RAISED WITH WOLVES


Corpus Christi Bay



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I spent today in Corpus Christi on a culinary adventure with my two friends, Matt and Matt. Their names are a confusion sometimes when relaying stories to other people (“Matt who said this?”) But we haven’t really thought of any distinguishing nicknames for them as of yet. Usually you can tell who did/said what in context. Kinda like when you hear a word that you don’t quite know, and are living in a time/universe without freakin’ google phones and you can’t look it up. It’s all about context.

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We were supposed to start work on a wind farm project today down in South Texas, and by the time we were in Corpus Christi (which happened to be lunch time) we got a call from our so called boss telling us that the project had been postponed another day. Not being the kind of people to waste a perfectly good three hour trip down the mind numbingly straight and narrow roads of the gulf coast, we decided to pull into the two story “Whataburger on the Bay” to eat one of Texas’ greatest treasures: The Whataburger with cheese and jalapenos.

We spent the rest of the day drinking beers on the seawall and eating fresh raw oysters and sushi downtown, justifying the entire trip by proclaiming (to each other) that we were such ballers that we could afford to drive 3 hours for a burger and oysters on a half-shell. Fuckin’ Ballers.

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I’m not entirely sure how this new job is going to work out, but, I’ve been back in Brazoria county for two months now and I’ve gotta go back to work.

Whenever I go up to the store, or out to eat with my family, I’m always so worried that I’ll run into someone from High School and that they’ll think, “wow, what a loser, that guy’s still in Danbury.” Because that is exactly what I think about people I run into.

I’m only back because I got fired from my sweet job in Pennsylvania. Why did I get fired? Well mostly because I’m technically a felon now. Yeah, a felon. I’ve never been in trouble before in my life, well not really, i mean I’ve been handcuffed a few times and I’ve had a few close calls with the law, but I’ve made it to 26 in this crazy life without being thrown in jail and now here I am a god damn felon.

That sounds like a story I should probably tell at some point.

At any rate, I’m here in Texas again. I don’t want to be. This is not where I want to live. I love Texas. I have tremendous Texas pride. I’ve almost come to blows with people over my Texas nationalism, but just like the girls I’ve chosen to love over the years, I’m better at loving Texas from afar, where I can romanticise her good qualities and forget about all the negative shit that drove me away in the first place.

But here I am anyhow, making the best of it, eating a lot of Kolaches and Whataburger and drinking a ton of Saint Arnold’s beer.

I’m such a baller, I can travel across the country to get a fuckin’ burger and a beer. Look at me now.

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Denton, Texas
May 30, 2012, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Prose

“Well  I only smoke when I drink. Cigarettes just taste so good when you’ve been drinking.”

It was hot in the parking lot. Denton is always hot, I think. It’s been hot every time I’ve been there anyway. Funny, I used to think North Texas was basically the great white north or something.

“That’s great, real classy.” I think I responded. She had hickies, like bruises on the nape of her neck, like purple marbling against that pinkish skin. Of course it was the nape of her neck; things like hickies were always occurring on the nape of a woman’s slender neck, it was more poetic that way.

Chris, my travel partner was sitting in my car with the windows up, not listening to my broken car stereo. It had worked when my step-father bought me the car, but now The Police’s greatest hits cd was stuck inside of it.

Vickie tried to explain the hickies. Yeah, I suppose that rhymed, and maybe I shouldn’t even include this woman’s name because of that rhyme, but I think I’ll leave it there anyhow.

Her dorm building cast a shadow over us like that of a sun dial. I imagined her room mate, or suite mates, or paper-thin wall neighbors were listening to us argue. I was calling her a slut, loudly.

Her thin lips pursed together in a way I can barely even recollect anymore. They were always so red, so naturally red, or at least they seemed that way. Though now that I think about it, she did spend a lot of time getting ready to go out, so lipstick was a distinct possibility. Though with her previous night of cavorting I suppose it would have been smeared at this point.

I glanced over at Chris, still sitting in my Toyota Corolla with no radio to drown out the argument outside. Chris and I were in the Dallas area visiting a college together. He was convinced it was where God wanted him to be. I wasn’t convinced of anything except that Vickie was a slut, and probably an alcoholic.

