Why I Wrote The “How To Actually Win A Fist Fight” Article

November 15, 2016 Blog, Classics Comments (1) 80

When I was younger, I was a HUGE comic book nerd. One of my regular monthly staples was Wizard magazine – a magazine dedicated solely to fandom of comics, toys and games. It was the closest thing to a “Boy’s Magazine” that wasn’t campy garbage, but it didn’t really talk much about the issues that faced most young and teenage boys. Namely, “Why is my voice cracking, why do I not find girls yucky anymore, and how can I kick that dickhead Corey Martin’s ass?”

In 1992 (ish), Marvel (and Sassy Magazine) spent a great deal of time and money promoting a new magazine they were coming out with called “Dirt” – a magazine intended to be “Sassy, but for teenage boys). For months and months, they displayed this cover shot of their magazine with a guy’s face all twisted and contorted by a fist that was striking it, with the lead story in big yellow letters:

“How to WIN a fist fight!”

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God, what a bunch of bullshit. 

My buddy Jay and I were SO jazzed about this magazine… Finally, someone was putting out a magazine targeted not only to our age group, but also not overtly stupid. It was the perfect concept, based solely on that one headline.

Anyway, the magazine came out on newsstands that fall, and even though Jay and I made a habit of buying different titles on our trips to the comic store (so that we could trade between one another and get double the value for our reading dollar), we both spent our money on copies of Dirt #1. We both sat on his front stoop, pulled out our copies of Dirt magazine, and turned IMMEDIATELY to that article.

The very first (and only) rule of winning a fist fight, according to Dirt?

“Don’t get into one.”

The article then proceeded to go into a fluffy, three-page write up on “verbal judo” and how to avoid getting into physical altercations through the gentle arts of negotiation and conversation. Midway through reading that crap, we both looked up at one another – nearly simultaneously – and said “Wow… This is bullshit!”

We were expecting proper techniques on making a fist, striking our opponents, foot placement, transfer of inertia at varying points throughout a punch… The cover image showed a guy getting slugged right in the jaw! It was a total bait-and-switch job!

Anyway, that memory has stuck with me my entire adult life, and it recently led me to contemplate making a simple video series directed at teenage boys telling them how to ACTUALLY win a fist fight. I dunno… Is that barbaric? I mean, as an adult, I really don’t think much about fighting people, and I rarely consider the concepts needed to win one – but this might be due to the fact that I spent a great deal of my life doing things that trained me how to manage my aggression.

I just know that, deep down (and in some cases, right on the surface), every single teenage boy wants to know how to punch another teenage boy, and I can remember actively searching out sources on how to do that very thing… I remember wishing that someone, somewhere would just flat-out tell me how to punch a dude. And now that I’m a adult boy, I kinda feel like I should go back and honor that request on behalf of all the adolescent males out there who probably want to know.

And that’s why I wrote my guide on How To Actually Win A Fist Fight. If you need it, there it is. I hope you don’t.

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The (Updated) No-Bullshit Guide To Self Defense For Ladies

November 10, 2016 Blog, Classics Comments (2) 67

The first version of this article was originally written on 8/4/2011. Given the current climate, both politically and socially, I felt it was super important to share it here on my new blog. In the time since I first wrote it, a lot has changed both with my attitude toward things and my writing style. To that end, I’ve updated this piece for tone and current social climate, and added a few new points. But the goal and the techniques remain unchanged.

Several women close to me have shared stories about men who, now that Donald “Grab them by the pussy” Trump has won the election, feel it’s okay to assault women. This makes me stabby. Short of going vigilante, I figured the very best thing I could do is share information with the people in my life and my social networks about how to take care of themselves. This is all information that is taught in most self-defense classes. I highly advocate you take one (or several). This is intended to give you a safe and private opportunity to look into what it takes to defend yourself, free from embarrassment or judgement or harassment.)

A few years ago, I wrote a guide on how to actually win a fist fight. It wasn’t intentional, but naturally being a man (and former boy who didn’t know how to fight), the guide appealed to men and boys who had no fight training, who may have found themselves in a situation where they have to defend themselves against a bully. It was a much bigger success than I ever anticipated, with over ten million reads and shares. To date, I’ve received hundreds of emails from fathers thanking me for writing the guide that finally taught their kid how to stand up for himself, and young men who have faced bullies and other less than savory characters using the tactics I taught them.

After the success of that article, several female readers asked if there was a guide geared more toward them. I did some research and didn’t find one I liked, so I wrote one. Today, I’m updating it for the current social climate.

This week, a disgusting orange man who has a history of sexual assault against women and who openly advocated groping them won the free and open elections for President of the United States. This has given the worst members of the male gender a signal that it’s now socially okay to assault women. In the past 24 hours (a full day since his victory), I’ve read and heard stories from female friends about their friends being assaulted, or being assaulted themselves. Of course, many of the men doing this gross shit say it’s jokes and funny and blah blah blah.  Trump did it. It’s the will of the people or some shit.

Of course, that’s wrong on SO MANY LEVELS. So fuck that. 

It is my sincere hope that no woman ever has to use any of the information in this guide, ever. But unfortunately in today’s social climate, hoping isn’t enough.

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Don’t let this happen to you… PLEASE. 

This guide will very lightly touch on things that you can learn in just about every self defense course, video and article I’ve ever seen — namely, situational awareness, avoiding becoming a victim, and all of that. It will then dive very briefly into why you should carry a gun, and if not a gun, a can of pepper spray with military-grade tear gas — and if not that, a knife. And then, we get to the stuff I’ve never really seen anywhere: what to do if you need to defend yourself against a male attacker with only your hands.

Before we begin: This is your life we’re talking about here. Not just staying alive, but living without having to face a severely traumatic experience (being assaulted, groped, or raped). Any man laying hands on you without your consent is assaulting you. Any man continuing to assault you after you’ve said ‘No’ does not care about your feelings, your safety or your welfare. He is going to hurt you or kill you. You need to be prepared to hurt him first and escape.

Even if you know this stuff or have read this guide (or others) in the past, it’s not a bad idea to re-read it and refresh your memory.

Situational awareness

It’s tempting to write off all of the following with the term “common sense.”

When it comes to your safety in a stressful situation, there’s no such thing. “Common sense” is irrelevant in uncommon situations. Everyone, in their day to day lives, knows not to walk down dark alleyways at night by themselves. But I am willing to bet even odds that most of us, in a hurry or with no one around, has taken that shortcut down the dark alley or through the dark parking lot, because the situation wasn’t common. And if someone’s assaulting, you, that situation is certainly not common. So even if you feel this stuff is “common sense” read it with the intent of engraining it in your memory for future use in uncommon situations.

Of course, there’s no need to go out into the world thinking everyone’s out to get you. You don’t have to be in a constant paranoid panic every time you go out in public. But you DO need to keep your head about you.

In the car: 

If your car gets stranded on the highway, stay the hell in it. Don’t go anywhere. Keep an external battery and spare charging cable in your car at all times. You can get both combined for under $30, and that tiny investment can save your life.

Most states have a DOT program that can help you with road-side assistance. This is awesome — but when they arrive, even if a person is wearing a uniform (even a cop), STAY. IN. THE. CAR. No police officer is going to ask you to get out of your vehicle if you’ve done nothing wrong, and even if you have, you have the right to request they call another officer or their watch captain / sergeant to the scene before you exit the vehicle.

On that note: police cars have blue and/or red lights. There are no exceptions. No car without blue/red lights has the legal right to pull you over. DO NOT PULL OVER FOR ANY CAR WITHOUT BLUE AND/OR RED LIGHTS. For those that do, you can legally signal to an officer your intent to pull over by slowing down and turning on your hazards, which you should do until you get to a public, well-lit area.

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Police cars may have red lights, blue lights, or both. Typically, Sheriffs and state / federal vehicles (State Troopers, FBI) are blue-only (except in Michigan, thanks Erin). 

 



Out and about / on foot:

Park your car under lights whenever possible, as near to any building as possible (that will be open when you plan to exit). Avoid recessed doorways and alleyways on city streets. Travel with people — if you’re alone, ask a security guard to escort you, or if you feel uncomfortable doing that, look around for a group of girls or guys and girls, and walk near them. Don’t talk to strangers in parking lots, especially men. Keep to yourself.
Fuck all that “what will society think?” crap. If a scary man (of any race) looks scary, stay the hell away. Who cares if you hurt his feelings? The worst that happens is a nice guy has a bad story to tell his friends about how much his ego was hurt, the best is you avoid being beaten and raped. Pick the best option.
Cash goes one way, you go the other:
A quick story: when I was active in Judo, I regularly assisted in teaching self-defense courses. One of the students in my dojo — a girl named Sandy — was a black belt in Judo and studied Akido. She was devastatingly fast and could handle just about every man in our dojo. In the self defense clases, she executed every maneuver perfectly.
One rainy night, she was out on the town with two of her girlfriends, and they were approached by an attacker in a parking lot of a bar. The guy was waving a knife at them and demanding they surrender their purses. Guess what Sandy did?
a) A flying armbar which resulted in a severe dislocation while her friends called the police,
b) A super fast saronagi (over-the-shoudler throw) which flung her attacker across the parking lot,
c) threw her purse at him and ran with her friends back to the bar?
Yeah, it was c. She was a highly trained martial artist. She was even armed with an umbrella. And she had the good sense to do the best thing she could have — give the guy the easily replaceable crap he wanted and run before anyone got hurt.
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Regardless of how nice the bag is or what you have in it — it’s not worth it. Toss it one way, run the other. 
If you are approached and mugged, throw your purse (or wallet, or cash clip) in one direction and run the other. Trust me, if you’re being robbed, they will choose the cash over you.
But if they’re not out to rob you — if they’re there to rape and hurt you — you need to know how to handle that. And that’s why I recommend highly that you arm yourself. In order of effectiveness (and preference): a gun, pepper spray, a knife, a tazer / stun gun, a blunt instrument (those stupid key-bats you see on sale around town), hand-to-hand.  I won’t be covering ineffective measures, mostly because they’re ineffective.

Weapons, and why you should have them:

First thing’s first: You must be prepared to disable or kill an attacker who is intent on hurting you. And by disable, I mean to the point of being unable to pursue you. Kicking the nuts and punching someone in the nose? Sounds great. It’s taught by mothers and fathers to daughters the world over. And guess what — it’s pretty much the least effective advice you could ever give anyone.

When physically confronted, men instinctively protect their genitals and face. It’s inborn. We just do it. Then, there’s the fact that adrenaline and endorphins block out the pain caused by being kicked in the balls or punched in the face (long enough to do you grevious bodily harm, anyway). Of course, nut-punching and face-gouging aren’t wholly ineffective. But they’re not the most effective self defense measures.

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See? Balls and face. Every man defends these things.

 

The golden rules:

1) Keep your head. It’s hard. You’re scared. Try not to let fear turn into panic. Keep breathing. Keep your head up. Keep your eyes open. Don’t fly into a blind rage. Don’t lose sight of your escapes. Stay in control of yourself.

2) Make no mistake — You’re fighting for your life. Not just your ability to stay alive, but also your ability to live the rest of your days without the painful scars of a violent attack. This means you need to let go of any pacifist philosophy or maternal instinct you’ve got and get ready to get mean.

3) Distance is your friend.  Bluntly, you cannot be raped if they can’t get to you. You want as much distance as possible between you and your attacker. Escape is your absolute primary goal. Your best means of escaping an attacker is to have a great head start, and you want the guy to be completely incapable of pursuing you.

So my advice on weapons, in order of most effective to least:

 

Get a gun. 

I need to tell you that if you do opt for the gun — and I sincerely hope you will — there’s a LOT to discuss. In fact, it deserves its own guide. But the bottom line is that guns are not meant to intimidate or maim, they are meant to kill. Do not get a gun to scare off an attacker. Do not get a gun to shoot them in the leg. Get a gun to shoot them and kill them and save your own life. If you cannot face this, you probably shouldn’t get a gun. But there’s absolutely no getting around it: in the hands of a woman who has taken the time to learn how to draw, aim and shoot her gun, there’s no better measure to defending yourself. Period, end of story.

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The GLOCK 26 short-frame 9mm pistol. Concealable, powerful, reliable (but not as reliable as a revolver). 

This will require, if not demand, that you go to a gun range at least once a month and hone your skills, as well as practicing your draw from wherever you decide to keep it (purse, night stand, waistband, whatever). And I highly highly highly advise you take a gun safety class course and a shooting course, at a minimum.

 

If you don’t want a gun, get pepper spray. 

