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An Outsider Crippled by Regret and Confusion

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lonley bench

Time has passed him by
Life continues
with its cycles
with its manifold excitments and exasperations
while he sits
gray, weary, jaded, still.
Babies are born, plants grow, funeral homes, withering leaves
Marriages, graduations, holidays
reminders, schedules, plans
What was he expecting to find?

life as outsider

Tragedies, police shootings, injustices,
Quiet joys, simple gifts, wisdom
Yet the trash is still taken out in the morning
Yet the rocks are still crumbling to dust
Yet the rivers carry dead bodies like floating logs
Lonley in a crowd
He hasn’t enjoyed a conversation in years
Why are they all so excited about these things?
He doesn’t understand the news
How do they all forget so easily?
dishonored
Friends and family died years ago.
He became reconciled to his
constricting dreams and steady routines
Hot and cold. Light and dark. Day and night. Back and forth.
Changing seasons unaccountable treasons unfathomable reasons
stranger wandering
They all kept moving faster and faster
Towards what?
They all captured, clicked, stared
They kept talking and talking and talking
It was as if he had gone off into the woods
and they had followed him there to mock
It was as if he had turned into a deaf, blind monster
and they were playing games with him
Over the years as he lost touch, lost empathy, lost hope
He wondered why he wondered why he wondered why
He never downloaded Pokemon Go
PokemonGO_145530996-4

The explosion and craze of this Pokemon Go App is unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything like it. 

In a week there are have been 7.5 million downloads and Nintendo’s stock increased in market value by $7.5 billion.

On my walk to work yesterday I saw crowds of people looking for Pokemon, one guy muttering under his breath, “I just want a fucking Squirtle.”

Armed robbers in Missouri used the app to lure victims to isolated locations, police said.

A quest to find Pokemon led a teen to discover a dead body in a river in Wyoming.

Hasidic Jews: A tale and some gedanken

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hasidic jews

For a year I lived in Do-or-die Bed-stuy, Brooklyn on the border of the largest Hasidic Jewish community outside of Israel. There are between 90,000-100,000 Hasidic Jews in North America and 25% of them live in Brooklyn. Of these Brosidic Jews (Brooklyn Hasidic), 90% of them would blush, whisper yiddish curses, and turn away when I’d sprint shirtless through their tightly-knit, amply-covered communities. And 95% of the chaste women would shriek, clutch their wigs, and huddle on the opposite side of the sidewalk when Hank would strut and swagger past their cloistered, crowded homes.

During this time I worked as bartender for a place called Wray’s in the hood (outbreaks of violence were frequent…WHY YOU LOOKIN AT MY GIRL?!) and as a busboy for a restaurant called The Runner. On my walk home from both of these places I’d pass right through the center of the Hasidic community. One time I stopped to buy a loaf of wheat bread for my daily pbj and didn’t have enough money. WHAT TO DO? The Hasid cashier said it was fine and let me go. So much for the stereotype of Jewish stinginess…then again…I’ve had numerous people tell me that I look Jewish (my nose is slightly big and my red hair becomes a curly afro). Whatever the motivation, I still left the kosher grocery store with a warm feeling in my heart. And I returned the next day to pay back the difference.

A week after this friendly exchange I was walking home late on a Saturday night when I was accosted by a Hasidic Jew. He was very short, on the cusp of midget, wore spectacles, and had a long, gray beard.

“Please, please help me!” he yelled.
“I…I’m just walking home. I’m tired. Leave me alone.”
“You’re not Jewish, are you?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes! Please! Five minutes of your time. Please.” I thought of the Hasid generosity from the week before. I believe that acts of kindness ricochet in life..so you know what? Fuck it. I’ll help this devoutly Jewish man.

He led me into a building, into an elevator, and we traveled up to the place where I might be murdered. He didn’t tell me why he needed my help. He was emotional and kept talking incoherently (my fatigue and apprehension might have been blurring his words), “We’re here visiting…at a friend’s place…can’t do this…”

We entered his apartment. The place was freezing. Three children squealed and scattered into dark corners. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. I was ready to defend myself against an ambush.

“Follow me,” the man said. He led me into a bedroom which was connected to a kitchen. A butt naked woman was passed out on the bed (just kidding). I saw a women timidly poke her head around a corner. The man opened a closet and pointed at a button. “Please. Turn it off.” I looked at the switch. It was for the air-conditioning. I pressed the button. “Thank you! Thank you!” I learned later that it was The Sabbath and that Hasidic Jews are not allowed “to do work” during The Sabbath (which includes using electricity). The man offered me cookies before I left. “No thank you.” In my mind I though they might be poisoned. Nonetheless, I was tempted. I like cookies.

I’ve always been interested in Jewish culture. My high school was 1/3 jewish and growing up I attended many Bar/Bat mitzvahs. I’ve dated a couple of Jewish girls. So…to temporarily quench my curiosity concerning the Jewish culture, here are the haphazardly-picked fruits of my research-labor on the this extreme sect of Judaism:

hasaid jew 2

Who’s hungry? For dinner we’re eating…white tablecloth!

