Living the American dream, one arrest at a time.

Just another day. I was headed in to work, and due to my impeccable timing, missed the bus. No problem– cabs exist for a reason.

Shortly after calling a driver pulls up to me, smiling.

“Oh, I am very sorry, do you want me to open the trunk for your bag?”

“No, no! I’ve got it, I’m ok.”

He was so cheerful. He had a great big smile on his face, and asked where I was headed. I told him my theater, and he became excited and animated. “Are you a musician!?” No, no. I am not. I told him about my job, and Kamran whipped out his phone.

“I was in a band! Would you like to see?”

The rest that followed simply blew me away.

Kamran came to the United States permanently in 1996, he said. Most of his musical success came in the early to mid 80s.

“It doesn’t look or sound as good as I’d like. It is fifth generation video you’re watching. There! That’s me, on the keyboards!”

We talked shop for a while. He told me of the songs they would play, and how he set up a camera system to show video and the crowd at their shows, “which in Pakistan, nobody really had done that before. We played a kind of music and put on shows that were special. We were number one in my country, can you believe that?”

It’s when I dug a bit deeper that the conversation steered to a darker tone.

“So what made you stop playing?”

“Ah. Well, I was kidnapped…”

He didn’t say anything else about that for a while. We continued along the road, exchanging videos of music and discussing his adoration for playing. Kamran explained how after a while, his band broke up, so he started a solo career.

“I couldn’t sing! I didn’t care. They loved me, on TV. So I wrote a song, made this music, shot a video… all in one day. They put it on the TV. They did love me very much, there.” He dug around in his center console and pulled out a tape.

“This was us! I like to show this to people and play it for them. The memories make me so happy. It’s sad but happy.”

The Arid Zone tape

After a while we came up on my work, but I couldn’t leave it at that. He seemed to dance around the subject of why he came to the US, but I could tell he wanted to approach it. “So… what’s your story then? Why are you here?”

“I came here at first to learn English in 1991. That’s why I come, I wanted to know! I liked it here, too.”

I started unloading my bag, but I had to hear more. I told him I was planning on writing this out, telling his story, even if I only had minimal details. “I’d really love to hear more about what happened to you, if that’s ok.”

“Sure! But it will make you cry.”

“I was so big in Pakistan. I was a model, too! Here!” He shows me TV ads with him selling products, posing for the camera, taking a well timed sip of coffee for the advertisement. It is all very 80s kitsch, and it is awesome for that.

“I had money. So, of course, I was kidnapped. They only wanted money from us. The bad thing, I was dating a woman who had a father involved in the US military or… I think security company from US? And her father sent men to intimidate and hurt the ones that captured me. My father, he told them what a horrible idea. Now I could be killed. He sent me away to the states, afraid for my life. That was in 1996. I lived here, I got my degree, everything was fine. I have degree in business and management, I knew what I was doing. But then…”

He got a bit quieter. My time was running short to make it into work on time. We had long since turned off the meter in the cab, and I hadn’t even paid yet… but I couldn’t leave.

“Then 9/11 happened. I was married by then, but my wife, she didn’t want me anymore. So she reported me as a terrorist. I was taken away by the FBI. She took it all… my house, my money, my life. She left our son in foster care, she never wanted him. After a while they realized I wasn’t a bad man and they let me go, but it was too late. She got everything and now I had a record as being arrested for terrorism. I was never convicted, but it didn’t matter. I can’t get a job except this. I even asked the FBI, please… this is my life, just remove this from my record, it’s ruining everything. But no. even though I am innocent it is still there, and always will be.”

He pulled out his phone and showed me the background image of a smiling, handsome young man.

“My son! This is my baby. It took me two years to find him again in the foster system. Two years to get him back. I told them, this is my son, get your own. This is my baby. They fought me so hard, but he is my boy. I couldn’t lose my baby.”

“I lost everything, but it is good. God does this… how is it? He gives you the world, but then he tests you. He takes it all away from you as a test. And it was good… before I was just too greedy. So much money, money money money. Now, after I had nothing, I can smile. Little things, you know? I am happy, God has been so good to me. I am alive! You just… just stay happy, and realize what you do have.”

I couldn’t stay any longer and I told him as much. I hated to leave, but I had work to do. He gave me his card with his number, and I asked him to turn and smile for the camera for me so that I wouldn’t forget his face or his story.

“Oh, don’t worry. You will never forget.”

I won't forget Kamran.

I won’t forget, Kamran.

For the curious, and my hatred for “sorry.”

A lot of people, on a daily basis, ask me how I’m feeling. Some even treat me like I’m on my deathbed, which makes me feel all kinds of special. It gets a bit daunting reciting the same thing every day, especially since a good portion of people know I have multiple systems working against me at once, and they want details. I’m writing this up as a small guide to How I Feel™, and a bit of the why. I skipped the smaller stuff, because these are the main concerns out to suck my life force.

Let’s start with the big dog everyone is worried about: The thing in my head.

