The Meaning of Life

As a kid, I had a weird habit of skipping school only to end up spending the day in the public library. It was the perfect hiding spot, I knew I wouldn’t get caught by my parents there, I was free to learn about anything I wanted and, of course, no one would suspect a thing. I took this time to explore unconventional topics that interested me more than say, Christopher Columbus’ travel adventures or Pocahontas’ dating life. Instead I would read up on the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or even visitors from another world. I was very curious and took this as opportunity to try and make connections that, I believed, others could not see. A belief I still possess to this day, even with much evidence to the contrary.

I was fascinated with the library. In my mind, if the book was in the library, I could trust it. Surely it must have passed through some very stringent process which would have filtered out mere opinion or rumor. This was a building of facts. With that belief, I challenged myself to think of questions, and to then find the answers there.

If being a teenager wasn’t enough on its own, being “nerdy” and not as tough or manly as the other boys certainly must have contributed to the expedited arrival of the question, What is the meaning of life? I recall sitting there, alone at a big wooden table. Books sprawled out before me, most of them probably from the New Age section, alongside the usual encyclopedias and a dictionary. I remember the frustration of being unable to find an answer. Sure, there were theories and philosophies and tons of mumbo jumbo, but I wanted a sound bite. Something more like what we now call a tweet. Certainly the meaning of life could be simplified?

I narrowed it down myself, searching out instead the very definition of the word “Life.” I can’t tell you specifically where I found my definition, but I can tell you what it was.

life — The collection of experiences between birth and death.

That was good enough for me. From that moment on, I endeavored to collect experiences. I’ve traveled, I’ve married, I’ve divorced, I’ve seen jet engines explode, I’ve been in car accidents, I’ve wiped out in a motorcycle, I’ve flown a plane, I’ve jumped from a plane, I’ve kayaked down an angry river (most impressive since I can’t swim), I’ve seen the sun rise over islands of the Caribbean, and seen it beautifully set behind the Colorado mountains. For the greater part of forty years, I have tried to live.

Throughout that time, however, I have found myself often sad and longing for more. At first I thought it was because I wasn’t making enough money, but then I noticed that many of the people I knew made less than I did and still seemed happier than I. As research for a book I’d decided to write, I starting asking a few questions to people who seemed happy. I asked some, “What’s your greatest accomplishment?” and to others, “If you died and were given the choice between heaven and living again, what would make you give up heaven?

The answer to both questions, overwhelmingly.. “My family.”
When asked again, with family removed as an option, most could not think of an answer, a few said friends.

This interested and confused me.

For the most part, I am an orphan. My mother and brothers still live, albeit 1,000 miles away, but I have less and less in common with them as the days add up. My brothers use facebook as their conversation medium of choice, and I share the quarterly 5-minute phone call with my mother. I have not seen them in close to fifteen years. The ever-widening chasm between our beliefs and philosophies–religious, educational, cultural, political, etc.–puts me in a position where I’m more likely to have something in common with a complete stranger than with those who were closest to me during my first two decades of life. This saddens me greatly, but I have as much opportunity for remedying this situation as I would in convincing someone in the 1800’s about the positive benefits of owning a fitbit.

Numerous studies, and well as my own informal research, show the many benefits of the tribe. Humans are pack animals, we strongly rely on being around, and close to, others like us. Embarrassment is itself a primitive response. Feeling embarrassed, say for instance when you spill a drink on yourself, is a primal fear that your blunder will make you fall out of favor with your pack, they will then reject you, and you’ll be eaten up by.. I don’t know, a saber-toothed tiger perhaps. We need the pack, there’s safety in numbers.

We’re born into a pack, and for most of us that’s enough to get us through this life. Eventually we marry and reproduce and expand our packs. Some form tribes in college or at work, forming life-long relationships that are intimate and genuine. For some of us, the line between tribe and family is blurred. Your best friend Jimmy is Uncle Jimmy to the kids, perhaps he greets your mother with the hug and kiss of a son. That is the image of happiness, if only to me.

I have neither worked on strengthening my familial ties, nor have I done my diligence when it comes to creating a tribe of my very own. I have made many mistakes and wrongly prioritized money, possessions, and experiences for the sake of experiences. If I could go back in time and reach out to that kid in the library, if I could rewrite the definition of life, explain what it truly means to live, it might go something like..

life — The collection of experiences, both good and bad, shared with family and close friends between birth and death.

I think that might have helped me focus on what really turned out to be the important part of life–the love, support, and involvement of actual human beings. Don’t you agree?


Notable Links:

A mockery of justice.

I’m swimming in a sea of black. They’re everywhere, surrounding me. Their swords drawn and their eyes locked onto me. I tell myself that I can take them, but a betting man would not stand beside me.

I’m perfectly still. My eyes dart back and forth, they hope to spot the last mistake my enemy will ever make. Yes, I am afraid, but I will not back down. I have a purpose and I am right.

I will not be intimidated by the sheer volume of cowards. I will stand alone, but I will stand.

