Sitting and Breathing: Day 26

Oof. Last night involved a lot of drinking. Well… The last two nights, I guess. Saturday was particularly hectic at the rooftop bar, so the whole staff drank together after we closed. Then I saw one of my coworkers at the bar on ground level, and he convinced me (it did not take a lot of convincing) to join him and the two ladies he just met at a late-night spot.

I spent much of my time hitting on the wait staff and ignoring the two women he brought with us. Interestingly, both of the ladies I was interested in had neon-colored hair – one was lavender and the other was lime green. Finally one of the two that my coworker was chatting up snapped and insisted that they go back to their hotel (they were staying at the hotel on top of which was our place of work).

In the Lyft on the way home, the one who snapped kept making drunk, biting commentary, and I found it very funny. She was, however, not trying to be funny, so her friend got mad at me for continuously chuckling at how ridiculous the situation was. I excused myself and made my way to the train station to go home.

I got home when the sun came up on Sunday, went right to sleep, and got to work only slightly late yesterday afternoon. I dutifully stood in the doorway of the pub until around 8pm (taking only brief pauses in professionalism to chat up the attractive campaign manager for the alderman who was having a fundraiser there), then my manager and I had a few drinks after clocking out.

Well, it was karaoke night at the pub, and my thought was, “I’ll just sing one song, then I’ll get out of here.” I sang California Love by 2Pac, but the words were wrong on the screen, which distracted me, and fucked up my performance. I couldn’t leave on a bad note, right?! So I signed up for another one. A few more drinks later, I was flitting around from table to table buying shots for small groups of customers with my employee discount.

At one point my coworker thought, “Man, Sean knows everybody in here!” Then he listened in on one of my conversations and realized that I didn’t really know anybody and I was just starting conversations with people at random. Before I knew it, the bar was closing and it was time for me to go home.

Fastforward to today: after tending to my rather severe hangover with some greasy Colombian food and strong coffee, I decided I had better do that whole meditating thing I’ve been doing lately. Luckily, today’s meditation was on quieting the inner critic, which was serendipitous because he’s particularly loud on days after some drinking goes on. The goal was to focus on a recent negative emotion (I chose regret), and sit with it and work through what it feels like and what comprises the list of associated concerns.

So I played out the worst-case scenario: I get fired from this job. I don’t think it’ll happen (my other coworkers drink rather heavily, so I’m in good company there), but what if it did? Well, I’d be down to just two jobs. I’d up my availability at both of them, and I’d be just fine. The takeaway from any real deep diving on failure is, “Life keeps going.”

Again, I ended up crying during the meditation. I’m finding that I spend most of my days when I’m upset just being marginally upset. I hold the emotions on the fringes of my mind while I focus on getting things done, and they just sort of sit there gnawing at my awareness the whole day. Meditation gives me the opportunity to stare them directly in the face, take them in fully, and profile them so I better understand them.

So much of my time is spent trying to be or look happy that I don’t get the opportunity to sit with my feelings, and it turns out there are a lot of them eating away at me. It’s relieving to confront them. It’s so very necessary to feel. Ultimately, I’m more happy because I let myself be sad or angry or whatever more fully. Meditation doesn’t make me emotionless, it helps me be at peace with the fact that I’m going to have unpleasant emotions sometimes, and that’s okay.

I could definitely stand to drink a little less, though. I’ll give you that one.

Sitting and Breathing: Day 19

I didn’t want to do the meditation thing today. I mean… I did it, but I didn’t want to. I woke up and watched that new movie on Brexit, went to FedEx to get new passport photos and print out some stuff that needed signing, and get my dog some food. Then I watched the bus – not more than 30 feet from me – roll away from my stop right when traffic cleared enough for me to cross the street.

“FUCK!” I yelled as I hefted the 33lb bag of dog food higher onto my shoulder. I conceded defeat and called a Lyft.

See? Now I’m avoiding talking about meditation by telling you about my day. Today was Thinking Meditation, which has a simple premise – acknowledge that you’re having thoughts and that those thoughts don’t make you who you are. Let them come and go like visitors. Well, I wasn’t too interested in any visitors today, but I sat down and breathed for a while about it anyway.

The other night I had a small gathering at my house, and I essentially unwittingly connected a person whom I am interested in with another of my friends by inviting them both to the same place. Then I invited everyone back to my apartment, and by doing that I handed them a space to hook up in. I fell asleep briefly on my couch, and when I woke up to move to my bed, I had to kick them out of my room.