Let’s assume you don’t want a gun, legally can’t get one, aren’t prepared to be a responsible and effective gun owner (by going to the range and practicing, and taking safety courses), or you don’t have the money. I highly recommend you get high velocity bear repellent for your home, and this SABRE spray for personal carry and the car. Don’t bother with MACE — some people aren’t susceptible to its effects, and even those that are are much more susceptible to pepper spray + tear gas.

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A keychain / concealable pepper spray canister. They’re 8 bucks a piece. Load up. (And I didn’t pick pink because you’re a lady, I picked it because I personally like and carry pink)

 

As for the bear spray, it shoots up to 30 feet and will flat knock a man down. When in the confines of your home, escape routes are fewer. You want as much distance as possible, and you want the guy to be completely incapable of pursuing you.

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Keep a can of bear repellent near your bed, one near any door in your home, and one in the centermost hallway. 

Now, if you’re going to use spray, you need to be aware of a few things:
1) It’s most effective in the eyes, nose and mouth.
2) You need to practice with it just like you would a gun. To not practice with it is folly. You will either fumble with it when you need it, or end up hurting yourself. You’re not “wasting” a can of $30 bear spray, any more than you waste a $30 box of bullets at the gun range. Get spares, and practice.
3) don’t spray it into the wind, or you’ll blind yourself, too.

 

Tasers / stun guns:

 Tasers work… sometimes. But I don’t recommend them.

1) They’re easily defeated by thick jackets and clothing. Ask a cop if you don’t believe me.
2) You get one shot. True, they sell multi-shot tazers, but if someone’s wearing a thick jacket, the other two shots will just fail to penetrate as well, and then you’re screwed.

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The taser. You’ve got one shot, make it count (and hope they’re not wearing a leather jacket). 

Handheld stun guns have the same limitations, but with the added issue of proximity. Remember, distance is your friend. Stun guns require you be right next to the attacker.

Furthermore, while they do work, they don’t subdue. They merely temporarily disable. The point of using any of these weapons is to render the attacker unable to attack — and if you temporarily subdue them, then start running and they can get up and pursue, you’ve failed. And now, you’re expending energy and oxygen and time while they pursue you, and if they get you again, you’re in trouble.

 

Knife:

I recommend every woman carry a knife as a backup to their gun / pepper spray. I carry a knife myself. I’ve never had to brandish it, much less use it (thank god). But I have it, just in case. I’m a HUGE fan of spring-assist knives by SOG (specifically, the FLASH II). I recommend a solid aluminum handle. If you can get your hands on one, get a fully-automatic knife like a switchblade. Yes, they’re illegal in many states, but so is rape. Your attacker isn’t letting a pesky thing like “laws” get in his way. Don’t let them get in yours.

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The SOG Flash II with aluminum handle and serated blade. It’ll fuck shit up, and it’s legal in almost every state. 

I’m not knife trained in any real manner outside of the very basics, which I’m going to share with you:

1) Hold it blade-down, in an “overhand” grip. This would be like making a fist for punching, only there’s the blade of a knife sticking out of the bottom of your hand.
2) If you’re facing your attacker… What the hell are you doing? Run.
3) If your attacker has you from behind, plunge the blade of the knife into their thigh. Twist it. Remove it. This will keep the wound from closing and do some serious damage to his ability to chase you. DO NOT LET GO OF YOUR KNIFE, EVER. If you do, even if you’ve stabbed your attacker, you’ve just given him a knife. Don’t make his job of hurting you any easier.

Don’t wave your knife around like you see in movies (this really applies to every weapon). Don’t threaten. Don’t telegraph you have it. Your job is not to intimidate, it’s to escape. If you pull out your weapon, use it. Don’t pull it out unless you are absolutely going to use it. You run the risk of being disarmed, or worse, escallating an encounter to something far more serious by producing a weapon that the attacker is now prepared for.

 

Blunt instruments (bats, flashlights, those stupid “key bats” they sell so you can swing a keyring at a guy intent on hurting you, etc):

Simply put, they require you be close to the attacker. That’s what we don’t want. But they’re better than going bare-fisted. So if you have nothing else, get yourself an ASP (collapsable baton). Know that in most states, an ASP requires a law enforcement ID to buy, unless you go to a pawn shop or gun show. Also, they’re considered a controlled weapon, like brass knuckles or a blackjack. But again, the law isn’t really a concern when someone’s trying to hurt you.

If it is a concern for you, then get a huge 4-battery Mag Lite and carry it everywhere. It doesn’t rouse suspicion, it fits nicely under the seat of your car, and it is legal in all 50 states. It’s also cumbersome. It probably won’t fit in a purse. It’s awkward to carry around stores.

But the truth is, short of a baseball bat, it’s the most effective legal weapon you can possess… That isn’t a gun or pepper spray, of course.

 

stock-photo-frightened-woman-defending-herself-with-her-hands-from-the-boomerang-which-she-threw-to-someone-138812216But probably don’t use boomerangs. (Also, this is the dumbest stock photo I’ve ever seen)

 

Your bare hands (AKA the last resort, AKA what to do if he gets you):

If you’re facing your attacker, read up on my fist fight guide. It’s long, and necessary if you’re not going to heed my advice on weapons and running. Read it. The only difference is that it’s possible a swift kick by you to the knees or genitals might help… But you need to keep in mind, kicking in tennis shoes or heels (or barefoot) can result in a broken foot, or miss and leave you off balance. You need your feet and your balance to escape.

If you are caught from behind and still standing:
a) Stomp instep. Over and over again, stomp right down on his foot, preferably on the instep. Break the foot if you can. It doesn’t take much to do this, by the way. And don’t be satisfied with one good stomp — keep it up until he lets you go, or you break his foot.
b) Sling head backwards, over and over. Break his nose or dislocate his jaw. Either will cause his eyes to water.
c) Grab his fingers (not hands, get a single finger) and wring it like crazy. Break it if you can, especially a thumb. You’ll know it’s broken when you hear the “CRACK!” sound and his yelping.

If you’re on the ground, the fingers thing is still important. Break his goddamn thumbs. If he’s on top of you, get your hands to his face and gouge out his eyes. Did you know it only takes about 15 sq. lbs. of torque to dislodge the eye from its socket? If you clap your hands with any sort of velocity, that’s roughly 60-80 sq. lbs. of torque. Trust me, getting your thumbs into his sockets and pressing VERY. HARD. will be effective.

If you can’t quite get there, slap his ears. Cup your hand and rupture the eardrum.

If you can’t get there, make your hand into a blade (fingers together) and chop / stab at his throat. Don’t punch at it, your fist is too big to fit into the gap between the jaw and collar bone to be effective. You want to crush his windpipe.

If you can’t do that, start raising your knees at high velocity and try to crush his genitals. This isn’t the most effective of all the tactics, but it does work.

At any rate, the SECOND you can get away, do so. And whatever you do, don’t drop your hands to your sides or let him stop them. Thrash. Go fucking crazy. Tear his face off. Never stop until you escape.

 

If he’s got you pinned down…

…and he’s wearing a jacket, sweater or shirt, he’s given you an incredible weapon against himself. Watch the one choke hold every woman needs to learn:

 

If none of that works, and if you can’t get away, OR you’re in a “date rape” type of situation (indoors and unable to just go nuts and run):

 

In a “calm” situation (indoors, date rape):

I want to make it absolutely clear that the first priority is definitely saying no, making it very clear that you are not comfortable, and then if possible fighting him off. It’s only after these tactics have failed that I’m advocating turning the tables and trying another tactic.

You’re in a situation where you’re already trapped and something you don’t want to happen is happening, and fighting has failed. Rather than just giving up, there is a last resort: Rope-a-Dope.

In situations where you are very clearly not giving consent and he won’t stop, and you feel that you are being assaulted, the line has already been crossed. So, If saying “no” and then fighting him off hasn’t worked, pretend to go with it.

Gross, yes. But we’re way past boundaries, and you’re being assaulted and we want this to end (and with as much pain to him as possible.) So the tactic is: Pretend to relax. Pretend to get into it. Start running your hands up and down his shoulders. Work your way up to his face. Maybe even kiss him. Get your hands on both cheeks. If he’s got glasses, just slowly try to remove them first. Put your thumbs right into his eyes. Press like hell and dislodge the eyes from their sockets.

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Go for the eyes.

If you can’t get to his face, try asking if you can help him with his pants, or even better, “Go down” on him. Get his pants to his ankles. Get his underwear to his knees. Place both hands around the testicles and yank as hard as you can — try to pull the bastards off. A distended testicle will make him incapable of running, and is FAR more effective than trying to kick or punch the balls. It takes quite a lot of force to rupture one, but not much at all to yank it out of place.

With his pants around his ankles, he’s not going to be able to chase.

If that’s not possible, look for an alarm clock or the phone. Anything with bulk. Grab it and slam it against his head.

In any case, the second you can get out of the room, run. Get out of the house / building. Go to the nearest populated place (a neighbor’s house, a store, a gas station). Yell and scream the entire time. Do NOT remain calm once you’re out — get attention and get it fast. Shame has no place for you here. You’re not the one who should be ashamed — HE IS.

All of this said, it’s far better to have a weapon and be safe and distant. It’s hard to maintain an erection with a bullet in you.

 

Final thoughts:

The major major MAJOR point here is to be aware of your surroundings and not get attacked in the first place. But sometimes, dudes are fucking gross and decide they just want to do bad things, and when they do, I want you to be able to protect and defend yourself.

If you are attacked, you need distance between you and your attacker, as quickly as possible. To that end, a weapon which incorporates distance is primary. One that incapacitates and keeps them from pursuing you is preferred. Or, putting it simply, get a damn gun and learn to use it safely and responsibly.

It’s unpleasant to talk about, but the truth is, there’s no martial art in the world that can teach you how to defend yourself while unconscious. If he can’t get near you, he can’t choke you or knock you out.

If you have no choice, or weapons simply aren’t an option for you, you need to keep calm and use the situation to your advantage however possible. If fighting can’t get you free, turn the tables. You’re already trapped — instead of just surrendering, try a fallback tactic of going with it and attempting to get your hands on the most vulnerable parts of his body, the eyes and the genitals.

Above all else… Be ready to hurt him for real. Because he’s ready to hurt you, and that simply won’t do.

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How To Teach The Internet How To Make The Best Steak They’ve Ever Had In Their Lives

November 6, 2016 Blog Comments (0) 67

Like any decent internet user, I’ve been posting pictures of my food to Instagram for years. My favorite subject: STEAK. As such, I’ve been asked by dozens of people about my technique for perfectly cooked steaks. So I thought I’d deliberately be obtuse and teach you how to teach people how to make steak. Because this is the internet, and nothing can ever be just a straightforward tutorial. It has to be ART.

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Now, normally you’d start your post on how to make steak with some stupid story about your childhood. You’d want to start super flowery, like “When I was a young boy in suburban Atlanta, my favorite time of year was the moment the leaves turned from the emerald green of the Amazonian Forest canopy to the bright yellows and reds and oranges that marked the coming of cooler temperatures and festive times…” THAT KIND OF CRAP.

So be sure to start like that when you do your post. And make sure to keep including pictures of food, throughout your nine-page diatriabe about your childhood so people know there’s a recipe somewhere in their future while you masturbate with your English Lit degree that doesn’t do you any good anywhere in your real life, except for your food blog. It’s super important.

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You can also include inspirational quotes. People like those.

Ingredients

  • Steaks (duh) — I highly recommend Ribeye or New York Strip, but anything with decent marbling will work. The more fat the better. Butcher-cut steaks are best, of course, but this will work with even your basic supermarket special. Just make sure it’s a decent thickness. Thin-cut steaks tend to burn up on the grill.
  • Kosher or Sea Salt: It works with coarse or medium grain, but I don’t recommend finely ground salt, unless you just want a really salty steak. Do NOT use iodized salt. There’s lots of reasons why, like the fact that the iodization process kills the moisture-drawing property of the salt. But also, iodized salt isn’t very tasty.
  • Butter: Kerrygold or another grass-fed butter is best. No margarine.
  • Montreal Seasoning: if you don’t like Montreal, we can’t be friends. But there’s other options, like just salt and pepper. But no seriously, use Montreal.
  • Garlic: Cause garlic.
  • Beer: Because that’s what you drink when you grill. It’s just the rules, man.

