Monday, April 22, 2013

Questions about how my family got here

   People constantly ask me the dumbest questions.  They ask things like, "Yuri, why did your parents move to the US from the Soviet Union?"  I never know how to respond.  They really liked baseball?  They liked running water that didn't turning brown?  They got sick of the lines? Or my other favorite is, "How did you family come to the US?" Running.  Well they weren't really running.  It's hard to run while carrying all of your things....

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Comedy Shmomedy

            I have been working at the Lab for some time now.  I’ve been laid off several times and the only thing that stays consistent is the bar.  It’s like a mother to me.  The blog thing has taken on a life of it’s own.  It pays me no money but makes me so happy to have this outlet.  I recently was asked to write a column for this gay-lifestyle site with hangover tips.  It’s a trip.  The editors of this site found me somehow from reading the blog and offer me $25 dollars for the article I send them.  The way I feel as a result of this must be how the Green Lantern felt when he got his power.  Before I get too excited, I head to the lab for the night shift.
            Lately, every night all I can think about is what else I could do with this blog, the love of creating.  As I am leaving work at 3 in the morning I hop into a cab as I have done thousands of times prior and give the cabbie my home intersection.  As I shut the door to the cab, I notice a newspaper on the floor of the back seat of the cab.  There is an add for comedy classes that says, “learn from professional comedians how it’s done.”  I take the paper with me as I leave the cab.  That night/morning I enroll via their fancy brick-walled website.  I then proceed to tell all my friends, and family, excluding the bar co-workers that I am trying standup comedy that way I can’t back out of it.
            The first few weeks of classes go over the structure of a joke and how everyone has a story.  I learn the different ideas of what makes a joke, how things are supposedly funnier in threes and how new standup comedians often like to talk about their genitalia.  I look as stand up as bartending without the tips.  Like at the bar, I create a persona, keep a captive audience and try to keep them wanting more.  After 6 weeks I sign up for my first open-mic.  This is where comedians try out new material.  I have to fill an entire 3 minutes.  I feel the type of nervous one feels possibly before a rollercoaster, getting wisdom teeth pulled or an interview.  For this reason I talk for 3 minutes about how when I get nervous at interviews.  I always feel like I have to pee and am constantly checking my pants for a wet spot and the people I encounter treat me like a pervert.  Surprisingly after 10 seconds I get my first laugh.  It’s like lightening running through my body.  I think I kill it in those 3 minutes because honestly all I can remember is the laugh and not even my material.
            When I tell Dr. John about the open mic he smiles and asks, “what do you think of being a comedian now?”
            “It sounds great but I have a job that pays me well.  Me becoming a professional comedian is as much of a long shot as seeing a short Jewish man in the NBA.”
            “Are you saying it’s not possible?”
            “I’m saying lets get back to reality.  I am a bartender, not sure what else I could do.”
            “Are you going to keep working at the comedy?”
            “Once I figure out my if I could have a legit act or story, I’ll go from there.  For now lets stay grounded in reality so no one is disappointed.  For now comedy is just a fun fantasy.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Night it All Happened

