“So…who are you voting for??”
I’ve been asked this question so many times over the past year. And, honestly, it’s a legitimate, community-binding question. Right?
Often I would like to ask, in return, “I’m not sure yet, but let me ask, how many blow jobs did you give last year?!?” I don’t, of course, because I have decorum, dammit. But still. It would certainly raise a few eyebrows.
Politics is a polarizing issue. People love to talk about it! My Facebook page is rife with opinions (many wrong), thoughts (many stupid), and ideas (some worth while). Politics, though, truly is one of those subjects that gets even the most benign individuals to open up. Politics and religion. And sex. And the whole LGBT thing. And “Game of Thrones,” for some reason. Whatever.
I’m not a political person. I have peripheral knowledge, information I’ve gathered from the internet, billboards, news reports, and opinionated customers at work (because retail). I’m a Democrat – there, I said it. And that’s no secret. I am perched deftly on the Left Wing because, well, the Right Wing is all mangled and shit. But that’s just my opinion. I know about Hillary’s email scandal, but the details escape me. I know Bernie wants free education for everyone. I know Trump has small hands or some shit like that. And a trampy wife, but money can pretty much buy you anything.
I couldn’t have a political conversation/argument/debate to save my life. The last time my mother was here she started rambling on about Obama and what a mess he’s made of the country. I just nodded. If Obama has ruined the country, I haven’t noticed. At least no major buildings were pummeled by hijacked planes on his watch, but that’s a different story. All I know is I’m as well versed in politics as Ann Coulter is in shutting the fuck up.
Admitting to being a Democrat might give away which I’m leaning in the voting booth. But it’s still none of anyone’s business. It feels so personal, doesn’t it? Someone recently asked me, quite seriously, “You’re voting for Bernie, right?” It’s as if someone was asking if I’ve seen “Office Space.” Apparently an amazing film, but admitting to not seeing it is akin to not knowing men have walked on the moon. “How can you not have seen that movie??”
Easy. I haven’t seen it. There, done.
I’m being ornery, I know. If you know me, that’s my sassiness shining through. The truth is, though, I’m not letting a single soul know who I’m actually voting for. Okay, I will not be voting for Donald Trump (should he get the nomination, but as of this writing…duh). Maybe I won’t vote at all. Okay, that’s silly, but still. Maybe I won’t. (seriously, I’m kidding.)
Whatever the case, it’s often just voting for the lesser of two evils, isn’t it? Politics might be polarizing, but we can all agree on that. That, and Ann Coulter needs to shut the fuck up. Honestly, who invited her to the party? She doesn’t even go here.
It was 35 years ago today that The Center for Disease Control published the first report on an unknown and frightening disease afflicting gay men. I was 6 years old. Wow. Today, of course, we know that disease as AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
How I hate typing that: acquired immune deficiency syndrome. It’s scary how it flows so naturally, typed without even having to think about it. Part of our everyday lexicon. Well, at least mine. And many other people out there.
I’m not here necessarily to shed light on the AIDS pandemic. Mind you, that’s reason enough, but I’m here for a very selfish reason, and the reason is this:
I have not known one person who was taken by the disease. Not a loved one. Not someone close. Not an acquaintance. Not even an uncle of a friend of a friend of a friend’s mother. AIDS has not touched me personally at all.
And I’ll be honest: I’m ashamed to admit this.
“Count your lucky stars!” some of you might be yelling at me. “Do you know what I would give to not have had to deal with it?!?” many of you are shouting. Please, don’t misunderstand. I am aware of how truly blessed I am by this fact. I can’t imagine the pain of such a thing. But please, let me explain.
I’m not ashamed because I wanted to see close loved ones pass away from this horrible disease. God no. The truth is, I’m ashamed because all I’ve ever been is a bystander. I’ve watched, listened, and read. Movies about the AIDS crisis have made me cry. Articles and novels have made me fiercely angry over this disease. Hearing stories from others in my life, those who have actually dealt with loss because of AIDS, has made me weep for them. But, ultimately, that’s it.
It is easy to be moved, but much more difficult to do the moving.
What could I have done all these years? Could I have joined a cause? Could I have worn a red ribbon? Could I have donated? Could I have done more than just nod my head in agreement that AIDS is awful? Just because I have not been personally touched by AIDS, doesn’t mean I should be in the peripheral. And, sadly, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing: standing in the shadows like a scared fool.
AIDS is a disease that encompasses the entire planet. All walks of life. Men, women, Christians, Catholics, blacks, whites, children, babies, doctors, pilots, servers, addicts, your neighbor, your son, your teacher, your best friend, celebrities, the old and young, the wise and uneducated. AIDS does not discriminate. Gay men – mistakenly given the blame all those years ago – are not the only people being infected, and that is horrifying.
