The Bio Page
(It’s worth noting that this page has become exceedingly long and perhaps a bit too honest. It’s also worth noting that I finished writing this in 2003.)
I. The Beginning
II. The Summer of ‘91
IV. The Hitchhiking Adventure
V. Macon County Rescue Mission
VI. Florida (part 1)
VII. Florida (part 2)
VIII. Weird Years at Home
IX. White Bear Lake, and The End.
Part I: The Beginning
“The most important things to say are those which often I did not think necessary for me to say — because they were too obvious.”
-André Gide, The Journals of André Gide
So, I’ve been thinking about trying to write some sort of biography for this damn website, just in case someone who DOESN’T know me might be reading it. I have no idea, of course, how to best accomplish this, but what appears before you is my best effort up until now.
Skipping the pre-high school garbage, I moved to North Branch, MN, in 1982 Before I entered 6th grade. I stayed in school there until graduation (barely) in 1989, and then promptly moved off to Lombard, IL in order to att end DeVry Institute of Technology. That would have been a smart thing to do, I think.
But instead, I learned how to smoke a great deal of pot, and imbibe countless other chemicals, and going to classes just didn’t seem like it was that terribly important. So, after just 1 ½ years, I dropped out of school and ran off to California with a couple buddies, intent on staying out west and attending a University in CA.
That didn’thappen, either.
California lasted just a couple of weeks, actually. It was obvious to anyone that I had no means to support myself, and the people that we were staying with were nice enough to let us visit, but clearly did not want lasting houseguests. So I came back to MN, and that’s when things got really weird.
Part II: The Summer of ‘91
“All progress occurs because people dare to be different.”
When I got back to North Branch, I was clueless. No job, no classes to attend, no money. Just a burning desire to party. And party I did. This is the time period when I met some of the friends that I still hang out with today, and when I met some of the friends that, for one reason or another I no longer see. Perhaps one day I’ll sit and write some of the individual stories that occurred this summer, but for now I’ll put it simply. We had no shoes, no shirts, no car (usually), no homes, and no jobs. It was great. We’d drift from party to party, sleep on people’s couches and floors, eat their food and drink their beer, and occasionally sneak back into our parents’ houses to wash some clothes or get a decent meal. The cops were always looking for us, and we were never where they were looking. It was myself and between 2 and 10 other bums, and we traveled in packs. The days were usually spent at Kost Dam or at Fish Lake drinking the 8-gallon keg that we ALWAYS managed to find enough money for (we once got a new keg every day for 19 days), and nights were spent either on Derek’s couches, or at some girl’s apartment or trailer. Just writing this down makes me miss that summer. We called it the summer of the drugs.
It couldn’t last, though. Times like that never can. Eventually things fell apart, mostly because the weather got cold. So I took a job. I decided to hop on a bus and go sell magazines on the east coast.
THAT didn’t last long at all. Travelling is great, but I’ve always had a problem with being told what to do, so after only about 3 weeks, I high-tailed it out of New York City where I had been selling magazines on street corners, and came back to North Branch with my tail between my legs yet again.
Now at this point things begin to run together in my memory. I know that I took a job as a barback at the new addition to the Grand Casino in Hinckley, and then became a bartender at Barbara Jean’s in beautiful downtown Harris, MN (which should be a book in and of itself), but much more I can’t really remember with any accuracy at all. I do know that I was partying a lot. Not long (a year or so?) after that I found myself living with a new friend out in Brooklyn Center. He needed a roommate, and I needed a place to live, so I took a job at Musicland Warehouse, and off I went. This rapidly denigrated into constant partying as well, and next thing we knew we were facing eviction, and neither one of us was going to work anymore. At one point, for about 5 days we sat in our cold-ass rental house listening to Jimmy Buffet, drinking Tequila and making Margaritas, and generally trying to drink our problems away. During this 5 days, we constantly kept saying that we should sell all of our shit and move to Mexico.
So we kept drinking. And talking about Mexico.
Finally one morning my friend, who had been waiting for about 4 months for his driver’s license to show up in the mail, proclaimed that if his license showed up in the mail that day, we were going to Mexico. And I’ll be damned, it was there. So we sold all of our shit and we left.
