Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Special Christmas Wish

How are you?

Goddammit, that innocuous little question somehow irritates the hell out of me, especially this time of year.

How am I? I'm fine, motherfucker. Worry about yourself.

Something else that irritates the shit out of me... sunshine. I fucking hate the sun. Ironic that I live in Hawaii, isn't it?

But seriously, I don't get this infatuation people have with sunlight. All that shit does is get in your eyes and make you squint. And if you're in it for long, you sweat your balls off.

I'd much rather drink a glass of milk for my vitamin D and head on back down to the dungeon basement for some more squats. Lactose intolerance... ahh, nevermind. Don't even get me going with that one. My plate is heaped full of hate aplenty already.

I wish the sun would go behind a permanent cloud. These last three rainy and overcast weeks have been absolute bliss for me.

If the sun disappeared forever, I'd get the added bonus of reveling in the misery of all you light worshippers. It'd be sort of like that dark cloud New England winning the Super Bowl... miserable fucks all around to make me feel great!

I wonder if that's how conservatives feel about the liberal reaction to the election? If it is, I might actually have something on which I can agree with them.

A light bulb just went off; a moment of inspiration if you will. I know what I'm going to do next time someone asks, "How are you?" I'm gonna shift positions before I answer so the sun is glaring right in their eyes, and I'm gonna pause for a good long time to think about my response.

Blinded with an instant migraine... that's the reaction I'm going for. You know, similar to my own reaction to just about any political post these days.

Maybe I can even find a way to weave TB into my long-winded answer to really ruin someone's day. Part of the reason I like him so much is because I know how much you hate him. Yep, I'm thinking it'll go something like this:
"Oh, I'm great, since Brady won... ho-hum... again. It's nearly automatic when you're smart and sublimely talented, with a gorgeous wife and loads of money, and you're willing to out-work everyone else.  
Makes you jealous, huh? Makes you hate him a little, right? Makes you wish he'd fail.  
He doesn't care if you like him or not, though. He might even prefer you not to. You know, motivation and all. That's one small thing Tommy and I have in common besides great hair.  
I'd say thanks for asking how I'm doing, but I wouldn't mean it, just like you didn't really care about my response when you asked - you fake motherfucker - so I won't bother. You probably shouldn't have either."
I don't really have great hair. That was a joke.

Now this cat, on the other hand, has spectacular hair.
I guess what it comes down to is that I hate pretending, yet that's what most people do all day and expect of others. Why are you pretending your life is so great with all your little memes telling me how I should think and behave?  Did you even read that stupid shit or do you just regurgitate others' thoughts?

You're really so perfect you have all the answers?  Bullshit. Anyone with half a brain can see through your lunacy, so just stop.

It's like adolescence all over again, worrying about what others think and trying to win some popularity contest that I can only hope doesn't really exist anymore. I'm so tired of all the perfection, filtered and photo shopped to make everyone look prettier than Derek Zoolander.

I'm so hot you're probably touching yourself right now.
Y'all think I'm miserable? Maybe, but not half as miserable as you pathetic fucks burning all this energy lying about how great you are. C'mon, we all know you eat your own boogers. Show us your warts.

I've always had a mean streak. There's a side of me that enjoys your misery, if it's self-inflicted or I just don't like you. Maybe it's more pronounced since Roo died, but maybe not. 

Remember the very first Rocky movie? You know, the good one. It's on TV three times a week, so not shaving or not getting your period yet is no excuse for not having seen it.

Anyway, part of the premise is that Rocky is too nice of a guy to be a very good mob collector. There's a scene where he's supposed to break a guy's thumb who owes Mr. Gazzo some money, and he lets the guy run off with a feeble threat. Spoiler alert... Rocky's giant heart is supposedly part of the reason he's able to take that horrific beating from Apollo and keep getting up.

This guy looks scared, but he knows that big ole teddy bear hugging him isn't really going to do shit.
Oh sure, he could beat the hell out of a dead carcass,
but he had no stomach for breaking live bones.
Eight-year-old me wasn't buying it. I figured if Rocky'd been a little meaner he'd have whooped Creed's ass in the first one and saved us all the admission price we had to shell out for the sequel and for the other twelve after that. I mean, it's not like Mr. Gazzo was stealing from those dope heads. He loaned them money. They owed it back, with interest. 

Too bad he didn't hire me as his collector. I'd have done the job right. Hell, I'd have enjoyed breaking thumbs all day.

Snap-snap. Mr. Gazzo and I would have never had this awkward conversation.
If only I could go back and be an innocent eight-year-old again. Oh the things I'd do differently. By now, if Roo was still alive, I'd have built a successful little business enterprise I could pass on to her.

My dad would have taught me just what to do to people who owe us money.
I also remember cold days as a kid waiting on the school bus in West Virginia. It made me happy to see people's teeth chattering. The more they whined about the cold, the warmer my black heart felt.

If you're so soft you can't handle waiting for the bus on a cold day, well, I have no sympathy for you. Your toes can freeze and fall the fuck off for all I care. Throw them in the pile with your fingers if you were dumb enough to borrow money from a mobster.

And if you're so miserable you have to constantly post crap about how awesome your life is to try to make me feel shitty, well, I don't feel even a little bit bad about turning the tables by fucking with you.

Maybe this post won't resonate with a soul. A good friend whose opinion I respect told me to sleep on it. That was her kind way of saying not to share it.

Obviously, I didn't listen. I'm stubborn like that. I happen to think there's one audience who might get it. This one is for all my fellow bereaved parents who just aren't into it this year.

Holiday blues? Try a news feed filled with pictures and videos of families cutting down trees, decorating them, and enjoying the holidays together when you don't have any of that.

My kid is buried under a tree somewhere. Does that count? Do we have some common ground? Nah, not so much.

All this lead-up is just foreplay, though. Soon we get the climax. The big day will be upon us, and we'll have the endless barrage of present-opening pictures to endure.

Not much to see here; just someone's beaming brat reveling in the orgasmic ecstasy of consumerism.
See how happy she is? What? You can't see the kid? Oh, don't be silly. She's just buried under that pile of crap that will be more forgotten and useless clutter by next week.

Wait! Don't scroll past this riveting display of ostentatious wealth and success. We have so many more to share on this glorious day of the birth of our savior, Capitalism, and we want to be sure to rub your nose in our shit. Our goal as parents to the perfect princess is to post until you puke on your keyboard. Weeeee!  Isn't this fun???

I have pictures, too. I decorated my kid's grave. Actually, I didn't. I'm 5,000 miles and a time warp away. Her mother decorated it. But I did get to go to a candle lighting service for dead babies.

Wanna see that awesomeness? No, not really? You'd rather look at the happy little heathen above?

