Uncategorized

I’m still figuring things out.

In the past few weeks I’ve felt stress from a multitude of areas.

  1. I don’t really have a job. I’m teaching guitar two days a week at a local music school. I love doing this. It’s a new challenge to maintain young kids’ attention, teach them, and try to keep their enthusiasm up throughout the lesson.
  2. I’ve got bills that need to be paid. In order to do that, while I continue to apply to jobs (I’ve applied to 15+ part time jobs, none of which have even contacted me back) I’ve begun flipping stuff on eBay. The risk here is that I’m unsure whether the items will sell fast enough in order for me to pay my bills.
  3. The one job I really, really wanted–an entry-level job at Book in a BoxI made it into the top 1% of applicants out of thousands of applicants. When I received my rejection letter, it admonished me to be proud of the fact that I’d made it that fair. It pointed to the fact that there will be future opportunities for me to reapply and that if I continue to hone my skills that there will likely be a spot for me in the company, further down the road. I am proud of making it that far, but I refuse to tout it as an accomplishment. I will celebrate it as one of my first real failures, though. And I know it will take many more in order to become “successful.”

One of my responses to failure, and desperation, has been to throw myself into the things I love, while also applying to many more jobs, and many freelance gigs, in the meantime. I’ve been applying to audiobook production, because I have experience recording music, and I think those skills will translate well into audiobook production.

I’m also continuing to create music and videos on my YouTube channel. Alongside my goofy Leon character-based videos, I started putting up “meditation music” videos, because for some reason meditation music videos get millions of views. And if I don’t get millions of views, this still pushes me to compose more music, so it’s a win-win situation. Or, as Tim Ferriss puts it, I’ve set the game up so that I win even if I lose.

The most stressful part about all of this is not knowing whether I have enough short-term income streams to last in this longer-term play. Gary Vee is all about the long-game. I just hope I can last that long.

 

Just wanted to check in. It’s my birthday.

The Newsletter

The Newsletter. No. 3: muse, musings, and wtf does the root “mus” mean?

musings
follow me for a sec

I was talking to Stacey the other day about how the greatest things in life, to me, are the things that consume your existence when you’re in it. These things include sex, music, reading, writing, etc. It’s one reason why I hate when people interrupt me while I’m doing any of these things. When I’m interrupted I’m violently yanked back into this reality world. And not everything in the reality world is as pleasurable as my non-reality worlds. But I’m learning to be thankful for the lessons reality world grants me. It makes me a stronger reality person who is more appreciative of his non-reality world activities.

on to the music.

discoveries
The Internet – Ego Death

ego death – a complete loss of subjective self-identity
the-internet

I’ve lost hope in opening the minds of those who can’t listen to music newer than 1975. One strange commonality I’ve discovered in that group is that many of them have a huge obsession with Led Zeppelin. They literally can’t get the Led out. Jon Bonham died in 1980, but if Jimmy Page or Robert Plant are any indication, there wasn’t much of a musical point in his existence past 1980. I guess the first song off of Plant’s album with Allison Krauss was good, but that’s pretty much all I can think of. I’ve never actually listened to Physical Graffiti, but it’s not like anyone has ever sat me down and been like, “Dude this album is so great. You MUST listen.” Keeping that in mind, I’m further cemented in my belief that we shouldn’t grasp the idea that there was any good to come from Jon Bonham’s hypothetically surviving 1980. Or from the projection that Led Zeppelin’s music was following. Regardless,  I wish people would stop acting like new music all sucks.
The Internet is a group I stumbled on through Spotify’s discover playlist feature. Another group who found success through OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolfgang Kill them All for those not in-the-know), Ego Death signifies all the good that’s coming from new artists. This is another group I’d point out to the naysayers who can’t admit there’s good music that’s come to fruition in the past five to ten years.

Yusef Lateef – Psychicemotus

What needs to be said beyond “jazz flute?”  Seriously.

This album is a spiritual journey. Two of the four albums on this list NEED to be listened to as a whole, and this is one of them. (The other one being I heard you twice the first time.)

There’s some funkiness, a cover of Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1, and a Monk-like piano piece to close the album. In many ways I feel nostalgic listening to Psychicemotus and this is weird because I didn’t grow up listening to jazz so I’m not sure where these feelings come from. I’ll have to reflect and get back to you on what I find out.

revisited
Jimi Hendrix – People, Hell, and Angels

My dear friend Ian Blackwood introduced me to the second track off this album way back when. Up until recently I hadn’t listened to the whole album and I wouldn’t really necessarily recommend you do either. But the gems that do exist, namely “Somewhere,” “Easy Blues,” and “Villanova Junction Blues,” are largely unrecognized gold flakes that help to further Jimi’s catalog.
While those three tracks are the most accessible of the album, they still might not appeal to general music enthusiasts. The mixes are raw and unpolished. The songwriting is largely incomplete or loosely composed. But these are all the untarnished versions of songs that Hendrix had brewing before his death. And the rawness of the tracks might be what appeals to me most. It also features Steven Stills from CSNY playing some bass for a couple tracks. If you ask me, that’s pretty neat.

Branford Marsalis – I Heard You Twice the First Time

In 1992 Marsalis won a Grammy for “Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group” for this album. Setting the music aside for a second, this album is interesting to me for two reasons.
First, like classical, most people don’t listen to jazz outside of academics, those who study music, and a small percentage of music enthusiasts. This makes me wonder what jazz artists think about Grammy’s. I think the Grammy’s are pretty stupid, especially considering how they’re picked and the air of pretension that surrounds anything called an “academy.”
The second thing that interests me is this: a song off of J. Cole’s latest, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, tipped me off to this album and its journey through the different styles of blues throughout history. What’s peculiar about this sample is that Cole sampled “Berta, Berta”–a slave spiritual that was recorded by Marsalis to sound like a chain gang working on a railroad in pre-1863 America–in his song G.O.M.D. You might wonder, “What’s that stand for?” For fun, take a few guesses then highlight the blank space below to find out the answer.

|Get off My Dick|

More than I wonder what Marsalis thinks about the Grammy’s, I wonder what Marsalis thinks about being sampled in such a gloriously titled song. Funny thing is, telling someone to “get off my dick” is just a more explicit way of telling someone off, as opposed to the more subtle “I heard you twice the first time.” So Marsalis and Cole aren’t separated by such great lengths after all!

YouTube Gem of the month:

ze Wood Brothers new song “I got Loaded.” Performed live from one of those cool live performance videos.This one’s in Louisiana and gives me all the feels. Love this shit. Yummmmmmm.


