? Fuck yeah. 

I got lucky and fell into a job where I had a lot of disposable income. At least more than someone with my maturity level at the time deserved. I had a lot of good things at the time. I also was utterly miserable and did my best to stay drunk. I’d sneak it in places. I’d hide it. I’d pre-game until I could barely stand still to avoid swaying, and then go to bars with friends and black out and make an ass out of myself and sleep around and christ knows what else. There are nights where I don’t remember how I survived, entire hours of nothingness that gave way to waking up in bed or on my floor or on someone else’s floor or in someone else’s bed, surrounded by friends, surrounded by strangers, having to piece the previous night together as if I were in a fucking detective novel. It was asinine, but it was all I longed for. I kept throwing things away to fling myself headlong into another night of raucous drinking. I’d show up places sober, have women hanging off of me, and about four or five double bourbon or scotch later, they’d be disgusted by me. A hot mess, I was called. Truth be told, I wasn’t even hot, I was a scorching mess. Absolutely fucked up. Pour it down my head, give me a woman, let me loose, fuck it, I didn’t care.

I also hung out with older people, which made it a lot easier to get trashed, even in a dry county where legislators and Baptist preachers with booze on their breath decried the evils of alcohol and the lifestyles it encouraged, which they all practiced behind closed doors (and sometimes doors that weren’t so closed). We’d throw all sorts of stuff into our bodies just to feel something, to not hate waking up in a trailer in the middle of nowhere, to try and get into a girl’s pants, to dance better, etc. Liquid courage? More like liquid existence.

And I brought that with me when I moved to the city, where booze was more easily available, where getting shitfaced was just as commonplace as it was in the South, it was just more social and a little more fancy. The stresses that led to drinking were a little less stark than the stresses in the South, but they were still there. And they were replaced with worse feelings. Aimlessness, depression, frustration, feeling cooped up and just too goddamn many people, and if someone didn’t drink, the city will make them invent a reason to do so.

I’m terrified to think of how much money I’ve wasted on alcohol over the past four years of my life. I know it’s easily in the thousands if not the tens of thousands - beers, bar tabs, bottles of whiskey, mixers, and that’s not even counting money spent on other shit while sideways. If I’d saved every penny I’ve spent on it, I’d probably be able to go pay cash for a used car right now.

I drank like a man possessed. i prided myself on how much I could put away, until it became untenable. Until I was putting away so much that I was passing out on dates. Incoherent in the back of a friend’s vehicle, them not knowing my address. Fighting with people. Everything.

I’ve just come to realize how much of a Jekyll and Hyde thing it is for me. I’ve sat with Ariel and had her tell me that as soon as I’ve been drinking, the man that she loves is gone, and it’s replaced with a wild-eyed heathen, and that Jake that everyone likes has left the building. And it’s true. So I can’t keep doing that, and I can’t keep hurting the people who love me. I don’t want to die. After having taken many steps to work on recovery, it’s been a huge pain in the ass but I don’t want to live any other way. Even when I have moments where I relapse, I’m constantly in pain. It’s not just feeling guilty, it’s literally physically hurting. It’s existential agony. And I can understand how easy it is to fall back into those patterns, much like PSH did. 

And I don’t want to do that, but I also don’t want to read a bunch of judgmental motherfuckers talking about how he was a loser or an idiot or whatever, because he was only doing what we all do, which is - we do the best we can with what we have at the time.

So the next time you see a drunk staggering down the street, or someone nodding off on the bus, or someone all sketched out and acting erratically, maybe hang up the asshole schtick for a bit and realize that this person is suffering through things you may never well understand, and you’re lucky to not have to do so. Have some compassion. That’s what they need. Not to be shamed, not to be mocked, but to be understood and listened to.

Even sober people need that. 

On Checking Yourself Before You, In Fact, Wreck Yourself

I grew up around a lot of people who tended to make fun of “city slickers”, “Yankees”, and people from either coast or large cities. I got used to it, engaged in it sometimes, it largely just seemed like a lot of innocent ribbing. Time passed, I got older, opportunities arose, and I moved away from my hometown to – you got it, a large city on the West Coast. I know that country, salt-of-the-earth types like to give city people a lot of shit, and vice-versa. There’s always going to be that silly little rivalry, the clash of two cultures despite the fact that we’re all meat and we’re all gonna die anyway, etc.

