I’ll make this one as short as possible. I have two basic points:

  1. Please don’t use a tragedy like this to try to advance your personal agendas. It’s totally alright to feel terrible for innocent civilians and their families without tying it into your personal and/or political fucking agenda. Just mourn and assist the affected humans, for Christ’s sake. Not everything is supposed to serve as a platform for why your beliefs were right the whole time. Nobody, not anyone on Facebook/Twitter, not anyone in your real life, not anyone actually affected by this tragedy, is trying to hear that bullshit right now. You’re better off writing whatever political hot take you planned on posting on a sheet of paper, eating it, and shitting it out the next day. It would serve a much better purpose that way.
  2. Please do not use this situation and the inevitable fear/sadness/anger that arises to sell things. Nobody cares about your all new #PrayForParis shirts that’ll sell for $25 a pop. It’s literally the least honorable thing a human being can do at this time. I’m sure that it won’t stop anyone, but just know that the world sees you as a blood-sucking opportunist that Earth is better off without. Don’t try to sell us anything, please. It’s a terrible thing to do.

What I’m trying to say is to just be human about this. Real humans paid the ultimate price because of the actions of a few terrible people, and the families of those humans will likely never be the same because of it. That’s all it is. It’s not a political issue. It’s not a immigrant or refugee issue. It’s a human issue. And we should address it as such. Just be human for once, you guys. You’re better than what I’ve been seeing online. Learn sympathy. Learn empathy. And find ways to help those who have been affected by this. None of the extra bullshit matters, and tragedies like this should hammer that point home. Just be humans, for once. Please.

Halfway Home

Yup. Almost there. Rachel is over the 20 week mark and is showing enough that she can be classified as “pregnant” instead of “ehhh maybe pregnant…or is she just fat?” Personally, I hit the 6 month mark of my assignment last week, which already seems like a lifetime ago. It’s nice here, but I’m about ready to leave. I get to visit California in about six weeks, and it’ll take a lot for me to actually come back.

NBA League Pass has made our lives so much easier that I don’t know what to do. We just hang out after work and watch games “together” now, and it seems like she’s right there, just how it used to be. Hoops have always been our bond. We wouldn’t have met without it. We wouldn’t even have known of each other’s existence without it. It’s our thing, and being able to share it with her in any capacity is the best slice of home that I can have.

…..and that’s pretty much it. Not much new, as far as Rachel and I are concerned.

But we’re totally obsessed with the baby already. We’re naming him Diego. If I was back home, I’d be staying overnight waiting for doctor’s appointments like the new iPhone was coming out. I want to know everything. How fast he’s growing, how he compares to other babies, how long his limbs are…just everything.

We’ve been going back and forth on whether we should push him towards a particular career or to just introduce him to a wide variety of subjects and let him decide for himself. The latter option seems like the more reasonable, humane thing to do, but there has to be a reason that it doesn’t happen very often in practice. It’s probably something about parents caring about the overall well being of their child and wanting him to fit in and not suffer criticism and bullying or whatever. But what’s the point if the kid isn’t happy? Yeah, pushing Diego to be a doctor or an engineer would ensure that he’ll make a lot of money and be seen as important to strangers, but it’s not worth it if he’s miserable. Do you really want to be seen by a doctor that goes through the motions because he’s really into art or sports but it wasn’t deemed as an “honorable” profession by his parents? Probably not. So fuck that. It might be something that I won’t fully understand until the baby is here and I won’t want anything bad to ever happen to him. And that’s fine. But from where I stand (or lay in bed) now, I’ll just let the boy choose. If that means that I end up with a 6’8, 220 lb. art historian, then so be it. I’ll clown him, but so be it.

But God, am I so excited about this mini-me that kicks my wife’s uterus for fun. I wonder if he has thoughts besides “feed me, feed me, feed me” already. I heard that babies develop taste palates in the womb. What if he only eats organic, gluten-free, hand picked and squashed baby food or whatever? That would suck. I’m sure that stuff is expensive. I especially wonder how smart he’s gonna be. What if he ends up being a genius (possible, since Rachel is one) and he’s outsmarting me logically by age 6 or something? That would suck too, but at least I can still beat him up. I can’t wait to see Rachel so I can feel the baby kick and move around and just exist in general. I’m so happy that he exists. And Rachel is cool too for carrying him around.