On a bus.
All the way to Mexico City, where we hopped a short flight to Cancun, because we couldn’t stand being on a bus any longer. This would be the first time that I became a bartender in a Spring Break town, but not the last. And that is an occupation perfect for a womanizing partyer with no concept of mortality. Or morality.
Part III: Cancun
“Travel is only glamorous in retrospect.”
Cancun was something. I’ve never experienced being broke in an unfamiliar country before. It affects you, I think. Especially when you’re eating beans out of a can, and sleeping in public parks, unable to speak the language of the other people who are sleeping in the public park.
Initially, we both found work fairly quickly. I became a bartender, and Amon (my friend, not his real name) became a DJ in the same bar called the Streguss Modé which was located in the Holiday Inn Grande Plaza. The owners were Paul and Laura Miller, and they were full-blood Mexican. Don’t ask me to explain the names, because I can’t.
We worked 6 nights a week, but we closed early every night. This bar sucked from a Cancun nightlife point of view, but we managed to have an awful lot of fun working there. We had so much fun that we lost our jobs within about 4 months, but I still maintain that it was totally worth it. We also found an apartment to rent right in the Hotel Zone for pretty cheap, but I think that all the lizards that shared the room with us might have been paying some of the rent.
So seeing as how we got off early every night, and Cancun never really closes, we managed to meet quite a few new and interesting people every week. If you’re ever in a spring break town and 19-23 year old girl says “So this is my last night here, you know…”, that’s a wonderful thing. You should start being nice right then.
We took the bus everywhere we needed to go, which was never very far, and we developed an affinity for Pico Rum ($1.67 US for a liter), and great big brown bottles of Corona, which we stacked pyramid style in the corner of the apartment on the tile floor. That is, until the night that we drunkenly decided that it would be a good idea to throw our current emptys into the stack and see how many we could break. By the end of that night we had broken them all.
We ate well, too, because we were considered employees of the Holiday Inn, and that gave us access to the staff kitchen, and dinners served Mexican-style proper. (Lots of rice and beans.) The little corner store next to our apartment was owned and run by a small family, and they would make empanadas every night to sell the next day, and they were dirt cheap and wonderful. The lady of the family also agreed to let us run a tab at the store and just pay her on payday, assuming that we would leave a leather jacket with her as collateral, which we did. We ended up still owing her money when we left, and I still feel bad about it to this day. She was far nicer to us than she needed to be.
So, altogether life in Cancun was pretty good, although we were spending our savings because the jobs didn’t pay enough to support our decadent lifestyle. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except our boss, Paul, decided that the amount of beer, liquor, and cigarettes that we were taking from the bar every week was about equivalent to what he was paying us. So he quit paying us. I still made tips, however, so we kept the jobs in exchange for unlimited quantities of beer, liquor, and cigarettes, and every one agreed that this would be a winning arrangement.
And it was! Right up until we were dead broke and Paul fired us because he stole a money transfer from Amon and didn’t want to give it up. So we lost the jobs and eventually the apartment, and couldn’t find any other work. It seems we had just gotten really lucky the first time, and you actually need some sort of working papers to be an out-of-country worker in Cancun. Who knew?
So Amon made arrangements with an ex-girlfriend to fly him home, and I stayed in Cancun to figure out what life would hand me next. I had absolutely no idea, once again, what I was getting myself into.
Right around this time was when we were sleeping in the public park in the middle of Cancun downtown. A still can’t believe that we didn’t end up in Mexican jail for freakin’ vagrancy. Luckily, everything we owned in the world fit into a couple of duffel bags, which also serve nicely as pillows while sleeping on the ground. Seriously, we should have been arrested.
I only stayed in Cancun for a couple of days after Amon left, but it was long enough for me to figure out that I was now ALONE. I suddenly completely remember what it’s like to be 5 years old and lose your mom at the mall. So I took what was left of the security deposit from our apartment, which was $137 dollars, and bought the cheapest flight I could find into Miami, which was $136. Those of you with superior math skills will be quick to realize that once I got back to the US, I was going to be screwed. But at the time, nothing seemed more comforting than being thrown in an American County Jail, and I figured that would probably be the worst thing that could happen.