The first culprit:

First, some perspective. Here’s the area the thing is, called the petrous apex:

Image

And this is what it looks like when there’s a thingy in there (this is not my head): Image

Not pretty, eh? Doesn’t feel pretty either. It doesn’t have very far to go when it grows, so it pushes on the facial nerves. Or the carotid artery, your inner ear canal and various innards. Eventually it will wreck all your shit in there and start eroding the bone keeping it out of your brain. That’s not good either, I think you can guess why… we like having brains They’re good for us! Best left uneroded.

So due to this happy little bastard in the right side of my skull (bonus: while looking for this, they found my sinus cavity has cysts. Explains the sinus infections!)  I am usually trying my best not to fall to the right (balance and all that, dizziness) I always have a headache, I can’t hear terribly well, sometimes my ear bleeds. My face will go numb and become difficult to speak with, or just tingle til I want to remove the skin. The pain will go down the back of my neck into my shoulder, and radiate as far down as it likes. Couple this with my previous issues from too many concussions and I’m a speechless, slurring, hard of hearing, forgetful idiot sometimes. I’ve become a professional at hiding it, however, so most people just think I’m drunk. It’s fun to play with.

What we have learned:

I still am not sure what it is. They just keep referring to it as a granuloma, which is slang for we don’t fucking know. It isn’t fun, and makes my head all stupid. I cannot afford treatment so I just deal with it.

The second culprit:

Next up, most of you are aware I have Crohn’s. I will not provide any pictures with this one because asses and poop. So this one is actually a bastard, since it’s been with me for the last twenty-five years. It never gets better, and I certainly cannot afford the medications for it, so I just go about my day til I end up in the hospital for it eventually.

What this one does is simple in some respects. It is an autoimmune disease, and it attacks (mainly) part of your digestive tract. Any part it pleases really, so it could be a surprise! Mine has no specific place, so it’s always a gamble when I go in and wave my hand absently around my stomach at the doctor when he asks where it hurts.

“It hurts about from the everything here to all my everything. Please fix k.”

But! It doesn’t just hurt your tummy and make eating a chore. It can wreck your eyesight from inflammation, cause nasty arthritis, skin problems, various body pains and all around ick. Everywhere. Kinda like the idea of lupus but with more crapping. That’s only in the more hardcore cases on the moderate to severe scale, though, and most people get remissions.

I have it moderate to severe and I’ve not had a remission for more than a a couple months in ten years. So you can guess how I feel, usually.

What we have learned:

Shit sucks, yo. Nah seriously, those times I rapidly lose weight, saying “you should eat more” is a fine way to get a big fat shut the fuck up your ass. I have no qualms about putting things in your ass, either– I’ve had it done to me often enough, and the bastard made me pay him.

The third culprit:

And last but not least, the kidneys! How could we forget the kidneys? Most of you probably don’t know that in my family, we have a nifty guy hitching about in our DNA called PKD, or polycystic-kidney disease. It looks like (fair warning, ick) this:

Image

Also not pretty stuff. This one tends to shut down the kidneys and put you on the everlasting list of doom awaiting another from a donor, while little machines pump fluids in and out of you so you don’t die. Mine haven’t failed as of yet, but this still comes with bonuses.

I found out very much by accident after having some scans taken when I injured myself a few times in one year (I got hit by a moving van, later fell and wrecked my knee, etc. Good year!) the doctor pulled me aside and asked me very calmly, yet distressed, “did you know about this before, or am I the unlucky one to tell you?” I sort of looked at it a while. I was sinking inside. I knew it ran in the family, but I had no idea it was in me already. The scan said, too many cysts to count. I lied to that doctor, sort of. I said I knew. Didn’t want to bring him down a bit too, y’know.

So with this one you get lots of goodies. Cysts can show up where they damn well please. I have them all over my ovaries, one or two on the liver, and who knows where else by now. The kidneys just keep getting larger and larger, so the other organs get squished about. It does a bunch of other awful things but we’ll skip those for now. This compliments Crohn’s nicely, since things get inflamed and also grow about. If I look a bit chubby for a week, it’s because my organs are fighting for space, now go away and let me eat cookies while I cry.

What have we learned:

Coupled with my spinal injuries from the van incident, along with scoliosis, I’m a back pain masterpiece. Kidney disease hurts. And if there’s a new way for me to sit uncomfortably, I’ll find it. I’m that good. 

So the main thing to take from this is: I’m always in a wide variety of pain, all of the time. It doesn’t stop, no matter what. It changes in ferocity but never goes away. It has been this way for a long time, and it won’t stop, either. So when you ask me how I feel, if I say I’m fine, I’m fine. My fine may be a bit different from your definition of fine (my ear only bled ONCE today and I ate a whole sandwich! I AM GOD) but seriously, it’s cool.

Don’t tell me “I’m so sorry.” I don’t like sorry. You didn’t make me sick, why the hell are you saying sorry?! There’s nothing to be sorry for, I’m fine. Do I have bad days and want to shoot the offending areas? Of course. Add to it having no insurance to get help with any of this, and I’m just a pleasant fucker all the time.

But, I don’t care. I still make sure I do what the hell I want to, when I want to. Go out and climb a tree? Damn right. See my friends until 6 am for the fuck of it? Yes please. My body may fight it, but there’s no joy in hiding from life. There are times I don’t want to run about, so I play video games and eat pizza. Nothing wrong with that! Why? I’m not dead. I’m not dead, I should have been a number of times, but I’m not. So I’d say that’s doing pretty damn ok. I’m not sorry for that.