‘And up in the clouds I can imagine UFO’s joke with themselves, laughing and sayin, “Those people so up tight. They sure know how to make a mess.”‘

— Jimi Hendrix

The Newsletter

The Newsletter. No. 2: The Classics

This month I’m taking a musical trip down memory lane.

Middle School

Sublime – 40 oz. to Freedom

When I first started listening to 40 oz. to Freedom I didn’t actually like the music. I didn’t understand the entrepreneurial significance of the album’s title.

Hell, I didn’t even know Sublime had music beyond “Santeria,” “Wrong Way,” and “What I got.” And none of these songs were even on the album.

What initially drew me to the album was its vulgarity. I’d been listening to rap for a while. But, to me, the tone of the music in rap matched what was being said.

40 oz. was the first time I’d heard, “I want to fuck you,” sung in a melody atop the peaceful soundscape of reggae. And it made me uncomfortable at first. I suppose the argument could be made that most music is suggesting the same statement, Sublime was just one of my first run-ins with lyrics that overtly stated what other musicians suggested through lyrical innuendo, moaning, and emulated sex sounds created by instruments.

This album quickly grew into an obsession and also served as my entry point into roots artists being covered on the album like Toots and the Maytals. If you had to pick one, listen to “5446/Ball and Chain.”

Nirvana – Nevermind

The same year I fell in love with Sublime I also found Nevermind tucked in my mom’s car under a bunch of terrible 80’s glam metal albums. Not only did this album beat out MJ, but it also popularized a new genre and created, at the time, a powerhouse of a music scene in Seattle that overtook airwaves and record stores–the most dominant music mediums in the early nineties.

I have a certain reader in mind who would argue that it’s all about The Melvins. Yes, I know Nirvana stole some of their sound and that Kurt Cobain loved The Melvins–they were hugely influential to many bands. But it doesn’t pain me to say that Nirvana wrote better songs. Like actual songs that weren’t rambly ten minute heavy jams. And that’s one of the reasons Nirvana became so huge. Their songs are undeniable. Alice Cooper said in an interview once how more bands need to study The Beatles to get a sense of how to write a song. This album displays what happens when a creative mind has internalized The Beatles catalog and writes songs inspired by his other musical interests.

I really became obsessed with this album in middle school when I was raking leaves for my grandparents. Each summer/fall they would head out to this camp in the woods–which was like a retirement home for old people–and just live. It never really struck me as odd at the time, but looking back it was kind-of just like a displaced trailer park. Everyone built screened-in porches onto the front of their campers. They even grew grass and mowed said grass. In the middle of the woods let me remind you.

Anyway, this specific fall season I was in charge of raking their plot of land in the woods trailer park. While I raked, I listened to Nevermind on repeat. So I suppose you could try that out this fall when you’re raking too.

YouTube Gem of the month:

Elliot Smith feat. Jon Brion and Brad Mehldau. Click here.

Jon Brion is a genius and has produced many other geniuses the likes of Kanye West, Elliot Smith, Brad Mehldau, Fiona Apple. And the list goes on.

elementary school

Sure elementary school doesn’t follow middle school, but screw humans and their insistence on chronology.

Jay-Z – Roc La Familia: The Dynasty 
This album was a big hit at our local YMCA on Friday “Fun Nights.” Any time a song from the album would play, all my friends would pause and start rapping in each other’s faces to display our bravado and knowledge of the hottest album out. It was 7pm in suburbia but we were the hardest motherfuckers around rapping to Jay-Z.

high school

Kanye West – The College Dropout 
This album reintroduced me to rap. In middle school I stopped listening to rap/hip-hop in attempt to fit in with the “punks” at school. At that point showing allegiance to the punk or prep crowd was integral to social survival. And I wasn’t ready for alienation, so ascribe to social norms I did. One day at recess this particular year the punk and prep social circles lined up at recess to brawl. It was like a game of red rover except the two complete lines ran at each other, rather than individuals. After this recess debacle, for the rest of the week, the school called groups of 3-4 students to the office to discuss how we would prevent future conflict. There were even talks of introducing uniforms to the school so that the two groups couldn’t signal their allegiance through dress, much like how gangs wear colors, except for us it was Abercrombie vs Hot Topic, instead of red v. blue. The irony that Hot Topic is just as much a consumerist, popular establishment as Abercrombie was unrecognized by me and my punk friends. By 9th grade my idiotic allegiance to the punks had waned–and thankfully so because this was the year I first heard The College Dropout.

I am the type of person who struggles with my proclivity toward laziness. Because I am relatively smart, I often fight the nagging idea that things should come easily to those who are smart. Logically I know it’s not true, but that doesn’t keep me from wondering why an intelligent person like myself is stuck in a cycle of low-paying shitty jobs. College Dropout caters to these struggles, along with some others. Sure I’m not a black man working at The GAP who’s searched for stolen goods every night before leaving work, but I was a college dropout at one point. I can relate to the seemingly valueless degree that so many pressured me toward getting in my youth. Now that I have a degree I can say it hasn’t helped me pay off loans so far. (I do value my degree though, but for many reasons that defy the assumption that a degree guarantees employment. Enrichment is unmeasurable and therefore worthless to many in our society, or so it seems.)

Uncategorized

Dr. Handsome

The decision was a marriage between unpreparedness and impulse. Jimi played the reasonable older brother and voiced his concerns but gave in without much fight. I think he gave in knowing it was likely to blow up in our faces and then he would be able to smile and we would know what he thought. It’d be the moment a lot of us wait for but would probably never admit we waited.

“I told you so.”

There are high school students in Temecula who are entrapped for selling pot in a state where one can obtain said drugs legally with a quick visit to the Doc. “Hey Doc my back really aches and I think some Mary Jane could help.” That’s all it takes in most places.

Then Doc writes you a note and you go to a little shop where you can purchase the most potent ganja available in the whole US of A. But you can be permanently disadvantaged were you to sell a shitty dimebag to one of these undercover cops who want to keep Chief Deputy proud by making arrests. No federal funding for college. No public housing were you to fall on harder times later in life. Meanwhile the undercover agents keep the bosses happy all the while having the opportunity to collect paychecks and legally hang out with fourteen to seventeen year old girls eight hours a day.

Furthermore, it’s been said–though I’m not sure how reliable this bit is–that a disproportionate amount of the arrested have some disability.

But there in Binghamton, just a few feet down from that stone archway to Johnson City, Jimi was concerned about the future opportunity and joy and privilege of saying I told you so. That satisfaction from being able to make your friends acknowledge that you knew it all along, what a great, important feeling. Whose to blame him though? It’s something we all possess, and the feeling is so satisfying. It’s no wonder we give in to the easy pleasure. No harm if it doesn’t come true, but so much pleasure if it does!