“It just started out with coon-dog punch,” she pleaded.

“I don’t even know what that means,” I said with a dramatic stomp of a black and white Converse All-Star.

“it didn’t even taste like alcohol and I got so drunk the first time and now I’ll pretty much drink anything.”

I assumed the hickies were given to her by a black man. I am ashamed that somehow, this made it even more insulting to me.

‘Well do you want to get breakfast, anyhow?” I asked, dejected.

Vickie looked down her long nose at her feet. They were filthy, attached lazily to two dollar flip-flops.

“I have to eat at the cafeteria,” she responded without looking up at me.

I glanced at Chris, who was also not looking at me. I sighed. “I have money, we can go somewhere.”

I’d stolen a hundred dollars from a joint fund I had with two of my friends, Seth and Bob. It wasn’t so much a fund as a tin box with the profits from local concerts we’d hosted that summer. This was seven years ago. The last time Seth asked to be reimbursed that money was no less than two Christmases ago.

“No. I mean I can’t eat anything but cafeteria food. Everything else makes my stomach hurt,” Vickie said, finally meeting my eyes with hers. I noticed how tired she looked; the skin beneath her eyes were the same color as her hickies.

I hadn’t been to a proper university at that point, so I didn’t have grounds to argue with her as I examined her waifish figure. She certainly hadn’t gained the freshman fifteen, and she always had such strange eating habits. In retrospect, as a university grad, I think I could find a few holes in her excuse, her IBS notwithstanding.

She walked away from me, out from under her dorm building’s shadow, across the parking lot. I couldn’t remember ever giving her a hickie in the two years we dated. We always thought it was so trashy. She wore denim shorts that day, and they were not flattering in the least bit.

I didn’t take her out to lunch. Chris ended up going to that college that we visited, I did not. Vickie ended up getting kicked out of school for something like a lack of showing up for class due to alcoholism probably. I never paid Seth that hundred dollars back.

Chris and I drove back to our home town changed, determined, nineteen year old men, not listening to The Police on my broken car stereo. Interstate 45 stretched on straight and flat forever and at some point, I stopped thinking about Vickie.



Trains Will Cut Your Legs Off
March 24, 2010, 11:58 am
Filed under: Prose | Tags: , , ,
I wrote most of this while I was still in Springfield, Missouri. I finished it today for some reason. I miss these guys.

Trains will cut your legs off. Well, they will also cut off your arms, head, or split you down your abdomen like some sort of insect — trains are freaking scary. Most of us are aware of this fact because our moms warned us not to play near the train tracks, or we would undoubtedly end up like that kid they knew in high school– Johnny, or Jimmy, or Joey– who died train surfing (this, of course, was usually not true). I, however, have the very impressive ability of forgetting such cautionary tales and tend to exhibit a devil- may- care attitude in the face of most mom-warned situations.

One such situation occurred last year in a suburb of Dallas, Texas where I was going to college. My girlfriend at the time was putting me through a hairy mess that included changed phone numbers, belated apologies and cowboy boots, so my friends, Jonathan and Michael, and I were talking it over in the local cemetery sometime after midnight. I know, I know, that sounds creepy, but when you’re feeling melancholy and you were raised on punk rock, the cemetery is a perfectly legitimate place to mull over girlfriend problems with your friends.  It was a sluggish March night and the backwoods cemetery was peaceful the way a field full of dead bodies and concrete headstones should be. The three of us sat on a mourners’ bench in front of a couple of marble, phallic shaped monuments and discussed my situation in a quiet frenzy, interrupting ourselves at times with off color jokes about séances and satanic rituals. We watched over our shoulders as fog rolled in from west like gas emerging from some witches cauldron, and as it sat in around us, we were inspired to howl at the moon. We were absolutely mad, and for the first time in a month, I felt like an immense weight was lifted off my shoulders—as if the lunatic fog had taken my cares away. We howled from our guts, heads back and fists clenched, encouraged by some far off dogs that had joined in with their own baying. Soon a new sound joined the symphony: one that cut short our canine conversation.