But as I sit on a bus headed from one large West Coast city to another, I find myself sort of disgusted by Central CA. Not San Luis Obispo/et al, but the hardscrabble farm community part that actually bears a fairly strong resemblance to the type of community in which I grew up, even if the land itself is fucking ugly. I mean, it’s just flat, barely-rolling hills, a whole lot of nothing. At least we had woods where I grew up. Swamps. Not just this flat, bleak…thing. It’s an expanse of land that’s purely utilitarian, if it’s even utilitarian half of the time. And I find my disgust to be a little hypocritical! People grow up and die in places like this without seeing much of anything else. I’ve seen it happen, and it will continue to happen. I could have easily been one of those people, and it makes me feel bad for being an asshole, especially considering that I’m in Louis CK’s camp of hating civic pride. I’m not looking forward to going to San Francisco and going to places and having people be like “EWWW YOU’RE FROM L.A., GROSS,” even if it’s only in a joking manner. It’s stupid. It’s a stupid fucking thing to do. Of course I live in L.A. and I love it. It’s fantastic. Anywhere larger and more diverse than where I grew up is pretty great, and even where I grew up isn’t the worst place. It just wasn’t MY place.

But it IS a place for many people who are absolutely lovely and absolutely happy with where they are, who they are, and where they’re headed (or not headed, for that matter), and a lot of city people would probably kill for a piece of that calmness. On the other hand, there’s very little opportunity there, and that’s frustrating too. I can only speak as an outside observer, but as I told a friend, I’d rather be homeless in L.A. than back in my hometown, because there’s very little there. I don’t want to work retail for the rest of my life. I want to go places and learn things and meet people and not feel like a big fish in a small pond, even though L.A. still makes me feel like a minnow in spite of the great number of wonderful, amazing friends I’ve amassed over the years. They’re minnows too, of course, of all different shapes, colors, and sizes, but we school together and we do pretty well all things considered. There’s a deep camaraderie there that I’d have had a hard time finding in smaller environs, and I appreciate each of my friends for different reasons, but I’d still fight for them in a heartbeat.

So I’m heading up to San Francisco for a film festival with my awesome girlfriend, and we’re going to paint the town black and white (it’s a noir festival, that’s a noir joke, you can have that one) and meet up with a bunch of cool friends and other folks and make the best out of it in a very beautiful city, and I’m lucky to have that opportunity. Most people don’t. I gripe about tourists a lot, being a resident of a fairly touristy area of Los Angeles. They’re annoying. Like cattle with cameras. They just sort of mill around and look at things and chew and fart, but they’re people, and this stuff is AMAZING to them. That is pretty cool. I have to keep counting my blessings every time I start to elbow my way through throngs of people at Hollywood and Highland because I suddenly realize that I could easily be one of them, and have been in the past, and probably will be in the future.

In the end, we’re all tourists, in a way. We mill around and look at things and chew and fart, but what’s important is taking part in shit and being curious and being thankful for what you have and what you can experience. I’ve been horrifically bitter in the past and last year was definitely not of my finer years on record, but it still wasn’t the worst. I ended up having a pretty sweet job for part of it, got a lot of free food, met a great woman, met a lot of great people, saw a lot of good movies, took a head-on approach at addressing a lot of issues with depression and substance abuse that I had (which is still a massive pain in the ass, but it’s becoming less so) and had a lot of fun with people who I love dearly. And I want to continue that trend for this year. And I hope you guys stick around with me. No real point, I just wanted to get a lot of this out of my head while I look at this seemingly endless expanse of trees and dirt and realize that if I was standing out in the middle of it, I’d just be a speck.

On Time, Attentiveness, And Concern Trolling

This is going to be sort of all over the place, but I’m tired and a little punchy today, so feel free to read this or don’t. It’s your time to spend however you want to spend it.

This past handful of days has been sort of an odd one on the internet if you even pay a passing nudge of attention to social networks. It started with some dick reality TV producer bullying a rowdy older woman on a busy flight during one of the most stressful times of the year for many people, resulting in him being hailed as a hero for getting in the middle of someone else’s shit, telling her to put his dick in her mouth, and making the situation worse when there were people who are trained and paid to handle the situation right there to diffuse the outrage.

Then Paul Walker died, and tons of brave souls took to the internet to mock people for caring and to tell them where their concerns should really be placed. But is any of that really healthy? Is there any point to those doing the chastising in any of these cases other than to be self-aggrandizing in a sense and play yet another round of “Look How Much I Care About Things/Look How You Should Spend Your Time” Olympics? Is there really anything to be gained from telling people what they should or shouldn’t give a fuck about?
Someone’s bound to tell me that I probably wasted too much time writing about this or that I shouldn’t have wasted so much time thinking about it or that I had other things to worry about, so unbeknownst to myself I was apparently wracked with insurmountable liberal guilt over all of these things, throwing myself around a cluttered apartment with my hair in disarray, wailing the names of all individuals involved in all of these things to the heavens while weeping bitterly about things in the world or something to that effect. 