“Oh how awful for you, gosh you’re so brave.” Greatest line of crap slung about. I won’t get better. It’s just how shit is. I’m not “so brave” as people love to throw around at sick people, or people who deal with shit that lots of people deal with. I’m not special, bravery and heroics are for people who do something extraordinary in the face of danger or self destruction. Example: nobody decides to get ill and beat it, they just either do or don’t, depending on how awful it is. I have friends that survived cancer and scoff every time someone calls them brave. It’s not easy, it’s impressive, and it’s a fine show of their strength. But calling me brave because I put up with something I don’t have a choice in is silly. When you’re sick you just do what you have to in order to survive. It’s not brave, it’s normal survival instinct. 

There is nothing to feel bad about in being strong. There is also nothing to feel bad about for not being “brave.” I never ran into a burning building to save orphans, I haven’t stood in the face of my mortal enemy and taken a bullet for my comrades. That’s bravery. Survival instinct is a nice primal attribute to have. If you don’t blow your brains out when shit gets bad, good for you! You’re like most people.

We’re all just living, and trying to keep from dying. It’s natural.

You either keep moving with what bullshit you’ve been handed, or you lay down and rot while people pet you with meaningless words. It’s strength of your own will, the strength of your body, the people and doctors around you pushing for more. You’re just surviving. Other people help, as well as their love and affection, but in the end there’s still just you when it’s time for bed and the anxious thoughts creep in as the light goes out. When the fear slips in, how it gets handled is up to you.

Am I happy? Not really. Pain is, well, a pain, and it drags you down. Sometimes I get extremely mad, but that’s just me being a pussy. Everybody gets to be a pussy sometimes! However, I am not UNhappy. I’m alright, nice and middle of the road.

Alright is good enough for me.

So next time you ask, no, I am not feeling well. Just don’t feed me lines about how bad you feel for me. I don’t feel bad for me. I feel bad for those that let these things hold them down, or define themselves by it. So what if I’m sick? Everyone gets sick, feels bad, has a hard life. People die, people get injured. It may not make it seem fair or good, but it happens to us all.

I prefer to empathize with others instead of feel awful for them. A simple, “hey, I understand life sucks, I too am a living creature. Need a hand?” Words of care are more effective if they go beyond “sorry.” Tell someone who is sick you’re there if they need you, and mean it if you do. Bring them a damn cookie or something if you feel bad! Saying sorry is an easy way to think “my job here is done, I felt bad for the unfortunate today!” Give ‘em a hug or some shit. Sickness can be isolating, and knowing everyone just pities you for somehow being unhealthy can make it worse.

Treating people like they’re nothing but an illness and deserve to be coddled helps no one. If they literally need to be taken care of because their body gave out, by all means. Don’t abandon someone because they have become infirm! But otherwise, encourage them to do the things they love if they are capable, help keep them from sinking into the easy out: the little depressive hole. If they do fall into it, just talk to them. Reinforcing to someone who feels terrible that everyone else just pities them is helping it continue. Give a depressed person reason to think everything really is that awful solidifies their reasoning. You may not be able to fix anyone, but you can at least not contribute to the problem. Remember that they are still people, and deserve to be treated as such.  I get tired of being seen as some sick person, and not me. 

I don’t feel sorry for myself. Why should anyone else? I reserve my feelings of pity for hurt animals, small children, and men with small penises. As far as I know my penis is huge.

However, I do like cookies, so that’s pretty ok.

Look how dusty this poor thing is.

It’s amazing the things you tend to set aside when all else starts falling on your head.

This year– oh, 2013. What a monster you turned out to be. It seemed like every single week was rife with some new ailment, a new problem that seemed impossible to fix, or a person standing in my way.

I travelled across the country and back, flew up the country and invaded the nation’s capitol for a moment, gained and lost friends, started losing my hearing, discovered invading brain balls in me, became a recluse and back again. It’s been very strange. As I sit here easing myself back out of hiding (slowly now, I don’t want to get provoked and pee out of fear) I noticed I’ve missed quite a bit. Not intentional– I didn’t have a lot of say in the matter. But here I am, and the first thing I want to do is write. And write. I haven’t stopped since I started.

Tomorrow is Christmas eve, and I plan on using that to my full advantage. I’ve got nothing else to do but write my ass off, and I fully intend to, including finally ripping the photos from my trip off my camera and detailing it all here.

Damn it’s nice to be back here.

The best mistake I’ve made in years.

I suppose it was inevitable that I’d eventually come right out and pull a dick move on myself. I’m really good at them, and I know so many ways to piss myself off.

A few nights ago I made what seemed to be a very wise decision.

I was to quit writing and focus on what seemed far more important at the time– everything else. I am not even entirely sure what that meant, and how I could refocus creative energy outside of what I am doing now. I was getting to the point where I wanted to free my mind of the constant need to commit things to paper or text.

At least the fire was pretty.