Working at the Lab is fun but not what it looks like.  That’s what I explain in my last blog entry.  My mom reads it and instantly calls me.  She wants me to stop talking about pot in my entries because then people will think I do drugs.  I tell her, “If you call pot a drug then yes I do.  If you live in San Francisco, it’s considered fresh air.”            
            After the lovely pot argument with my mother, dad calls me.  He is clearly smoking a cigarette and starts choking on his own cough before I get the chance to say hello.  This makes me want to roll a joint but I don’t because I’m out.  Dad asks me when I’m coming to visit.  He hasn’t had a job in several years at this point.  I have no idea how he gets by.  I ask him why he can’t drive up to visit me.  He tells me it’s too far for him to drive.  I offer to pay for Amtrak and he then says he’ll get sick on there.  I get annoyed and he changes the topic and asks me if I have seen the latest Pay-Per-View fight.  I say know and even though it’s on the phone I can hear him shaking his head.
            Something that has always bothered me is that I have lived in San Francisco for around six years.  My father has never tried to come and visit me.  On occasion I have made pilgrimages to visit him by driving the six hours to Northridge and hanging out with him.  This act consists of watching a twenty-year old Tyson/Forman fight on a loop for at least an hour, stuffing our faces with enough Chinese food /MSG to bloat and awkwardness.  There are a lot of weird silences that we cover up with the sound of the television.  After the fights, we switch an old Columbo rerun for my grandmother.  She lives with dad then comes by with bowl of grapes to make sure we are fully nourished.  She makes light conversation about her daily struggles, current ailments and then my dad goes to the bathroom to suck down 1-3 cigarettes.  
            My dad makes it very clear to me that he loves me but not that he’s dependable.  I remember as a kid my father was supposed to visit San Diego, and take me to the zoo while introducing me to his girlfriend at the time.  He never came.  This was the third or fourth time this happened.  That night I found out that it was because of the Northridge earthquake.  He lived around the corner from the apartment building that fell over. 
            From fifteen year-old and on I always worked.  I would take time off of work to meet up with my dad in San Clemente, our agreed upon halfway point between his home in Northridge and mine in San Diego.  Two out of five times he would have to cancel the day of which would anger me.  After a while I stopped making those plans with him.
            I tell Dr. John about how it upsets me that dad hasn’t ever made an effort to visit me.  Dr. John asks me to measure my stress-level.  Right now I am at an 8.  This is on a scale from 1-10.  I don’t really have a reason for this.  I just know it’s there.   He then tells me to just focus on myself for a while.  Write out my feelings maybe on the blog and keep my dad at bay for a little bit while I compose myself.  I hear what he says but of course don’t listen.  That night, while working on a new blog story I purchase tickets from my dad to fly up to see me.  I call to tell him about this and he is super excited.  The tickets are for the following weekend.  It’s a Friday-Monday sort of thing.  That Thursday my dad calls to tell me that he isn’t feeling very good and can’t come.  It’s like being 14 all over again.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Dr. John asks me about work.  I tell him about this week’s shit.  I get to work at the lab and there are a whole bunch of short muscle dudes there.  Nothing unusual.  Then one of the guys, a tall blonde guy that from far away looks hot and up close looks like he’s had some work done comes up to me.  I think he wants a drink so I start to fill a glass up with ice and ask him what his poison is.  He then asks if he knows me.  I say no but then get cocky thinking he may be reading the blog and saw me on there.  I ask if he read the blog, smile and talk out of my ass saying that it seems to be getting some buzz.  He says that he doesn’t read.  The guy walks away drinkless.  After about twenty minutes he comes back to me.  This time he is shirtless and has this waxed chest shining in my face.  I think he is shirtless to keep people from noticing how much Botox and fillers he’s had put into his face to fight his natural aging face.  He then leans in and ask if we had sex together.  I say no.  This guy doesn’t give up though.  He asks if we’ve filmed any scenes together and says, “You know the one with the latex, rope and honey?”  I then say unless there was someone crying in the corner of that scene I was not in any porn.  I got out of TV stuff at 19 so I don’t think so.  When he walks away I find out that he is a big porn-star.  That term is such a joke.  Why is it that everyone that does porn calls themselves a “porn star” and not a porn character actor or porn background actor?  That’s beside the point.  Only after he leaves I realize that he thinks I did porn with him because I am that slow.  How many people do you have to sleep with not to even remember if you have or have not done them?
            Dr. John says hmmm but I bet is suppressing a huge laugh.  I bet the second I leave after this story he will laugh so loud that people will hear it in space.
            I can’t believe he confused me for a porno person.  It happens a lot.  I don’t care about that.  I do though hate that people often assume that I as a bartender at the type of bar that I work am in that category.  It’s almost like they are saying, you must be too dumb for anything else.  I hate when my intelligence is underestimated.
            Dr. John says hmmm and then tells me that my time is up.  As I’m leaving the office my mom calls me asking if I am doing anything for Shabbat, which is interesting.  She is the same mother who sent me to Hebrew school but also took me to Indian Casinos on Yom Kippur and has never met a shrimp she didn’t like.  Needless to say we weren’t very religious and I liked that.  She also asks if I’m going to hang with my Jewish neighbor from across the hall that is “nice, Jewish and single!”
            My neighbor Nick he is a nice enough guy but I feel like it’s often a battle of who is a better Jew.  He won’t use electricity on Shabbat, which is a bullshit thing I can’t stand right off the bat.  This one Shabbat, Friday evening he invited me over to light candles and I was off so figured why not?  After the candles are lit he then asks me to light the bong he has on the floor for him because he can’t since its Shabbat.  I get annoyed; smoke the rest of his weed and leave.

From my lips to Dr. John’s ears.