Helpful hint, gang: That’s not what’s happening. These blogposts take exactly maybe 30 minutes to crank out, if even that. Facebook or Twitter posts acknowledging that a thing happened? Maybe two minutes at the most? I mean, yeah, that half-hour could have been better spent dragging children from a burning orphanage, starting a LET’S FIND KONY AGAIN Kickstarter, or playing videogames to distract myself from everything else, but that’s not how it was spent.
It’s really a shame when people want to talk about having compassion for others, but instantly blanch at the idea of compassion when it comes to certain people that these individuals have deemed unworthy of their time or attention, because that sort of misses the point of the whole compassion thing. It’s pretty fucking condescending to insinuate that someone’s being silly or wasting their time for writing about something or paying attention to something that could possibly, by all means, have a larger effect on people beyond a microaggressive level. It’s great if you don’t want to talk about something and have better things to do! Fantastic! Go do those things! I could argue that you’re wasting just as much time chiding people for what you feel like they should be doing, if you wanted to go there.
It’s also condescending to tell people to stop paying attention to one issue in favor of another. The time of an individual is THEIR time, and they can spend it however the fuck they want - making balloon animals, masturbating to illustrations on Greek pottery, trying to fart out the chorus to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, whatever. Your concern is not going to change the minds of most people, full-stop. Yes, it’s nice that you want people to pay more attention to bad shit, and thank you for doing that, especially if you get people to pay attention. But what’s to say that they’re not ALREADY doing that. Being outraged about everything is literally exhausting. There are tons of people who take up arms against issues just so that they can look like the white knight, charging in to defend whoever from whatever at any given moment, and that’s shitty. That’s when it stops being compassionate and just becomes naked ego-stroking. And it’s cool if you want to do that, just realize that it’s a bit much sometimes and if people start rolling their eyes, maybe it’s time to cool down on the bully pulpit shit and change tactics, lest you start becoming too much like the people you rail against, deciding what’s worthy of discourse and framing discussions to fit your agenda.

There are many, many, many times where I’ve just not bothered arguing with someone either in person or on the internet because it is legitimately a waste of my time trying to convince them otherwise. But that’s not me telling someone else what to do, it’s me deciding that I’d rather talk about Paul Walker or call Elan Gale an asshole or make balloon animals while masturbating to illustrations on Greek pottery. It’s my shit, and for someone to come in on a pretty tall, stoned-looking horse and trivialize that is sort of unfair.
But people also seem to have this idea that you can only dedicate your time and effort to one single solitary thing, or that there’s not a multitude of choices out there. People are constantly ranking shit against other shit, from movies to music to books to hot-button political issues. Team Jacob or Team Edward? Team Stalin or Team Mussolini? I’d argue that this sort of mindset is what’s crippling us as a culture, to where we’re so busy playing Who’s More Oppressed that we’re losing sight of the fact that multiple things can either rock or suck in equal measure. That we can care about more than one thing, or choose to not care about more than one thing, or choose to not give a shit about anything at all, and that’s perfectly fine. As long as you’re not harming anyone else, go to town with farting balloon animals until you puke from exertion. It’d be pretty cool if everyone stepped back and took a breath before diving into the fray and decided to choose their battles a little better.

But, then again, I don’t want to come across like I’m telling you what to do. Do whatever, but be fully prepared to be ignored at your own peril. If you really don’t care that much, act accordingly. In the end, to quote a skilled yet largely fraudulent asshole protagonist from a popular TV show, the universe is indifferent.*

*This Tumblr post took exactly 20 minutes to type, in case anyone was worried about how I was budgeting my time.