Hasidic Judaism was started 250 years ago by Baal Shem Tov:

Baal Shem Tov

True dat Baal…true dat. Everybody around me stuntin.

Boys and girls are segregated at an early age and never participate in activities where the sexes are mixed. Dating and falling in love are as foreign to them as it is common to our wider culture. A mate is arranged through the aid of family, friends, and members of the community who act as a shadchan, or a marriage broker. Before the arranged marriage, the prospective pair engage in “sit ins” where they talk to one another for a couple of hours. Then they get married and spend the rest of their lives…

For boys, learning the Torah is the main the objective. They often spend 10-14 hours a day praying.

They average 8 people per family. They are strong proponents of birth control and planned parenthood.

They live each day according to the 613 commandments.

They thrive under and enjoy this framework for living: what to eat (no pork or shellfish), no mixing dairy with meat, what to wear, respect parents, etc. It’s nice, comfortable, and easy following a prescribed framework for living.

Western culture is considered shameless and dangerous.

kim k

 

Modesty is very important. “What secures us and others.”

So what about the women wearing wigs? All Hasidic women must cover their hair…even at home, in case of an unexpected male visitor…hair is the crowning glory of a woman…hair is sensual…she wants to keep her hair for her husband.

So what about the men and those funny, curly sideburns? Those are called payots:

payots

Check out my payots…ladies

They exist because the Torah says, “You shall not round off the pe’at of your head.” (Leviticus 19:27)

What about the funny hats?

had hat

Covering your head is honoring god.

Marriage is about eternity.

“We don’t marry the one we love. But we love the one we marry.” Those two sentences, I think, encompass why some people can become so extremely religious.

During the reception the men and women are segregated.

What about Hanukkah?

Hanuka-Menorah-by-Gil-Dekel-2014

Hanukkah is celebrated because of an ancient, Jewish victory over the Greeks, when the Greeks wanted the Jews to assimilate. Meanwhile, us Christians celebrate a fat man squeezing his way down a chimney in the middle of the night to eat cookies.

The most fundamental theme underlying all Hasidic theory is the immanence of God in the universe.

Hasidic masters exhorted their followers to negate themselves. They want to create a seamless bridge between physicality and spirituality, body and soul, earth and heaven.

A feature common to all Hasidic sects is the view that secular education is a threat to their traditional values.

In Hasidic Jewish schools words are blacked out in textbooks such as dinosaur, universe, and gymnasium…why? Those words would bring up subjects they don’t want to talk about it.

I watched an interview of a man who left his Hasidic community. He said the thing he missed most was a sense of belonging. “Who’s gonna look after me if I’m in danger? No one.” When you’re in the the Hasidic community people are looking after you, caring for you.

In another interview of a couple of people who left the Hasidic community, the question was raised: How do they keep you in? “Well, they say things like, ‘The Gentiles will kill you.” But believe it or not, they don’t usually say it’s forbidden to leave. It’s more that they stress: why would you even want that? The lesson of the Holocaust: stay as insulated and isolated as possible.

But wait…why is the word gymnasium blacked out of textbooks? Because gymnasium means exercise…exercise means body (the rude and callous flesh)…and exercise means secular, western culture.

So if you practice Hasidic Judaism…you’re frowned upon if you run?

To each his own…but not for me.

 

I’ll never get tired of this…

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She’s been waiting. She turns the hot water on and smiles.
“Ready?”
“Born ready.” She laughs. I throw down my bag and step over to where she’s sitting. “I’ve been thinking about this all day.”
“Oh really?” I settle down, let my muscles relax, and the water envelops me. “You are ready,” she says.
“Yes.”
“Good.” She’s from Russia, most likely fresh off the boat. Her accent is strong. Her eyes are dark.

She hovers over me and I shift into a more comfortable position.  Her hands grip the back of my head. She’s aggressive. She’s done this before. Yes, I’m paying. Yes, she doesn’t know me. But it feels intimate. It feels special. She grabs, scratches, presses, pulls, and massages during the whole experience. I keep my eyes closed because I think it would be inappropriate to look her in the face, especially since she’s on the job and concentrating. Soon, I’m blinded by ecstasy. My eyelids flicker. I don’t want her to stop. But stop she must. I’m not the only one…

I stand up and she hands me a towel.
“Thank you,” I say.
“You’re welcome,” she replies.
“I’ll never get tired of this…I mean…that.” She laughs again.
“Feel good?”
“Yes.”

My hair is washed and clean. I walk away. It’s time for a haircut.

 

Thoughts of Death on a Wednesday Morning

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skull and hourglass

I’m obsessed with death.

I’ve been that way since I was a little kid.

death guess who

Perhaps it is one of many reasons I’ve chosen the path of the pen…a book is a life that doesn’t die…no serious author doesn’t at least play with the idea of immortality.

When I was 6 years old my grandmother’s sister died. My mother tells a story of talking to me about her death:

“Great-Aunt Mami passed away today, Jack.”
“She’s gone?”
“Yes.”
“Where did she go?”
“To…to heaven.” I paused. “Mommy?”
“Yes Jack?”
“What if nothing happens to us after we die?” My mother was taken aback and surprised.
“We..we just don’t know Jack. We just hope that the people we love go to a better place.”

