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Long time, no see…

Long time no see, no hear, no read, and no write.

And I mean long! I don’t remember the last date of my last post, and I purposefully didn’t look it up to see how long it has been.

During the time of quiet, my life has been anything but. I got married, I started a nonprofit arts organization with my husband, we created and produced 5 original dance musicals and 1 book musical, we had many visitors to our home, I spent sleepless nights worrying about money, I drained my 401k, I had a few days off here and there, I slept a few winks, and I struggled to maintain my sobriety.

All of this I hope to put out here to help me sort it out. I have come to understand that sometimes the best therapy for my active – overly-active – mind, is to write it down.

Something feels different this time around, however. As I write this I feel guarded; I feel very venerable. I feel like I am hiding behind layers upon layers of gauze draperies. I can see light and shapes through them, but can’t make them out fully. And I am aware that those looking at me see the same, which gives me a slight feeling of having an edge over … something.

Over what, I am not sure. Those looking back at me, their view of me? Myself? My truths? My ability to see things clearly or my ability to want to see them as I want to see them? My desire to hide, to be ambiguous, to not explicitly understand or confront the happenings in my life?

I feel a slight breeze blowing the draperies … moving them slightly more and more to where more of the distant landscape can be seen through the folds and ripples.

Maybe it’s time for a hurricane force wind to rip them down. Or maybe I just need to find a pair of good, sharp, scissors to cut my way through the layers. You know, like that one great pair of Fiskers you know were in the junk drawer, but always seem to grow legs and disappear. Instead, I feel like I can only reach far enough to find a pair of blunt-edged plastic kindergarten scissors and just barely chew on the fabric. Maybe my teeth would make a better cut. I could get all mammalian and growl and churn and nash.

Somehow using my arms to part the gauze is not an option. I can’t seem to lift them high enough. The breeze seems to constantly blow the edges away from me as I reach out, making it impossible to find the edges. I am enveloped.

And once it’s parted, what will I have accompished? What will I see? What will you see?

Will I look into your eyes, burroughing deep into your mind and soul, and say out loud and with fully realized clarity, “Long time, no see.”

Only to recognize my face, eyes, mind, and soul looking back at me saying to me with fully realized clarity:

“Long time … no see.”

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one year …

front porch 2
On this day last year, Kirk and I arrived in our new home town, Charleston, South Carolina. We left New York City packed to the gills with clothes, bedding, the dogs, some food, and a rental truck filled with furniture and items picked up at his parent’s house along the way.

We drove into our subdivision. The dogs and I were in the Jeep, and Kirk behind me in the rental truck. I was anxious to see our house, that I drove a little too fast over the standard suburban community speed hump. So fast, in fact, that little Rhoda (a five month old puppy) bounced from her spot in the backseat into my lap. She was frightened and shaking, and although I felt horrible, I couldn’t help but laugh.

On the drive to the neighborhood, I saw lots of green … “we’re out in the country” green. Marshes and bridges and moss-covered tree canopies. I had no idea what it would be like living here. I was nervous that it would be “too country,” “too republican,” and all about fried food. I struggled with leaving my NBW home group, not having the subway to get around, and moving away from friends, family, and a city I had grown to love after eleven years. I looked forward to a large backyard, growing a garden, full-fledged grocery stores with wide aisles, less traffic, fewer people, and less stress.

We had seen pictures of the house on the internet. We google-mapped the lot and the neighborhood. We rented the house without having been in it before. I was excited and nervous. We parked in the driveway, looked our little yellow house, told the dogs this was our new home, unlocked the door, and walked in.

That first walk through was the beginning of a wonderful year. So much has changed in my life since we walked through that door. We endured a battle for Rhoda’s life, and I was humbled by the outpouring of financial support that our friends showed. She is the $20,000 dog and worth every penny. Victor has become a great friend to her and plays tug-o-war and chase. We went through financial ups and downs while Kirk attempted to secure continual teaching hours. We embarked on a creative journey and produced a successful Christmas production called “Santa’s Naughty & Nice Burlesque”. We formed a business partnership through Sprinkles Productions, transformed our garage into a studio, and Kirk started teaching fulltime here at the house. We established a new non-profit corporation — the Charleston Performing Arts Center — and assembled a board of directors to begin the process of building a cultural hub within Charleston; a performance space and a performing arts conservatory. And, more importantly, we got married. Not here, of course, but on a visit to New York.