This was the result:  My firepit filled with every notebook I could find, every scribble of a story, and all the writing from probably the last three years. A mistake? I thought so, at first. Now, I think it was probably the best thing I could have done for myself.

In those books sat a lot of awful things I thought about far too often. I filled them with great ideas, yes, but sometimes it was just a venting spot for all the stuff I could never find myself getting over.

Now, they’re gone. I intended to stop writing, ended up feeling more of a desire to do so, and removed unneeded stress from myself all at once. When I realized that I had done something I needed to do unintentionally, I was relieved. I spent perhaps only an hour upset with the loss. I don’t regret anything.

So, like most people, I found something different to do with myself this year. Instead of the usual ideas of quitting smoking or eating less, I’ll write more. I will stop keeping myself away from the situations I should be in in order to get it done properly. Needing to go out and find inspiration isn’t as dangerous to my lifestyle as I originally thought. There is so much I feel a need to say and do that denying it would be very cruel to myself. I have no right to do that to myself.

Just as much as I would hate it if someone held me back, why should I do it? I thought I was acting out of self-preservation in the burning of what seemed like an unhealthy desire. Losing something is a great way to learn the difference between a need and a want. I don’t want to write like I need to write. Not for anyone else, not for some weird desire to be seen around the world for some book I’ll never write.

Nah. It’s just there, sitting in my mind, ruling over me. I can’t quiet it, and I shouldn’t have a desire to.

All of those little overlooked details belong to me for tomorrow’s writing. Every conversation I hear becomes part of me. I watch people interact and find a source for something new in it. Everyone is my muse, and I refuse to let that die off.

It would be too much to try and silence my own mind. I’d probably go mad (more than I already am?)

I’ve run out of excuses.

I even broke my own supposed end of writing mere hours after the fact, and this was the result of it.

 

It’s 5am. The 30th. Very close to New Year’s Eve. I’ve just come out of a cluster headache haze, making it the perfect time to sit and think.

I burned the notebooks yesterday. I had a plan, then.

I was told by someone once that you may have to pretend you never wrote before to learn how to do it all over again. I had no intention of writing again, though– which lasted less than 24 hours– since I was hit with a barrage of “WHAT THE FUCK MORON NO” messages from all sides.

Alright, I get it. I was an idiot.

It occurred to me that, despite my best interests, I can’t stop. My mind was writing for me the moment I decided I had to quit. I realized why a bit after: I am useless otherwise. Extremely.

Not in that I can’t work or breathe or walk or shit.

I can certainly keep those things going.

Especially shitting.

Yes.

I’m not myself without it. I don’t care if it doesn’t always make sense, or if my sentence structure doesn’t fit perfectly, or even if the subject matter is nothing anyone cares to read. I do, and that’s why I started in the first place. It is as much a part of me as thinking. I felt liberated at the idea of stopping, but I quickly realized that liberation fed straight to a void.

My ultimate partner in all things writing is gone. His creator is, too. Yet still he pesters me relentlessly, just as he used to between 2 and 5 am when neither of us could sleep. We passed the time playing Wordscraper and bullshitting, often just needing to vent. It would turn to writing on a regular basis, as that was his sort of thing.

All the little trivial things I tried to ignore– nope, parts of a story. He’d insist.

It’s his fault I can’t stop. I can truly blame him for getting me out of a rut where I refused to believe my writing was going to do anything for me. He is at fault for being the ultimate mentor and even the occasional muse. He is the reason I am a ruined person– in the best possible ways. It took having it utterly beaten into me for the truth of it to sink in.

I blame him, and it’s wonderful.

He’s gone, but not really. It’s like a replaying audio file stuck in my head.

“You’re a writer, so act like it.”

“I bet I have more empty notebooks than you.”

The list goes on, because he could talk. A lot, and then some.

I spent nights proofreading. Debating. Cursing. Not my own things, but his. I helped to go over student papers when he felt like his mind had exploded. Thinking on all of this made me go over other memories, mostly recent ones.

I realized something.

This year brought forth so many odd turns and alterations, things falling apart and perfectly falling into place.

I aided some in betterment, probably led a few to damnation.

I managed to marry someone terribly beautiful and intelligent.

I traveled up the country to see the most amazing people in the world.

I stuck by my morals and self-preservation abilities to a fault.

I watched as people suffered, wishing I could do more.

I lost and won and failed and got my ass back up again.

All of this caused by pointless decisions of mine or others that didn’t matter at the time.

Every. Single. Little. Damn. Thing.

All of the life events you wish didn’t happen, wish could happen again, wish for them to disappear– they happened. If not to me, to someone close enough that I could feel it. Experience it by proxy.

Oddly enough, I can trace so much of it back to a few (seemingly) small decisions I made along the way.

Seeing how those events intertwine and undulate along through time to create where we are now astounds me.

I am not the kind to pray, but I pray to never lose my memory, so that I can always recall how I shape my own world through every single step. I watch people enough to see how they got there, too.

In the last few years, a five minute decision to take a weekend trip gave me a husband.

One poor choice of food landed me in the hospital in time to walk out hours before my friend never did.

One conversation cost me a friendship, and they still don’t know it.

One thought caused me to question everything I know, but especially what I don’t know, reshaping my mind.