Now, before we even get to prep-work (which, if you’re in a hurry, is: pat the steaks completely dry, salt the absolute shit out of both sides, and let sit for an hour per inch of thickness, then rinse, pat completely dry again, then grill), we need to get the absolute most important part out of the way:

 

The Lead Photo

Let’s face it, your kitchen is not cool. My kitchen is not cool. None of us out here writing this stuff can afford cool kitchens. So having some seriously bad-ass custom kitchen photos isn’t going to be an option. And no one wants to post a lead photo of their REAL kitchen, because it looks like this:

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No one wants to see this. This will not do. So you need a few things before you even start cooking:

  • A wooden table from a thrift shop
  • an oversized measuring cup
  • bamboo salt and pepper decanter (yes, that’s a thing)
  • a cute mustard colored bowl
  • parchment paper
  • a mason jar

 

Once you have those things, you can take a photo like THIS:

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THERE. Now that is more like it. “But where’s the mason jar?” you ask? Well it’s right here:

 

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It’s not enough to drink a beer while grilling if you’re going to teach the internet how to grill. You have to pour that shit into a mason jar. That’s how it’s done. I’m not sure why. You’ll have to refer to the rule book. Someone at the W3C decided that, years ago, beverage photos on the internet that appear in “how to cook” posts must be in mason jars.

Now, we have our nice photo of our food before we begin cooking it. But it’s not enough just to have the nice photo. We need FILTERS!

 

Basic Filters

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Clarendon: A nice choice for the discerning Instagram food photographer who wants to somehow still be able to post #NOFILTER on their description and have people buy it.

 

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X-Pro-II: When you really wanna sell that contrast, because you’re bright on the outside but SUPER DARK on the inside, and wish people could just see past your happiness act and ask you “What’s wrong?” So you can answer “Oh, nothing!”

 

Advanced Filters:

If you really wanna get wild, you can hop into Photoshop and begin shifting and tilting channels:

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It’s glitchy and artsy and so cool! It looks like you don’t know what you’re doing, which is a look only those who REALLY know what they’re doing can pull off!

And for the TRULY nutty, out-there, cool kid who wants to bring a little retro-future into their food blog, I suggest going with tilt-wire-grid-mapping turned into a looping gif:

 

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SO EDGY!

 

Prep Time!

Ok, now that you’ve got your lead photos done, it’s time to get to the prep. These photos don’t have to be nearly as cool or artsy, because they’re “Process” and everyone knows that “process” is a bit messy. Plus, they’re already so impressed by your photographic acumen with the first photo that they’re willing to forgive everything up to the actual money shot of plated food. But that doesn’t mean you can rest… When that grill fires up, you better be ready for a FLAME LICK PHOTO. But we’ll get to that.

So here we go: first, you have to DAB DRY the steaks. Not rub, not blow dry, but DAB DRY. I don’t know why that’s so important, except that dabbing is a fad that kids are doing or something. I blame Drake.

Ok, so you need to salt the absolute crap out of the steaks. I use Diamond medium ground salt, because it’s like a dollar for a massive box from Amazon, so I don’t feel wasteful when I rinse off a half pound of salt from my steaks:

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Now, you just cover and wait. I recommend drinking beer while you do. And when time is up, and you uncover the steaks, you’ll notice that the salt is moist and dark:

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Yep, moist and dark, just like my coffee.

Once you rinse the salt off and pat dab the steaks dry, you’ll notice they’ve turned a super dark red:

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This is where some mega science comes in. The reason you salt the steaks is a) to absorb moisture, but also b) because salt emulsifies fat, and c) swells and softens protein fibers. So, you’re removing water while liquefying fat, which then soaks into the actual protein fibers of the meat. No more steamed meat, hello juicy delicious steaks!

Now, it’s time for a shot of the grill with no steak on it, so I can talk to you about preparation while also showing you all the other yummy things we intend to eat, while not actually talking about how make any of those things cause this post is about STEAK:

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Please notice how close the beer is to the grill. This was placed there for the shot, because that beer is going to get warm as hell if it actually sits that close to the grill. Don’t forget to put your beer in your photo (and other accessories to your amazing lifestyle, such as the cigar picture I include further down).

Whatever else you cook, cook it first. You need all of it (except the corn, which you wanna leave on so it gets smoked with the meat smokes) off the grill before you cook the steak, cause you need the grill to be at 450 degrees:

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Once you’ve cleaned off the grill and it’s up to 450 degrees, it’s time to put those steaks on:

 

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Notice how the steaks aren’t perfectly horizontal. You want them somewhat diagonal, and then after one minute, you want to rotate them 90 degrees to the other diagonal, for perfect grid lines. I recommend using a timer, both because it’s an easy way to count minutes and also because nothing says “internet cooking guide” like a screenshot from an iPhone:

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So the rotation goes:

Minute 1: rotate diagonally

Minute 2: flip and baste with butter, garlic, and Montreal mixture

Minute 3: rotate diagonally

Minute 4: Flip, baste again, Immediately flip, let the butter burn a bit, and remove

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And make sure in the midst of flipping the steaks, you get a FLAME SHOT for your blog. You need one.

 

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And here’s the cigar shot I told you about. Mandatory.

 

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Perfectly charred and caramelized fat on the steak = good steak.

 

Plating and the Coup De Grace

Ok, now it’s time for the money shot:

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… Well that’s not very interesting. There’s not nearly enough hipster shit going on. One minute, let me go cut the bushes in the front yard….

 

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VOILA. But still, something’s missing… OH THE EXTREME ANGLE AND FILTERS!

 

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THERE WE GO. Perfectly cooked internet tutorial steak.

 

And here’s a shot of me pretending you’re going to eat it, because it hasn’t been frustrating enough staring at 20 pictures of someone else’s food artistically positioned to make you as hungry as possible:

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Bon Appétit!

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The Utter Crap You Can Expect Me To Post On This Here Blog

November 3, 2016 Blog Comments (1) 57

I spent a lot of mental power working out howimg_0061 Thurston Howell III From Gilligan’s Island managed to get enough cigars to last him three entire seasons of the show onto the S.S. Minnow, a tiny charter vessel (which by the way should have been called the M.V. Minnow (Motor Vehicle) or M.Y. Minnow (Motor Yacht), because the designation S.S. was used for vessels that ran on steam power (Steam Ship).

I had a blog post in the making about smuggling networks, and how he could have submerged cases of cigars in airtight drums dragged beneath the boat to avoid any detection, and how he might have rigged a ballast to reduce drag. And then, to get an image to accompany my post, I did some Googling for “Thurston Howell III Cigar” and came up with absolutely nothing.

It turns out, all of the 30+ years of memories I’ve got of the show Gillian’s Island had some weird aspect of Thurston Howell III smoking cigars somehow inserted into my brain. Because as far as I can tell, the man never once smoked a single cigar on screen.

This could be yet another brick on the pile of evidence that is mounting that we are all living in a strange divergent timeline that split from Reality Prime (or R¹) somewhere in the mid-80’s.

This theory began, interestingly enough, from people across the internet remembering that the Berenstein Bears were, in fact, called the Bereinstein Bears. I remember them being called the Berenstein Bears. But for some reason, all of the books, tapes and other media containing the Berenstein Bears are titled “Berenstain Bears.” (Here’s another article, and another, and yet another, and here’s the boring attempt to explain the whole phenomenon, known as “The Mandela Effect” in which masses of people misremember things… But I’m telling you, the Bereinstein Bears were fucking called the Berenstein Bears).

This combines with the newly discovered revelation that Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island did not, in fact, smoke cigars, despite my childhood memories that that man smoked at least one cigar an episode.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of quality analytical investigation you can expect from this blog going forward.

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My relationship with Social Media is unhealthy and I’m sick of being sick.

November 3, 2016 Blog Comments (9) 48

The last few months, I’ve felt sick. Physically ill. Something was genuinely wrong within me. I felt angry all the time. Genuinely, purely angry.

This wasn’t faux frustration I’m talking about. I spent a lot of my youth and young adult life angry due to a large number of genuinely unfair circumstances. I had some horrible things happen that forced me to learn how to deal with that anger. I learned how to meditate, how to channel energy into positive things, and how to cope with the small sparks within me before they could grow into infernos. And the past few months, I’ve found myself completely forgetting all of that teaching, instead being ready to pop at a moment’s notice.

So a short while back, I took a few weeks to really analyze what was going on in me. This is the sum total what I’ve learned.

•     •     •

Social Media, Mental Health and That Asshole Guy Donald Trump

I’ve backed off Social Media a number of times in my life. And one thing that remains true every single time is that, after backing off for a while, you start to not miss it. Yes, at first it’s hard. A day in, it’s difficult not to type “F-A-C-E” into the address bar and have it autocomplete to Facebook. It’s habit, as much as pressing in the clutch before you shift becomes habit while driving. But it wanes after a short while, and after a few days, I don’t really have to think too hard about how NOT to type F-A-C-E” the second I open my web browser.

So a week or more goes by, and I have the habit kicked. I’m TOTALLY over it. All is well, and I’m cleansed. So I feel safe checking in to see what’s going on. And that’s all it is at first, checking in.

Until THAT article shows up.

You know exactly which article I’m talking about, even though it’s different for every one of us. It’s the one that you shake your head at and scoff and think “What the fuck!” And you just HAVE to respond. And the second you do, you feel that shock of poison through your veins that gets your heart going and your mind racing. It’s adrenaline mixed with dopamine. You’re back on the juice, and you know that you’re a few clever observations from Like City and yet another moment of validation.

So I tried sanitizing my Facebook world. I tried unfriending the gross and unfollowing the borderline, and focusing only on my friends and their jolly good times. And I’d pop on and I’d think to myself “Oh, wow, my nephew is at the Kennedy Space Center! He looks so happy! That is so awesome… And look, my friend Rachel just got engaged! How wonderful! And my friend Nikki’s adorable precious angel baby child is trying to eat the lid to a jar of raspberry preserves, and that’s just SO adorable and OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK DID TRUMP SAY?!? I MUST RESPOND!”

It’s like wanting a refreshing beverage and drinking 30% Kool-aid mixed with 70% cyanide, and being thankful for having your thirst quenched.

The older (and presumably wiser) I’ve gotten, the more absolute moral certainty disturbs me. I am an unapologetic liberal, morally. Politically, I would have to say that I’m far more centrist, especially when it comes to rights and fiscal responsibility. For quite a while, I was able to walk that line in conversations and debate. But the last few years, I’ve found myself going all-in on policy, simply because there’s really no other option online. You can’t be in the middle anymore. It’s red team vs. blue team, for all the chips in the pot, at all times, every single day.

It wasn’t immediately apparent that I was slipping into “I’m right, you’re wrong” territory. It took a while (like, years) for me to slip into the role, and once I did, I felt 100% justified going full-bore apeshit on people who, I felt, represented this morally reprehensible division in our country that could somehow fathom voting for a loathesome, disgusting, mysognistic racist, classist, xenophobic, whiny rich-kid-brat 70 year old that is Donald Trump.

The mere fact they could support him put anyone who bothered to advocate or defend any of his policies on the other side of the social fence we’ve all erected.

But here’s the thing: It’s not Facebook’s fault. It’s mine. I can’t help it. I am addicted to the call-and-response of people I think are stupid having the audacity to be on MY internet, saying shit I don’t agree with. HOW DARE THEY?!? I was here first (more on that in a bit)!

It’s naive to think you can sanitize your way to a trigger-less existence by removing everyone from it. It’s evil to think you can make them not react in their own way, on their on terms, to the things that upset them inside their own circles. The correct answer to this is to adopt a stance that strikes a balance between not being okay with something, but being okay with the fact that other people get to have an opinion.

I had to learn to just shut the hell up and let it be.

I forget that people who support Donald Trump are human beings with lives and feelings and opinions that are borne of their own personal hardships. Loss of jobs, higher taxes, what few dollars they bring in with their incomes going nowhere near as far as they did 20 or 30 years ago. The sociopolitical divides of their Judeo-Christian upbringing being in conflict with social openness and awareness and acceptance. Everything they’ve ever known to be right, true and correct is being challenged and accepted by people who seem to control aspects of the world they feel completely detached from, and yet completely controlled by.

And that’s just when it comes to who should be president.

So they probably feel every bit as passionate about their viewpoints as I do about mine. And they’re willing to overlook the negative traits of the human being running for office that they’ve decided to vote for, because he represents a sea change back to things they can understand. Just like I’m willing to overlook scandals, lies and 30 years worth of political maneuvering in my candidate, just for the shot to be President.

Because for me, Hillary has become an avatar AGAINST what I don’t understand. Just like Trump is an avatar AGAINST what they don’t understand. I truly believe that the vast majority of people couldn’t care less what their own candidate believes, they just don’t want the other one in office because of what they do represent.

And none of this dialog or understanding or insight takes place on Facebook or Twitter. It tries, in pockets and in parts. But by and large, it’s “us versus them” all day, every day.

So I fire shots across bows, because I have clever quips and insights. And I get hundreds of likes every single time I do, because the only people even listening anymore are the ones who already agree with my viewpoints. If I haven’t already blocked or unfollowed “friends” who represent strong opinions on the other side of the aisle for saying things that I deem racist, stupid, poorly thought out, tone-deaf or some other manifestation of their lack of understanding, they’ve most certainly blocked or unfollowed me.