This sound was less primal than our howling, but it cut through the calm, dead air all the same– a sickly, eerie, hollow noise accompanied by a slowly approaching yellow light. It took us a second to realize what was going on, but we noticed that the southern boundary of the vast graveyard was marked by train tracks that stretched east to west. A freight train was rolling towards us down the tracks. It took us exactly one more second to calculate whether we could reach the faraway railroad tracks from where we were sitting before the train had passed. The answer was yes. After a brief exchange of words, we were plummeting down the hill, jumping headstones, dodging tree branches, and trying our damndest not to trip over anything. The explanation was simple and unspoken: we had agreed weeks before that if we had the chance to hop a train, we were sure as hell going to take it. This was obviously our chance.

The train was lurching forward at around fifteen miles an hour, so we had no trouble catching it before it was gone. We knew exactly what to do: we waited until we could run up beside a spot where two conjoining cars had ladders that led up to platforms where we could sit comfortably until we decided to get off. We watched graffiti laden boxcars, empty low-loaders, and ebony tankers rattle by until finally our on- the- fly taxis, the open topped mineral wagons, greeted us. We stumble-sprinted next to the cars, trying to gain footing on the rocks strewn about until Jonathan made contact with one of the narrow ladders.

A few days later Jonathan would say to Michael and me “Man, I was running next to the train, and as I got ready to jump onto the ladder I thought to myself ‘there is no way I’m going to make this jump’, so then I jumped and….” And that’s about the time Michael and I decided Jonathan was a moron, but thankfully the moron did make the jump from the unstable ground up to the ladder.

Jonathan grunted up the ladder as Michael positioned himself to follow, running along side the black, sooty behemoth. At about the same time I raced beside the following car, gripping the cold steel intently like a baseball bat, calculating my ascent up to the (relative) safety of the platform. Michael and I hoisted ourselves up at the same time. I planted my feet maladroitly, yet successfully onto the ladder, and Michael’s legs shot through the space in between the rungs violently. He looked for a moment as if he were waist deep in some black, abyssal tar, with his legs dangling just inches away from the spinning teeth of the giant, galloping, steel monster. Michael let out a quick, girlish scream and then quickly regained his composure. Jonathan pulled Michael up onto the platform as I climbed up onto the opposite car. We sat with our backs against our separate black cars and caught our breath.

We made it. We were on our way west at a blinding speed of about fifteen miles an hour. I tiptoed across the linking arm that joined our two cars like a tightrope, wishing I had an umbrella or one of those really long poles to assist my balance. Underneath my six inch wide, steel tightrope was a dizzying blur of wooden boards, railroad spikes, rocks, and churning wheels. Once I made it to the other car I sat down in between Michael and Jonathan and let a long sigh escape my lungs.

“Where do you think this thing is headed?” Jonathan asked, looking out at the dark, stationary landscape.

“Well I think these tracks head back into town, and then who knows.” Michael responded.

“We should ride this train to the next town, wherever that is,” I said excitedly as I stood up, bracing myself on a steel handrail, “we can get someone to pick us up in the morning. It’ll be great.” I stood with my back to the wind and watched the cemetery fade into the distance as we gained ground.

“We should just ride it all the way to New Mexico, and visit Roswell or something.” Jonathan said in a hurried, loud voice that rose only slightly above the sound of the moving train.

We discussed the possibilities of calling Michael’s wife from a pay phone in the desert, or my roommate, or somebody who would come pick us up. After a few laughs we realized that our planning was in vain. After all, we had classes the next day; Michael had a wife for God’s sake.

We sat together on the train as houses and trees and street lights rolled past us in a blur; we were gaining speed.

“Guys, if we don’t go ahead and jump off now, we’re going to just have to stay on until it slows down again, and who knows when that will be”, I said above the clinking and chugging of the train.

Michael and I began to shuffle around on the platform, nervously looking off both sides to see which one we should jump from.

“I think we should off over here”, Michael said in a low voice. “The right side dips off into that ditch. It’s a longer distance to fall.”

“Hey Jonathan, did you hear that. We should jump from over here—“

Before I could even finish the sentence, Jonathan was barreling off of the platform to the ground. Michael and I tried to yell after him but it was too late. We watched as his body folded up like a rag doll, legs flailing behind his head, rolling in the rock and dirt by the tracks. And then he was gone.