Since I can remember I’ve had the unwavering conviction that death is a dreamless sleep, game over, total blackness. Which is part of the reason why I’ve often been confused and fascinated by religious people…in the beginning I thought it was plain silly that people actually believed in life after death. Now, after years of reading, studying, living, and questioning I’ve come to some conclusions concerning why people can have this belief.

1) Some minds are just set up for it. Just as some people are tall, short, inherently strong, or weak…some minds are susceptible to certain ideas, thought patterns, and illusions. And believing in a higher power and life after death is an excellent survival tool. “God loves me and is watching over me…there is a better place than this hazardous, tragic world,” these ideas give people strength and hope. What is better for finding a mate and having children than unreasonable, unaccountable, unquestionable strength and hope?

I’ve slowly and meticulously read almost all of Victor Hugo and Dostoevsky’s books. They were both extremely religious, but extremely different men. They gave their lives to their writing and opened themselves up in ways few humans have. I learned many things from their novels.

Hugo woman quote doy saraBut concerning their faith…despite being intelligent, expressive, well-read men…it came down to this:
Believe me…trust me…God exists!!! Faith was just a part of who they were. They couldn’t defend their faith beyond: this is how I feel. Nonetheless, I remember thinking while reading their books that if a belief in God could produce/contribute to such powerful, intense, soul-shaking works…are the authors right? Was Jesus actually the son of a higher power because Jean Valjean got up from his deathbed, took down a copper crucifix, and said, ‘He is the great martyr.’ (A surprising, out-of-left-field moment amidst a life-changing scene which had me crying in a diner: “A lower murmur escaped his lips. ‘To die is nothing, but it is terrible not to live.'”)

But then I realized that I was merely worshiping their creative skill. Being able to write a great book has nothing to do with the ultimate, unknowable truths of the universe…it’s a single person mastering a limited perspective and communicating it powerfully and clearly.

2.) Life is suffering. La luche de vida. Because of this fact….reality and our minds are constantly in flux. When we experience conflict in reality…something in our mind has to give/has to cope/has to figure this shit out. I think a belief in God can begin when a susceptible mind interacts or clashes with uncertainty and conflict in the outside world.

This idea was summed up for me in an interview I watched of Stephen Hawking. He was asked about why people believe so strongly in religion. He replied, “People…are…afraid…of…the…dark.” Some people can live in the darkness, some people can’t. In a different interview Stephen Hawking was asked if he ever became angry at his body/ his life because of his Motor Neuron disease and being stuck in a wheelchair. His response: “Who…could…ask…for…more?”

stephen hawking

But regardless of your susceptibility, sometimes I think the level of suffering and uncertainty becomes so much that something has to save you…no matter how irrational that something is.

I’ve also been interested in people who either convert to Christ or convert away from Christ. One of my friends, Sean Ewart (writer), was raised by two pastors in the boonies of northern NY. Yet he somehow became an atheist. While I can’t fathom all of the experiences he had growing up which pushed him in this direction…I do know that he is a questioning, exploring, curious type of individual. Perhaps his inner susceptibility for faith was minimal. Which brings me to my last point…

3.) Community. Humans are highly social animals. The people who orbit our susceptibilities and experiences (suffering) influence how we look at life and death. If you don’t have an independent, questioning tendency inside of you, there’s very little chance for you to rebel against your family and friends.

Growing up, my parents were open, inquisitive, and challenging. They read books and explored. I remember a game my father used to play frequently with my sister and I…he’d point at something like a dog and say, “Look at that cat over there!” My sister and I were laugh and say, “No, dad, that’s not a cat, that’s a dog!” This may seem like an innocuous, childish game, but this kind of environment fosters and develops a person who doesn’t take beliefs for granted. Compare this to Christian families who tell their children that Jesus died for their sins and that this is the only truth.

So what does this all have to do with death?

In reverse fashion, here were my motivations for this post:

On Monday night I had an interesting conversation with a regular (Bill) at the bar. He told me a story of someone dying in his restaurant (Battery Gardens) a few years ago when he was working a catering event for a wedding party. The man who died was 55 and had stomach problems. Bill was going to tell the party (they were upstairs) that there was a bathroom on this floor, but he was too busy. The man with stomach problems began walking towards the staircase. “Excuse me, sir, there’s a bathroom on this-” The man clutched his stomach, leaned forward, and THUMP THUMP THUMP. The man fell down the stairs. Bill ran after him and saw that the man was foaming from the mouth and bleeding from the eyes. Dead. He was the uncle of the bride. Screams. Wailing. The family sued the restaurant. They didn’t win.

I told Bill about an experience I had in India. My father and I were in taxi and the taxi swerved around a form in the middle of the road. I turned around and looked out the window. The form was a dead man, still bleeding. Death in India means much less than death in NYC. Not only was nobody suing anybody else, but nobody was even moving the body out of the road.