November 17th, 2008

I had enough, man. Houston didn’t work out. I gave it my best shot, but after 2+ years, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I worked three jobs at the time: 25-30 hours/week at Jack in the Box, 25 hours/week at the Shell gas station across the street, and 10 hours/week moonlighting as a personal trainer at a small gym. I still couldn’t afford a car, and I had no time or energy to go to school or to even work out at the gym that employed me. I specifically remember daydreaming about a time where I’d be able to make $500/week after taxes, and how I thought that I’d literally have to work myself to death or sell drugs (I was never gonna sell drugs) to get there.

I think the worst part mentally was going to downtown Houston and seeing all of those really nice cars and well dressed people and walking through that majestic Galleria mall and window shopping for clothes I had no chance to afford and gorgeous women that I had no chance to attract. Some people see those kinds of things, being surrounded by seemingly unattainable luxury, as motivation (reminiscent of a young, hungry Scarface), but that scene only helped to emphasize the gulf between my situation and theirs. It didn’t help.

All of my original friends from Sumter were long gone at this point, with the most recent fallout bordering on comical. I had let him and his girlfriend stay in my apartment until they were able to save for a place of their own, and the results were disastrous from the beginning. I eventually kicked them out, but not before they created a $550 light bill that led to a bounced rent check, which somehow led to a bounced light bill check, which led to no lights and a 30-day notice.

For six weeks (three paychecks), my routine was working my ungodly schedule, cashing my paychecks, converting said paychecks into money orders, then giving those paychecks to my apartment complex. How did I eat? By stealing food from Jack in the Box nightly. How did I wash? The apartment complex’s pool and some deodorant. How did I sleep or really exist in general without lights or AC in the middle of a Houstonian summer (this happened in July/August)? A modern miracle. I still don’t know. Then my girlfriend left me after she figured that the weed dealer around the corner was a bit more appealing than hanging out in a dark apartment that could double as a furnace, and my life resembled more of a bad country song than a simple case of growing pains.

One day in August, after quitting my job at Jack in the Box, I tried looking for a job as a mail clerk. The older guy who received my application didn’t have a job opening for me, but he did have a message. “You seem way too smart to do whatever bullshit you’re trying to do. Join the military and get yourself outta here. I don’t wanna see you in here again.”

The military was literally the last thing I wanted to join. I thought of military people as unrepentant killers with overcompensation complexes. I didn’t want to march. I didn’t want to follow orders. I definitely didn’t want to hurt strangers. But I didn’t want to starve to death either. Poverty definitely has a way of bending your morals, and they bent mine to the point of showing up at an Air Force recruitment office the next day.

The paperwork and testing process went smoothly until the time came to pick from the available jobs. I opted for an “open mechanic” job, despite never using a tool before, under the premise that it would get me out of my situation quickly and that they’ll teach me everything I needed to know anyway. My recruiter assured me that I would be off to basic training by September, so I terminated the lease on my apartment. Three days after terminating my lease, my recruiter informed me that I wouldn’t be able to go until mid-November.

After 10 weeks of couch (and car) surfing, the day finally arrived. I packed up my worldly possessions (which consisted of one suitcase) and boarded a bus that took us from Houston to San Antonio, which is three hours away. To this day, I don’t know whether it was my own nervous energy, discomfort from the energy of others, or general happiness, but I laughed and joked for those entire three hours. Loudly. You would’ve thought that we were on our way to an amusement park instead of 8 of the most difficult weeks that most people endure. And to me, it was an amusement park. I’d get to eat regularly and not sleep outside, so how hard could it be?