Too fucking bad. Here they are anyway. I hope they ruin your Christmas spirit and send you into a three-day funk similar to the one I've been in for three fucking years.

Ah-ah-ah. Do not whizz past.
Stop and take a good long look at Christmas.
Yep, the holidays are a rough time of year for parents like me. And as shitty as losing Roo is for me, I've met other bereaved parents who drew a worse hand than mine and have lost more than one child or maybe spouse and child together in some of the most horrific circumstances imaginable.

But we don't want you to feel sorry for us. Nope, we're tired of your half-assed pity in between holiday shopping sprees. We have an alternative to pity. 

Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is to fuck it up for everyone else. Can I get that? Pretty please? It's my special Christmas wish. It's going to be my most cherished holiday tradition from now on.

I am soooo going to enjoy being a complete dickhead, and I'll do an even better job with this than I'd have done breaking those thumbs. I pinky promise to not return calls and not show up for anything and not buy a single Christmas present. Most of all, I'll tell everyone how stupid they are for getting caught up in all of it.

No kid for me. No happy Christmas for you. Now we're even Steven.

Sing it now.  It's the most wonderful time... it's the hap- happiest time... of the year!

Don't you just want to give me a big hug and tell me everything's going to be okay, even though you don't have a clue what you're talking about? Yeah, well you can stick your hug straight up your ass along with the longest candy cane you can find.

Such mean-spirited behavior will land me on the naughty list? Good. That's where I belong. That other list is for pussies.

Ruining Christmas? I, for one, think that is just an awesome idea!
Hold your children tightly this holiday season. That's my other special Christmas wish. They're the ONLY thing that matters. Don't let anything stand in your way - not the lines and crowds; not your never-ending responsibilities; and certainly not a bat- or pen-wielding bully who's hell-bent on wrecking it for you.

Who am I to tell you your life isn't as great as you say it is? Fake it 'til you make it, right? And maybe you really have made it.

From my perspective, if your children are alive and in good health, you have much to be thankful for and should absolutely rejoice in that however you want to. My teeth gnashing isn't your problem. Just stay out of range of my bat-pen and you'll be good.

While you're soaking up every second of joy and creating those memories and sharing them with the world, take a moment to pause and think about all this good fortune. If you have your kids, you have everything.

Let's try that opening again.

How are you?

I'm fine. How are you?

No... really... how are you?

Merry fucking Christmas.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Roller Coaster

You might think you understand. Don't be foolish. You don't. I don't care who died - spouse, parents, best friend, dog, whatever. Unless your kid died, you don't fucking get it. 

Sure, maybe you can sympathize. All lives have their share of suffering, and that's relatable. But the depth of the loss of a child is unmatched by any other loss.

Why do I even want to bother trying to paint this horrific picture for you? I don't really know, and hell, you'd be wise not to look at it when it's finished anyway. 

I guess I write about this experience so that maybe you might have some comprehension of why I, and others frantically bailing water from the sinking ship that is the death of a child, behave the way we do. Or maybe I'm just speaking to others like me, trying to reach out and let them know they're not crazy.

Since my daughter died, I've moved to Hawaii, back to the mainland, and now back to Hawaii. Its only been three fucking years, too, not ten. And guess what? I might just move back to the mainland again in six months.

I've had five jobs, not counting the one I had when she died. These were pretty decent jobs, too. I didn't just respond to a "Help Wanted" sign in some storefront. I wrote a cover letter, interviewed - the whole nine yards. Got everyone around me, including myself, all worked up. 

And then I said, "Fuck this" and walked after a few months, or they said, "Fuck you" and sent me walking. Either way, I didn't give a shit as long as I had some new sucker on the hook to pay the bills.

Sound a little crazy? That ain't crazy. Burying a beautiful, energetic, happy child just shy of her sixth birthday is crazy.

Watching her flat line on the operating table. Holding her body that's bloated to twice it's normal size from all the water they pumped into her at the end to try to do God knows what. Sobbing hysterically while nurses scurry around trying not to make eye contact. Looking around the room through your tears, seeing your family, and knowing this is going to fuck everyone's lives up. Now these things are crazy.

So you can shut your holier-than-thou mouth. I'll do whatever the fuck I want. Short of hard drugs that I'm just not into, I'll slap whatever bandage I can on this gaping wound, and you can like it or shove it up your ass. 

I emailed a guy this morning about opening a car dealership. I don't even like cars. Passing fancy?  Maybe. Or maybe you'll see me in a TV ad for a Prius in a few months.

I have this whole idea of only having so many fucks to give down to a science. It's called perspective. And losing your child is the ultimate eye opener in perspective.

All you have after that is time; time to sit and think and think and think like a goddamn loony person. About what you did. About what you didn't do but wish you had. About what you're going to do now.

Most of the time, I can't answer that last one. I'm just flailing around like a blind man caught in a knife fight trying to survive. But I know what I'm not gonna do. 

I'm sure as fuck not gonna fix the numbers on your goddamn spreadsheet or email your stupid list to find out who's coming to the bake sale. Fix 'em yourself motherfucker, and choke on one of those shitty cookies while you're at it. 

I ain't got time for this bullshit. I might be dead tomorrow or later today. Someone I love might be dead. I might have seen them for the last time and not even know it. So fuck you and fuck your fucking busy work.

What the fuck do I look like? Some kid. Nope, 'fraid not. I'm a grown ass man with grown ass man problems and I don't have time to be your bitch.

All this doesn't mean I don't have a few fucks to give. I do. Just don't bother me with your petty bullshit, because my patience is razor thin. 

I care if you're sick. I care if you're fucked up and don't have anyone else to talk to. You know, big stuff. Otherwise, don't bother me. Call your mom if all you wanna do is chat.

I'll just be over here hitting golf balls or squatting; two things that let me live right in the present moment, a brief respite from these whirling thoughts about what went wrong and how we don't really have a damned bit of control over anything.

Simply put, my emotions, and often accompanying behaviors, are just completely unpredictable. I'm liable to be laughing one minute and bawling my eyes out the next or lashing out at whatever hapless victim happens to mosey along at the wrong time.

Here's a good illustration. Since Ruby died, I've developed this weird habit of waving at every baby and toddler I see. I'm stealthy about it, though. I don't want some parent seeing me goo-goo'ing to their kid and freaking out that they just nabbed a pedophile. No lady, I'm not trying to lure your kid into the woods. You're holding the child, for fuck's sakes.

Nope, not even once have I been busted. Busted? Busted for what? Waving to a baby??? Wow, we sure do live in an awesome society!

Anyway, I've waved at literally hundreds of them - even more here in Hawaii because they all have these small, delicate features that remind me of her. The interesting thing is that every single one of them except the ones who are too small to reciprocate common gestures waves back. 