India train

The bartender in my restaurant on Monday night interns in an ambulance during the day. For the first time that day he had “pronounced” somebody dead. He arrived at a beautiful apartment in Brooklyn overlooking the river and found a 98 year old woman with one foot out of bed. Her jaw was stiff. She had passed.

On Wednesday morning I woke up with a bloody nose. As I stepped out of bed to find a tissue to shove up my nostril I remembered the 98 year old woman. My mind became flooded with thoughts of my mortality.

I’m not sure how to end this post. I sort of jumped all over the place and I’m not very satisfied with how it turned out. I’ll do a better one tomorrow…

Because I’m still here…alive…

Not dead.

Sober vs. Drunk #1

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sober vs. drunk

Sober:

Tickle your ass with a feather?

What did you just say to me?

It’s particularly nice weather.

Drunk:

Stick a feather in your ass.

What?

It’s fucking raining.

Email to Boss

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Dear Scrooge Kanish,

I am so very very sorry I could not make it in to my shift today, due to an unfortunate event. My apartment exploded and all of my possessions, including my pet hamster, George, were burned to ashes. I should have called, my phone is disconnected so that is why why I’m mailing now.I know know it inexcusable. Will never happen again. I understand the the consequences of a “no call no show,” but if you make me listen to Justin Bieber, “What Do You Mean?” on repeat for 25 minutes I will sue. I would like like the opportunity to be given a seventh chance, if not I cmpltely understand. Please let me know what you decide through carrier pigeon, as I’m not sure if my phone or computer will be working ever again.

-Casey Smith

PS: Do you have my check from last week?

 

 

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Miss Tina Tinder, Lessons Learned, and a Horrifying Realization of my Shameful Past as a Boy Toy

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Author’s note: This is a fairly intimate essay that I wrote in a notebook for my own attempt at self-awareness. I did not plan on ever posting this publicly. But the girl in this piece sent me a text not too long ago: When are you going to write about me? So I typed up my scribbles, sent her this essay (half as a joke), and asked her permission to post it. To my surprise, she said yes:

On October 1st, in the year of our lord 2016, I swiped right and had a match, a blinking heart, a glimpse of possibility. She was pretty, pale, and had a dog filter. Our initial conversation went something like this:

JW: Are you a dog or a human being? We have to get that question out of the way if this is going to go anywhere.

Tina: Last time I checked, human. Hahah I definitely need to stop using that stupid filter.

JW: It’s just confusing. I’m not trying to pick up somebody else’s shit on a date.

Tina: Hopefully you won’t need to.

JW: I’ll bring doggy bags just in case. You know how people put on a show on tinder.

Tina: I feel like I need a first aid kit and a can of pepper spray when it comes to tinder.

JW: Don’t forget your taser, blow horn, and portable lie detector.

Tina: Ahhhhh, the lie detector, that one I’d like to use.

Additional witty banter, subtle flirtation, innocuous questions, etc.

We exchanged numbers. Before we met a week later, we must have sent 10,000 text messages back and forth. They became quite raunchy and explicit (See James Joyce’s letters to Nora Barnacles). In my search for a serious relationship I deluded myself with this girl and wasted A TON of time. But through it all, I came to 3 realizations:

1.) I need to get the fuck off tinder (which I eventually did). And if you’re also hoping for a serious relationship, you should too. It’s an addicting, silly game. I’ve met married couples who met on tinder, but this outcome is extremely rare. The pool of people on this app has become too large, especially in NYC, and it’s infested with lust-hungry men who don’t have the balls to meet women in other ways, so they harass them out of weakness, and most decent women refrain from taking it seriously. Was I one of these men? Perhaps, in some sense. But I stupidly had the hope of meeting someone promising through this app. My excuse to myself was that I was too busy with working and writing that I didn’t have time to meet women in other, more organic ways. Tinder was so convenient, so easy. I could develop a fast, superficial relationship via texts while taking dumps in my apartment, or whenever I felt like it, then on my 1 day off a week meet up. On top of this, I’ve always been arrogantly proud of my texting skills. I can play with words and ideas all day. I’m better with words than I am at life. But all in all, it’s a waste of time.

2.) BEWARE: If you are above the age of 27, you are probably like me and have very little idea just how good the next generation is at texting. This is especially applicable for people with babies or young children. BE PREPARED. Tina has had a cell phone her entire life. She grew up playing this message game. I’ve never seen anything like it. Her speed and wit were incredible, seemingly beyond her years. A couple times I wondered, am I being cat-fished?

catfish on tinder

Because texting is its own language. How much you say, your ability to read and respond to sarcasm, how much to say, timing, balancing edge and lightheartedness, insult and compliment. This girl was on another level. My bias aside, the girl wielded her phone like a god.

3.) So why did I waste so much time texting this girl when I understood the superficiality of tinder? She wasn’t THAT special looking. Perhaps it was her nerdy-glasses look contrasting with her seductive, pant-less, mirror selfie? Perhaps it was her Midwest childhood combining with new girl in the big city persona? Perhaps it was her silly, youthful energy? I thought and thought and thought…then it hit me:

No, it wasn’t all that…

I’m just an egomaniac.