The bus finally arrived at Lackland AFB, and that’s when my, and everyone else’s, laughter subsided. Reality had set in. What had I gotten myself into? The bus, now dead silent, came to a stop at an old brick building. The bus driver made a call on her cell phone. Three minutes later, this massive, angry guy with a weird hat stomped onto the bus…


Oh great, I’m getting kicked out of the military after 15 whole seconds. This has to be some kind of record.


Well, at least nobody gave me up. I’m safe, at least as “safe” could be with this massive human out for blood, for now.

We quickly lined up facing the door of the brick building that would mark the start of my military career. I was second in line. My absolute worst fear was to get picked for holding the door to let everyone inside. I literally prayed for this specific thing not to happen. Another lady with a weird hat opened the door.

“Everyone get inside as quickly as you can!”

“And you…hold the fucking door!”

Ohhhhhhhh God. This isn’t good. This will end badly. The only thing on my mind at the time was not laughing. Please do not laugh. They may kill me with my bare hands if I laugh. I’ll have the rest of my life to laugh. Just don’t do it now. I’m better off crying or pissing myself than laughing at this very moment.

As the rest of the busload hurried through the door, I tried sneaking right behind the last person, to no avail. The really angry lady with the weird hat stopped me in my tracks…

“Oh you really think this is some kind of game, don’t you? Lock it up!!! Do you even know who you’re fucking with?”

“……hahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…ah shit I’m so sorry dammit hahhahahahahahahahahahahahhahahah awwwww fuck hahahhahahahha…”

Yeah. That did it. She pulled me by my shirt sleeve through the door and had me stand off to the side while the rest of the bus processed through, doing God knows what. She dragged two really heavy pieces of luggage towards my direction…

“Look at me. You’re going to hold this luggage at attention until I get tired from watching you do it. If you say a word, if you drop the luggage, if I see you even blink or breathe too hard, I’m sending you back to wherever the fuck you came from.”

I was off to a great start….

So, We’re Having a Boy

I should’ve known. Of course we’re having a boy. All of the unofficial signs (carrying high, glowing, etc.) pointed to Rachel having a boy, but I held out hope for a girl until the bitter end. And for about 5 minutes, we thought we actually were having a girl…

So I’m on Skype watching Rachel and her parents during her ultrasound, which was pretty mundane in of itself, at least initially. There’s nothing truly notable about seeing your in-laws read trashy magazines and crack jokes in a waiting room or Rachel complaining about having to pee since that’s all pregnant women ever want to do. But it meant a lot to me. For the first time of Rachel’s pregnancy, I felt like I was actually there for her. I mean, we talk daily and I make sure that she has what she needs, but I’m never actually there for her. As in, present for what she’s going through, whether good or bad. On Tuesday, I felt present. That was important.

Rachel and her parents walked into the doctor’s office and the doctor hooked her up to whatever machine produces the ultrasound. The doc went through labeling the different body parts (“there’s the head,” “oh look, there’s a leg right there,” “look at the size of those eye sockets!”), seemingly building up the suspense for the gender reveal intentionally. After a question about whether we wanted to know the gender was answered affirmatively (I specifically said, “Hell yeah, man. Shit.”), the moment was finally here. Those 15 seconds or so that followed felt like hours. Then the doc spoke…

“It looks like you’re having a girl.”

Me: “Wait, what?”

Rachel: “Really???”

Doc: “Yup. A girl.”


Rachel: “Wow. Wow. *exhales deeply* This is insane. We’re really having a girl.”

It was at this moment that my mother-in-law asked what seemed to be an incredulous question. “Are you really sure that they’re having a girl?” My father-in-law responded, naturally, with a sarcastic remark about the doctor not being sure since she doesn’t do this for a living or anything. I stayed quiet, but I was with pops-in-law on this one. But sure enough, she convinced the doc to give our fetus one last look. And sure enough, the lack of confidence in her initial prognosis started to show, which instantly changed the energy in the room, replacing euphoria with an amount of tension normally reserved for a cancer prognosis, a change that I easily felt through the computer.

Doc: “You know, maybe I should get a second opinion on this.”

Rachel: *deep sigh*

Me: “Oh lord…”

Dad-in-law: “I think I just saw a penis!”