Yep, that's right. They crinkle up their noses and hunker down just a bit as if to say this secret communication will be just between us, and they wave back innocently, like the little angels they are. It gives me back a small piece of her just for a second.

Beautiful story, right? Wrong. Because what follows is that I turn the next street corner with tears in my eyes and rage in my heart. At that moment, all I want to do is hurt the next person who crosses my path - throw them through a glass storefront and let them bleed. 

I never have. I don't think I will. But I don't know for sure. The emotion is present, and it's just as raw now as the day she died.

Right there is a microcosm of what this is like. I hear myself saying it - well, writing it - and I know it doesn't make sense. You wave to a baby, experience the purity and joy of unspoken connection with a child, and want to kill the next person you see??? What. The. Fuck.

To be fair, some of this volatility was already a part of who I am. Before I moved back to Hawaii I was reflecting a bit and took the time to count all the jobs I've had since I left graduate school. I think it came to fifteen, with my shortest tenure being two weeks - guess you could say we got off on the wrong foot there - and my longest being close to six years.

Like all the rest, this latest one may or may not stick for very long. It happened pretty fast, and there's more than meets the eye. I apply for jobs more often than most couples have sex - an average of two a week fifty weeks a year.

Come to think of it, maybe I should try my hand at an interviewing, cover letter writing, and resume prep service.  I'm hell on wheels at getting them; it's the keeping them that eludes me.

Forrest Gump said of Vietnam, "It's a whole other country." Well, this job search thing is a whole other job. I generally take off Christmas and Super Bowl weeks in case you were wondering why fifty weeks and not fifty-two. 
I guess I'm so obsessive about it because I'm never satisfied with any of them and because it always seems like I'm about to be fired. Yes, I'm acutely aware the dissatisfaction and the pink slips are probably positively correlated.
I spray these applications all over the place to whatever catches my fancy, including obviously the occasional to Hawaii. I suppose there was a slightly better than average chance another agency would eventually decide to bite, given my smidgen of local experience.
Conveniently, it happened at a good time, though I was very much on the fence about whether to take it. I just bought a townhouse I like very much and generally also like the Philadelphia area. But, my spider sense was tingling, so I made an appointment to talk with my boss. Sure enough, as I was telling her about the offer in Hawaii - not to leverage it, mind you, but just to see where I stood - she actually interrupted to tell me they were about to "eliminate my position."
Please lady. I'm pretty sure you don't need to be concerned with letting me down gently at this point.  This shit is as common as a cross-dresser in Chinatown. Just trust me; they're really common. Say it together now in your best Trump impersonation... "You're fired!"
Hell, I was even sort of relieved my concerns were justified. At least about this one thing I wasn't a complete crazy person.

My decision was made at that point with a mortgage and no way to pay it without a job. I pulled the resignation letter I'd written before the meeting "just in case" things didn't work out from my folder, handed it to her, and that was that.

Guillotine falling. Blade about to nick the neck. Protagonist wriggles free and narrowly escapes. Crisis averted. Sort of. Renting your new home and moving after five months probably qualifies as a mini-crisis of its own. 
While I don't mind Hawaii, I'm really here more out of necessity than rapture over returning. Meh, par for the course in my new reality.

I've always been a clock-watching gym rat, far more concerned with my PRs than with someone else's bottom line. And I've certainly always loathed the 8-5 cubicle dwelling lifestyle with an hour commute each way. It just seems a miserable way to live, offering no work-life balance and no room for individual creativity and freedom.

Consequently, I've always had some side project going to distract me from the drudgery of it all - an article or a website or a book or an internet dating site troll named guidoincognito. Like many, I just had trouble turning any of those side gigs into enough real money to sustain myself.

I'm like one of the famous brew masters I read about; it might have been the guy from Sierra Nevada. Do tell. How's that again? He said he got fired from every job he ever had. Now you see the similarity, huh?

But it ends there. He also said those failures led him to the only thing he was good at - brewing beer. My failures led me to... more failures. The only thing I know about beer comes from the movie Hell or High Water. Who the hell gets drunk on beer?

So I trudged on with the corporate life, answering to this person and that, ducking into bathrooms even when I didn't have to pee to avoid answering to them, and thinking all the while that I was either smarter than them or more self-aware or that I just didn't fit in very well.

All those feelings related to not fitting in and wasting my time in pointless jobs are just amplified now, like somebody walked into the party and cranked the volume up way too loud. Instead of piddling around in some dead-end gig for a couple years before moving on, I'm headed for the door in six months. 

I'm not just a disgruntled misfit anymore. I'm a genuine outcast who's having trouble fooling anyone into thinking we're similar. We're not. My kid is dead. Yours isn't. The gap is too big to bridge. My old tricks don't work, and I don't have any new ways to fool anyone.

The last couple employers asked me, after a month or two, why I hadn't put up a single decoration. I mumbled something not too convincing about being busy and just not being the decorating sort. Really I was thinking, "Bitch, I got one foot out the door and don't feel like carrying a shoe box with me. That's why there ain't any goddamn pictures of my dead kid splattered on your stupid wall."

I have this nagging thought I can't shake. I wonder if maybe everyone in my life really wouldn't have been better off if I could have died when she did. I can't imagine I'm the only bereaved parent who wonders this.

I'm not saying this for attention, either. I swear on her grave if one of you tools calls a counselor or social worker or whatever and they show up at my door, I'm beating that motherfucker unconscious just for fun. So don't send anyone to check on me. They'll be in a bad way if you do. 

I'm fine, and this is not a goddamn suicide threat. Hear that shit loud and clear. If I was gonna do that, it'd be over already. I sure as shit wouldn't be so stupid and attention seeking as to announce it beforehand.

The reason I wonder if I should have died too is because of how utterly impossible it is to move forward and because of how deeply my inability to do so hurts everyone around me. It'll never happen, though - maybe a little, but certainly not all the way or even to a degree that would make me seem normal. You don't even want to. You just want to sit there on your dead baby's grave and never move until the earth reabsorbs you with her.

That's not really possible, so you trudge forward reluctantly. And others around you can sense that reluctance. They know there's a big part of you that doesn't even want to be here anymore. They know that given the choice you'd go hold your child wherever they are. This knowledge hurts them, and I'm so fucking tired of hurting people.

So you lie to those closest to you about how you're doing rather than just coming right out and hurting them with the knowledge that you're not doing all that great most of the time. Even though I sporadically write about my grief, most of the rest of the time I just smile and say I'm fine.

Those closest to you might know on some level that's not true, but you don't have to say it out loud and remind them of it every damned day. Shhh, just keep quiet and maybe it'll all go away. Of course it doesn't.