All of this to say, It’s not so much that I want to talk about presidential candidates and how I feel about them, as it is that this most recent dividing line is one of the most stark we’ve faced as a society since the invention of the internet. So it’s the perfect illustration about how society has been driven to division, in part due to validation and the “I’m right, you’re wrong” syndrome, and partly because of the companies that perpetuate and foster it because they actively profit from that division.

And this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

•     •     •

Before Social Media, It Was Just The Internet (or, “Back in my day…)

It was 1990 when I first connected to the Internet. I was on Qlink for the Commodore 64. I still remember the sqeal of the modem and the thrill of seeing that most amazing word appear on the screen, “Connected!”

The whole world, it seemed, was at my fingertips… Because it was. And while there were definitely trolls and griefers on the message boards in spots, by and large, it was an open and inviting place. There was so much to learn, and at 12 years old, I was ravenous for knowledge (and also very very bored at home). The content available back then (as well as the number of users) is dwarfed by several orders of magnitude by what’s out there today, but at the time, it was more than enough to enthrall me.

Time moved forward. Hypertext became a thing. Browsers were developed to view pages written in HTML. The individual networks were deregulated and eventually merged. I was in college around the time The World Wide Web was formed. It was interesting to see that the internet graudated from a hobbyist’s medium, to a place where college kids and professors spent their Fall, Winter and Spring semesters, to the “Eternal September” when the number of users didn’t dip at all after school ended, to the massive, always-on, heavily populated, “something to read on the toilet on my smartphone” sphere of existence it’s become today.

The ride from then to now has had its bumps, and things slowly got weirder and stranger as we went along. When I first connected to the internet, there was a base-level of knowledge, education, understanding and ability you had to have simply to get there. You had to know how to operate a computer. That computer had to have a modem and a phone line attached. You had to know how to set the parameters on the modem to receive signals from the destination modem (and they were all different). Finally, you had to know what numbers to dial, how to connect, how to create an account… There were so many barriers to entry. You had to WANT to be online, and pretty badly.

The main appeal for me, of course, was the lack of barriers and gatekeepers. You want to make something? No one can tell you ‘no.’ Make your art. Write your stories. Publish your ideas and your opinions. The world was open to you. Hundreds of thousands of people could see this thing you made, and if they loved it, they could tell you. And if they hated it, they COULDN’T tell you it had to go. They just moved on.

Then came AOL and CompuServe and Netcom and the like. It got easier. You just plopped a disk into the drive and ran the connection software.

Then came ISDN, DSL, Cable. Modems no longer required any sort of configuration. Internet was always-on, and in everyone’s home.

Friendster. Myspace. Facebook.

The Well. Fark. Digg. 4Chan. Reddit.

Alta Vista. Yahoo. Google.

Palm VII. Handspring. Treo. iPhone and Android.

Walk into any electronics store in 2016 and in an hour, you can walk out with a device that can connect to the sum of human knowledge, anywhere, at any time.

It finally happened. Everyone, Everywhere, had internet all the time, and there was a TON of internet to be had.

In theory, 12-year-old me would be delighted. The potential for everyone to learn anything they wanted, make anything they wanted, publish anything they wanted, whenever, however… It was a utopian concept that thrilled me to my core. It’s what drove me to write in the first place. It’s what gave me my writing career, software development career, design career… It made it all possible, because no one could tell me ‘no.’

In reality, 39-year-old me is horrified. It seems that when everyone can do anything whenever they want, they tend to ruin it — and the companies are there to profit from the chaos of it all.

•     •     •

What Do You Do With A Drunken Internet (Social Media And Mental Health)?

Charlie Brooker recently gave an amazing interview to Vulture.com where he talks about the dissonance that’s created by all of this need to appeal to everyone at once. It’s all brilliant, but in particular, this bit:

There are different groups of people in your life that you behave slightly differently with. You behave one way with your family. You behave in a different way with your work colleagues. You behave differently with your friends from the movie club, your fitness instructor — all subtly different personas. I remember once throwing a birthday party, and people from different pockets of my life were walking around in one room, and I kind of had a psychological breakdown. I didn’t know how to speak. I’d walk over to some of them and it was like, Hang on. How do I speak if my work colleagues are with my old college friends? Who am I?

…Online, you’re trying to appeal to everyone and people who you don’t know at the same time. So I think as a side effect it amplifies the desire for groupthink. And also because of the way there are algorithms going, Oh, so you like hearing this fact about Hillary Clinton, let’s show you something else that’s like that — it reinforces your echo chamber. We’re all helplessly spiraling into corners and bellowing at each other. I miss everything being boring. Just a few years ago everyone was dismissing everything as dull and now nothing is. It’s all brilliant or shit [emphasis mine].

It’s so hard to see what the internet has become en masse. It hurts to see this thing I’ve loved and spent so much time with, on, and around, turn into what it has become. It hurts even more to know that I am part of that problem. I remember a time when it wasn’t this way, and having to live in the middle of it while remembering how it just doesn’t have to be like this is painful. And I have no real way around it. Except to just not be in it.

It’s ridiculous to think that anyone — or even everyone — could mount a counter-offensive against the rampant stupidity (and commercialization of said stupidity) that’s become what the internet is today. It’s not only not possible, it’s not even feasible. For every one of us who dreams of an internet “the way it used to be” there’s literally a hundred thousand others who don’t know what it used to be, don’t care what it used to be, and want us to shut the fuck up about how it used to be.

Because it’s now, now. It’s not then. PROGRESS™ has taken place. So that’s stupid. It’s also toxic. It’s poisonous to be that person in the middle of a massive organism saying “No no, let’s go back to far less people, far less information being shared, and far less progress! Let’s silence the masses who have just discovered what it’s like to be heard!”

It’s pretty much like saying “Let’s Make America Great Again.” It’s code for exclusion. And as much as I miss what the internet used to be, I only miss it because I dreamed of what it could become based on what I was seeing at the time. And by and large, EVERY SINGLE THING I saw it becoming, has happened.

We DO have instant access to the sum of human knowledge, thanks to Wikipedia. Being lost getting from point A to point B is a thing of the past, thanks to Google and Apple Maps. I can have food, groceries, and any number of Lego kits delivered to my home the day I ordered them, thanks to Amazon. There’s no question I can conceptualize that can’t be answered by a simple search thanks to Google and Wolfram Alpha.

And there’s also no shortage of grief. Whether you go looking for it or not, it’ll find you.

When you give everyone a voice, they’re going to use it. And once they find out how great it feels to be heard, they won’t stop using it. When the vast majority of the people speaking live in a country where you have the luxury of being bored, you’re not scrambling simply to survive, and even the poorest of us have hot water, electricity and a car, your baseline for what passes as “having a voice” defaults to either opinion or annoyance.

It’s a hard truth to face, but even at the absolute lowest point in my entire life, I had a car to sleep in. I never spent a night on the street, despite being homeless. I had friends (a lot of whom I met and befriended on the internet) who gave me couches to sleep on, hot water for showers and shelter from the elements when I was in need.

My life is not one of supreme hardship, even at its hardest. And the same is true for the vast majority of Americans (and the developed world in general). Our great war is in ourselves, pushing hard to be heard because we’ve been raised on television and rock and roll and we think that that’s what it means to be special — to be listened to. And what we have to say, by and large, is just some sort of spin on something else we’ve already heard. In the rare instances of a unique voice appearing, it’s a matter of hours before everything they say is drowned out with poison and anger and disagreement. And if it survives that process, it’s a day before it’s co-opted, borrowed, stolen, turned into a meme, circulated, regurgitated, re-memed and washed out within a week.

Our great disquiet is not being fully satisfied 24 hours a day. And we’re on the verge of revolution because of it.

Everyone is so angry with the fact that they’re not being listened to. In some instances, it’s fully justified. There is absolutely no way one could logically disagree that there are entire demographics of people whom have benefited greatly from finally being able to be heard. Homosexual couples can get married. Black lives are mattering. Gender identity is beginning to lose all of the marketing-derived preconcept it suffers from and opening up so that people can simply be how they feel, despite the ridiculous rules that have been made up by movies and TV around how they SHOULD be because they have certain genitalia. Women are finally voicing their aggravation with decades of toxic masculinity in a manner that can’t be ignored, and men are finally able to see what toxic masculinity has done to their own mental health.

All of this, much to the dismay of those who benefit from all of it being unraveled and exposed. I should know. I was one.

•     •     •

Social Media and My Writing

At first, I’d write articles on my blog and post them to Social Media. I’d enjoy the shares and the likes, but the traffic went to my site and read my stuff. That stuff still persists today. You can find it in Google. You can refer to it anytime you want, because it’s always there.

Over the last few years, I’ve found myself writing more and more on Facebook instead of writing on my blog or for a publication or on my books. As a result my writing got more and more reactive, and the impetus shifted mainly to writing because I was upset about something I saw or read, and I knew I could get support for it and/or stir the pot.

Writing because you’re offended is rarely a creative endeavor. Sometimes, yes. But rarely.

I’ve found myself giving the vast majority of my time and effort to short form, temporary, of-the-moment content platforms that monetize my energy (and anger) while controlling the stuff I make there. And what’s more, they profit with every single second we spend fighting, yelling, and arguing with one another. Something about that is profoundly sick. They literally have no incentive whatsoever to quell the hostility and bring us together. In fact, they have vastly more incentive to provoke hostility and promote echo chambers. Something I can tell you from my years at ad agencies, ads sell better to groups of people with highly visible markers for interest, and no marker is more highly visible than what you hate (especially when it’s a polar choice of one thing or the other. It’s way easier to sell someone a pro-Trump bumper sticker when you know they share, for instance, anti-Hillary stories).

People spend money when they’re hungry, horny, or trying to look cool. The first two things sell themselves, but the third… Well, nothing looks cooler to your peer group than something that proves you’re a part of them, and nothing proves that more than showing them how much you hate that thing they also hate, and if you can look clever doing it, even better.

But I don’t run ads. So none of it benefits me in any way whatsoever, aside from ego validation. And a purse full of validation and three dollars will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Here’s a few of the issues I’ve identified when it comes to my writing and Social Media:

The goddamn futlility of it all. Writing on Facebook is spitting into the stream; writing on Twitter feels like spitting into the wind. There are entire swaths of content I don’t even remember writing. It was produced, people “liked” it, it got a massive swell, shared all over and… nothing mattered. I got validated for a thought I had, yay. What the hell changed? I got more followers, and I got shared more, but to what end? What good did it do, besides puffing up my ego?

But I can argue it did a massive amount of harm, if to no one else but myself. I slowly stopped posting articles and concentrated on just writing long Facebook posts. It wasn’t a conscious decision (which is the scariest part, looking back on it). It just kinda happened. Rather than fire up an editor and write an article, I’d start jotting a post and it would just go and go and go and before I knew it, I had 1,000 to 3,000 words penned that inevitably got tons of likes and shares. And I will gladly pay anyone $100 USD if they can, off the top of their head, quote a goddamn sentence from any of them.

How the hell do I handle outright untruths? Arguing with the people who spread them and trying to prove they’re wrong does nothing. There are literally thousands of insane false-information propigation sites being shared daily by Facebook users as if they’re the equivalent of respected, research-based news sources, simply because both are online. And the algorithms of social media ensure that, when you like or respond to or click on or engage with anything, they show you more of it — so you end up in an echo chamber.

So slowly but surely, all that fake shit people click on and share becomes all they ever see, and they build their own reality. Every time they look through that window in their hand or on their desk to the world at large via the internet, all they see is shit that confirms every single bias they ever had. And in the rare cases of rogue articles from ANY source besides the ones they’ve learned to trust sneaking in, they scream “LIES!” at the top of their lungs, without even reading it, because the headline is all they need to know about. It’s all any of us need to know about anymore.

Headline + accompanying picture + opinion = likes and shares ahoy. That’s the churn. And I have no real evidence that I’m not doing the same thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure I am. And I hate it and I want to stop.

Who’s even reading anyway? The entire Social Media economy runs on likes and shares. People often like and share based on a headline alone. Most people who read the things I was writing there genuinely liked what I wrote and wanted to share with others, and for that I thank them. Those others shared with their others, and I could always tell that I was on the cusp of a “SEE, this is what I was talking about!” Echo-chamber share-a-thon when my likes jumped into the 3oo’s. I don’t have any posts that stay at 300 likes. 100, 200, 250, sure. Once they hit 300, they inevitably hit 3000 – 10,000 shares and likes because at that point, no one is reading it. They’re agreeing with whomever shared it, and that’s about it. And that is EVERY article, every time, no matter what.

