Little Thoughts on Paper Posts – my Mother’s Facebook.

Every night, almost invariably, my mom will leave me a note on my bathroom counter.

Little things – like thoughts, factoids, ads, that she shares with me.

She’s going to be eighty years old, and she’s becoming forgetful, but she always remembers to write me a little note, a small reminder, for me.

She keeps me updated.

It’s a such a sweet simple act – at times silly, surreal – but it always makes me smile.

Tonight, though, the realization hit me –
these little notes are my mom’s own version of Facebook.

I’m seeing it being created in real life, and in real time.

And, when she is gone, I will have this big collection of little thoughts, and I will be able to hold these paper posts in my hand, and know, that once, her hands touched them, and I will still have that physical connection to her.

Time taken, thought given, to write a note by hand, meant solely for one person.

Who does that these days?

Who still gets notes written by hand, from a loved one?

Why do I feel, somehow, that this is better?

What Fat Thor Taught Me About Being Okay With My Weight and My Depression.

The uproar over Fat Thor in Avengers Endgame was, to put it simply, idiotic.

Quite the contrary, Fat Thor was brilliant.

Methinks the mindless twits on Twitter with their groupranthink doth protest way too damn much.

Apparently, the fact that Thor having a gut was too offensive for their delicate sensibilities.

Added to that, their accusation that some of the remarks the surviving members of the Avengers in the film made at his physical appearance was a form of “Fat Shaming” is beyond ridiculous.

The Avengers are comrades, they’re friends, they’re like an amiable bunch of athletes. You are going to dig on your friends for two reasons, because they love your quirks and because they call you out.

They did it with Captain America in Age of Ultron with the running “language” bit. They also did the same thing with Hawkeye being old in the same movie. They always dig on Bruce Banner for being geeky and socially awkward.
It’s par for the course.

Before I continue, however, I feel I should be as transparent as possible and establish my bonafides.

First, what qualifies me to talk about the subject?

I’m fat.

I know, it’s a shocking revelation.

I’ve lived most of my life heavier than thinner.

Currently, I’m hovering around the two hundred and thirty pound mark.

According to the height ( I’m 5’11 ½” ) and age chart at my doctor’s office, I am considered clinically obese.
Last year, I was around two hundred and fifty pounds.

There were a couple of years were I weighed a lithe two hundred and twenty pounds.

At my heaviest, back in the mid-nineties, I weighed two hundred and eighty-five pounds.

I’ve struggled with my weight all of my life.

I’ve worked out more often than not for the past ten years, so there is some muscle, but more strength.

Oh, and I still bear the scars of childhood bullying from mean little assholes. The trauma is gone, but the memory is not.

So I feel that definitely qualifies me to talk about this particular subject.

Oh, and I guess I should have prefaced this blog with the words *SPOILER ALERT!!!!!* typed in all caps, bookended with asterisks, followed by a slew of exclamation points, in bold, and underlined.

But really, if you haven’t seen the movie already, then what in the hell is wrong with you?

So, back to Thor.

When I saw Avengers Endgame in the theater, and Fat Thor first appeared, the first of two thoughts shot out into the night sky of my mind and flared like a Fourth of July firework:

Holy crap – that’s me!

That immediate gut reaction was to his physical change.

That was me up on the screen.

I was represented.

Granted, I looked nowhere near as handsome as that damned Chris Hemsworth. His body shape was also slightly different than mine – my gut is not so prominent and my arms are not that muscular.

Nevertheless, I felt the strangest sensation watching him. In a way it was like being home. Like I could breathe comfortably.

Then there’s the scene where Hulk and Rocket Raccoon go to Thor’s home in New Asgard and try to convince him to rejoin The Avengers. There is a lot of comedy in that scene, and it’s easy to miss if you’re viewing it on a purely superficial level, but the mess, the bottles of beer and pizza boxes strewn everywhere, the way Thor’s dressed.

Then there’s Thor’s demeanor – the look in his eye, the way he talks, the way he carries himself. Those are all the telltale signs.

And this is the pure beauty, the sheer genius of Thor’s story arc:

Thor is sad, Thor is beaten, Thor is bruised, Thor is broken, Thor is depressed.

This was the second firecracker of a revelation I saw.

I saw and I understood.

That’s how depression looks like for some people. That’s how it was for me.

Not note for note, of course – because everyone’s battle with depression is different. But it always has to do with slowly being unable to things that others do with no problem, or even with things that you were able to do before with ease that seem impossible now.

Depression can come suddenly with the loss of a loved one. Depression can come with a sudden and drastic life change. Or depression can hover over you like a specter since birth, and wait, biding its time to slip into the cartilage of your joints.