I woke up this morning a little out of sorts. I hadn’t slept well all night anyway, as it was just fitful bits of rest punctuated with terrible nightmares, one involving my cat, Bronson. Somehow he just up and disappeared, and I went on the hunt for him. I was walking around my neighborhood at night, calling his name, and I could hear him crying for me, but I couldn’t find him. I was filled with a sense of dread. It sounded like he was in pain, like he was scared, like he just needed me. So of course I woke up with a jolt and got out of bed, went to the bathroom still feeling a little nervous and confused and kinda scared, and decided to leave my girlfriend’s place and make the (brief) trek through the park back to my place to make sure he was okay. She protested sleepily, wanting me to stick around, telling me that she didn’t like waking up without me, but I promised her I’d be back and told her to get some more rest since she’s still been wiped out from the double-header of spending a week at a conference out of state and then our jaunts to AFI Fest. As I stroked her cheek with my knuckles and gently kissed her forehead, her own cat thundered into the bedroom with a tail the size of a raccoon’s, all hyperactive from the cold weather outside and the fact that something else in the house other than him was awake at the moment. I needed to go check on Bronson.

Passing through our neighborhood park, I tried to clear my head a little by enjoying what was around me. There were herds of kids playing basketball on the courts. The air was crisp - just chilly enough for a hint of warm breath to show, enough to slightly tinge your cheeks with red numbness. The sun was just starting to peek over the building and tree line on the east, and the dewy grass sparkled with a glittery golden hue. It was sort of awesome, but of course the thoughts came back. On the other side of the park is a 7-11. It’s not much, but it does the job. It’s frequented by all sorts of shady characters, but it’s always there when you need it. Still buried in my own head, I trudged inside to buy a cup of coffee to hopefully help and shake out the cobwebs. While milling around, looking at tired blue-collar workers with rough hands and tired faces as they got ready for a day of labor that most of the people in my neighborhood couldn’t even fathom, I jokingly thought to myself “Which flavor of 7-11 coffee best suits my mood today? Am I going to be a cinnamon blend guy? A Brazilian blend?”

I get a lot of grief for getting coffee at 7-11 so often, but I really don’t mind. Much like that 7-11, it does the job and it’s always there when you need it. It’s cheap, it’s warm, and it keeps the system buzzing even though it doesn’t measure up much to a triple-meta-whatthefuckever on ice. An unemployed guy doing handyman work on the side can’t really spring for $10 coffee drinks all the time. As I poured my extra-large cup of life juice, a guy came in yelling at the clerk about wanting some fucking food, then looked at me and asked me for money. I apologized and said that I only had cards. He sneered at me and stormed out the door. I shook it off and went to the register. As I went to pay and the clerk asked me if that would be it, I looked over at the warming cabinet to see a row of spicy chicken biscuits for sale. $1.00 each. Of course instead of saying “Oh, chicken biscuits” and going on with my day, I bought one. I didn’t even want the fucking thing, but I wanted some sort of distraction. Something to fill my stomach and make me not worry about my stupid cat, about my family, about not drinking anymore and dealing with my anxiety and depression without getting shitfaced, etc.

So of course I bought one. As soon as the clerk placed the creepily moist, spongy, paper-wrapped monstrosity into my hand, I felt a sensation of familiarity. Growing up a fat kid and having food be my solace, various taunts and ass-kickings and the duplicitous nature of other, more fortunate kids being slightly muffled by the comfort of something unhealthy. Much like booze was for me over the past several years, food was my first vice. I hastily stuffed the biscuit into my pocket with a mild sense of shame and walked back outside, my exit punctuated by a warm belch of disinfectant-smelling air from the store heater. I started to crave the biscuit. Memories of Chik-Fil-A breakfasts slowly digested in my grandparents’ car to help stem the tide of impending dread from the potential builying of the day ahead, helping me not think about being called fat or poor or white trash for just a few seconds per bite. Burger King French Toast sticks to distract me from noticing how ratty my uniforms were compared to those of the other kids, being made fun of for having a scholarship instead of rich parents. Caloric vacations from how shitty reality could be.

I pushed open the weird squeaky gate across the street and walked into my sprawling apartment complex. It’s comprised of a swath of towering buildings and townhouses smack near the middle of the city and it’s actually pretty nice, all things considered. It’s definitely a place I never envisioned living when I was growing up in a trailer, heading off to an expensive school 30 miles away every morning and then proceeding to get busy having my face shoved into the dirt and being called a queer because I’d rather hang out with the girls and read Archie comics than get bullied by the same kids who called one of my only other friends “nigger”.

Needless to say, money doesn’t buy you class, but it does buy you a terrible spicy chicken biscuit. It can get you a fifth of something that burns to get you away from everything else. It can help you cope in a very half-assed manner until you don’t have it, and then it’s just you and your life.

