Outside of Comfort

(Old Dog, New Tricks)

As I turned from O’Farrell St. onto Polk I knew that my chances of making a valid excuse to get out of this were deteriorating. Of course I could show up and *not* tell a story, forging some absurd reason that I couldn’t make it fit into the five minutes we were given, or I could simply tell David the truth; I was terrified of all that could go wrong.

I thought back to the few storytelling events I had been a guest at, and remembered that during each one there were times where I said to myself “Hell – I could do this, and I might even be able to do it better.” Then I would think about what stories I could tell, and the self-doubt inside of me was such a powerful presence that I couldn’t come up with any. I mean sure – I could come up with the *middle* of a story, maybe even the beginning – but the a good ending has always been elusive.

I thought of my life and all the amazing tales in it, but it seemed as if they all bled into the previous and the next, with nothing I could truly call an ending. I mean hell – what happens when our stories end? Maybe it’s a psychological thing – the story of my life has come so dangerously close to ending so many times that I blocked the completion of any of them, choosing instead to keep writing “and then this happened…”.

As I got closer to the venue, I slowed down & lit a cigarette, taking three deep drags in hopes of calming my nerves. I’ve wanted to do this for months just to see if I could, but fear has always gotten the better of me. Now, here was my chance & I wanted to turn around & run home. I dug deeper than the doubt in my mind & after a bit of moving things around, found my courage tucked away in back. I dusted it off, shined it up a little, and set it inside my heart. If I failed, so be it – but at least I would have tried.
As I opened the door to The Hemlock Tavern & walked in, this became my silent mantra. It’s been countless years since my last “First Time” doing anything – at least where I could and would be judged by others. I did my best not to think about it as the friend I was meeting caught my eye.

David, a storytelling veteran who had once won first place on The Moth Story-Slam, had put his name down early, second on the list. I was number five.

He offered me his drink ticket, one of the perks of telling a story, and said that when I get mine I could give it to him since the Porchlight Storytelling organizers weren’t around at the time. I looked at it as a promise – if I didn’t get up there, I would morally have to forfeit my drink ticket and not be able to pay his kindness back. I find it amusing how my mind creates little back-ups to ensure I don’t back out – and even more amusing that I actually honor them. Hell – whatever works.

I had finally written my story out in longhand (due to my rapidly dying laptop) about an hour before I had to leave, doing my best to commit the main points to a loose memory, something like writing them down on index cards then throwing them up in the air to see what order they landed in. I knew from long-ago experience that if I tried to memorize it word for word it would be a disaster.

Though we had planned on going to this small event over a month before, neither of us were even nearly ready until that day. He had a story that was 20 minutes longer than the five minutes we were given, and mine simply didn’t exist yet. Still recovering from an amazing weekend at The Edwardian Ball, I had completely forgotten that tonight was the night until I got his text in the morning. Shit.

The theme was “Stories of the Gig Economy”, and yesterday morning I racked my brain thinking of all the strange jobs I’ve had, all the things I have done to be able to eat – and all the odd stories that came from them. When I put my mind to it I found out that I had plenty – from being homeless & staying up all night at Denny’s frying on mushrooms so I could stay awake & get to work on time, to spending four months in Federal Prison due to a pot deal that went bad at a Harley shop I worked at, to finding myself standing under the world’s deepest diving diesel-electric submarine & needing to commemorate it by dancing the Charleston, to working as a mover & finding that my helper was into primal scream therapy only after he startled the crap out of me with a blood curdling screech while we were loading the truck – yeah, the stories were there, but I wanted more than a story. I wanted beauty, laughter & maybe even a lesson.

Then I found one – or more appropriately, it found me. One of the stories from when I was busking in New Orleans. It was more-or-less perfect, but still – I didn’t know how to end it. I decided to figure it out when I was on stage. What could possibly go wrong?

David’s story was fantastic, of course, with an ending that completed the story yet still hinted at the madness that came after. Then, two more storytellers, and thankfully, though their stories were good, I had the “I think mine might be better” sense of relief that thankfully boosted my courage just enough to quiet the demons in my head – because I was next up.
No turning back now…

I walked up onto the stage, and was instantly blinded by the lights. Good. Just me & the microphone. I raised the mic so I didn’t have to hunch over (noting that the guy before me was hunched, and it simply didn’t look good) – and began my story.

I don’t remember much of what I said, but I recall that people laughed at the right times, that words & sentences I hadn’t even though of appeared in my story to describe things that much better, and that somehow, my story found an ending to itself.
I did it. I fucking DID it, and instead of hisses and boo’s there was applause. Real applause, not just people being polite.
Crossing in front of a few people on my way to my seat in the back row, the woman sitting next to me said that the ending of my story made her cry a little in a good way. I had to refrain from asking her how it ended.