During the course of Phases 1 through 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we saw in his struggles, pieces of him hammered, cracked, then chipped away, but he persisted.

He had a duty. He felt it was his job to solve all the problems that were destroying his world and the ones he loved. Only he could do it. He shouldered everything. He didn’t ask for help. Then when the killing blow was struck, it was not he who had won – it was Thanos.

And that was it.

Thor crumbled.

He tried as hard as he could to hold himself together, to put on a brave face and soldier on. Then when he tried again one last valiant time – nothing.

To me, Thor was the image of my depression. In Thor, we see a god-man, once bright and beautiful and unbreakable and unstoppable just pure focus and vision and charm and wit, just the very best of how we see – or want to see – ourselves, and we see him simply break in two.

And the sad genius of it was that it was laid out well in advance, and it happened over time – since The Dark World. We saw him slowly crack. And it’s a scientific fact that if you hammer away at an object with the right tools, in the right way, it eventually cracks.

He lost his mother. Crack.

He lost his father. Crack.

He lost his friends. Crack.

He lost his hammer. Crack.

He lost his home. Crack.

He lost his brother. Crack.

He lost his half his people. Crack.

Then he lost half the life in the Universe. Crack.

And then, finally, he simply lost. CRACK.

Thor lost everything that he thought he was. He lost everything that he thought defined him. He tried everything, and nothing worked.

We all saw it onscreen. We saw the result:

All that was left was a man, only a man, a scared man, a raw, vulnerable, frightened human.

It was frightening to see onscreen. It’s even more frightening when you are actually going through something like that.

When you have a job, a task, a responsibility, and the weight of carrying it for so long, in silence, without asking for help, or refusing any help given, but with each step forward you can sense the small cracks underneath you like being on a frozen lake that you can feel breaking, but you ignore it, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

And that is the devil hidden deep in the details when it comes to depression – especially with male depression. We bear our burdens silently, because asking for help is admitting weakness, and admitting weakness is a Cardinal Sin for many of us. It is the fatal flaw in our own, personal Greek tragedy that destroys us in the end.

For me, it was starting up a brand new relationship just eight months after being divorced to my high school girlfriend, the last five years of which was highly toxic. Crack.

My new relationship with my ex-girlfriend, who needed special attention because she struggled with so many mental health problems. Crack.

My trying to be a good man and a good father to her daughters. Crack.

My trying to be a good, responsible son and care for my father who went from having severe Crohns disease to getting terminal cancer of the gall bladder and the liver. Crack.

Me, trying to handle all of this on my own, by myself, not talking to anyone about it. Crack.

My slow-slipping down into reckless behaviors, behaviors which caused my girlfriend and I to break up. Crack.

My father passing away. Crack.

Fortunately, I finally sought help. I saw a therapist, who then said I should see a psychiatrist. I went to my doctor, who referred me to the man who saved my mind.

Almost five years later, I’m still around.

Thor survived, and even fat he stepped up. Even after breaking, with the help of his friends, and his anger and his courage, he helped his friends, he helped them win. Greater still, he overcame his fears.

And though I’ve had days where all I’ve wanted to do was stay home and stay in bed – even with medication – I’ve stepped up and helped those friends and family who needed me. I’ve failed them sometimes, but I’ll never stop trying.

And I will continue to step up, grow stronger, grow calmer, because I have a little eighty year old mother whom I love dearly who, like my father, will need me to see them through to the end.

I know it will be hard.

I know it will devastate me.

But I have friends now, who stubbornly insist that I not slip into the Darkness.

I have family who I am no longer afraid to ask for help.

And I have Fat Thor, beautifully portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, with pathos, grace, and humanity.

Thank you, Chris.

Thank you, Kevin Feige.Thank you, Russo Brothers.

Thank you, Stan Lee.

And thank you, Fat Thor.

Thank you for showing me – this fat, broken, socially awkward old geek –

that I am worthy.

You Are Not Alone: Death Rebirth Rest Change Nature Cycles Depression and the Christ child – or A Nativity Story for Non-Natives. 

“And the sleepiness kicks back in, this time more from sadness, the lethargy from my exhaustion from work is there, too. This very paragraph is where I’ve started writing, because I wanted to try and accurately describe how it feels, what I’m going through right now.

I simultaneously want to cry and fall asleep.

My eyes are closing while tears collect around the corners of my eyes.

And the feeling of falling away into the deep blue state of oblivion comes back strong.

This sucks

I have to put my phone down now eyes can’t stay open.”

I wrote this yesterday, when I was grieving after receiving the news that another dear, sweet, older coworker had passed away from a heart attack. 

Yes, another. 

About two weeks ago this evening I attended the memorial service that was held for a coworker, s kind, sweet, positive older woman, who finally succumbed to her six-year battle with cancer, leaving her husband – another coworker at our elementary school – and three children here on this plane of existence. 