            It’s interesting how Dr. John’s idea of starting a blog really is giving me a voice I didn’t know I had.  I have been blogging the past few months about different things.  In the past few weeks I’ve started to write about my experiences at the Lab.  I answer questions people ask me about bartending, the lifestyle and all that comes with it.  I’ve had a few co-workers at the day job get wind my stories posted on my blog.   By co-workers I mean one girl that loves reading romance novels and Okay magazine.  She comments on every blog post.  There are a few people from the Lab who have also been reading apparently.  Mind you, all of these stories I’m writing just as a release not really thinking anybody is reading.  Why would they?  Today Gina texts me a cryptic message, “love the blog, liked working with you.”  I don’t understand what she means and ask her what she’s getting at.  She says, “Charlie won’t like it.”  I’m thinking, Charlie isn’t spending his day browsing my blog; he has more important things to do like spy on his employees while they do their jobs and work on his alcoholism.
            I’ve put up a total of like three stories about the bartending based on my experience at the Lab in the past 3 weeks on the blog.  I don’t think much of it until I get a random comment on one post saying, “You’ve always been my favorite bartender, what are the real names of the people in these stories? “  I can’t tell if it’s a real reader or someone from the bar just trying to get into my head.
            I tell Dr. John about how people at the Lab are starting to get wind of my blog and that I am worried it may hurt me.  He frankly doesn’t seem concerned about this concept as long as he’s getting paid.  He just says, “hmmm and getting your voice isn’t priceless?”
            I don’t really understand what Dr. John is getting at but I do have this unusual sense of urgency with the blog.  These are stories I feel I must write because I don’t know who will.  The questions I ask myself every moment of my life at the Lab is, what am I doing here?  I just got a job at the Lab to pay rent literally with no plans of becoming a lifetime bartender but can understand why one wouldn’t leave.  Right now I am making $2,000 a week in cash and another grand or 2 a week from various contract day jobs, why should I leave the bar?  The next question is what will these experiences add up to?  Will I just end up another lifetime bartender as my youth fades into the sunset? 
            My mom is upset with me because she too apparently reads the blog.  She says she read that I smoked pot and doesn’t like me joking about that in a public forum because then people will think I smoke, which I do.  She says, “stop with the jokes!  I’m going to create a Jdate profile for you, how tall are you?  Are you more the man in the relationship?”
            “Mom, we’re both men, that’s why we’re gay.  I don’t like dating Jewish guys generally, it’s not my jam!”
            “That’s what you think.  That will change.”
            Dr. John is concerned because he says my mother and I are too much of friends and don’t have a healthy mother-son relationship.  When I was a kid we told each other everything.  It was hard to hide stuff from her or rebel because I liked her.  At one point we shared a room.  In high school there was a point where I helped pay our mortgage because I could even though she had never asked.  Dr. John seemed to make that sound like burden.  He says I need to create boundaries.  This is how I know he’s a gentile because he thinks that’s possible.
            Dr. John then asks me about my dad whom I rarely mention.  I tell him how most of my friends have never met my father.  He is a bit of a loner.  As a child there were a lot of times where he wasn’t there.  It’s a story that I’m sure a lot of other kids raised by single-mothers have.  Often he would say he was coming to visit me in San Diego from LA and at the last minute not come.  Even as an adult, I take time off of work to meet him at a halfway point in San Clemente and he would have an “emergency.”  In the 5 years I have lived in San Francisco he has not once come to visit.  Don’t get it twisted; I talk to him every day.  I know my father loves the older and me I get, the more I understand he is a grown teenager who did what he could.  I still hold a grudge for certain things that can’t be changed.  From a young age I learned of my father’s drinking problem mostly by his voice when he calls me.  He starts to apologize for stuff which tells me that he doesn’t get me he gets the situation.   You can learn a lot about a man by the way they handle their booze.  I have never had a problem saying no to drinks, drugs or anything else.  My dad goes for months and years sober and then will fall off the wagon just for a weekend and call me nearly in tears.  There is nothing worse than hearing your father cry.  There is one thing worse seeing yourself in the mirror when you’ve been crying.  My main issue is I don’t know how to handle my dad.  I simply don’t engage sometimes because I don’t want to deal with him.
            Dr. John listens to this and jots notes rapidly.  He asks me what my father has taught me.  It takes me a long time to answer.  I can’t figure out what he has showed me.  I learned to shave from my the only grandfather I’ve ever known who showed me love but then started to yell mid-way through the shave because I took too long putting the foam on my face.  He is a Holocaust survivor, after 6 concentration camps you’d be ape-shit crazy too.  My dad taught me that if anyone tries to hit me, I should hit him or her back fifty times harder.  He always would ask if I was in any fights.  I would always say no.  I had never seen him happier then the one time I told him I was in a fight.  I was eleven.  A counselor at camp asked me to tell another kid, D.J. that it was time to take his riddalen.  He got angry stabbed me in the leg with a pen.  I responded by pushing him onto the cement and running away and crying behind a bush because of the pain.  In the version I told my dad, I punched him in the face and walked away unscathed.
            Dr. John asks why I care what my father thinks of me? The truth is I don’t think I do.  I do though have compassion for him but knew from a young age I wanted to do more, be responsible and come through on my responsibilities.  This is probably why most people call me intense.  I just have always thought I could do better than what people expected of me.
            Dr. John asks if I could imagine having kids now.  I tell him that babies don’t come out of there.  I then realized that I am the age my mom was when she had me and that if I had kids now I don’t know I could handle it.
            I have these weird dreams sometimes that my dad will call me really drunk the way he has in the past and I’ll just be out of compassion for him and he’ll do something drastic.  I’ll never forgive myself.  In the dream I am serving a regular who is so drunk I have to cut them off and eventually kick them out.  Because I am the only bartender working, I have to kick the guy out.  As I am moving the guy out of the bar he takes a swing at me.  He misses.  Then I take a swing at him and he falls to the ground.  He stays down for a few seconds and as he gets up, brushes himself off he smiles.  As the light hits his face he looks an awful lot like my dad and says, “that’s my boy.  Hitting like a fucking man.”  Then the guy walks outside to fall on is ass.  Those dreams always happen on the few nights (once ever few months) that I get drunken phone calls.  I always wake up to his drunken call after these dreams.  What could that mean though?