There's a line near the end of the great movie A River Runs Through It about never really knowing those we love the most. I'm sure that line applies to the families of many people who are left behind after losing a child. We want them to think we're okay and not worry about us, and perhaps we're even scared they might abandon us if they know the whole truth, so we tell our unconvincing lies.

I write about my grief with the very clear realization that it's not a very self-preserving thing to do; that doing so could alienate me from those I love. Those closest to me could read these rants and say, "Enough is enough. I have to get off this train before he runs it off the tracks with me on it."

Fuck it. I've been rolling the dice, and I'm rolling them again. I want this information out there so that maybe somebody who's really struggling will stumble across it and know they're not alone. They might be nearly alone but not completely. There are others living this nightmare, too.

Nobody talks about what it's really like, at least not that I've found. They gloss it over with platitudes about things getting better with time and perspective. Bullshit. Fuck you. Fuck time and your perspective.

Surely that nonsense came from some textbook and not from anyone who's actually experienced this. Or it's just some dumbass who convinced themselves of whatever psycho babble allowed them to sleep at night.

Enough justifying my motives. Back to all those people I know I'm hurting.

How do you think it feels to be the girlfriend to a guy who'd rather be dead? All you people complaining about fat shaming or whatever slight may have scarred you as a kid should try that one on for size. I bet having a boyfriend who thinks so fondly of you he wishes he was dead is a real kick in the balls to your self-esteem. Sort of makes whining about that fat joke seem a little foolish. 

But hell, y'all know something about what this is like. Most of you are my friends. I bet that's a barrel of laughs, too. You try your best to reach out to me and understand what I'm going through, and what do you get? 

Most of the time, when you stick your hand near this cage, all you get is bitten. You get a surly, thankless son-of-a bitch who writes profanity-laced essays about how you don't get it and never will like he's so smart and has seen so much. "You can't possibly understand! Leave me the hell alone! No wait, come back and try!" Sounds more like a teenage girl than a grown man. 

With my patience as long as a gnat's dick, I'm sure I'd tell that asshole to get lost. You're better people than me; that's for sure.

Try being the mother to a man who doesn't really value his own life anymore. That's probably the worst. Yep, I bet that's just the future mom pictured for her baby when she was holding him protectively in her arms all those years ago.

I can hear her saying that prayer of hope all mothers say when they're sitting alone in the dark of night. "Dear Lord, oh how I hope my precious son grows up to be... lost. Please let him be a man who feels completely out of place in this world you created." Nope, I don't think that's how it goes.

I'm supposed to be offering her comfort in her twilight years. Her work is done. She sacrificed, pinched pennies, sometimes worked two jobs, worried - oh, how that woman worried - and finally finished the job. She raised and educated two children by herself. It's supposed to be her time to relax. There should be nothing else to fix; no more lessons to impart.

But that's not what's happening here at all. I've had the poor woman on pins and needles for three-and-a-half years. I can feel it. She doesn't know what the hell I'm going to say or do next; what outburst might come. How could she? I don't know myself.

When I told her about Hawaii 2.0, bless her heart, she seemed relieved a 5,000-mile move is all it was. "I just want you to be happy" is code for "Don't shoot yourself in the face" here in the Miller family.

For a while there, I'm sure she really did wonder if I might kill myself. I bet she doesn't dare even so much as let her mind wander back there even for a second now, for fear she might think it so. 

"He's past the worst. He's past the worst. He's past the worst." Yeah mom, just keep repeating that mantra and maybe it'll be true. Or maybe not. 

Maybe it's just all the same after your kid dies. There is no better or worse. There's just time passing as time will. Either way, I'm still here. Tick... tock... tick... tock.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!

Don’t get your panties in a twist over the title.  I’m not saying “fuck you” personally.  I’m talkin’ ’bout the gubment. And it’s a catchy song lyric.

I don’t like to admit this, but pack mentality goes both ways. My problem with conservative political thought is that it often tries to police how I behave and even think, like that persistent and archaic family values shit. Don’t tell me what constitutes a family.  

It's not just conservatives, though. Libs do it too. I just happen to agree with them more often than not, but that doesn’t make it any more okay.

I'm sure most of you saw Cool Hand Luke years ago. If you didn’t, rent it. I saw it a couple weeks ago for like the 20th time, but for the 1st in a theater. It was like stepping back in time - not the movie; the presentation. The movie’s anti-establishment themes, in fact, are still quite relevant today.

Luke wasn't a sheep in anyone's herd. He refused to be bound by both mainstream society's and the prison hierarchy’s rules. He was uncompromisingly his own man, even to his demise. The second you thought you had figured out whose side he was on, he made it clear he wasn’t on anyone’s side who wanted to impose a bunch of rules aimed at thought control and nonviolent behavior.

If I'm trying to aspire to some way of thinking, I suppose it's along those lines, minus the total self destruction. Always think for myself and ask questions. But it's easy to question stuff with which you already disagree. 

Take that Stanford rape sentence. I know, it’s dead now and we’ve moved on to gun control and immigration and British exit. Sue me; I can’t keep up. Oh, and I’m not writing “Brexit,” except to write that I’m not writing it. I only like made up words that I made up. If someone else made it up, it’s stupid. Ayababa!

Anyway, I hate rapists and I want their dicks cut off. I vehemently disagree with a six-month sentence for a rapist. Of course I question that. It already goes against what I believe. 

What about stuff with which you agree? I'm trying to also ask questions of these assumptions and innate preferences. That’s infinitely harder to do. 

Much of the news and social media dialogue surrounding that case had little to do with the facts. According to the liberal media, with whom I side more often than not, if you don't follow in lockstep with the prevailing outrage, you're "defending a rapist." No, I'm not.  I’m outraged too, but I'm defending the facts.  

Here’s a fact. Whatever was going on that night, two men stopped it from going further. Maybe not all men are bad apples.  

What if much of the discourse wasn’t even really to do with rape anyway? While I’m on this theme of sheep and herds, what if the dialogue represented a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Too many damned animal references, and now we’re all confused!  

Here’s what I mean. When I really look at it, it seems like the rape discussion was just more thought control - thought control I want to agree with - but thought control nonetheless. No, no one was shoving that stupid family values crap down my throat or any other conservative platform, but they were pushing an agenda. Make no mistake about that. In the end, it wasn’t so much about the facts as it was about twisting them and telling me how to think and behave, right down to the now famous but deceptive headline.

A steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action: Dad defends Stanford sex offender

When I read "20 minutes of action" in the headline, I'm thinking, for a second anyway, of "action" as the common euphemism for sex it is sometimes used as. “Action” as used in the letter isn’t much better, but it also clearly does not carry the horrific meaning insinuated by the headline. In the letter, the father didn’t mean “action” as another word for sex. He was referring to behavior or decision-making. 

