Category Archives: i used to be stupid

Ramble On, or "Awkward As Can Possibly Be – That’s Me!"

The clicking underneath the opening of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” sets my mind reeling into Flashback Alley.

I remember the first time I had the record, Houses Of The Holy, in my hands. Twelve inches of a new world for me to explore. The eerie cover art, with a naked prepubescent girl standing on some rocks that are jutting out of somewhere I’d never seen or been to before – it reminded me of those old books about Irish folklore and Faeries my little sister and I had as kids, the paintings and illustrations inside becoming Nightmare Fuel for the long-off-in-the-distance hallucinations of my Drug Years.

I was probably fourteen years old or so. Music was just beginning to grab me by the balls, right around the same time hormones started to play with my mind and cause me to notice girls and their breasts and the way that they smell when you lean in real close to them. Girls and Rock And Motherfucking Roll, a conflagration inside of my belly.

Never-ending fire, with no need to stoke it.

I had just started experimenting with drugs around this time as well – nothing too heavy yet, just smoking marijuana pilfered from an older brother of a friend. He would sneak enough for us to roll a joint out of his brother’s sack, and we’d get high before baseball practice.

Those were always the days where I felt like I could hit a ball seven hundred feet. The spinning of the ball as it was released during batting practice slowed to a crawl, being able to read the laces and see the ball connect with the aluminum bat in my hands, watching it rocket off of it as I pulled the orb into the stratosphere that was left field.

Endless Summer.

I was about to start High School then. I wasn’t necessarily a popular kid in Middle School – I was far too awkward for that. As smart as I was, I was very shy and gangly. I had just lost a bunch of weight during the winter due to a terrible bout with pneumonia. I had my Bar Mitzvah late – I mostly did it out of respect and love for my mother and her family – being Jewish was something I understood and had already come to terms with, but wasn’t necessarily high on my list of identifying characteristics. Maybe if we had stayed in Brooklyn I would have thought differently, but being Jewish in Phoenix was just a target on my back, especially in regard to the awkwardness and grief I caught from all of my classmates – it was as if I were some kind of alien dropped into their world.

But, being Jewish was how my mother and her family identified, and I wasn’t about to upset them in any way. My mother asked me if it was something I wanted to do, and I saw in her eyes in that moment that she was subliminally suggesting that it was something that I should do, so I agreed.

I went through all of the training necessary to learn enough Hebrew to pull off a Bar Mitzvah in less than six months’ time, memorizing and practicing all of the singing from a cassette tape made for me by our Temple’s cantor every morning before school, when my mother said my mind was “fresh.” I would stand in my bedroom, slowly pulling clothes onto my weary and hormone-infused body, singing along with these tapes. My sister, who always identified with my father’s Catholicism, would walk past my bedroom door, shaking her head and making faces at me because of the terrible nature of my singing voice.

There was something magical about hormones and a foreign language coupled with the rapid succession of time and a need to complete a task.

ANYWAYS…

Around the week before my Bar Mitzvah, I became really ill, coming down with a terrible bout with the aforementioned pneumonia. My lungs were full of fluid and phlegm, my body ached and was hot to the touch. Thankfully, every single older Jewish woman from my mother’s family had made the pilgrimage to Phoenix to witness my “coming of age,” so I had plenty of matronly love being spent in my direction – each one of them having some magical cure-all to take away my illness.

My mother’s grandmother was the eldest in the posse, so I latched on to her advice, being the smart and very attuned to the nuance of respecting one’s elders type of cat that I already was. Her methods were simple and old school – flush it all out with lots of hot tea with lemon and honey, and eat as much grapefruit as humanly possible.

We burned that poison out of my body.

Not only did I remove the poisonous pneumonia from my body, but I somehow managed to slim myself down a bit – which was good, because even though I was constantly active – playing basketball daily, baseball year round, and riding a skateboard everywhere I wanted to go – I was just a lump of a kid. As lumpy as could be. Not portly, but just this husky mess of a boy.

Being Jewish got me my first date, too.

My mother had started sending me off to these Youth Group dances and stuff like that. I was always awkward and self-conscious around people I didn’t know, but my mother would tell me over and over again – “Seany, just act like you’ve been there before – that’s how you learn – stop being afraid already.” The Temple we belonged to was a new one, so it really didn’t have a Youth Group as of yet, but my mother was able to find out where she could send me to get acclimated to being around other kids that were supposed to be like me.

I was sent to a dance at a Temple in Scottsdale, full of kids from all over Phoenix. I would go to the dances at my school, but they were always an exercise in me improving my avoidance skill set, as opposed to me actually being brave and asking girls to dance. Dancing has never been anything I was drawn to – it’s just not in my box of tools. I have plenty of rhythm, and I can sit behind a drum kit and break out the funk to let loose an entire room of jump-stepping, but dancing? Not gonna happen, my friends.

Sadly, this has continued into my Adult Life – I never dance. I danced with The Wife at our wedding for one song(Nick Drake‘s “Northern Sky“), and then once more at another wedding we attended, when she forced me to do it by putting the juju on me and telling me it was “bad luck” for the newlyweds if I didn’t comply.

ANYWAYS…

I only knew a few of the kids at this dance, from my own Temple’s incredibly archaic and terrible Sunday School classes that I had been expelled from for being out of line and telling the instructor that she was an asshole for telling me my Iron Maiden shirt was inappropriate to wear to a Temple. I milled around near the walls, like any scene out of a teen movie from the 80s – just skittering and sputtering my way through the motions of being there. The music they were playing was horrible and not like any of the Rock And Motherfucking Roll I was used to pumping into my system of my own accord. No Thin Lizzy. No Iron Maiden. No Kiss. No Aerosmith. No Sex Pistols or The Damned, for sure.

I found a side door after a while, and I snuck outside to smoke a cigarette.

I was standing over by a column next to some bushes, cupping my smoke in my hand near my side when a girl came over to me to see what I was up to.

“Are you smoking?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh my God, can I have a drag?”

“Sure.”

I watched her as she took the cigarette and put it to her lips. The way she dragged on it told me she wasn’t really a smoker, and her black nail polish told me she wasn’t like the rest of the girls inside. Her dress was nice. She had pretty hair – black, with a little wave to it that hung over half of her face. Her eyes were blue, and she smelled like flowers.

“I’m Hailey. You should come inside and dance with me.”

“I’m Sean. I – ummm – I don’t really dance, Hailey.”

“Will you dance with me if I get them to play a good slow song?”

“Sure. But only if you get them to play a Led Zeppelin song. I bet they don’t even have any. That’s all I really listen to.”

She took my hand at that point. No girl had ever held my hand before. I was trying so hard to look and be cool. I didn’t want her to know that I was terrified. I mean – how the fuck was I supposed to react to some girl who just randomly came outside, caught me smoking at a Jewish Youth Group dance, and is now holding my retarded hand? And now this beautiful girl, Hailey, is dragging me back inside of the big room where the dance is going on. The kids that I know are all looking over at me. One kid, Don, nods at me like he’s giving me his approval in some way.

Hailey and I are standing in front of the disc jockey now. She’s asking him, over the din of some terrible J. Geils Band jam, if he has any Led Zeppelin. The disc jockey keeps on cupping his ear to hear her voice, so she reaches over and grabs him by his skinny tie and pulls him in close and shouts into his ear –

“You need to play ‘Stairway To Heaven’ so I can dance with this boy!”