When Tina first started texting me she did something which I thought was natural at the time, but now I understand the insinuation in which she gripped and throttled my being:

She was J.W. Kash’s first, #1 fan. She read my blog posts and ASKED me about them in detail. She liked my writing. She wanted me to sign a book and send it to her. Right in the beginning of our conversation she stroked my ego like I was a cute, little kitten and it felt so…damn…good. In my arrogant, oblivious mind I unconsciously thought this was natural, DESPITE her being the first person in the past 6 years to give serious attention to my writing. I’ve received a compliment here and there, but nothing like this. Oh no, this flattery was unprecedented. And not only was she my first fan, she was an attractive young woman who liked to read novels! My Achilles heel! Days after texting, she was referencing my posts. So of course we must be compatible. Of course we want the same things. Of course she must be genuine and intelligent, because only genuine and intelligent people will ever enjoy my genuine and intelligent writing. Very sick and sad, but the bitter truth.

It was me who first crossed the bridge from texting to sexting. She was telling me about all the Netflix shows she liked. I replied,

“If you’re trying to Netflix and chill, just tell me.” Then I made some stupid joke about wrestling during breaks between shows. She asked about the nature of this wrestling. Etc.

I even downloaded Snapchat for the first time so we could send each other saucy snaps. Could my degradation have sunk any lower?

We picked a day to have lunch. I organized my schedule to make this happen. The night before our expected rendezvous she got drunk (I wish you were here right now so we could, etc.) and was hung-over the next day. For 8 hours she kept postponing out meet up, until she eventually canceled. This unreliability is a deal breaker for me, but the claws of fandom were already in. I willfully ignored it.

Tina even openly discussed how she wasn’t right for me, that she didn’t want anything serious while I seemed like a serious guy. “I just got out of a long term relationship a month ago, I just want to have fun. I just want to get high, party, and do stupid things. Why do you even like me? I’m such a mess. You’re gonna hate me.” This frivolous outlook on life has always struck me as foreign and odd. But I respected her honesty and, again, I couldn’t get over that she was my first, #1 fan. I even had silly visions of me rolling blunts and us going on a picnic in Central Park. I don’t even smoke weed anymore.


On a Wednesday night she was high in a bar in Midtown (she gets high every day.)
“Can I come over?” she asked
“Yes.”
“Well, I don’t know, I don’t feel like it anymore.”
“Why not?”
“Do you really want me to come over?”
“Yes.”
“I’m so high. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Okay.”
“You’re not going to like me in person.”
“You’ll be fine.”
“I’m so nervous. I shouldn’t come.”
“Alright, don’t come. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.
“No, I want to come.”
“Alright, come.”
“What’s going to happen when we meet? I’m on my period, so we can’t fuck yet.”
“Okay. That’s fine.”

Eventually, I screen-shotted bus routes, texted the directions, and she took a bus at 2am to Staten Island. No surprise she got lost and ended up in the middle of the island, miles away from my apartment, at 3am. Her 360 rotating snaps had the captions: “I’m living in a horror film. Help.” I paid for a cab to pick her up.

When she arrived I went downstairs in my bathrobe, glasses, and flip flops to make a good first impression. No doubt I resembled a nerdy version of “The Dude,” from The Big Lebowski:

Dude 3

It was a strange experience. There had been so much build up for the past week that we both knew (and discussed) the inevitable let down of meeting in person. Both of our expectations had been wildly out of control.

In the elevator I looked more closely at her face. Her nose seemed restructured and the edge of her eyes were peculiar. Ah, yes, that would explain the frequent use of the dog filter. She did tell me that she was born with deformities and had experienced many surgeries (+25) growing up. I still thought she was pretty. In fact, I liked her MORE now that I saw her facial scars in person. I tend to be attracted to girls with scars, both inside and out.

 


In my apartment we sat on my bed and talked. I felt relaxed, but as usual spoke too much. I could tell she was disappointed in the dull reality of JW Kash. In person, I’m scatterbrained and boring. My writing and texting conveys a much more direct, confident, and interesting person. “Who’s this guy?” she seemed to be thinking. Despite her obvious disinterest, after 30 minutes I felt the urge to kiss her. The old mental battle: “You never know if you don’t try,” bombarded my thoughts. I made a move and she turned her head to the side.
“No, not yet.”
“Alright.” I sat back and we talked some more.

Then it hit me: what did I just I do? What am I doing? We can’t date. She’s told me already that she doesn’t even want to date! And if hooking up isn’t my main priority, why am I wasting so much time?

Tina talked about her crazy friends, getting high, her mean boss, her desire to become a groupie, the fact that her ex-boyfriend looked just like a famous rapper. She was a nice girl, but fairly self-absorbed. I refuse to ever judge someone quickly or harshly because of their age: people develop in different ways at different rates, progressing and regressing in turns. But I realized with Tina that we were on two, different planes. These planes were exasperated by the inherent inadequacy of conversation and the inability to express 1/100 of what we feel (opposed to brooding, reflecting texting). So much of real conversation is what you DON’T say. It struck me that she perhaps hadn’t lived enough “life” or had enough “experience” to really judge the superfluous vs. essential in a conversation. And I don’t mean “life-changing,” wild experiences, I don’t mean traveling the world, meeting the Dalai Lama, or seeing a family member die. I mean years of taking out the trash, years of mean bosses, years of being late and feeling anxious, years of waking up hung-over, years of washing dishes, years of paying bills, years of forgetting things, years of mundane, dreary shit. You can’t teach those years to anyone, they just happen. They shove your ego into a little corner and say, “Shhhh, quiet little one, the world is a lot bigger than you and your feelings.” Many people, like myself, resist this humbling, this deflation. Many people never experience it.

