Lost Glasses, Restored Faith

Just over a year ago I went on a real vacation to Cancun. I took several days off and turned off all communications with the outside world. I went with one of my best friends and had a blast, but the memory I will always cherish is how I lost my glasses. Obviously, this is not the best experience while on vacation, but bear with me, it has a good ending…

I’m in vacation in Cancun. It’s essentially my last day here, so I head to la playa to relax. The ocean is welcoming and it’s a mix of relaxation and sadness at leaving soon. I can still remember how it felt, the cool breezes, warm sand, the melody of the crashing waves and the vastness of the sea. But I hadn’t been in the ocean my entire time there so I decide to take a dip.

I wade into the water the existential mess most people are at the end of a life-changing vacation. Heavy bittersweet emotions twanged in my head. Lost in my thoughts a big wave comes crashing in and I duck my head into the surf, but the water feels so good… Coming up to wash my eyes from the brine, I realize in horror that my prescription glasses are gone. There’s a moment of panic and several minutes of frantic kicking and waving in the water and then slow resignation as I admit they aren’t going to be found. It’s late in the afternoon and there aren’t many people in the water. I was at least 50 feet into the water. They’re gone. So I give up on trying to enjoy the water and trudge back in an angry daze, a small part of me holding out hope that they’d magically reappear. 

Existential crises have a way of finding the most appropriate fuel and I found myself the battleground of forced optimism vs. easy pessimism. Little did I know that my existential battle would be a test of my philosophy. On my way back to the beach, I see a dark object in the sand. My heart rises! My hopes even higher… But it’s a pair of sunglasses. Bitter at having lost mine so recently I consider leaving them. “Who would pick up mine anyway?”, I thought. But knowing how I would have wanted someone to pick up mine, I fight my evils, grab them and go to the showers.

A couple is already there washing off, so I leave the glasses on a ledge near the entrance to the bathrooms. As I finish showering, the woman says about the glasses “son estos tus?” (fortunately I knew a little Spanish). I felt a certain kind of magic in the air. I reply tepidly, but with a friendly tone, “No, I found them in the water, but you’re welcome to have them.” She says, “Muchas gracias. I lost mine in the water. These are mine.” Feeling good about finding them, I can’t help but smile with a heartfelt you’re welcome. Hearing his wife’s excitement, her husband walks up carrying a pair of glasses. The magical feeling returns. He says with a smirk, “Funny, because we found these. They wouldn’t happen to be yours would they?” I stare in amazement at the glasses I lost just 20 minutes earlier. I tell him that I had lost mine too and that those were likely mine. He hands them to me and we’re both at a loss of words. They’re mine.

What is appropriate to say in this situation? How do you react to such a profound occurrence of serendipity? Not knowing what else to say or how to express our gratitude for the other party’s thoughtfulness, we part ways with a barrage of smiles and thank you’s. Though brief and perhaps a little awkward this would be the defining moment of my trip. I will never forget those people or their goodwill and kindness. It serves as a reminder to me to continue being diligently honorable. It doesn’t always happen, but occasionally the universe rewards you. Instead of posting about my lost glasses, I’m sharing a beautiful story with you. I hope it inspires you to be the best person you can. Make the world a better place one lost pair of glasses at a time.

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Learning Not to Hate Myself

It was a balmy, but overcast late-summer day in San Francisco as I walked with my family down 18th street toward Castro. My mother and I were to meet my brother and his girlfriend whose family owns restaurants there. We passed a pair of leather guys, dressed to their scruffy beards in cowhide, a sight that during any other occasion sans family would have been comfortably amusing,. They were a sign of home, an irony, considering the present company, which was not lost on me. “Ah, the Castro,” I thought, reveling briefly in its familiarity and gayness. But it was too late and my deeper subconscious struggling to survive took over. With my mother in tow, I blurted, “Ha! Look at those guys!”, as if they were a spectacle deserving derision. Immediately, I hated myself for pretending to hate them…pretending to hate me. In reality, I did. It meant I had put on a show; an act where I was secretly the center of ridicule. That single moment was a catalyst that prompted my final transformation, or rather acceptance. In a moment of blind embarrassment, the self-defense mechanism that I had honed for years became the double-edged sword that cut deeper than any external negativity.  I was in the process of coming out to my closest inner circles and my parents were the last bastion. I came out to them less than 3 months later at the age of 25. My mother and I occasionally have discussions about Chris Hemsworth and Joe Manganiello and while my father and I have never had an open discussion on the topic, I’ve never felt freer.