After a certain point, it’s just “See, this is what I was talking about” without elaboration or discussion. It’s just another badge sewn on the tribal vest. And those numbers above 300 don’t translate into anything. They don’t result in people researching me, or reading my other posts, or reading my website, or buying books. They’re just numbers. It sure feels good to see, but it doesn’t matter at all in the long run (now, if I was running ads or getting paid to post, that’d be a different story…)

The Traffic Game. You want instant traffic? Write an article about an emerging social awakening. You want instant infamy? Write one AGAINST one. Clicks and likes ahoy. Any writer who writes for a major publication who tells you this isn’t at least in the back of their brain while they produce work is lying to you. Any writer can control that urge to pander for a short while in the name of good journalism… But sooner or later, it DOES affect you.

As someone who actively rebelled against a facet of very important and very powerful cultural awakening (the 2012 piece I wrote for CNN about Feminism in the Geek community) only to discover it was ME who was the problem and not “Fake Geek Girls,” I have found the process of awakening painful, difficult, and rewarding in a way I never thought it could be. Writing my personal opinions out on CNN about how “Geek Culture” was being “Co-opted” by “fakers” was probably the worst best thing I’ve ever done. It exposed me to a critique I wasn’t ready for. It made me stand and attend the cultural hearing that needed to take place.

I had a choice in the moments shortly after publishing that article. I could have doubled-down on my viewpoint and Rush Limbaughed my way to a certain kind of disgusting fame amongst misogynists. Trust me — the offer was on the table. CNN LOVED the traffic spike that piece gave them, and they were more than happy to continue running “Bad Boy Joe Peacock vs. The Entire Geek World” pieces.

But something in me wouldn’t let me do that. I was horrified at the reaction to my piece (although I really shouldn’t have been, in hindsight, but that’s what hindsight is good for— punishing yourself for being stupid).  I honestly thought I was taking up and defending the flag of something I found sacred, through a childhood and adolescence of fighting just to like “geeky” things. But I wasn’t. I was perpetuating a gross exclusion of a type of content, based soley on the fact that when I found it as a teenager, it was made specifically for people like me — white straight hormonally driven escapist males, drawn and written by the same. So, wow, no brainer that it appealed to me, and seemed as if everyone who WASN’T me hated me for liking it.

Times changed. I didn’t get the memo (or, more likely–and this hurts to admit–I did and I threw it away without reading it). And I had to take some time to digest that fact. Not just a few days or weeks, but years of talking to experts, reading every book I could on the subject, and really digging in on what the hell had just happened.

Doing the work was the only answer. And I’m STILL doing that work. Defending what was, merely because it was easier for me to understand, was wrong.

Just like “Make America Great Again” is wrong. Just like wishing the internet was miraculously transformed back to a hard-to-get-on, harder-to-navigate thing merely because it would somehow raise the baseline of education needed to be on it (which, by the way, it absolutely wouldn’t — as I said earlier, there were trolls and griefers back when it started. There always will be, no matter what, a certain demographic of people who get their thrills by annoying, picking on, threatening or otherwise harassing people, because they are bored and their lives lack meaning, and this validates their ego’s need to matter. Again, I should know, because I was one).

So what’s to be done about my toxic relationship with Social Media, if I’m not going to advocate changing Social Media?

The only answer is to change myself.

•     •     •

So what now?

Twitter killing Vine was a wake-up call. At any time, any company that owns the platform you create on can change it or kill it and you’re left without your stuff (or, have your stuff changed out from underneath you). This isn’t the first such wakeup call I’ve had

To that end, I’ve left Twitter (I’ve deleted every tweet and won’t be going back — but I’m not deleting my account, because I don’t want someone with a vendetta snagging the name). Twitter is pretty much a cesspool. It was genuinely useful during the Arab Spring, but since that time, it’s simply become a platform for hate and threats and verbal hostility that goes largely unchecked and unpunished by its owners… Because IT PROFITS FROM THIS. So fuck that.

I’ve dramatically reduced my Facebook activity in the past few weeks, and will continue to do so. When I do hop on, it will be to post pictures of food, cigars, cool costumes, neat records, funny things, or share a piece of writing I’ve created.

I’ve found that my writing has dried up and become mostly nothing the past few years — coincidentally, it started around the time that I started posting paragraphs-long diatribes to social media. That need in me to express myself was being satisfied by daily (sometimes hourly) contributions to a stream of consciousness platform whose idea of content persistence is never useful until the FBI, a potential employer, or a jerk with a vendetta against something you said decide to dig deep to find stuff to use against you.

I’m returning to blogging daily. I am not using Medium or any other platform, because I’ve personally had a few articles ruined as they change how the platform behaved (an easy example: making margin notes now “private notes to self” with no way to change it… I’ve had a few pieces ruined because strong points were made in the margins, and now they just look incomplete). So, I’m back to running my own software on my own server, because hey, if something changes, it’s cause I wanted it to.

From now on, all of my socio-political views are going to be expressed in some sort of longer-form content, either in articles on my blog, or (if they’ll have me back) the journalistic platforms I used to write for, or my books. No more instant validation via Likes and Retweets for little quips that contribute to the sound and the fury, while signifying nothing.

Ultimately, I’m finding a new source of validation, and more and more, it’s coming from within. I’m afraid that I can never, ever detach myself from needing validation, any more than anyone else can or ever will be able to. That state of existence is the mythical concept of Nirvana, and it just plain does not exist — because to achieve it, you would have to destroy your ego, which means you’d have to physically scramble your brain such that it no longer worked fully.

There is no escaping the ego. There is only acceptance that it exists, and that it’s job is to constantly and continually keep you from emotional pain. The pain of looking stupid or weak. The pain of not agreeing with the persona you’ve built yourself to be. The pain of fear. The pain of loss. The pain of existence.

It can’t be destroyed. It can’t be reasoned with. It can’t be beaten. It can only be accepted and managed. And to that end, I’ve accepted that I am the way I am, and that I don’t have to quit being “me” to be happy. I just need to better express myself and my views, in better mediums for that expression.

I don’t need to contribute to the toxic nature of what has become discourse on the internet. I don’t need to be right all the time. I don’t need to prove how wrong someone who disagrees with me is.

I don’t need what I’ve been doing the past few years. I don’t need to be well-adjusted to a sick society.

What I do need to do is write. And I need that writing to be a healthy exercise. Even if it’s dark… Hell, especially when it’s dark. I need it. I can’t not write. I can’t not let what’s within me sit there without some sort of outlet. It’s just how I’m built.

But I CAN choose to put it in places that matter far more than stirring pots, starting (or contributing to) fights, arguing with my friends and readers on platforms that actively profit from our hating each other, and otherwise venting my colon on Social Media. I can write the books I’ve had stored inside me since I was a teenager. I can write articles that help people cope with pain and disaster, or teach them how not to get bad tattoos or smoke bad cigars or get beat up in a fist fight for no reason. I can do positive things with this energy.

So, I will. And it all starts now, the same way it began in 2001 when I first started writing on the internet: with a website of my own, on my own server, with my own comments section and my own forums and my own newsletter. I know that I will see a DRASTIC decrease in engagement, likes, shares and whatnot… But I don’t care. Because that’s no longer a valid form of currency for me.

All that matters now is producing work I am proud of and sharing it with those who’d like to read it. And I’m very honored that you’ve decided to read it.

Thank you.

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OH man what a cool test post

November 1, 2016 Blog Comments (5) 32

Not even kidding, best test post ever.

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Let’s Talk A Little Bit About Dating After Divorce (Or, After Any Long Term Thing Where You Loved A Person As Much As You Can Love A Person)

September 2, 2015 Blog, Classics Comments (0) 23

The more I write about things like this, the more email I get about things like this. And a few days ago, I got an email from Ed, who was very moved by my piece on Getting Over The Worst Thing That Ever Happened To You. He shared his story (which sounded very familiar to me), and had only one real question: when should he start dating again? As an answer, I’ll share my own experience.

I went on a date a few weeks ago. My first date in nearly a year. She was amazing (and still is… She’s become a great friend). I felt like, after all this time of processing what happened in my marriage, and a year of “no dating” as a life policy, maybe it was time.

And it WAS time… Time to address the fact that I am far more hurt by what happened in my marriage than I ever realized. And it took some time and space and rebuilding and finally operating in a space where I am “together” and “with it” and “better” enough to realize it.

Two and a half years later, I’m still figuring this shit out.

When shit goes down and a relationship ends (especially one where you cared as much as you can possibly care about a person), you’re off kilter. When you’re off kilter, you cannot think clearly. This is nature. When chaos reigns, you are in emergency mode, and in emergency mode, you’re operating off of instinct. Sure, it is tempered with as much logic as you can muster at the time, but emotion rules the day.

Once that is over, you have recovery and rebuilding to do. To introduce a new variable into that mix which calls to mind situations where you opened your heart and were hurt… It’s a scary and dangerous thing. Not that you shouldn’t — in fact, you should. Sitting on an emotional desert island alone is not going to get you much of anywhere.

The trick is to know what you are going through and be honest and up front about it — both with yourself and with anyone else you decide to mix into this stew of emotions. To do anything less is, at the very least, unfair, and at worst a crime against the other person. Because you’ll just be using them to make yourself feel better.

But if both parties can be open and honest and come to the table as emotinal equals — that’s when you know you can start trying this thing out. The other person will need to be almost as patient as you will need to be. Your instinct will be to rush. You spent years (YEARS!) opening your heart to another person.

I imagine it like building a new building with someone. It’s a metaphor. Just go with it.

You spent some time dating when you were younger, and with each new person, you both started on the surface and dug a little. Sometimes you didn’t need to dig very far to realize you’re not digging at the same pace. Sometimes, you both dig for a little while and hit a huge bed of grainite and can go no further.

Then, you met The One. You both start digging. You dig at the same pace. You have a great rhythm. You get further and further and further and eventually opened up this huge space for the two of you. You build in that newly excavated spot. The foundation is laid one year. The frame is built the next. The building goes up the next year. You add on additions the next year. You upgrade and decorate the next year. To celebrate five years of building, you refurnish the place.

So on and so forth.

Then, SOMETHING HAPPENED™ and they’re gone. The building begins creaking. They don’t come back (or, aren’t welcome back). The building can’t stand without both of you. It falls down. There’s wreckage everywhere.

The first few weeks, you’re just digging out of the wreckage. A month in, you’re looking around and saying “Good God, look at this horrible mess of a place.” A few months later, you’re so tired of digging through the rubble. It takes a while, but eventually you clear off the devastation and all that’s left is this huge, huge hole.

So now, you’re tired and exhausted and still hurting and you’re in a huge freaking hole. And you get it in your head that you really miss the building and all the things in it and you decide it’s time to get the hell out of the hole and get into something else.

So you meet new people. And because you’ve seen the glory of the building that was, and you know exactly how much work it took to get there — months or years of digging, a year of foundation building, a year of framework building, a year of furnishing… That’s a lot of damn work.

Why bother doing all that again, right?

I mean, logically, you know that’s what needs to happen. But logic isn’t running the show, remember? Logic left the building the second emotions showed up… And because it’s been years (YEARS!) since you dated and stayed surface with anyone, your instinct is to just run past all the hard dumb long shit and get going on the GOOD STUFF.

Because that’s where you really want to be — where you were. The only touble is, everything that was there, isn’t there anymore. And in very short order, you drag this poor new person into your emotinoal hole, because that’s all that’s left in that place you were.And that’s all you’ve ever known.

You’re going to have to learn, all over again, what dating is. What it’s like to start on the surface and begin digging a new foundation with someone brand new — but only after a whole bunch of realizing people don’t all dig at the same speed you do, or synch up with you the way you’re used to.

It’s gonna take a long, long time.

Or maybe it won’t. There’s stories all over the place about people who found true love after the end of a long-term relationship that went south. A lot of these stories involve people who were in the wrong relationship all along and left to be with whom they really love. Some of them are people so emotionally crippled they will bend themselves to fit whatever mold is presented them lest they end up alone.

While I know there are relationships that end up forming out of the wreckage of a prior relationship that are real and last forever, these are akin to people winning the lottery and not ending up miserable, penniless and broke. It’s so rare that to use it as a point of data is unfair.

By and large, I believe my metaphor applies to the vast majority of cases for anyone who has been in a long term relationship where, regardless of what the other person did, they loved that person with all their being. And suddenly, they’re alone.

You don’t “deserve” to be alone. But you really need to figure out how to be, before you decide to go involve yourself with anyone else. Because if your heart is still broken, and you give it to someone, you’re handing them a broken heart as a gift. You might have duct taped it up pretty good, but it’s still broken. That’s not a very nice gift to give anyone.

Yes, you should go out and see what’s out there. You should just do it honestly.

Or, you can do what I did, and pretend about a thousand different things are true when they aren’t, and drag someone else into your hole.

