Difficult to express

Today was a challenging day. The agency I find work through has been throwing some goose-eggs at me as far as clients. When I feel that crunch of writing for money versus writing for the pure joy of writing, this is always what happens. To be honest I’m a little mad at myself.

You see, when you sit down for an hour to write about concussions or estate planning or diamond cuts, the work is pretty fucking bland. It’s even worse when you get a “No thanks” on something you just wasted an hour of your life on. And if they buy it, yeah, you get money, but you never get a byline for it. I had two posts get rejected today. Hell, right now I’d take the money.

Sometimes your house expresses what your words cannot. My house was a shambles. Today, I did a week’s worth of laundry and four or five days worth of dishes. I completely ran out of forks and spoons, so there was no choice to put it off for another day. It was a day for chores and trying to produce some work that will actually let me pay child support in a month. I’m on mean rations now.

The bummer about the paid gigs versus working on the book is when you want to write something, everything else is an irritation. Yesterday I finished second draft edits on two chapters. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the first book. I’m finding the story and the voice. I’m cutting out all sorts of redundancies and superfluous elements of the story without remorse. The story is becoming. Unfortunately second drafts don’t put money in your pocket.

Then I have those moments of doubt when I think I’m doing all of this work for absolutely nothing. In this climate, nobody will want to read this story. Much less buy it. I have to get it past an editor, so to speak. It wasn’t always like this, I don’t think. Editors were people who could find that diamond in the rough. Now it feels like they are that kid who got held back a few years, playing Red Rover with the rest of us.

Another reason today was hard was because six years ago this week was the last time I saw my oldest kid. I dropped him off at school on a Monday (the 4th), and his mom never sent him over again. She claimed she couldn’t make him come back. Truth be told, he did what he had to do to find peace in his life. He couldn’t hack the retaliation and conflict he got going back and forth anymore. Believe me when I say I know what he was going through. I cut off my own parents for years because it made life easier at home.

Please don’t give me the platitudes or pep talk of “One day they will come back.” They usually don’t. I’ve done the research and that is a harsh reality of alienation.

It’s like a death, only worse. There’s a person out there walking around, living, breathing, and for whatever reason has convinced themselves they hate you and never want to see you again. Unfortunately life has a lot of that, I’m learning. Some I’ve been willing to oblige them, but others…like my kids, are something you never really get over.

I saw a TikTok the other day where a woman said that a Red Flag in dating someone was when they don’t see their kids. I guess I’m damaged goods. “Why is this?!” she asked. Oh, sweet summer child…All sorts of reasons, Caitlin. Not many of them are good. None of them are easy. Some of us tried our damnedest, but of course that’s all just an urban legend. After all, “Fathers Have Rights.” Until we don’t.

Honestly, we don’t have rights. None of us do. All it takes is one judge to make up their mind about a situation. They might have you in their courtroom for less than twenty minutes and make a decision that affects your and your children’s lives for generations. The courts did nothing to bring my son back to me. The only consolation I’ve gotten is everyone from lawyers to psychologists telling me “The System is broken.” Without a conviction, without a trial, and without the burden of proof, you can lose your kids in this country if you are a dad. All someone has to say is “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

So when I write, I let myself go into other places. Places that kind of fucked up reverse logic can’t fuck with my peace. The stories I tell might be better or worse than reality, but at least it has to make sense on some level. Real life rarely does. And it’s not like I can criticize any of it. There are consequences when you start making noise.

Today, I watched the Dan Harmon documentary, Harmontown, and I saw a man who has made a career out of pulling the rug out from under himself. He’s had the fortune to keep knocking at that gate and the gatekeepers keep letting him in. He’s a man who will never have enough attention, enough praise, or probably enough money. He drinks too much. He sees moments he could just be enjoying the ride and makes a sudden sharp turn, on gravel. He’s the villain in his own story. I had to stop the video a few times because I’ve seen myself in that place many times. I come from generations of that. Unfortunately, generations after me will be the same; a broken system has seen to that.

Lately, the only solace I’ve found has been in writing my story. At this point, the momentum of it feels like crossing the crest of that first incline on a rollercoaster. The rest of it is just holding on and screaming my head off. In a good way, for once.

It’s true what they say. They can kill you, but they can’t eat you.

The Slap Heard ‘Round the World

*Warning. There will be bad language.

It is already old news, and we have once again found a way to be divided on the topic. You have probably already witnessed video of the Will Smith slapping the shit out of Chris Rock incident. Lots of people are saying Chris had it coming, and other people are saying Will needed to check himself.

So, I watched the video slowed down and zoomed in, like the Zapruder footage. Chris’s head goes back and to the left…back and to the left…

But earlier, when Chris delivers the joke, guess what else you see? No, not a man on a grassy knoll. You see Will laughing. Jada isn’t laughing. She throws the look. Chris Rock no doubt also saw Will laughing, which was why he didn’t flinch when Will came up on stage. Then “POW!” then a lot of shit talking.

Here’s the thing.

There was a time I was in Will’s position. I recognized what he is going through and I honestly wish I was his friend, so I could call him and say, “Meet me for coffee. We need to talk.”