Me: “How in the world…..”

Rachel: “I can’t believe this.”

The second doctor came in, and like pops-in-law suspected, we were indeed having a boy, and it was “quite obvious” that it was a boy. So there it was.

I know there’s a strong implication that having a boy disappointed me in that story. I should plainly state that that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was more the giant swing in emotion and genuine anger at the initial doctor that caused my subdued response than anything else. After spending my entire adulthood thinking that having a daughter is a curse, then transitioning to no longer thinking that it would be the worst thing in the world, to actually thinking that I would enjoy it occasionally, I started actively hoping for a little girl. It was more of a novel idea (when I say novel, I would’ve sooner jumped into a snake pit than raise a daughter as recently as 5 months ago) than anything else. I just happened to heavily invest into that novel idea in a short time.

But man, I’m about 20 weeks away from raising a mini version of myself. Rachel has already declared that we’ll dress alike as often as possible, which will ensure our place in Facebook’s most sickening families, and is already proposing terribly inefficient purchases, like an infant leather jacket that will look adorable for the three weeks that he’ll be able to fit into it. There will be a basketball waiting for him upon his exit from the womb. And books. Lots of books. And wait. Is it already Halloween? Holy shit.

The State of My Former Besties

My previous visit to South Carolina, which was May 2014, was strictly supposed to be a “business” trip. Stewart, one of my best friends, was getting married to his girlfriend of a decade, and I made good on the promise that I would attend if such a event ever happened (I honestly thought it would never happen). While I was out there, I figured that I would indulge Rachel in letting her meet my family. Despite my relationship with them back then (there weren’t good feelings) and the fact that I hadn’t seen or talked to them in 8 years, I felt that it would be polite to at least show them what my future wife looked like. It’s not like I cared for their approval; if they said anything negative about her, especially the giant elephant in the room about my fiancee not being black, I’d simply leave and never talk to them again. But something felt wrong about marrying someone before meeting a single member of their family, and I knew doing that would give her some peace of mind, regardless of the outcome.

Rachel and I stayed in a hotel on the other side of town, hoping to avoid contact with the family outside of the bare minimum. She was really excited about eating at Waffle House, which I suppose is as much of a regional culinary monument in the southeast as Roscoe’s is in California. Unfortunately, the difference between the two restaurants is that Waffle House sucks, and although I already knew that, Rachel insisted on finding out the hard way.

Outside of the wedding, she gave me the freedom to come and go as I pleased, as long as I introduced her to the people who I was visiting first. So the very first place we visited was Trey’s house, and we passed my family’s house en route as if it never existed. Trey’s dad greeted us enthusiastically (he specifically said, “I would’ve bet the farm that you were never coming back here!”), but something was off. That “something” was his left leg. Diabetes had claimed half of his leg recently, and the tenor of the entire household was just off in general. Trey and Bill were there, and there was obviously tension between the parents and my two former best friends. It didn’t take long after the requisite pleasantries for Trey’s mother, never one to hold her tongue, to reveal the source of their tension.

Neither Trey nor Bill (who wasn’t related, but like me, was treated like family from our early teens) were really doing much of…anything. After life in Houston fell off the rails, Trey and Bill opted to return to Sumter while I enlisted in the Air Force. Apparently, they took their negative habits along with them. They were basically doing the same things at age 27 as they were at age 22, something that I consciously tried to avoid.