The disc jockey looks over at me, smirking. Motherfucker.

I cannot hear what happens between them next, because he puts on “My Sharona,” and the sea of awkward Jewish teens is churning to the sound of The Knack like the world is about to end, the room a whirling dervish of hormones and lunacy. I want to disappear underneath his table, to crawl under the banner that says DISC JOCKEY ENTERTAINMENT and hide there until everyone else has been picked up by their parents. I could do it – I could totally hide there for hours and hours without anyone knowing I was there.

“Okay kids, we’re going to slow it down a bit now. This next one is a special request – from Hailey to Sean. You kids behave now.”

Fuck.

Hailey is dragging me out into the middle of the area where all the kids are dancing. I have no idea what the fuck I am doing. She takes my hands and places them where she wants them – one on the small of her back, and she gingerly raises up her ass so that my hand is resting right at the top of it, while she takes my other hand and wraps it around her and into the back of her neck. She squeezes her way into me, even though she is roughly the same height as I am, and puts her head into the crook of my neck where it meets with my shoulder. I can smell how clean her hair is. I can feel her body through my own, every nerve ending inside of me on fire.

It feels as though the song lasts for hours. Just the two of us, slowly swaying there in space, our bodies communicating with one another as if nobody else in the world were alive but us.

Hailey chooses this very moment to softly put her lips on the side of my neck, kissing me gently and kindly. I have no idea if she can feel how much I am shaking. I know I am shaking. Violently. But she takes my face in her hand and turns me to face her, opening her mouth slightly as if to say something, but then kisses me full-on.

Thanks, Mom.

After the dance has ended, all of the kids are milling about the parking lot, saying their good-byes and see-you-laters to one another as they search out parental units amongst the fleet of cars. Hailey is dragging me through the lot, hands stuck together like Siamese Twins. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see my mother standing next to her car, watching me cut my way through the masses of kids, being dragged by a beautiful girl. She’s smirking at me.

Hailey introduces me to her mother in a blur. I am polite – my mother trained me well. I don’t really know how to make small-talk at this point in my life – I’m only fourteen years old and have just had my first real kiss, so my mind is all aflutter and in a different world altogether. Hailey’s mother looks just like her, only older.

My own mother has made her way over to Hailey’s mother, and the two of them are doing the introducing one’s self game that mothers must do when their children become intertwined. Hailey is taking to me, but none of it sounds like English, all I can do is stare at her mouth as she forms words that slip and slide in front of me. She’s still holding onto my hand, even in front of our mothers.

Hailey kisses me on the cheek as our mothers say good-bye to one another, some plan set in motion for us to spend some time together in the future, but I’m in no way understanding any of these dynamics. She shoves a piece of paper into my shirt pocket and gets into the car with her mother – not once unlocking her eyes from staring at me.

“Were you smoking, Sean? I asked you not to let any of these people see you smoking. I don’t want people to think you’re a hooligan.”

I smoke with my mother in the car on the ride home, as she asks me how I met such a nice and beautiful girl. I’m just watching the inside of the car filling with smoke, the way the street lights work their way through the little clouds, illuminating them and the spaces around them.

“She came outside and caught me smoking, actually. I had never seen or met her before.”

The next weekend, Hailey and I went to the movies. Her Uncle was our chaperone. She and I spent a little bit of time on the phone during the preceding week, but I wasn’t very good at talking to girls yet, so I didn’t have much to say to her. I just listened as she talked about school, her friends, her little brother – but I didn‘t retain much of it. All I could think about was the way her body felt next to mine, the way her hair smelled, the softness of her lips on my neck – I was smitten, but had no idea how to talk about any of it.

Her Uncle was in his mid-twenties. We met up at the mall near her house across town. I was an idiot, so I was wearing black parachute pants and some bizarre shirt that looks like a knock-off version of the jacket MJ rocked in the “Thriller“ video. She still had on black nail polish. Her Uncle was wearing a Ramones-like leather jacket, had a face full of stubble, and was holding a paper cup of coffee. Hailey greeted me with a warm hug and quick kiss, which her Uncle immediately made a face about. He asked me if my parents were cool with us seeing an R-rated movie, and I laughed and told him it was no big deal.

He went and purchased us tickets to see “The Breakfast Club,” while Hailey and I sat on a bench in front of the theaters, her hand already fused into the palm of my own.

When her Uncle turned around to walk back over to where we were sitting, I noticed he was wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt.

“Hailey tells me you love rock and roll?”

“Yeah. I kinda want to be a guitar player. I love Led Zeppelin and stuff like that. It’s all I really listen to. Well, and I like some punk, but most of my friends think that stuff is too noisy and loud.”

He gives me an odd look, and then chuckles something to himself about the way I am dressed – something about “nice pants, loser.” Hailey is asking him if he needs to sit near us in the movie, if her mother gave him instruction to keep us separated. Again he starts to laugh.

“I’m supposed to sit right next to the two of you. That’s what a chaperone does. Maybe if you two little lovebirds didn’t make it so obvious to your mothers that your hormones were insane, I wouldn’t have to be here at all. They don’t trust the two of you alone. I’m blaming Mr. Rock and Roll here for that one.”

I’m not too sure what he means by that, so I just play along and laugh with the two of them. Shit man, this is my first date, and already someone is making fun of me? If I was terrified at the dance, that feeling is nothing compared to how stupid and weird I feel right now.

In the theater, her Uncle decides to sit on my right, while Hailey is sitting on my left – Monkey in the Middle. As the previews are starting, Hailey leans into me and kisses me on the mouth. Her Uncle reaches down with his left hand and grabs hold of my right knee with enough force to pop it loose from its mooring to the rest of my leg, muttering into my ear with violence in his voice – “None of that shit today, Mr. Rock and Roll – you understand me?”

I suffer through most of the movie with an aching and throbbing hard-on that I try and cover up with Hailey’s jacket. She has her hand on my left leg, and has been whispering into my ear throughout much of the movie. None of what she says makes as much of an impression as the process of her whispering does – each rush of air into my ear causing more pain in my lap, more desire to kiss her. Her Uncle, who I now realize is as stoned as can be, has eaten not only his popcorn, but also mine. He is now drinking my soda, and every now and then he grabs my knee to reinforce the edict he had previously laid down for me about “that shit.”

After the move ends, we wander around the mall for a bit, Hailey’s Uncle keeping a distance of a good ten paces behind us, watching our every move. He keeps on making these sounds whenever we sink into one another while we walk, sounds that remind me of the promise of violence, the way he crushed my knee and my libido in one simple motion.

Outside of the mall now, my mother has come to pick me up. Hailey and I embrace, and defiantly, we kiss good-bye. I felt a little bit more empowered with my mother being in the vicinity – as if her Uncle couldn’t lay a finger on me in front of her. Hailey feels warm and sweet. I ask her if I can see her again, and she lights up and smiles, nodding her head quickly, and then giving me another kiss to ram the agreement home.

I tried to call her a couple of days later, only to have her Uncle answer the phone. I asked him if I could speak to her, and he immediately started laughing into the phone in a very sinister and terrible way.

