Tag Archives: friendship

Ying and Yang of Growing up Rough

From the ages 6 – 12 I lived in a predominately black neighborhood in South Atlanta.  To be honest it was the hood. Not just the kind of place where people claim they grew up in a rough neighborhood, but it was really just the suburbs – this was quite literally the ghetto.

Rough Neighborhood 

I was the only white kid, that I knew of, in my neighborhood.  I remember two high school guys fighting outside my house one day and even my dad was unable to break it up. I remember being a little scared that the one boy was going to kill the other.

He had a padlock in his hand and was bashing the poor bastard’s skull in.  His white shirt was drenched in blood. What’s even more fucked up is I remember rooting for him too.  The guy that was winning was from my section of the neighborhood and I kind of looked up to him.

Another time a young man was shot a killed at the beginning of our subdivision.  I remember walking to the bus stop for school the next morning and seeing his blood still staining the sidewalk.  It was strange – he was the first and only person I have ever known personally who was murdered.

There are times I look back on my life and relive it like a movie.  I can barely believe it myself.  I remember times my parents would have so many people over they wouldn’t notice and wouldn’t care when people slipped me shots of liquor, which I took proudly, just to seem cool.

I remember seeing pounds of pot stacked in my living room being packaged for sales.  Even back then I knew how many grams went into a nickel, dime, or quarter bag of marijuana to sell on the street.

I saw my Dad go to jail a few times, I saw my Mom on the brink of self destruction, and I saw enough young people come and go through our home that I’m quite sure both my parents will find a warm spot in Hell for all eternity for blindly instigating their addictions.

Ying and Yang

My life is almost a Ying and Yang.  On the one side I look back on events that seem surreal – some of which I’ve mentioned. Other events make me realize how I made it.  For example, my best friend, who I spent a lot of time with, had two of the best parents on the planet.

They were from Puerto Rico and devoutly religious.  I distinctly remember once suggesting to the Father that he lie to his daughter so we could leave to play basketball without her getting upset.  He looked me directly in the eyes and said: “I never lie to my children.”  That will stick with me for the rest of my life.

I also remember playing little league football.  It seems like every child who grows up in a rough neighborhood is absolutely convinced he will grow up to be a professional athlete.  I thought this too, without question, for my entire childhood.  I think that explains why so many excellent athletes come out of seemingly rough circumstances.

It’s kind of funny too.  While my Mom and Dad were terribly addicted to one drug or another most of my childhood I distinctly remember that my Mom would make me do all of my homework and write my spelling words down five times each until I was in the 5th grade.

If she did one thing right it was letting me know how important school was to her. Both my parents knew how to make me feel proud of myself and I think that has proven invaluable throughout my life.  If anything, I have never had an issue with self worth.

Moving Out

I’m not sure how I would have turned out had I not moved out of that neighborhood when I did. Man was that conversion interesting.

I remember going from a school where I was almost the only white kid in the entire building, where you had to be checked with metal detectors before entering the school, and security guards walked the hallways – then to a school with almost all white people and no security what-so-ever.

I had an accent, wore baggy clothes, and was completely oblivious that I was any different from the rest of the kids. In fact, it wasn’t until high school that I started to dress like a typical “white guy”.  It took a thorough lashing by all of my “friends” in high school until I realized I dressed like a black guy. I quickly remediated my wardrobe problems and slipped into the expected mold.

Somehow I found a place on the sports teams, made all A’s, and found a way to fit in. It is almost insane to me how resilient yet fragile the human mind is.  You can overcome almost anything or crumble because of almost everything.

When I take a careful look at my life over the past 25 years I am incredibly thankful for what I’ve overcome.  I’m incredibly thankful for what I don’t have to relive. I’m infinitely thankful for the future I see myself having and sometimes it all still feels like I’m remembering a movie I saw – not my own life.

Two Bachelor Parties, Two Days

“Legendary-ish Stories” is a series I plan to write occasionally in which I describe actual incidents that happened in my life. These incidents often involve alcohol and at times immorality – neither of which I necessarily condone. With these stories I hope to add a touch of humor and display human imperfection while simultaneously eroding my credibility. Enjoy.

If you are curious about what the quickest way to develop cirrhosis of the liver is I can tell you.  Plan and attend two bachelor parties over the course of two consecutive days.

Right now I feel filthy.  I have ingested more alcohol than I care to consume in the next 6 months, I have witnessed more whores undress for singles than I have in my entire life, and I’ve seen enough vomit on cream colored carpet to last a lifetime.

Since my memory is too foggy to tell a decent story about what happened I figured a few highlights would suffice.