Even though they’ve gathered en masse, afraid to face me and stand on their own merits, and they’ve shrouded themselves to gain the strength of anonymity, I know these devils well.

I have shared meals with them, I have told them my dreams, I have trusted them, and they’ve used me against myself.

It doesn’t matter. These cowards will not best me. The first of them to move will be the first of them to feel my revenge. Mercy is no longer an option.

Mercy, the friend of my friends. These devils, with their double standards and their perceived infallibility, they’ve signed away their rights to mercy when they decided to cast judgement on this soul.

“Fight me, cowards!” I taunt. “Drop your gavel on my impurities.”

The hot breeze caresses me, like the tender touch of a former lover trying to regain my affections. I will not be purchased. I will not be coerced. I will not be manipulated by these unholy beasts.

“Who among you is without sin? Cast thee your stone.”

What lot this, this group of misguided angels. Blinded to their own failings, clinging to the hopes and dreams of the long-forgotten.

“You are not God, and God would not have you back. You have failed him, and he will strike you down.”

The ocean starts to wave. Some of these devils are losing their resolve. Perhaps my mention of their master brings a chill to the spine.

“He will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger!

Those words should bear weight. What’s this? Their eyes are breaking. Some of them look away, they size each other up. Not so stern in your convictions, I see.

I must not get overzealous. I am no god, and he himself might take offense to my repurposed verbiage.

Perhaps if I draw my sword, that will encourage the impatient in the lot.

Sword raised. “Come, children, let us feel for the last time.”

My blade reflect the bright sun onto those evil eyes. Those angry eyes. Those terrified eyes. It has become easier to spot the sole orchestrator of this cleansing ritual.

I now know who my enemy is. He knows that I know. They know, and it is as if we are now alone.

My blade, as if a divining rod, pulls me towards him. The blackness shifts, and like a swarm of filthy flies they clear my path to the steaming pile of rotting flesh who has chosen to defile my honor.

Every snake has a head, and I’ve got just the thing for that.

“Are you king?” I ask. “Are you judge?” He looks around. He knows he’s losing them, he must choose his words carefully. “You, demon, are you king, judge, or god?”

I can sense his frustration. It isn’t so easy to face your enemy once you’ve lost your shield. His eyes are familiar. We were close once.

“Brother, you cannot strike me down. You are weak. You’ve misplaced your authority. You’ve mislead your flock, hoping they would carry out your sentence. They will not die for you. They will not defy God for you. They are not yours to command. These heavenly creatures which have lost their way. They trusted you to guide them and you took advantage of their servitude.”

He’s sweating. This warm sun affords me an advantage. I’m not the one cloaked in black. I’m not the one hiding, like a child.

“Brother, remove your shroud and feel refreshed. Show yourself.”

The blackness has thinned. It seems I have dissuaded the word-strong. Left behind are few, most likely it is curiosity which keeps them here. I do not fear them.

“Enough, you crazy fool! You WILL die today, this I can promise you.”

“Brother, your promises are as thin as your blade. You will not strike me down, for my blade will strike with more than just my strength. My blade will be driven through your wretched vestige by the powers that keep you up at night. I strike with honor, unlike a snake such as yourself.”

Yes, things are getting interesting. I can see his rage.

“Brother, go. You have no power here. You are ruler of none. Let us end this and be brothers yet again.”

Curiosity must have proved unfulfilling for the onlookers, it was now just he and I.

“You are a monster. An arrogant creature. You are self-indulged and you cannot see the world as it really is. You are swimming in fiction, and when you die, your story will have it’s end.”

He’s leaving. I did not think he would give so easily. To make such claims, only to surrender. How peculiar.

This is quite unexpected. I am suddenly feeling very alone.

I hear a sound. A click, followed by whirring. My arms have gone cold. My fingers are numb. I taste.. metal. I want to wet my lips, but my mouth has gone dry. What curse is this?

What devil has me? I am of God! Why?! I cannot see! God, save me! What have I done.. to..

“Make a note. Prisoner number 01031, sentenced to death by the Honorable Judge William Reinhold, has been successfully administered a lethal injection.
Time of Death, 5:35pm.”

The Final Thoughts of Bartholomew James

“How’s this?” asked the lady behind the counter as she peered over her bifocals and continued to rearrange the roses in the glass vase.
“Twelve roses. That’d make you stop being mad at me, right?” Mr. James replied with a grin.
“Well, that all depends what you’ve gone and done this time. Doesn’t it, Bart?” she snapped, disapprovingly.
“Yeah, that’ll do,” he said and with that he dropped a twenty on the counter, grabbed the vase, and started to leave. “See you next week, Judy.”

It was pouring cats and dogs. “Of course,” Bart thought once he got outside. He looked up at the apartments across the street. Particularly at a window on the third floor. The water beaded and rolled off the bill of his Bruins cap and onto his blood-red shirt, which grew darker by the second. He darted across the street, trading the illusion of avoided rain for a lost rose or two. He stepped into the building and made his way up the steps to the third floor.

