Tag Archives: a youth interrupted

The Wonder of a Wonderful Wedding

veilThe concept of forever feels like an outdated fairytale. A couple of wild souls, madly in love, galloping off into the sunset is an image better reserved for blockbusters and Harlequin romance novels. People are more independent and self-sufficient than ever, and holding tightly to antiquated rituals seems like an empty exercise destined for failure.

We are a fickle bunch, adjusting habits and personal preferences with nonchalance, our eyes widening at the glimpse of each new tech toy or sparkly distraction. Even friends and family can fall as casualties of our dwindling attention spans and warped priorities.

Marriage is the antithesis of the natural progression of modern human nature. But, damn, sometimes it just feels so right.

Recently, I attended the wedding of two close friends who are so freakishly and fundamentally aligned, it’s almost unimaginable. They epitomize the notion of best friends as lovers and the complementary nature of their bond is what everyone secretly dreams about and openly envies. All those mushy, gushy, “meant to be” declarations are actually accurate.

They are the kind of couple that can simultaneously make you feel hope for their future and pessimism for your present. They set the bar at an uncomfortably unattainable height, and our necks are sore from the strain. But the momentary, fuel-injected feeling that accompanies a perfect, universal pairing is worth the pain.

I have never subscribed to the belief that anything lasts eternally. Honestly, I tend to lean quite heavily in the opposite direction. But, watching two individuals stand before their friends and family to honor the essence of a ceremony, uncovering the beating heart beneath the pomp and circumstance, was a privilege I am grateful to have had.

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The Forgotten

homeless manFor those of you who may have already heard my rants about the boggling inequalities and imbalances in society, I apologize for the redundancy. But, my recent contact with an increasing number of heartbroken homeless with hollow eyes and vacant stares has compelled me to find a steady stance atop this familiar soapbox.

The disparity between the haves and have-nots is growing at an alarming rate, but like Roman emperors wearing golden blindfolds, very few seem to acknowledge the impending fall.

We are at a critical crossroads in this country and there is a cauldron filled with the forgotten just waiting to boil over.

Our culture has continued its unhealthy love affair with capitalism, even in the face of some severely detrimental consequences. Instead of making slight adjustments to stave off the resentment and rage directed toward those holding all the cards, the dealers have found ways to ensure that the house continues to profit exponentially. Greed was good in the 80’s, but it’s a poison we’re forced to swallow today.

Poverty and mental illness are running rampant, but it’s more comfortable to draw the blinds and bolt the doors. I watch consumers carrying thousand-dollar bags step over people sleeping in the street to stand in line for an $8 cup of dead coffee beans and foam. I see state-funded food in schools sit in the bottom of garbage cans because mandates force students to fill trays with items they never plan to eat. I walk around in an environment full of waste and pollution and excess, and I wonder where it all went wrong.

I don’t proclaim to have the answers, and I’m well aware there is no cure-all for a population that has been beaten into submission for generations. But, it certainly feels like there is a revolution just waiting to explode with the right confluence of actions.

A seemingly insignificant event may play the role of that backbreaking straw. But, it could be just enough to tip those apathetic scales to the point of no return.

Inspiration

photo (6)Every time I think I’ve hit a wall, there’s a little spark that fires inside my brain, helping me swap train tracks like an invisible brakeman.

I’ve never been able to pinpoint the catalyst or explain exactly what forces are at play, pushing that first domino, but I’m inclined to believe it’s some sort of survival technique, allowing me to stay malleable in a world of rigid roadblocks. I generally chalk these things up to unexplainable phenomena. But, they might more aptly be classified as…inspiration.

There were times when I sat with a guitar or a recorded track of my band’s material and words and pictures seemed to appear from the hidden recesses of my mind. Images and narratives wrapped themselves around poetic phrasing, lining up like soldiers at a roll call. Before I even grasped what happened, a song had taken shape.

Many people refer to this as the “zone.” Athletes who can’t seem to miss or artists who find bottomless reserves of creative energy welcome these waves with open arms. Peak performance can accomplish some pretty impressive feats, regardless of the arena or context.