But it bothers me. To exist. To be Sean Farley of Escondido, California. Gay man. HIV negative. Living life to the fullest. And there it is – AIDS – killing millions, taking lives, ruining families, damaging relationships, and crushing souls. And I’m untouched. Physically and emotionally unharmed.
How is that fair? To be 41, out and proud, yet not have been touched by AIDS in some way? That’s not a lottery I’m proud to win. I can’t help but feel like I’ve dodged some kind of bullet. And then I feel awful for admitting I’m shocked AIDS hasn’t touched my life in some form or another?? Because that’s not it. I feel….unworthy. Unworthy to those who have lost someone to this horrible disease. Unworthy because they had to suffer, watch their partners whither away to nothing, witness their brothers or fathers or best friends become hollow versions of the person who was once active and virile. I feel unworthy because I’ve been allowed to live as a gay man while they had to die.
How dare I be a gay man living in 2016 without ever having to deal with AIDS directly. That’s what it boils down to for me, I suppose.
Of course no one’s blaming me – I know that. I guess I’m just angry about AIDS. I think seeing that article about it being 35 years since AIDS was first seriously reported sparked some frustration. It was a “gay man’s disease,” after all. I can’t help but take it personally.
I think, though, if all I can know is what I read, hear, and see, isn’t that better than ignoring it completely? I want AIDS to be abolished. I want any future heartache to be cut off at the pass, mine and anyone else’s. And I know it will be. It’s just a matter of time.
I feel, in my heart of hearts, I will see a vaccine for AIDS in my lifetime. AIDS can simply fuck off.
But even then, will I feel worthy?
Well here I am, two cocktails in to an otherwise uneventful evening. Am I drunk? No, not by a long shot. Am I feeling like I could spill a secret if a national terrorist organization demanded it of me? I’d lean toward yes.
So, here goes:
Have I told you my father left my family when I was eight years old? Up and gone. Poof!
Well, not quite so simple. I wish it were.
What do I tell you? Do I tell you about the day I begged and begged my mother for a dollar so I could go to the grocery store and buy a soda, knowing very well we didn’t have the money? A dollar. Can you imagine? We didn’t have a dollar, yet I asked for it. I should be ashamed of that, but I was eight years old. Eight years old. Isn’t that the age you start to truly remember things? Embrace them as part of your life?
Do I admit to you that feeling of shame, leaving the store, knowing I was enjoying a sweet beverage when that dollar could have gone toward something as substantial as food? A dollar in 1983 was a lot of money. Again, how could I possibly know, at such a young age??
Do I tell you about my father, coming toward me along the dirt path that led to the store, looking stern and serious? Do I tell you about how I froze, and wondered what he might say? Or, worse, do? He was in a rush, walking quickly, coming toward me like he knew I’d done something wrong. I was petrified. I can see him now: dressed simply, slacks and a t-shirt, his hair thick and shiny, his mustache threatening and rust-colored. “He was such a handsome man,” family members have told me, years later. I could swear he was clenching his fists.
“Don’t tell your mother you saw me,” my father said. Seven words, the last I’d hear. He might as well have dropped dead right there. But he didn’t.
Instead, he swept past me as if I were nothing more than an afterthought. His son. The child he had a hand in creating. Abandoned, a pair of old socks you toss in the trash. A cigarette smoked to the nub, flicked into the gutter. An empty beer bottle you chuck in the garbage. I turned back to look at him – I remember this clearly – and he didn’t turn back once. Not once.
I said nothing to no one. Even when we were forced to pack up and move, because my father, as manager, had stolen all the rent money to go gambling. I told my mother about the incident years later. She understood why I’d said nothing. What good would it have done? I think, even at eight years old, I knew my father’s departure was coming. I can’t imagine how, but I did. His involvement in my life was peripheral, at best. Showing up at Christmas one year. Patting me on the head at dinner. Jokes, laughing, being a Part Of Everything.
I don’t remember much of him. I have a few pictures, nothing substantial. I feel nothing but hate for him. Resentment. There will never be forgiveness, the way they teach you on Oprah or Dr. Phil. “To forgive is to let go, and to move on with your life.” Fuck that. If there is a hell, I hope he’s burning in it. Why? I’ll tell you why.
I know very well my life is better for not having had my father in it. Had he stuck around, who knows what kind of train wreck our family would have become. But what I do know is that he took away the choice. He took it upon himself to disappear, because it was easy. Is this my consensus? No. My family agrees with this completely. My father was a coward, always had been. I can’t begin to imagine any redeeming quality about the man. NONE. “Try, Sean, there must be something.” There is nothing. I see him as I would see a mannequin – hollow, useless, nothing more than a stand-in.
There are blessings, I suppose. I am who I am because my father did not stick around. I think if he had, I’d have killed him. A knife to the chest, or a gun to the temple. Quick, simple, clean.