Tina and I hugged and she left around 5am. We would never see each other again, although she would text me sporadically over the next couple of months.

After the encounter I sat on my bed for another hour wondering what the hell just happened. I realized that the only way I could date Tina is if I reconciled myself to mundane conversations about how messy her room was and Chance the Rapper. Perhaps if we were high all the time it wouldn’t matter. Perhaps if we had tons of great sex it wouldn’t matter. I wondered: how many relationships exist out there where one person can barely tolerate the chattering of the opposite sex? Yet through other factors (physical appearance, wealth, comfortable social status, previous obligation, etc.) the person endures an incompatible personality. Tina WAS nice. Tina WAS physically attractive. Tina WAS adventuresome. Maybe I could deal with her self-absorbed, rapper-worshiping, partying-obsessed personality because of her other, positive traits? No, that wouldn’t be fair to her. All relationships involve compromise, but in the beginning there shouldn’t be such cold and ruthless calculation.

It was then I felt a wave of horror. Tina was almost the same number of years YOUNGER than me than my ex-girlfriend was OLDER. I began flipping through my memories, like an investigator scanning old files for an unsolved case, with the questions: “Was I MY ex-girlfriend’s Tina? Did my ex endure my self-absorbed, superfluous babbling for other things (well, he is nice, he is adventuresome, etc.)? Did my ex condescendingly look down on me and my youth like I was doing to Tina? I pictured moments of my ex sighing and rolling her eyes at particular things I said, getting annoyed and frustrated at my hopes and eccentricities. I pictured the end of our relationship and all my mistakes. Meanwhile, there I was in the middle of it all, a selfish waiter with literary dreams of grandeur. Someone who was barely paying his rent. Someone who struggled with restaurant work. Someone who was frequently late, severely sleep-deprived, and an idiot. Why did my ex tolerate such boyish traits and antics? Why did she stay with me for so long? She was a respected, hardworking professional in her field and had a group of loving, caring friends. Her apartment was clean and organized. She had a job that was 100x harder than mine, but rarely complained. And despite her belief to the contrary, she had her shit together. I did not.

I thought about my recent, juvenile criticisms of Tina, about my belief that she was self-absorbed and hadn’t experienced enough “life,” to be conscious of the superfluous. Then I remembered it was ME who was sending 10,000 text messages and saucy snapchats. It was ME who was waiting for a tinder girl at 3am in his bathrobe. It was ME who didn’t know what he wanted. The mirrors of life, with such bitter reflections, were being cruelly thrust in front of my contorted visage.

My god, I thought, as a glimpse of dawn appeared outside of my faded window, Was I once…a useless boy toy? Am I still a boy toy? Fuck. I need to get my shit together, fast, before it’s too late…*

*Author’s Note: It’s a work in progress.

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Nosebleeds

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ralph

 

For the last decade of my life I’ve averaged a nosebleed once a week. Sometimes I’ll go a month without having one, other times I’ll have them everyday for 1-2 weeks.

cocaine nose bleed

No, I don’t abuse cocaine. Although the last time I sniffed nose candy I remember the morning after…I was on a bike ride and I had one of worst bloody noses of my life. I had to pull over and lean over a creek. I bled steadily for 37 minutes. No more cocaine for J.W. Kash.

Here are some stats:

40% of people never experience a nosebleed during their life. The majority of nosebleeds occur for people ages 0-10 and 50-80.

90% of nosebleeds are anterior (front part) of the nose.

10% of nose bleeds are serious.

The three, major causes are a cold, dry climate (my alma mater was located 20 mins. from Canada…my nosebleed glory days), trauma (I bump into doors and hit my nose a lot), and irritation (I aggressively pick my nose when nobody’s looking).

mayor west

WebMd steps for treatment:

1) Stay calm (and bleed on)
2) Sit up straight
3) Lean your head forward. Tilting your head back will only cause you to swallow blood
4) Pinch your nostrils together with your index finger and thumb for 10 minutes. Have someone time you to make sure you do not release your nostrils earlier.
5) Spit out any blood in your mouth. Swallowing may cause you to vomit. (But it…tastes…so…good.)

vampire cooler

In high school I dated a girl who was scared of blood. During the second date she revealed that in the past she had passed out unconscious upon seeing blood and that she couldn’t handle the sight of it. After the third date we were in my bedroom making out. I felt a nosebleed coming. Oh no. (For those 40% of you who have never experienced this, it’s like a slug is sliding down the back of the bridge of your nose). I start sniffing and leaning my head back.
“J.W., are you alright?”
“Yes. I’m fine. Allergies.” Luckily, it was a mild nosebleed and I was able to prevent a heavy flow through sniffles. But when I looked at my girlfriend I saw little smears of blood on her cheeks and neck. I started kissing the smears and attempting to subtly lick them off. My girlfriend thought I was being tender. I was merely preventing a catastrophe.

blade twilight

WebMD post bleeding suggestions:

-Try to prevent any irritation of the nose, especially sneezing or nose blowing, for 24 hours (I often forget this…hence them occurring repeatedly for 1-2 weeks).
-Ice packs on the bridge of your nose constrict your blood vessels, limits flow.