Maybe I even knew this on some level all along and wasn’t quite as sucked in by that headline as I’m letting on, but you can bet plenty of people took exactly the wrong meaning the headline implied. The author wouldn’t have written it that way if he didn’t think there’d be gullible people who would fall for it. 

Smarmy little bastard. Aren’t you so fucking clever? Ah, I can write a little too, and you’re not such a dazzling wordsmith with your pen jammed through your windpipe. Actually, words seem to be failing you right now, but I do hear the air hissing out of your lungs. 

Meh. You deserve it. Shouldn’t have tried to fool everyone in the midst of such a heated debate, especially when you had plenty of good material right at your fingertips to hang both father and son without resorting to tricks. Save that cutesy shit for a humor piece.

For a guy who supports gun control, I sure am violent. Oh well. I just get fired up when I hear bullshit like that.

Here’s the full quote from the letter.

That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.

If you don’t see the difference there, then we just don’t see eye to eye. Ah hell, let’s be honest. It’s not just that we don’t see eye to eye like, you know, some gentlemanly disagreement. You’re really just stupid if you don’t see how that headline was manipulative.

I’m not surprised. Oh, I’m surprised at extreme stupidity, but I’m not surprised at blatant attempts to manipulate. Obviously, liberals aren’t immune from taking things too far, either. Just like conservatives, they’re prone to hyperbole to subtly coerce agreement.  

You never know when some son of a bitch is going to try to tell you how to think, even if they disguise it as simply agreeing with you.

The current gun mess is another good example. I fucking hate most guns apart from a hunting rifle or shotgun. I just felt the earth shake as all my fat lifter friends collectively passed out and hit the floor in unision. Y’all aren’t really fat; I was probably projecting. But it’s true about the guns, and I can’t help it. I y’am what I y’am.

Concealed carry really burns me up. Pull it motherfucker. You better know how to use it - and most won’t - because I’m not scared and the only thing I’m dying to do is turn it on you.

Anyway, let’s see if we can get back to the facts and get the ole blood pressure back down to normal levels. Since I feel this way about guns, my instinct is to jump up and down on my soapbox and cheer any gun control measure. So when I first heard the other day about some anti-gun legislation (it’s actually bipartisan, so take what you will from that) that would prevent people on certain federal government watch lists from buying guns, my knee jerk reaction was “Fuckin' A! Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em! I don’t really give a shit what you use. Just keep another asshole from getting a gun any way you can.”

Well now hold on a second there. I’m also the same anti-everything guy who certainly opposes having a mud hole stomped in his rights - any excuse to use “mud hole” in a sentence. When I read a little further - thanks, Beau, you big ole mean party pooper - I discovered the ACLU thinks those watch lists aren’t very reliable and “would open the door to arbitrary and discriminatory government action.”

Whoa, Nelly! The ACLU is my friend, dammit. A liberal beacon masquerading in a thin non-partisan veil. Hell, liberal… liberty… whatever… it’s even sort of in the name. 

We’re talking about the same uncompromising defenders of free speech who years ago, in one of my favorite and often referenced noble acts, actually defended a bunch of skinheads’ right to march in a parade. Why on earth was the ACLU defending the skinheads, you ask? They hate the skinheads just like me, silly. But they love free speech just like me. 

So when they were cornered and would have had to compromise their very ideals by refusing to act, they did the right thing and stepped up. Hate the message but defend the messenger’s right to deliver it anyway. Plus, when you think about it, it’s really the only plausible course of action. Your own right to speak freely depends on affording everyone that right.

Enough beating that dead racist. Where was I going with this?

Oh, so the ACLU said using the watch lists to keep people from buying guns wasn’t such a good idea, and they articulated a pretty compelling reason. I like the ACLU anyway, so it’s not hard for me to take notice of that. And it’s a good thing I did, because I was ripe for manipulation here. I want guns off the damned streets - it’s ingrained in my uppity liberal DNA - and I’ll do almost anything to achieve that.


I won’t give the government carte blanche to run rampant over people’s rights. It ain’t worth that. Remember the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program? I barely do. But what I do remember is that it was supposed to be used only to monitor conversations between parties believed to be linked to al-Qaeda. Turns out it was a vast effort to collect and analyze telephone and email communications that had nothing to do with terrorist activity.

The ACLU’s objection to using the watch lists to keep people from buying guns sounds about like the reasons the eavesdropping program was a bad idea. Apparently, those lists are kept secret and offer no process for people incorrectly identified to clear their names. 

Hell, maybe I’m on one of those goddamned lists! My skin is pretty dark. I don’t need big bro breathing down my crazy neck!

Did a liberal just save me from the liberals? I think that’s maybe what happened. Thank God the ACLU isn’t a conservative watchdog, or I probably wouldn’t have listened.  

And therein lies my takeaway from this mess. It has little to do with the actual issues.  Most of us are gonna stand where we stand on any big issue, and there’s rarely anything someone who sees it differently can say to change our minds. 

I didn't even really mean that statement above about how anyone who can't see that the headline in that rape case was manipulative is stupid. Blind maybe, and with no cure, but not stupid.

It's like this. You’re either pro-life or pro-choice. You either support big government programs or you yearn for small government. You’re socially conservative or you’re one of them there degenerate potheads. You’re a gun nut, or you’re a reasonable person (joking... joking... sort of... calm the hell down).

I’ve rarely seen someone change sides on one of these big issues because they had a conversation with some enlightened person and were persuaded to a more informed view. It just doesn’t happen that way. It’s like these big picture views are ingrained in our DNA.

So be it. I surrender. No mas. No more trying to persuade you to see things my way.

I’ll settle for convincing you to see them your way. But I mean really SEE them. 

Political strategists, so-called marketing experts, and media pundits know we run through our days tending to this obligation and that, scrolling our newsfeeds half distracted by the crisis of the moment.  Overworked, dog-tired, and with little patience for a detailed examination of any claim, we're ripe for the picking. They prey on this knowledge by feeding us clever little sound bytes that appeal to our emotions or just sound logical.

Wise up to these assholes. Be vigilant when someone, anyone, spouts an opinion like it’s a fact. Take nothing for granted. Assume nothing. 

Demand to see the statistics that bear out some reasonable-sounding claim that may actually be total nonsense when you delve deeper. Don't be too quick to dismiss a source just because you think you know its usual biases. Question everything, even that with which you seemingly agree; maybe especially that.  

And whatever the issue - guns, race, you name it - certainly don’t get on the wrong side of prevailing public opinion, where facts don’t seem to matter.  

Hmm, wonder what dad's hidden motive is? Surely he's not just reading me a story....

Friday, May 27, 2016

Memorial Day Thoughts: More of This, Please!