So, I find myself staring at another elevated wall. The tendency is never to run, but to find a way to traverse these unexpected obstacles. Clearing my mind and crafting attack plans, building potential roads, or devising alternative movements all align to form one comprehensive, sweeping force, and that coordinating energy is inspiration.

I’m grateful for the neural pathways that remain open and willing to accept information from whatever anagogic source is willing to send these much-appreciated gems. Not only do I reach a sense of personal satisfaction for slaying the proverbial dragon, I’m left even better equipped for battle when the next fire breather shows its uninvited face.

Pendulum Swings

photo (5)We are all walking on a wire.

There is an overarching sense that we are safe and secure, our affairs are in order, and those we care about are sliding through life unscathed. We tend to the duties of the day, accepting that sunsets follow rush hours and cars quietly return to driveways. We view health as something in stasis, and radical deviations from these anticipated paths sit just outside our realm of belief.

Locked in the microcosm of immediate thoughts, results, and gratifications, we blindly throw darts and hope for bullseyes.

But, as Mr. Newton noted, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Now, if we bowed under the weight of this awareness on a daily basis, we’d be fast-tracked to insanity. We can’t sit in the car thinking about what happens when the driver in the opposite lane spills hot coffee on his lap. It would make life impossible to live. We would be reduced to gun shy shut-ins, compulsively petting cats and studying DEFCON levels.

But, that doesn’t mean we should strap on the blindfold, secured with a Palomar, and start stumbling into walls. As with everything, a careful balance needs to be found. It’s part acceptance and part defiance, and these two opposing forces don’t normally play nicely in the sandbox.

The world is not built on level roads. Aim for greatness, but keep an eye on the edge. Even when there’s room to fly, winds will inevitably change. Build a safety net before you leap, or someone will have to catch you when you fall.

New York State of Mind

photoI guess I’ve never thought of myself as a real New Yorker. I was raised an hour north of Manhattan, and I had ample opportunities to visit the city for a variety of reasons. But, other than watching those twins crumble with the rest of my Midtown co-workers and finding unity inside the chaos, I never identified with the New York mentality, attitude, or aesthetic.

Los Angeles felt like home the moment I stepped foot on the Left Coast. I bathed in the energy and the crunchy, earthy attitude, and wrapped myself in the beachy progressiveness that permeates SoCal living. But, I never realized how important a role my Northeast concrete played in that foundation.

See, whether I knew it or not, New York pumped a lot of grit and grind into this blood and inside these bones. It made me street smart, tough, and able to see directly through the smog-sized fog of bullshit that hangs over this city like a storm cloud. I knew when people were lying to steal more fuel for their personal rockets, and I learned to never give the benefit of the doubt before it was earned. I gravitated toward a predominantly East Coast-rooted group of friends, and I’d bet that wasn’t due to freak coincidence.

But, having recently returned from my annual US Open pilgrimage, where I was able to take in the joys of family, unimpeded roads, and…rain, I have felt so far from that giant security blanket near the Hudson. Plane rides provide the illusion that we’re not on opposite sides of the country, but the brevity of travel can’t make up for the reality of miles.

I will adjust, as my history has shown. I will embrace all the benefits of evading fall and winter weather like a clever cat burglar sitting in the sun with his spoils. But, this renewed appreciation for my provenance will remain.

Thank you, New York, for mapping my route and filling my tires. Your infused weight has grounded me beneath this persistent charade.

Brotherhood

Monkey HuddleI’m one of the lucky ones.

I may not have found the perfect partner or landed the dream job. I don’t have a personal relationship with my tailor and there are no smiling toddlers belted into the back of a BMW. I don’t take exotic vacations to places where people see their feet underwater, and the odds of anything even remotely resembling a storybook ending to this narrative dwindle further with every passing year.

But, I wouldn’t trade what I have for three rubs on a genie’s lamp. The bonds that have been built within my core collective are stronger and more resilient than Hollywood’s latest, feeble attempt at “friend fiction.”