Yes, I feel like I live in the country. But there is nothing better than leaving the windows open on a cool rainy night and hearing frogs croaking. Or to see Cardinals eating from the bird feeders hanging from the trees in our backyard. The beach is minutes away, and it has a very “Santa Cruz” vibe to it. Downtown is small and easy to navigate. There are green belts everywhere — we live adjacent to a tidal marsh that, at high tide, spills onto the roadway, and at low tide exposes the sickly pungent smell of pluff mud.

Yes, this town is too republican, but everyone I have met in Charleston has been nothing but accepting of me and Kirk. We have amazing neighbors, who are now friends, many of whom I met while trying to get rid of the many eggplant that I grew in the garden. We feel comfortable walking the dogs holding hands or hugging on the beach; although I will admit that I do look around sometimes … just in case. Kirk was unable to get his ID changed to his married name because South Carolina doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. And trying to get family insurance coverage was like jumping through flaming hoops covered in gasoline.

Yes, it sucks not having the convenience of the subway. Especially since we only have one car. If we’re out of milk, we can’t just run down the block to the Bodega to get it. I have to drive to the grocery store. And since I am going there, I might as well make a list of other things that we need so that I don’t find yourself in the same predicament soon. And then I find that I have spent forty-five minutes in the grocery store filling up the “buggy” (not shopping cart), when all I REALLY needed was milk. It’s also strange to know that many people here are against the installation of bike lanes or building / retrofitting bridges for bikes lanes. Everyone talks on their phone in the car and they FINALLY just banned texting while driving.

Yes, there is too much fatty food here. You can’t swing a cat without hitting something fried. But, the Lowcountry cuisine is fresh, richly textured, and delicious. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t eaten my fair share of biscuits and sausage gravy, y’all. Oh yes! There have been LOTS of biscuits with sausage gravy! There is definitely too much shrimp and fish here, but I can’t hold my distaste for seafood against Charleston.

Yes, there have been challenges and times where I thought — expressed — that we made the wrong decision. There were a few months of feeling landlocked and lonely without friends. But all that is past. A year has gone by and life here has become just that — life here.

I live in Charleston, South Carolina. And life is good.

i’m still here …

I just celebrated my forty-fifth birthday. The day was spent with my fiancé, our dogs, and my sister and her best friend, who were visiting from out of town. It was a quiet day of celebration. The weather was stunning: sunny, warm, and just a slight breeze.

I ate French toast and bacon for breakfast, tacos and street corn for lunch, and a decadent dinner of prime rib, blue cheese smashed potatoes, and the Peninsula Grill’s renowned coconut cake for dessert.

I was touched by the number of people on Facebook that wished me a happy birthday. While some believe it is impersonal, I appreciate how Facebook reminds me of other’s birthdays; without it, I wouldn’t remember anyone’s birthday. Ever. And, as I was going through each post, thanking each friend for their well-wishes, I thought to myself that the mailbox at my curb would never be filled with this many birthday cards. Ever. There’s a great sense of connectedness that comes from Facebook, and is very apparent to me at times like this.

This birthday, forty-five, has also given me cause to reflect deeply on a statement I made in my early twenties. One of pure naïveté and lack of self-worth. The statement was congruent with the way I was behaving and treating myself. I was afraid of so much in life; who I was, what I was doing, what I didn’t know, what I did, the uncertainty of my future, the belief that I wasn’t worthy of meaningful friendships, loving relationships, and self-esteem.

I was unaware at the time just how fear-filled I lived. I thought I was having fun. I wasn’t aware of how manipulative I was. I thought I was trying to fit in. I wasn’t aware of how immature I was behaving. I thought I knew how to navigate this thing called life. I wasn’t fully aware of how poorly I thought of myself, but I did know that I didn’t feel worthy of what I could aspire to or what I could attain. Instead, I thought I was only worthy of what I was being given.

In my early twenties, I lived in San Francisco. I had a great job, a fun group of friends, a good relationship with my family, and nice places to live. I also had a deep rooted need to fit in, to be popular and part of the “in crowd,” and to be an “A Gay.” That meant I did a lot of experimenting, more so than in high school. I started a relationship with crystal meth.

It was a fun club drug at first. It made me chatty, allowed me to be on the dance floor for hours, and made me a part of the “in crowd.” I felt larger than life, desirable, fun, and sophisticated. I felt completely invincible. That fun and social aspect soon turned into the dark and seedy side of drug addiction. I would pause and resume my use, depending on who I was dating or what was happening in my life. Many years later, a time would come when I could find no other way to feel connected, or cope with grief, anger, fear, betrayal, and any other emotion. My use became a daily habit and had complete control over my every action. I lived a dual life: one as a well-paid and respected career-driven executive; and another as a drug addict, who saw no problem with being awake for several days in a row and who did unmentionable things with people that one wouldn’t otherwise give the time of day.