And it would have felt wonderful.
If he is dead – and I hope he is – I can only wish I’d some hand in it. Maybe I did. I pray he was crippled with the decision to leave. I pray he thought about me, my sister, my mother, at least once a day. And I hope it hurt. If there is a god, then it hurt. A lot.
Can I enlighten you with the frustrations of my morning routines? I can? Good.
First of all, ‘routine’ is a word I use loosely. Very loosely. Routines require some sort of structure, don’t they? Discipline of some kind? Of course they do.
Every night before bed, I tell myself I will wake up at 7 a.m., make coffee, write for a couple of hours, perhaps take a walk, then head to work. I make these plans because I want to not only enjoy my morning, but I’d also like to get some work done. Seems logical, right?
The first thing to happen is I wake at 8 a.m. Then I moan, roll over, and promise myself to get up in a minute. By the time “a minute,” has passed, it’s suddenly 8:30 a.m. and I’m resenting myself for having made such a stupid plan in the first place.
Did I mention I have work at 10:45 a.m.?
I stumble out of bed and blindly make a pot of coffee. However, it takes a few minutes for the coffee to brew. So back to bed I go for “a few minutes.” Well, my fan is still on (I need a fan to sleep, don’t judge me), and of course it’s lulled me back to slumber. Maybe I dream, maybe I don’t. What I do know is that “a few minutes” in Sean time equates to about a half hour in real time. Suddenly it’s 9 o’clock. Taking a walk has gone out the window. But, if I buckle down, I can get in a good hour of writing.
Wishful thinking, of course.
With coffee cup in hand, I sit down at the computer. What I should do is go straight into my writing folder. But no. Buzzfeed is calling, after all, with pure nonsense I can’t seem to escape. And Facebook, of course. Maybe Pinterest. Maybe a cat video or two. Suddenly it’s 9:20 and I’m growing annoyed.
Not to be outdone, Mother Nature gives me a little nudge. You know, Bathroom Ritual? That takes time and, depending on what I ate the day prior, it could be a little more time than usual.
Oh, look, now it’s 9:35. I don’t have to get ready for work until 10:15, so I can get in a good half hour of creativity. But I can’t really do that, because I’ll be a cranky monster at work. Why? You see, if I get into a creative flow, and I’m forced to stop for something as bothersome as making a living, I tend to become a bitch. A stone-faced, don’t-talk-to-me bitch. Turning into a cranky beast is clearly something I have to avoid since I actually like my job and wouldn’t want to alienate anyone (at least not on purpose).
I know, I’ll blog! Yes, a quick snippet of my mind: The Shenanigans of Sean Farley. I like that.
But even that sucks up precious time. I’m my worst critic, after all, so not only do I write the blog, but I re-read it again and again, correcting this, changing that. Is it entertaining? Did I ramble on about nothing? Do I honestly care?
Oh, look, now it’s 10 a.m. That gives me a good 15 minutes to…do nothing really. At least there’s Buzzfeed. And it’s ok, because this is just one day. I will absolutely wake up at 7 a.m. tomorrow and start my morning off properly. Maybe. I mean, I’ll try.
Oh, look, now it’s 10:10. Sigh.
I recently started a journal. Nothing profound. I don’t detail philosophical ideas about why life is the way it is, or how the universe came to be, or why Kevin James still manages to find work in acting. No.
Instead I started a journal so I can hold some kind of accountability for my actions.
You see, I decided to make changes. Overall there are several changes I’m focusing on in life – health, finances, writing, and work. But in this post I will be holding myself accountable for one: my health.
Why? Because last night I faltered, and I’m feeling a little guilty.
Look, I drink way too much. This is not a secret. I am not an alcoholic (yet how much like an alcoholic that makes me sound!). I truly can stop when I want to. I’ve done it before. When I started my diary several days ago, one thing I promised myself is to considerably cut down on my drinking. There are several reasons.
First of all, I know very well drinking is no good for my body. I’m not an idiot. But just a couple of years ago I was able to maintain both an enjoyment of spirits and working out on a regular basis. You know, to balance things out. I don’t do that now. I know very well alcohol is a contributing factor. And, when I drink, I get hungry. I eat, eat more, then eat again. This is a recipe for bad skin, a bad liver, and giant love handles.
And then there’s gout. Don’t even get me started on gout. Gout has been the bane of my existence for over a decade. And what, pray tell, exacerbates any gout flare up? No, not a punishment by God for being homosexual, but good guess. The culprit for inflamed joints is…booze! Gout is supposed to be an old person’s disease, for Pete’s sake. Not…me.
On top of everything else, my sleeping habits are a mess. There is absolutely no reason for me to drink until 2 a.m. and fumble out of bed at 11 a.m. No reason at all. What’s worse? My sleep is usually choppy at best. When I don’t drink, I sleep like a baby. I miss that, so why would I deprive myself of it? Especially at my age, now more than ever.