There is a carbyne foundation supporting the weight and lifting the shoulders of men I’ve known for almost half my life. We made our introductions in the east, and then settled with the sun. A universal breeze could have easily blown us all just slightly off the mark. But fate dictated that our subconscious lassos landed on complementary cattle.

Regardless of the days spent apart or the interference of squabbling schedules, we never fail to come together in time with the beat, toe-tapping our way to the next wild theory, social observation, or wordplay marathon. The rare balance of unconditional support, unwavering loyalty, and relentless vulnerability makes for an exclusive club. We don’t expect you to understand, and we’re not asking you to join.

But, I am beyond grateful every day that I landed in Ithaca and found a counterpart who, in turn, led me to the missing pieces of my complicated puzzle. I would be a fractured shell, searching for connection and purpose without the lacquer and love of my “brothers.”

Thank you, gentlemen, for every moment passed and each minute waiting to surface.

There Are Voices In My Apartment

dj2Having been raised by a single mother, with no siblings wrestling for attention or screaming to be noticed, I became quite accustomed to the sanctity of silence. I could sit on the floor, lost in isolated make believe, organizing my action figures and creating layered scenarios for their roles in my narrative. There was very little interruption, and as a result, I became fairly comfortable wearing my own skin.

These patterns continued for most of my life. I slid into the safety of a quiet, dark room, and I found I was most productive and clear when the rest of the world disappeared into sleep. All the static of the day seemed to melt beneath the sound of a steady hum. I found keyboards and computer screens, books and balance.

But, for the last decade, a new variety of brain food has worked its way onto my plate. I fear I have become addicted to podcasts.

Now, I’m not actively seeking an intervention. I don’t think it’s quite at that point. But the sounds of endless interviews, medical information, human interest stories, comedic discourse, public radio pieces, fitness advice, and pop culture references have permeated my living space to the point of lunacy.

This isn’t entirely harmful. I’ve got a hungry head, and it needs its snacks. But, floating on a comfort cloud of strangers’ voices can do a pretty great job of bamboozling you into thinking there’s more than one cook in the kitchen. It’s like a big, fat audio comfort blanket, and I’m swaddled like a preemie on the prairie.

So, I will continue to walk into that dark unknown, ears open and mind alert. But, be prepared for some lengthy conversations when our paths finally cross. I’ve logged a lot of listening hours, and I’ve got some things to share.

The Dishonest Mirror

mirror2Our personal, clouded perceptions of the truth can leave us feeling less worthy, attractive, or capable than our projected selves. This negativity sets wobbly wheels in motion, and the small spark of an idea quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of inadequacy.

How many times have you looked at a picture or a video and found yourself almost unrecognizable? The energy and natural confidence we emanate during even the most casual settings has more power and influence than any static snapshot or passing reflection. There’s magnetism in the moment, and our trapped brains, locked behind bars of doubt and indecision, are no match for our instinctive willingness to shine.

This juxtaposition of worlds has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve lost a tremendous amount of confidence in the last couple of years. Job insecurity, a difficult relationship, and a general sense of arriving late to catch the last train have all combined to take a healthy hack out of my spirit. So much time and energy have been spent taking a step outside of myself, evaluating my station, and plotting a strategy. Trading hope for survival, an easy smile lost its lease to a clenched jaw.

But, this last week provided more laughs and tears than a “Marley & Me” marathon, and I realized that I still had healthy reserves left to give to the people who make my world spin.

Sending our best friend to San Francisco was no easy task. Memories saturated every conversation, and accepting that someone who holds a crucial spot as a collective support beam is no longer going to be walking in to a birthday gathering, strumming his guitar at every opportunity, or staring at me across the net was a grain grinding realization.

But, these bonding days and nights not only reignited the fire of our inner circle, they lit the fuse inside of my dormant core. I think we all woke up to the fact that our sunsets are numbered and life’s trains can travel unexpected tracks.