1. Shot and beer guzzling at friends house. I have procured moonshine from a local distillery. We realize moonshine does in fact put hair on your chest.
2. Binge eating of meat products at one of the best BBQ joints in the South. I manage to get the local band playing to give our bachelor a shout out. The crowd cheers and we quickly realize this was a great idea due to multiple patrons buying us alcohol and encouraging binge drinking.
3. More beers and shots at the local pub. Realize a gay bar is next door and what could be more tempting to a bunch of gay guys than a bachelor?
4. Gay guy hits on me.  I’m flattered.
5. Drunk.  Go to strip club to reaffirm our manliness.
6. Become more interested in the type of people who frequent strip clubs than the actual strippers themselves. Try to carry on “real” conversations with strippers and quickly realize she only wants my singles. I do not want a lap dance – neither does anyone else – I become disappointed because I really wanted to write about an entry on this blog entitle “this hoes life”.
7. Bachelor goes shirtless in probably the most crowded street in Atlanta. Arrest seems likely.
8. The Bachelor, who is a literal and certified genius, can no longer remember basic tax code nor add 3 digit numbers. He begins rambling incoherently about “what’s happening to me.” We ignore his complaints and continue force feeding him alcoholic beverages mixed with energy drinks. Bad idea in retrospect.
9. Take taxi back to house. Bachelor passes out. Wakes up briefly and vomits all over the floor. Success.

I wish I could go into more detail about what happened, but I think that’s against the bachelor party code of ethics – especially when the grooms in question are business professionals.  I’ll just leave it at this – everyone survived and the wedding is still on.  That’s good enough for anyone.

Mankind is Flawed

The other night over beers my closest friend revealed a secret to me.  He has been cheeating on his wife for the last few months. 

I know it was especially tough for him to tell me because of how we have defined our relationship.  We hold eachother accountable.  We both have the same libertarian-ish attitudes toward life.  When I mess up he lets me know it, when he does something dumb I return the favor. 

Constantly we talk about being men of integrity, men who would set a good example for society, and men who would try our best to be pillars for our family and the community – especially since we didn’t have that type of example for ourselves growing up.  We have discussed, specifically, the value of being faithful to our family and wives – all the while he agreed whole-heartedly.  Yet I find out he was being a hypocrite. 

Obviously the situation is much more complicated than that.  Their marriage was far from perfect, but there is no excuse for his behavior.  There were other options.  Worse still – he has two children. 

He asked me for advice and I told him to quit the whole thing “cold turkey”.  I was disappointed, but haven’t ridiculed him for his actions.  There is no need to – he knows exactly where I stand.  We had a long talk about ways to improve his relationship – which he has implemented over the last few weeks.  It seems like things between them are on the right path.

The worst thing, for me, about this whole situation isn’t what he did.  It’s that his folly really brings to the forefront the flawed nature of men.  If he can mistep – my closest companion – then there is no question that anyone can.  We hold eachother to the highest standard, period.  So now it doesn’t surprise me when I hear of a President, a celebrity, or any other man in a position of power who does the same thing. 

People make mistakes – should that define them?  No.  If people make the same mistake over and over again – that’s insanity by definition.  I still hold my friend to the highest standard possible, but honestly it will be a while before I can learn to trust and count on him as much as I did before.  I’m not perfect, not even close, but the whole situation is an interesting insight into people in general.

Humans are such comlex and flawed creatures.

She dumped WHAT over your head?

“Legendary-ish Stories” is a series I plan to write occasionally in which I describe actual incidents that happened in my life. These incidents often involve alcohol and at times immorality – neither of which I necessarily condone. With these stories I hope to add a touch of humor and display human imperfection while simultaneously eroding my credibility. Enjoy.

A few months back I went to New Orleans to celebrate the New Year.  It was the second straight year my best friend and our wives had made the journey.  We love the great food, the music, and the cheap drinks so it usually makes for a good time.  The only problem with New Orleans is that going there always turns into a shit show.  I’m not sure if it’s the combination of loud music, energy, women exposing their breasts, and alcohol – or what – but inevitably something goes wrong.  Too much sin, I guess.

One thing you have to understand is that my best friend and his wife have two kids.  They are little demons from hell so no one, not even me, will babysit. The two of them never get out under normal circumstances so when they do it’s kind of like letting a lion out of the cage with a bunch of antelope after feeding him vegan dog food for the last few months.  Substitute antelope for tequila shots and Bloody Mary’s and you have the some understanding of the situation in question.  Looking back on it now I realize the problem was that we were over-zealous and over-ambitious.  We started drinking at about 4pm and actually expected to make it until midnight.  Rookie mistake.