I marvel at how I was so afraid of life, but I was not afraid of putting myself in situations that were gravely dangerous. Drug deals with incredibly sketchy individuals, “parties” in neighborhoods and apartments I wouldn’t even want to walk by, and no fear of the consequence of arrest, overdose, robbery, or murder.

And, so, in my early twenties, when the use of this drug was still new and fun, I said what I now believe shaped how I felt about my life and myself.

I was partying with a guy who I used to hook up with.  He was genuinely a nice person and I enjoyed spending time with him. I believe that we would have been friends outside the party scene if it weren’t for the haze cast by drugs. We’d been up for a few days and were in a chatting phase. We were talking about life goals and dreams. We were fantasizing over winning the lottery, who we wanted to have sex with, who would play us in a movie, and other ridiculous notions. The sun had risen and set, and risen again, and at one point he asked, “How old do you think you will be when you die?”

I thought for a moment, predicting my future accomplishments in my mind, and then replied rather resolutely.

“Forty-five,” I said. “I think by then I will have achieved everything I want to.”

So, on this, my forty-fifth birthday, I can’t help but remember that moment. I look back and I barely know the person who said that, even though it was me. Those words, the conviction, the belief that I would be “done” — this year — it all seems like something that would never come out of my mouth.

I have been blessed beyond belief with the support of family, old friends and new, and the love of a partner that grows each day. I have faced my demons and accepted them as my past, but I do not allow them to define my future. I am on the path of a spiritual journey, and it’s amazing.

For this birthday, my forty-fifth, there was cake, fun, laughs, and memories. There was also a quiet, introspective, and deeply personal celebration. Forty-five years lived. I made it. And I will continue to make it.

I do not regret my past, nor do I wish to shut the door on it. That is one promise that has been granted, and I am forever grateful.

five oh four pee em

I remember being thrown to the floor of The Gap on Pacific Avenue, in Santa Cruz, California.  The lights went out, the sound of glass breaking and masonry rumbled, a car alarms were sounding off. Then silence. Once all customers were out of the store and we were on the street, it was clear what had happened. A huge earthquake had struck, buildings had crumbled, roads had buckled.

People were crying, glass and dust were everywhere, smoke and the smell of fire filled the air. We all gathered in our designated emergency meeting spot and made sure everyone was accounted for.

It was at that point I realized that all of our personal belongings were in the store, upstairs in the employee area. I also realized that emergency closing procedures needed to be followed, like removing the cash from the registers.

Either way, I had to go upstairs. To get there, I had to cross the first floor stockroom to get to the stairwell. When I opened the stockroom door, I couldn’t see a thing. It was pitch black. All power was out and there were no battery operated safety lights. I could not tell if the floor was buckled, or even if it had opened up into the basement below. We didn’t have any flashlights nearby.

One of our stock guys came with me. He held the door open in the pitch black and stepped into the room. I inched my way a little further by shuffling my feet and tapping my toes before me.

As I got a little further in, he stepped in behind me. The hinged door closed behind him. We jumped when it slammed and found ourselves in complete darkness; any ambient light from having the door open was lost.

My eyes buzzed with blackness. It was so dark I felt blind. It was as if I could feel and hear my pupils dilating, frantically trying to see an inch in front of my face.

I felt his hand on my shoulder and I continued to shuffle and tap forward. Slowly we edged our way across the floor. It was uneven in spots and some steps felt too heavy to be sustained by the give in the floor. After about ten minutes we were almost at what was assumed to be the middle of the stockroom.

We froze when the aftershock hit. It felt as if it lasted an hour. When it stopped, there was no denying that we had to be quick. There was not time to just inch our way … the next aftershock could be damaging. We sped up our shuffle, and finally reached the door that led to the stairs. Once opened, we were blinded by the light from the windows upstairs.

We hurried up the stairs and into the employee stockroom and grabbed all the backpacks, purses, and bags. I opened the safe and grabbed the petty cash fund bag. I stuffed all the register cash into the bag and we headed out of the store.

Everyone left with their belongings. We all talked about how we would come back the next morning to clean up the store and prep for reopening.

Little did any of is know the extent of what had happened. Two people died in buildings that collapsed, many more were injured. Part of Highway 17 had collapsed and would take weeks to clear. A section of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco collapsed, the Marina was on fire, and the upper deck of the Embarcadero Freeway had fallen and crushed the traffic below.