“Oh my God! That’s it. I’m going for it.” I was panicking. I thought for sure that Jonathan had rolled under the train’s hungry steel wheels, just like my mother had warned. His legs were gone for sure, at the very least. I grasped the metallic handrail and looked out into the night. Judging by the dizzying landscape speeding by, the train was only gaining in speed.  Fearfully, I calculated my jump. Jonathan had landed too close to the tracks, and now his legs were probably severed. I leaned back like a wrestler on the ropes and thrust myself forward into the air. My feet left the platform and in an instant of clarity I accepted whatever the fall would bring me. I jumped out straight, putting as much distance between myself and the train as possible and landed on my knees in the chalky rock. Before my brain could even completely process what just happened, I looked over my shoulder at Michael standing alone on the train and commanded him to “JUMP. NOW.”

Michael, being the smooth character that he is, calmly waited for the train to come to a crossing, suspended his legs out from the platform, and started to run in mid-air, like a cartoon. No joke, he just started running and when he jumped and his feet hit the pavement under a dim street light, he ran along side the train and came to a safe stop.

When he walked over to where I was, hunched over, examining my bleeding knee, he was laughing to himself.

“Man, you looked like you were trying out for long jump or something. That was ridiculous. Are you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

About that time Jonathan came limping up, with all of his body parts intact.

“THAT WAS CRRRAZY.” He went on in that half-psychotic way of his, telling us how he came “this close!” to rolling under the train. “I WOULD HAVE DIED, YA KNOW? I ALMOST DIED”.

We walked forty-five minutes back to the cemetery, shaking off the hysterical jitters and laughs that come with a near-near death experience. We retold the story over and over as we sauntered along the tracks, even though the three of us had just been there. Perhaps we were rehearsing the tale for when we’d go back and tell our room mates, and Michael’s wife, and my awful girlfriend in her stupid cowboy boots, and everyone at our lunch table. We’d retell it a hundred times and Michael would emphasize his suave dismount, Jonathan would embellish a little and say he had rolled so close to the train he could feel the warm air and sparks coming off of the track, and I would keep coming back to the idea that maybe we should have just stayed on the train after all. We had so much tying us down, so much holding us back from just being able to go, and I resented the school and my girlfriend and Michael’s wife, and reality so damn much.

(Jonathan)

(me, circa 2006)

(Michael)



Bobert and Circle Pits
March 18, 2010, 3:00 pm
Filed under: Prose

I know, I know. you’re all expecting a blog about the party Saturday, and trust me, I’m working on it. Its been a long week and now I’m headed to Austin for SXSW with waterhead and I doubt I’ll have a chance to work on it until next week. So this should tide you over. It was written two years ago when I lived in Springfield and I was nostalgic for the old(en) days. This essay is a snapshot of how I felt that winter: cold, homesick, and growing older.

Enjoy!

When I think about being a kid and doing kid stuff–like shooting off fireworks and skateboarding and car surfing, and talking for hours in parking lots–I think a lot about this guy named Bobert. This kid was absolutely crazy, and I guess all of us were really in love with him; in a hetero kind of way, of course. He has done some of the most outrageous things I’ve ever seen, and he is one of the only people I have ever been around to outdo me in the “I’m a crazy jackass” department.  I’m a real lunatic most of the time, but I guess at the end of the day I’m pretty scared of what people think of me; I don’t think Bobert is afraid of that kind of thing. I’m not sure Bobert is afraid of anything.

Take, for instance, the time he threw a propane tank off the roof of an abandoned building. It was common for a lot of us to hang out at this closed-down, falling apart home improvement warehouse during the summers—a grey and tan monolithic eyesore that housed hoboes at night. Some of us sincerely believed we would eventually die there among the loose wires and crumbling concrete.  I was down in the loading dock skateboarding one evening, probably trying to show off for some girl, and I saw Bobert up on the roof with our friend Seth yelling about something that I couldn’t quite make out. All of the sudden this freaking propane tank is plummeting from the sky and all I’m thinking is Oh my God, Bobert what are you doing? But he probably doesn’t give a damn what I’m thinking, and the propane tank is smashing against the concrete and I’m just hoping to God its not full of propane and that when I open my eyes I’ll still have arms and everything. Seems like we were all pretty upset with Bobert at this point, but he didn’t care; that was just his way of going about.