It was hard going to the service. 

You see, lately I’ve been having a problem with funerals or memorial services for the deceased since my father lost his battle to liver and gall-bladder cancer. 

I’m getting drowsy again. I wonder, is this my depression, wanting me to shut down and go to sleep because it’s too much to process – especially when my body is already recovering from the physical exhaustion of working too many hours at my campus? Is it just the physical exhaustion? Or is it a combination of both?

Depression is funny that way. Even medicated, it’s hard to tell where the depression ends and you begin.

Can’t keep my eyes open anymore.

Time to sleep.

My mom woke me. 

I think ten-fifteen minutes have passed.

Right now I’m in the study/Music room in The Last Homely House, listening to a mix of modern throwback Christmas music by Pearl Jam, Sufjan Stevens, Dave Matthews and other Alternative, Indie, and singer-songwriter, along with some Beth Orton.

The study is filled with the clean gleam of gentle, natural sunlight, a sharp contrast to the midnight blue dark of my bedroom yesterday.

The grief has left for the most part, the lethargy has departed as well. Now it’s mostly a cozy church mouse sleepiness I’ve been feeling.

I got up at seven and did my Christmas shopping. I was done by 9:30 a.m. 

So, slowly but surely, my forced bed rest is helping my energy to come back. 

I live my life by the schedule of my sleep now.

Ever since I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and I discovered that lack of sleep really does cause a lot of damage for anyone with a mental illness – especially an untreated mental illness – I get as much sleep as I possibly can. And somehow, I knew this. As I grew older, it became harder and harder for me to be fully functional on five hours or less of sleep. My ex-girlfriend saw this firsthand. I became very emotional, very negative. I would joke that being in that state would make me suicidal – but that wasn’t far from the truth. I just wanted to drop everything and go to bed. I was a person who needed eight hours – seven minimum. 

Now I’m a teacher. I have to be on campus by 7:30. My daily commute is thirty minutes. But I like getting to work early, even knocking out a kettlebell workout real quick. And I also like to make time to eat a good sit down breakfast, and watch a little CNN. So in order to do all that, I need to be up by 4. I try to be in bed by eight pm.

Regular weekend nights out no longer exist for me, even just staying up late reading, or watching TV – those are pleasures I can simply no longer indulge in.

But sleep, glorious, languid descents into the deepest, darkest caverns of Oblivion – a darkness so complete, I rarely remember my dreams – that is a pleasure I now long for daily. 

It’s funny, but I had to change the person I was to save the person I could be, the person I’m supposed to be. And there’s still more changing I need to do.

But the sedentary, junk-food-eating, unfocused night-owl is dead.

Because all that I did and was doing to myself was making me miserable physically and mentally. I was like a smoker with lung cancer, a diabetic who kept eating sugary sweets. I was doing everything that would exacerbate my depression and ADHD.

So that part of me – which seemed like such an integral part of me, like it was tied to my identity – had to die.

I had to do two things which terrified the fuck out of me:

Die and Change.

Death and Change.

I see that now, those two phases are essential to the cycle of life, to the cycle of your evolution as a human.

And it requires rest and recovery. That’s what I’m doing – that’s what I’ve been doing ever since my father and my old life died. That’s why I barely go out. That’s why I sleep. That’s why I spoil myself. A part of me knows another change, another phase of my life is about to begin, and this one involves me finally doing continuous exercise and ends with me quitting the regular drinking, until I don’t drink at all. So instinctively my body is resting. I’m like a field in the winter, laying fallow. 

We have to change, we have to die, we have to let go of all the things we make ourselves feel we need that help define our identity but are toxic to us.

We die either way at the end.

The question is how do you want to go?

As your true, whole, happy self?

Or as a sickly, angry, used shadow of yourself?

These recent deaths are terrible. They are terrible in different ways. One family saw it coming, so there was time to prepare despite hope, but a sixty-year-year-old man has lost his life partner for good, and he will have to raise his teenage girls and older son on his own. The other family lost their matriarch suddenly, quickly – and cruelly – right before Christmas. Things will never be the same.

They won’t. And it’s terrible. But there is always hope that families can get past that void.

Five years ago, my mother, myself, and my siblings could not imagine a world without our father. But living here, in the same house – even after I practically moved in with my ex-girlfriend, I knew something was going to happen. I knew something was wrong. So I set my mind to abandoning the life I had built with my ex, moving back in with my parents, and waiting for the time when he would get so sick, he’d need constant tending to. I set my mind so hard to it, I became fatalistic – And that triggered the worst depressive episode I’d gone through.