Goodbye, Cancun. It was really weird. Thanks for having me.
Part IV : The Hitchhiking Adventure
“Too many of us wait to do the perfect thing, with the result we do nothing. The way to get ahead is to start now. While many of us are waiting until conditions are “just right” before we go ahead, others are stumbling along, fortunately ignorant of the dangers that beset them. By the time we are, in our superior wisdom, decided to make a start, we discover that those who have gone fearlessly on before, have, in their blundering way, traveled a considerable distance. If you start now, you will know a lot next year that you don’t know now, and that you will not know next year, if you wait.”
~The William Feather Magazine
Ok, checkout is a breeze, the flight goes well, and US Immigration isn’t phased a bit about the fact that I have no documentation. (When we entered the country, we did so by taxi cab, without filing any necessary paperwork, proclaiming that we were “going shopping for the day.”) In fact, the immigration lady said to me, “You’re clearly not latino.” And waved me past without so much as a blink. This is the only time in my life even up until the time of this writing that my ponytail worked in my favor, instead of getting me searched for drugs.
But now I’m standing outside the Miami Airport with about $1.50 in my pocket (and a few remaining pesos), and no one knows that I’m even back in the United States. I figure at this point that I have 2 options. (1) Call home and beg for money, or (2) stick out my thumb and see how long I can ride this weirdness out.
I can’t believe I chose (2).
By this time, I was reasonably confident that I was indestructible, and that no matter what I end up going through, the worst that I was going to get out of it was a neat story to tell. So I started walking toward Alligator Alley and stuck out my thumb, and within minutes had gotten my first ride on the long trip home to Minnesota that would burn up the next month of my life, and perhaps change me utterly in regards to my ability to be self-confident in new and unusual situations.
It has been remarked to me, you should know, that hitchhiking down Alligator Alley in Florida is an exceptionally stupid and dangerous thing to do, not only because of the ALLIGATORS that are everywhere (how could I have not known that?), but also because of the desolate and criminal-infested nature of the area. All I knew at the time was that it was a major road, and I should be able to get a ride there, so that’s where I got dropped off, and began walking toward Naples, FL. After a few hours walking in the unholy Florida sun, I was picked up by some old dude in a van, who promptly asked me the question that would become the most asked question I heard from drivers across the country…
“So, ya got any papers?”
Unfortunately, I neither had papers to roll a joint, nor food or water. So this guy buys me a sandwich, some cigarettes, and a soda, and we chat about life until we pull into Naples about 3 hours later, where he drops me off at a major truck stop and wishes me good luck. I couldn’t have been happier with the way this was turning out. Easy.
Yeah, right. It turns out that truckers won’t give rides to hitchhikers any more, or they could lose their CDL. In fact, more often than not, they won’t even give you the time of day. Not because they’re bad or evil, but because getting to know a hitchhiker can ONLY lead to trouble for this crowd. So I sat in the truck stop. And sat. And sat. For about 8 hours or so. And it was about this time that I noticed that this little dark haired girl that had been sitting in the truck stop for about the same length of time as me. Hmmm……
Now, hindsight tells me that without question, this girl was prostituting herself to truckers. However, at the time, I was young, and I just thought she was friendly. On some level, she must have thought I was friendly, too, because she claimed that she was just hanging around until she was in the mood to drive again, and that if I needed a ride, that we should just get in her car and go. I agreed that that was an excellent idea, and that was the end of Naples, Florida.
When you travel for 6-8 hours with someone in a car, you’re bound to either grow to like, or grow to hate, your companion. Well, she and I got along just fine, and the story that she finally told me was that she had run away from her abusive boyfriend in North Carolina, and was driving around the country looking for somewhere to be. Furthermore, she also said I seemed like a nice enough guy, and that if I needed a ride all the way to Minnesota, she would be happy to take me there, as she really didn’t have anywhere else to go anyway. Even nicer yet, she kept stopping along the way to buy me things, such as cartons of cigarettes, food, new clothes, and a new duffel bag, which I sorely needed.