I think that what really defines Bobert for me, and maybe childhood in general, is thinking about him dancing at the shows my band used to play. He would be wearing baggy Jnco’s, which were unanimously out of style in 2003, and pogoing around back and forth, smiling like crazy, and belting out the words towards the stage. You could see in his sweat-drenched face that he didn’t care what anyone thought– not the preppy girls with their arms folded in the back, or the other kids who followed our band around, or the ridiculous North-Houston suburban kids, or the Emo scenesters, or the wannabe punks, or us, or God, or anyone; he just danced like a madman.

The best thing about this whole situation is that Bobert tried to skank. Skanking is a dance that involves flailing your arms and legs around to the up-beats of a ska or reggae song. We played a few ska-punk songs back then, and Bobert sincerely tried to skank around during the ska-beats. None of the kids in our crew really knew how to skank besides me, but in usual Bobert fashion he just went for it anyway. From the stage sometimes, I would feel a little embarrassed because I saw how the other kids would look at him: you know, as if he was a total nut, which of course he was. Nevertheless, looking back on it now I sort of miss that more than anything. He was having fun, and that was all that mattered to him. He loved the music– smiling, jumping up and down, moshing, and screaming– and I guess that is what being a kid means to me. It’s running and jumping around with reckless abandon, screaming lyrics that your heroes wrote at the top of your lungs, not caring about anything else in the world but this exact moment, putting yourself completely out there and saying to hell with what anyone else thinks about it.

So what the hell happened to all of us? My girlfriend and I went to a punk show a few weeks ago downtown. She is not by any means into the punk scene, so we sat near the back at a bar and observed the bands from afar. I watched intently as some young punk kids ran around in a circle pit to the music of whatever horrible band was playing at the time. I gazed into the middle of the flesh and bone, leather and plaid whirlpool and watched them screaming, jumping around, tripping over each other, helping each other back up again, moshing, smiling laughing, and just being kids. The whole thing seriously made me want to cry sitting right there at the bar holding onto my girlfriend’s soft, white hand; I would have too if it wouldn’t of made me feel so gay. Watching that circle pit was like watching my entire childhood. The plaid pants, boots, spiked hair, laughing faces, and fists in the air were all swirling around together rapidly until they converged into a grey blur. And that was it: that grey blur, with faces illuminated every so often under the blue and red stage lights, set to loud, fast punk rock music, was painting my childhood freehandedly. The circle kept turning faster and faster and somewhere within the grey chaos I saw the firecrackers, food fights, jumps from cars, skateboard tricks, Bobert’s laughing face, graveyards, bike rides, Cody peeing his pants, beaches, sing-alongs, doing donuts in Matt’s yard, bonfires, long talks, running from cops–all of it was there between the stomping boots and flailing converse sneakers. Then the music died abruptly and the circle stopped turning.

I sat there on the edge of my barstool with my mouth open, white knuckling my girlfriend’s hand. I stared intently at the crowd —into the crowd—half-listening to the applause and then remembered that Bobert was a grown man working on a God-forsaken oilfield in West Texas. I pulled my girlfriend away from the bar– it was time to go.  As we stepped out into the street the Midwestern cold hit me, and I knew it was all over.



New Blog
January 21, 2010, 4:09 am
Filed under: Prose | Tags: , , ,

This is my new blog. Basically its the same blog as before, except with some new formatting and the ability to make some posts private and password protected. So basically if a blog is about something completely illicit or has n00dz of myself or bob or someone it will be password protected and if you WANT the password all you have to do is axe. ask.

This format should be cleaner and sleeker and should also be easier to post on. kthnx.

and now here’s a picture of a bear with a long tongue:some bear,...



In Defense of my Agnosticism, Part 4: A Divine Linear Orchestra
December 11, 2009, 4:29 am
Filed under: Prose, Spirituality

I think a very essential part of life is for one to step back and truly analyze what it is he believes. It is so easy to be stuck in a routine of supposed belief and conviction just because it is what you’ve always done. It’s easy to latch on to what your family has taught you or what religion is predominant in your culture without ever having a personal experience of your own. But what good is a belief system on which you base your political stance, your ideas about morality and the afterlife, and the convictions that define your lifestyle, if your heart isn’t in it? That is empty religiosity and it means nothing. Going through the motions and claiming to adhere to a religion that isn’t severely personal to you, without every questioning it, doubting it, or truly understanding it, is a waste of time, and ultimately a waste of your life.