I got to a relatively secluded area inside the complex, pulled the increasingly soggy mass out of my coat pocket, and turned it over to see a small sticker that read “11/26”. Today is November 17th. I was about to willfully put a $1 hunk of “food” that could live in a fucking wrapper for nine days from this today. This hunk of reconstituted meat, carbs, and chemicals has a price point of essentially $0.11 per day, and I paid that for some sense of what I perceived to be “normalcy” in the past. That one sticker made me realize that my satisfaction had a price point.

Anyway I ate the fucking thing and it was exactly as unappetizing and unsatisfying and inspired just as much self-loathing as one could expect for a dollar, so there’s that.

I continued on, sipping my “it’s okay, I guess” coffee and watching people jog past, families walking with their kids, all that you’d expect from a fairly bustling cluster of apartments in the city, all the while wishing that I’d had the dollar I spent on the dumb biscuit in cash so I could have given it to that guy. At least he wouldn’t have felt as weird about it as I did. Approaching the door of my place, I removed my keys from my pocket and they jangled as my fingers searched for the texture of the right key. A plaintive mew pierced through the door and I sighed with relief, my breath clouding the air. He was okay. Everything was okay. “I’m here, buddy, hang on,” I said as I fiddled with the front door locks, and he wailed louder as soon as he heard my voice. I felt a sense of warmth that the cheap coffee and biscuit couldn’t provide.

The door cracked, sunlight flooded his little gunmetal-grey face, and he immediately started crying and rubbing against my legs, purring like a motorboat. I shut the door, picked his little warm vibrating body up, and cuddled him to my chest, taking him upstairs as he licked the remnants of my shame-breakfast from the corners of my mouth.. His food bowl was a little low, so I gave him more kibble and plopped down on my bed to lay back and think for a minute, only to be immediately interrupted by him hopping up onto my chest and nestling in, happy and snug with the fact that I was still a thing in his life. I was happy that he was still a thing in mine.

I didn’t pay a goddamn red cent for that cat, save for vet bills and food and such. Something that I initially expected to be a brief pain in the ass in my life is now a fixture, and I’m grateful for that. He’s my best friend, and I’m his. I haven’t had a pet of my own in so long that I forgot how great it can feel just to have that connection with something that loves you more than you could even imagine. He makes the bad things go away. He makes me laugh. And he was free.

I feel the same way about Ariel, incidentals for her aside (vet bills, mostly, and dinners and such). I never really expected to meet her and how it happened was largely chance, but we clicked powerfully from the beginning and I love her dearly. And she was free.

I’ve wasted so much money over the past several years struggling to be happy. And I had the money to burn. I had a really well-paying job and benefits and all of that, and I was absolutely fucking miserable for most of it. I was drinking my life away because I hated the monotony, I hated walking in every day and seeing the same sad faces of people who had been there for decades, worried that I’d end up like that. And then one day it was gone and I was scrambling. But I wouldn’t trade anything in my life right now to have any of that back. The day-to-day is a little intimidating, but I’m incredibly lucky in a lot of ways. I traded financial security and stagnation for an actual life. All of those dollars are now excellent flesh-and-blood relationships with other people and things that were sort of glassed off to me when I was in the daily grind.

I’m not as sad as I used to be. I no longer hunger for food that doesn’t sate me. It’s just a past routine that I’m still working to shed, but for now, for what I have, I’m content.

And that’s enough.

Once More Into The Fray

Okay. First off I want to thank all of you who helped the last time around when this came up. You guys saved my ass and got me out of the house and gave me some stuff to keep busy, and I appreciate it and hopefully my work didn’t suck too badly (it didn’t, I don’t think, but I’m biased). Unfortunately, I’m not out of the woods yet. And of course the wheels of the state turn incredibly slowly, especially with the government shutdown and apparently a huge glitch in their systems that caused a bunch of claims to be delayed in the first place. I’ve also had work opportunities that have been held up or just not materialized due to bureaucracy. I’ve performed work that still has yet to pay out because the places in question are notorious for taking a long time to pay.

I’ve been applying for work and have been hot on EDD’s heels for over a month since I initially filed on 9/14, and finally got fed up and went to their offices today only to be informed that my payments are pending and will remain so until they contact me to arrange a phone interview. Apparently my previous employment as a state university employee requires that I go through an arduous phone interview, which isn’t so bad - the problem is that they’ll contact me at their own convenience and I was completely, absolutely stonewalled by the EDD representative that I spoke with this morning who basically told me that I just have to wait.

Unfortunately, just waiting doesn’t take care of my basic needs, so here I am stuck again until they decide to call me. Again, I need your help.