He stood outside his apartment and straightened himself out, trying to dust off as much water as possible. An attempt that made little to no difference. He sighed deeply, then grabbed the doorknob and stepped into the room.

“Precious?” he called out. “I’m home, babe.” There was no response. He searched the bedroom and kitchen and found the place empty. He set the vase down on the living room coffee table, a rose snapped in half and drooping over the vase as he did so.

Bart plopped down on the couch and reached for his cellphone. He tried calling her again, for the twelfth time today. No answer, yet again. Out of habit, he checked his email and noticed that she’d sent him an email..

Dear BJ,

I think we’re done. I’m staying at my mom’s for a while, to sort things out. I love you very much, and I know you try but your flowers only go so far. I know you care about me, but you’re not over her and I can’t let you keep pulling at my heart knowing that.

You need to get over her, or you need to go get her.
I wish you the best. My brother will come get my stuff, please stop calling me.

Jess

Bart’s hand fell to his side, perhaps mirroring his heart which had just sunk into his stomach. His eyes welled up and before long his sobs would be keeping the neighbors concerned.

He managed to pull himself together and stood up and walked to the window. It was still raining out. He stared out at the passing cars, speeding through and splashing pedestrians with water that all but appeared to be saving itself by leaping out of oncoming traffic.

He looked at his cellphone, touched the screen a few times, and put it up to his ear.
“Hey, Riles, what’s up?”
“Hey, bud! How’s it going?”
“Not so good. She left me.”
“What? You’re kidding. Why?”
“I accidentally called her Annie last night.”
“Oh shit, you didn’t!”
“Yeah. She was pissed. She kicked me out of bed and made me sleep on the couch. When I got home today she was gone. She emailed me and told me it’s over. She broke up with me by email, man.”
“Fuck, man. That blows.”
“She said if I love her so much, I should just go get her. You believe that?”
“Who, Anne?”
“Yeah.”
“You didn’t tell her Anne died?”
“No.”
“Well shit, man! Tell her! Everyone knows about that dickwad going on a shooting spree, if you tell her Ann was a shooting victim, I know she’d understand.”
“Nah. She’s right, I’m not over Annie. She’s right about another thing, I need to go get her. Do me a favor, you’re my best friend, make sure people know why I did it, and you can have my shit. Take care, bro.”
“Bart! Bart! What the—”

Bart dropped the phone and opened the window. He looked out at the ground below him, then turned and sat on the windowsill. The rain wet his back, reuniting the wetness that had begun to dry with its newly-fallen brethren. He looked around his cozy apartment, nodded, and pushed himself backwards.

He rolled as he fell, catching on an overhang below, and spinning as he landed in the road. He screamed as his limbs had become folded in directions for which they were not designed. He lifted his head and through the heavy rain could see the oncoming light that would once again give him a shot at conquering Annie’s love.

“I love—” he thought.

Getting To Know Jack.

This is the story about Jack, and the day that poor Jack died. It was on the day of his 29th birthday. Jack had decided to celebrate the big day by going skydiving for the first time. Not being one to take the easy way out, he had signed up for the expert course and after six long hours of boring safety lectures, it was finally time for the drop. This was quite the big deal for Jack, for you see when he was a little boy his brother accidentally pushed him out of a third-story window. Much to everyone’s surprise, Jack was unharmed by the fall, this however did not stop him from fearing long drops or the sudden stops that accompany them.

The instructor had mentioned that this was a fool-proof drop. Each student’s parachute would be tethered to the airplane, and as the student left the plane, the parachute would automatically deploy. If by some freak occurrence the tether should sever, there was also a backup parachute with a sensor which would automatically deploy in case of emergency. This helped relax Jack a little, but very little.

The airplane took to the air with Jack, the instructor, and two other brave souls aboard. Jack had cleverly positioned himself so that he would be the last to jump. Cleverly, or so he thought. As each student took the big leap, Jack’s heart pounded harder and louder. He wondered if the others could hear it. He wondered if he could change his mind. “Jump or don’t, but there are no refunds,” the instructor said at the beginning of class. “Well, I already paid, so I’d better do this,” thought Jack. It was finally his turn, and he now knew the drill very well.

The instructor slid open the door and gave Jack the sign to proceed. He positioned his feet on the small pad just outside the plane and grabbed on to the strut on the wing. He nervously looked back at his instructor, who smiled and nodded, Jack stood and pulled himself onto the oncoming wind, fist by fist, across the wing until he was hanging on like superman. One final glance at the instructor, who was patiently waiting, giving the “okay” sign with his hand. “Okay indeed, “ thought Jack, “Look up and let go.” The steps were simple enough; look up, let go, count to five; by then the tether on the parachute would deploy and all he’d have to do is listen to the man on the walkie-talkie guiding him to the landing zone.

“One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi, Three-Mississippi, Four-Mississippi, Five-Mississippi, Six-Mississippi, Seven??” Jack turned his head to try to look for the tether and saw that it was not attached to the plane, but was flapping freely in the wind instead. Although Jack was completely terrified, the words hammered into his head during the six-hour course reminded him of what he had to do. If his primary chute had deployed, he would have to execute an emergency maneuver to cut it loose in preparation for the emergency chute, but it never deployed, so all he had to do was wait.