I ran across a post that made me think. A guy named Robert Miller shared it on his Facebook page. I don't really know Rob, but we're "friends." Typical, right? Ugh, I won't go down that path. I have other points to harp on today.

I did meet him at a Marty Gallagher seminar at the University of Pennsylvania a couple years ago, and he's the model for Marty's CrossCore Hardcore book, so we're not complete strangers. I used to be a hot model, too, back when The Purposeful Primitive came out. Then I was replaced by young and beautiful Rob.  I'm not bitter or anything, but I do hate him. Not really. Well, maybe.

Do I know much of anything about the guy, though? Nah. I do know a couple things. I know he was in the Navy. How do I know this? I'm fucking smart; that's how. And it says so on his page. "Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class June 1997 to June 2002." There's also this telling cover shot of Rob looking like a broad-shouldered, trim-waisted, Navy badass:

Captain America? Good guess, but no. Rob Miller.
In addition to my awesome deductions about Rob's naval career, I also know he shares thoughtful insights from time to time. What, you ask, do I mean by "thoughtful?" Well, knuckleheads, they made me like... umm... you know... think! How so? In a nutshell (great AIC song, by the way), they were what I'd call atypical or unexpected for a meathead who served in the Navy. Right or wrong, I have certain expectations - stereotypes would be more truthful, I suppose - of dudes who train with weights and know how to operate automatic weapons.  

Those expectations are part of the reason I've often felt like I don't quite fit in with fellow lifters. Our mutual interests, and maybe even value systems, seem to end with the iron. No need really getting into all of that, though. Suffice it to say Rob has surprised me and broken the mold quite a few times.

Still, I was dubious when I saw the post he shared titled, "Joe Rogan Brilliantly Explains Why Americans Are Still Asleep." I think I even rolled my eyes. The words "Joe Rogan" and "brilliant" in the same sentence? Hmm. Maybe I'm stereotyping again, but those two certainly don't go together anything at all like Forrest Gump's peas and carrots. More like oil and water, I thought.

Admittedly, Joe is another one I don't know much about, but facts are facts, Jack, and two facts I know about Joe are that he's a stocky looking meathead and an announcer for the UFC. This shit is oozing more blood lust than Charlie Manson's followers. Never mind the podcasts I've not once bothered listening to; clearly, I already had pretty strongly formed, albeit poorly researched, opinions.

So yes, I fully anticipated Joe's litany of reasons why America is asleep to include gems like being too lenient on illegal aliens or maybe failing to assert our world dominance with a continuing strong military presence in the Middle East. Heck, maybe ole Joe would say we should hunt down terrorists and behead them on primetime TV to send the right message.

All of this seemed like the sort of unreasoning I'd expect from the face of MMA. But I clicked anyway. I had five minutes to waste confirming my intellectual superiority.

And then something interesting happened. Joe was questioning some stuff. He called out big business.  He wondered about the motives of our elected officials. He even put on his own air of superiority by pointing out the stupidity of average Americans, though I really think he was correctly speaking more about mental laziness.

And he said "fuck" a few times. Ah, sweet music to my ears. He had me at hello.

Joe Rogan, a guy I'd have handpicked as the poster child for blue collar "We'll put a boot in your ass" mentality was anything but. Listen for yourselves. The part around the two-minute mark where he's talking about getting sucked into the trap of nationalism particularly resonated with me. It really is easy to allow that to happen when you're a West Virginia boy who loves nothing more than to hang around a campfire drinking beer and talking shit with your buddies. 'Merica damn straight! We're #1, baby... ass kickers all the way!

Back to Joe. He sounded a little... dare I say it... counterculture! And how did counterculture become so uncool anyway??? Maybe a cool guy like Joe Rogan can make hippies hip again. I'm old but not old enough to have actually lived in the 1960s. Well, maybe just the tip; I was born in 1969. I may not have lived it, but I sure as hell read about it.

Those cats questioned shit, man. Side note:  it's more fun if you reread that last sentence aloud and all drawn out like a pothead might say it, in a voice something like this one:

Anyway, back in the day, bucking authority and asking those hard questions wasn't frowned upon. Well, I suppose it's always frowned upon by the establishment. But it was also celebrated and revered by a large and vocal minority. They sang songs about defiance; songs like "Ohio" that memorialized the Kent State students who were tragically shot and killed protesting President Nixon's Cambodian campaign.

Now? Now we're living in some kind of weird opposites world where it's somehow cooler to fall in line, and I don't see much of that 1960s mentality at all - not the protests or the great songs celebrating the protests. I see young people mostly allowing themselves to be led like lambs to the slaughter. Maybe they're too busy playing video games to bother questioning anything. Now I do sound old!

I see so many people saying the same dumb things that I've fallen into my own trap. I think I know what a guy who looks like Joe Rogan is going to say before he even has a chance to open his mouth. Shame on me, I reckon.

But man does it ever feel good when you get that sort of completely unexpected surprise that just shatters the world order you've come to expect. BAM! It's like fireworks going off all around, exploding your normal way of thinking and replacing it with something new and beautiful. Like when some woman who looks like she'd have the voice of ten thousand hissing cats opens her mouth and beautiful angel music floats out.

That was wrong of me. I know. Too much emphasis in our society on looks. But everyone thought it, and many said it way before me. Doesn't make it right, though, and at least for once real talent didn't get ignored. Ah, whatever. Just have a listen:

More of this, please!

That's right. I want more of these unexpected surprises to inspire me to keep on being a disagreeable pain in the ass. They're around. I'm just not looking hard enough or appreciating them well enough when I do see them.

There's my friend, Marshall Roy, a meathead with muscles on top of muscles who doesn't look like he'd give one single fuck about feminist issues. But he does. And he's not just a quiet bystander about it, either. He calls out poor behavior. Hell, he even calls himself out sometimes for stuff that isn't even bad. Scan the dude's Facebook page. You'll be hard pressed to find a week that goes by where he doesn't stand up publicly for one of the core issues he believes in supporting. His actions match his words.

Clearly doesn't give a shit about using a proper coffee cup. Does care deeply about humanity.
There's my other friend, Derek Rodenbeck. Yep, I have a couple of them. He's another meathead. Notice a theme here?  But he's an artist and a thinking man's meathead. He stood in my kitchen the other night and told me about his tour in Iraq and work as a PR agent for the Army's war propaganda machine. Derek took that camera of his out on his own and filmed some shit. But he didn't hide his footage away. He showed it to Army brass and pointed things out he didn't think were kosher.

Sure, they quashed it, but that's irrelevant. More importantly, Derek - a dude who looks like yet another male model, only this one has been crossed with a crazy bearded homeless street fighter; a dude who you'd expect to blindly charge right into the fray waving his sword wildly above his head (and I'm sure he'd do that, too, if his Army brethren were being asked to do it) - isn't just that. He's also a dude with a little Rob Miller and a little Joe Rogan and a little Marshall Roy in him. He's a dude who asks hard questions. He's a dude who knows the sword isn't the only way to prove you're a man.