One person moving across the country gave me peace.

One person moving across the country destroyed my peace.

One idea became a life goal.

Deciding to talk to someone I always intended to but never had the chance to led me into cultivating a relationship for them.

One person I’ve met but once changed how I view myself completely.

All the small, supposedly benign things that people overlook are more important than we give them credit for.

That stupid thing I said could come back in five years. Ten.

One false move, or one wise move, can make or break everything.

2012 is rapidly approaching me. Us. Everyone.

I decided I can:

Consider those steps. Rationalize them. Forget rationality, throw it away. Do what feels good. Rationalize them again.

Agonize over it, every single thing. Every detail. Feel miserable. Get emotional. Never do anything.

or.

Know that each and every minute detail makes a difference at some point. From the food you eat now to where you go to buy that shirt, it can do something to you. For you… or maybe even against you. Think, but don’t stop.

Never stop. When life becomes to terrifying to try something new, it’s lost the magic. Bad things happen, and always will. You can’t know what they’ll be until you get there.

Don’t let the horrible things fool you. There’s a fine chance that the risk you’re afraid to take might be the best thing you’ve ever done. Maybe it’s the worst for a while. It doesn’t matter. It all leads somewhere, and that place is filled with options. Even the threat of death.

It’s cold out here, so early. Quiet. In my head I am holding court with a dead man, and still his advice stands strong.  I think of what I never would have had if I never took those carefully executed, or hastily thrown together, risks.

If not for myself, but for those that rely on me in some way, I’ll keep listening to those mental recordings.

There’s no longer room for the what if or fear of getting in too deep.

I accept my little details, from their inception to the moment they change my life.

am a writer, good or bad.

am myself, good or bad.

This last year tried to take that from me.

This new year I’ll take for myself, for those I love, and for what I believe in.

All because I listened to one man living only among memories.

 

I’m glad I only lost myself for a short time.

 

Sex and Sin in South Florida

I have no images for this topic, so here's my bunny.

Years ago, I sat in a local bar with some friends, relaxing and talking about nothing and everything. Out of nowhere, one of the girls started tearing into her boyfriend for something that had occurred weeks before. It was a rather tense moment to be caught in. I was watching two people implode in front of me, over what was a seemingly innocent moment.

Girl: “She sat on your lap.”

Guy: “She’s my best friend! She didn’t do anything.”

Girl: “I can’t trust someone that just blatantly allows other women to violate my territory.”

That was the word that set him off: Territory. He had been claimed, and no one else was allowed on that particular area of real-estate. He admitted later that his reaction was a bit out of hand, but he was at a loss.

“I met her when I already had two girlfriends. She knew, and knows, that I’ve always been non-monogamous. Then she jumps in and says I have to change– fine, I did that. I loved her. But then everything I do is wrong…”

They didn’t last very long from that point. He loved her dearly, but her constant jealousy was too much for him to handle. It became a battle to even leave the house alone, and he couldn’t take it anymore, especially since he had mostly female friends. Some he had been involved with, which incited her further. He insists all of his multiple relationships ended when she asked, but it wasn’t enough for her.

Watching numerous couples break up over infidelity is fairly common, especially down here in South Florida. Temptation is around every corner, and some people feel justified in doing so. They can come up with a plethora of excuses for their actions. Ones I’ve most often heard, though there are many, include these gems: I was drunk/My father did it, so I learned from him/I don’t get it at home/What they don’t know won’t hurt them/It didn’t mean anything.

None of those really mean much to the person being cheated on. In the end, they are still betrayed, and not much will change that for them. Some people move on and manage to salvage their relationships (and some even come out better for it) but it will often end with a split. Trust is broken and lost, which is one of the hardest things to ever get back. Others have a more novel approach to things, by taking it in a direction they consider more realistic.

Open relationships are nothing new, but people are starting to be more vocal about them than they used to. Swingers clubs became a staple of the party life in some cities, especially down here, before AIDS showed up to close down the festivities. Polyamory and polyandry are still widely practiced in some cultures, but in the United States it is still regarded as an illegal practice if multiple marriages are involved. Some people just choose to marry one and allow for sex with others, so long as they aren’t told about it. And then, you have the ones that know just from intuition but say nothing. There are a wide variety of levels of non-monogamy, but all of them still have ways to cheat.

One couple openly has side boyfriends/girlfriends, but adhere to a set of rules: The first spouse always comes first, there rights to veto a relationship, all sex is safe and everyone must be tested regularly, and warning before the other has sex with someone else. At one point, the husband had gone out for a drink and ran into one of his girlfriends. Things managed to get out of hand. They had sex before he had told his wife, who was expecting him home. Despite all their freedoms, that night nearly cost them their relationship.

“I became so used to it that my mind slipped on me… I felt awful. I actually called her, crying, knowing this was going to be terribly hurtful to her… and it really was.”             They managed to save their marriage, but he had to ditch the girlfriend. They stopped seeing others for a while.

“She [the ex-girlfriend] was not very understanding of it all, and even tried to get me to leave my wife. That’s when I really noticed how bad she was as a secondary. I still have my wife that I love, and my other girlfriend that I love. I’ll be more careful in the future, that’s certain.”