After submitting our completed leases, Natalie told us we would be able to move in in August of that summer. None of us planned to move in the first week because Homeschool’s last semester didn’t start until the end of that month, Jimi’s job transfer hadn’t officially been approved, and my new job wasn’t slated to start until late August.

Even though I didn’t need to move in right away, I felt a more urgent need to get out of my parents’ house than my roommates. That summer I had told my parents I wasn’t going back to SUNY Albany in the Fall and I hadn’t anticipated the existential crisis that followed, culminating with that regretful summer night of drunk-driving with Frank. Even before my drive with Frank, I’d faced a series of struggles alone while in China when I made the official decision to stop attending classes there and at home. Having been home for a few months now, I believed I needed some geographical distance from the people I knew at home who’d probably approach me with run-of-the-mill questions I was once excited to answer.

“How’s school?”

“What are you up to nowadays?”

“How was China?!”

Before dropping out these were opportunities to boast about how well I was doing, to relay how great my life was, to show how I was coasting along the right track to wherever society tells you is a good place to end up. These conversations were a chance for me to feel good and for whoever I spoke with to feel good and go relay that good news to whomever they knew who knew me about my good news.

But now these simple questions were painful and I avoided them by staying away from familiar places. Somewhere along the way I’d learned to pay attention to the things people told me would create happiness, and failed to question whether that’s what I wanted or even if these “ideals” were healthy. So I began evaluating life.

**Cue existential crisis.**

In order to cope with whatever was going on, I took the advice Ryan holiday and started learning from those who’d already lived through struggles. To learn from the past I spent a lot of time reading biographies and autobiographies.

“It was time for me to find Knowledge, but that meant first I had to find Knowledge of Self.

This is one kind of knowledge you can’t seek. It’s something you have to let happen to you–through meditation, sitting quiet and alone, in contemplation.”

-RZA, The Tao of Wu

Later on I’d find ample opportunities to sit in quiet meditation. But until then, my anxiety persisted while Natalie continued to give us the runaround. Her urgency and mine had an inverse relationship where I would call and press her about moving in and she would respond with an apathetic non-answer. Through these non-answers my roommates and I began to learn about Natalie’s conniving ways. One of us would call to inquire about the move-in, “Hey Natalie, we’re just checking up to see when we’ll be able to move in. How’s it coming?”

And she’d avoid an answer to my question with a web of non-sequiturs that made my desire to move in seem like I was asking Natalie to guide me through the Amazon.

“Oh, we are still cleaning. Khristoff has finally moved out upstairs, but leaves me all his stuff. He is such a pig. And David. David,” she’d say, shaking her head. “David is up to no good and will not leave. I tell him he must go. ‘David I do not want you here anymore.’ You know what he tells me? ‘But Natalie, where am I supposed to go?’ And so I cannot get him out. My lawyer, no help! What am I to do?”

Yes but when the fuck are we going to be able to move into the apartment we already started paying rent for?

“Okay Natalie, we’ll check back soon.”

Patience stretched beyond its limits, I began moving in without telling Natalie. Homeschool followed suit, but Jimi decided to put off his descent into self-imposed poverty. This decision would also leave him with the short end of the deal in regards to room choice, but he would only have himself to blame for that.

Our first possession dropoff had almost no problems. After scanning the grounds for Natalie we snuck into our apartment, forgetting we’d had the legal right to enter for over a week. Before setting down any of our belongings, both Homeschool and I noticed that, aside from a few cleaning supplies in the corner, the apartment looked the same as it did the last time we stopped by.

The stove top still caked with grease, the oven black and charred, the floor covered in an indiscernible brown mixture–floor wax? spilt curry? grease?–I wondered what sort of cleaning routine Natalie had been following. Maybe the act of carrying the supplies into the building constituted “cleaning.”

“Guess it’s a good thing we started moving in. Would’ve been a few months if we waited for Natalie to finish,” Homeschool said.

“Yeah this is ridiculous,” I responded.

In some ways, the grunginess seemed worse than when the last tenants still lived there. At least then their mattresses covered up much of the floor space, hiding the blackened floors and dust that collected in the corners. Apparently the “cleaning company” Natalie mentioned consisted of herself and the blackened supplies she carried in her little red bucket.

“I’ll call my mom to see if she can come help,” I said.

On our way out, Natalie appeared. “Hello guys, so sorry. Two days, apartment will be ready. Promise.”

“Don’t worry about it Natalie. We’re gonna start moving in,” I said.

“Yeah. We can handle the cleaning. No worries,” Homeschool added.

“Oh, oh, thank-you guys but it’s okay. I will clean. All done soon.”

“No. Natalie, it’s okay. Really. Don’t worry about it. If you want to help clean you can, but only until we start sleeping here,” I said.

“Ah fine. We will be done soon. I will keep work on kitchen.”

When I called my mom she seemed eager to help. By the end of that same week she made the three hour trip to Binghamton and took control of the process like a real cleaning company, delegating jobs to both myself and my younger brother who’d made the trip down with her.

Homeschool’s mom also came down from Ithaca to help us move and clean. More friendly than myself and Homeschool, Homeschool’s mom had active conversations with Natalie, something we avoided at all costs. During these interactions she learned how Natalie’s face became so burned.

“Oh thank the lord I am alive every day. It is a miracle, you know. My whole house burn down and my husband die, but I survive and am only left with scars. Terrible accident. So thankful to god.”

“Oh my gosh, Natalie, that is incredible. You are so strong,” Homeschool’s mom told her.

“No, the lord makes me strong, but thank-you. And now my daughter is away to college. She do well. I am so lucky. And you too! Your son, so handsome. What does he study?”

“He studies biology. I’m not sure what he plans to do though. I don’t know if he knows either.”

“Amazing! He is going to be a doctor. Doctor Handsome.”

And that is when Homeschool became “Dr. Handsome” to Jimi and me.

Though there were some roadblocks to moving in, things finally seemed to settle. I’d heard from an old Albany friend he was in Binghamton now, and we made plans to hang out. I’d also seen an old friend from high school and she said she’d found a job in Binghamton. Maybe things weren’t turning out as bad as Jimi anticipated…

Uncategorized

Curry Monster Love Curry

 

I once moved to Binghamton, New York. I wouldn’t recommend you do the same. For the five months I lived there, I often found myself anticipating the next way our landlord would screw us over. I hated it at the time, but I’ve learned to look back at this period with fondness. I mean, I learned some neat things like how roaches aren’t really anything to worry about and how easy it is to live with them. In line with bug issues, my roommates and I experienced mild forms of delusional parisitosis. I also embraced the idea that it’s not entirely crazy to prefer working over spending leisure time at home.