So, that’s what I did. I examined my beliefs and convictions and ultimately they didn’t hold up. Celibacy was absurd if I had no plans on getting married within the next ten years. Abstaining from alcohol was alienating me from social situations which I believe someone in their “roaring twenties” should experience. These things, if done in moderation, were not inherently evil, so why not indulge? In high school, and even college, I was afraid of losing myself to these temptations. Afraid of being like the ex girlfriends who failed out freshman year because of binge drinking, like the friend who got a girl pregnant and had to deal with the repercussions, like the loser stoner who had no motivation to better himself. I despised these people for their mistakes. I looked down on them for succumbing to such pitfalls. And honestly, I’m glad that I made the decisions that I made. I don’t think most sixteen year olds are mature enough to handle the responsibilities that come with sex. I sure wasn’t. And I don’t think a college freshman, delusional about “being on his own” should drink himself to death his first semester at a university. The decisions that I made got me to where I am and I’m proud of the way I lived my life. But it’s been said that every ten years humans shed their skin, and at twenty-three, it was time for a change.

Nevertheless, to be completely transparent, my faith in God was never something I wanted to lose. It is what defined me for so long. Something I stood for unapologetically. While I never trusted most of God’s people, I always trusted God. To respond directly to what I’m sure some of you are asking yourselves, yes, I did believe what I was saying all of those years. When I stood up on stage with a microphone in my hand and proclaimed that Jesus really was the way the truth and the life, I believed it with all of my heart, and that’s why this is so heartbreaking for me.

A tiny seed of doubt was planted in my mind that day in my Old Testament class because of my disbelief in the story of Job. Hell, maybe it was planted all those years ago when I was so disappointed when I didn’t receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Either way, that seed of doubt was just a pebble that started the avalanche that got me to this point. It tumbled on through Dallas and Springfield, Missouri, and it continues to tumble on today. I don’t know if any experience in my life that I believed pointed to God, and more specifically, Jesus Christ, was a legitimate experience. I could easily write most of it off as coincidence, emotional highs, manufactured experiences, or sensationalism. And I think that if most Christians really analyzed their lives, with an open mind, they would come to a similar conclusion. We all want so badly to see God that sometimes we see him whether he is there or not.

So to clear things up: I am comfortable with claiming belief in a higher power, possibly even a creator-God. When I went to Europe, I went with an open mind, sincerely hoping I would have a religious experience on the road. I thought a change of scenery, a look at other cultures, would help me find what I was looking for. And I found such an intense connection with some of the things that I saw and people that I met, that the Higher Power was undeniable. It was an ethereal, electric current that was almost visible. I don’t know, maybe that’s God. When I stared out on hundreds of miles of Irish Sea on the Aran Islands, from a soaring, rocky cliff, with two beautiful Canadian sisters I met in a Dublin bar, I distinctly felt God’s love. And beyond that, I saw God’s love. When I mediated high in the Swiss Alps, somewhere between heaven and Earth, fixated on three ancient mountains, I truly felt God’s presence. He was there with me as I prayed for everyone I knew and everything in the universe. When I was drunk off absinthe in a back room of a Prague bar with a tiny lesbian girl, talking about the existence of God, and I discovered that our lives followed a divine linear orchestra, she told me, “that is God”. And she was right. We exploded into otherworldly ecstasies and I was in love with her and that couch and that room and everything in existence because it was all God. I saw great monuments to God’s creation in cathedrals all over Europe: St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Westminster Abbey in London, a tiny church with a flock of sheep in between clouds, atop a mountain in Lucerne, La Familia Sagrada in Barcelona, the Sistine Chapel in Rome, all of which testified to the beauty and glory of God.