I want to re-iterate that this is NOT a plea for free cash. I did get some donations last time around which were highly appreciated and were all used for bills and rent and not dying, but I’m not begging for that. If it’s something you want to do, that’s fantastic and highly appreciated, but I want to earn it. The jobs that I was contacted for got me out of the house and moving around and doing good stuff for cool people, and it was great!

It really sucks and I hate doing this. I hate having to ask for help, because I’m stubborn and try to do everything I can myself. I don’t have the luxury of having a family with money or any other means, so it leaves me with this. It’s intensely frustrating to ask, but it’s not as frustrating as being worried about having to couch-surf while waiting for something that may take a long time. It’s frustrating being on persistent hold. It’s frustrating to send out tons of job applications that never get answered. I’m on the verge of taking dishwashing jobs (and even then they wouldn’t pay what I need) and so forth if I don’t get a call from the EDD soon. Just anything, at this point. 

I didn’t apply for unemployment because I didn’t want to work, I applied because I didn’t want to be homeless and stuck with no resources except for the goodwill of my friends. And thankfully, I’m lucky in that regard.

Again, like last time, I can do the following:

  • moving
  • heavy lifting
  • house cleaning/laundry/car cleaning/detailing
  • light handyman work & construction
  • put together furniture from, say, IKEA or something similar, repair furniture
  • cooking
  • dogsitting/catsitting/petsitting (I’m amazing with goldfish)/babysitting
  • gardening (if provided with the tools)
  • errands (within walking/bus distance or with the use of a car)
  • copywriting
  • research
  • cataloguing/arrangement (DVDs/books/music/whatever)
  • writing
  • Any odds and ends within reason (and some above and beyond reason, at this point. Try me.)

And if you don’t need anything done but know someone who does, let them know. I’m fine with referrals and can give a list of references if anyone’s unsure.

If you want to make a loan, I’ll be glad to eke out a reasonable payback plan, just email me at

Can’t donate money? If you have any suggestions for anything, let me know. I’m at a loss, frankly. I’d like to keep a roof over my head and at least keep a phone so that I can be in touch with EDD and potential employers, and not having a landline really sucks.

Bare bones, straight up: My rent is $780, and I’ve operated under the assumption that I’d receive my unemployment benefits with no hassle whatsoever, and of course assumptions led to me making an ass out of me. That amount is what I need, bare minimum.

Paypal is Also, if you have any work opportunities that you would like to discuss, please email me there as well.

Hey, jerks. So as you know, I got unexpectedly axed from the gig I had for the past few months. As of right now, I’ve heard nothing from EDD nor anything from the temp agencies or the jobs I’ve applied to. You’re my friends and I essentially need money to pay rent & bills since October 1st is approaching, so I came up with this idea - Hire A Jake!
Here’s where you come in: If you throw any money at me, I’ll be glad to do pretty much anything, from your dishes to helping you with moving things or whatever you need. I’ll take buses to get there. I just definitely need the money and can’t hold off any longer to wait for the temp agency or the unemployment agency. Just tell me what you need within reason (or maybe exceeding reason, I might be persuaded), and I’ll happily help out. I just need the money in the meantime, and if things change I will be glad to refund it. Ariel will be watching over the expenses to make sure everything goes where it’s intended. Just let me know if you want/need a Jake and I will be there for whatever works for you.Things I Can Do:
heavy lifting
house cleaning/laundry/car cleaning/detailing
light handyman work & construction
dogsitting/catsitting/petsitting (I’m amazing with goldfish)/babysitting
gardening (if provided with the tools)
errands (within walking/bus distance or with the use of a car)
cataloguing/arrangement (DVDs/books/music/whatever)
Any odds and ends within reason
In addition, if you’re feeling extra generous, my birthday is coming up in October and if you feel so inclined, it would be lovely to help me make rent as an early birthday present. Regardless, I am offering my services and any donation/gift/amount will help, and I will be your bitch. Sort of.

Hey, jerks. So as you know, I got unexpectedly axed from the gig I had for the past few months. As of right now, I’ve heard nothing from EDD nor anything from the temp agencies or the jobs I’ve applied to. 

You’re my friends and I essentially need money to pay rent & bills since October 1st is approaching, so I came up with this idea - Hire A Jake!

Here’s where you come in: If you throw any money at me, I’ll be glad to do pretty much anything, from your dishes to helping you with moving things or whatever you need. I’ll take buses to get there. I just definitely need the money and can’t hold off any longer to wait for the temp agency or the unemployment agency. Just tell me what you need within reason (or maybe exceeding reason, I might be persuaded), and I’ll happily help out. I just need the money in the meantime, and if things change I will be glad to refund it. Ariel will be watching over the expenses to make sure everything goes where it’s intended. Just let me know if you want/need a Jake and I will be there for whatever works for you.