If you hunt around enough, you can find many websites dedicated to maintaining any level of non-monogamy that you desire. There are dating sites for it, and sex-related swinger sites too. There’s even one strictly for cheating spouses, though it’s denounced as a shady place to be.

I’ve know a few people that once lived a life of open relationships, only to find someone that didn’t see it the same way. They decided to become monogamous for the sake of that person, even if they still feel the desire to be open very strongly. It’s a hard task for some, and one man I spoke to struggles with it daily.

“People call me selfish. They think that because I have the capacity to love more than one person at a time means I just want too much. I think it’s the opposite of selfish… I want them to be as free as I am. I would love to see her go out and find someone that gives her things I don’t… what if he shares interests with her I could care less about? Thinking that one single person can fulfill every need isn’t always going to happen.”

He has remained faithful, but calls it a hard decision.

“I feel like I’m robbing myself of something. She’s worth it, sure, but I still think about it. I understand why she feels that way… not everyone is like me. That’s fine, and it’s not a bad thing at all. Some people are monogamous, some aren’t.  But it’s still hard.”

Some couples try to open things up on a sex-only basis, and only together, in order to spice things up a bit. Some men find watching their wife with another man or woman to be the most arousing thing they’ve ever seen, and gladly open the door for such encounters.

One friend identifies as a swinger, and says it all started in his college days.

“My first threesome did it for me, right there. It altered how I viewed sex entirely, and it’s hard to come back from that sort of thing without wanting more, and more, and more. I also discovered my bisexuality at that point. People think it’s slutty or greedy to be like this, but I’m extremely choosy and careful of my partners and of using protection. I’m clean, and I expect the same. I don’t keep anyone to myself, either. Besides… who wants to be the monogamous guy that marries a bi, swinger person and expect a normal life?”

There’s a process to successful open relationships, including making sure everyone gets tested. Each couple is different in what they expect and require, but safe sex is almost universal. Nobody wants to find out they managed to get a disease from a partner, especially if they pass it on to a wife or husband. Because of this, it’s harder to find a good side lover– some people become very offended at the idea of being tested before anything sexual occurs.

“I don’t care if they don’t like it. They can move on. I refuse to bring home a disease because they can’t play it safe. No lover is worth that kind of risk, no matter what.”

More trust goes into the swinging lifestyle than it does polyamory. Usually in a poly relationship, the person is considered a steady lover, and testing is expected. If you walk into a swinger club where you don’t know anyone, you can’t expect everyone to have a recent test on hand. Most places will provide bowls of prophylactics for use, but those don’t guard against everything, so the risk is still there.

“Once, this couple came in and the girl had an obvious herpes sore on her. She was thrown out the moment her clothing came off and we saw it. That didn’t go well at all. We’re like a big family and don’t need that shit.”

There’s always a risk that comes with allowing for multiple loves. Some people have ended up being left behind for a new person, but sometimes it makes sense to them. People grow apart, times and loves change. They will still have secondary relationships to lean on, hopefully, and recognize something that was part of the basis in the first place: Love comes and goes, in abundance, if you’re lucky and know where to look.

Despite the general willingness of western culture to start embracing alternative lifestyles, some people have found themselves under fire for their lives. There are complaints ranging from being unable to list various loves on social networking sites (they limit you to one in most cases,) having communities go against their living arrangements, to being unable to go out with more than one people and openly express affection in public.

Monogamy is not inherently a poor choice. For many, it’s the only choice. It makes sense for them and their lives, and nobody should try to tell them otherwise. Everyone has a choice, and a different way of loving or viewing sex. Either way you choose to live isn’t necessarily wrong. While the alternative lifestyle communities try to find acceptance, though, many groups shun them. Some monogamous people find it simply abhorrent,  and will try to convince someone out of it very emphatically. The same works the other way, too, if an open person finds a need to try and change a mono person. It doesn’t usually work either way.

Television shows such as Sister Wives and Big Love have opened some eyes to the situation, as well as many articles, books like The Ethical Slut, and documentaries. While the shows are often ridiculed for displaying polygamous relationships in a poor light, some have at least seen a little merit in them.

“At least it doesn’t just show them as whores that don’t give a crap. The people there seem to show love, which is a nice thing.”

I myself do not subscribe to monogamy. I’ve done it, and while I haven’t had issues with keeping to one person, nor have I cheated, it isn’t my preference. Not just for myself or selfish purposes– but out of realism. I have been in the position of having someone cheat on me. After discussion, we opened up the relationship. While that relationship ended, it wasn’t for that reason. At the time it kept us going, though I only acted on that freedom once. There’s a big difference between sitting home worrying over where your loved one is versus knowing exactly where they are and feeling secure about it.

Assuming your loved one will not be attracted to, care for, or want anyone else in their lifetime is a pipe dream at best in some cases. While there are plenty of people that easily and gladly remain utterly faithful, some just rather not, often lying to obtain it. This does not mean I support cheating in any fashion. I find it disturbing and extremely cruel to the other person, at the least. For me, I find it hard to even be friends with someone I know that has willingly cheated on a spouse, though there are some exceptions. I may hate it, but I am generally forgiving. I have cut ties with some that bragged about it behind their lover’s back– there’s no honor there, and it’s uncalled for.