Being less than a mile from the epicenter of a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that lasted fifteen seconds but felt like an hour, was the most frightening experience of my life.

It is something I will never forget as long as a live. The sense of my smallness in the world, the futility for everything that used to seem important, the anger of how something like this could happen, and the hopelessness that it could not have been controlled, filled my days and nights for years to follow.

I’d like to say that it’s all behind me, and most of the time it is, but on this day each year at 5:04PM, I take pause to remember.

liebster award … a little late in responding …

liebster2I was nominated for another Liebster Award and am now getting to respond to it. My first nomination was from Are You The Babysitter? and my dear friend RoiAnn. This time I was nominated by My Rants and Rambles blogger, Danny, who found my blog and started following me. We both write about sobriety and addiction; however, I find his to be so much more raw and to the point. It’s a great sobriety resource for newcomers and for those seeking community on problems and successes in sobriety. I sincerely enjoy reading his “rants and rambles.”

I won’t reiterate the deal-e-o about Liebster Award Nominations, since all of that detail can be found in my post, Liebster Award Nominations. I also won’t re-nominate 11 blogs, since I did that already. I missed an aspect of the process in first award post, the 11 “things about me” portion, so I included that below. (See, there is always a reason to read me … you’ll learn something new every time!)

Thank you Danny for the nomination!

11 Things About Me

  1. I love the beach. I have some type of connection to the ocean that heals me and renews me.
  2. I have edema in my right leg that comes and goes, and has done so since 2009. Every doctor I have seen about it has no explanation as to why it happens. And … it just goes untreated. Sometimes I swell and sometimes I don’t.
  3. Acupuncture. Acupuncture. Acupuncture!
  4. I will someday write a novel about my life.
  5. I love tent camping, especially waking in the morning and starting a fire. The smell of breakfast and coffee in morning dew of the mountains is like ambrosia.
  6. I am deathly afraid of bears. I think the movie Prophecy instilled this fear in me when I was in elementary school.
  7. I have named the voice in my head Carl. This way I can argue back and win. If it’s my voice in my head, I can never debate and win. But if it’s Carl, I can debate and argue and win. This helps me maintain my sobriety. Damn Carl…he loves to try to talk me into drinking or using. He also loves to try to make me feel small and weak.
  8. I am engaged to married. No date set, but maybe October of 2014.
  9. I hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail. It was life changing. I chronicled the hike here on my blog.
  10. I am friends with many of my school chums. Most of us went to elementary, junior high, and high school together. I tend to refer to people by both their first name and last name. Always.
  11. I hate grape flavored things. I hate that diners always bring out grape jelly and you have to ask for strawberry.
  12. I just love cheese, raaaaallllly I doooo.

11 Questions For My Nominees To Answer-

  1. What is your favorite TV show?
    Boy, this is a hard one. I love TV and have so many favorites. They change so often, too. I would have to say that House of Cards is spectacular. And, I am a late comer to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, but I have to say that it really has a lot of heart. That family, as weird and backward as they are, really love each other. Jimmy Kimmel cracks me up, but I am usually in bed by the time he comes on (I am old).
  2. Where is one place you go that calms you down?
    The beach. The bathtub.
  3. Coffee or Tea?
    Tea. Definitely! Earl Grey with cream and honey.
  4. Is the glass half-full or half-empty?
    Both.
  5. Favorite Disney movie?
    Shit. Another hard one! Apple Dumplin’ Gang, Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, the original Freaky Friday, The Incredibles (if Disney Pixar counts), Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians (animated), Fantasia, Beauty and The Beast, Snow White …
  6. Do you believe in love at first sight?
    Yes.
  7. Why did you decide to start blogging?
    Because I have always enjoyed writing and I started posting Notes in Facebook and the feedback from those was very encouraging. I have also always had the notion that I have a book in me … I just need to get it out. Blogging has provided me a platform to practice and hone skills.
  8. Who is someone you look up to?
    My mother. President Clinton. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Emily Post. My partner’s father.
  9. What type of superpower would you want to have?
    Invisibility. Or mind reading.
  10. Right now, if you had a chance to travel anywhere and money was not an option, where would you go?
    Mars. Or France.
  11. What is one goal that you have that means a lot to you?
    To be an honest, fully realized man with a life that is rich and filled with love and respect.

twelve years …

It’s amazing that it was twelve years ago. I was thirty-two years old. I was hung over and asleep when my sister called me, waking me up, and franticly asking if I was watching the news. I was not.