Theoretically, this was supposed to be time for me to take a break from school and relax, try to find myself, and make some life decisions. Being a first time tenant, I had no idea what to look for or the general procedures of renting an apartment. Someone smart would probably say do some research, maybe look at the obstacles tenants have faced and how to protect yourself from fraudulent claims, lying landlords, and potential problems with renting. What can I say? I’m not that smart.

Instead of worrying about potential problems, here were my general priorities:

  1. Cheap rent
  1. Be near other college kids so there is potential to socialize
  1. Get money, make lady friends

And that’s how I ended up living in a Main Street slum. It’s also how I met Natalie.

We had already toured two other apartments before finding our future home that day. The first one was located on a rural hill and looked like it were straight from a scene in Deliverance. The neighbors also left a discouraging impression.

Moments after pulling into the driveway we saw a toddler rolling down the dirt-hill road on a Big Wheel in his diaper. A young girl with long, greasy brown hair in a dirt-stained pastel summer outfit chased after him, yelling, “Get back here you little shit.” On a porch a few houses down, an overweight woman sat in a rocking chair, attentive to the strangers pulling into the apartment complex, oblivious to the children who disrupted the path on the way in. The amount of time it took to pull in was enough for myself, Homeschool, and Jimi to notice the dirty bomb of oblivion that had been detonated and enveloped this complex.

On our tour we learned this particular apartment had been broken into by the neighbor kids and trashed. When we entered, the whole place smelled like mildew and urine, as if the bastard kids who’d broken in were also peeing throughout the apartment. Hopefully it was just some animals.

“I’m so sorry about this,” our guide said. “Had I known this happened I wouldn’t have wasted your time.”

With this apology, the guide made a gracious effort to show us around, her sunken posture and flattened tone signalling that she knew it was a futile effort.

After the abbreviated tour we thanked the guide politely and said we’d have to get back to her in the next couple days and, “Let her know.” Needless to say it didn’t take long to reach a group consensus—we were going to avoid waking up to rabid children roaming and pissing in our apartment throughout the night.

Any place, compared to that first apartment, would’ve been an improvement but the second apartment we toured that day turned out to meet all of our demands. And it didn’t hurt that the guide was an attractive, young female student.

“Do any college kids live around here?” I asked, making sure to keep our priorities straight.

“Oh yeah, I actually live right around the corner from here. Most of my friends are close by too.”

Check and check, one last concern. “How much is rent?”

“$2,400 a month.”

Damnit.

An hour or so before our long drive home we received a reply to an inquiry we made on Craig’s list earlier that day. It was the tenant of that apartment and he said we could tour the apartment since he was moving out within the next couple weeks.

Little did we know the ensuing months would conclude with us truly understanding the sentiment of the almighty Rod Stewart when he wrote Ooh la la. I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger…

*   *   *

We parked on the street shoulder in front of the three-storied, lavender building we were scheduled to tour. The door, wooden and heavy, contrasted with the sterile concrete walls, and gave the facade a more welcoming appearance. It was like the owner had stolen the door off a church and placed it on his building to deter sacrilegious street dwellers from approaching.

To the left of the small front stoop a woman was bent over weeding the grass and raking what seemed to be a flower bed. She wore a dress that dangled like a set of drapes, tied back at the waist with a belt that accentuated her curves.

We walked up to white Aunt Jemima and asked, “Do you know where the landlord is? We’re here for a tour of the apartment that’s up for rent.”

“Oh yes, yes,” she said in a raspy voice with a heavy Russian accent. Her face looked like what would’ve been the result of Harvey Dent’s reconstructive surgeries had he not died. “Please, don’t mind my mess. I am Natalie. I’ve been working all day. I own this building and that purple one across the street. I showed four girls around there earlier today. They will probably move in in September.

“You guys are so handsome. You must be students,” she assumed. “Everyone is a student here except first floor.”

We followed her into the building, trying to figure out how to tell her only one of us was a student and settled on letting her talk to our one roommate, Homeschool, in order to avoid the issue.

Natalie told us to wait in the entryway before scurrying up the set of stairs to check if the apartment was open. A loud knock came from the second floor followed by brief quiet. No response. Knock knock. Again, no response. Natalie’s patience had reached its limit.

“Khristoff, answer the door. It is Natalie. Please, I am trying to give tour.” Still, Khristoff wouldn’t answer and Natalie wasn’t ready to give up. She came rushing back down the stairs and said, “I’m so sorry. Please, wait one minute I will get Khristoff,” then went out the front door.

In hindsight, I’ve realized Natalie’s body always seemed to be in conflict with her feet. Like in cartoons where the character’s feet move so fast that the motion becomes a blur, Natalie’s feet seemed to rush around while the rest of her body, including her customary oversized sunhat, seemed at rest.

Outside, Natalie resumed her yelling. “Khristoff, I must give a tour. Please come to the window.” To our surprise, we discovered Khristoff was home when the window slid open and he shouted back, “I can’t today, Natalie. I have work and the place is a mess. Ask Curry Monster.”

“But we agreed…”

“No. I said you could yesterday. You didn’t say anything about today.”

“Oh, oh. Okay. I will speak to Curry Monster,” Natalie said. Turning to us and shielding her mouth to the side with one hand, she added, “I knew he was in there. His car’s parked out back.”

Leading us back inside, Natalie continued her rant, “Khristoff… such a pig. He leaves giant mess. I tell him he must be out this week, but he says, ‘Oh Natalie I am just cleaning, please, just a couple more days,’ but he never leaves.

“Oh, I am so sorry guys,” she said, then knocked on, what we presumed to be, Curry Monster’s door. This time the door opened after the first knock and a young Indian man with a scraggly beard opened the door.

Before he could greet her, Natalie said, “Ah yes, Curry Monster, can I please show these boys around your apartment? It will only take a few minutes I promise. Out in no time.”

“Probably, Natalie. Let me just check with everyone else.” Curry Monster closed the door and shouted a warning in Hindi to his roommates. Exactly what he said I couldn’t tell you, but it probably warned them of the three white guys coming in to look around with Natalie.

A few minutes later he re-opened the door and said, “Ok, you can come look around, but we haven’t cleaned yet or anything.” This invitation was a welcomed release from our awkward soiree of avoiding Natalie’s small-talk in the hallway.

“Thank you, thank you, Curry Monster. We will be very quick.”

When we went in, the first thing I noticed was a lack of any real furniture. Shortly after I was nostril raped by the smell of curry. It was like these students had bathed in curry then sprinkled the rest around the place as some sort of Indian deodorizer. Perhaps they’d never heard of a Glade Plug-in?

The apartment had been turned into a giant bedroom with mattresses in each room except the kitchen and bathroom. It’s a good thing these rooms hadn’t been converted because the filth would have been almost intolerable, even to someone with the most liberal standards of cleanliness.