I, like many others, find myself caring for others strongly when I make a solid friend. Does this mean I want to have sex with everyone? No, absolutely not. But limiting who I care about and at what level (or limiting my spouse) is a bit absurd. I do know that I won’t love or care for someone like I do him– he’s my number one, and always will be. I love him more than I thought possible, and nobody is going to come around to change that anytime soon. I do acknowledge that I find myself with small infatuations or lusts towards some, because I’m a human. We tend to do that. Why should I pretend otherwise?

Because of the fact that I am how I am, when we’re sitting downtown and watching attractive people walk by, neither of us will ever be afraid to talk about it. We gladly point them out to each other, and we both have free flirtatious reign. There’s no fear involved that either will stray, because we have nothing to hide at all. It’s freeing, and removes the need for lies or explanations of wandering eyes. There are many attractive people out there, so why should we pretend we don’t notice? I have my limits like anyone else (lying, sneaking, and being in situations that could lead to cheating are unacceptable to me in any fashion) yet my ideas of what makes up a relationship are different from many. Should my spouse approach me and tell me someone else is interested in him and the feeling is mutual, I just want to make sure she’s not a psycho.

There’s something to be said about the bond between two people that know they can say anything to each other. So many insecurities and fears are lifted, though it takes a lot of talking, planning, and assurances when it first comes up. Some couples start that way, some end up there after many years of being together. Some can’t even dream of it, and that’s fine too. Everyone should have the freedom to choose their own path in how they love and with whom. As long as nobody gets hurt and everyone involved is fully aware of the circumstances, relationships can turn out beautifully.

In South Florida, you’re always an extra.

IGNORE ME.

“Will Corey Feldman be there?!”

That’s not a question I’ve ever heard before, but screw it. First time for everything. There were models strutting around in very little clothing, and I was helping my friend’s band load in for an odd scene with a little boy and a beer can. People were milling around, often having issues staying out of the way of the film crew. I doubt many people knew how to act during a film shoot, because they certainly liked walking in front of that camera.

We had been invited along to extra in some slasher flick that apparently stars the aforementioned Corey (hopefully not the other one… could get tricky) and some random girls that seemed confused and good at being pretty. They did that job well enough, and the muscle-bound “killer” of the film had some hard-hitting dialogue such as “What… wanna go for a ride?” and … well, that’s it. That’s all I heard him say.

One of the bar girls kept taking off and putting on her jacket, trying to determine which made her boobs look better for the shot. She was hidden behind other people anyway, but that one little possibility of her left breast being in a movie appealed to a deeper part of the brain, it seemed. I took my jacket off because I was warm after moving the equipment, which was taken as an invite to inspect my breasts. I declined.

There was nothing but beer to drink, which I hate, so I sipped on a Monster for a while and smoked more cigarettes than necessary. My friends were hyped up and excited since this was going to be exposure for them, and I was proud. I remember back as they were just getting things together, so this was a nice event for me to witness.

There was an eight year old child with fake tattoos and a cigarette wandering around, preparing for his scene where he hurls a beer can at the band. The director seemed extremely thrilled with his decision to include this scene, and everyone egged the kid on to aim for one band member or another. Kid did manage to peg the singer at one point, so I guess he took it to heart.

I eyed their lights and cameras, trying to get an idea of how it all works for them. I’m the kind of asshole that stares at the equipment during a show, losing track of the show I’m supposed to see or be part of. Bad, but tech-fueled, habit. Despite my lack of an attention span, I did as I was told and stood here or there as needed. Move to the left. No, a little less. Perfect. Ok, now, pretend to rock out. Good! Guys, keep rocking. Guys. GUYS. ROCK OUT, GUYS! … Yeah.

So as the night went on, people kept wandering off without direction as the film crew never told us when they were coming back or if not at all. Eventually about ten of us remained, and even the director stood in the background to fill in some gaps along the way. He was an odd fellow, showing us the poster options for the film and basically calling the location and the people inside the dirty aspects of South Florida, something gritty. I wasn’t sure if he was insulting or not, so I didn’t care much.

Walking. Walking. LOOK INTENSE. Walking...

There was a Bentley rushing out from behind the building numerous times for the shoot, nearly crashing into a friend’s van, then an unsuspecting car that was just trying to leave. They didn’t really have anything blocked off, so nobody knew for sure what was going on. I wandered around, talking shop with some various guys on the set. There wasn’t much else to do at the time.

Now look like bar sluts. GOOD!

I had done extra work before on small-budget flicks, so it was kind of cool to get back into it. There’s always something like this going on somewhere downtown, and that’s one of the beautiful things about my city. What got to me, though, was that some of the other extras with me had no experience and decided they had to ham it up for the camera. They missed the point that nobody is here to see them, and we’re just filler. That’s all. A few people were given dirty looks for trying too hard, and others came dressed as if they were the stars. The people that gained the most notice didn’t do much of anything at all– they just were cool. Acting natural is apparently hard for a lot of people to do, it seems.