“She’s not allowed to talk to you, Mr. Rock and Roll. I told her mother how grabby and kissy you were. She doesn’t want her daughter hanging around with some doper who just wants to get his rocks off. Go buy a guitar and get your rocks off on your own, punk.”

I never saw her again.

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Filed under dumbassery, i used to be stupid, jealous insecurities, rock and motherfucking roll, who is sean?

Cornelius Fakers, or "Protect Ya Neck On Ye Olde Interweb"

So – upon reflection, and after reading through that last Ramble I posted, I’ve come to a very crystal clear conclusion about myself:

I sure as shit hate me some motherfucking Cornelius Fakers.

Allow me to break down the etymology/Seanism for you – a Cornelius Faker is someone who is not who they present themselves to be. Taken from Fight Club, when Ed Norton’s character in the movie scribbles “Cornelius” on his name-tag at the Men Together Support Group meeting, and Meatloaf’s character – Bob – says to him upon looking down at his name-tag – “It’s okay, Cornelius – you can cry.” We all know what a Faker is – so, me being me, I slammed those two words together and came up with Cornelius Faker, which can be used to describe someone who is basically masquerading as something they are not.

There are plenty Cornelius Fakers running around out there in the world, free as a bird, not being held accountable for their fakery and their petty deceptions. I mean – let’s get on Front Street here – I was a Cornelius Faker for years. Full of so much shit that I couldn’t stand to be in the same room as my fakery, the stink of my lies oozing out of me like the sweat of ten thousand Phish fans at a festival in the middle of the desert in July. I lived that life for quite some time, actually – running game on people, making up who I was with each new smiling face I encountered. I think it was mostly out of insecurity, with a smidge of boredom thrown in for good stoner logic measure. Seriously – what was more fun when stoned out of your mind than creating a new persona to wow yourself with?

I had no shame. Truly.

I used to fake people out with all sorts of ridiculous shit. I remember once being at a house party, and telling someone that I had just met that I was writing a book from the point of view of a midget porn star. I explained, in very stoned but glorious detail, how I had come to the realization that these little studs were the norm in skin flicks from the mid-to-late 70s. Every fuck film from that era always had some weird scene where there was a little dude getting blown in the background by some blonde starlet – I used Behind The Green Door as an example of what I was riffing on, although the couple I was talking to had never seen the movie – which was perfect for my ruse.


I saw that couple at another party a few weeks later, and they actually went out and got a copy of the film and saw what I was talking about.

See? Mission Accomplished! I was able to get attention through my Cornelius Fakery.

And that’s really what this type of humanimal is all about – attention. They are usually pretty bright people to begin with, but they lack the social skills and the ability to articulate their lot in life without the crutch of being full of shit. I don’t want to go whole hog and say that all Cornelius Fakers are sociopaths, but that wouldn’t be too far off. Most of them live in this really dark and focused tunnel, where all they see is their con or game playing out – they miss all the nuances and details of the things happening around them. Daily life shit, like what their friends actually think of them. Hell – two of my closest friends when I was in my mid twenties tried to talk to me about this shit one night, and it took years for it to register – I was that deep in it.

But – the lights did come on in my head. Around the time I hit thirty or so, I started to live on Front Street. I stopped bullshitting people. I stopped creating elaborate tales to try and make myself seem like a much more interesting person. I was already interesting. I was already “cool.” I didn’t need to come up with all that fake shit to be Sean – the real shit that I had gone through was totally and ultimately way more entertaining than any ruse or tale I could conjure up. I could hold up my end of a conversation without commandeering it with some fake-ass shit to make motherfuckers pay attention to me.

I learned to breathe and listen.

In this super-infused-with-every-miniscule-detail-that-ever-happened Interweb Generation we currently live in, it is very easy for a Cornelius Faker to sneak up on unsuspecting people and steal their attention. I know – it has happened to me, more than once.

I got conned pretty fucking hardcore back in 2005. And, unlike other motherfuckers – I ain’t too proud to lie – it was a woman who burned my ass. Well, I am pretty sure it was. I met her in an online community of sorts, where everyone has profiles, like MySpace or Facebook – but this one was geared toward people of a different lifestyle. I had been on the site for a few years, and had amassed a decent number of friends/people that I knew – some of them even in Real Life. I had just found myself on the ass-end of a shitacular relationship that had ended in a really terrible and torturous manner. I was fragile. I was lonely. I was easy pickings.

It started off pretty innocently – messaging back and forth. You know – regular random shit that people do when they are trying to connect with another person. Likes, dislikes, all that junk. We’ve all been there, right? She touched on all of the emotional pressure points that I needed to have touched at that time – telling me she liked my writing, that I was “hot,” that she agreed with the way I saw the world. It was like virtually meeting someone who got “it.” That’s what so many of us use The Interweb for – to make some kind of connection with people that lets us know we’re not alone, that tells us we’re not so freakish and scary – hence, all those sites for Furries and all of those sites for Neo-Cons.

ANYWAYS…

After a while, it became pretty apparent that this woman and I needed to meet. She supposedly lived here in NYC, and the cell number she gave me was for this area. We talked on the phone a few times late at night – her tiny little voice so cute and weird at the same time. She was supposedly a photographer, and taught classes at Parsons Design School – and even had a gig for me as an assistant, since I was having a hard time finding work at this point.

When I went to Parsons one afternoon to surprise her – they had no idea who the fuck I was talking about.

Riding the train back to Bensonhurst, I came to the realization that I had probably just been burned. This person never had any intentions of meeting up with me – all of the shit she said was probably bogus. I asked a friend of mine if he had ever talked to her, and he was hysterical – she had been sort of playing the both of us. We decided that night to fuck with her head a little bit, to get a little bit of Brooklyn Justice going for us.


Tragically, he was killed in a terrible bicycle accident less than two weeks later.

With all of the hurricane of the death swirling around me – I kind of ignored her calls/texts/messages. I wasn’t in any kind of space to listen to anyone at that point. I was in the midst of one of my biggest and most disturbing freak-outs of all time. I was still reeling from the death of my grandmother, the death of my failed relationship, and then the death of my friend – and I came to the brilliant decision to move my ass down to Fayetteville, Arkansas – to get away and collect my head, my soul. Plenty of my friends were aghast at my decision, but they were all smart enough to know I was freaking out, and needed the space to freak out.

So I moved.

It wasn’t necessarily the smartest thing I have ever done – but it served it’s purpose. I was able to get my head together. So much so, that when she made another attempt at conning me – I was ready this time.

You see, she created another bogus profile. And she came after me again. I even started to fall for it, until I started noticing subtle nuances in her messages – nuances that led me to believe it was her all over again. This time, she was pretending to be a girl who had brain cancer – she even went so far as to steal some girl’s brain scans that had been posted on the internet somewhere, and tried to pass them off as hers. Me, being the late-night paranoid motherfucker I am, well – I was able to blow those fuckers up and pull the right name off of them. I contacted the girl the scans belonged to. I told her what was up, and she e-mailed me back, saying that this person had been stealing all of her information over the last few weeks, trying to take her entire identity.