The stove seemed old and perhaps even dangerous, toxic. On one burner set a frying pan, on the other a spaghetti pan with rice in it. I didn’t try to move them, but it seemed neither dish had been washed in at least a week. Like a boxer’s forehead at the start of each round, the grates which propped the pans above the burner were shiny from a thick layer of grease.

I didn’t notice at the time, but the bathroom was even worse than the kitchen. The bathtub and surrounding walls were covered in mildew, giving the room a greenish swampy feel. One dim light bulb added to the dingy feel of the bathroom. This lack of light also helped Natalie’s sales pitch by making the mildew seem less prominent.

Blinded by cheap rent, off street parking and what seemed to be a good location, Homeschool and I overlooked this “mild” filth and were content with renting the apartment. Our other roommate, I’ll call him Jimi, voiced his apprehension.

Jimi’s protests came off as a polite, “I don’t know guys, this place is pretty messy and the landlord seems kind-of off.” Really, it should’ve been more like, “Holy fuck, are you guys crazy? You’re really considering this pig sty? Located a couple buildings away from the projects? Surrounded by meth-heads and drowned in the stench of curry? The landlord is obviously a kook. I refuse to move in here with you.”

Even then he would’ve been missing the bigger problems we would face. Oh well, I would, soon enough, realize my mistakes.

Uncategorized

D.D.

 

It was a 3rd of July celebration on Conesus Lake in Livonia, a small idyllic suburb just 30 minutes south of Rochester off Route 390. The wildest night of the year in that little town. Frank had pushed his girlfriend because he thought her and Trey were getting a little too cozy out on his boat under the stars. We could see him coming all the way up the dock, yelling “Dara! Dara! Where the fuck have you been?” He didn’t seem to notice everyone else in the boat with them. Or that we were all sitting there shooting the shit and enjoying the weather.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Frank asked from a few feet outside the boat. As Dara stood to answer him he grabbed her arm and jerked her with such force that he almost pulled her over, all the while throwing himself to the ground.

“Frank what’s wrong with you!? Let. go. of me.”

“Fine,” Frank said, pushing her over back into the boat.

“Whoa whoa, Frank,” Trey said. He and I stood up as Dara’s friends helped Dara to her feet.

“Frank, let’s go. What are you thinking?” His pupils were fully dilated and empty as the José bottle we’d been working throughout the day.

Trey and I spent the next hour or so lecturing Frank about how we couldn’t understand why he’d turned so violent. There was no reason for him to push his girlfriend, even if ten shots of tequila coursed through his veins and in his blackout stupor he had no comprehension of what was going on. It didn’t matter if he thought Trey was hitting on his girlfriend. “I’d never even think to resort to violence,” I told him self righteously. “Besides, I was out there. Mel was out there. You think they would just start hooking up in front of everyone, even if that’s what was going on?”

The rest of the night was spent sobering up and performing damage control for Frank and Dara’s relationship. A few months later, weeks after Frank and I had a sober talk and Frank apologized for his antics on July 3rd, it would be time for me to eat my own words and formulate an apology that would focus on what I had done to Frank.

*   *   *   

Frank pulled into my driveway and said, “Zack, really. It’s okay. I’m not upset at all.”

I was hunched in the passenger seat, filled to the brim with drunken shame. His words registered but I didn’t respond.

“I’m gonna head home now. I’ll talk to you later,” Frank said. He paused for my response but I didn’t say anything, didn’t even glance at him. I couldn’t bear to look at the swollen purple bump forming on his cheekbone.

Realizing I wasn’t going to talk, Frank exited my Camry and walked to his black Lexus. I stayed in the passenger seat and listened to him pull out, my eyes sore from crying, my mind lost in confused thoughts. Why would I do that to such a close friend? He was just trying to do the right thing. I don’t deserve his friendship.

My phone was broken to pieces from being thrown at the ground and kicked into the ditch. After I had calmed down from my fit I picked up the pieces that were scattered in the road and now these pieces were collected on the floor next to my bare feet.

It could’ve gone on indefinitely at that point, my pointed thoughts of self loathing, but my parents would be waking up soon so I walked inside to avoid the questions that would ensue had they found me passed out in my car. “Where’s Frank?” “How’d you get home?” “Why are you sleeping in your car?”

I was having enough trouble answering my own questions; I didn’t need my parents to compound the problem.

Inside the questions resumed. To combat the questions of shame I used a technique I’d been taught in a mindfulness class a year earlier at the college I’d decided to drop out of. I tried my best not to indulge the questions while I laid in bed. Just listen to your breath. Feel your chest rise and fall. Notice what the air feels like in your lungs. These are just thoughts and thoughts do not necessarily need to be latched onto. They’re not YOU–they’re just thoughts. Minutes later my exhaustion and mindfulness allowed me to pass out. Soon enough consciousness would return and my thoughts would again be dictated by shame and regret. But, for now, I rested.

*   *   *

Frank rode with me from my house. One of our old hockey buddies was having a party in Rochester. The plan was to stop in Pittsford and pick up Rod from his cousin’s wedding reception. I hadn’t hung out with Rod in a while and he was adamant I meet his new girlfriend, Ashley, who was visiting for the week. On the way, Frank and I caught up with one another.

“So how was China, man?” Frank asked.

“It was a lot of fun, but I’m glad to be home. I don’t particularly like driving everywhere, but it’s nice to be able to see a  blue sky everyday. The quietness is impressive too.”

“Yeah, I bet. Shanghai is a really busy place.”

“Yeah. Definitely.”

“So I hear you’re not going back to school in the Fall?”

“You heard right. It’s kind-of hard to explain but I just wasn’t happy with the direction I was heading.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like, I’m not sure I want to be a teacher. And I don’t wanna keep paying all this money for a degree that I’m not even sure I need, you know?”

“Yeah, I think so. College is definitely an investment but maybe this is right for you?”

“What’s right for me? School?”

“No–the break. Maybe you just need some time to do things, figure some stuff out?”

“Hm…”

“Sorry. I’m not trying to assert what’s right or wrong for you. Just saying I guess.”

“Yeah, maybe. I don’t really know,” I said, pausing. “Whatever. I don’t really wanna talk about school. It’s boring.”

I pulled up to a three-way stop and reached down to change my Ipod.

“Have you heard Drake’s latest album?” I asked.

“No, not really. Is it good?”

“I like it,” I said, pulling through the intersection.

“DUDE,” Frank said. “You know that was a red light, right?”

“OH SHIT. For some reason I thought it was a three-way stop. Good thing we didn’t get hit.”

“Yeah… maybe you should pay more attention to the road instead of trying to play me the new Drake.”