I don’t harbor any animosity toward either of them – we’re all adults and we all like to party. I wasn’t, however, entirely okay with it either. I’d been avoiding putting any direct light on it in my mind, and I knew that today’s meditation practice would undoubtedly settle on the subject. Sometimes being right is annoying.

It was necessary that I do this today (both the meditating and the writing about it). I needed to show myself that I could stick to this, and I also needed some concentrated time to process my feelings on the matter.

I’m left feeling like the partying lifestyle is no longer one I’m terribly interested in pursuing. That’s not to say that I’ll shun partying going forward, necessarily, but I don’t feel as drawn to it as I once did. Each time I engage in some partying, I’m left with a feeling of remorse. I wish I hadn’t spent the money I did, I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on meaningless conversations that nobody remembers the next day, and I wish I hadn’t set myself up for hurting yet again.

Additionally, I feel like I’m trying to combat loneliness with these social interactions, and they’re only making it worse. Clearly, I’m a social being and it’s necessary to foster relationships with people, but I feel like I’m being selfish by getting close to people here because I know I’ll just be leaving next January. I’m not sure where the happy medium is there, but it’s something I’ll be putting some serious thought into going forward.

I don’t feel like rereading this, so sorry if there are typos or whatever. I’ll be back with more sitting and breathing tomorrow. Cheers.

Ocean’s MX-6

One of the 5 cars I totaled before the age of 20 was a white, Mazda MX-6. It was sporty, and handled great, and I once got up to 132 mph on the road to Las Vegas (rattling and shaking, maybe, but I got there). I loved that car, and I was constantly looking for ways to modify it, but my budget was always a major limiting factor – my eyes were (and still are) bigger than my wallet. I decided my car needed new, flashy wheels and tires, budget-be-damned.

I drove around the area between my house in Chatsworth and my school in Woodland Hills trying to find a set of wheels worth my attention. After maybe two hours, I spotted a set of wheels on a Mustang that really popped, and the game was afoot.

I went online and found the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power emblem, and had large decals printed. I collected safety vests from my friend who worked at a grocery store (the employees collecting carts from the parking lot are required to wear them). I got a pickup truck and a construction light from a friend whose dad worked in construction. I collected safety cones as I passed them on the Valley streets, and threw them into the back of the truck.

With all my supplies collected, I convened a gathering of my friends to go over the plan. The car was located on a curved street in a quiet neighborhood, so cones would be set up on both entrances, and the truck would be stationed at one of the road blocks (complete with flashing orange light and LADWP stickers; the driver even had a DWP hat because his dad worked there when he was younger). The rest of the “pit crew” and I would be dressed in all black, and have gloves on so as not to leave any prints at the scene. One side of the Mustang would be lifted with a two-ton jack, the wheels would come off, and cinder blocks would be replace them. Then we’d do the other side. For expedience, I had already gone and loosened the lug nuts an hour prior (luckily they didn’t try to drive away in the interim).

The groundwork was laid, the plan understood, so we piled into the two getaway vehicles and got to work. The road blocks went up and the crew ran to the target. There were some minor hiccups with the jack, but overall the whole thing went very smoothly.

A car approached the roadblock, but my friend with the DWP hat intercepted him saying, “I’m sorry, but there’s a sewage leak that we’re addressing. Shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.” Exactly as rehearsed.

The tires were off, the car set back down on the blocks, and everything was thrown quickly into the truck. Cones were loaded up, and the crew got into a separate vehicle, and everybody went in different directions. We met back up at the house, adrenaline still coursing through our veins. We had done it. With vastly more planning and forethought than was necessary, we put a car on cinder blocks and scored a new set of wheels.

In the name of poetic justice, the tires were too big to fit on the MX-6, so they were stored in my friend’s yard, where they were promptly stolen by someone else. Then I totaled the poor thing not long after. In hindsight, the wheels were never the real goal, just a way for my friends and I to alleviate our teenage boredom with the high that comes from doing illegal shit. In other words, it was totally worth it. What a rush.

The Shark Limo

Screenshot_20181005-161552.pngPer my party prep SOP, I perused the aisles of the nearest Goodwill, looking for outlandish dayglow pieces that would really pop under blacklight. They couldn’t just be regular glow-in-the-dark pieces of clothing – they had to be nonsense enough to stand out in a sea of people aiming to stand out. Pro tip: the children and women’s sections have better party clothes by a mile and change than the men’s section.