I decided to go along with the plan that my late friend and I had agreed upon – pretending like everything was all hunky-dory, and that she had conned me. So she would get lazy. I sent her my number late one night, and she called. Sure enough, on the other end of the phone was the same tiny and odd little voice. She confessed to creating that fake profile to talk to me. She confessed to stealing some poor girl’s identity. She confessed to only wanting to know why I had stopped talking to her in the first place. I played it all off like it was no big deal at all – letting her get good and comfortable with all of it. I told her that my father was sick, and that I was coming back up to NYC for a few days before heading to Santa Fe to take care of him, and that we should get lunch so we could talk about all of this in person. She agreed.

OF COURSE, the plans she and I tried to make when I was in NYC fell through on her end – she had something that always seemed to come up. I told her not to worry, that we would work it all out when I got back up after taking care of him. I went to Santa Fe, dealt with the hardest shit I have ever dealt with in my entire life, and then scooted back up to The City.

We would talk a lot. She would text me at all hours of the day or night. She was constantly e-mailing me pictures of her in NYC, trying to quell the questions I had in me about her real whereabouts – since I had become quite crafty, and was tracking her IP Address, which resolved to just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. I asked her what she was doing in Wisconsin one night on the phone, and the connection suddenly went dead. I tried calling her back, but she let it go straight to voicemail. This pattern continued for a few days, until I had the miraculous epiphany of all epiphanies.

Most people, and I’m sorry to say this, are not very smart when it comes to passwords and things of that nature. A mobile carrier will always set a phone’s password to *1234 for every phone – it’s just how they do it. And a lot of people never think to change it. They figure nobody can get into that shit, right?

Wrong.

The next time I called her and it went to her voicemail, I punched the numbers in and waited. The automated voice told me she had 13 unheard messages. 13? This was excellent news. I sat there on my bed, smoking and chuckling as I heard dude after dude asking her where she was – each one of them using a different name for her. Her voicemail was set up in a way that it read the number the message came from before hearing the actual message. I started writing the numbers down, corresponding them with the names these poor bastards were using for her. I did this for a few days, compiling a list that would eventually have seven dudes on it – five from NYC, one from Florida, and one from over in Scotland.


I knew I was about to flip the script on her. I was just waiting for the right time, the perfect moment when an opponent leaves themselves too open, where one magical and well-placed blow will end the whole dance. I had all the cards now. I could, at any moment, do the simplest thing like placing a call to one of the dudes, and blowing her entire little game up. But I was being patient. I was waiting for her to really slip up.

I know it sounds like I was obsessed and maybe even a little mentally unstable – which is probably true. My father had just died, and here I was, drowning my sorrows in whiskey, Xanax, reefer, and a wild goose chase with a Cornelius Faker of a girl who really didn’t deserve a nanosecond of my time. Hell – I was even taking calls from her while loaded at the bar, and begging her to come and meet me, knowing all the while that she would never do such a thing – she was not real.

Every now and then on the phone with her, I would let a name slide on out of my mouth – one of the names of the other dudes she was running her game on – like, “Yeah, my boy XXXXX down in Florida was telling me about some chick named XXXXX that he’s been talking to. She sounds like a real piece of work. I hope he doesn’t get burned again – he can’t take much more of that kind of shit,” and then she would react all freaked-out and hang up, only to call back ten or fifteen minutes later saying she had “lost her signal” or some other shit. It was seriously the best cat and mouse game I had ever been involved in, yet I knew all along I had won.


I finally blew her up one night when I was really good and hammered, laying into her about the ways in which people like her hurt people, about how she abused and destroyed someone’s trust. I told her that I had contacted the girl that she had stolen the brain scans from, and about how my late friend and I knew what she was doing months and months earlier, and about how I was just carrying out the string of what he and I had discussed that night. I told her that I had the names and numbers of the other dudes she was playing, and read them off to her one by one, listening to the sound of her whimpering and crying on the other end of the phone.

“Why? Why are you doing this to me? Please don’t call them! Please!!!”

Those were the last words I ever heard her say. I hung up the phone in between her sobs and gasps, feeling like I had done what I had set out to do. There was no need for me to call any of those dudes – they needed to figure the shit out on their own. Not my problem. I was able to free myself of this Cornelius Faker, this terribly wired emotional terrorist – freeing myself also from the feelings I had somehow developed for someone so twisted and full of lies. Yes – I had feelings for her. Those types of people always prey on our feelings. Sad, but a terrible truth.

After all of that – I am always a little leery of anyone who enters into my little world. Can you blame me? This world is overflowing with Cornelius Fakers, people trying to suck the energy and goodness right out of you through your little flat-screen monitors. Yes, I know that we’re all Nigerian Millionaires in waiting – we just need to send that initial wire transfer over there to unlock all that loot we’ve been promised. But at least in those cases – we know what we’re dealing with. Right? A Cornelius Faker is a little harder to spot at first – but I know how. I really do. If you ever find yourself wondering if someone you’re dealing with is one – shoot me an e-mail. I’ll gladly help you suss it out.

Cornelius Fakers. Sociopaths. See?

Be careful out there.

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Filed under dumbassery, i used to be stupid, nuggets of infinite wisdom, tomfoolery, true stories from nyc, who is sean?

The Winding Arc of Personal History, or "How I Never Learned to Discern Friend From Foe"


That right there is your humble narrator on a trip to Magic Mountain in 1989 – the one in the baseball cap. Yes, I know I was sexy as fuck in High School – that’s why I was fighting the ladies off left and right to go hide in my room and listen to Iron Maiden records in the dark with a bottle of Jergen’s.

Late last night I was having a very deep and personal IM conversation with someone from my past – a person who has witnessed the metamorphosis of who and what I have become over a certain period of time in my life. One of the interesting things that I took away from this conversation, was that even back in the early part of this decade, I was already well on my way to becoming this thing that I am now – a man who doesn’t like to suffer my own foolishness for very long.

You see, back then, I had just got off the streets. I had been homeless for a patch there, and my ability to decipher who was or was not my “friend” was a little askew. After spending your nights rummaging around in fountains outside of churches to procure enough silver to drop into the Coinstar machine so that you could get some non-perishables to carry around in your beat-up Dickies satchel, your ability to see things for what they are is a little off.

Trust me on this one – I know.

While homeless, I spent a lot of my time hanging out outside of the coffee joint at a very rich and ritzy mall smack dab in the highest-income bracket Phoenix had to offer. They had this huge patio area that was perfect for me to loiter in. I would usually go in, buy myself a cup of coffee, and sit out there for hours, scribbling away in my little notebook/journal thing. I tried very hard not to bother anyone there – I just wanted to be around people who were going about their daily lives. I never begged anyone for change or any of that shit – wasn’t my style. Plus – asking people for help of any kind has never been something I have ever been any good at.

I wasn’t the type of cat to make my situation – my homelessness – my thing.

After a while, this weird phenomenon started to occur daily. The young kids – all in their late teens/early twenties – would just randomly come around and start talking to me. Some of them I knew peripherally, seeing them at this spot all the time, acting all foolish into the night like I used to at their age, hootin’ and hollerin’, making all the older folks uneasy and skittish. Some of them I’d noticed in different ways, observing them in the late afternoons, knocking out their classwork in silence at their tables, shoving their schoolwork into overstuffed bags and backpacks as soon as their peers arrived on the scene. Those were usually the girls – it seemed like they didn’t want the boys to know they gave a fuck about school, or even about their futures. So very Rydell High of them, I know.