He tried to mentally calm himself, something which did not come easy as the ground quickened its approach. He was surprised by the pure silence of the free-fall. “Any second now,” he told himself, “really, any second.” He heard a sound behind him and felt a moment of relief, he looked back in search of a deploying chute, but instead saw what appeared to be two eagles fighting in midair. That would have been of interest at any other moment, he thought, but not this one. Looking back down, Jack finally started to panic. He reached frantically, trying to grab the tether and pull it by hand. He twisted, writhed, and tumbled until finally, Jack met with the Earth.

Will you be my friend?

Hello, My name is Skid Vis. Not by birth of course, my parents actually went with Richard. I’m not a big fan of that name and the history tied to it, I prefer to be called Vis [pronounced Viz], or even Skid.

I went to Big Omaha yesterday. It’s a two-day event, but I could only force myself to attend on Friday. Why “force” myself? Well, I have social phobias. Yes, I’m terrified of human beings. Silly right?

In this post I’m going to bare my soul. I’m going to explain more about myself than most people know. If you’re having a great day, I advise that you close your browser and go about your day. What I have to say isn’t fun or funny or pretty. It’s evil, plain and simple.

My youth wasn’t fun, that runs true for most, and I’m well aware that many have had worst experiences than I did. I feel bad for them, but I’m not here to explain them, I’m here to explain me.

When I was a teenager, one of my best friends was shot and killed. I know, that’s not news, that happens every single day. He was killed at a party, by someone he called a good friend.

When I was even younger, a little boy, I was sexually assaulted by people who were left to care for me while my parents went out to spread the gospel.

My parents, a father who was quick to beat us to a pulp for totally valid reasons like not wanting to attend church and someone who I wasn’t even sure knew my name, as he would just whistle when he needed us, as if we were dogs; and my mother, the wonderful woman who would tell me that she’d wished I would have died at birth, would call me gay and stupid, and would toss herself down a flight of steps and blame it on me so that my brothers would discipline me since she wasn’t strong enough.

This is the pattern I faced during my developmental years. Trust no one.

I’m originally from the East Coast, born in New Jersey and raised in Connecticut. I didn’t fit in with my family. I was weaker than my brothers, I liked to draw and learn. I wasn’t enough of a womanizer for my mom, hence her calling me gay. I vividly recall a moment where she wrapped her fist on my testicles and reminded me that I was no man.

At the age of twenty I left Connecticut and settled here in Nebraska. For close to two decades I’ve been trying to fit in. Unfortunately, being an introvert with social phobias and trust issues who’s been told his whole life to be more manly just ends up creating a guy who often gets called intimidating, creepy, weird, etc.

I have a really hard time making friends. I have an even harder time believing that the friends I do have actually care.

People usually tire of inviting me to things. I often don’t go when invited, I’ll make up some excuse. The truth is that when I get invited, what they say is: “Hey, wanna come over Friday to my cookout?” but I hear: “Hey, wanna wrestle four lions and if you lose we’ll kill everyone you love?

It may sound extreme, but believe me that’s what I feel.

I made it out to Big Omaha on Thursday, I just didn’t make it in. I drove clear across town, from 144th Street to 13th Street, THREE TIMES! I bought flashy/funny outfits to help push me, I posted pictures of myself in the outfits to not let myself not go.

Obviously it didn’t work. I spent Thursday night insulting myself for not being strong enough. Friday though, my own self-hatred got me through those doors. I was not about to spend another day feeling shitty for being a coward.

I’m so glad I went. The talks on Friday, those by Micah and Noah specifically, they were deep and personal and about being more than you’re letting yourself be. I saw Rahul and we caught up and he made me feel loved, that bastard.

I need more people in my life like him, that’s why I’m writing this.

I don’t know how to be your friend, but I want to be.

I’m not a saint. My default is the negative. For instance if you mention Matt I’ll tell you that he’s a douchebag because he cheated on his fiancé, instead of the fact that he makes his new girlfriend happier than I’ve ever know her to be. I’ll talk about how it seems SPN doesn’t want me to succeed, probably because I’m not a Nebraska native or because I’m hispanic or because I had a bad breakup with Sarah, instead of how much they’ve done to highlight the people I want to know in this town, and how Jeff is one of the nicest, most helpful people I’ve ever met.

I like to make fun of people. Not in a hateful way, but playfully. I’ll laugh at you if you trip or spill a drink on your shirt. I’ll be annoyingly honest, I’ll tell you what you don’t want to hear and you won’t like me for it. I’m opinionated. I have a hard time seeing gray, when someone crosses me I generally have a hard time getting past it.

I cuss a lot, and I speak violently. I speak of kicking someone’s ass, or cracking someone’s skull, but I don’t actually do so. I haven’t raised a finger against another human being ever since I left Connecticut and stopped having to prove my manliness almost twenty years ago. I’m domesticated now, I know violence isn’t the answer, but my mouth hasn’t caught up.