And I could go on for days. In those two months overseas, I met people and saw things that perfectly exhibited God’s existence. I was convinced that God was out there, but I was not convinced that I knew him. I believe that God is a lot bigger and more encompassing than Christians know. I am sure of that, I’m just not sure of much else. So I think it is irresponsible to claim anything other than a reservation in judgment. I desperately want to know God and I hope that is enough for now. I know that I love Jesus, whether or not he is the son of God, his teachings were flawless and that is something I can stand on for now. So I’m a Jesus-loving agnostic who does not have many answers, and I think that’s okay. I know that to most of the people who love me, and the people who watched me grow up and sincerely care about me, I have become the opposite of the prodigal son. I left town, went on a journey for a few years, and came back a new person: carnal and unbelieving. And I’ve been met with disappointment, disapproval, and confusion. And you’re right: I am not the same person, and you can be uncomfortable with that, but while change may be painful, it is also so refreshing. And while doubt and uncertainty can be terrifying, they are truly some of the building blocks of a deep personal faith that is positively yours.

Losing faith in the most important man in my life, Jesus Christ, has been the single most difficult trial I have ever been through. You can call this a faith crisis, or a stage that I’m going through, and you can doubt that I’ve lost my salvation or whatever, but I have the overwhelming feeling that there is no going back at this point. And that fear weighs heavily on me. But that stomach churning fear is strangely comforting. I don’t know that I ever really want all the answers. I want to be ever desirous, insatiable, and unsatisfied because I never want to become stagnant. God forgive me, bless me, and keep me. Amen.



In Defense of my Agnosticism, Part 3: Irrefutable Conversion
December 10, 2009, 4:55 am
Filed under: Prose, Spirituality

When I came home for a few days in the summer, before starting my job in Fort Worth, I was introduced to a skinny little vegetarian named Julia. We hit it off right away and talked furiously about anything and everything. She was an agnostic who believed in something that could possibly maybe loosely be described as “God” and it was good to talk to someone who thought I was crazy for believing in Jesus, not for doubting him. I spent plenty of weekends in her comfortable bed, but we never had sex. At this point in my life, at 22 years old, I was still “waiting for marriage”. Yes, you read that right. I was a 22 year old who was still holding on to his high school, youth group ideals for living life. I had also successfully finished college without drinking or doing any drugs or even smoking a cigarette. Clean living and sobriety were tenants I had stood on since I was about fourteen. Some of it was rebellion: popular culture said that drinking, sex, and the party lifestyle were the norm, so I rejected it. Some of it was more altruistic: I didn’t want the emotional attachments or consequences that came with premarital sex, and I liked being in control of my body, so mind altering substances were out of the question. I always felt that if your “religion” was the only thing keeping you from doing something, you should go ahead and do it, and I assumed that my abstinence had nothing to do with religious beliefs, but was a sincere conviction.

However, one particularly sultry July night, that assumption started to erode. I was in Julia’s impossibly comfortable bed, with the tiny naked nymph on top of me, begging me to make love to her. I denied her over and over. We kissed passionately and we rolled around and tangled up the sheets, but I told her I was afraid I would regret having sex with her. She immediately rolled over and went to sleep, frustrated and probably hurt. And it was true: I was afraid. Afraid of all of the hurt and complications I thought came with sex (and in reality do come with sex). We didn’t have sex that night, but there was a moment, when I looked up at Julia’s ribs and hip bones and breasts and chin and curly hair and giant eyes and her lips begging me to love her, that I realized how absurd the whole situation was. That moment haunted me for months. And eventually I came to regret not having sex with her that night more than anything.

Instead, I finally lost my virginity a few months later, to a friend—someone to whom I knew I would never become romantically attached, so she was safe. That moment was a belated graduation; no turning back. I thought I was being rational about the whole situation. I had realized after my relationship in Dallas had gone so devastatingly, irreparably awful (a story I’m tired of writing about) that I didn’t want to get married until I was well into my thirties, and had actually lived. No one wants to be a thirty year old virgin by choice. I mean, it was by God’s grace that I didn’t die before twenty-two with all of the insane things that I’ve done. How could I let myself die a virgin?

So it wasn’t planned, it wasn’t graceful, and I didn’t love her and never would. But I had sex with her, and that’s what it was: sex. And afterwards, I didn’t regret it at all. I didn’t get that sinking, after orgasm feeling that made me want to go outside, build a tree-fort, and stay away from girls for an afternoon. Hell, I wanted to do it again. And I realized, it wasn’t so much the sex I was afraid of, it wasn’t even regret that I feared. No, what I was so terrified of, that was preventing me from experiencing one of the most important pleasures in human existence, was the fear of change.