I guess that one of the benefits of being on terrible terms with my family during a drastic decision was that I had no illusion of a safety net in the event of failure. Both Trey and Bill come from cohesive, supportive families who graciously accepted them after the move to Houston didn’t pan out. And while that is a very nice luxury, I think that it also created a barrier to how far they would truly strive to carve out a niche for themselves elsewhere. It’s difficult to give everything you have in a seemingly hopeless situation (and Houston got really, really bad for all of us) when you’re still in touch with your family and they’re begging you to come back for a fresh start and they’re wondering why your pride is keeping you from doing what’s best for your family in the first place. It’s really easy to fold your tent and say, “Hey, I can go back home for a bit, get a job, save money for a few months, then go on a new adventure.” Then boom, five years pass and you haven’t made any real progress towards your goals. I didn’t talk to them during this period of time, but that’s my best guess as to what happened.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and they both seem radically different, not only in terms of progress, but in terms of mindset as well. Trey bought a house on the other side of town and has a stable job with a wife and a brilliant, brilliant 3 year old daughter. Talking to him, as he casually solved a Rubik’s cube in 3 minutes (?!?!?!?!??!?!), I got the sense that he finally settled down and had his head in the right place. His daughter is light years ahead of any 3 year old I’ve seen mentally, and that is almost never an accident. That’s a product of consciously productive, targeted parenting, and I was beyond proud to see that he was taking his job as a husband and father seriously. He said that he had plans of joining the military after he cleared up his tickets, and while that isn’t a bad idea, I would like for him to aim higher than that long term. The question I kept asking him was, “So when are you gonna change the world?” He’s seriously one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but he suffers from having so many gifts that he can’t seriously hone in on the one or two that can truly be life changing for himself and others. That admittedly nitpicky complaint aside, I couldn’t be happier for him, since I’m well aware of how much he’s been through and how easily he could have fallen off the proverbial cliff.

Bill, on the other hand, had actually fallen off that cliff, but grabbed on to a rock on the way down and is gradually climbing his way to the ledge again. A cocktail of drugs and a very toxic relationship led to jail time for a crime involving burglary, child endangerment, and a slow motion car chase. From everything I’ve heard, his life had only gone downhill from there lately. I didn’t even expect to speak to him, much less see him,  after a conversation with his parents led me to believe that he was in a rehab facility in North Carolina. I wondered to myself how bad he could have possibly gotten, but I stopped myself from asking his parents, sensing that it was still a sore spot for them. The next morning, I received a panicked phone call from Bill’s mom. She told me that he had surprised everyone by coming back in town for her 70th birthday party. After talking to him for several hours, it seemed like he was heading in the right direction as well. He had been drug free (even weed) for the last five months, and was taking advantage of the extensive flood cleanup by finding local jobs in the area in the hopes that someone would hire him full-time. His experiences in various drug treatment facilities led him to pursue a new goal, which was to get a degree in counseling and open a facility to help addicts, using the ideas that he gathered from his checkered past. He, like Trey, is still exceptionally gifted, and I was encouraged that he was developing a laser focus towards a particular goal.

Really, general well-being aside, all of the particulars about those two are secondary. For the first time in forever, we got to just hang out and do nothing in particular. We drank, traded all kinds of stories (the wildest of which being Bill’s three week fling with crack), and just…felt normal. The same way we did during our good and bad times in Houston. Or when we first started bonding in high school. Or when they were the only people to really embrace me after I let everyone down by getting kicked out of Rutgers. Regardless of what happens to the three of us from here, I think that we have a bond that time and distance will find really difficult to break, and I’ll always root for them now and in the future.

(Names have been changed. They won’t care. They’ll read this and ask to fight me. Whatever. Still love them.)

I Needed to Go Back Home

I was pretty sure that this was the worst decision I ever made when I was waiting idly in Charleston’s airport, feeling stupefied about not being able to rent a car in the entire city due to the flooding. Five separate car rental companies, and they unanimously said there was nothing available. Now what? No way I took a week of vacation just to not get within an hour of the people who needed me most, right? Yet there I was, charging my phone while sitting in the rock hard seats near the baggage claim, wondering how my uncle would be able to find me, if a way was even  plausible at the time. A large stretch of I-95 was shut down due to the storm, so my uncle finding an alternate route to pick me up was an adventure in of itself, never mind that it was already 9pm and he’s felt the ravages of nearly 70 years of life. There’s no way I could reasonably expect him, or anyone for that matter, to pick me up from that distance on such short notice. Yet when I called, sheepishly explaining my plight, he insisted that a checking into a hotel wouldn’t be necessary, since he would be there as soon as he could. Our first extended contact in a decade, and I’m impelling him to make a 5 hour round trip drive in the aftermath of historic flooding. I never said I was a perfect child.