Bad judgement, lack of communication, lack of compromise – that’s what killed my relationship. Then her discovering an emotional relationship I had begun with a very unprofessional ex-assistant principal is what cut us off for good.

Our relationship died. Who we were died, but it took me killing it to see that I had mental health issues that needed diagnosing and treating.

My life has been a constant shedding of skins that I never expected to shed and that I truly thought were me.

My mother, my whole family has. We’ve had to adjust to the changes. And we move on, our lives now tinged with the memory of my father’s death. 

Death and Change. 

Nothing is permanent. 

The only thing that can be permanent is your understanding and acceptance of that one truth: nothing is permanent.

Who you are.

What you have.

The material and immaterial things that you think define you – they can, and probably will, change in an instant. We just don’t know when.

Life is change.

Life is impermanence. 

Life is a work in progress that you truly never get to complete. 

To some reading this, the news might terrify the hell out of you, but that’s not my intention. That’s not my takeaway.

The takeaway is: know this, so you can live the life you want, your way, for yourself, without having to answer to anyone. 

Life is precious.

And it’s yours, to do with what you will.

And for those who may be depressed during this season, please understand, it’s all about perspective. 

This day is not supposed to be about gifts, how many and how much.

This is day is not supposed to be about family – even when it’s good – because most of us know that’s a lie, that family are the first, and sadly sometimes, the only ones who truly hurt, abandon, and betray us.

Today, well, this evening, marks the occasion where a working-class man decided to have the back of a Woman he loved who had a child who was not his own. This couple was on the run and the only shelter they could find for themselves and this child was a poorly manger, a shelter for animals. Shepards, some Wise Men, an angel. A strange collection all, strangers all, who were all probably laughed at, but who stopped, and made their way to see a child, to see life, despite it’s cruel miseries.

The story of this occasion does not exemplify an ideal of being satisfied living in a world of material excess. Far from it – the materially rich in this story were represented by an insecure, jealous king who decided to murder all the male babies he could find in fear of the rise of this one particular child.

No. This is a story of looking down at your feet, at looking up over your head, at looking into the mirror, and seeing an imperfect survivor living an imperfect life on the run the best way you can manage – and saying, “I’m alive. This is now and I’m alive.”

So, yeah, there’s death, there’s change, but there’s also rest, and recovery. The tree drops it leaves and grays, then splays out in a thousand shades of undulating emerald a season later.

It’s about rest and seasons and time, and simply being. 

Amidst all the sexy, shiny, glossy screens telling you, showing you:

YOU NEED THIS.

YOU MUST HAVE THIS.

YOU MUST BE LIKE THIS,

You have fulfilled their purpose in this manufactured illusion of “gotta have gotta buy!” and perverted inversion of an ancient tale that taught an important lesson and you have forgotten THE most important thing:

YOU are the gift.

The Last Jedi and My Improptu Tour of Pleasures.

I drove up to San Antonio this morning to see The Last Jedi. 

I wasn’t planning on seeing it today. 

I was planning on saving it for next Saturday, the first Saturday of my two-week Christmas break, as a Beginning-of-Break treat.

I save certain science fiction/fantasy action adventure films for the IMAX 3D screen at the Santikos Palladium movie theater across I10 from Six Flags Fiesta Texas. I have to budget them out, because it’s a pricey ticket. I wasn’t a fan of 3D cinema before, but since taking my ex-girlfriend there to see Ridley Scott’s Prometheus back when it premiered, and I saw it done right on a proper screen, I was sold.

Then all the hype came out about The Last Jedi, the positive praise, the urgings to see it before all those idiots who have made spoiling surprises just so they can “Be In The Know” and hold that feeling priority over some people’s love of surprise. 

But I’ll save my thoughts and choice words on the Gotta-Know-First-And-Blurt-Spoiler-Obsessed and their ilk for another blog. But all the hype made me decide to scrounge up enough cash for the ticket.

It was, of course, fantastic, giving this life-long fan of Star Wars everything I wanted in a Star Wars film in a way I wasn’t expecting – and I loved it.

There were so many laugh out loud and cheer- or applause-worthy moments, I was surprised and a little disappointed when the rest of the crowd was silent. Such was the majestic awesomeness of Rian Johnson’s vision, that I didn’t care, and I did my own golf-clapping, laughing, and toned-down cheers.

Afterwards, already in a state of positive euphoria, I stopped at ULTA Beauty Supply to pick up my grooming and skin care products, a cologne. 

I started using men’s skin care products almost a year to day, after my friend Elsa did my make-up for my role as Egeus in a local theater production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A small part of using the products was it’s obvious benefits, but a major part of the ritual was my physically applying them to my face. 

In better times, my ex-girlfriend would often spontaneously stroke my face, the top of my head, to continual delight and pleasure. Her shows of affection made me feel so loved, so special. I had known for a while that I was a person who needed a lot of physical contact. 