Mind you – I am playing with time and space right now. This is not necessarily the chronological order of things as they actually played out. A lot of these kids were already sniffing around, back in the previous months when I was running around with Chongo and The Squirrel – before The Squirrel had her massive freak-out and Chongo was able to finally act as if an Agent of Karma, leaving me with nowhere to go but the streets. If you happen to be someone from this period of my life, and you’re reading this ramble and take offense at what I’m riffing on – that’s your problem – not mine. Go write your own shit.

ANYWAYS

These kids started to swarm me a bit, just pushing the envelope on personal space without any regard for etiquette, sitting down at whatever table I had occupied, pulling smokes out of my pack as if I, like them, had parental units funding my lifestyle. Far from the truth. I never had it like that even when I was a kid – I always had to work for my own shit. Regardless, I now found myself in a situation where I needed to draw lines in the sand with these little Trustafarians-in-the-making.

I started keeping all of my shit stowed away in my satchel, with the straps of the thing wrapped into the legs of whatever chair I was sitting in. I didn’t trust people very well – what with the never-ending array of shit that would invariably end up missing – smokes, lighters, pens, hell – once, one of these little fuckers even stole my bar of soap out of my bag when I left my satchel on the table. Who the fuck steals a homeless guy’s bar of soap? Was it a trophy of some sort?

I was trying really hard to find a job – but Phoenix was a tourism-driven Economy, and this was Post-9/11. Resorts were laying people off left and right. Restaurants were folding all over town. All of my contacts from that world wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole – who was going to hire someone without an address or a phone, let alone someone who had a history of abusing cocaine? I was using a friend of mine’s telephone number as a point of contact for potential employers, but nobody was calling him at all. People looked at me funny when I handed them a job application that had a PO Box as an address, even after I told them that was just where my mail went.

Everything was kind of closing in on me.

I certainly wasn’t going to call my family and ask them for help – that would have been stupid of me. I did, at one really desperate and panic-stricken point, call someone that owed me some money, only to have them tell me(I shit you not) – “I’m really kind of struggling myself right now, my job is only paying me $75k, and I’m still used to making more than that – wish I could help you, good luck bro!” To this day, I still cannot look that individual in the eye – and I probably never will.

I’m not sure how it finally played out, my memory of this particular snapshot being a bit hazy – either I called her, or an ex of mine did – but my grandmother ended up floating some cash so that I could get into a ratty, rent-by-the-week joint. I had been keeping my homelessness from my grandmother – still calling her every Sunday as if everything were okay for months, using coins I had collected from those church fountains, continuing the illusion that my life was “on track.” The ex deposited the check into her account, took out enough cash for me to put the money down to get into my spot, and then rationed the rest out to me for a little bit until I found a paying gig.

Funnily enough, I ended up getting hired on at the very same coffee spot that I had been spending all of my time at – the Manager of the place interviewed me maybe two days after I got off the street, and gave me a morning shift. Which, on my first day, I came close to blowing, as I did a very typical Sean-move and overslept. She was stern but fair with me, and truly ended up being one of my favorite people I have ever had the joy of working for/with.

Meanwhile, all of those rotten kids were still buzzing around me like vultures. Most of them begging me to glad-hand them free coffee, pastries, or whatever else they could get their spoiled hands on. I was just thankful to have a purpose other than wandering the streets aimlessly – a job that allowed me to feel like I was worth something again, even if it wasn’t where I had been before. Unfortunately, I still spent far too much of my time there at the spot, because heading back to my little rat-hole meant dealing with all of the crackheads and shady nature of a rent-by-the-week joint.

Some of the kids found out where I lived, after one of them had given me a ride home one night. Now possessing a cell phone again, my number started to circulate amongst them. Late night “Hey man, you got any weed?” calls starting coming in. Random people knocking on my door. Getting accosted in the laundry room by drunk Navajo bikers asking me if I knew where to get any methamphetamine. The odd sexual encounter with friends of co-workers.

Basically – life getting back to normal. Or at least Sean Normal.

I remember sitting in my place with the aforementioned friend. We had just returned from the coffee spot, and she was incredibly agitated about the way that some of these kids spoke to me, the way that I let them sometimes treat me. She was going off – talking about how they all had no idea how lucky they were that I even gave them the time of day, and about how I needed to start really thinking about closing my door to them a little bit more. About how they were all using me, as if I were some cool accessory they could show off – the older cat with all the tattoos and the wisdom the could milk off of him. The guy that had been through it. The guy who was too nice to tell them to fuck off, even when they deserved it.

I remember the next morning, waking up and thinking that my life needed to be more than all of this. I sat on my bed, watching the way the light caught my cigarette smoke in waves, floating up to the ceiling. I remember standing in the shower, hot water scalding me as I brushed my teeth, thinking about all of these people in my life – about how they were all a distraction from a much larger disease.

I had hardly ever in my life had any real friends.

It was mostly my own fault – I kept myself so guarded after my teen years. I had been betrayed – or so I thought – by so many different people. It felt as though every time I had ever trusted anyone enough to let them “in,” they were sinking a knife in between my ribs while shaking my hand or hugging me, talking shit about me behind my back or just flat-out demeaning me in their presence. Here I was – a grown man – lamenting for the loss of my High School sense of self? What the fuck was that all about?

Back in High School, I was the really smart kid who didn’t want anyone to know he was smart. I started getting high and hanging out with all the metal and punk kids my Freshman year – distancing myself from all of the other kids in the AP classes I had tested into. I was talking back to my teachers. I was ditching classes. I was running with kids who weren’t like me – most of them had no choice but to be who they were, as the system in place wasn’t going to lend a hand to them, wasn’t going to show them that they mattered in any way. To me, school really was a prison with bells. The High School I was going to was full of kids I had grown up with after moving to Phoenix. It was also full of a lot of kids who had prosperous families. Not all of them, but plenty of them, received cars for their sixteenth birthdays, being the exact opposite of me. Most of them were tooling around, having a great time in High School. I couldn’t say the same – not with me riding around on a beat-up skateboard, having grown men jumping out of cars to kick my “punk” ass, because people didn’t understand a kid with blue or purple hair back then. That High School was a nightmare for me. I could have run circles around everyone academically if I actually applied myself, but it was just so much easier to slip through the cracks in that place – to disappear into a cloud of smoke.

I just didn’t fit there.

I got asked to leave that school before the second semester of my Sophomore year had even started. During finals week. My mother was so disappointed in me – a kid who had scored a 1275 on the PSATs while having a 103 degree temperature – she didn’t know what to do, where to turn. I had to beg the Principal of the “Alternative” High School to let me go to school there, promising him I would get no lower than a B-average. Promising him I would have perfect attendance unless I was genuinely ill. No cutting classes. No bullshit. He made me not only sign a “contract” of sorts, but he made me pinky swear with him right in front of my mother. Dude didn’t play around.

I remember the first day I was allowed into classes there – I was fucking terrified. In my mind, all of these kids were refugees from Juvie, burgeoning hardened criminals. I wasn’t sure if I belonged there. I remember sitting in that first class and noticing that the other kids wouldn’t even look at me. I figured there was going to be some sort of hazing, some sort of rite of passage that I would have to endure and survive. It was English class, and the teacher handed out a Xeroxed copy of a Vonnegut short story, “Harrison Bergeron.” We went around the room, with the teacher calling on one terrible reader after another, kids reading words that didn’t appear, or words being mispronounced in ways that made my mind hurt.