Being a bunch of cheap-asses we started drinking in the hotel room.  I guess $3 drinks weren’t cheap enough.  I distinctly remember my friend’s wife guzzling a concoction that would run my car and feeling like I was going to puke just watching.  In the back of my mind I knew we were screwed from the start.

After an hour of boozing in the hotel room like a bunch of frat boys we hit the first bar – which was conveniently located next door to the hotel.  We drank $3 Bloody Mary’s for dinner.  For a while we thought about staying there all night, but for some reason we decided relocating would amplify our fun.  So we found ourselves at a more crowded, shittier, bar on Bourbon Street.  This part of the story starts moving so fast in real life that I have trouble describing it now.

Soon enough the only thing I can remember is it being dark outside and admiring a nice pair of fake breast expertly implanted and evenly proportional.  I remember examining them more out of curiosity than perverse enjoyment.  My wife was next to me and neither of us having touched a pair theorized on the density and texture of said breasts.  We came to no consensus.

I also remember complaining that fake breast bother me.  This made my wife happy. A few flashes later and I have a “huge ass beer” in my hand and we are listening to a white guy rap on stage.  It was mediocre.  I do remember wishing for a second I was rapping on stage, but even in my drunken stupor a white-man two step jig was all I could manage.

I remember eating a slice of pizza and saying to myself “you’ll be running that off tomorrow” – for some reason I wasn’t concerned about the empty calories from all the beer I was consuming.  At this point I also had about 5lbs of beads around my neck that I am not certain how I acquired.  I was only marginally concerned later the next morning  that they smelled like puke – especially since I had not vomited that night.

Next I remember seeing my friend.  He was soaked and furious.  “She dumped a $10 drink on my FUCKING head!”  I remember being more concerned at the wasted $10 than my soaked friend.  Apparently his wife and he had an argument brought on by cheap booze and loose women. She had dumped a giant mixture of vodka and juice over his head.

His shirt was stained cranberry red and everyone in the immediate area could only stop and stare in amazement wondering what might happen next. My friend stormed off and we didn’t find him until well after midnight and New Years Eve had ended.

I remember sipping my beer while all this was going down thinking “this is a real shit show”.  His wife started crying and I pretended not to acknowledge her existence.  We had become those people with the crying lady in public.  No amount of booze could make up for what had just happened.  It’s the first time in my adult life I remember looking at someone I care about and thinking “you deserve to cry.”

They Just Don’t Get It

Reason number 10,000 I should get off Facebook forever and forget everyone I ever knew in high school.  More hypocritical talk from the evangelical “limited government” conservative base in Georgia that is all too willing to use Government when it benefits their beliefs.  You may be proud to know I did not verbally humiliate this person, but maybe I should have.

Step 1: Unzip your pants

“Legendary-ish Stories” is a series I plan to write occassionally in which I describe actual incidents that happened in my life. These incidents often involve alcohol and at times immorality – neither of which I necessarily condone. With these stories I hope to add a touch of humor and display human imperfection while simultaneously eroding my credibility. Enjoy.

Two weeks before my wife and I were married I underwent the sacred right of passage known as the bachelor party.  Five of my best friends and myself decided to have a night on the town in Atlanta.  My friends did a fairly good job planning.  We had a designated driver, a rental car, and all the alcohol any human being could reasonably consume.

The night started out typically enough.  We decided to get a few drinks before  hitting the town.  One of my friends had made a power hour video.  (a power hour video consist of an hour long video with a different humorous clips each 60 seconds.  After each clip you drink.  The ultimate goal is to drink 6 beers within 1 hour.)  In out excitement we finish power hour, drank an energy drink, had a couple of celebratory shots and headed to the bars.

That’s about the time I woke up on the couch the next morning.  My good friend was watching TV on the couch and I was very disappointed.  I couldn’t believe that we hadn’t even made it out – on my last night of manly freedom!   I scolded my friend for letting me pass out – he looked at me with concern.  Something was wrong.

“Dude, we didn’t get home unil after 4am this morning, what are you talking about?”

I was dumbfounded.  Up until that point in my life I had never experience a complete memory loss/blackout.  I made it through 4 years at the #1 party school in the nation and managed to remember making it home every time.  I must admit that the rest of this story is a result of hearsay and brief memory flashes from the past night.

10pm: We left the house, which in retrospect, I vaguely remember.  We were around 20 minutes from our intended destination.  I believe that was the problem.  I think that 20 minutes of non-movement combined with the effects of the large amounts of alcohol finally caught up with me.  (I also suspect that one of my friends or a bartender may have slipped me a the date-rape pill.)  Assholes.