I settled on a highlighter yellow pair of boy’s running shorts, and a neon pink puffy vest. I barely fit into both, so they were perfect. On my out, I also spotted a neon green hat with “VIVA” printed across the front. After wriggling myself into my new outfit and some concerted effort on the inebriation front, I was ready to go.

On the way in, I went past the bouncers searching people at the main entrance, to the side of the building, and slipped what I had into my shoe. I saw a guy next to me put his hand to his ear as I went back around to the front.

“Throw away whatever you have in your shoe. I’m not going to argue with you – just make this easier for all of us and throw it away,” the large, suited man said. Clearly he had been on the other end of the communique I walked away from.

“Damn fine work, gentlemen. You got it.” I reached down to my shoe, and simultaneously into my pocket pink pocket (in the vest – get your head out of the gutter). I pulled out a cigarette wrapper and threw it into the trash as I palmed the contents of my shoe behind my phone.

“Thanks for being cool about it – you good,” he said with a nod.

Sucker.

At parties in club or bar settings, I go into autopilot. I bounce between the bar, the dance floor, and the bathroom with fairly reckless abandon, letting Whim guide me around at its leisure. It’s normally too loud inside to have conversations longer than, “I LOVE YOUR OUTFIT!” And I don’t always appreciate the amount of spittle involved in those close-quarter convos.

This party was no different, and I found myself on the smoking patio for much of the night. I preferred it there – partly because of my nicotine addiction, sure, but mainly because I actually got to speak to people and get to know them. I’m a glutton for conversation with strangers, and I was feeling particularly ravenous that evening.

2am came screeching in behind the veil of smoke and alcohol I had erected in front of me. As we were getting booted from the place, the guy I was chatting with said, “You seem cool. You wanna come with us to the after party in my limo?”

Why yes, I did. I went to the club with friends, but the allure of a privately owned limousine was too good to pass up, so I was a shitty friend, and I said goodbye to the people I came with. I was down on myself about that for as long as it took the limo owner to pull out a magnetic shark fin that he stuck to the top. “How fuckin’ cool is this?!” he shouted. It was really cool. My mood improved.

The ride to the after party was rowdy. The attractive couple that owned the limo also owned a champagne gun – like a squirt gun that you could affix bottles of champagne directly to – and I was immediately shot in the eye with it. But dammit what fun! Scantily clad and covered in sticky, bubbly goodness, we danced and slid around the back of the limo, randomly yelling at passersby out the windows (how else would they know we were enjoying ourselves in there?). I was glad my outfit only set me back ten bucks – money well-spent.

We poured out of the limo and into what can only be described as a party house. It was a dark labyrinth with a different theme for each room and cushions packed into every available space. There was a DJ booth in the darkest depths, and I vaguely recall dancing, but again, most of my time was spent on the smoking patio.

My voice tends to carry, and it might have contributed to the cops finally showing up to shut the thing down. They wandered in and did their best to kick everybody out. They were largely successful. I wandered away, but because I didn’t have a ride, I just kind of meandered around for a while, then the cops left, so I went back inside and continued partying. The windows were all blacked out, so I was surprised when 10am showed up on my watch.

The next time I looked at it, it was 3pm, and I was just waking up. There were very few party goers left, and I was underneath a large area rug that I equated with a blanket at some point. I stumbled around until I found the guy who ran the party den.

“Hey, can I use your phone to call myself an Uber?” I asked.

“I don’t have Uber on my phone, man.”

“Okay, well can I download it, then use my card to get myself an Uber?”

“Sure,” he said finally.

I squinted my eyes as I walked out into the afternoon heat of the San Fernando Valley. I don’t think that I audibly hissed, but I might’ve. I had 45 minutes to explain my outfit to my driver on the way to the house of the friend I abandoned at the club. He was enthralled, but I had a hard time sharing his enthusiasm because I was now quite aware of how much I needed a shower. When the ride was over I thanked him for listening, apologized for the smell, and begrudgingly stumbled back into real life.

The Shadow Dragon

I had never seen – no less purchased – LSD before, so when the young man handed me the small strip of paper I asked, “About how many doses would you say this is?”

“About eleven,” he estimated. Normally they’re cut into small, individual tabs of paper, but this was one long piece that I would have to cut myself. I was preparing for a visit from a high school friend, and a colorful trip to Golden Gate Park with him the next day. I couldn’t very well embark on the trip without trying the stuff first, though – I had to make sure it was good and suss out what the effects were before a more public excursion.