This was the equivalent of hitchhiker’s heaven, and there was no way I was turning this down. She liked to stop a lot, and it took a couple of nights of sleeping in the car at rest areas before we finally found ourselves in Peach County, Georgia. She was driving pretty fast, and should have been no surprise that we got pulled over for speeding. But I swear I saw this girl have the most hysterical freak-out of all time when she saw those cop lights in her rear-view mirror, all the while screaming about how I just didn’t understand.
Man, she was right.
Eventually, after sitting in the back of the patrol car for about 45 minutes watching the FOUR squad cars worth of cops search her vehicle, the officer came back and explained to me that I was under arrest for Grand Theft Auto, Transporting Stolen Vehicles across state lines, Possession of Stolen Firearms, Transportation of Stolen Firearms, Unregistered Handgun, and a whole host of other felony and misdemeanor charges that flew in and out of my ears while I nestled into shock. It turns out that she was not all that nice of a girl, and they thought I was her accomplice.
And so I got booked into Peach County, Georgia jail, where I was the only white guy without a gun. Fuckers.
Part V: Macon County, Georgia
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
~Winston Churchill, Sir (1874-1965)
So I sat. In jail. White and alone, desperately wishing that I would just buck up and call home, but at the same time much too proud and obstinate to do so. All the black guys that I was in jail with turned out to be not all that scary after I got to know them, although southern black men are INCREDIBLY hard to understand when they talk. They just kept teasing me about how I was going to end up in prison where I would get to meet the really scary black guys. This only lasted for 3 days, Thank God.
After 3 days, the sheriff calls me into his office, and informs me that my story about being an innocent hitchhiker checks out, the girl that I was traveling with corroborated my story, and all charges against me are being dropped. I was free to go. The one small problem was that everything that I owned was impounded in the city lot for evidence against the girl. Well, it took me about 4 hours of haggling and begging, but eventually this sheriff agreed to break the law for me in a huge and wonderful way. He took me to her car, let me get all my stuff out (at which point I hurriedly stole everything of hers that I thought might be useful as well!), and gave me a ride to a truck stop with the instructions that I was to get a ride and get the hell out of his county. (Yes, they really do that in the south) He also gave me his business card, and informed me that if I was to get arrested for hitchhiking, which is illegal in Georgia, I was to have the arresting officer call him, and he would get me out of trouble. I guess he felt bad about incarcerating me unnecessarily or something.
You would think that I would be a little put off about hitching rides at this point, and you would be right. I only hitched for a couple hours that day, until I reached Macon, Georgia. This is the part of the story where I actually get to live in a place with a great big neon sign that says “JESUS SAVES”
You see, I had met this girl a couple years earlier who was from Macon, and I decided to see if I could track her down and, you know, screw her. So I made my way to downtown Macon, and without any idea where she lived or even if she remembered me, and found myself a nice park to sleep in with a nice bush to sleep under, and bedded down for the night confident that I would be able to find her the next day.
It was probably about 3 AM when I awoke to find a Macon City cop shining his flashlight in my eyes asking me loudly what the hell I was doing sleeping in his park. I explained that I had tried to find somewhere else to go (LIE!), and that it was only going to be for one night. I also whipped out my “Get out of trouble in Georgia Free Card” that the sheriff in Peach County had given me, and told him my story, albeit far more briefly than I’ve told it here.
This seemed to amuse him.
He softened up at this point, and seriously seemed to reconsider the billy-club beating that he was thinking about giving me, and told me that if I needed somewhere to sleep, that I should go down to the Macon County Rescue Mission and bang on the door. He gave me HIS business card (I think that this is how they do things in Georgia), and said that they would let me stay there for a while if I showed it to them.
So I walked in the correct direction that he had given me, and sure enough, about a mile down the road, in a seedy warehouse district, sat a non-descript building with a GIANT neon sign on the roof that read “JESUS SAVES.” And sure enough, I ended up living there for the better part of a month.