With blazing headache, cotton mouth, and swollen bloodshot eyes, I turned on the news and watched what had already unfolded in New York City, and what was continuing to unfold in our nation.

While the day was something I lived to experience, something real; it is also a day that only lives in history books for children, something to ponder and imagine. It makes me feel my age to say, “I remember when …” and truly mean it. I picture myself an old man while neighborhood children sit at my feet; glasses of lemonade glisten with condensation that drips and puddles on the teak side table and wood porch boards.

I will share what I have shared before. I will share what I remember. I will share what I experienced. What I felt, heard, and saw. Many of my friends will do the same, with their children and grandchildren; my sisters will share with their grandchildren, my grand nieces and nephews.

I will always remember and never forget. No one alive on that day will ever forget.

Here is what I remember. Here is an experience I enjoyed in remembrance.

my baby takes the morning 1 train …

I no longer ride the 1 train or any other subway train for that matter, but when I did, this situation really happened. It was November of 2009, and I was commuting to work in the Fashion District. I wrote about my morning commute experience and posted it in a Facebook Note. (Remember those?) For those of you in New York who commute on the subway, this story will ring true. For those of you who don’t, I hope you still find it an enjoyable read.

subway art

First, I am not one to be confrontational on the subway. I usually just suck it up and deal with it like everyone else. Second, I believe that everyone has to have some level of social and communal accountability. When you live with millions of people, you need to be aware that you are not the sole person in the city, on the sidewalk, on the subway, in line at the CVS, or waiting for a table.

Lastly, — and then my story will begin — riding the subway is a way of life in New York. There’s a sub-culture element to it that one wears like a badge of honor. Some people can give you transfer directions from any station to any station that sound like they are reading the letters in their bowl of Alpha-Bits. “Take the A, C, or E, or the B or D, to Columbus Circle. Then take the D to Herald Square. Then take the N, R, or W to Spring Street and you’re in Soho.” (OK, New Yorkers, it’s true that one need only stay on the A, C, or E to get from Columbus Circle to Spring, but I am just painting a picture to emphasize a point.)

It’s also important to note that the MTA is constantly raising subway fares and reducing services. This makes the future of riding the subway a greater challenge than it is today. Every morning, waiting for the 1 train at the 79th Street station, I am amazed at how many people are on the platform. Then the train arrives and it’s already packed. Everyone tries to pile in, but sometimes you have to wait for the next train.

Today, while trying to fit into the subway, I noticed that everyone was crowded in the door areas but the center aisle had lots of room. This is a common occurrence and normally not cause for concern. However, today, more people were trying to get on the train and no one was moving in, so I had to say something.

“Hey you guys. You wanna move in? There’s tons of room in there.”

People just looked at me.

“OK, I’m not kidding. Move in. There is tons of room in there. Scoot in! Scoot in!”

People moved. Some ever so slightly and some moved into the center of the car.

A woman who was standing at the first holding pole said, “I can’t move; I have a bag.” Ok, that’s fine, I get it; however, she was standing facing the length of the train instead of facing the side of the train, and was completely blocking anyone from being able to pass her to reach the middle seating area.

At 66th Street station a bunch of people got off the train, as is normal during commute hours. I was standing at the door, so I stepped out and let them pass. As I got back on the train I proceeded to move to the middle seating area. That same woman just stood there … completely blocking the way.

“Can you move so that I get where there’s room?” I asked with a tinge of acid in my tone.

“I can’t. I’ve got this bag,” she replied dismissively.

I proceeded to push her aside and step over her bag.

“You are unbelievable. How inconsiderate and inappropriate!” she barked.

I decided to not act on what I really wanted to do: beat her to a pulp. That would have been completely inappropriate and not very gentlemanly. Instead, I chose to tell her exactly how I felt.

“Excuse me? Look at the way you’re standing. You are completely blocking the aisle and no one can pass you. If you would just stand facing the windows, people would be able to pass and not have to be crammed together at the doors. So let me ask you this: who is unbelievable and inappropriate? Me or you?”

Then, the most amazing thing happened. Some of the people that were standing and sitting in that area applauded. They actually clapped and shared in my viewpoint and frustration. It was fantastic!

The woman got off the train at the 59th Street station. I proceeded to my regular stop, 42nd Street- Times Square and then off to work; practically skipping to the office while relishing in a moment that I think could happen “only in New York kids, only in New York.”

s is for super 2 p is for perfection

green eye