I guess the hardest learned lessons have to follow some tough teaching.

Saying Goodbye

balloon1At this point, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m not a big fan of saying goodbye to the constants in my world. Chasing an elusive dream of stasis has proved disappointing and disheartening, and this latest realization has added another slap to an already-bruised face.

I have built a core group of friends that I can say without hesitation is the most supportive, open, caring, and genuine collection of males you will ever find in our modern, self-obsessed, and apathetic society. These men have been in my life for the last 12-17 years, and we are a circle that has defied all male stereotypes, rejecting the notion of “bros,” eschewing emotional safeguarding, and almost always choosing hugs over handshakes.

We have been an intricate and intimate puzzle with interchangeable pieces, falling in and out of the picture when love, work, and commitments dictated our level of contact. We welcomed new members and did our best to embrace rookies into the fold. But, the foundation was constructed from memories and moments, and regardless of connections made later in life, there is a finite number of people who have genuine shared history.

I have been guilty of taking these relationships for granted, assuming they would always be waiting for me when needed. I wanted to believe the band would look and sound the same, regardless of time. The comfort of knowing my most valued friendships all resided in the same city was like a giant security blanket. Even when I wasn’t around it, I was still protected from the cold.

Now, a vital member of the collective is leaving. The news was a mild surprise, having known the prospect was on the table. But, the sadness and nostalgia accompanying the announcement are more than I expected. Some of my earliest and most cherished LA memories and experiences are directly credited to the bond we built and the easy alliance born from the most unexpected common ground.

Those tennis days and music nights were some of my happiest. Even when I was barely working, struggling to navigate the financial hills and (mostly) valleys of this city, he was the one person who visited me each weekend. Breaking the loneliness and monotony of those stress-heavy weeks by hitting some forehands and sharing a quick lunch meant the world to me. I don’t know if he ever knew that. I hope he does now.

People grow and change and move. Life is lived out of a box, and there are adventures waiting for this wide-eyed explorer. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to honor the transparency of this blog and admit that dry eyes have not accompanied this post.

Losing some comfortable life consistency is nothing compared to losing a friend.

An Undisturbed Life

undisturbedLately I’ve been running a little cost-benefit analysis. Is the sanctity of an undisturbed life that seeks to iron out potential wrinkles worth the loss of occasional cage rattling, spawning growth inside of chaos?

It’s a quandary I’ve circled for a long time, and I’ve yet to find any definitive evidence pointing me in one particular direction.

Woven into my central fabric is an organized, detailed, contemplative pragmatist who pays close attention to dates and deadlines. That’s undeniable. I take great pleasure aligning my ducks and creating systems to prepare for unexpected speed bumps. I’m rarely blindsided or put in awkward situations, and I relish recording the minutiae of my surroundings.

But, on the occasions when I’ve been rudely ejected from this stainless sanctuary of a comfort zone, I have found that the lessons learned and the connections made have been exponentially rewarding. The experience was never as daunting or painful as I anticipated and I generally emerged from the other side relatively unscathed.

It is an internal battle that has been raging for as long as I care to discuss. My brain doesn’t process life in the same way as the majority of people in this world, so watching the wheels of daily behavior spin in the opposite direction has added significant weight to these already-rounded shoulders.

Ruffled feathers, detonated plans, and unexpected visitors are nerve-inducing, neuroses missiles. When I lived with roommates, I was in a state of perpetual panic, waiting for someone to walk in the door without notice. Living with a significant other was even worse. But, the hours of conversation you never thought you’d have, growing in the spur of the moment, are the treasures born from those pins and needles. There was often a yang waiting for its yin. I just couldn’t pull myself back far enough to see the big picture.

So, I’m sitting at square one, battling instinct and hardwired tendency to allow the possibility and space for the unforeseen. It is a dance I’ve learned to stumble through for most of my adult life, and it doesn’t sound like the music is stopping any time soon.

A tranquil, still pond is a peaceful, beautiful thing. But, every body of water needs a few waves.