I sat in my dorm room, cut off a small piece of paper, and stuck it in my mouth per my instructions. I waited about 45 minutes and thought, “Well I’m not feeling anything. Must not be that good. I’ll cut off another piece.” I did this another four or five times before I started to feel something. Turns out, the onset time is longer than I originally anticipated, and I probably could’ve stopped at one.

I stayed in the safety of my room for a while, then reasoned that I better eat something – I hadn’t eaten all day. I got up the courage to walk down the long flight of stairs to the cafeteria. Halfway down the stairs I stopped and stared at the trees, that were now clearly waving hello to me. I thought it’d be rude to ignore them, so I waved back saying, “Hello, trees,” then I continued down the stairs.

I stood in line, scanned my card, and collected my tray of roast beef and mashed potatoes with gravy. I sat in a table by myself, and was certain that every conversation happening around me was now about me. Not only that, but the small cafeteria I entered was now a giant and expanding food hall. As for my classmates, they were all now dinosaurs a la the 90’s television show Dinosaurs.

I hunched over in my seat trying to focus on my food and ignore the gossipy reptiles around me, but when my roast beef moved as I cut into it, I decided to give up on eating. I pushed my plate of living tissue away from me, and made my exit avoiding eye contact so as not to upset any T-rexes on my way out.

Back in the safety of my room, I turned to Guitar Hero for solace. I played better than I had ever played in my life up to that point or since. It was like I was one with my fake guitar. After a while I couldn’t handle the pace, and I was satisfied with my performance, so I turned out all the lights and got into my loft bed. I tried pulling the covers over my head, but my eyes were glued open.

I pulled the covers off, and was confronted by the Shadow Dragon. His beaming eyes looked right at me, and his long whiskers and body shifted around ceaselessly as if blown by a light breeze. He spoke to me in a deep, rolling voice that sounded like thunder. We talked for a while about life, then he was slain in the instant my roommate threw open the door and drenched the walls he called home with the light from the hallway.

“What have you done?!” I yelled at him.

“Uh… What are you talking about?” he asked, looking around the room. I explained everything to him about the dragon, and he said, “Hold on a second.” He ran out of the room, and returned a few moments later with four other people from our floor. They sat me in the middle of the room and quizzed me about the goings on in my day. I told them about the trees, the dinosaurs, how I killed it at Guitar Hero, and finally about the Shadow Dragon.

Eventually, I stopped mid-sentence, and sat there silently for a second. “I’m sorry, but I feel like I’m on stage and it’s freaking me out.” They all courteously excused themselves and I returned to the waking darkness of the room by myself, hoping for an opportunity to say my goodbyes to the Shadow Dragon who had guided me through a tumultuous time in my night.

Alas, I fell asleep after an hour or so, and I never saw or spoke to him again. If you’re out there reading this, Shadow Dragon, thank you, and farewell.

The Desert in the Off Season

We were greeted at our camp site by a ten foot tall neon green penis that sprayed a light, refreshing mist during the day, and shot fire from its tip in the evenings. We piled out of the Lincoln Town Car I rented to shuttle us to, from, and around the desert, and set up a camp of tents, shoddy 2×4 supporting structures, and an old parachute. It was Black Rock Desert, but there was no organization okaying our presence, no expensive tickets, no large-scale art or upsettingly large stacks of speakers pumping out garbled untz noises at 5am, and no rules.

After being there a couple hours my friend asked, “Hey are you cool with me taking the trunk off of that Town Car so we can fit more people in it?”

“If you feel confident that you can get it back on, then yes, absolutely!” He was a mechanic, so I felt confident in his abilities, and I also loved the idea. We were now able to (somewhat) comfortably transport up to 13 people at a time, meaning we¬†were the party wherever we showed up.

When I wasn’t building or tinkering, I spent most of the daytime hours in the open desert teaching people how to do donuts in the Town Car, and lounging around at or near Frog Pond (ponds, really – it was a collection of small hot springs) in varying amounts of clothes. My particularly eccentric Ukrainian friend liked gathering the small fish or tadpoles inhabiting the pond into his mouth, then spitting them onto anybody who asked why his cheeks were puffed out. It was hilarious.

The evening rolled around, and my friend said, “Would you like any of the liquid acid I brought?” I feel like you can all guess what my answer was. “How many drops do you want?”

“I dunno. Three? Four? That sounds reasonable.”