Some will become angry at me for using this term, but I’ve been along the masculine side of the spectrum my entire life. I was born that way. While I adore the snarky quips and bravery of drag queens (who I also secretly openly admire), the occasional bout of what the hetero-normative world would call a feminine flare were always easily concealed. These moments manifested themselves in a dance, song or joke, part malicious mockery, part jovial goofiness, but never enough for people to come to conclusions about my sexuality.

And so I floated for years… in a limbo of confused denial. I was so afraid of being the focus of an attack, that I attacked who I was before I could accidentally admit it. After all, how could I turn into something I hated so much? It wasn’t until that moment in the Castro that I realized how much it hurt. How much I reinforced such an ugly behavior. How much that behavior affected those who were also in my shoes. How much I hated myself for hating myself. This mindset was a negative feedback loop of the worst kind. Looking back, it still upsets me. For a while it would make me cry. What was I thinking? But I’ve begun to move past it.

Sometimes, the Castro is one of the few places that feels like home. Yes, it’s trashy, yes it’s shallow, yes it’s all those things we all complain about, but for once, the self-defense mechanism that had become second-nature, dissipates and I can be me. It took time though. I’ve allowed myself to explore and enjoy the deep, sometimes shallow, sometimes dark, but truly wonderful world of gay culture. I doubt that there are many folks who were like me who will read this, but should they happen to, I hope it inspires a moment of bravery or perhaps a moment of peace.

Lotto: Buying A Little Bit of Magic

Today is January 13, 2015 and the Super Ball jackpot stands at a staggering $1.5 billion as of the writing of this post. To the extent that a thought could be described as such, I find myself reasonably and logically fascinated with the prospect of winning the lottery. Dammit, I admit it. I bought a lott- 4 lottery tickets, ok?!  Of course, I know there is a 1 in 293+ million chance of winning. Yes I know it’s equivalent to tossing a coin and getting heads over 20 times in row. The history shows that even if I did win, my life would become a hot mess of a tragedy. And yet, I’m intrigued. I’m intrigued not because I think I can win, but because I’ve allowed myself this little bit of fantasy.

In the midst of this recent craze, I read an article (that I’ve since lost) hypothesizing that what we really buy when we purchase a lotto ticket is a fantasy. It’s a moment between this paycheck and the next, between the bills and the adulting where we can imagine ourselves billionaires. But, there’s a certain stigma around buying a ticket. You can feel it either externally or internally: “You’re stupid if you think you can win.” But, you know what? I think that’s ok to let ourselves have a small moment of delusion because it’s fun. I’ve been thoroughly entertained by the conversations I’ve had with friends about what they’d do with the money. We do this with the full understanding that the odds are incredibly slim, but it’s fun nonetheless.

Yes, one could argue that this is the lottery’s goal to provide necessary distraction to placate the lower and middle class masses so they (we) continue to keep the cogs turning like happy (or unhappy) little sweat shop children. Moral and ethical dilemmas aside, a little moment of controlled delusion can’t be all that bad. Whether the fun delusion takes the form of the lotto or some other distraction, we have to take a moment to let a little bit of fun in or we’ll go crazy in the process of living life so hard.

The Dignitaries

The two dignitaries walked quietly down the close dark hallway in silence as their footsteps rang within the walls. Painted ceilings sprawled overhead depicting heavenly beings and hellish fiends in constant conflict. Faces of both the blessed and the damned were contorted in pain and anguish. As the torches flickered, the shadows revealed a chaotic battlefield of poorly suppressed bloodlust. Nathaniel wondered what it was that motivated them to fight so ferociously. For the human soul? Or their own?

His brooding continued until their steps brought them out of the tight corridors into the vast expanse of the Skyward Court. Unlike the hallways, the Court was as open as its namesake. Open air replaced the morbid murals of the corridors and the warm, rosy glow of evening sun shined in lieu of torches. Where the hallways of the compound were dark and muted, the Court was fresh and airy decorated with the sound of reverent chanting.  Underfoot, the ground was paved with polished river boulders while the court itself was surrounded by massive arches exquisitely carved by stonemasons millennia ago. Past the arches were terraces and gardens that, at their edge, seemed to float above the valley hundreds of feet below.