I’m generous. I like buying people stuff. This creeps people out, they think I have an agenda, but I don’t. I just like to take care of people who have acknowledged my existence. They’ve given me a moment of happiness and I want to show appreciation.

Anyway, that’s me in a nutshell. I’m not crazy, the shrinks have confirmed that, but I’ll be damned if I’m not different.

So what do you say, can we be friends?

Thanks, and peace out.
Skid Vis

Have Loincloth, Will Travel

With the new year upon us, many of us will make the silent vow to take steps that will hopefully yield us more success, health, or happiness than we’d achieved in the past year. Some will try to give up smoking, or promise to hit the gym more often, or maybe just read more books. I am resolved, perhaps as you should, to strengthening my tribe.
Average
It’s a fairly common thought that we are the average of our 5 closest friends. Some believe that this is true in regards to finances and how much money we make compared to our friends, and others focus on how their happiness or intelligence compares, but is there any truth to this?

The short answer is Yes!, those closest to you can lead to more success, happiness, better health, and even a longer life!

Digging deeper, are your friends keeping you from being healthy? The Framingham Heart Study found a link between friends and obesity. It’s not much of a leap to see that if your friends are all making poor health choices, you’ll automatically be in a more difficult position to do any better.

What about happiness? We all know the saying, “Misery loves company,” and there’s some truth to that. If you surround yourself with generally unhappy people, it will inevitably bring you down. There’s hope, however! A study published in the British Medical Journal found that happiness is contagious as well! Surround yourself with people who know to see life in a positive light, those who believe that failures are lessons and that challenges are opportunities, and you too might find a way to look on the bright side of life.

What about longevity? In the video below, Dan Buettner talks about studies conducted regarding people over 100 years of age, also known as centenarians.

These people, from all over the world, share many things in common. Their tribe, their closest group of friends, are believed to be a huge contributing factor to their longevity.

As you can see, there’s truth in the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” So, if you’re looking for ways to turn things around this year, perhaps you might want to give some consideration to those around you who may be inadvertently holding you back?

Take a minute and seriously contemplate what your tribe looks like, could it use some shuffling?

The Devil We Knew

So, lately this blog has been pretty much everywhere, huh?
I’m sure it’s clear that I’ve been doing a whole lot of soul-searching, trying to find myself. I’ve recently decided to take a step back and try to find myself by figuring out who I was before I got here.

I used to draw a lot when I was younger, but somewhere along the way, I stopped. I mean I still doodle when I’m on the phone, and I’m quick to whip up a logo or something, as needed, but when it comes to really focusing on building my art skills, I just don’t do it. That’s about to change.

I’ve been back at drawing for a few days now [spurred by an old friend asking me to make him a tattoo], and of course I’m frustrated by my lack of skill. While looking up ways to get better, I found this post, which basically shows how your skills degrade unless you’re consistent when it comes to drawing. So, for the near future, I’m going to work to draw something every day. The focus will be on getting better at analog art [pen, pencil, paper], and augmenting my digital skills as well.

I’ve been reading a few books, one is Steal Like An Artist, which isn’t as much about art as it is about creativity and where to find it. I found three quotes in it that got me all riled up..

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” –André Gide

“Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self.” –Yohji Yamamoto

Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use—do the work you want to see done.

That was just the 1-2-knockout I was looking for. Reading that got me fired up to draw again, but I hopped right on the computer to do it. It wasn’t until I started reading the next book, Vector Basic Training, a book on drawing vector drawings on a pc, that I took the author’s advice on putting the focus on being a good analog artist first. It just makes sense, I need to learn how to really draw before I can really draw well.

So that’s it, back to my roots. I’m going to draw more, I’m going to write more, I’m going to do more. It will make me better. If you’re so inclined to monitor my progress, I’ve started up a tumblr page [There’s also a link at the top of this page] to house my drawings until I can find [read “make”] a better home for them.

Wish me luck, y’all!
Good Luck!

The Appreciation of Dots

Hello, blog.
I just had dinner with a good friend, and we were talking about you.
I was telling her how thankful I am for having you. You’re always here. I told her that something is missing in my life, and I don’t know what it is. I told her I’ve tried many things to fill the void, unsuccessfully, but writing helps. I can always turn to you, litter with my words and punctuations, proper or not, and you never complain.

To the world, I’m a dick, an asshole, and a pussy. I don’t always choose properly, and the world just doesn’t forget or forgive. It seems like most of them are perfect, and I’m the outcast. They judge me by a higher standard than they themselves live. I guess it’s my own fault, after all; I’m god, right? Perhaps not the god of creation, but I’m the the creator of my life. My words and my actions all mold my daily experiences and reshape my failing memories of failure. I want more for people, I want more for me; I want, often.

Who reads this? Anyone? I can’t remember the moment I stopped caring. I was once obsessed with knowing how many eyeballs read my virtual scribbles on the virtual bathroom stall. It doesn’t matter anymore. The word is out that I am a monster, factual or not. I have no goals, I have no dreams, I have no destination. I just want more.