If you’re willing to go explore new territory, take it slow, and give people a fair chance to not only succeed, but also to fail and move on… Then you’re ready to date, and I hope it goes well for you.

If you’re not… Well, no one’s stopping you. Just know that there are concequences. And if there’s one thing worse than trying to get over someone, it’s trying to get over two people at the same time.

You’re going to be okay. This much I promise. But the sooner you can get honest with your situation and, in turn, be honest with anyone else you bring into it, the more okay you’ll be.


By the way, I’m writing a daily newsletter full of advice that doesn’t suck. You should check it out.

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How To Start Getting Through The Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened To You

August 27, 2015 Blog, Classics Comments (0) 24

I got an email today asking me how to get through the worst thing that has ever happened in your life. I thought I’d share my thoughts on this here.

As some of you who read my stuff regularly know, I went through hell in 2013. I discovered my ex-wife had an affair, I lost my business due to some really horrible circumstances, I lost my house to foreclosure and had to sell literally everything I own except for my bed and my dog.

(If you want a taste of that hell, read this article that went viral about a silly Kitty Cat Lunch Bag I found while cleaning my house out after my divorce).

For a few years now, I’ve been working hard to get through. Very, very hard. And to a lot of people on the outside looking in, it looks like I’ve Got My Shit Together™ and am doing well.

Truth be told, maybe I do and maybe I am. Some days, it does feel that I’m happier now that I’m living a much simpler life. Other days, It doesn’t feel that way at all, and I lay in my bed for hours at a time staring at my celing fan wondering just how the hell it all went wrong.

The latter days are fewer and farther between. I’m very happy to report that. But they do still happen.

So what’s the secret to getting through? I don’t really know. I’ve read literally dozens of books, blogs and articles on the topic and I’m still figuring it all out. It doesn’t happen overnight, despite how badly I really wanted it to.

For instance, today was a bad day. I’ve had a few bad days lately. Before that, I had a span of 8 months where taking care of one of my best friends who lost her husband to a shocking rare illness was my only priority, so my mind was off just about anything that could bog me down. But before THAT, I was having some bad days. And some good. They came and they went, as they do.

I’m a human being. It happens. And as a human being living life through tragedy, the days can get bad here and there. As I wrote about in my daily newsletter today, when they do, even the cutest quotes-as-images don’t help.(If you’re interested in the newsletter, feel free to sign up here. I try not to make it suck. If it does, feel free to unsubscribe.)

All I can really tell you about how I got through (and how I am getting through) is that I defined a plan, and then tried to stick to it as much as I possibly could.

The plan was simple. They MUST be simple, or it gets crazy and falls apart.

I called it “The Three W’s”:

1. Work out.
2. Write.
3. Work.

In that order.

I did a lot of soul searching and also some analysis of my moods, and I found that working out helped me out more than anything else. More than booze, more than crying, more than talking. It was my personal catharsis. It might not be yours, but “working out” isn’t the point — identifying the primary thing that brings you relief is. And it’s not like it came easy — some days I literally had a friend come get me and drive me to the gym, because I didn’t want to leave the house. But I always felt better after I did.

Writing helped me put things in perspective on the good days, and helped me bleed the poison from my brain on the bad. I had to write. It was manditory. It was the “analysis after catharsis.”

I recommend highly that you begin keeping a journal. Write to yourself only and share with no one. If you’re not in the practice, it’ll feel weird at first. Let it feel weird. That’s part of it. Write about how weird it feels, even. That’s 100% valid. But if writing isn’t your gig, then talk to a friend you trust, or paint, or do SOMETHING that allows your brain to wind through the various things that are going on, and then release them.

Working was important for two reasons: I needed to eat (very important!) and I needed distraction that wasn’t destructive. Work helped a lot. It gave me purpose. It gave me a place to be every day, for 8–12 hours a day. It gave me something I could look at and know I contributed to.

Every so often, I would get it in my head to add a fourth “W”. Usually “Women” — big mistake. Dating was the wrong distraction. It became a drug. The validation plus euphoria of “good feelings” got in the way of real work that needed to be done focusing on what broke in my marriage, what happened after realizing there was an affair, the pain of betrayal… All things I am STILL dealing with, two and a half years later.

Sometimes, it was “Wine.” Don’t do this. I can say universally that every single time I’ve ever thought “I really need a drink” was exactly the moment I REALLY DID NOT. Drinking isn’t evil per se, but when you’re down, the last thing you need is depressants. Having one or two with friends? Sure. But drinking alone and drinking to numb the pain is a mistake.

Sometimes, it was “Weed.” Boy, did I love that. I never smoked before all this happened, and when I found it, I thought I discovered the secret to happiness and introspection and all kinds of wonderful things. And truth be told, I think it’s a great tool, when in the proper headspace, to really enjoy and focus on what’s in front of you. But when you’re hurting, all it does is personify and intensify that pain. Another big mistake. (It also created a munchie situation, which really hurt the most important thing on my list, working out).

Again, the things I personally did aren’t the point. The fact that I boiled down my life to three things is what matters:

1) What gives you release
2) What helps you analyze
3) Meaningful, purpose-driven distraction

That’s the core. That’s where you start. Make that list. Try the things on it, as a life mission, for a month. If you need to adjust or try new things, that’s fine. Find the three things that matter.

If you’re going through hell, this list will dramatically simplify the chaos you’re feeling. That, all by itself, will help. I promise you on everything I hold dear. Once you’ve cleared your life of everything that isn’t essential, you suddenly have room to work, move and think. And that’s when the real work can begin.

If you are going through a tough time, do this, and don’t hesitate to write me and let me know how you are. I may be a stranger to you on the internet, but I’m listening.

Huge hugs. Deep breaths. It does get better, I promise.

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What The Heck Happened To Jeremy Dale?

March 18, 2015 Blog, Classics Comments (0) 29

“Jeremy died. Please hurry.”

I will never, ever forget those words.

I’ll never forget how they sat there, black against a grey bubble on a glowing screen in my hand. I’ll never forget how the interior of my roommate Meghan’s car went from glowing to dark as I dropped my phone and it landed face-down on the floormat. I’ll never forget the look of horror on her face when I told her what I just read, and I’ll certainly never forget the jerk of my neck as she romped down on the accelerator and took her car over 100 miles per hour to get us to the hospital as quickly as possible.

He was fine just a few hours before, when his wife Kelly left him to join us at our house for a much needed home-cooked meal. Fine enough, that is, that she felt it was okay to leave his side — the first time she’d done so since he entered the hospital four days previous.

It was a Monday. It was the first day since he went into the hospital that I didn’t go up and visit. I went to work and went to the gym and went home. A normal day, by most counts, with the notable exception that one of my best friends was in the hospital and I was trying to pretend I didn’t have that on my mind the entire day.

I didn’t visit that Monday because the day before, it seemed he had finally snapped out of the haze and the funk of being sick. It was Sunday. Football was on. More accurately, Tom Brady’s perfect hair and smug face was on the television in the hospital room, and Jeremy and I, in usual fashion, took turns berating him. It was always fun to do that, but that Sunday, it was especially fun. After a week in a nearly catatonic state, Jeremy Dale, it seemed, was back.

It was a nice change to hear his voice, especially with the quality of jokes Jeremy is capable of producing. Prior to that, all we really heard out of him were feeble grunts and very direct, short answers to questions that doctors and nurses would ask… Most of them needing to be repeated by Kelly, because they were mostly inaudible.

But he was back. He’d watched football with me, and made jokes about Brady and the Patriots and the new Moon Knight comic book and it was all gonna be just fine. He was on the mend! He and Kelly needed a day to themselves. It was fine for me to go back to work. It was fine to go to the gym. It was fine to go home and cook a meal and let Kelly leave the hospital for a night to eat decent food. It was all going to be alright.

The next thing I know, I’m in the passenger seat of a Subaru WRX doing 110 miles an hour on the interstate, too shocked to feel any sort of panic whatsoever, reaching to the floorboard to try to pick up my dropped phone and be sure — absolutely certain — that’s what I just read.

“Jeremy died. Please hurry.”


One week earlier, I was talking to Kelly on the phone. She was calling me to inform me that Jeremy and she couldn’t make it to dinner… For the third time in a week.

“It’s just really bad Con Crud,” she replied when I asked what was going on.

Con Crud, for the uninitiated (and you should thank God that you are) is a type of flu one catches when they attend large conventions. It’s basically a stew of bacterial and/or viral infections, formed by the tens of thousands of walking vectors for disease we call humans walking around, coughing and sweating on each other. It’s basically what’s going to eventually morph into the outbreak that causes the zombie apocalypse (but conventions ARE fun, really. I promise. Don’t let that dissuade you from coming to one. I’ll see you there. Look for me, I’ll be wearing the Akira-themed SARS mask).

Jeremy and Kelly cancelled on plans so rarely, one might as well say it never happened. And this was the third time in a week.

“You guys never cancel this much… I’m getting worried,” I said.

“I AM TOO!” my roommate Meghan said from the other room, loud enough that Kelly could hear her through the phone. It made her chuckle.

“I’ll keep you guys posted,” Kelly replied. I could hear her very practiced calm demeanor shining through. I could see her smiling that lovely Kelly Dale smile that she was so famous for. That one she has when it’s time to back off. Not rude, not mean, not even stern. You just know to respect it.

Kelly and Jeremy were pretty private with Jeremy’s previous health matters. I knew he had asthma, and that it was pretty bad. I knew he grew up in Kokomo, Indiana, which was an industrial town and is famous locally for having an abnormal number of respiratory illnesses per capita. I knew he also didn’t really like people all up in his biz. So I knew not to push.

“Well, let me know if I can do anything at all,” I said.

“ME TOO!” Meghan yelled from the other room.

Another chuckle. “I will,” Kelly answered.

I knew she totally wouldn’t.

Kelly and Jeremy are both famous in the comics world. Together, they are known for being the nicest people you will ever meet. They are known for their honesty, generosity, friendliness and the way they treat each fan like they’re the only people that matter.

Ask any comics creator at any convention if they know the Dales and they won’t just say “yes” — they’ll tell you how they met, how funny they are, how great it is to talk with them… They’ll tell you the date and convention they first met at, and their favorite “Jeremy Moment” whether it be a fast comeback joke or a hilarious photobomb.

Individually, Jeremy is famous in the comics world for his work on G.I. Joe, Popgun and his creator-owned book Skyward. As an artist, his work is celebrated for being very expressive and the exceedingly high quality he achieves in such a very short timeframe.

Kelly is famous in her own right. She’s the manager’s manager. She runs a tight ship. She’s unflappable. She’s able to make just about anything that needs to happen, happen. And she does so in a way that makes you feel like you owe her a favor afterword, because she’s just so damn nice about it.

In the midst of any chaos, there is a rock in the tempest. It has red hair and freckles and answers to Kelly Dale. And this rock called us for help, for the first time in recorded history.

It was that Wednesday, two days after our call. I was at work. The phone rang. It was my roommate Meghan.

Meghan only texts. Meghan never calls.

“We need you,” she said.

Some part of me knew exactly why and what for. But I asked anyway. Kelly had just called. She was crying. Jeremy was unresponsive, and couldn’t even get out of the bed. She didn’t know what to do. Kelly never cries. And Kelly never asks for help.

I dropped everything, stood up, grabbed my keys out of my bag and literally ran out of the door. My boss saw me as I rushed by and gave me a quizzical look. I just waved and left.

I arrived at Jeremy and Kelly’s home to find Jeremy pretty much as described. He was feverish, clammy and unresponsive, except when a direct statement involving his name was said at loud or higher volume. His responses were short and you could hear his attempt to be As Jeremy As Possible, but it was for naught: he was in bad shape.

We tried to help him to the car to take him to the hospital. We made it as far as the living room couch. Jeremy was unable to move his legs. They weren’t just weak. He was paralyzed from the waist down. It wasn’t that he wasn’t strong enough to walk; he literally couldn’t move them.

We called the paramedics, who said “Sounds like the flu. But the legs being paralyzed… We should take him to the hospital to be sure.” So they carried him out and transported him to the hospital.

The doctors took a look at him. They said it was “Likely just a bad flu. But the legs being paralyzed… We better run some tests to be sure.”

So they ran tests. And then, they ran more tests. And then, the sun was going down, and they were still running tests. And then, it was getting close to midnight, and they were STILL running tests.

“He’s going to have to stay here overnight,” they told us.

We went to a 24-hour Pho noodle shop and caught our breath. It had been a long and confusing day. But hey, Jeremy was safe. He was at the hospital now. He would be okay. The doctors think it’s just a bad case of the flu. His legs… Well, that was confusing. But he was in the absolute best place to be.

He was going to be just fine.