Now that I’m single, I’m not ashamed to admit that I miss it terribly. So my nightly skin care regimen became an essential component of my self-care ritual, and gave me a good excuse to give myself the physical contact I craved.

So it was a nice treat to stock up on all the “essentials.”

By this time, I was starving. And I wanted to enjoy something delicious and comforting that wasn’t available back in Laredo. 

In Martin Brest’s 1992 film, Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino plays a blind war veteran who, along with Chris O’Donnell, visits New York, and embarks on a series of adventures and fine experiences. In the film he refers to it as a “tour of pleasures.”

I’ve since taken up that phrase to refer to my day trips to San Antonio or my weekend concert-goin trips to Austin.

At this point on my Tour of Pleasures, having eaten nothing but a couple of bananas and some Starbucks on the road after a two hour drive and a movie that was over two hours long, then shopping st ULTA, I was starving. I wanted to find something delicious to eat. 

Then I remembered Maggiano’s Little Italy. 

It’s a higher end chain – better than Johnny Carino’s (which I love) and Olive Garden (which I hate). But it was in the same sprawling shopping/entertainment center as the Palladium and ULTA. 

I entered, approached the lady in the front, and asked for any available table or small booth. She told me that it would be a thirty to forty-five minute wait, but if I wanted to, there was space at the bar area. I jumped at that, and I was lucky enough to find a small nook in a small, secluded corner of the bar.

There was one young girl running the area, but I really didn’t care. I sat there, reading articles off of my Flipboard app and doing some writing.

By the time I got her attention, it was a little while longer till she brought me bread and oil and a glass of water. Before she was off again, I ordered. I wanted to enjoy a glass of red, but I wanted to something different. She recommended a pinot noir (Paul Giamatti’s voice from Sideways, echoing in my mind about pinot) and brought me a sample. It was complex enough and not too dry so I went ahead and ordered the nine ounce serving along with their version of the ultimate comfort food, “Mom’s Homemade Lasagna.”

The pinot and lasagna in the warm setting of Maggiano’s was the perfect counterpoint to the forty-three degree temperature and gray, miserable rain outside; me reading articles off of my phone, writing my Daily Meditation, and just taking breaks to eat, breath, close my eyes and enjoy being right inside the moment.

Just breathing. 

Just being in the moment.

I smiled.

The whole time, walking in my winter gear, waiting and wading amidst all the pre-Christmas shopping throngs, lines, and traffic. At times, beautiful women and pretty girls would look at me and smile. I looked them right in the eye, smiled back and went on my way.

Smiled, that’s what I was doing, mostly the entire time, smiling because I was happy. 

Happy to be swimming among humanity, to be free and untethered, on my own time doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.

Just happy to be.

To be.

Purely, simply happy. 

No phantom limb pain.

I smiled, happy, content, and not caring or worrying about, not  giving a single thought to who I was or wasn’t with.

I was with me.

I was present.

I was in the moment.

Simply enjoying being.

Being me.

My Time at The Music House. 

It wasn’t just music that we were going to make, but magic. This was a ritual of reconnection. The resetting of a bond that had lain cracked and fallow in many ways for over twenty years.

5.

I drove in to Austin just to go to sleep.

I arrived exactly twelve hours after Marce’s text. It was 2:00am – just a bit later than scheduled.

I found the house fast, thanks to Google Maps and its location – South Austin, a mile or two towards West Austin, right off 35.

I had to park and do reconnaissance. I wasn’t sure of the house’s exact location, so using the walking directions, I walked until I found the correct address. Marce had texted that he had left the door unlocked.

I opened the door and entered.

The smell of old wood floors and plaster comforted my road weary body as it filled my nose.I love the smell of old homes. It reminds me of grandparents’ home in San Antonio. 

An inflatable air mattress, laid out and prepared with a pillow and blanket, greeted me in the middle of the small living room, to my direct right. On the left, amps and guitars were lined up along the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen.

I began to unload my kit in as few trips as and, as quietly as I could. I wanted to do it quickly, but my preparations for the trip had hindered my plans. I finally had completed buying carrying cases for each piece of my drum set, so I could only take in so many at time.

I didn’t want to risk doing the “Shopping Bag Thing” and carrying all of it at once, then dropping something or putting a dent either in the wall or one of my drums. So it was back and forth and back and forth, but silent and steady was going to be a problem.

Anticipating the probability of rain, I wore my chunky hiking boots. Muted – but audible thuds were the best my weary body could do after three hours on the road and all the events previous to that.

The continuous and uninterrupted sound of snoring in the next room allayed my fears of waking anyone up. Marce snores. Go figure.