“Alright, alright. Just listen to this. Jay-Z’s verse is nasty.”

*   *   *

The party wasn’t anything special. It’s not that I didn’t have fun, there was just nothing over-the-top exciting. To compensate for the mundanity I drank more and this made Rod proud because it allowed his girlfriend to see my “fun” side.

I’m not entirely sure where it came from, but I have a tendency to start shenanigans when none are happening, especially when I’m drinking. It could’ve been all the years watching my dad and his friends morph social gatherings into odd, drunken circus acts, that often involved oversized bonfires. For some people, playing with the lighter fluid is part of starting a fire; at my house, improvised flamethrowers were the norm.

My dad’s a mechanic with a full garage of tools and supplies to work on vehicles. Brake jobs are of the most common repairs for cars and this meant he always had a steady supply of brake cleaner. Sometimes, when a party needed some extra excitement, he would tap his supply of brake cleaner. Can at arm’s length, he’d spray the can at a flame and then turn to see how long he could hold the trigger before the fire trailed back to the nozzle and ignited the whole container. He never held the trigger too long. It seemed like he always had it under control. He played with fire while displaying the confidence of a trained professional. Maybe that’s what gave him the confidence to play with other dangerous flammables.

I remember one night when my dad and some co-workers brought out these oversized mortars from our basement. Another parent at the party, Tim, stood by my friend Eric and me while we watched in awe of the other adults and their intriguing, drunken stupidity.

“Guys,” Tim said, “Don’t get too close to them while they’re playing with those fireworks. It could tip over and explode in their faces at anytime. They never should’ve brought them out.”

I shook my head in agreement, secretly admiring my dad and his antics.

The next day my mom woke up to a messy house with grass trailed across the floors, cans and bottles strewn across the yard, and a few plastic lawn chairs short of the full set.

“Phil, where’re the lawn chairs?” my mom asked, shaking my dad awake.

“What?” he’d say, half asleep.

“Why are we missing lawn chairs?”

“Oh, uhm, a couple of them broke so I burned them.”

“You can’t keep burning our lawn chairs. We don’t have the money to buy new ones every month.”

“What do you want me to tell you? They broke. What good is a broken lawn chair?”

Sure enough, buried in the ashy fire pit were the plastic remains of our chairs appearing more like a failed abstract sculpture than the chairs they used to be. Buried along with the chairs was my dad’s oil pan from the garage and empty brake cleaner cans. It appeared as though I had missed the real fun where the drunks danced with danger and probably laughed at one another when a can shot out at someone. Only after a good laugh would they check if the person was okay.

It’d probably be fair to say that these parties set the stage for how I envisioned all parties would be when I was older. I’d started to emulate my dad’s facade of confidence, continuing with his disregard for the potential repercussions of playing with fire. If the parties lacked that flame headed toward igniting a can in the hand, then they weren’t fun and it was my duty to make them fun. And if I couldn’t make it fun, I could always drink enough to at least make it tolerable. This was the sort of projection my night catching up with Frank took.

Between the time we walked to Mark’s Texas Hots, ate our garbage plates, and walked back to the car to go home I’d downed maybe another six Bud Lights. Unfortunately we’d run out of alcohol by this time so my drinking would have to be put on hold. This allotted me an extra amount of attention to put toward critiquing Rod’s driving. Even so, it took me awhile before I realized he was driving to his house.

“Hey, this isn’t the way to my house,” I said like a detective uncovering an important piece of evidence.

“Yeah, no shit Bassage.”

“Dude, I have to work in the morning. That’s why we were supposed to go back to Zack’s,” Frank said.

“You guys can drive back in the morning. No big deal.”

“Nah I’ll just drive back when we get to your house,” Frank said.

“You sure you’re okay?” Rod asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I haven’t had a drink in a little while.”

“That’s fine but I’m skinny-dipping before we leave,” I said. “Ashley, I’ll teach you how to do handstands. It’ll be sweet.”

*   *   *

“C’mon Ashley,” I said, stripping off my clothes. I jumped into the pool and caught a glimpse of my reflection before crashing into it and shattering the glassy surface of the cool water. When I emerged I wrung the water out of my hair with my hands and looked back at Rod and Ashley who sat in the cushioned deck chairs near the fire pit at the side of the pool. They laughed at my naked, wet body, illuminated by the pool light.

“Shield your eyes, Ashley. Bassage’s reflection is blinding,” Rod said, adding a bassy chuckle.

“Hey Rod, why don’t you do something useful and get me a beer,” I said. “Or at least come up with some better jokes.”

“Sounds like someone doesn’t want a towel…”

“It’s okay, I know where they are,” I said. “So Ashley you gonna come learn some handstands or what?”

It was an old trick Rod and I did in high school. We’d go swimming and challenge our guests to a contest–whoever could do the best handstand won. We’d always let our challenger go first so that while they were performing I’d strip down naked. Then, when it was my turn, I’d flip into a perfect handstand and surprise them with a dose of shriveled cock-and-balls.

Unfortunately on this night I didn’t get to initiate Rod’s new girlfriend.

“No thanks, Zack,” Ashley said. “It’s kind-of chilly, I’m tired, and you’re naked. None of those seem like they’d make a good combination.”

“Alright, suit yourself,” I said with indifference. I felt satisfied with my swim but had begun to feel thirsty so I exited the pool to venture inside for a towel and some drinks. Before entering, I realized the leverage being naked provides and said, “Hey Rod, you should probably go grab me a towel. I don’t think Steve would appreciate me running through his house naked.”

“Psh, why would he care? It’s nothing he’s never seen before.”

“Alright, I warned…”

“Just put your damn shorts on! They’re right back there.”

“But I feel so free like this,” I said, continuing toward the house.

“Alright, alright. I’ll get your damn towel.”

I flashed an endearing smile as I walked into the basement and headed for the same beer fridge we’d been stealing from since we were kids. Opening the door, the light escaped gradually like a rising sun and I marveled at the variety of brands to choose from. I weighed my preferences against which beers Steve wouldn’t mind were missing in the morning and grabbed three Saranacs from a sampler pack–one for now and two for the road. In a quick moment of reflection I appreciated having better beer after a night of Bud Lights and then headed outside, back to Frank to let him know I was ready for the trip home.

“I’m driving, you didn’t have to get one for me,” Frank said.

“Yeah it’s for me,” I answered.

Rod came out with my towel. I reached for it and said, “Thanks. You’re so kind.”

“Yeah whatever Bassage. You guys heading out?”

“Yup. I’ve gotta try to get some sleep for tomorrow,” Frank said.

“Makes sense. Don’t let his foolishness distract you,” Rod said, pointing to me.