Now it turns out that you’re not allowed to just live in a rescue mission. You either have to spend all day out looking for work, or the mission will find odd jobs for you in the community that will pay by the day. The mission serves breakfast and dinner, and church service is required every Sunday. You’re expected to donate to the mission if you stay for more than a week, but you can stay as long as you like, as long as you don’t drink or cause trouble. The arrangement worked out rather well for me at the time, though, because it gave me a few weeks to find out that the girl I was looking for was now engaged to be married (therefore uninterested in sleeping with me, although we did have a nice lunch together), and it gave me a chance to put a little coin in my pocket for the rest of the trip home.
The Macon County Rescue Mission is also the reason that I now think that Grits and Eggs are the worlds finest breakfast, because that is what I had there every day, and I fell in love with it.
So I stayed in Macon for 3 or 4 weeks, did odd jobs, and lived dormitory style with some of Macon County’s freakiest people. I learned there that small acts of kindness are never small acts, and I got to know myself better in that short period of time than I ever had before. People always think I’m strange for feeling that way, but I do. Everyone should be forced to live in a homeless shelter for a few weeks. I think that it’s good for you.
I notice that I’ve been rambling, so I will be brief about the rest of the hitchhiking adventure. After I left Macon, I had a little money, and a lot of self-confidence, and the rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, although there are certainly more stories to tell if you ever care to ask. I made it back to Minnesota in fine shape a week or so later, and the world once again settled into an easy routine of partying too much and taking the wrong kind of drugs.
Part VI: FLORIDA (part one)
“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.”
~Henry Ford (1863-1947)
For the life of me, I cannot remember what the heck I was doing for the next year or so after I returned from the hitchhiking adventure. For sure, it was a slap in the face with reality, and most painfully, the reality that I had no money, home, or prospects for success. And, as usual, I combated these feelings of unease with an unhealthy dose of alcohol and non-prescrescription drugs. As boredom began to set in, once again, I was offered the opportunity to make a break for the sun, the sand, and the evil.
A buddy of mine, who we’ll call JK, and I both knew some folks that had moved to Florida about a year earlier, and swore up and down that I could find work in a heartbeat if we were to come to Ft. Meyers Beach. So one dreary winter afternoon, JK and I loaded up my Pontiac Sunfire with so much shit that there was literally only room for two people if we put all the blankets and pillows around us as we drove, and headed off for yet another period of wickedness surrounded by drunken spring breakers.
It turned out to be a good thing that we were covered in blankets and pillows as we drove, because the Sunfire had no heat, and it was the middle of winter. The Sunfire also had no functioning alternator (or at least it didn’t function well), because whenever we drove in the dark, we would have to stop every 20 minutes or so and let the battery charge, so that the headlights would work again. Also we weren’t allowed to shut the car off (ever), or we would have to push start the damn thing in order to get going again.
This turned out to be a long drive.
But a couple days later, we arrived (unannounced. We never told our friends that we were coming. To live with them.) in Ft. Meyers Beach, Florida, followed closely by a girl we knew from MN that actually had permission to live there. Now this made 5 people living in a trailer that one day ago barely fit 2. We had to go. So we did the most intelligent thing that we could think of. We went out and got drunk.
During the next couple of days partying in the Florida sun, Laura (our pal from MN) met a guy on the beach who happened to need 3 roommates for his house RIGHT ON THE BEACH in the most happening section of town. We, of course jumped at the chance, and within a week or so JK and I had both found jobs as well. Life was looking good.
Most of Ft. Meyers is fairly conservative and older, but it is still a HUGE spring break destination for about 2 months a year, and there is only one Hotel in town that will take them. Our neighbor, the Lani Kai hotel. Our other neighbor was the only place to buy a case of beer on the beach. My smarter readers will now realize that we had a great deal of foot traffic through our yard, and quite often, through our living room. It did not help that we liked to climb onto our roof during the middle of the afternoon and play the Pulp Fiction Soundtrack at full volume while dancing and drinking beer.
We became quite well known quite fast in the small community of Ft. Meyers Beach.