I stacked my kit in the corner of the kitchen, beside the fridge where Marce had told me there’d be space. Then I brought in all my percussion gear and set it, as compactly and organized as I could beside Marce and Ryan’s amps along the wall dividing kitchen from living room.

Last, I brought in my duffle bag and my satchel that held all my writing and sketching gear.

I have this thing when I travel where I have to take out all of my gear and lay it out around and beside me just so: plug in my charger and charge my phone, lay out my keys and wallet, take out the novel I’m reading, as well as my writing journal, my sketch pad, along with pen and pencils.

Once that’s set, I feel at ease and a sense of security. Then I can take my meds and get ready for bed.

I couldn’t help but be aware that everything I had done that whole day up to this point had a sense of ritual about it – even me not rushing and going slow about all my travel preparations. But it was exactly that.

For me, even though this was a weekend jam session, it was a spiritual experience. Bob Batey’s death changed all that. I was, again, acutely aware of the Hand of the Divine at work, and I had to pay it the reverence of ritual.

It wasn’t just music that we were going to make, but magic. This was a ritual of reconnection. The resetting of a bond that had lain cracked and fallow in many ways for over twenty years.

There was the fact that I had to make amends with Marce.

I needed to make music to honor the passing of Batey.

And I needed to make music to attain a level of spirituality that I know I needed to set myself right.

But the house – the house was so cool – and not temperature-wise, it had a cool vibe. I had to look around first.

I took pictures immediately to document my journey. I posted many of them on Instagram that first night.

The living room and kitchen were both of equal proportion and both equally small – but cozy. All the furniture was late sixties/early seventies retro: wood grain speakers stacked on a an end table, a long wooden bench-style kitchen table, aluminum and red plastic diner chairs, vintage speakers and amps used as decoration, black and white pictures of Paul McCartney, Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen covered the walls, vintage posters of Rio de Janeiro Carnivale posters plastered on the fridge. The place was perfect.

There was magic to be made. And if there was magic to be made, this was the place to make it.


I changed, settled into bed, read a little, wrote a little, and drew a little, then before I knew it, sleep took.

I awoke to a room flush with pure bright sunlight. The sounds of Marce shuffling around in the kitchen and the bedroom as he made coffee.

There was nothing for it. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I had to get up.

It was time to see what the day had in store.
Next: Setting up. Back in the pocket. Old, good friends, old, good brothers. Reunions and Revels.

My Time at The Music House. 

​3.

Signs.

It’s always Signs and Providence.

I think I really began to notice their existence when my marriage began to disintegrate.

Chicken or egg. 

Which happened first? Did I always possess this gift? This ability to notice windows of opportunity open up, briefly, to be taken advantage of before they disappeared? Or did the constant pain of the years-long dissolution of our marriage scrub any and all illusions of a perfect life out of my eyes, washed away by years of tears and sobs, leaving me to see only what’s real?

Either way, I was left, somehow, being in tune with my gut. Pretty accurately, too.

I don’t believe in prayer as a form of action. I don’t let go and let God. Unless I’m collapsed in a heap on my bed, going through one of my heavy depressive states, I move. I move forward, and I look, and I know that when I do that, then God presents us opportunities. 

That’s how I ended up in downtown Houston, alone, by myself, for a four day weekend. 

So it was, less than a month after dad passed away, that after scrolling through my emails, I saw that Brett Dennen was going to be  playing at Warehouse Live, in Houston.

He’d be playing Austin on Wednesday, but taking off from work during the middle of the week is kind of tough.

Then I saw that he’d be playing Friday in Houston. Now, taking a Friday off is much more feasible. I did the math. I knew that I could get away with taking two days off — it’s May, we were done teaching everything. It’s just pure enrichment. So I bit the bullet. My dad just passed, my problems with my ex weren’t going away, I needed space, distance, and to have my ragged, worn-down spirit cleansed and rejuvenated. 

And that’s why seeing Brett Dennen’s gig appearing serendipitously that May weekend is another sign of a door opening up by the Divine.

I love Brett Dennen.

He’s the only singer-songwriter whose songs have ever made me feel simultaneously astronomically happy, and tear-stained ashen  heartbroken.

To me, Brett represents  purity of musicality – with his bright melodies and his ability to often juxtapose them against heartbreakingly sad, authentic lyrics, he is a real musician and a singer-songwriter of the highest caliber. 

Now it’s Monday morning, close to check out time.

I feel different refreshed. 

I feel lighter – more so than I’ve felt in a long time. Seeing Brett Dennen, singing along, crying out all the anguish, heartbreak, and joy I’d been going through. Then exploring downtown Houston, finding a great coffee shop to hang out during the day, then haunting the local Flying Saucer across the street. Making friends, chatting with strangers. 