That was Wednesday.

•     •     •

I arrived at the hospital Thursday late morning. The tests had come back. Not a single thing was wrong with him, aside from the fact that he was very dehydrated and running a slight fever and pretty much unable to form complete sentences or keep his eyes open. But they were running more tests, and they were going to let us know the second they found anything.

We kept ourselves busy. Kelly mostly managed the hospital staff and doctors. There was a lot of paperwork to do. Meghan drew comics. I brought my laptop and did some work, and when that was done, I wrote a scathing social media post about the quality of the “food” at the hospital.

I mean, It had a McDonalds in the cafeteria! Along with a pizza bar, tons of fried food, chips and sugary snacks… It was appalling! Here we were in a building dedicated to getting people healthy and back on their feet, and I was literally working from a heart disease foundry.

I digress.

The day came and went, and there was no news about Jeremy’s condition. There was simply the fact that one of my favorite people in the world was laying immobile on a gurney, unable to do much besides drink a little water here and there and laugh at my terrible jokes (when he was awake enough to hear them). And one of my other favorite people in the world sat by his side, feeling helplessly hopeful and scared. So I sat at the hospital and ate bad food and made bad jokes.

I like to think it helped.

Thursday ended with nothing much besides a shrug and a promise that something WOULD be found out. Eventually. But until then, Jeremy was staying at the hospital for observation and fluids and Reality TV, because that’s pretty much the only thing the television picked up.

Friday came around. It seemed like it was going to be a repeat of Thursday. But then, late in the afternoon, the doctors went ahead and put forward a possible diagnosis.

It might be Guillain–Barré Syndrome. This incredibly rare syndrome affects less than 20,000 people per year, and was highly treatable. It is the gradual paralysis of the limbs that occurs when the immune system suddenly decides to attack the nervous system. But if you cure the cause, you cure the syndrome too.

Treatment for this was incredibly invasive. So they wanted to hold off on treating for it until it was confirmed.

Saturday came.

“It’s not Guillain–Barré Syndrome,” the doctors told us. “It looks like it, it sounds like it… But it’s not it.”

Back to square one. More bad food and more Reality TV and more waiting around for something. For anything.

But SUNDAY! Sunday was different! I walked into the hospital room and there was Kelly and Jeremy and two big bright smiles!

“Hey man!” Jeremy said.

I wasn’t shocked per se… Delighted maybe? Taken aback with happy joyfulness? Whatever it was, it was great to hear his voice have some of that trademark Jeremy Dale brightness behind it.

I hugged him. I had to go over to his bedside, because he still couldn’t so much as flex a toe, much less walk. And of course, we were all still very concerned about that fact. But Jeremy was back, and that was cause for celebration.

And celebration came in the form of making fun of one Mr. Tom Brady and his Pantene-infused locks and his lonely hand no one will high-five and his insistence on manipulating the rules to win games. But mostly his hair.

Jeremy was back. And that was a great relief. Kelly was notably much happier. The hospital staff were still fairly confused as to what exactly was happening. Maybe it is Guillain–Barré after all? Maybe not? Maybe it was just one of those crazy flukes and he was on his way back to health?

Whatever it was, my friend was sitting up and laughing and making fun of Tom Brady. It was the most normal things had been in a week.

That was Sunday.

Monday came and so did the first normal day any of us had had in a while.

Work. Gym. Home. I made dinner. Kelly came over. Meghan, Kelly and I shared some laughs. Conversations about Jeremy’s condition ensued. He was alert and doing well, but still couldn’t walk or move his legs. Does that mean it might be Guillain–Barré after all, and maybe the treatment knocked out the sickness but the effects of GBS were still there? Was this some sort of adult-onset paralysis no one had ever heard of? What the heck was it?

It was like a real-life episode of House M.D. And that joke would have been a lot funnier if Kelly and Jeremy had actually watched the series. But still, Kelly laughed. And this laugh didn’t have nerves behind it like almost all the laughs I’d heard the past week. She was relaxing. It was nice to see.

It was time to go. She was going to swing by the hospital on the way home to kiss Jeremy on the forehead and say good night. We were going to wait up until we heard how he was doing, then Meghan would go back to work and I would go to sleep. It was 9 o’clock. I said I felt old. Jokes were made about my slowly greying but otherwise nearly-perfect curly hair, including the fact that it wasn’t as perfect as Tom Brady’s.

Kelly waved goodbye. We waved goodbye. I sighed, and began doing dishes. Meghan sighed and began watching me do dishes.

A few minutes into it, we got a call. It was Kelly.

“Don’t panic,” she started. Of course, this immediately induced panic.

“Jeremy’s had a very severe asthma attack. They’ve taken him to the Intensive Care Unit.”

“Uh… That’s worth panicking over!” I stated.

“No no, don’t,” she reiterated. “This has happened before. He’ll be okay. His asthma gets like this sometimes.”

“Well, we’re coming up there,” I stated.

“You don’t have to do—”

“We are coming up there!” Meghan yelled, knowing exactly what Kelly was saying even though she wasn’t on the call.

Kelly knew better than to argue.

We hopped in Meghan’s car. It was agreed I needed to man the phone just in case something happened. Of course, nothing was going to happen. Kelly just told us this happened before. This is just an asthma attack. It was unrelated to anything that had been going on. He was going to be fine.

My phone buzzed. My lock screen said it was Kelly Dale.

I unlocked my phone. I read the text.

“Jeremy died. Please hurry.”

I dropped my phone. Meghan dropped the accelerator pedal to the floor. The world dropped behind us in a blur as we sped to the hospital.

I immediately called Kelly. There was no answer. Of course there wasn’t. Everything she needed to say had just been said in that one text message I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.

I called our closest friends. The reactions were exactly what you’d think they would be. They rushed to the hospital as well. We all met Kelly, who was sitting in a chair in an empty room. Just Kelly. Not something any of us was used to seeing. And she had been crying. Another thing we weren’t used to seeing.

The night faded into the day.

At age 34, Jeremy Dale had suddenly passed away.

•     •     •

The official cause of death was “Heart Attack.” Which was technically true — during his asthma attack, his heart suddenly stopped. There was absolutely no chance of reviving him. But something just wasn’t right here.

A week before, the guy had the flu. Then, he couldn’t walk. Then suddenly his body systematically shut down. Nothing presented on any tests whatsoever. There was no sign of standard autoimmune, neurological, cerebral or cardiac problems. In fact, he was given a clean bill of health three times over… Except that he was nearly comatose and couldn’t walk.

We were all baffled. But here we were, in this strange reality where a young, healthy guy caught a cold and suddenly died. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair.

It was reality. And it made no sense whatsoever.

Kelly posted the news to social media. The shock was palpable. The outpouring of respect was overwhelming. People shared some of their most tender and sweet memories involving Jeremy and Kelly. People came from across the country to pay their respects at the memorial service. Throughout it all, two things loomed large: Jeremy was gone, and there was no good reason as to why.

This wasn’t an unhealthy guy. He was in excellent health. His heart was fine. There was no history of heart disease or cardiac arrest. He maintained a rigorous convention and touring schedule, and that kept him quite active.

No one knew the whole story. Kelly and Jeremy don’t post on social media often, so the fact that Jeremy was even in the hospital was a shock to most people. But to find out he’d been hospitalized and then died suddenly… It was all so confusing. And the only answer any of us could give is “Heart attack… BUT IT WASN’T JUST A HEART ATTACK DAMMIT.”

The coroner performed an autopsy. When the results came back, something just wasn’t right. They wanted to dive deeper. And since no one had a clue what the heck had happened, Kelly felt it was important to rule out any sort of genetic or inherited conditions. If there was something in his family, they needed to know.

A few weeks went by. The coroner came back with a report. The report said… Nothing. There still was no clear cause of death aside from the fact that his body simply shut down and his heart stopped.

The coroner decided to call in a friend of his — a nationally recognized expert in strange death cases. Together, the two dove deep into the case, literally dissecting everything they could to figure out what had happened.

Like I said, it was like a real-life episode of House.

It’s never far from your mind when one of your best friends has passed away. But to be wrapped up in such a mysterious circumstance… It’s been a challenge not to obsess over it. But here we are, four months out, and time is doing what time always does… It moves on.

Four months had passed, when Kelly got an email from the Coroner.

Finally, there was an answer. There was a cause of death. And it is literally one of the rarest disorders in existence.

From the coroner’s report:

This 34 year old man, Jeremy Dale, died as a result of a demyelinating disorder [an example of which is multiple sclerosis], which most predominantly involved his spinal cord and brainstem. The microscopic changes are consistent with a diagnosis of Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis [ADEM]. ADEM is a rare autoimmune disorder, which most commonly occurs after a viral or bacterial infection, or less commonly after immunization. It results in an inflammatory response in the brain and spinal cord that essentially degrades myelin, resulting in the slowing down of nerve impulses from the affected areas. The axonal damage, such as that found in this case, is reportedly more frequently seen in fatal cases. The onset can be acute and progress quickly, leading to hospitalization. The neurologic signs can be multifocal and non-specific, including motor function abnormalities. When this disorder is seen in adults, the prognosis is less favorable than with children, and there have been reports of 4–12% mortality rates. As per Jeremy’s wife, he had returned from a work trip approximately 1 week prior to his hospitalization and had symptoms of a “cold”. On October 26, he began to complain of weakness and tingling in his feet and that it hurt to walk. On October 28, he was unable to walk and was taken by personal vehicle to the hospital. He was evaluated in the hospital but his symptoms progressed and on the night of November 3rd, he had trouble breathing and was subsequently pronounced dead.

So, it really was just the flu after all. Leave it to Jeremy Dale to make even the flu something rare and special.

I love him and miss him dearly.

We all do.

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I’ve Become That Guy Who Thinks Jazz Sounds Better On Vinyl And All It Took Was Losing Everything

February 16, 2015 Blog, Classics Comments (0) 33

This morning, I sat on my couch and watched a record spin on a turntable across the room. A record. Like, an LP made of vinyl. On a turntable.

If you know me, that alone could probably sum up how different life, and my perspective on it, is these days.

Maybe you’re one of my friends who saw this link on my Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr. Or you’ve read my books and articles and everything I’ve ever written the past 14 years and you get the joke here.

Or maybe somewhere during my two year writing hiatus, you forgot I existed, and you have no idea what the hell is going on with me. Or, maybe you read a thing of mine during the early 2000s on Fark or Slashdot or Digg or whatever. Or you followed my columns at CNN or Huffington Post. Or you stumbled upon one of my books a bunch of years ago, and after I stopped writing about pranks on Wal-Mart and arson at Hooters and mishaps with PETA you gave up on me, only to find me again via Google.

Maybe you’ve never even heard of me. So maybe you don’t get why this would even be funny. Let me explain.

Just a few years ago, the very mention of a turntable would have had me snorting and laughing and throwing out the words “hipster” and “luddite” and “stupid snake oil audiophile” and… oh, who knows what else. Instant snark and bitterness… over what? A medium upon which sound is recorded and played? And because why, because a trend emerged where people began rediscovering the way vinyl sounds and it became popular?

The jokes; oh they would roll. Anything to poke or prod or get attention at the expense of the trendy. Because who else deserves to burn more than the holier-than-thou? And who better to burn them, than the holier-than-holier-than-thou?

And here I sat, this morning in a tattoo-and-artist-and-motorcycle populated section of East Atlanta, in a rental house that I share with my roommate, who is a professional comic book artist. We’ve known each other almost a year and she is one of my best friends in the world.

Rent. Roommate. East Atlanta. Record players. Two-years-ago-me is screaming somewhere deep inside me “Dude, what the FUCK is going on in this bizzaro future you’ve ended up in?”

There was a purring cat in my lap and a warm cup of coffee in my hand. The light notes of John Coltrane’s saxophone drifted through the room, filling the air with an ambiance of relaxing cool. Sunlight shone in bands on the freshly-installed hardwood floors that my roomie and I cried over when they were done, because… well, we were home. And we were making it our home.

A year ago, neither of us had homes.

I pet my cat and he nudged my hand with his nose, then his cheek, telling me where I should be scratching him. I took another sip of my coffee — lightly sweetened with honey with a rich velvety texture created by the coconut milk and butter. I let it sit on my tongue and wash across the back of my mouth before swallowing. I breathed deep — not a sigh, but a purposeful “taking in the moment” breath.

Fucking butter and coconut milk, you guys. I put that in my COFFEE. A quick Google search of Joe+Peacock+Coffee will net you no fewer than 10 rants about hispter coffee bullshit, all predating the whole “Bulletproof Coffee” butter and coconut milk craze. And rest assured, had it showed up a few years ago, I would have railed against it, too.