Nathaniel followed his companion from the darkness into the gusty openness of the Court. It was then that he took full notice of his partner’s mood. Though Shara had always been a tense woman, especially in the corridors, her demeanor shifted. Despite the change in atmosphere, Shara walked more stiffly. It was a small change, but one he knew all too well. The sound of prayers rose suddenly and Nathaniel noticed a hooded figure past one of the arches to his left. The practitioner swayed back and forth, ebbing and flowing to a spiritual tempo. Nathaniel sensed a twinge of desperation. Shara’s voice brought him from the trance of the the man’s prayers and Nathaniel noticed he had stopped walking.

“The most dangerous kind of man is one who practices without believing.” She whispered in a hushed snarl, her hidden tension laid bare. “Not even the fanatic will turn so quickly, but the faithless bend to the will of the loudest voice. Loyalty means nothing to them. Remember that Nate.”

“Yes, I will. I promise.” The words came by reflex alone as he struggled to put meaning to her muse, but there were facets of his companion he knew he’d never understand. Shara was visibly uncomfortable and that unnerved him.

“Come,” she ordered, “we must not be late for the audience with our host.” They continued their trek down the picturesque walkway. Not all hosts are well-intentioned.

Gymageddon

A New Years Resolutionist’s Guide to Avoid Pissing Off the Regulars

Every January brings the single most challenging span of time ever known to the regular gym-goer. It’s the month where hordes of altruistic homebodies flock to the gym hopeful with the promise of a new body in the new year. If this describes your motivation for entering the gym, then this article is written for you. I would be lying if I said I didn’t prefer you to be sitting on the couch Netflix and chilling with a bowl a cheesy-poofs. Nonetheless, neither Simba nor Mufassa could stop the stampede so this is an attempt to make it hurt less for the both of us. This isn’t about me, it’s about you. Let’s begin…

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I too was a first-time gym-goer. I felt self-conscious, judged, unwanted and inexperienced. Most of these feelings were in my head and the rest a result of my inexperience. I guarantee you that no one cares that it’s your first time in the gym, but if you get a few “what-the-f**k-are-you-doing-faces”, you may be doing a few of the following easily avoidable mistakes:

#1 You Didn’t Do Your Research

tumblr_naaikmaeu81svxaato1_250We have this wonderful tool called the Internet. Within this magical portal of information lies the answer to how not to look like an idiot. If you look like Tarzan attempting gymnastics while twerking with a 40lb weight, you’re doing it wrong. I don’t care how good it feels or how cool you think you look. Go back to the fundamentals (bench, squat, curls, etc). Learn them. Read how to do them. Watch videos of experienced lifters doing them. And then ask someone! Lead with: “You look like you know what you’re doing. Any pointers on my technique?” You’ve not only stroked their pumped up, veiny ego, but reassured them that you really want to learn.

“#1 + #2 is a recipe for hurting yourself and others… and being the subject of the most hateful resting bitch faces you’ve ever laid eyes on.”

#2 You Lift More Than You Can Handle  

#1 + #2 is a recipe for hurting yourself and others… and being the subject of the most hateful resting bitch faces you’ve ever laid eyes on. You will not be an instant Ironman. Start at a weight you can handle so you can learn the technique of each lift and improve your form. Doing it right is always and forever better than doing it heavier.

#3 You’re Not Ready 

Sometimes we need to take baby steps. For example, if you’re attempting to bench press and can only lift the bar, perhaps it’s time to go back to push ups or using dumbbells until you’re ready. The guy who is waiting to lift 225lbs after you is very pissed right about now.

#4 You Didn’t Re-Rack Your Weights

This isn’t your mother’s house where she’d ask you to put something away and you ignore it. Put. The. Weights. Away. Why? Because it is literally a hazard. When I’m carrying my 85lb dumbbells to the incline press bench (pumped brah!), I don’t want to trip over your 10lb weights.

#5 You Mistake the Gym For Social Hour

A gym can be a place to build a community. I have tons of friends at the gym. Convos usually sound like: “Dude, you look ripped.” “Nah brah you’re way more ripped.” “What are you lifting today?” “Arms dude. You?” “Chest.” “Fuck yeah. Get that pump brah.” “Cool dude. Gonna hit that next set.” It’s ok to talk, but seriously, keep it to a minimum.