The fact is I’m 41 years old and each of the changes I want to make are becoming crucially more important as I get older. Each change I mentioned above is contingent upon the other. Posts such as these are my way of taking personal responsibility for my faults.
Because it will happen again. In one form or another. Hell, maybe I am an alcoholic and this is my gentle way of coming to terms. I personally don’t feel that way, but I’d rather realize it here and now instead of passed out on a bench somewhere, my wallet and dignity missing, wondering how I wound up in the middle of Texas with a tattoo of a hummingbird on my fanny.
Wow, it’s good to know I have just as good imagination sober as I do when I’m drunk.
Ok, I’ll admit it, I cried a little when Prince died. Not like a baby – just a few sniffles. I purchased a copy of the “Purple Rain” soundtrack on iTunes. I’ve listened to it several times since. I’ve looked him up on Wikipedia to learn more about his career. I even sang “When Doves Cry” at karaoke not too long ago.
I am not obsessed with Prince. There’s more to it than that.
In 1984, when “Purple Rain” was released, I was 9 years old. That album, as you know, is some heavy stuff. For me, though, 9 and 10 years old is that age where music really starts to shape our formative years. Madonna was a Boy Toy. George Michael was all pop and white teeth. Duran Duran had us wondering what in the hell “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” meant. Cyndi Lauper, well, she was just so unusual.
It was a big deal when Prince died because it felt like a part of my childhood had been taken from me. I’d lost enough as it were: did the universe really need more? But people die all the time. It just…happens. So why the shock?
Our connection with music, I know, is inimitable. It is intrinsic to our being. I don’t even really need to ask why we’re upset when a musician dies because, ultimately, they’ve left a huge mark on our lives. We don’t think they have until they’re actually gone, and that’s why we’re left with a slice in our soul.
My point is this: when Prince died I was immediately drawn back to 1984. My dad had left the year prior. My mother, my sister and I lived in a small apartment not too far from where I live now. We didn’t have a lot of money. My friends Chris, Christine and Jimmy, all who lived downstairs and across the lawn, were my best friends, my escape. We thrived on Transformer cartoons. I stayed the night at Chris’s apartment more than my own. We watched too much MTV, ate horrible food. School was on the other end of town and I had to take the city bus, or walk if my mother didn’t have the 50 cents needed for the fare. It was a dark time, looking back, but I was just a kid so I didn’t know any different. It was bad, but it was also good. The music, all of it, helped ease that burden. Prince’s passing brought me back there all over again.
It’s like the song, “Purple Rain,” I guess. I read somewhere, during my newfound interest in Prince, that the title held a certain meaning. Something I hadn’t known. Even as a kid I always wondered what it meant: “Purple Rain.” It was such a clear yet devastatingly visceral reason: when the sky rains blood, blue and red make purple. Purple rain.
It sort of gets you a little bit, doesn’t it? The bad and the good – the red and the blue – still wind up making something beautiful.
I’ll tell you, though, I’m all about nostalgia, but when Madonna goes, I’ll be revisiting more than just 1984, and it will be overwhelming.
What is your favorite way to spend a lazy day?
A lazy day. I probably have more of those than I should. But that’s neither here nor there. Ultimately I like to drink, watch Food Network, or listen to 80s Hair Metal online. If I’m feeling unusually energetic, I will tackle the household chores. I find cleaning to be therapeutic. Of course the booze helps.
I do like to cook also. But I’m a neat freak when I cook. I simply can’t let the counter get cluttered – egg shells, pots, spices, splattered flour. So I clean as I go, which isn’t normally conducive to cooking a complicated meal. I hosted Thanksgiving in my little apartment this year and it’s a wonder I had any time to enjoy the meal I’d prepared. I think I spent more time tidying up the kitchen, doing dishes, repressing horrible childhood memories…but again, that’s neither here nor there.
It’s rare, on a lazy day, that I’m actually lazy. When I sit down to watch TV, I find myself getting up a dozen or so times for whatever reason – the bathroom, to refresh my drink, seeing who pulled into the driveway. Did I switch the loads of laundry? Is the oven still on? Did I erase my browser history? Ultimately, my lazy days aren’t so lazy after all.
Of course I love to write. Maybe read. If I can spend several hours at my computer, touching up a few short stories, or working on my novel, I’ll do it. It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong, and maybe it doesn’t fit into the subject of “lazy day,” but it’s what I like to do. Writing is therapy. Any resentment or anger I have toward my past is obliterated when I write. The bully who antagonized me all through middle school? No problem! I can simply write him into oblivion, turn his existence into unbearable torture, and I can smile while I do it. Writing is my solace.
After all, I do have a cocktail at my side, and my headphones ready to play some 80s hair metal, so that counts, right?