We also had some of the most prime real estate on the beach for parking. (there is NO public parking around.) So we made an arrangement with a local entrepreneur that he could park all the cars in our yard that he could fit, and keep the proceeds, so long as he did all the work, and bought us a case of beer every day. Yet another arrangement with a local homeless man ensured that all of our garbage would mysteriously disappear (into Hess Mart’s dumpster), for as long as we continued to get him high once in a while. Ft. Meyers Beach rocks.
JK worked right outside our back door renting Jet-Skis on the beach, and I had 2 jobs both within 2 blocks of our house on the beach. While I lived in that place for MONTHS, I never made it more than 6 blocks from our house.
I probably would have stayed forever, except for the strange turn of events that lead to my being run out of town by a local drug-dealer and thug by the name of Howard.
Part VII: FLORIDA (part deux)
“You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.”
~Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
So everything went pretty well in Florida for a while (as it always seems to.) We worked, we played, and we drank beer. On the beach. Alot. We hung out at the Tiki Bar, which was the local volleyball bar on the beach and drank cheap keg beer that they always had laying around. When we weren’t there, we were drinking 40 ouncers while wandering the beach. We also got to know the local law enforcement fairly well, because they roamed the area around our house constantly both on ATV’s and on horseback. And without exception, they were freindly and nice cops.
So we decided to have a PARTY. Because when you’re on good terms with the local cops, you should always take advantage of that situation as much as possible. We asked if we’d get busted for having a raging PARTY, and we were assured that as long as we remained on our own lot, and weren’t serving any minors, everything would be fine.
PARTY was on, and everybody knew it.
I like to PARTY. The bigger and crazier the bash, the more I like it. So I was very happy with the turn-out at our little shin-dig, because you couldn’t even move. Not only did all of Ft. Meyers show up, but all the Spring Breakers did as well. There were tons of girls in skimpy bikinis and there were tons of cool dudes there to meet all the girls in the bikinis. All was well, and everyone was having a blast. We blew through 5 or 6 kegs in short order, and then we ran out of beer.
Like most PARTYs, that’s when things got a little weird.
Several things happened very, very fast at that point, and I don’t think anyone could give you the complete details, because no one was sober enough. But I’ll tell you what I saw, and you’ll just have to trust that it’s relatively close to the actual course of events. Right after the beer ran out, everyone got very crabby, very fast. Right about that same time, a bunch of freaks in cowboy hats decided to show up and pick fights with the local beach rats (we were friends of the beach rats.) Within minutes, the beach rats were kicking the asses of the cowboys, and the entire PARTY had denegrated into a free-for-all of ass-kicking. I distinctly remember one of the cowboys getting his face beat in with an empty keg.
I’ve never seen cops move so fast in my life. It took less than 2 minutes of this brawl before our house was completely surrounded with about 8 cop cars, and various officers on ATV and horseback. They had been waiting for this, without question. They couldn’t have come from more than 2 blocks away. They were just there.
So those of us that lived there began kicking everyone out as fast as we could get them off the property. We made it into the house and starting screaming for everyone to leave, while we were kicking open bedroom doors, and telling everyone we found in there to leave. We wanted everyone to leave, you see…
So I kicked open the bathroom door, which was locked. And suddenly realized that I had knocked a fairly serious amount of cocaine out of someone’s hand and it was now all over the floor, except for the rather large portion that landed in the toilet. And the someone who used to be holding the cocaine was not at all impressed. (This is important)
To shorten the story, we eventually got nearly everyone out of the house (except a few close friends), and we just locked the door. The PARTY outside solved itself, because the cops just took everyone to jail who wasn’t cooperating. (Eventually some little drunk girl came back and tried to dig her way back into the house by climbing onto the roof with a pitchfork and removing a bunch of shingles attempting to create a hole in the roof. This girl really wanted to keep PARTYing. She fell off of the roof that night and we had to call 911. She broke her back, and to the best of my knowledge still hasn’t regained the ability to walk. No lawsuits were ever filed that I know of. No shit.)