Needless to say, I was happy.

So I truly don’t know why I decided to pick up my cell and text Marce.

I truly can’t remember – Did something come to mind. Did I text him totally out of the blue, after weeks of turning over the problem in the back of my head, what I needed to say finally crystallized and had arranged itself into perfect word order, or was I returning a text of his?

I honestly can’t remember. 

All I remember was just getting out of the shower, getting all my gear packed up and ready to roll, then I got my phone.

I texted Marce. 

Everything that I had been wanting to tell him about things that he had done – from high school to his comments on my work, to my thoughts on his work  that had been gnawing at the edges of my consciousness,  irritating me, burst forth in my machine gun texting style. 

And I didn’t care. I did not give one rat’s ass. My father died, and he made it about him. Or so I thought. It was a minute or two of frenzied texting, then nothing. 

There was silence. 

I stood before my duffle bag on the bed. For a moment, I freaked at what I had just done, then I let it go.

“That’s harsh,” was all I could remember him replying.

“The truth is harsh.” I responded.

And that was it. 

That’s how it was for a very long time. No communication. No social media. I believe I unfriended Time passed, as it tends to do.

I would get an occasional message from him, an infrequent text. Then – and to be honest with you, I cannot remember when it began – the messages and texts came with more frequency, the apologies. At some point, I apologized – not for what I said, but how I said it, and that I should have said it long ago. My tone changed. I changed. The death of my father irreparably changed me into someone much harsher. 

My father died, and a part of me died with me.

I now had no problem telling people what I thought. I wasn’t “sweet,” or “kind” – and I sure as shit wasn’t going to be “diplomatic.”

Maybe not harsher – honest.

Finally knowing myself, knowing my worth, knowing what I will and will not put up with.

Everything was changing.

Everything had changed.

And that was a good thing.

Next: an invitation, a decision, more death, a path to healing. 

My Time at the Music House. Part 2.

UHS CoolGuy BreezewayPic

2.

I got three calls the night after my father passed away:

One from my ex-wife.

One from my ex-girlfriend.

One from Marce.

They weren’t good.

I don’t know, but the day after your father passes away, you do kind of expect a certain type of call. You know, condolences, I’m really sorry and all that. These weren’t like that

My ex-wife called me. Her voice sounded rough. Poor thing, she’d been going through a rough patch. By her breath-catchy heaving tone I knew that she had been crying.  “I know you’re dad just died, but I’m having problems with __________ again, and I was wondering …” Okay, Things happen, I thought. I told her it was kind of a bad time. I tried my best to listen.

About an hour later, my ex-girlfriend called me. She asked me how I was, how I was doing, how she felt bad, but then her tone made an abrupt one-eighty from caring to sharp and accusatory. She brought up a girl who wasn’t even a friend of my mine and said “ … so those are the types of girls you like, right?”

My friend from high school, Marcelino, or Marce, sent me a private message via Facebook Messenger that wasn’t so private.

That was enough.

It was like a perverse inversion of the Ebenezer Scrooge tale.

You see the day my father passed away, the deal I made with myself, my body, my god, the Divine, kicked in. The deal was this: I promised that I would do everything in my power to see my father be as comfortable as possible, that he feel safe and secure, and most importantly, that I was not going to let him die alone.

And I did that.

For the three months that we all knew he was terminal with gall bladder cancer that had spread to his liver and chemo was not an option because his body was too weak from all the damage he suffered from his Chrons Disease, I held him and my mother together as best I could, despite the oncoming inevitibility.

I did that.

For the five years previous, I taught and fell in love with a single mother of two who had severe ADHD, severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and I did everything I humanly could to maintain that relationship.

I did that.

But after all that, my cup was overfull. I had no more room.

I was just not having it. I told off each one of them. I used my words. I’m very good at them – just ask my two exes. I cut them, and I cut them deep. And I cut them out of my lives. Eventually, over time, I tried my best at mending fences with the two exes.

Hit my thumb with the hammer most of the time, but I did what I could – especially when it came to my ex-girlfriend, Lindsey. I hated her timing, but I really couldn’t blame her anger. The stress of taking care of her and her family and my parents while my father was sick led my then-undiagnosed Major Depression and ADHD to take me down some very dark and toxic roads to find ways to deal, ways that my girlfriend could not forgive. Thankfully, three years later, all of that was addressed. Lindsey and I are still broken up, but now we’ve achieved understanding and forgiveness, and to be quite honest, it’s more than my old sorry ass deserves.

But Marce – Marce was a different story.

I just couldn’t. I am not going to get into the details of what went wrong. If you see me out somewhere and ask, maybe I’ll tell you, maybe I won’t. I’d venture to guess he’d say the same thing. He would try to reach out, but I never responded.