Frank laughed politely. “I’ve got it under control. No worries.”

“Alright good,” Rod said.

“Nice meeting you guys,” Ashley chimed in. “Drive safe.”

We said goodbye, got in the car and were on our way. Except our ride, which should’ve taken fifteen, maybe twenty, minutes turned into a few hours and a near disaster.

By the time we reached the end of Rod’s road I had finished one of three beers and had already begun to nag Frank to let me drive. This is also when the night began to get hazy. Here’s a rough timeline–to the best of my recollections with some input from Frank–of what happened:

2:00 AM: I’m working on my second beer. Frank is driving down routes 5 & 20 and I’m still nagging him to let me drive. Coming to the realization that he’s not going to let me take the wheel, I decide it’s a good opportunity to start the cleaning I’ve been putting off. I open the door and drop out old paper towels, Wegmans water bottles, old PBR cans, a wegmans pizza slice box. A stream of trash trails behind the Camry like mist behind a jet.

2:10 AM: Having run out of trash to throw out the door, I re-focus my energy on getting Frank to let me drive. He tells me I can drive when we get to Smith Road, just a block away from my house. Satisfied, I do my best sober act and wait in excitement to take the wheel.

2:15 AM: Frank pulls over and we switch spots. Only one street from my house, Frank seems comfortable with the confidence in my stride and in my ability to get us home safe.

I’m ready to test my control, like a test of performance under pressure. Why wouldn’t I? It’s in my blood and blood is a predisposition. You can be at odds with yourself, your lineage, or you can accept it and face the consequences as they arise, if at all.

It’s my turn to see how long I can hold the trigger and let the flame trail back toward the point of exploding. If it all works out like I’ve seen before I’ll feign the safety and control of a professional. Or, worse, I’ll believe I really had the control and safety of a trained professional.

2:16 AM:

Frank: Zack Where are you going?

Zack: We’re gonna hit 90 MPH. We’ve gotta do it.

Frank: Quit being an idiot. Take us to your house. I have to work in the morning.

Zack: Alright. As soon as we hit 90.

2:50 AM: I’m navigating unfamiliar roads with an adrenaline enhanced focus rarely associated with drunk driving. Or perhaps it’s a feeling derived from foolish pathos and bravado. Either way, I don’t take my eyes off the road or let myself become distracted  by the scenery streaking by in a blur.

In between moments of speeding I look over at Frank and we talk. He seems to be enjoying himself and our discussions.

Frank: Hey Zack I’m really glad…

I cut Frank off with an abrupt acceleration. He grabs the “Oh Shit Strap” above the window and releases a nervous laugh. I push the 6 cylinders of my ‘94 Camry, ~250,000 miles to its name, to their upper limits. Unfamiliar with the roads on which I drive, I hit a large dip and the Camry lands with a violent slam.

3:30 AM: Frank and I are pulled over near a cornfield, looking out my sunroof and listening to Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief.

4:00 AM:

Zack: Why is my car making that terrible noise? It was fine today.

Frank: You don’t remember hitting that bump going almost ninety?

Zack: Oh. Oh yeahh…

4:30 AM:

Frank: Zack, you should probably start heading home. I’ve gotta work soon, you’re almost out of gas, and my phone is gonna die. If we get lost we’re fucked.

Zack: Dude, just call in. And don’t worry; I know where I’m going.

Frank: Just please start heading home. I’m not calling in for no reason.

4:50 AM:

Frank: You’re not even going in the right direction.

I notice from the sternness of his tone that Frank’s becoming frustrated.

Zack: I know where I’m going. We’re headed back towards 5 & 20. We’ll catch it near Geneva.

Frank: That’s not even right. We’re going the opposite direction of Geneva. Just pull over real quick. I’ll show you on my phone. We’re headed south on Seneca lake.

I pull over and as soon as we come to a complete stop Frank reaches over and takes the keys out of the ignition. Acting on impulse, I put Frank in a headlock and tell him to give me the keys. Frank refuses my demand and asks me to let go of him.

Zack: Not until you give me back the keys.

Frank: No way, dude. I’m driving back. I need to go to work and you’re just being a drunk asshole. Now let go of me.

Zack: No. I’m driving.

Frank punches me in the face.

Zack: YOU FUCKER!

I take hold of Frank’s prickly hair. He is an inch or two taller than me but we have similar body types. Doesn’t matter though because I now have all the leverage. In a moment of drunken, power-hungry rage I punch Frank’s tired face.

Zack: You want some more Frank?

I hit him again, disregarding our friendship and possible consequences. All I want is that key and my freedom to drive. I am desperate for control as if it will maintain and protect the sanctum of denial I’ve constructed over the past three months.

Don’t ever hit me.

Frank’s holding his hands up in a defensive position but I swing a few more times, connecting one strike under his left eye.

My flailing arms are the final desperate attempt for control and protection from a realization that I’ve built a false sense of contentment on a shaky foundation that’s about to collapse. They’re like the toddler pounding her fists on the floor in a tantrum or a swimmer panicking and caught in the undertow. My flailing arms are a deep biological expression of my frustration with life.

Frank: Zack! Please stop. I don’t want to fight you.

With this final plea I realize what I’m doing. Even though we haven’t moved in a few minutes, it feels as if the momentum from driving so fast has just now dissipated, along with any harmless fun our trip initially started off with. Now I’m just an asshole lost somewhere on Seneca Lake who just finished assaulting his close friend.

Zack: Oh my god. I am so sorry.

Frank: Zack, why were you doing that? You just completely freaked out.

Zack: I don’t even know… I felt threatened. You hit me first.

Frank: But you had me in a headlock. I just wanted to do the right thing.

Crying, I get out of the car.

Zack: Why would I do that?

I say it out loud, but to myself.

Before Frank can answer I start walking down the street. The sun has begun to rise and I can see the silhouettes of large barns and two silos maybe half a mile down the road. I throw my phone at the road and then stomp on it.

My tantrum continues, allowing me to ignore why I’ve ended up lost in the Finger Lakes. Instead of considering possible causes I continue shedding my belongings.

I throw my shoes in the ditch and sit down on the shoulder. “Why would I do that?” I ask aloud.

I’m asking the right question, but I don’t realize it’s misdirected. The better question is, “Why am I throwing such a tantrum?” What purpose does it serve? Do I feel better acting like a baby?

These are the sort of questions I should have asked myself. Of course, if I was unable to figure that out while sober, I definitely wasn’t going to be making much progress amidst a nihilistic rage in the unfamiliar boonies of Yates County.

Zack: Just take my car and leave.

Frank: Zack, it’s okay. You were just really drunk. Let’s go home and we can figure shit out another day.

Zack: I just don’t know why I would do that. To one of my best friends.