Things I Can Do:

  • moving
  • heavy lifting
  • house cleaning/laundry/car cleaning/detailing
  • light handyman work & construction
  • cooking
  • dogsitting/catsitting/petsitting (I’m amazing with goldfish)/babysitting
  • gardening (if provided with the tools)
  • errands (within walking/bus distance or with the use of a car)
  • copywriting
  • research
  • cataloguing/arrangement (DVDs/books/music/whatever)
  • writing
  • Any odds and ends within reason


In addition, if you’re feeling extra generous, my birthday is coming up in October and if you feel so inclined, it would be lovely to help me make rent as an early birthday present. Regardless, I am offering my services and any donation/gift/amount will help, and I will be your bitch. Sort of.

The Horror…The Horror…

While fiddling around on social networks earlier today, I read a post from someone saying something about how five year-olds watching horror movies was “plain terrible”.

I couldn’t really disagree more. 

I was talking with people a while back about horror movie VHS art and how the concept of having interesting, eye-catching covers has sort of been tossed to the wayside over the past few years, and I recounted my old horse of an anecdote about how I used to go to the local movie store with my mom/grandparents/whoever and ogle the horror VHS section and marvel at how creepy the movies likely were - I never really watched them, because as the kids say these days, I was kind of a chickenshit. I was the kid who hid in the back of the living room, peering around a corner, terrified at whatever was lurking on the screen. I remember once having to go home from a friend’s birthday sleepover because Tales from the Dark Side scared the bejesus out of me, and no amount of cajoling could get me to stay. The next day, on the playground, a kid that I thought of as a friend walked by me and scoffed “Pussy” right in my face.

I cringed. Scared again.

Growing up in a super-religious part of the country sort of ingrained a lot of fear into kids. Black Sabbath was a scary band. Marilyn Manson totally porked a goat onstage at a concert and removed his bottom ribs so that he could blow himself. There were cults out there in the woods. The old wives’ tales that my friends told me to scare the shit out of me were true. I was scared of my own shadow. Not exactly the bravest kid to begin with, but all of this stuff having a very taboo spin on it both terrified and allured me.

All of this was palpably real, until it wasn’t.

Cut to a year and some change later, where I sat in my grandparents’ bedroom, watching the Friday the 13th TV series. Carnosaur on Cinemax. Whatever I could find. A bowl of popcorn that my granddad had made for me (and he made the best popcorn ever) sitting on the bedcovers, teetering on the edge of flying everywhere once I yanked the covers over my eyes in terror. Of course there was simpler horror fare, like Nickelodeon’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark” and other things that were a bit more airy and not as gory/suspenseful/etc., but I lost interest in those really quickly. I wanted the good stuff.

As I got older, the fear went away. Things that I found previously horrifying were almost a joke. Life took over and became scarier than movies at times. 

Years later, I look back at all that and grin. I remember looking at the back of the VHS for Dead/Alive and being completely freaked out. Luther the Geek. The Boogens. Ghoulies. All kinds of stuff that’s now laughably not-scary. You tend to drop your fear of rolling alien furballs with teeth after you eventually have a crazy drunk redneck brandishing a real live loaded gun at you. You’re not as scared of a doll possessed by a serial killer once you’ve held your granddad’s hand and watched him take his last sip of air. The silent buildup of a person walking down a darkened hallway, ostensibly waiting for a cat to leap out of a closet doesn’t make your heart jump as much as hearing a twig snap while walking through a dark forest late at night. 

But horror still holds that sway over me. I still get a thrill from being scared, from having the hair on the back of the hair on the back of my neck stand up, from that little adrenaline rush when you witness a solid scare, all of that shit. Halloween’s still my favorite holiday ever and I kinda feel sad when the night winds down and the witching hours end. 

So to hear someone say that having kids see horror movies is terrible sort of breaks my heart. It’s not terrible. It’s fucking great. It’s titillating, it gets your heart pumping, and you get your boundaries pushed in ways you didn’t expect. I loved it when I was a kid, even though I was scared shitless a majority of the time.

And I still do. 