It was pretty fun really, and doing the rest of the shoots will be cool too. I just wish more people understood the idea of acting casual in situations like this, not waving your boobs around like a crazed animal.

Then, we started a fire. Because that's normal.

 

No Decency? No Problem!

I haven’t been writing as often as I would like, due to the last week being rather… different. But hey, it was full of things to write about, so here’s the most important and first thing to set it all off.

Years ago, I was working for a coffee place where I had been rapidly promoted after my trial period, and from then on it was smooth sailing. I was repeatedly called in for overtime to cover for missing workers, and the main duties of the manager fell to me daily. I pretty much ran the place, and nobody questioned it– I was good at it. We had been facing troubles with the upper management, and went through four in the time I worked there. By the last manager, I was worn out and getting sick from my later diagnosed Crohn’s. I ended up being so sick that I was hospitalized five times in three weeks, and had to take time off. I had never used vacation or personal days, so I didn’t see a problem. The new manager that randomly disliked me, however, did.

So, shortly after his arrival and while I was sick, he started sniping at my performance. I didn’t do anything right by his standards, even though I followed the books more than anyone. Slowly, he began eliminating workers to place people he knew in their positions. They didn’t follow the rules, but he didn’t care. They kissed his ass, and that was the important factor.

During my sick time, he began calling me daily to berate me for not being at work. The time had been approved by the district manager, so I decided not to add fuel to the fire and rat on the manager for harassing me. Our store had been through enough turmoil without me making it more difficult, and for love of my job, I kept my mouth shut.

Due to this, within a week of my return I was left with the choice of quitting or being fired due to “three strikes on the dress codes.” Apparently, if it’s hot and you roll up your sleeves to show a possibly offensive (a bird of paradise adorns both my wrists) you can be fired. But, if you’re the managers friend and have magic mushrooms and a tripping caterpillar on your leg for the world to see, it’s fine.

I quit that day and didn’t bother returning for my last of the week. I was fed up, still sick, and hurt. I had poured myself into that job, forgoing social life and personal. It was brought down by one man with a grudge, for no particular reason other than I happened to be there. I lost the last health insurance I have had, right before a double diagnoses of two very problematic illnesses.

These adorable kitties make this part less depressing.

Fast forward now to a week ago. I started to see the familiar signs all over again, but this time not with my job– a worker with a grudge, trying desperately to infuriate  my husband on a daily basis. He’d come home angry and exhausted over the constant verbal abuse from this guy, but for the sake of keeping the peace, never bothered to report him. He figured it would blow over, and I tried not to let it get to me. He worked his ass off daily only to be yelled for no particular reason.

 

Luckily, he was spared for two weeks and managed to work with another crew that enjoyed his company and work ethic. They constantly complimented his quick ability to learn, and how much he had already accomplished. They even shared a dislike for his other co-worker, as everyone had problems with the guy. He was all around not someone anybody wanted to bother with. Things seemed to be going well. As all good things tend to end, he was put back on shift with the wonderful man we’ll call Earl. So Earl keeps up with verbally assaulting him, badmouthing everyone (including the upper management) and being rather vague as to what he wanted my husband to do. Still, he did his job and worked as hard as he could.

Some might think I am biased. Truthfully, it could be my own mother doing a bad job and I’d still fire her. I don’t look at friends as friends when we’re working together. I have been in such a position, and despite my own like for the person, did what had to be done if they just refused to work. If I have to boss you around, I will. If you’re doing something wrong, I will correct you. Work is work, it’s not personal. With my husband, I’ve seen his work ethic and his abilities. I’ve personally watched an old boss beg him to stay because he was such a fine employee. So when he came home and let me know he was fired for not doing a good enough job, I called a big fat bullshit.

Apparently, Earl had been quietly going to the bosses and complaining about his laziness and inability to work, none of which anyone has ever seen before and probably never will. This was, in fact, a job he had hoped for. To go out of his way to screw it up would be a stupid move on his part, and stupidity isn’t something he’s good at.

Without speaking to my husband at any point or the other workers, he was let go, all thanks to one guy that likes to kiss some ass. Now, to make a point, he was the third guy this man has worked with that magically didn’t make the cut. Nobody bothered to notice this trend, apparently.

It’s practices like this that truly bother me. All it really takes is one person to come along and ruin someone else’s job record, financial situation and desire to do well. While we’re lucky this came during my work season, it still hits hard when we were just finally catching up.  There’s nothing good to come of losing your job in this economy– except now, there won’t be more constant berating and we can move on to better things without this holding him back.

My job, however, is still awesome.

As if by sheer luck, while I was thinking of writing this my husband turned to me as we exited the highway and pointed out the work truck and his ex co-worker driving back at about 6:30 pm, alone, and a long way from the warehouse. Obviously his productivity has gone up, being three hours behind already with another 40 minutes to go. Unlike this man, though, we’re not going to stay bitter over it all. It does solidify my distrust in people offering a stable job, and it absolutely reminds me that there’s always someone who can and will try to fuck you over.

For now, I’ll enjoy having him home with me more often until we can get things straightened out. When that time comes, if someone decides to be abusive at work, it’s getting reported. People like that don’t deserve to keep coasting along screwing up everyone else’s day just because they can.