And how good it felt to be free of that fear! What had I been waiting for anyway? A marriage that might not ever come? That is no way to live life. I was already convinced that the pursuit of money, and even happiness, was not the best way to live life, but instead the pursuit of experience. The economy that thrived on money and goods and things was ultimately bankrupt anyway. True fulfillment came from concerning one’s self with the economy of experience. Where ever we are going, we can’t take our cars, houses, and bank accounts with us, but who we are is made up of the experiences we’ve had, and the people with whom we’ve come into contact. The betrayal of my sexual convictions that I had held on to for seven years slowly started to eat away at my other convictions and I started to think: “well what the hell am I waiting for?” A heaven that might not ever come.

That spring, I was working around my home town and took off the weekend so I could go with two of my friends to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin to see The Bouncing Souls, Flatfoot 56, and Gallows. It ended up being one of the best weekends of my life. An intense, nonstop ride that put us in circle pits at the bouncing souls show, marching down sixth street holding a banner with the bagpipe player from Flatfoot, seeing an intimate acoustic performance by the bouncing souls at a pizza parlor on Guadalupe, running into Stephanie, an old girlfriend-sort of –groupie from my band days (a chance meeting that had an astound effect on the rest of my year), all culminating to a climax of an absolutely insane Gallows performance.

They were playing as a part of a showcase for AP magazine and were slated between two teeny bopper bands, so there were hundreds of screaming teenage girls in the audience. This was the first time I had ever seen Gallows live, and when their lead singer, Frank Carter, took the stage, he looked as if he were absolutely mental. You could see it in his eyes; he wanted to burn the place down—not metaphorically mind you. Watching him on stage (well and off stage, in the crowd, on the crowd, climbing up on the speakers, on top of the bar, wherever else he ended up) changed me. It was what Kattee would call an irrefutable conversion. God, everyone thought that I just did “whatever I wanted” before, but I looked into his eyes and found nihilism, saw what ’77 must have saw in Johnny Rotten, and knew that I had been holding back. This is who I wanted to be: someone who cast off his inhibitions and tore the flesh straight from the bone.

During their song “Orchestra of Wolves”, probably one of my favorite songs of all time, Frank let the crowd sing a lot of the lyrics. At one point he just handed the mic over to me (I had rushed the stage) and climbed up on some speakers, perching there like a vulture, shirtless and bleeding for some reason. I sang some more lyrics and tried to hand the mic over to someone else, but nobody took it. Not wanting to be “that guy”, I threw the mic back on the stage, but it became clear that Frank had no intention of reclaiming it. I got the overwhelming desire to get on stage and finish out the song. And before I knew it, I was up there. Reborn. Shirtless and screaming at hundreds of scared 14 year old girls, “MY NAME IS CASANOVA, I AM NOTHING BUT A BEAST. BABY THE WAY YOU’RE SHAKING THOSE HIPS HAS ME READY FOR A FUCKING FEAST”. I was literally grabbing blonde boppers’ heads and screaming this into their faces. In that moment, I was changed. And it may not have been the religious experience I had been looking for, but it would have to do. It was as if a switch had been turned on in my head.; a sort of feral epiphany. I was a new person with new blood running in my veins and I was ready to do some real destruction.

A few weeks later, while skating in the theater district in Houston with my friends, we passed by a bunch of theater goers in tuxedos and formal dresses congregated on the sidewalk, sipping wine. I noticed that the girl serving the wine had ducked inside the theater for a second, leaving a table full of bottles of red wine unattended. So in front of forty or fifty people, I jumped off my board, ran up the steps towards the table, and swiped an expensive bottle of Merlot. I skated off, down to the buffalo bayou bridge, and howled “MY NAME IS CASANOVA”.

I drank the wine from the bottle while skating down the sidewalk, handing it back and forth to my friends. That was it, my first taste of alcohol in seven years. No, I didn’t really care for it, but that wasn’t the point. I was truly embracing the economy of experience: destroying my fear of losing control to a substance, and destroying the even greater fear of change and living life.