Homeless psychopath who hedged his bets by pairing two types of camo?
Indeed it would appear so.
Truth seeker? Definitely.
I'm picky. I want to be inspired the way I want to be inspired. I want credible sources who've lived in the house, or at least in the same neighborhood, whose residents they're criticizing.

I don't want more Rosie O'Donnell's. I haven't actually seen Rosie on television in years and don't even know what she stands for anymore, so don't take that literally. She's just my poster person, justified or not, for advocating positions on which one has no credibility to speak. You know, typical rich Hollywood asshole telling us to support this cause or that cause but knowing little about it other than how to open her fat wallet and throw a few bills at the problem - a ceremonial act only and one utterly devoid of any real sacrifice. But who am I to judge? At least a person like that is doing something.

Still, the point is this. If Rosie told me to turn the other cheek and be a pacifist it would have the opposite effect. Remember that scene in Braveheart where the King is pondering the possibility of an enemy confronting his timid son and immediately being emboldened to invade? Yeah, it's like that. The bitch couldn't fight her way out of a wet paper bag, and I know it just by looking at her. There I go again assuming things based solely on appearance. That's okay; I really am right this time.

Please don't beat the shit out of me!
You feel me, dog? Seeing that, I smell blood in the water and am inspired, or maybe irritated, to violence. She has no credibility on matters involving aggression, because her only real choice is pacifism. Where the hell would violence land her other than the wrong end of a gut punch?

But if a meathead says violence is a poor choice and to try kindness and inclusion instead... hmm, that's interesting. Certainly, violence is a viable option for most meatheads I know.

And if Rob Miller or Derek Rodenbeck tells me to question our government... well now... that's entirely different, too. They've served. They've lived it. They know a thing or two about that of which they speak. Both sides of the coin, if you will. That's inspiring. I think I'll sit up and listen to that.

I've talked to enough people who served in our armed forces to know that many of them are the wisest and most skeptical people you'll ever encounter. They're far more leery of our government's motives and have far more insight into the way the world really works than most who haven't served. I guess the military does that to you. You see things you don't want to see; things that change you.

This Memorial Day, I have some grandiose ambitions. I'm going to start by cleaning up my own house. I say I want more inspiration, but maybe I should try being more inspiring.

I can be a little angry at times. You don't say! That anger is good when it's a driving force behind creativity or when it makes folks uncomfortable and prods them to see things from a different perspective. I've written some of my best material when I was pissed off. Lately, though, I think my anger has been turning me into that unbecoming green man a little too often.

So, mid-year's resolution... a little less anger and a little more thoughtful discourse on the issues that are important to me. I suppose this was a decent start. Surprising coming from a meathead, huh?

I also plan to say a prayer for all those who died in service. Along with that, I'm going to keep right on questioning a government that sends them to their deaths repeatedly, with little explanation of the motives, risks, or intended outcomes, and then treats those who somehow manage to make it out poorly when they return.

I approve of this message. Never was much of a Patriot anyway.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

If the Shoe Fits, Choke on It: An Open Letter Three Years On

Three years will have passed on May 18th -- half the span of her short life -- and the heartbreak of losing Roo has not lessened. I wouldn’t want it to, so this is in some ways a self-fulfilling observation. But I’m not really buying that. Purposefully wallowing doesn’t have anything to do with my inability to heal. You just don’t heal from this no matter how positive your attitude is or isn’t.  

The loss of my daughter, in fact, is easily the defining moment of my life. Other milestones good and bad -- graduations, marriages, divorces (yes, plural, as I am perhaps a more flawed being than many), hirings, firings, passing the bar, squatting 600 pounds, the upcoming publication of my first book -- all pale in comparison.  

Don’t get me wrong, that 600 squat was damned sweet, and I’ll tip a glass in celebration of that one anytime you want. That was a fine day; a day shared with a few very good friends that should be celebrated over and over. I just don’t relate to anyone who says they had a feeling of disappointment on reaching a long sought after goal. I had none of that; only elation that persists to this day when I think about that wonderful moment in time a few short weeks before I had any inkling of the coming storm.  

That’s my high water mark, and I couldn’t care less who thinks it’s a dumb one. I was a cockstrong motherfucker that day. I was turning the corner on a mess I made for myself, or so I thought. When Mike whispered in my ear that today was the day, not tomorrow or any other day, and that I should go out and take what I had worked so long for, I believed him and I seized the moment in one of those rare instances when the stars were all aligned just right. That some may not get it makes me savor it all the more.  

Don’t fool yourselves; we all have that high point and it’s not always somewhere out there in the future. Sometimes it already happened. You can kid yourselves if you want, but I speak the truth. This doesn’t mean things that happen in the future can’t be good; they’re just not going to eclipse that one great thing.

A 655 deadlift last summer for a 25-pound PR as an old man… yep, that was pretty fucking cool and worth a drink of its own. I did it with the support of some really awesome folks, too. But it ain’t a 600 squat in a meet with three who were there for the entire training journey -- Gallagher, Wills, and McCammon -- cheering you on.  

And you ain’t going home to hug your precious daughter, tell her what a bull daddy was today, and celebrate with ice cream instead of a drink. In case we’re not clear -- and I'm really talking to myself here -- that will never, ever, EVER happen again. Let that knife sink into your belly good and deep.

As if it wasn’t in deep enough, I took a picture of her lying there in her casket in her little Warehouse Mouse t-shirt. I wanted to feel every ounce of pain; I still do. Pain like that and the sort of love we had go hand in hand.

Mary found a seamstress who sews these custom shirts and sent her a picture to see if she could duplicate this goofy mouse character Roo loved. She did a fantastic job, sewing a mouse with bright orange, fuzzy hair that stuck out from the fabric in sort of a three-dimensional rendering. Roo was so proud of that shirt; I’d catch her patting her mouse on her tummy when she wore it. I’ll share a picture of the mouse, but I’ll spare you the casket.

The few family members who knew I was considering taking a picture of Roo after she passed advised me not to -- that I wouldn’t want to remember her that way -- but I took it anyway. I knew there’d be no more pictures to take, and this last morbid shot was the best I was going to do. I don’t look at it, but I don’t regret taking it either. When you have nothing to eat, you’ll pick from the garbage can.

I recall the day she died far more vividly than the best of my days, including even the day she was born. The sound of a steadily beating heart on the monitor just doesn’t ring in your ears like the deafening sound of one flatlining. Like coaches say, you remember the losses more than the wins, I suppose. And this one was the ultimate loss.