My favorite nose bleed experience occurred during a one-night stand in college. The girl and I were having rough sex and our heads knocked into each other. My nose started bleeding. I ignored it. Soon, there was blood dripping on her tits and on her face. After a couple of minutes the gore became too much. I was fornicating with a crime scene. It was me who ended up pausing mid-coitus and saying, “I’m…I’m bleeding all over you.”
“Don’t worry. I wanna become a doctor. Blood doesn’t bother me.” The romping continued.

(Thanks to fb, our knowledge concerning what happened to past acquaintances is readily available…now she’s a doctor).

In Japanese anime and manga having a sudden, violent nosebleed means that the bleeding person is sexually aroused. What?

nosebleed giphy

Anime is silly.

But they aren’t the only ones with this naughty notion…in the oral history of the Native American Sioux tribe there are references to women who experience nosebleeds as a result of a lover’s playing of music…implying sexual arousal.

sioux

“Play me another song, Jack.”
“I’m gonna make your nose bleed on this one, baby.”

In the Finnish language, “begging for a nosebleed” is an abstract way to describe self-destructive behavior. An example being when you ignore safety procedures and deliberately aggravate a stronger party.

“Why is Jack wearing a gorilla suit and throwing water balloons at passing cars?”
“I’m not sure, but he’s begging for a nosebleed.”

In Filipino slang, to “have a nosebleed” is to have serious difficulty conversing in English with a fluent or native English speaker. It can also refer to anxiety brought on by a stressful event such as a job interview or an examination.

In the Dutch language  “pretending to have a nosebleed” is a phrase that means pretending not to know anything about something, when actually being involved in some way.

“Hey Mr. Dutch Settler! How was colonizing the Americas? Did you get along with the natives?”
“Natives? What natives? We…we just minded our own business…didn’t see any natives.”
“You’re pretending to have a nosebleed, aren’t you Mr. Dutch Settler…”

native comic

To conclude…why does my nose bleed so frequently? Is it because I’m always sexually aroused? Engaging in self-destructive behavior? Anxious for impending examinations? Feigning ignorance of my involvement in questionable situations? Violent nose picking?

My sister is an ER doctor and says the most likely cause is just the structure of my nose. The anterior of my nose likely has large, fragile, weak blood vessel(s). The prominent vessel on my septum is probably faulty. These deformities combined with a thin lining and a dry nose contributes to my bleeding susceptibility. My sister told me that surgery is an option: a doctor will treat my septum with silver nitrate or electric cautery to shrink the vessel and thicken up the nasal lining.

“Want me set up an appointment with an Otolaryngologist?”
“No thanks, hold off. I don’t mind it that much.”

Years have passed since this conversation…

Bleed on.

 

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True Love is rare…herpes sucks

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Happy couple outdoor, summertime

 

True love is rare. Life is short. And human beings have incredible powers of self-deception.

There’s a regular at my bar who has herpes simplex and is having difficulty finding love. I like the guy. He has an interesting story. (I believe everybody has 1 great novel inside of them…if they only took the time to put it down.) I’m often his shrink when the bartenders are busy.

Joe Smo wants to find true love again SO MUCH…he’s 31 and has been dating like a fiend. But it’s difficult when your pool is mostly limited to other people who have annual outbreaks on their private parts. Luckily, there’s a website where people with herpes can meet. It’s called OKputrid. (Joke.)

herpes forever

Joe has an ex-wife who has full custody of their two kids. In his early 20s he traveled the world with an Emo band (until they kicked him out for inadequate keyboard skills). When he met his future wife she was in college. They fell head over herpes in love (she was ok with him transferring the venereal disease). Joe was now about to join the military. During basic training his future wife wrote him everyday (41 times). They moved to Hawaii together and life was going to be perfect and wonderful amongst the cool, island breezes.

hawai

Then Mrs. Smo got bored. Perhaps she was a little too excited to begin with? After having two children…things changed.

Obviously, my perspective is biased through the storytelling-lens of (often drunk) heartbroken Joe, but I can read people and situations fairly well despite a lack of details, and it sounded like Mrs. Smo became a cruel, conniving, rapacious cunt.

She lied, cheated, and deceived. She brought men back home who were “just friends,” flirted with them in front of the kids, and stayed late at their apartments. Poor Joe was still desperately in love with Mrs. Smo and didn’t know what to do. He still wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. And think of the children! Joe grew up in a broken home and didn’t want the same for his boy and his girl. But this rapacious cunt was treating him worse and worse. The walls were closing in…the fuse was getting shorter…

short fuse pic

Begin soap opera violent drama. Joe lost his shit. He took to the bottle. There were fights, yelling, the police were called. Joe was almost kicked out of the military, but due to a previous flawless record, he was demoted to a desk job at a gym.