We decided to lay low for a while after that night. The cops didn’t like us anymore, andthe girl who got hurt was a local. The PARTY had gone quite sour. I also began hearing rumors about the guy in the bathroom whose coke I had spilled. It turns out that we was an unpleasant bastard by the name of Howard, and that he was a fairly big time drug dealer in the area. He was also incredibly violent. And so were his friends.
I escaped several bars that next week by the skin of my teeth with big, scary fuckers looking for me. Howard wanted my ass beat, and he wanted it badly. I didn’t take this very seriously at the time, as I just couldn’t comprehend that I had gotten involved with someone that was seriously dangerous. After being woken up to 2 guys in my room punching me in the face, I started to take things a little more seriously. One of the guys who had broken in told me that he actually liked me (I had met him in a local bar a few weeks prior), but that Howard was pissed, and that he carried a gun. It was suggested that I leave Ft. Meyers before I got hurt, and I decided that was a good idea.
Spring break was over, and for me, so was Florida. I hopped into a truck with some people that I knew, and skipped town with only a day’s notice. I haven’t been back since. But I did find some other interesting places to go…
Part VIII: Weird Years, Only At Home
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
I’ve been having a hard time figuring out the best way to continue this story in the same fashion that I’ve been telling it. Life became drastically less fun to hear about after I returned from Florida. I slowly but surely became more and more predictable, both in my willingness to work for a living, and also in my propensity for drug use and abuse. So instead of boring you with the pointless details of my life, I’ve chosen to be less time-line oriented and share with you what I learned during the next several years, while I had various bartending jobs, various apartments, and various other experiences.
Have you ever noticed that there are certain people that just don’t know when the party is over? Well, I learned that I’m that guy. I find that if I don’t pay attention, I’ll just keep going out every night. And whatever kind of strange chemicals or situations that are present in the room, I’ll most certainly get myself involved with them. And sadly, I’m smart enough and talented enough that I can usually keep a job while the rest of my life is a mess. Which is just like having permission to have a messed up life.
I had a few girlfriends during the next few years, as well. Those ladies will not ever be discussed here. But I discovered that drugs and alcohol don’t mix well with relationships, and I learned that my actions and my conduct affect people that are around me as much as they affect myself. It took me a long time to figure that one out. I really never regret who I’ve been or things that I’ve done, because life needs to be experienced, I think. But I do wish that I would have figured this one out sooner.
I also figured out that cops quit looking for you all the damn time if you quit doing things wrong. That’s awesome! Why did no one ever tell me this before? I still hate cops, but they could care less about me now…
I figured a bunch of this stuff out because I made a realization. Not a sudden “Eureka!” kind of realization, but a very very slow one. I realized that I was always broke, I always felt like shit, and I was always partying. That’s not much of a realization, but the fact that they were connected was pretty eye-opening. I also became acutely aware that the clock would keep ticking. And I became utterly convinced that money is incredibly easy to get your hands on, compared with our ability to get back wasted time.
I also managed to pull off big vacations every year. I went to Jamaica for a couple of weeks one year (you need a signed permission slip from an adult to hear that story), I kayaked down the coast of Belize one year with no traveling companion (and foolishly brought no camera, so I can’t prove it!), and I also managed to see a good part of Costa Rica, and the Honduran Bay Islands as well. Travel, it seems, sooths me. I have very deep thoughts about travel, and maybe some day I’ll be more in depth, but I will never stop going new places and seeing new things. I believe myself to be a much better and wiser man because of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen, and I hope to always continue. I have yet to figure out who’s going to keep paying for these little sojourns, however. Any parties interested in financially backing my travel should contact me immediately. I’ll put your name in GREAT BIG PRINT all over this damn website.
I also renewed a long lost love. Until I was about 15 years old (when I discovered drugs, alcohol, and sex), I was a little computer geek. That fascination took a back seat to some different fascinations for a few years, but it gradually began to rear its head again, as I began to spend a little more time sober. And so my love of computers, technology, gadgets, and the science that drives them has once again had a chance to blossom.