“Okay, tilt your head back and open your mouth. One… Two… Thr- OOPS!”

“Throops?! How many is throops?!”

“Uh… Maybe like… Eight to ten?”

Great. Clearly it was time to load up into the Town Car and head out into the desert. There were thousands of people spread out over the vast expanse of public land (you were only legally allowed to have so many people at each campsite, which seemed to be the only rule people were interested in following), so you just had to drive toward the lights to find a group partying. For some reason, I was still elected to be the driver, and we may or may not have spent 30 minutes following around a car with a flashing light on it, and we must have visited upwards of ten different locations.

My friend that throopsed me and I stood watching a group burn a five-foot high wooden man, and they neglected to tell us that they filled it with fireworks. One of them zipped right between our heads; neither of us moved. We turned slowly to each other and I said, “Well that was close, huh?” Then we laughed until it was time to move on to the next place.

When we’d had our fill of nonsense, we headed back through the pitch black desert to our camp. I was still driving, but my passenger was dictating all of my wheel turns, as I could not see. “Okay, straight. Left… LEFT! MORE LEFT!” We narrowly avoided a large muddy patch that the car would have sunken into, and I finally decided I had had enough of the driving thing, stopped, and made my passenger drive, which he was basically already doing. When we got back, I did that cartoon thing Homer Simpson does where you spin around in circles on the ground saying, “WOOOOOP, WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP!” until I got tired and went to bed.

The finale of the event comes in the form of a 30-foot tall frog with vampire teeth and bat wings, made primarily from wood and propane tanks, constructed at the far end of the shooting range (there was a shooting range). I took my shotgun and lined up with about 40 to 50 other naked or nearly naked people with guns, then someone yelled, “Holy shit, it’s a Frog Bat!” And everyone opened fire.

The explosions reverberated through your bones, and the thing went up in a glorious mushroom cloud of smoke, fire, and Frog Bat bits. Having slain the beast, there was nothing to do but pack up, put the trunk back on, and head home – tired, hungover, sunburnt, and victorious.

Live Bugs and Too Much Beer

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If you were to say, “Yesterday was too much!” you would not be wrong. I woke up particularly early yesterday because I was scheduled to sign a lease for my new apartment at 10am, but I needed to deliver an assortment of live bugs to a friend of a friend before a certain time, and I wasn’t sure how long the apartmenting would take. I made it to Petsmart right when they opened, but apparently there’s a shortage of mealworms in the Chicago area. I called a nearby Petco, they said they had them, and apparently the staff at Petco likes to lie to people because they definitely did not have them when I got there. 20 crickets, 50 night crawlers and a bottle of freeze-dried mealworms would have to do.

Brief aside: I got a new apartment. It’s a third story (4th if you count the bottom floor) walk up in a very nice neighborhood in the northern portion of the city. Nothing makes you feel like you have a lot of stuff like having to haul all of it up 43 steep and winding stairs. The electricity wasn’t on, though, and won’t be until tomorrow, so I write to you from another hotel where I’ve consumed vastly too much room service food to combat yesterday’s hangover.

Back to yesterday. In exchange for the bug delivery (which I discovered was for a performer who was to eat them in front of an audience), I was given two VIP wristbands to the Lagunitas Beer Circus, which allowed me access and as much free beer as I wanted. I made friends with a couple ladies in the face painting line, and we went to their apartment for more drinking. After they switched into evening attire, we went to one of their friend’s houses. Shortly after arriving, the ladies followed the friend into a separate room, and one of the roommates asked me nicely to leave. I wasn’t given a reason, just told it was time for me to go. Now, I know I can be noisy sometimes, but I still feel like that was a dick move on their part, and I look forward to whatever opportunities going forward I get to shit talk them (like this blog for example).

I hailed a cab and moved on to the next place, which unbeknownst to me was smack in the middle of a street fair called Market Days in Chicago. It’s like a gay pride block party, complete with music and dancing and food and an overabundance of alcohol. I stayed there until they started moving the party into the surrounding bars, then I found a karaoke place close to my house to wind down the last couple hours of the evening/morning.

I ordered halal pizza to be delivered to me, and waited in the passenger seat of my car for it to arrive because I had had enough of those stairs, but according to the 4 missed calls on my phone and the lack of pizza remnants in my car/home, I’m guessing I fell asleep before it arrived. It is now 8pm, and I just now got up the energy to put my fingers on a keyboard. Good game, Chicago.