Marce and I were never close. We had a lot in common – but we were never close.

I first met Marce in freshman basketball. I remember him having some skill, but mostly I remember him being very uptight back then. I would have my little comments that I would say – to no one in particular – but Marce was pretty vocal about my comments.His face would pinch up and he would ask me why the hell I would say that, and then he would tell me to stop, because he found it annoying.

You see, I hate people like that. Uptight people who think they have the right to tell other people anything about the way they would talk. I always thought that was bad manners. I mean, come on – I have a pretty vast store of vocabulary in my head and I know how to speak English, but I also have my little jokes that I tell myself because I think they’re funny, but I would never criticize someone for talking a specific way – especially of they weren’t picking on me. Marce had no such distinction. So as soon as he criticized me for that, naturally, I did it more to annoy the hell out of him.

Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. I was told by one of the coaches that I was really bad at basketball, and they had to let me go – but I could still come to the practices and workout if I wanted. It was like being dumped by a girl, then having her tell me that we could still be friends.

I didn’t stay for practices very long.

The next time I met Marce, a whole year had passed, and we were already juniors. He had mellowed out some by then, enough to notice that we got along decently, and by chance, he started to hang out with some of the people I would hang out with. And we were able to spend enough time with each that we found we both had a lot in common.

We loved acting. We both shared a love of Mel Brooks’ classic comedies. We both really loved Val Kilmer’s Top Secret. We loved the ridiculousness of it, and we loved acting it out. We were both attention whores – each in our own way. We loved an audience and we played up to them – especially girls. We loved music – listening to it and playing it. We both shared a passionate love for U2, first and foremost, and then Sting, and then Grunge exploded, and we found our music.

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So we shared these commonalities and a creative chemistry, but we were never close. He never confided his fears and worries to me, nor I to him. My best friend was Carlos. We confided in each other. Marce and I, on the other hand, clicked in a different way.

Usually it was fun. We’d go on trips between classes, walking down the hallways or the breezeways, cutting up, acting like we were straight out of Monty Python or Top Secret, copying riffs from HBO’s The Kids in the Hall – “I’m crushing your head!!!”  — stuff like that.

NOTE: if you don’t know who The Kids in the Hall are, shame on you, when you’re done reading this, and you still find yourself on the interwebs, go to the YouTube, search The Kids in the Hall, watch, enjoy, repeat.

We were like Wayne and Garth, Beavis and Butthead, … I can’t think of any current “dude bromances” – #sorrymillenials.

I got him into acting – UIL One Act Play, we started an awesome UIL Improv team – and placed in our first events ever – we jammed, he played rhythm and I played drums. Marce was pure constant energy. He was fun. In retrospect, my Major Depression had a lot to do with how I reacted to him. Back then, I didn’t realize that my ADHD and Major Depression competed with each other, and that my energy levels came in waves – my highs were really high, and matched Marce’s toe-to-toe, but when my lows came and I needed to recharge silently his sometimes manic energy seemed too much and I got annoyed.

Of course, I knew none of this at the time. So the good aspects of me and Marce’s chemistry, would become the negatives at times. Creatively, we were each other’s Jordan and Pippin, switching roles depending on the situation. We sparked creatively and worked each other competitively to pick each other’s game up. But then my energy would give and the lethargy of my Major Depression would kick in, making me feel like he got the better of me creatively. My mood would sour, and I’d just pout out.

Added to that, my Major Depression made my lips heavy, so it kept me silent in high school. Any beefs I had – with Marce, or with others – I never addressed, leading a lot of people – even my friends, Marce, even my own family – to believe that I was a pushover. I never said anything to verbally defend myself. I merely held it all in and earned the reputation as having not even a pebble for a spine. I wouldn’t do what guys did – call him out or take the piss out of him. I just kept quiet, kept it in. That was not good. That became one emotional item in a growing storage box housed in an ever expanding warehouse of unaddressed issues.

But we kept on, inspiring each other creatively.

And then he introduced me to Ryan.

The first day we jammed together as a “band” – like all other significant firsts a person goes through in this life – was burned in my brain. I can recall every detail. This blue sports car pulls up – Camaro? I can’t remember … – and this skinny white kid with long blonde hair steps out, walks to the back of his car and brings his guitar and his amp.  Marce played rhythm. I played drums. And Ryan waited, counted out the measures and got a feel for the tempo, and shredded on lead guitar. It was fantastic.

That was the birth of the Triumvirate. The connection Marce and I had as musicians was near telepathic. We knew when to change. We knew when to crescendo, when to decrescendo, when to slow the tempo, when to speed it up. And on top of that, Ryan wailed, simply wailed.

trio Grad pic

We were connected.

Back then.