Now I haven’t just been rambling, you know. I’m actually leading somewhere with all this talk of realizations, travel, and technology. I slowly began to have something to work for. To have goals I wished to achieve. And to have reasons to better myself. Not that anything changed right away, but the beginnings of a process had started. I’m fairly sure that this process is called “growing up”, but don’t hold me to anything
Then I got my THIRD DWI and got sent to treatment. Again. (I refuse to disclose the details about how this happened. I was being naughty)
And then I turned 30.
This was a double whammy. I was utterly convinced that I just stayed 21 for 9 years. (No,really.) Turning 30 kind of hit me hard, and the fact that I was in a court ordered treatment program at around the same time had some pretty profound effects on me. Here was proof positive that the party was indeed over. And I feel compelled to admit some nasty truths at this point. Although my substance abuse counselors were the most honest and truthful I had ever met, it was not enough to keep me from the Evil-Demon-Whose-Name-We-Will-Not-Speak that I had been alternately battling and embracing in life. I continued to abuse substances, but I also began to see what that abuse was doing to the lives of my friends and past-friends and to me. And I began to understand why life is so hard when you’re addicted. And only then did things begin to really change.
Part IX: Life in White Bear Lake
“Success is relative. It is what we can make of the mess we have made of things.”
~ T. S. Eliot
The changes have been good ones. I think that I’ve discovered that life doesn’t have to be such a struggle in order to be interesting and fun. I used to think that the weirder my life and situation was, and the more I had to suffer along, the more I was getting out of life. I’ve changed my mind.
I can understand the joy of having, chasing, and achieving goals now. It’s very empowering to want to accomplish something, work very hard at it, and then succeed after many failures. It’s also a tremendous ego boost, which is important to an egomaniac such as myself. I enjoy challenges, and have discovered that life is full of pleasant and exciting challenges that have nothing to do with trying to conquer drugs or women. Actually, I’ve found that trying to conquer my own limits of knowledge is immensely more satisfying and fun than either of those two things ever were.
I also TRULY love the idea of seeing just what I can become. One of the MANY problems with drugs and addiction is the overpowering belief that life can never be any different or better than it currently is. Letting one’s head clear with some months or years of (somewhat) clean living not only allows you to put some damn money away, but also allows you to begin to have choice about how your life is going to unfold. The burden of making choices in life is infinitely better than the burden of not having any. The risks of taking on new challenges are so much better than the risks of complacency. Someone once told me that “The opposite of change is stagnation and decay.” I believe, brother, I believe…
Letting go of some of my worst habits has been difficult. It means letting go of lifelong friends and hang-outs. It means being alone sometimes. It means that when I reflect on my past, I don’t always enjoy what I see in my mind’s eye, because everything has a taint to it, smeared and marred by the realization of just how damn HIGH we were. And letting go isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes as long to get out of drugs as it took to get in, someone once told me (a drug counseler, I believe), and they were right. I have continued (although with lessening frequency) to fuck up, and I still don’t for a minute think that I’ve ‘made it.’ But even with the lonely and the regret, life is better. Peace is easier to find. So is laughter and genuine contentment. And though my stories are not QUITE as off-the-wall and entertaining as they once were, I’m far more likely to enjoy telling them now.
White Bear Lake has been very, very good to me. I don’t know if it’s the water, the people, the cute little downtown area, or what, but I like it here. I can stay out of trouble (pretty much) and slowly but surely build my life up just the way I want it, and it works for me. I’m a technology geek once again, and it fits me. I love all the learning that it entails, and the fact that I’ve found work in this field has given my hobbies some meaning and a decent paycheck. And now, when I need to escape this cold and miserable state every winter, I can just go on vacation like everyone else, and not have to sell everything I own and keep starting my life over. I’m pretty sick of starting over, I believe, and I much prefer to just keep building on the life that I’ve got. It’s a good one.
So not only am I more content and happier than I’ve ever been, but I’m pretty excited as well. I’m only 33 years old, and for the first time since high school, I can see a bright future that’s full of possibility. I, oddly enough, have great health, vitality, and a sharp mind, even after all I’ve been through. And while the story of my life that you’ve been reading is now over, I’m happy to report that the real story of my life is still in Chapter One. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. Perhaps I’ll find that entertaining enough to write down, as well.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.”
~ Eckhart Tolle