Over the course of the week, when I wasn’t cleaning around the area, I found myself turning into the 24 year old version of myself. I was eating like crap (literally had Zaxby’s daily with no regrets), not lifting weights, staying up until 5am, not doing homework or anything else remotely constructive until the last minute, and just…generally being lazy. And you know? It felt good. It really did. I kinda understood how people could get stuck in that mode, especially when weed and alcohol are involved. I also realized that if I didn’t take that idiotic 22 hour, drive to Houston on two days notice, I could very possibly be in that same position today. I could very well be grinding day to day in a factory without any way to go to school or any way to escape it. And that’s not to say the people there are uneducated failures either. One of my old friends was finishing up his Master’s degree, and he’s doing customer service at Sprint. The quality jobs for non-professionals just aren’t there, and while it’s easy to tell those people to just move to a better place…that’s fucking scary. It wasn’t scary for me, but that’s because I’m a moron. It’s terrifying for most normal, rational humans to break away from everything they know for something that might not even work, and even if the current situation is suboptimal, it’s something. It’s a concept that I understand a lot better now than I did at age 25.

But having the opportunity to be lazy again wasn’t the reason I need to go back. I just needed to make peace. With everyone. My uncle and cousin laughed and joked with me for the entirety of that terribly unpleasant drive back to Sumter. And my aunt and I were finally peaceful. We just talked and joked and did normal things that mothers and older sons do. I’m pretty sure that this was the first time that we’ve spent an entire week together without her yelling at me. That isn’t even satire. She literally yelled at me for something every single day for the five years I went to school there. I lived in misery, and to a degree, so did she. It was so shocking for us to be “normal.”

It also helped that people who I have seen or even contacted in a decade told me that they didn’t blame me for leaving, even if I could have done it in a better way. I figured that I would have to explain what was going on all those years ago, but they said that it was unnecessary. They knew that I was unhappy, even if I never actually said so at the time. A change of scenery was the best thing for me, and they hoped that I escaped my personal hell back then.

It took a while to get back to my normal self, whatever the hell this version of “normal” is (which explains my lack of posts lately), but I knew that I could only stay in a state of stasis for so long. I’ve grown too much in these last few years. I always have to be doing something, anything to keep my mind busy. But a few days of breaking my routine was a small price to pay for what I received in return.

Honestly, it felt like I left Sumter a whole person, which is something that I thought would never happen as recently as 20 months ago. I hugged my aunt, uncle and cousin, but it didn’t seem final. It felt much more like a  “see you later” goodbye instead of a “it was fun while it lasted” goodbye. And I agreed. I can finally go home again. It’s cool.

On Going Back Home

There was a time where I promised myself that I would never return here, no matter what. I was the black sheep here. Too many bad memories. Nothing and no one I can think back on fondly. It’s boring. I lost touch with 99% of the people here. But after the storm and the subsequent flooding, I really had no choice.

Well, I absolutely had a choice. I had gotten touch with my family during the worst of the storm, and they weren’t in any mortal danger. I could’ve just used that as an excuse to not give much outside of prayers and well wishes to them. But I kept prying for something, any excuse for my presence to be necessary. I found the excuse the moment the words “you know we’re too old to take care of the yard in the aftermath” were uttered. Now I’m sitting in an empty passenger terminal, waiting to take an unpleasant four hour flight (flying on any military plane outside of a C-5 is unpleasant) from Honduras to Charleston, SC which will lead to a two hour drive to Sumter, the place where most of my skeletons and human flaws and insecurities were born.

But why? I don’t really know. Maybe it’s the quest for closure that I alluded to in my last post. After I actually had the chance to say goodbye to people I cared about for the first time, maybe I’m chasing that oppurtnunity again. Closure is a very foreign, but welcome feeling.

The impending move to Germany certainly feels like the end of a chapter in my life, and although it doesn’t mean that I’ll stop speaking to the friends and family I already have, there’s no use in pretending that life, for me or them, will be remotely the same when I return to the States in 2019.