11pm: I was taken to a strip club, but not any strip club, because those are boring.  My friends planned an excursion to the premiere spot in Atlanta – and by premiere I mean that all of the strippers are 50 or older.  It is really a freak show, but quite entertaining.  I was told that I was given a glorious lap dance by a 60 year old black woman.  If you ask my friends they’ll say “she wasn’t that bad”, but I know that means she was disgusting.  I imagine she was probably 200lbs of wrinkles and breasts to her belly button – they also say I enjoyed it.  That, I cannot confirm or deny.  Apparently for a $10 tip you can touch 50 year old strippers all you want.  Also, to add to my insult, this was in public.

At this point I also asked for a glass of water – my friends instead gave me a glass of vodka.  To their surprise I didn’t notice it wasn’t water.  I drank the entire glass – How I am alive to this day is uncertain.

1am: I was told that we we left the club to go to another, less eclectic, bar.  However, I was refused entrance.  I was belligerent.

1:30am: To my friend’s dismay I began to dismantle the rental car.  I jumped on the hood and gave the poor doors vicious left hooks.  Why?  I do not know and I have no history of this type of behavior.  I suspect my lunacy had something to do with the mixture of alcohol, energy drinks, and possible unknown substances inserted into my drinks throughout the night.

2:00am: A friend slipping the door man $5 was enough to get me in the third bar.  I sat in the booth with my head on the table, rendered useless.  My friends forced me to drink energy drinks.  On my way to the bathroom I morphed into the incredible hulk and took my belligerence to a new level. Since I couldn’t use my “inside voice” we were asked to leave.  I apologize to everyone who had to deal with my idiocy. On the way out of the bar I demanded that the door man stamp my back repeatedly with the “over 21″ stamp, he complied.  That explained why for the next two weeks my future wife looked at me funny when I had my shirt off…  No one told me until weeks later.

3:30am: After we were asked to leave the bar and one of my friends literally pissed his pants in an unfortunate “I skipped a step in the bathroom” incident – I was taken home and carried to the couch – where I awoke the next morning.  Smelling of urine, old lady perfume, my back decorated in “over 21″ stamps, no memory of the glorious night that had taken place, a massive hangover, and taking a piss that I am convinced had blood in it – describes my right of passage.

What did I learn?  “Always remember to unzip your pants before taking a piss.”

why it’s so hard to say goodbye – to Religion

Early in my life I found it almost impossible to avoid returning what I had been told was right my entire life.  Even when all logic pointed to the invalidity of religious I found the desire, out of personal comfort and social circumstances, to return to religion.  My pastor and zealous family would always explain to me that it was the “conviction of God” attempting to lead me back to him.  That thought seems beautiful, but you see this same return pattern time and time again in various other (less beautiful) situations as well.  For example, many Mormon women leave their faith after being in abusive polygamist relationships only to return later to “what feels natural”.  This same principal applies to cults and, drugs, and even abusive relationships.  So, it would seem there is something in our nature pushing us to return to what feels natural and comforting.

While I am not trying to demonize religion by comparing it to drugs or abuse, I am simply trying to make a point that this pattern is not unique only to religion, but in a variety of social circumstances.  In any case, after much thought I realized there are several reasons religion is so effective in “keeping” its followers.

Early Indoctrination:
Religion, in general, has a head start when it comes to determining your way of thinking.  If you grew up in Sunday School or going to church as a child people were driving Religious Dogma in your head from the beginning.  So it’s no surprise that people who were raised in church find themselves with religious feelings for the rest of their life.

Early indoctrination doesn’t occur for just those of us who were raised in church, however.  The status quo of the United states is a Christian worldview.  I mean how many people feel the urge to convert to Christianity in China or other non-Christian nations or visa versa?  You can see the same result in secular nations, such as Holland, were there is no feelings of “conviction from God” to be religious.  (re: demographics of atheism)  So, it seems, that your perceptions as an adult are highly determined by your upbringing – whether it is secular or religious – NOT based on natural convictions embedded by a God(s).

Continued Reinforcement of Validity:
It is no coincidence that religious practice encourages you to study the bible, pray, and attend church regularly.  To continually reaffirm your belief in any religious dogma (or in anything for that matter) it takes repetition.  Without it, we stray.  This is especially interesting since the religious argue conviction by God is a natral mechanism ingrained in your soul by God himself.  It seem strange that people who do not attend church, or who have never attended a Christian ceremony (Native Americans for example) feel no natural conviction from the Christian/Muslim/Jewish God.

Ask a Buddhist monk, a Christian Pastor, or any other religious believer in God and I doubt that they feel any conviction toward any other supernatural begin, other than their own.  For this reason, I conclude that any particular religions strength comes from a continued reinforcement of validity.