When the rest of the stories were told & it was time to determine who earned the prizes, I felt confident that I would probably get one. The difference in how I felt as I walked in the door just hoping to get through it did not go unnoticed. I closed my eyes and silently thanked the storytelling gods for reminding me of my courage.
Third place received a pound of coffee, which I certainly could have used but went to a woman & her lovely story. Second place was a crisp $50 bill, which I *definitely* could have used, but that, very deservingly, went to David. Cheers & applause echoed in the small room – but there was still one more prize left.
First place, the “grand prize”, is being invited to tell another story on February 23rd at some “Secret Location” in San Francisco – but it comes with dinner & the winner can bring a “date”.
They called my name. In a way I expected it, but I also TOTALLY didn’t, because I’m not good at telling stories.
I guess it’s time to change that way of thinking.
Great. Though I’m amazingly honored, now I get to go through all of this again, except most likely with people who have been telling stories & honing their skill for years – or at least more than a day. No pressure.

When I think about it, it’s really just telling a story – something that we do every day, and have been doing since the dawn of language – but although I’ve been writing the stories of my life for around 37 years, I have never felt that I was good at telling them. Hells, for the first 17 years of my life I was as close to silent as I could get away with, a tragically insecure & self-doubting child, choosing to listen & watch instead of talking.

But this is something new. A new way to make people happy, to make them laugh, think, and perhaps even cry – in a good way.

And I enjoyed it immensely, which, when it comes down to the nuts & bolts, is more important than *any* prize.

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Too Far.

Needing to let my body rest & recoup after a glorious evening, I send my heart & voice to those marching & raising up *their* voices to be heard around the world.
Over 20 countries join us. TWENTY.
I thank you all, and send my love & spirit to be with you on this day, and all the days that follow.
 
When the revolution comes, it won’t only be National.
THE HEARTS OF THE ENTIRE WORLD ARE WITH US.
 
This time, America – you’ve gone too far AGAIN, & for the last time.


The Treasures Within

It’s the mornings that I like the most these days, at least when I have the energy to find them, to keep my eyes open regardless of how little I’ve slept & live in them. The dim grey light from my bedside windows, the yellow light of my table lamp, the sublime quiet in a world that is so otherwise noisy & obtrusive.
I feel the cold of the air on my chest and arms, the rest of my body tucked tightly & warmly beneath my comforter, the weight of Ruby snuggling up to me for warmth.

rubysnugle

Coffee heated up from the day before, I take a few moments to read or think and let my mind wake up just enough. It’s these times where I feel the most grateful for this life, even as odd as it is these days.

I find that in many ways writing this book, my memoir, is toxic to my current happiness if I let it be – I read and remember and write the adventures of a vagabond, a traveller with a heart so light I could feel it glowing inside of my chest, a heart so light it flew. I read and remember and write of love, of pain, of the joy of being untethered, free.
I wonder how a person avoids comparing their life to a more glorious one they themselves have lived, and find no answer to placate me – but we must keep on going, moving forward. That is the only way – but moving forward by writing of my past puts a different twist on it, makes it ever so much more difficult, and it comes down to forcing myself to get through every single word, every sentence, every remembered feeling.
Then there are the times where I simply need to stop. I don’t know what bothers me more – writing my past, or not being able to.

But we must go on, move forward – even as much as it sometimes hurts, even as confusing and frustrating as it sometimes can be…

And godsdamn it, I need to take Ruby out. Back in a few minutes…

* * *

I feel at times – frequently – that I’m not as creative as I once was. That I don’t have the spark in my soul that I had, that the passion that burned in my heart for life and living and creating and loving every single little fucking thing about this extraordinary existence has fallen away over the years, and now the fire has become only glowing embers and the ghostly smoke of yesterdays.
And the more I think about this – or better said, the more I write about this, the more I step away from the excuses. I begin to realize the level of bullshit I’ve had to tell myself, convince myself of, simply to hide one simple & obvious thing: I’m afraid.
I’m afraid that I don’t have anything to give anymore, I’m afraid that no one will hear me or care. Worst of all, I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten the words to sing this life, the steps to dance with it.
In this understanding I have a place to start, a new strength to use against it. Of course we will be afraid – it’s a part of life, a healthy one – but that doesn’t mean we need to let our fear control us.
We just need to make room for it, to invite it along for the ride but refuse to give it the wheel because godsdamn it, this is OUR trip, our life, our love and passion and need, the fire that does not go out – we just need to remember to breathe on it once in a while. We need to remember to breathe.