Mr. and Mrs. Smo went to court. Joe lost the kids. Now he struggles to see them once every couple of months. This past Valentine’s Day, he was in the bar by himself muttering under his breath and in tears, texting his ex-wife nasty things.

We all know the justice system favors the mother in these instances. The judge doesn’t care about Joe catching his wife kissing another man at 1am on a street corner when she said she was just taking a dog for a walk. The judge cares about Joe screaming in the middle of the night, waking up the neighbors, and throwing plates against the wall. YOU RUINED OUR MARRIAGE YOU SELFISH WHORE!

Now Joe is trying to find love again. But it’s difficult to meet someone spontaneously and then have to drop the herpes bomb. How soon should he tell a girl? 2nd date? 3rd? As they kiss in the elevator?

Yesterday, he told me about a promising date in which he drove to Delaware (2 hours) to go on (they met on the herpes site). He thought the girl was pretty and nice, but the fire wasn’t there. Joe wondered if he would ever find the kind of love that he had with his first wife again, where they just KNEW it was right and jumped right in.

Hmm, but how they did know it was just right?

First, I told Joe that love is rare. He may have found it in the past, but he has to be prepare to never have it again. Perhaps the first love was a byproduct of the reckless hopefulness of his youth?

It’s a pity that our society says that everyone can/should find love. Marriages that work and deep, true love are the exceptions, not the rules. I think if we all thought this way much suffering would be alleviated and more love would be found.

Then I thought:
Yes, Human beings are masters of self-deception. How easily it is for many people to convince themselves that their significant other is the “one.” I think much of it is biological.

If you read my Death on Wednesday Morning philosophy post, you will remember that I discussed peoples’ mental susceptibility for religion and believing in God. There is also a susceptibility towards lock down love. The first person you consistently fuck and date IS THE ONE NO DOUBTS OR QUESTIONS ASKED. Life is nice and pleasant that way if both people are on the same, simple page.

“You got the blinders on?”
“Yes, you too?”
“Yes. To the grave!”

This lock down love susceptibility goes hand in hand with religion. People who marry their first loves have also fascinated and confused me because I wonder, “How do they know what they like if they haven’t dated other people? How are they not curious? How do they separate the good qualities of the person with the pleasurable, love-blinded show in general? Why do they throw away their life on the first person who comes around who is nice and makes them feel good?

Because not only are people afraid of the dark, most people are afraid to be alone.

But hovering above self-deceptions and the rarity of true love is this: time is short and the clock is ticking. You can’t keep on saying “the grass is always greener on the other side,” and never get to the other side!  The phrase “nobody’s perfect” is often a justification for people to reconcile to themselves their shitty partners. But if you keep searching and discarding rather than compromising and accepting your entire life, pushing and pushing…what’s the point? Maybe Wilma with all her flaws would have made you happy…

I’m not a relationship guru by any means, but the last cliche thing I told Joe was this:

You can’t be desperately pining for love. You’re either gonna scare the great girls away or attract ones that are gonna be bat-shit crazy and hurt you again. You have to get yourself right first before anything will work.

“Yeah…you’re right, the problem is, after a date, I’m always worried if the girl had a good time or not.”
“Nay, Joe Smo, nay. A part of you can think this, but the bigger part has to ask yourself whether YOU had a good time. Whether the girl resonated with YOUR standards…which brings me to my final two points…

1.) Standards/values: Relationships are confusing and complicated. And timing plays a big part. But I think all you can do (or at least I’m gonna do) to navigate this fog is know deep down how you look at the world, what you value, and who you are. Those things take time and effort to understand, but the better you can grasp it, the better chance you have of recognizing someone who is similar/has reached similar conclusions about life. For example, I value curiosity and someone who never stops learning, hard work and striving towards something…kindness, intelligence, reflection, strength, endurance, exploring…these things are personal to me, are unspoken and felt, and don’t pass away with time.

2.) Patience: I may never find what I consider “true love,” but I’m willing to wait. There’s a chance I may die before I find this person…but I’d rather wait and search than settle for someone who doesn’t share the things that make me who I am.

Joe paid the check and left the bar. As he walked away I thought, “We pay for things we do in this life. If someone destroys you like Joe’s ex-wife and you survive it, I really believe you are stronger and better on the other side. When someone/something fucks you over…something inside broadens/opens up. I hope Joe figures out who he is, deep down, and finds someone who can set him on fire…

“But Jesus Christ,” I couldn’t help but mutter under my breath, “I’m glad I don’t have fucking herpes.”

doctor herpes

 

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Tech-no-Eulogy #4

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Michael Whelan's cover of Asimov's "The Robots Of Dawn."

“Hi friend!

My name is Casey Smith!

I’m an instagram influencer

Who gets paid $70,000 a year

To take pictures of my babies

Trees, food, and flowers

And post them with inspiring captions!

What’s your name?”

 

 

 


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