Social and Community Acceptance:
With almost any group a driving force of said group’s success is acceptance.  People want to be accepted, period.  It feels good.  We are a social species and continually seek fellowship with our species.  If you get enough like minded people in a room – it just feels good – this might help explain why a church congregation is so powerful.  Where else can you find a group of people that share the same values, are likely the same race, have similar socio-economic beliefs, and share the same regional culture.  It is an instant and deep connection – that is powerful.  I call this group the Micro-community.

In addition to the micro-community there is also another powerful force at work.  The macro-community.  That is society as a whole.  We find more acceptance as a society via a belief in God – especially a Christian God.  Our values as a nation are essentially Christian – which makes it much easier to feel connected.  Subconsciously we reap the benefits of this all the time.

For example, we see Christian churches all the time and it’s normal.  Our major holiday are Christian holidays.  We can talk about the bible or Christianity relatively openly without the fear of being chastised.  We can even talk to other people and assume relatively easily that they are Christians.  Most people in America take these small benefits for granted.  However, put yourself in a Buddhist or even a Muslim’s position and everything changes.  Think about your Muslim child being asked what he/she is getting for Christmas this year and your child having to explain (s)he doesn’t celebrate it, things get complicated quickly.

For now, Region is the status-quo and a source of acceptance – that means power.

An explanation of the unknown:
As I have touched on in other posts (re: Is religion becoming obsolete?) religion is a great way to explain things we fear and/or do not understand.

In the early days of Man’s history we explained the Sun and the stars as Gods.  Later those Gods became elements of nature.  Our ancestors used to blame sickness and death on acts of sin, but we now know that death is caused by bacteria, viruses, cancer, failing organs, etc.  In fact, when we see the sheer variety of beliefs on the planet earth, with little or no reconcilable pattern it becomes clear people were simply trying to explain the unknown.  Even among Native American tribes, which were relatively close in proximity, beliefs varied tremendously. (re: Indian Legends)

Similarly, we use Religion to comfort us about perhaps the biggest mystery of all – death.  Some scientist even claim that religion and belief in a God/afterlife may be a natural evolutionary development to help us balance consciousness and accepting our own death (re: Religion an adaptation) This is controversial (obviously), but an interesting thought.

Summary:
So I suppose the real question is: Do we feel these things because there is a God or is there a God because we feel these things?

My Best Friend

Last night my best friend and I had a mini-heated argument. You can’t really even call it an argument, but it was enough to get me thinking about how hard I am on people sometimes. You see, my best friend lost his job a couple weeks back – he also has two kids and a wife. So he went and applied for unemployment and free insurance for his children. I called it welfare, which I am fairly sure offended him and put a ding on his pride.

You see, for the past few years Mike and I have always talked about how using social programs should be an absolute last resort. We are completely against people abusing the programs and feel that government handouts should not be a permanent or long term solution. We are generally strong advocates of small and limited government (but that’s another story) so when he went straight to the unemployment office to register for government benefits I almost felt betrayed. I felt like all of the rants we had shared over the past two years were a joke!

I know what you must be thinking right now. “This guy is insane – he is upset that his friend is getting unemployment?” Well the answer is yes and no. I am upset because Mike can easily go out and get apart time job until his next full time gig starts next July. So there is really no reason what so ever for him to receive unemployment benefits! At least that is what I was thinking.

On the other hand, he did pay into the system and this could be a nice example of the system working like its supposed to – for once. A guy who has paid into the system his whole life actually getting some benefits from it? Does that really ever happen? So when I look at it like that all of my extreme feelings about government programs kind of come into perspective.

You see, I grew up in a very poor home. My parents were basically worthless and refused to keep a job out of pure laziness. They basically relied on government handouts – so the thought of others doing the same really disturbs me. I am grateful, however, that those same government handouts gave a kid like me the opportunity to make it out – so as in any program I suppose there is good and bad. Unfortunately there are those who will abuse the system: both civilian and government.

Anyways, I say all that to say this. Be moderate. Don’t be so extreme in your thinking. Politics, like anything is about balance and fully examining the situation. I eventually apologized to my friend and admitted that I was being a little hard-lined about the whole thing. Mike already has a full time job lined up and in the mean time the system is going to help him get over the hump.

While I still do NOT like government programs in general – I’ll let this one slide. Maybe I should write a very extensive article at a later date discussing why I feel this way and what the role of government really is, but I’ll save that for another day.  For now, I’ll just leave you with my humble admission of guilt – not in my thinking, but in my innate ability to be a real asshole to love ones.  I’m working on it though.