Then the teacher called on me.

I sat there for a second or two, coming to a decision – I wasn’t going to try and keep acting like The Stoned Kid anymore. I was going to be me, irrespective of what anyone else wanted me to be. I didn’t care if I was friends with any of these people, not in this moment. I wasn’t going to hide who I was – I was just going to be Sean.

It took a while, and after many stops and starts, I started to make friends there. My Junior and Senior years at that school were great, other than my little trip to The Bughouse at seventeen, and the weird shit that happened upon my return that caused me to drop out for a little bit. After some prodding by my teachers and some friends, I went back to school, and finished up with my class. And I felt really good, like I had not only made my family proud – but also my teachers.

But I disappeared after that – drifting my way into some basic writing classes at the local Community College, since we didn’t have any money for me to go to a University. I hid out, away from almost everyone. Ditching the people I had grown close to, keeping myself somewhat separate, alienated. I was embarrassed on some level, the kid who was smart but couldn’t even get a grant to go to school because his parents made just enough to ruin his eligibility. After my father left us again – this time for the last time – I joined the Navy, completely cutting all ties to everyone I had been close with – most of them very puzzled as to why I would do such a thing, me being this overly-political kid with huge problems with our government and everything, and me not even giving anyone anything resembling a set of reasons for why I signed myself up.

After all of that – I still couldn’t maintain any friendships. I tried to rekindle some of them when I returned after my time in service, but most people weren’t warming to the idea, and I really couldn’t blame them at all – I was a terrible loud-mouthed prick at that point. I would run my mouth about all sorts of shit, pissing everyone off around me in less than ten seconds flat. After trying and trying to get people to trust me again – I just ditched everyone. It took me years to realize the mistakes I had made, to own my own bullshit and behavior.

I was pretty alone for a long time after that.

I remember deciding to walk to work that morning instead of taking the bus. I kept on thinking about all of the friends I’d had in my life – all of their faces sliding into my vision, some with a huge red X super-imposed like on a Game Show. Some of them looked warm and kind. Then my mind starting moving quickly into scenes that had baffled me – scenes of conflict and strife, scenes of gossip and bullshit, scenes of misunderstandings that would never be explained or unraveled – not with my propensity for running away from shit that made me vulnerable or uneasy.

And now?

Now I’m older, but not necessarily so much wiser. Sure, I’ve been able, at least over the last few years, to develop real friendships with people. And in this ridiculous age of The Internet, lots of faces from my past have sprung back into my view – some by my doing, some by theirs. And even though I’m still scattered a bit emotionally when it comes to the concept of friendship in the traditional sense of the word, I’m learning to pick and choose my spots a little more. Learning that not everything is easily explained away. Learning that even at the age I am now – I’m not always the best judge of character when it comes to friendship – and that’s okay. It’s okay, because I am a better friend to myself than I ever have been before. I’m honest with myself, and in my dealings with other people – especially with the people I hold close to me. I’m not going to allow myself the old and all-too-familiar refuge of hiding behind easily-built walls. I’m not going to run from genuine and justified confrontation in regard to my behavior or my reaction to the behavior of others – because that’s just bullshit.

Just know this: if I call you “friend,” it means something.

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In The Shadow Of My Family Tree.

A little Back-story before I unravel this Ramble –

My mother passed away on Mother’s Day (May 12th, 1996). She was only 52 years old.

Over the last 13 years, I usually write something about her passing/death, or the circumstances that were going on within our family at the time (some of them can be found in the archives of this site – others have long since disappeared into the Black Hole of multiple URLs disappearing or being forsaken). This year, I’m going to flip the script a little, so I’m not going to write about her death.

This year, I’m going to tell you about the time she saved my life…

I was seventeen years old. My father had just left home, leaving the three of us (my mother, myself, and my littler sister) kind of in the lurch. I mean – it was pretty evident that their marriage wasn’t necessarily The Greatest Of All Time, but coming home to find that he’d left was a bit of a shock. My mother was a fucking wreck. And me, being the douchey little bastard that I had the tendency to be, was overflowing with advice and witticisms that I thought could ease her emotional distress.

That didn’t go as planned.

I remember the worst of them all, as it haunts me to this day – one early morning as I was getting ready to go to work (I was going to an “Alternative” High School at night, since I didn’t seem to get along all too well with all the cute and fuzzy bunnies at the High School I was supposed to go to – so I worked in the mornings and went to school at night.), and we were having our customary “Mom and Sean” morning coffee routine. She was sitting at the counter, bags underneath her eyes so big and brutal she looked like she’d been hit in the face by Marvelous Marvin Hagler. I was standing on the other side of our kitchen counter, pouring her a cup of mud. It might have been Spring, but my memory about the minutiae is a bit foggy twenty or so years later.

She started crying, and as her son, her eldest, I couldn’t bear the thought of her being in pain. It killed me to see her cry. Every time she started, I wanted to jack her car from her, drive to wherever my father was hiding out with his new womanfriend, and beat him unconscious with whatever I could find – as any Good Son should.

Instead, I opened my big fat yap and said quite possibly the most terrible thing that has ever come out of my mouth. I can still to this day feel the way the kitchen felt when all the air got sucked out. I can still see the way her eyes just exploded into a million tiny shards of sadness. I can still feel the immediate impulse to grab the biggest knife in the kitchen and commit Seppuku right there on the fucking spot.

“Jesus Fucking Christ, Mom? He dumped us. It sucks, but fucking get over it already and stop being so fucking weak.”

Even typing that sentence out rightfuckingnow I feel like such a fucking shitbird. It’s honestly my one regret in my entire life, my one Terrible Iniquity that I just cannot seem to shake loose from. My albatross of horrific proportion.

ANYWAYS…

Fast forward about six weeks, and I’m losing my fucking mind.

I don’t know for sure what really sparked the fire in my belly, but the level of depression I was suffering from was beginning to become un-fucking-bearable. Not normal Teen Depression in the least – this wasn’t even the regular old “I’m going to walk out into the middle of I-10 and get hit by a fucking Semi” depression. This was “Sean bought a little .25 deuce-quince off a Mexican coke dealer, and plans on shooting himself under his chin in the middle of the night” depression.

I don’t even really remember if I had even talked to any of my friends about how bad it was. I just knew I was cracking, and cracking fast. I had found an old typewriter in the garage, and I would stay up all night, typing out these long as fuck letters to Jimi Hendrix, stoned out of my mind and spun out from eating handfuls of White Crosses. Those fucking letters, man – they were something else. Stream-of-consciousness shit that would probably make old Ted Kaczynski seem like a sweet and loving old man who only wanted to teach children math.

I was so angry that I would come home all kinds of fucked up and just terrorize my mother and sister, locking myself in my room with that infernal typewriter, click-click-clacking away all night long. Some nights, I would crawl out my window with my headphones on, laying in the gravel with the gun in my lap, looking up at the moon to see if there would be some kind of sign letting me know when to pull the plug.

I was slowly turning into something like those fucking Columbine Cunts, at least in my mind. Cracked in half. One half of my mind totally terrified of myself, and the other half willing to embrace all of that beautiful chaos and incendiary anger.

One morning, my mother just flat-out asked me why I was writing letters to Jimi Hendrix.