Nobody feels my pain. I smile, I joke, I help whomever I can; but I am slowly decaying. The demons strum their cords, drowning me in sorrow, and I beg for the release, for the flooding to seep through my eyes. It never happens, I just slink through the days, avoiding humanity for fear of being hated, or worse, showing my sorrows. I’m better than that, right? I have no reason to complain. My life is wonderful. But is it? Why can’t I stop wanting? Why do people pull away when I’m starving for closeness? Why do I push them away?

I expect a world that doesn’t exist. I am obsolete. Out of time. Out of place. These dots, however, are exactly when and where they belong. Thank you for the cadence. Thank you for order. Thank you for sense in a senseless universe.

When I last wrote, I weaved the tale of a man named David and his encounter with, seemingly, the Devil. The words came from me, so I can’t help but search them for deeper meaning. I wondered which of the characters was I? I would have assumed that I was David, but the more I review, the more I relate to the man in the hat.

I’m not the Devil, but I could see how he would be seen as evil. He gives us what we ask for, getting nothing in return but the gift of survival. He’s a brute, however. If you were to tell him that you’d love to fly, he would catapult you through the air, and you’d fall to your death. He gave you what you wanted, he just didn’t consider its consequence as a negative. He sees the past and present, but disregards the future. That’s me. I choose, basing my decisions on the past and the present. I feel that things will work out in the future, but I m1scalculat3 often. My choices make sense while considering the now and the then, but in a second I will feel the waves of pain slamming against my logic. They bend my line of reasoning, waves breaking my peace. I doubt myself so much, how have I fallen so far from my soul?

I am blind to my own faultiness. I still believe I have learned from the past, and I am capable of choosing better. However, each time I choose, I end up feeling devastated by my choice. Every step I take puts me further into the darkness, soon I’ll fail to see the way back. Luckily, now I am aware of this, as I have been every time, so my next choice will be better, as my last one was, and the one before that. Do you see the problem? Every time I think I know better, I do worse. How do I escape this pattern?

Words. They are my tool. They are the only way I can keep track of my errors reliably. I look back at these words, and try to recall the thoughts and feelings I had when I wrote them. It’s an out-of-body experience. I am no longer that guy. I’m not the guy who started this blog, not the guy who loved Wii games, not the guy mesmerized by Colorado, not the guy interested in evaluating dating sites, not the guy who said the things this blog conveys.

I am the evolution of that man, or should I say regression? I learn more and more about myself every time I put these words down, and upon reading them, I realize that I have so much to learn. Unfortunately, every lesson turns me into a worse human being. What is the point?

Ignorance is bliss. I believe that because I have lost my ability to be ignorant, and I’ve coincidentally misplaced my bliss. I keep absorbing more and more every single day that passes, painfully aware of my closeness to terminal velocity, but I continue to fall into this abyss of want. When will the parachute deploy? Is there a failsafe? Can someone help me slow down at least?

Where have I gone? Why do I not recall myself? When does this evolution start to have a purpose?

One day, long ago, I read that the meaning of life is the accumulation of knowledge between birth and death. Is this living? Knowing more and feeling worse for it? Send me back to the beginning so I can stop myself. Give me some guidance, at the very least. What’s the moral of this story? Who’s the hero? When do I get my Aha! moment?

“Hell if I know,” said the Devil. Little did he know the razor-sharp preciseness of those words.

The Devil Says Hi

It was 2am, on a cold autumn night, when I first met the Devil. Earlier that evening, I stopped at a gas station to fill up, when I noticed an ex-lover in a car with her new man. They looked so happy, laughing and touching. I quickly drove off before I could be noticed. I spent the rest of the night obsessing, wondering if I was right to have let her go, to let any of them go. I second-guessed every choice I had ever made, and couldn’t help but feel that I was destined to always choose poorly. I tried to reassure myself that it was all in my head; I had a lot of good things in my life, so obviously, not all my choices sucked. I figured I’d call it a night, and start tomorrow anew, but once in my bed I just tossed and turned. My mind would not stop racing. I got up, looking for something to eat, but all I had was cold hard-boiled eggs, and that was not going to hack it. I put on my socks and shoes and my jacket, then I went out looking for some grub.

I found a diner still open. The place was empty, a waitress named Alice greeted me with a forced smile and way too much eye-liner. She sat me at a booth and I ordered a coffee, it’s not like I was going to sleep anyway. With the menu before me, I became lost in my thoughts once again. Overwhelmed with sadness, and feeling lost. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned expecting the waitress, but instead saw a man who was way too awake, way too happy for this time of night.

“Hello, friend! I couldn’t help but see that it’s just you and me, mind if I help you occupy this seat?”

His smile was so big, I couldn’t refuse him. He sat down and took off his hat. He looked like Don Draper from Mad Men, or otherwise from the 50’s. A well-tailored grey suit and a matching fedora. Slick black hair with just enough grey to give him character.

“So tell me, friend, how goes your night? Why up so late, out for a bite?”