I might get cynical about the overabundance of zombies and vampires and whatnot, I might voice my own hangups with how women are treated in exploitation films, etc., but I’m still open to all of it. Even a bad horror movie can be super cool on some level. I don’t really plan on giving up on the genre, because I grew up with it and have adored it for almost all of my life, even when I kept my love for it tucked away like a deep, dark, bloody little secret. Now I’m not so worried about it. I’m not exactly the gorehound type and my knowledge of the genre itself is profoundly dwarfed in comparison to that of many of my loved ones and friends, but the affinity is still rock-solid. Some of my favorite moments of my adolescence were when I’d stay up late and sneak horror movies on Skinemax/Showtime/HBO. I still like watching horror movies late at night, all alone (though company’s always nice), curled up in bed, waiting to be freaked out by a tap on the window or a creak on the staircase.

Sometimes it’s great to be scared.

The Comedy: A Perspective

So here I sit at 8 AM on a Sunday, in the midst of probably my fifth rewatch of Tim Heidecker’s THE COMEDY.

I still can’t really articulate whether or not I even honestly like this movie or why I am drawn to it in the first place, but I’m going to try.

No bones about it: Heidecker’s character in this is a profoundly irredeemable asshole. If I heard him talking in public, my clenched fist would gravitate to his crotch so quickly that physicists would study me for decades trying to figure out how someone broke the sonic barrier with something as simple as a rage-fueled dickpunch. He’s a flabby, whiny mess of an entitled shit who just mills around, being as offensive as possible while just fiddling around in other people’s lives just long enough to wreak havoc, and then popping out of the frame just as soon as they start to react.

He makes terribly racist jokes. A LOT. He openly wants to pork his sister-in-law, who’s clearly dealing with a lot more adversity than his scrubby ass has ever seen in his life. Openly harassing his dying, rich father’s caretaker while devouring cookies (in a scene that made me more nauseous than the intro where you see his beer-soaked balls as he drunkenly wrestles in his underwear with his friends) and drinking whisky. This guy just seems like such a gigantic pain in the ass that I’m surprised nobody killed him before the point that the audience is made aware of the fact that he exists.

But he still manages to be compelling, somehow. He and his motley crew of equally aging, entitled “hipster” (christ, I hate that word) buddies comprised of his TV cohort Eric Wareheim, corporation-harassing Tweeter and stand-up comic Neil Hamburger, and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem fame run around fucking with everyone from cab drivers to entire churches without a care in the world, never really having to deal with much in the way of consequence or repercussion. These are the sorts of people whose lives suddenly careen into yours one day like a bad car wreck, then they just shit up your life and make you deal with it as they waddle away into more misadventures and go dick around on Heidecker’s character’s boat for a while.

And a lot of the scenes in this movie are deeply uncomfortable. For example, there’s a simple scene where he’s post-coitally fiddling with a young lady’s eyelid as she sleeps, completely passed out and oblivious to his actions, and it’s weirdly harrowing to the point of being somewhat suspenseful.

In short, this guy is an absolute fuckhead, but he’s still weirdly interesting. And it’s the same with the movie itself - all of these scenes seem to be a string of incredibly awkward and borderline sociopathic vignettes, held together by the thread of Heidecker’s existential semi-crisis, but it works on a level that I still find hard to explain. We watch this fat manchild warbling at the black clientele of a dive bar and we hate him, but we still want to see what happens. In a strange way, it’s almost more spectacle than anything else. “What will he do next? What will he say next? It’s crazy, right?” Meanwhile, he seems to be in the midst of the world’s highest swan-dive straight into a concrete pool. He’s clearly a dude with issues, who’s grasping for some sort of meaning, but he can’t get out of his own way long enough to really enact any changes, and he really doesn’t want to, in the long run.

I guess I find it compelling because I’ve been there. I’ve been THAT GUY, in a way, though not as rich nor as nauseating. I spent a lot of time over the past few years just getting schwasted with friends, not having any goals or knowing what I was doing, and just sort of taking everything for granted. 

So maybe that’s why it works, on a level. It speaks to a certain degree of aimlessness and entitlement that some parts of our generation are mired in or willingly take part in as almost a punk-rock “fuck you” to everyone who asks us where we’re going or what we’re doing. To the entrenched people. To those with loftier aspirations who, when pressed, are equally directionless yet are still shooting for whatever they were told to do because, you know, what the hell else are you going to do?

Or maybe I’m totally reading too much into this. In fact, I know I am. But I’m still trying to make sense of why I’m drawn to this very well-shot movie that features mostly utterly reprehensible characters - probably like the characters are trying to make sense of where they are in life and where they’re headed.