Back when I was married, there were many occurrences where my ex-wife would take offense at something and expect me to be her executioner, her enforcer. There was no knight in shining armor. She wanted a thug who would exact swift and brutal retaliation on her behalf. I knew if I didn’t, things would be HELL for me when we got home.

One instance of this was when we were at Sam’s Club getting groceries at the beginning of the month. She would always make a fuss about having to show her membership card on the way in, and as she was arguing with the man at the front door, the kids and I slipped in and grabbed a cart. As we are walking past the TVs and other stuff at the front, I hear a commotion behind me. My ex-wife is saying something to a woman who is walking parallel with her. She has her face all pinched and twisted up the way she would whenever she was starting a fight.

“Do we have a problem?” the woman asks.

“Yeah! You clipped my heel with your cart, you fucking cunt!” she says.

“Wow! I wasn’t even near you. I saw you trip.”

“Fuck you! You hit me!”

My wife turned to me with the look.

Do something about this, you fucking pussy!

Before I had a chance to react, the accused woman turns to me and says, “Are you her husband? I feel very sorry for you.”

“Me too.”

I shrugged. Like a Larry David Curb Your Enthusiasm shrug.

My ex-wife’s rancor turned completely onto me. It wasn’t my fight. It was a stupid fight, which didn’t need to escalate. It was a fight she had started many times before with strangers. I shrugged because this lady whom I had never met before looked into my eyes and she knew what was expected of me by a completely unreasonable person. She was correct to pity me.

I caught hell when we got home.

“What kind of man are you?” my ex-wife demanded. “You can’t even defend your wife? That bitch assaulted me! And you stood there with your limp dick in your hand and did nothing!”

“What did you want me to do? Punch her in the face?” I said. “You’re lucky she didn’t have you kicked out of the store. Or arrested.”

“She wasn’t going to do anything,” she said.

Exactly.

So when I see Will Smith stride up to strike another man on behalf of his wife, that isn’t defending her honor. That is a conditioned response to abuse at home.

It was a bald joke, not a demand for satisfaction and pistols at twenty paces.

You see, it was Will’s night, and with one look from Jada, he shit on his own night, which should have been about getting his first Academy Award, rather than becoming a meme. Jada made it about HER. The alternative for Will at home would have been much worse than what happened had he done nothing.

I wish I could see a moment where Chris Rock takes him out for beers and gives him a hug and says “No, man. I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry, Will Smith.

Crazy couple of years

So, a couple years ago, they told us we might have to spend a few weeks inside because someone in China ate soup with a bat in it. (Yes, I know the bat thing was bogus. We all know the damn virus was made in a lab). And yes, that is plausible, considering we are talking about a country that enjoys weaponizing stuff. If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself the last time you heard of a virus that makes your sense of taste go away. It might kill you, it probably won’t, but if it does it will be like drowning for a week or so.

So, we spent going on two years for some of us inside. Some of us drive around with masks when we are alone. All of us have been affected by some form of depression or anxiety by the process.

The USA is more polarized than ever. I won’t get into the discussion much, but let’s just say it was suspicious that the person who became POTUS, who even his own party was lukewarm about, won more votes than the most hyped President elect in history, who at the time had more voter turnout than anyone in history. Until his second banana won this election. Just sayin’.

Then people got arrested for meandering into the Capitol Building, after the cops let them in, and that was a bigger deal than when people burned down businesses in several cities. Canada experienced soft facism. Which is fitting for a country normally very polite.

Gasoline costs twice as much per gallon as it has for years. Food is expensive (when it’s on the store shelves).

Oh yeah, Russia invaded Ukraine.

It strikes me how strange it is to see a modern city like Kyiv with Toyota Priuses and freakin’ missiles sticking out of the ground. It’s not the view of war we’ve been given for the last 70 years. It’s surreal.

The amount of dumbass rednecks posting shit on social media about how they are warfighters and gon’ fight fer ‘Merica is fucking astounding. You aren’t the Wolverines. You aren’t Mad Max you piece of shit. You aren’t John Wick. You’re a fat, ignorant redneck who couldn’t pick Ukraine out on a map. Yeah yeah tough guy. That’s why you are stockpiling guns and ammunition. Fuck you. You’re gonna do the same thing you’ve always done about anything in life ever.

Not a goddamned thing.

“Back in Dubya Dubya THree, I fought on the front lines of the meme wars!”

Good for you. Fuckhead. What were you doing for the last couple of years? What have you ever done? Watched other people do all the heavy lifting. Spilled Natty Lite on yourself yelling at your ol’ lady because she didn’t have the house clean when you got home maybe. Told the kids to leave you alone because the game was on.

Not that I’m all that my damn self. But I’m not running around talking tough, beating my chest, and bragging about some bullshit. “Just let me at them Rooskies!” I’ve seen tough guys crumple like a folding chair so many times. It’s always fucking hilarious when they do too.

It’s not Call of Duty out there, Cap’n Warfighter. You don’t just get to duck and regenerate the arm someone shot off. At the end of the day you’re sleeping on the cold hard ground and you don’t just get to hit pause and get tucked into your snuggly-wuggly bed.

Meanwhile, there are civilians watching tanks roll into their towns. And the world just watches.

It’s been a crazy couple of years.