I just fucking crumbled right there, on the spot. Like, rolling on the floor, speaking in tongues, bouncing my head off the linoleum bawling like a little minge. None of that Nancy Kerrigan wailing, though. Just the physical aspects. I told her everything. I told her that I planned my death in my head almost every hour, and that I was terrified that I might actually do it. I told her that I didn’t want to hurt her or my sister. I told her that I needed help, because I didn’t really want to die, but that it was all I could think about. I told her that her life, and my sister’s life, would be better off without me, because all I did was fuck everything up.

She told me that she knew. She told me that she knew I needed help, and told me that I was going to get some.

She was really patient and loving with me. She waited for me to come to her. She never pushed the issue, even though she knew I was about to go the fuck off. She had been reading the letters, even though I thought I had stashed them in a decent spot. She had already contacted my psychologist, and let him know that I was taking things way over the line of normal Teen Depression. She asked me if I was really intent on doing myself harm, and asked me in that way that only a mother can ask her child – the way that not only makes you feel retarded for having the thoughts, but flips that switch inside of your frazzled brain and lets you know it’s time to take the help.

Later on that night, I was in an intake room for an Adolescent Psychiatric Facility. The Bughouse. My own Ginsbergian nightmare come to life. My poor mother. This intake nurse is sitting there running the magical gauntlet of questions, asking me about which drugs I’ve taken, what my thoughts of harming myself were like, my level of sexual activity, and how often I felt like hurting myself, and she’s having to take it all in. I watch her hands shaking as I answer these questions. I see the fear in her eyes, this sadness that washes over her face and ages her in an instant.

I remember reaching over and grabbing her hand. I remember the both of us, crying. The intake nurse had no idea what to do or say. So I said it instead.

“Mom, you saved my life today. No matter what happens in here, you saved my life. Please don’t be scared.”

I’m not going to go into what the next 90 days of my life were like in that place right now. Maybe some other time. Sometimes, when the shit in my life starts to pile up on me and feels overwhelming, I think about what it felt like in that intake room. I think about how brave it was of my mother to take that risk, that gamble that I would actually go through with it.

I’m thankful that she did.

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You Can Go Home Again.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last couple of days.

That’s always a really loaded way to start off a ramble, but it’s the truth – the last 72 hours or so have been filled with me going through my mental hard drive, trying to clean up a ton of raw data. This is a tedious process, one that has a habit of consuming me. Whenever this happens, I get lost in it, as if the rest of the world falls away, and all I have left to deal with are my own thoughts and emotions.

This is not necessarily a good thing.

Sadly, I am just naturally wired for too much introspection. It’s one thing to be self-aware, but another altogether when you start nitpicking yourself down to nothingness whenever you feel as though something is off.

I’ve been feeling pretty off for a bit now.

It’s funny to me that I can forgive other people for all kinds of heinous shit, but not myself. I’ve learned an awful lot about myself over the last few years, and during all of this learning, I have come to realize that no matter what I do or say – there will always be some kind of inner conflict that stays buried deep inside of my being.

It’s as if this conflict is some tangible thing, shifting around in me. Depending on the circumstances of the conflict, it can grow or shrink – or it can disappear for a time. But most of the time, it’s there, waiting to remind me that there will always be work to be done, and that letting myself slip into complacency is a dangerous mistake for me to make.

Reminds me of a Murakami story.

Basically, the rundown is this: I have done a lot of terrible things in this life, and I spend a lot of time trying to reconcile those terrible things in my mind. And when thinking about these terrible things, I always seem to let my heart gravitate toward wondering why people have even put up with me. I have been told many times that I am some kind of monstrosity. A man who hardly ever pays attention to the damage his actions cause to others. A man who never takes responsibility for his own emotional asshattery. A man who is dishonest with himself, according to some.

It’s not fun to hear shit like this, I assure you.

Most of the time, I am told these things through other people. For some reason, people who get too close to me have this misconception that I am not one who can be reasoned with, which might be true of the me ten or fifteen years ago(when anger was fuel and drugs were the match that lit the fires of hell), but life has beat the fuck out of me over the last few years, and really hit me in the humble spot something fierce.

I hung out the other day with a friend I had not seen in twenty years. Immediately upon seeing him in the flesh, my mind was just flooded with all the stupid shit I used to do. It was actually kind of an odd feeling, to be having a conversation in real time, while my mind was dancing around in the past, searching for anything terrible I had done to him or anyone he was/is close with.

I was really kind of taken by surprise at how natural it felt to hang out with someone from my past, considering how much of it I have tried to erase or bury under the me I have fashioned myself into since the terror of High School was finally over. And then, sitting there, I realized that most of the misgivings I have about my past are due to the fact that no emotional door has ever truly closed. The delusion I live within is my own creation. I have wasted so much time and energy hiding myself, my misappropriation of trust, my vulnerabilities.

It was really enlightening to reconnect. Maybe now that I am older and more entrenched in the me that I am in the rightfuckingnow, I wasn’t so afraid to open up and share who I was back then. I admitted to some really silly shit that you couldn’t have given me a grip of money to cop to before.

But then I realize the most important factor of all:

Fuck it.

Yes, we try to evolve. And yes, we try to clean up our Karmic Debt. But really? As self-policing semi-evolving motherfuckers, can we honestly think we’ll be able to make “amends” or play “kissyface” with everyone who has ever been hurt on our path to our own supposed enlightenment? That’s a silly notion, when you really dissect it down to the smallest molecule(which I always apt to do) – it’s not like these motherfuckers who have been in our lives even give a rat’s ass. If they did – they would have confronted us or tried to talk to us since then, right?

Not everybody is about their own evolution, you know? 95% of the population would rather swim in the muck of their own misery, because it is so much easier than admitting you’re broken and need help being put back together.

Neal Cassady, the muse for Jack Kerouac’s “Dean Moriarty” character from On The Road, had the best quote I’ve ever heard in my life about friendship:

“We all get to heaven, leaning on the arm of someone we once helped.”

And to Gumpify that – that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

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Here To Take On Fuel And Burn(Part Two In A Series Of Spiritual Misadventures)


This is the second installment in what is starting to feel like a large series of rambles based upon my Spiritual Misadventures during my never-ending quest to “find myself”(part one can be found here for reference) – I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy writing them. I sometimes forget how funny my real life is/was…

That first Mass/Meeting/Class I went to was something else, man. I think the last time I had been in a Catholic Mass was when my father and I flew back to Rockland County for his father’s funeral, in December of 1988. I passed out from the combo-platter of the previous evening’s beer/Jameson’s/Valium, and the never-ending sensing the Priest was doing in my general direction. My cousin Jodi had to drag me outside and put my face into the snow, so that I could snap the fuck on out of it.

Historical Interlude – we had a service for my own father in that very same church in January of 2006. Life is weird, man. Weird.

ANYWAYS…

Basically, we all met up in this cat’s condo in North Phoenix. Humble little place, pretty low-key and all that. Cindy and I drove in together – I met her at her place, and I left my truck over there. Cindy promised me I would not be too weirded out, and that I would probably learn a thing or two.