I ran across a Rose Kennedy quote on loss. She buried four children, I believe. “It has been said that ‘Time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone.”

I believe her, though I don’t even think I’ve reached the scar tissue stage yet. I’ve been told I don’t have much of that self-protecting instinct, so maybe it’ll take quite a while or not happen at all. Maybe I’ll just walk around with open wounds.

I can take it, but I do sometimes wonder about those who try to endure me. I was an angry bear to be around at times before; now my fangs are really bared. I can often feel how agitated and unpleasant I am, and I don’t even want to do anything about it other than hit the gym a few times a week to keep from boiling over.  

I figure this is reality and you can deal with it or leave. Makes no difference to me.  The one I needed to stay the most is already gone. Your departure won’t even register.

There’s no silver lining in this dark cloud. Let’s expose another cliche. Everything actually doesn’t happen for a reason. That one irks me the most of all of them. Some things just happen. Either that, or God is just a dick. Take your pick.

Want to see me at my darkest? Tell me it happened for a reason to my face. I’ve heard some good ones… so she wouldn’t suffer; so I could write something real. Thanks, but I was just fine writing about fake shit, like lifting weights, for grown men who remain stuck in adolescence. And that kid was tough as a corn cob. She’d have suffered if it meant she could come back and play some more in the yard and jump on her trampoline.

I’ll give you a reason. You’re at the emergency room having your jaw wired shut because you’re too stupid not to keep your mouth shut about that which you can’t possibly know or understand. There’s your fucking reason. Or maybe I’m there having mine wired shut because you have skills on top of your ignorance. Either way, I don’t care, and not caring about what anyone thinks of me or even about what happens frees me to speak my mind.  

Everyone enjoys watching a train wreck until they realize it's about to crash right into their living room.

You don't like that I swear a lot? It's offensive? Since when did you become such a pussy? Is this what happens to us when we get old? Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck. How ya like that? It's on you. I always swore and you knew this, just like when you date someone and expect them to change. Sorry Charlie; ain’t happening. It ticked way up after my kid died, you say? Fucking right it did and you're a shitty fucking friend for caring about something so utterly meaningless.  

Offensive language??? Really??? This may as well be Allen Iverson lamenting the lunacy of questioning his commitment to practice. Come the fuck on. I don’t have any real proof, so maybe I really am completely koo-koo and am just imagining this, but I have this persistent gut feeling that’s the dumb ass reason a few of you look away.

I don't pick up the phone or call you back? Again, it's on you. I've always hated the phone; always been this way and you know it. I feel trapped and suffocated from the moment I pick the damned thing up. I don’t know how to end the call graciously and some of you fools talk just to hear yourselves. Nevermind how trivial these crises sound from my perspective.  

Maybe I have a goddamned disorder. It got worse? Damned right it did. Losing your kid fucks you up. If you didn't want to chit chat before, you really don't when your head is a war zone with mortar shells going off all around. Email me, bitches. I always answer email. Every. Single. Time.  

In fact, my inbox is completely empty right now because I reply, thoughtfully I might add, to every single friend, and even a few who are in relationships (haha, couldn’t resist), who has ever contacted me. I clear my head and I write, but only when I’m good and ready. It's how I communicate best.

You don't approve of some of my choices? Finally… progress and not more idiotic bullshit! You actually hit on a good one. I don't approve of them, either.  I did some truly assholish things to some great people. And I admitted it, asked for their forgiveness, and tried to move forward. I don't approve of you passing judgment when you clearly have your own imperfections. So there.

Bottom line... I'm not saying my behavior was exemplary, but I should have gotten somewhat of a pass, at least to the extent you didn’t just turn your backs. I went to hell. I'm still in hell. I needed my friends, and I needed them on my shaky terms, yet most of them abandoned me before grass grew on the mound of dirt covering her body.

Now? Now I don't care. It all sorted out and I see who's left. To this precious group... thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you. To the rest... not “Go to hell.” It ain’t that bad. But I don’t need you like I did before; that’s for sure.  

I floundered around. I still flounder. But I started writing. I made a couple breaks for myself and a couple fell in my lap when I put myself out there that more than made up for a few rejections. None of it fixes losing Ruby, and nothing ever will, but I can kind of stand on my own, at least for now, with the support of those who stuck it out with me.

I’ll write some more. I’ll keep working on this idea of a business built around what I love -- strength. We’ll see how it goes.  

I guess I’ll catch up with all you transient friends sometime when it's convenient. Maybe we’ll just continue to like each other’s shit on Facebook without even really taking time to look at it or read it. That seems like a great plan.  

Maybe you had your own shit to deal with. Hell, maybe you were just busy and not put off by something I did or didn’t do. Whatever the reason, I forgive you, though it would have been swell of you to ask. I'm just bummed you're not who I thought you were. If you read that and thought of Dennis Green, you know your football so there’s at least something redeemable in you.

Roo lives on in my mind as an absolutely perfect, innocent child, but life is far from perfect. In reality, if she’d have lived longer, she’d have let me down in some way. She probably wouldn’t have been a lifter. Ugh. Open me up while I’m awake and jiggle my liver around with a spoon, why don’t you.

Far worse, I’d have let her down. I wouldn’t have always just been an indestructible gorilla to climb on and drag around by the finger. I’d have been a guy who hurt her mom, among other things.  

But we'd have found a way to patch it up. We’d have had no choice. She was my soul, and you can’t live without your soul. I know this too well.

As seems to be my MO, I started this letter raging and now that I got it off my chest I’m starting to breathe a little more easily. I better say this now, while my mood has softened a bit, before the beast returns. I’ll never apologize for speaking my mind, but I am sorry if my words hurt or offend you.  

Yes, I’m even sorry about the swearing, but not sorry enough to stop. I really, really like to swear! It actually makes me happy and sort of giddy. If “baked potato” was a taboo word and “fuck” was just a word for a vegetable (or is it a starch?... fuck, I don’t know), I’d probably run around hollering baked potato.

I’m sorry for some words I’ve already written and sorry for some I’m going to write. Most of all, I’m sorry you didn’t get to know her, so you might understand what all this turmoil is about.

If my words get too heavy or I’m just being too big a jerk, tune me out for a while. The best part of me died three years ago. You all are stuck dealing with what’s left wandering around post personal apocalypse, or maybe making the self-preserving choice not to deal with it sometimes.  

But come back when you’re ready. Even if at times it seems as if I’m trying to alienate, I’m really reaching out and trying to connect through my writing. We want to connect with other human beings, and our ugliness shows when that’s not happening. 

Sometimes I get it right; I know because a few of you have told me as much. Despite my demons and slights, both perceived and real, you are important to me. And if you wade through enough of my venom, you might find something you can use to get through your own dark hours.