Years ago, perhaps when I was 16, I found a small book in a stationery shop that caught my eye – “Inevitable Papers”, by Cooper Edens. I bought it with the last of my money and carried it around for years, and though the entire book is wonderful, it was the last line that was burned into my heart. It was the last line that, quite likely, made me into who I am today: “And how long have you been the language of a story that could be true?”

This is my story. Our stories, and each moment is an opportunity to make them into what we want them to be. We can be afraid, but our courage needs to be stronger, bigger, more needy and persistent so that we don’t have the time to allow or fears to take over and stop us from being who we are.

We need to have the courage to bring forth into this world all the hidden treasures within us. They are there. They are waiting.
We just need the courage to let them sing.

Now on my second cup of coffee, the sun melts away the grey morning light – and until it becomes habit again, I make a conscious and effective effort to let my courage shine through the fear.

It’s a good morning.

ME again.

 

Writing now on a backup that I got only to write on – a little  bit bigger than a tablet with about the negative of nothing of the power, but it has an actual keyboard. A small one for people with small, perhaps proken fingers, but a keyboard that I can FEEL just the same. This is the new scratch of the pens I wrote with since I was 13. Its all about the FEEL.

37 fucking years ago.

Listening to Pink Floyd as loud as I can without  – well, not giving a fuck about the neighbors at all until they complain,I pretnd to sleep for about 30 minutes and then wake to …I don’t know anymore.

This life has become sloppy.

There was once a time where it was beautifully constructed chaos and gods I wish for something I don’t know already as I swim in this bowl and I hate fucking HATE thinking that “I was once a God” but fuck you, I was and we all knew it…

Was it the magazine that cut so deep?
A dream, based in your love & belief. A DREAM based in passion and need and when it came down to it, I didn’t know how to monetize it – it was far before its time – and eventually all the work took its toll.

I blather, I’m pisssed off that I need to try to write on this abhorrent tiny keyboard and I PROTEST for no effective reason at all.

SO, I ask you and sincerely request a response from those who have taken the time to read and follow …become me again?

Can you help me

 

Five Months.

11:05pm, Thursday.

The days pass uneventfully.
Sitting up in bed, not a favorite place but the best I have to write, I pull up the blinds, open the window for the cold air & look out across the tops of buldings towards Market Street. The sky is black.

Not a day passes anymore that I don’t wonder who I am. More for having been through what I survived, less for what it took from me? I know that’s wrong, but gods, why is it so fucking difficult to get me back? To find the “more”?
The only thing it has taken from me is what I have let it – though I’m not certain I would call it a choice. It certainly wasn’t conscious, at any rate. It was just something I let happen. There is no denying that the fault is solely mine.

That being so, it is entirely up to me to change it.

The dreams have never gone away – I hold onto them like my last hope, my last reason. If I ever let them go… you won’t see me anymore.

Not a day passes that I don’t fight to bring back who I was – I make promises to myself to be better, to think how I did, to fight how I did, to have the passion for life that I did – and each morning I break them. There are few exceptions.

 

But things are changing. In my need, in my belief, I am being brought back.
Thankfully, a few people only remember who I was – and I was recently invited to work on a friend’s *incredible* project which will last roughly a year. Unpaid, but at this point, even as destitute as I am, that doesn’t matter. I’m looking for inspiration, to feel my heart beating faster, to be involved with something that combines amazing creativity and a good cause…
And she set this in my arms. “Here. Take this. Do what you can. I trust you.”

I was elated. I am. Everything showed signs of getting better…
and it will, but

Only two days ago I received a text from another friend which ripped me apart.
There was only one thing I had to look forward to, one thing I was promised and KNEW would happen. One thing I truly depended on with the person I knew I could depend on – a cross country trip with her, unrushed, mostly unmapped, renting a motorhome & just going. Getting me the hell out of this city, breaking the oppressive stagnation, pulling my feet out of the tar-pit that this life had become and breathing life into me again. I needed this…
I can’t blame her, though somewhere inside, I admit that I do. I’ve known her since I was 17 and she has always been the pragmatic one, the responsible one, the perfect match to my wandering & irresponsible ways – my dreamer self. There;s been more than one time that she said that she wished that she could be as free as me, but I think we both needed her to be exactly who she is.

The trip is cancelled. My reach outside of this sedating & glorious hell of the same people the same streets, the disinterest in day after day after everyday all day and… she just can’t afford it.

I fight with myself. She should have known that. She shouldn’t have helped me in small ways, because this is what matters most. I needed her help to survive in those small ways and she always said “I’m more than happy to” but … now this.

Everything happens for a reason.

It’s time to become who I WAS again, and maybe even fly out to NY and do what she was hoping to do for me.

I can’t imagine how hard it was for her to write that message to me. She knew I invited my birth mother.

I have five months to make this right. For all of us.

AND I CAN.