This is the part of the story when I have to start using fake names, because I do not want to call anyone out or fuck with anyone’s livelihood. That just isn’t how I roll, you know? That being said, from here on out, I will refer to the “leader” cat as Reverend Sassypants, since he took his position so highly that he had to take every opportunity to try and make himself appear smarter or more evolved than everyone else. Which, upon reflection, is exactly what a “cult” leader should do, isn’t it?

We get up to the door, and Cindy knocks.

I was weirded out the second the fucking door opened.

Almost as freaked out as this makes me feel. For real.

Reverend Sassypants is standing there, in full Liturgical Vestments, with a Pope-ish hat resting on his dome. He’s a stout little bastard, looks kind of like an actor who would play a shrink or maybe a literature professor. Before I can even enter through the doorway, he is already cupping his hand around my shoulder in that half-hug/pull-you-into-my-lair type of way that makes me very uncomfortable.

“Welcome, Sean. We’re very excited to have you here with us tonight, as we’ve heard a lot about you. My goodness, you have such presence! I can feel your vibration so deeply. So glad to have you!”

I didn’t feel dirty as much as I felt kind of confusingly comfortable, as the good Reverend was quite charming. Warm, even. He asked me how long it had been since I had gone to a Catholic Mass, and I told him it had been about a decade. When I jokingly asked him if this was going to turn out poorly, like some oddball Rosemary’s Baby type of scenario, he just giggled and guffawed like nobody’s business.

“Quick-witted. I like it! We need a good smartass in the group.”

After a few minutes, the rest of the group starts to slowly arrive. My observation skills immediately hone in on the fact that they all seem to have that downtrodden, overlooked-by-the-world look in their eyes. It was like a secret meeting of The Nervous Shuffling Feet Gang – everyone shaking hands with me upon being introduced, without a single one of them making direct eye contact.

Obviously, I was an interloper.

ANYWAYS…

All of us get summoned into The Holy Oratory, which is basically a back bedroom which has been converted into a space with an altar, the altar vessels, representations of four Archangels(Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel), and all of the other accoutrements one would find in a Catholic church. Even though we were in a small room in someone’s condo, it certainly felt like being in church.

Reverend Sassypants and his assistant, who will from this point forward be referred to as Moustache McGhee(he had a killer ’70s porn ‘stache going on, which when coupled with his overall creepiness – really, this guy is someone I need to explore as a character for later use) – they just jumped right on into the whole shebang right quick-like. I had no real serious background with Catholicism, as I felt more in tune with my Hebrew blood(which the good Reverend was always keen to point out at every fucking chance he got). All that kneeling and chanting, coupled with all of the frankincense and myrrh* filling up the room, well, that shit kind of did a number on my monkey ass.

*I, being a smart and nosy little bastard, came to figure out all on my lonesome why the frankincense and myrrh were so important in the ritual itself. Just file away that knowledge for later – it’ll come in handy, I promise.

After making it through the Mass itself, which was all done in Latin, I felt a little bit refreshed. Definitely a little high from all of the sensory overload. And my interest was certainly rising, as it felt quite natural for me to be there. We all filed out of the room, and out into the sitting/living room area of the place. As we all took seats staggered throughout the room, I noticed everyone staring at me a little more – obviously trying to figure me out a little bit, which was understandable.

Rev. Sassypants told us he had put on a pot of coffee(which always makes me a happy participant in pretty much anything going on – I’m the kind of cat that would probably grab a free cup at a public execution if it was available), and that dinner would be served shortly. Everyone seemed quite pleased with this announcement,which was promising to me, as a home-cooked meal was not something I’d had in quite a while – unless you counted my drunken late-night drives to burrito stands home-cooked.


If you’ve never been to a Filiberto’s, you are missing out on some of the greasiest, most beautifully destructive of gastro-delights available to human beings 24/7 in the Southwest. Trust me on this one now, I am an expert.

My comfort level was steadily rising, what with fresh coffee, some awkward smiles, and being in a room full of fellow chainsmokers – which is always a good thing in my book. As we were all sitting there in our Mass afterglow, Rev. Sassypants decides it’s time to have everyone take turns asking me questions about myself, which seemed innocent enough to me at first…

To be continued…

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Looking For Love, In All The Wrong Places (Part One in a Series of Spiritual Misadventures).

This is Part One in a series of pieces about how your humble narrator found himself.

I think it was around Thanksgiving of 1998 when my search for answers led me to get involved in what can only be described as a “cult” – for a lack of a better term. Of course, using a word with such strong implications automatically makes me a kook, right? Wrong.

This wasn’t some Death Cult led by an enigmatic frontman who wanted us all to wander the streets begging for donations, so that we could all depart the planet via a spaceship hidden in the tail of a comet or some shit like that. It certainly wasn’t a group that was stockpiling weapons and Sarin nerve gas. And I promise you – out of the entire group of people involved in the whole thing, I was probably the only one who was/is capable of taking sentient life.

These were some terribly fucking broken people, man. People who felt like the world had forgotten them. People who were really just looking for something, anything resembling some hidden wisdom that could give them a little bit of hope, you know? I know I was certainly broken at this point – six months removed from a nasty addiction that almost killed my ass dead, working a shitty job, and fresh out of a relationship that was never going to work out for either party involved. Not to mention that the loss of my mother was still fresh and the wound was wide open and infected.

Basically – I was ripe for the spiritual picking*.

*Kind of like how ripe I was after this bartendress that used to work for me gave me this photo as a token of our torrid affair back in 1999. This kind of shit would go on all night long…

I was already spending a fair amount of my own time studying different religious ideas and schools of thought. Ever since I was little, I found the idea of faith to be exciting and something that made me even more curious. And after dealing with extremely religious members of my own family treating me shittily during the death of my mother, I wanted to be able to know as much as I could about that side of things – kind of in a “know thy enemy” type of way.

I still have a hard time remembering exactly how it came to pass, but one of my employees must have noticed some of my reading material on my desk. Every now and then, she would ask me questions about my feelings on certain things, like how I felt about The Vatican blaming Satan for most of the wrongs in the world, and advocating exorcisms. Or asking me all kinds of questions about my feelings on astrology and whatnot. Normally I would have found someone asking me shit like this to be intrusive or rude, but Cindy never came off as such. It always felt like an older sister or an Aunt was just trying to get to know a distant relative.

Cindy was an older woman, and she was waiting tables for me as her second job. In all my time running restaurants, I don’t think I’ve ever had an employee that busted their ass more than she did, which led me to respect her a great deal. No matter how tired she was from her day job, she was always smiling, gracious, and kind to everyone – even the fuck-up kids I had working in the joint at night.

I didn’t really blink twice when she asked me if I would come to church with her. I actually found it to be a very genuine and kindhearted gesture coming from someone who could clearly see my inner turmoil in regard to the ideas of any form of organized religion. Cindy, being the sounding board she was apt to be, had already been informed of the circumstances surrounding the death of my mother, and was well aware of my need for some kind of answers. Of course, I accepted.

Oddly, when I asked her where the church was, she told me it was at a friend’s home, and that the group of people meeting there would be quite small. I asked her what kind of service it would be, and she told me it would be a Catholic Mass, followed by a meal and a movie, with some teaching thrown in for good measure. She could tell I was a little baffled, and explained to me that I would be fine, and that I would have a good time and that my spirits would be lifted.

Whatever – I was game, you know? Anything was better than the fucking angry and empty feeling I had inside at that point.

To be continued…

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