I smiled just a bit at the silliness of his words. “I just couldn’t sleep, nothing at home to eat, so why not?”, I said. He was staring at his menu, eyes squinted as if he’d forgotten his glasses. His eyebrows raised, as if he’d found what he wanted, then he placed the menu back down.

“Yes, hard-boiled eggs are fine, but there’s finer. I really am glad that I chose this diner.”

My back tightened up and my posture straightened. How did he know about the eggs? “Eggs?”, I questioned.

“Yes, eggs, they come with my meal. But I think I’ll just ask for a side of oatmeal.”

I sighed and smirked. How paranoid am I? Alice hadn’t shown up with my coffee yet. I looked around, tilting around to be as obvious as possible that I was becoming impatient, but she was nowhere to be seen.

“Service, so late, with nobody here, you’d think it’d be great.”

I turned back, starting to get frustrated. “What’s with the rhyming?”, I asked. He tilted his head, as if not sure what I was talking about. “The rhyming, you rhyme all your sentences!”, I snipped.

“No need to yell, that’s quite absurd! But fine, I will tell you why I rhyme my words. I’ve been on this world a bit longer than you, and in that fair time I’ve learned things you must do. Stand out from the crowd, speak not softly, nor loud, and do all that you can to be remembered somehow. If I sing when I speak, well then, that’s quite unique. Hence, my words will arrive where I want them to reach.”

“Dude, no offense, but are you ok?”, I nervously joked. I scanned again for the waitress.

“What is it you seek?”

“The waitress!”, I replied. Wasn’t that obvious?

“No, David, what is it you seek deep inside?”

My body seized up. I couldn’t move. I never told him my name. How did he know? I slowly turned to face him; fear gripping my insides. “Who.. told you my name? Who are you??”, the words barely came out.

“Come now, Dave, try to be brave. Your life I am here not to hurt, but to save.”

Fear turning to rage, I slammed my hands on the table, “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU??!” He just sat there, with a smile that was no longer pleasant. The fluorescent lights in the diner started to buzz and flicker. Half of them went off completely, and the diner looked like something I’d seen in horror movies. My blood ran cold, and my lips mouthed the words, “the.. devil.”

“If that’s what you must call me to accept what you see, well then, you will get no fighting from me. Now then, where were we?”

“What do you want?”, I sheepishly asked.

“Ah, yes! Exactly, my thanks. What should I do for your life to advance?”

“I.. I don’t understand,” not that anything would have made sense to me at that moment. I mean, c’mon, it’s the Devil in a darkened diner!

“David, please, I’m here as a friend; I want to find a way for your torment to end. Tell me what it is that you want for your life. Is it a new car, or a beautiful wife? Perhaps some children of your very own, and a big, spacious house you can call a home? Just say what you want and I’ll make it be, you’ll get nothing but goodness from a friend like me.”

“But.. you’re the devil! I didn’t believe in you twenty minutes ago, but I’m sure not going to give you my soul now!”, I defied.

“You people have no clue of what really happens, you all think I’m here with some sort of.. entrapment. Think of me as a genie, you’ve nothing to lose; your life will be granted, as always, what you choose.”

“So you don’t want my soul? ..what’s in it for you?”, I pondered, feeling an unexpected sense of calm.

“I can’t tell you all that there is to know, just know with no doubt that I’m friend and not foe. I’ve only one option, and that is to give, for it is by giving that I’m allowed to live.”

He still wore his smile, it never left his face. I couldn’t believe that this was the devil those crazy bible-thumpers always went on about. This guy didn’t seem evil, sans the darkened diner and whatnot. His words were soothing, and he seemed to genuinely care about me. He wasn’t asking for anything in return, he just wanted to give me something.. for nothing. For nothing? Would he die if I refused him? Would he hurt me if I refused him? Why would I refuse him? I’d have my own genie! Here’s my chance to finally do something good. I no longer felt fear, it was replaced with excitement. So many things I could ask for!

“David, friend.. tell me, have you made a choice? Whatever you’ve chosen will surely make me rejoice.”

“It’s not exactly the easiest thing, to pick out of anything. But yes, I think I know what I want. I just want the world to be a better place, for everyone.”, I modestly answered. It felt good to not focus on myself, to use this opportunity to make the world a better place for everyone. How awesome am I?

“Are you sure, dear David? THAT is your thing? Wouldn’t you rather have diamonds or platinum rings? How about your ex-girlfriend, I could bring her right back. Are you sure that you wouldn’t rather have that?”

“No, sir. I’ve made lots of bad choices, here’s my chance to choose right. I choose for everyone, not for me, not tonight.” He smirked at me, and I smirked back. It was silly, I know, but I felt cocky. He reached over and placed his hand on mine, the lights came back on, and Alice showed up with the coffee. “Oh! I didn’t know you were expecting a guest. What can I get you to drink?”, she asked my new friend.

“Nothing for me, thanks; there’s nothing I need. I have what I came for, so now I must leave.”