But now, I can’t be bothered. Because I love it. It tastes good. And the John Coltrane on the record player? It sounds good. And CrossFit? Arguably the most hipster of the jockular activities? It feels good. In fact, I did a competition yesterday. A Masters Competition, for 35+ year olds.

Old man competitions in hipster sports… shit I swore I’d never, ever do.

I can feel my body reacting to the competition yesterday. It appreciates sitting heavy on the couch. It loves the warmth of my cat. It creaks a little when I lift my coffee mug to my lips, but it isn’t complaining — it’s just acknowledging that yesterday took its toll on this 38-year-old frame. But it is happy. Whatever pains it feels are simply reminders that I am alive and awake and in this moment.

This moment… it’s mostly perfect. A relaxing moment of early morning with jazz and coffee and a happy cat and a belly full of delicious breakfast.

It’s been a great morning. Life is good.

•     •     •

This time two years ago, literally the morning of February 7, 2013, my ears couldn’t hear jazz. Or any music at all, really. They were filled with the pounding of my heartbeat. My brain was on fire. I awoke and laid on a bed that wasn’t mine, in an apartment that wasn’t mine, in a city I did not live in. It was probably the twentieth time I had woken up that morning… but at least that meant I was getting some sleep.

I was in New York in my friend’s apartment in Chelsea. I was “Getting The Fuck Out Of Dodge.” Hiding, honestly, from reality.

Two weeks previous, on my birthday January 24 2013, I was on a ski trip for my birthday with my then-wife of 10 and a half years, whom I’d been in love with for over 14 years. And we decided, after months of arguing and fighting and discovery after discovery of things I never in a million years could imagine would be true, to part ways.

The next day, we flew home. We walked into the house we owned, and she packed some things and left and went to her mother’s. Very shortly thereafter, I covered nearly every square inch of floor and furniture with tears and snot.

She took “her” animals. I kept the ones that were too old to handle change and my goofy orange cats. Some of the geriatric ones passed on, one after the other, in the course of two months. It was gut wrenching.

A few months later, I discovered that my company’s largest vendor was withdrawing. My business partner and I had to close the business — an animation and art studio we had worked years to build. I used all of the money I had to pay severance to our employees. I fell behind on my mortgage, power, and water bills. I had to sell my house.

I couldn’t sell it. Despite all the improvements, and despite being located literally over a river and through the woods, I’m told it will be impossible to sell my house given where it is and the market and yadda yadda. So the bank took it.

Somewhere during all that mess, I discovered my identity stolen and several of my bank and credit card accounts compromised. The damage done persists to this day.

I lost my wife, my company, my studio, my savings, my pets, my belongings, my identity and, depending on the day, my sanity. My life, for better or for worse, was over.

By the summer of 2013, I found myself living in the tiny front room of my generous friend Mike’s one bedroom apartment with my dog and two cats. It was an extremely tight squeeze, one I tried to make more bearable by being gone as much as I could.

A few months went by. I filled the time with writing and exercise. Day in and day out, I would wake up, workout, write, eat tuna, write, workout, eat tuna and sleep.

I don’t think mere words can express the monotony of that particular time in life. Strange; I can have all this inside me, and to you, it’s only words (thanks, David Foster Wallace).

Summer became Fall, which became Winter. In that time, my best friend Jeremy lost his mom to Cancer. He was facing his first holiday season without his mother, and I was facing my first without my… well, entire life as I knew it. Some friends in Boston suggested I stay with them for a while, ostensibly to start a new life with a job and a change of scenery.

It was a good idea. The time was coming where I couldn’t just lay about any longer. I needed a job. And I really needed to get the hell out of my friend Mike’s hair. Besides, it would bring me closer to Jeremy, who was going through his own hell. So I packed up my truck and my dog and drove North.

Boston. In Winter. For those who have never done that… don’t. My hands are STILL frozen, and I’m not kidding. I’d never had cold hands like that before in my life, and now when it gets even remotely chilly, they go numb. Maybe it’s nerve damage; maybe it’s psychosomatic. Who knows. What I do know is that I’m not over it and maybe never will be.

I looked, but didn’t find much in the way of companies wanting to hire a guy whose main skills — design and development — had a notable multi-year gap in his portfolio due to spending the recent past as a producer and studio owner. And production companies weren’t really hiring guys whose main skill in the last year was firing everyone who worked for him.

So, when you’re unemployed and homeless and in a new city trying to make a new start of it all, living primarily on the goodwill and kind heart of friends, that’s the PERFECT time to start dating.

I thought I was in love. But of course, anything feels like love when it’s warm and you’re cold. While I look back on it now and realize it was rushed and foolish and basically like shooting heroin, at the time, I thought it was love. And this feeling — love, lust, fascination, infatuation, whatever — it actually motivated me to begin looking at my life with an honest lens.

I needed a damn job. I needed to get my shit together. The romantic idea of “making it on my own” and “starting fresh” and all that great stuff… it melted away, and reality began to set in. It was time to pay my debts and get back on my feet.

So, a job in Atlanta called. A good one. Really good in fact, with a huge corporation that needed someone to help them grow a studio within the company — someone who had both the design and development know-how, and the studio experience.

The girl I was seeing was sweet. Outwardly encouraging and made promises I knew she couldn’t keep.

I knew taking this role would break the relationship. But I’d spent the better part of 14 years letting the concept of “love” govern what was best for me, which led me to a place where someone I trusted more than anyone on the planet thought it was okay not only to cheat, but to lie straight to my face about it. Because I’d put her on a pedestal.

When you put someone on a pedestal, you train them to look down on you.

(Also, Boston is fucking cold and miserable and the people, by and large, suck. I’ll probably sever and eat my own testicles before I ever live there again. But I will forever be appreciative and thankful of my friends who let me stay rent-free and helped me at least try to make it there.)

So, I chose to interview for the job. I chose myself.

The second I got back to Atlanta, I got stopped on a felony drug search because there had been an ice storm and that’s when traffickers are most active. I spent three hours on the side of the road in 27 degree weather, quoting Jay-Z and 311 lyrics while I refused to be searched, because while I wasn’t carrying anything illegal at all, fuck that.

While waiting for the cops to let me go, I got a call — my mom was in the emergency room. I needed to get there. So, the cops finally let me go, but not without telling me that my license was apparently suspended and they technically should impound the car and arrest me. They would only let me go if someone else would come get me and drive me at least out of their county.

It was actually a really, really cool thing those cops did. They were just doing their jobs, and I wasn’t angry at them. They showed their sympathy for my situation by going out of their way to let me go. Some great friends of mine hopped in the car and came and got me. One drove my truck and the other followed behind.

As soon as we got to my friends’ house, I (illegally) drove to the hospital. My mom was stable, but needed to be observed for a while due to an infection that had set in. I told my parents I love them and, after driving 18 hours, being handcuffed in the cold for two, and at the hospital for four, I finally got back to Mike’s place. I fell out on the floor, literally.

I was back in the living room of the one-bedroom apartment.

When I got up, I went to go see my mom again, then planned to meet a friend of mine. En route, I was hit by a drunk lady with no insurance. The cop arrested me for my suspended license. I spent the night in jail. The next morning, Mike came and got me. Some other friends helped me get my truck, which had a big dent in the side.

I let my girlfriend-at-the-time know what was going on. The only reply I got came two days later, in the form of a breakup email. She changed her mind, the distance was too big a factor. Three days is what it took for her to come to this conclusion; that distance was too big a factor. I admire her for struggling those three days. Brave, really.

But on the other hand, it appeared that I chose correctly.

That was one year and one week ago.

•     •     •

The next weekend, I interviewed and got the job at Deloitte. I started my first corporate job in nearly eight years. Thanks to the lady hitting me, my insurance company sent me a check for damages — and at that moment, I had twelve dollars in the bank. So thank God that happened.

My sister and I went to thrift stores and consignment shops in Atlanta and built a wardrobe for my first few weeks in the new job. It was, after all, one of the “Big Four” and I needed to look the part. At first I was embarrassed to shop secondhand. But now, that’s the only way I’ll shop for clothes. I have some of the best outfits I’ve ever worn, and people constantly compliment me on how cool a shirt or jacket or pants may be.

It has come to define my “new look” — some strange amalgam of 70s and 80s shirts and dark blue indigo jeans and boots and who knows what else. I just rock what feels right. And I have hair now. For the first time in 20 years, I stopped cutting my hair with a #1 guard and just let it fly. Sometimes, I brush it over and let my beard grow out.

I moved out of Mikes place into a house I share with one of the most talented artists and best friends I’ve ever met. We just finished resurfacing the floors of our rental, and the landlords are very happy. We have our dogs and our cats and video game nights and friends over for dinner. I have a grill again. And got a decent set of knives for Christmas. I’ve finally paid back the debts from loans my friends gave me to survive.

I rebuilt. I was blown apart by a bomb planted in my life, and breathed smoke and dust while I waited for it all to settle down. It took a year. Then, brick by brick, I built a new life… A new me. Whole. Much more tightly bound. It took another year.

It’s 2015. I keep my existence very lean. I only shop for clothes secondhand. I only buy things I need, and only when I need them. I literally own four pieces of furniture, and very few paper books. I’m single and for the first time in my life, 100% fine with that fact.

And as I sit here on a plane to Germany for my new job, thinking back over the past two years of my life — the pain, the suffering, the long days and nights of nothing and no hope and no prospect of hope, the moving and the couch-surfing and the travel, the rebuilding and the new job and moving out and paying debts back…

The thing that jumps out at me; the thing that causes me to smile most is this morning: Sitting on a comfortable couch, with warm bands of sunshine draping across my neck and my back and cascading onto the floors that we recently put down in this really cute house in a really cute neighborhood in my home city of Atlanta.

I don’t own it, but for now, it’s mine. And I like thinking about being in it. I like that my cat was able to warm himself in my lap while I warmed myself with a mug of coffee, and the room warmed itself with the mellow tones of Joh Coltrane’s saxophone playing from the turntable that my roommate got me for Christmas.

I like that I get to go to Germany today, and I like that my employer trusts me and believes in me to do this work. I like that the work is interesting. I like that when I left Deloitte for this new job, more people than anyone expected came to my going away party and we had to break into two groups at two different restaurants. I like that I was able to go back to what I started my career with — making cool internet stuff. And I like that they loved the record player I brought in and the Tea Nook I built out of old and remaindered office furniture that overlooks the city from windows no one ever bothered to open until I got there.

I like that I get to see my roommate make cool art every day. I like that she leaves little drawings for me from time to time of my favorite comic and anime characters. And I like that my dog and cats and her dogs and cats get along.

I like that I have a hot shower when I want it. I like that I don’t worry much at all about any of the things I had to sell to afford to eat, or my old studio and my old business, or the house I literally built for myself and my ex wife, or my ex wife. I like that I can say, with complete honesty, that I would not have life any other way right now.

I like my new life. And I share this with you because maybe you need to hear it. Maybe you have gone through your own hell, or are going through it. Maybe you wonder why it’s happening. Maybe you think it’s all a lost cause and that life is over.

Maybe it is. But it’s just THAT life that’s over.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t get nostalgic for some of my past. I miss sitting on the back porch at my old house and listening to my creek and watching the animals in the woods while I work. I miss Sunday football gatherings and my awesome kitchen and my cool office with all the books on the shelves and instant access to every hot video game worth playing on the nice TV.

I miss having the luxury of sitting in judgement of just about everything in the world I felt was trendy or hip or popular or stupid or otherwise not my kind of thing, because I had it all figured out and sewn up and put together just right.

But do I miss actually doing that? No. Not even barely. Because who I am now is a happy person. Genuinely. And that is something I fought through hell to be, and the very last thing I’m going to spend my precious energy on is stuff that isn’t for me.

So I like what I like. And I like that others like what they like. And I smile about it every morning. Life is hardly perfect by whatever measures one chooses to call “perfect” — except for one thing: it’s perfect for me, right now. It’s what I need.

Just like losing everything was what I needed to realize just how incomplete I really was. And the new job back in the corporate world was what I needed to rebuild myself. And the girlfriend in Boston was what I needed to expose just how dependent on external validation and love and warmth I was.

I love my life. And I hope that, if you’re going through your own hell right now, you read this and realize one thing: it gets better.

But you’ve got to make it better. And ultimately, you’re the only one who can. Trust me — this too shall pass. And when it does, you’re going to realize that everything you’ve ever cared about was a decision. And you’re going to be so much more picky about what you decide to give a shit about from this point forward.

It’s not going to define you. It’s going to allow you to define yourself.

Pour yourself some coffee (and put some butter and coconut milk in it… trust me, it’s GOOOOOOOD) and get ready. It’s gonna be a long road.

You’re going to LOVE it.

…And for the record, Coltrane actually does sound better on vinyl.

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