For the rest of the ride Frank does his best to console me, his friend who only a few minutes before made life’s frustrations a physical reality to Frank’s face. I try to listen but my self-questioning drowns out most of what he says.

*   *   *

I woke up late the next afternoon wishing I hadn’t. The events from last night re-occupied my mind, but it felt like a nightmare. I felt confused returning to that moment when I realized I’d been punching Frank because I almost didn’t remember it. It seemed like a distant memory from when I was younger, but I felt awful; the feelings were real as ever.

This was before I realized that a lot of the emotions I experience while hungover are amplified from my body feeling so tired. It doesn’t help that alcohol is a depressant and that I’ve usually drank enough to have some terrible withdrawal symptoms the following day, but this is all besides the point.

That night the way I felt about myself finally emerged. I realized that I viewed myself as a failure. And by shattering my phone I destroyed my connection to the world which I’ve blamed for making me feel like a failure.

In fact, it seems I already knew, deep down, that I felt this way, but I was in denial. Up until then I’d never actually failed at anything and now I was a college dropout. I’d dropped out of school and I couldn’t handle the opinions of all the people who told me I was too smart for that. Or all the people in my class who looked down on me. But it was all bullshit. I was depending on all these expectations and status indicators to define who I was, when the only person I really needed to look to was myself. It’s a cliche of self reliance and self definition, but it’s a cliche because it’s true.

After sitting on the couch and reflecting on my actions from the night before I wrote Frank an apologetic email:

I don’t know what to do or say or how to express how terrible I feel right now. I’m really sorry–and I hate to use that word because it’s so cliche and only seems to mean something but really ends up being a cop-out for people when they intellectually know what they’ve done is wrong but don’t actually regret or feel bad for doing it.

But that’s definitely not how I feel and I really hope you believe me.

I feel like I’m chasing a ghost that I’ve caught glimpses of but still don’t believe it’s real. Except ghosts cannot be captured. And I know I have a problem and every once in a while I start to believe it’s gone but then it re-appears. I know I should get help, but somehow that seems to be the hardest part.

What happened last night should never have happened.

The flame had trailed back to the can for the first time in my life and I glimpsed how foolish my sense of control was. I vowed to myself that I’d relax for the rest of the summer and I looked forward to getting away to Binghamton in a couple months. It wouldn’t be far from home, and it wouldn’t be luxurious, but it would grant me a break, some freedom. What the fuck did I want out of life? Was I happy with what I’d done and been so far? What changes did I want to make?

I’d finally have some space to formulate some sort of answers about my life up until then.

Uncategorized

How the ordinary feels unusual

This post is from my second semester at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Spring 2014.


This past semester has been one of the strangest I’ve had to date. At the age of 23, having attended a total of 9 semesters for varying lengths at 4 different colleges and universities, I’ve seen a lot of strange. I’ve studied in Shanghai for six months, where I tried coke for the first time in the basement of a dingy bar with a Ghanaian drug smuggler.

In my first semester of college I joined the club hockey team at SUNY Albany, and was initiated through a “rookie night” wherein the upper-classmen tricked the rookies by telling them after a Friday night game that we’d be having a team dinner the next day.

“Dress nice because we’re going to the Olive Garden,” they told us.

And, in my excitement for a good team dinner, I fasted the whole day, arrived at the given address, and became very confused when myself and my fellow rookies were corralled into the back yard, instructed to pick-up all the debris that had accumulated from the previous years’ parties, and given beer–warmed in the oven to maximize our enjoyment–to drink. Needless to say, this rookie night got weird and, you might guess, involved absolutely zero food or motherfucking Olive Garden. Instead, I was fed copious amounts of Genny and plastic-bottle-vodka. Actually, they fed me some bread and crackers later in the night, but only after I began crying.

Why was I crying? Well, after a few hours of vodka and cheap beer stewing in my virgin stomach, strippers appeared while I was running around the house in a drunken state of freshman excitement. Of course, after realizing there were big breasted ladies in the house I wanted a lap-dance like all of my teammates. The only problem was that I had no cash to pay for said lap-dance. So I tried claiming my stake in the lap-dance chair until someone would take pity on my stubbornness and pay for me. Instead, the upperclassmen just shoved me out of the chair and escorted me into the basement. On the way I cut my forehead by head-butting a window in protest. When the blood began to gush is about when I began crying.

So, instead of bonding with teammates over a good dose of lazy-eyed, oversized, fake boobs, I got to spend that lovely time in the basement, by myself, covering up my forehead with paper towels and crying while I ate plain bread.

But this past fall semester at HWS? Probably a bit more strange.

It was strange because it was the first time I sought help to understand who I am, how I got this way and why that matters, with the final goal to take all of these ideas, internalize them, and try to live a better life. And this help came in the form of an appointment at the counseling center.

In my experience, college students generally have a clear picture of how they view addiction. It’s the student who goes out four nights a week and skips class frequent enough that you have to guess when they’ll be there. Or maybe it’s more extreme. Maybe they fall down the stairs in a drunken stupor and have to wear a neck brace for the next eight weeks. Either way (again this is anecdotal) I rarely encounter people who wonder about how that “addict” doesn’t realize their issue, if at all. What are the contributing factors to their behavior? How does one even admit an addiction? And what comes after that?

It was these sorts of questions that made me question my drinking. Many would say if you question whether you have an addiction you probably have one. I think that’s a bit over simplistic, but, after having attended some counseling sessions I learned that I’m 98% likely to become an alcoholic. This is based off of my personal drinking habits, which I perceived as normal for someone my age, and various other factors like the rate of alcoholism within my family (existing in both of my grandfathers, with my dad being a “dry drunk”). Somewhere in my story about strippers and cocaine the strangeness I experienced this Fall at HWS may have been lost. Without going into too much detail, my choice to cut back on drinking–a lot–and to go to the counseling center, along with the introspection which accompanied these appointments, were the main contributing factors. I felt uncomfortable in simply setting up an appointment. And it seems problematic that these healthy actions felt so unusual and burdensome. Hopefully writing about these topics will help weaken the stigma surrounding the counseling center, simultaneously making it less strange for others who feel the same way as I did when setting up my first appointment. Something as simple as meeting with someone where you can say whatever you want, without any fear of judgment, shouldn’t feel so heavy or wrong.

I’m not telling you to not do something. If you want to try drugs with Ghanaian smugglers or drink ‘til you pass out, that’s your decision. It can be pretty fun. I’m just saying don’t be an asshole to someone when they start figuring out the repercussions of their actions and want to sort out their life. College can be a crazy time. If you’re not the one feeling strange now, you will at some point. And it’ll be nice to be able to sort that out without added difficulty.