He stood up and put on his hat. He slid his finger across the brim as he caught his reflection in a window. Still smiling, he turned and gave me a wink before heading out the door. I stared at my coffee, feeling happy and proud. I heard the door close behind him, then suddenly bust open again. Perhaps he’d forgotten something? I looked up and two masked men had burst into the diner. They were armed, one went for Alice, knocking her towards the ground. I instinctively leapt out of my seat to help her when I heard a loud pop. I couldn’t breath and I collapsed to the floor. The men started yelling at each other, then they ran out. I could see Alice, she was fine. She rubbed her head, then noticed me and crawled over. I felt warm. She was sobbing, her makeup a mess. Someone needs to teach her how to put on makeup.

At first I heard sirens, then everything went bright. I had only one comfort, that I finally chose right.

The Branding of Fools

What’s up, party people?
As we all know, the iPhone 5 was released just a few weeks ago. Since then, as usual, the social media outlets have been lit up with those saying it’s the worst phone ever, those saying it’s the best phone ever, and those somewhere in-between. That’s the beauty and magic and horror and OMG FML of social media, people are free to blurt out whatever is on their mind, regardless of how [insert adjective here] it is.

All this reminds me of when I was a kid. Back then, before cellphones and the internet, the fight of my day was Nintendo versus Sega. My family didn’t have much money, but my drug-dealing godfather was loaded and nice enough to buy me a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. My life was forever changed. The NES was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen; It gave me something fun to do other than watching my hamster in a ball getting batted around by stray dogs in the parking lot [he eventually escaped his cage and mated with the local rat population; I saw him again months later, wearing a little leather jacket and an earring].

The neighborhood kids all got Sega Master Systems for the holidays, so I made it my mission in life to show them the way. I would take my NES from house to house and for each Sega game they showed me, I’d top it with an even better NES game. They hated me, but it was hard to argue that the NES didn’t have a much better selection of games [Alex Kidd had nothing on Super Mario Brothers, although Sega did manage to release some classics like Shinobi].

That’s the first memory I can think of where I had brand loyalty. I’d be ready to take someone down if they badmouthed my beloved Nintendo. Soon enough I learned that the games were more important than the console. Sure, Nintendo had some exclusive hits, like Zelda, but most of the games I loved [Contra, Castlevania, MegaMan, Bionic Commando, etc] came from third-party developers who weren’t quite as loyal to the consoles as I was. I started focusing on the games, not the systems. It got expensive; but like another Nintendo franchise, I had to catch them all. I ended up buying consoles from Nintendo, Sega, NEC, and even SNK.

Since then, I try to base my allegiances on something other than brand. You might be thinking, “Isn’t this the guy that’s always wearing Marc Ecko shirts?” Absolutely. I love my Marc Ecko shirts, but I’m just as quick to wear a Sean John, Rocawear, or even Woot.com shirts; I just have to like the look and feel, I couldn’t care less who makes it. It’s no lie that I’ll recommend an Intel CPU over an AMD one, but that’s only because I feel Intel makes a better product today; I’m not mindlessly dismissing any other products simply because I have a coffee mug with the Intel logo on it [I don’t, I swear].

Sometimes people try to goad me into brand wars, but usually when that happens, I remember a scene from one of my favorite movies, A Bronx Tale. There’s a scene where the mobster, Sonny, first chats with 8-year-old “C”, who’s upset because the press was beating up on his favorite baseball star, Mickey Mantle. The über-wise Sonny says,

Mickey Mantle, is that what you’re upset about? Mickey Mantle makes $100,000 a year, How much does your father make? …If your father can’t pay the rent, go ask Mickey Mantle, see what he tells you. Mickey Mantle don’t care about you, so why should you care about him?

That helps remind me.. I’m the one spending money, they’re not paying me to advertise for them. You love your iPhone? That’s great, I own stock in Apple. I own lots of Apple products, I’m using one right now, but I also use the heck out my Nexus tablet [but yea, I own Google stock too]. I don’t care who made what as long as “what” is [insert positive adjective here]. Do I think Apple products are better than Google’s? A year ago, yes. Today, they’re pretty much the same. A year from now, who the hell knows. But I’ll tell you this, if I spend my hard-earned cash on a product, and it doesn’t meet my expectations, you’re gonna hear about it. On the plus side, if it exceeds my expectations you’ll hear about it too [the nest is awesome!]! That’s what’s so great about social media, we keep companies in check. They can’t get away with sloppiness because the negativity won’t be confined to some snooty reviewer or maybe a nasty letter in the mail, it’s going to be everyone telling everyone. The end result is better products for everybody, and that’s a good thing.

In closing [for the TL;DR crowd], don’t be a fangirl. Like a product because it’s good and fills an actual need in your world, not just because you were dumb enough to get a logo tattooed on your forehead and feel obligated to like everything they make. Let people brag/complain when they get something they do/don’t like; it’s their money, not yours.

Oh, and watch A Bronx Tale because it’s better than any movie you like. [I rewatched it while writing this post; I’ve never realized how much that movie has influenced me]
Peace out.