            Dr. John asks me why I would hit someone like my dad?  I tell him about how my dad would make me spar with him.  Most kids dads played catch.  Mine would have a cigarette in one hand and the other hand out and yell “spar.”  He would always tell me to work on that left-hook.  We then would complete that quality time with ice cream or a burger.  I don’t know the answer to Dr. John’s question. 

Day Job

            I am writing this story because I feel that it’s important for one to get the full picture that is my life.  While working at the Lab the past few years I have also had other things going on.  If it wasn’t college, I was at an internship doing publicity for random clients.  After that I was working as a sales man selling online ad space.  I was laid off from that job.  More recently my current day job working as a paper pusher, I mean Account Coordinator for a Search Engine Management company.  If you fell asleep reading that or don’t know what that is, it’s easy.  I write ads for various online Search Campaigns.  Say you go on to your favorite search site and search “India” and “Vacation” I create the ad that pops up and reads “India come check us out for just $60.”  Then you get confused and click.  While writing ads sounded great in college, in the office it’s something else. 
            At night I sling drinks in a hot gay bar and in the day I write ads all day.  One-line advertisements.  Even though I always thought I would quit the Lab once I finished college, now I am not sure.  That would be like leaving family that pays you for hanging out which is way better than any actual family.
            My daily schedule is as follows, get to work at 8 or 9am after fighting every asshole in San Francisco to get on a packed subway that smell like urine and pot.  I read my George Carlin book while on there just to avoid eye-contact with co-subway-riders.  Once at the office, I check out what’s happening on various gossip blogs, “news” sites and pretend to be reading stats on my campaigns.  Once noon rolls around I sit at my desk eating salad watching old Joan Rivers' clips followed by updating my blog with the day’s new joke or story I make up.  Then I go back to sort of working by sipping on my third coffee of the day and typing really loud on my computer so my bosses think I’m being productive.  Then I spend the last hour of the day updating all my campaigns writing over 250 search ads that are similar but with one word difference like these:
“Like travel for cheap? Get a flight here for just $10.”
“Like traveling for cheap? Get a flight here for just $10.”
“Like traveling for cheap? Get a flight now for only $10.”
I am always tempted to make one of the ads funny  like, “Fly your mistress over for cheap. Get a flight now just $10.”

After updating all my ads I get back on the subway reading my book, head straight to the Lab to work until 11pm or sometimes 2am and repeat all week long.  I took this job because at least I get to be sort of creative-ish.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Few Months Into Therapy

A few months into Therapy
            My sessions with Dr. John soon became my favorite time of the week.  He seems to have a genuine interest in my well-being.  He doesn’t need much from me besides my $65 dollars I hand him for each session and conversation.
            “Yuri tell me about your childhood.  You make reference to it but don’t talk about it much.”
            “What’s there to talk about?”
            “Where did you grow up?  Tell me about the house.”
            “It’s kind of a boring story but first off I have never lived in a house.  I lived in an apartment with my mom and dad in Los Angeles.  Once they divorced, my mother and I moved into a tiny 1-bedroom apartment where we shared a room until I was 8 years old.  I took care of myself pretty much from that point on.  My mom worked sometimes seven days a week and I watched a lot of cooking shows.  As a result I would often cook dinner.  I am not saying my mom wasn’t there; she just worked because she had to take care of herself and a child.  She didn’t get alimony at all and never made a legal fight for it because she didn’t want to kill my relationship with my dad.  While my dad sent child support, there were times where that would disappear for months too because he had his own problems.  I would do what I could to help mom out by making us dinner and stuff in second grade.  That should have been the first homo clue. 
Our house was always messy but never dirty.  It was never a hoarders-status home.  It was just piles of old bills shoved in corners, jackets and stuff strewn about a bit.  I never had friends over mostly because I didn’t have any.  The few friends I did have I wouldn’t invite over because our place was messy and small.  At 9 or so we moved into a 2-bedroom condo.  For some reason we rarely had visitors.  Our home was always messy but never dirty.  Even our family, my grandma and mom’s sister rarely visited.  When my grandma did visit she would often remind my mother that she had helped my mother in purchasing the condo.  Even though my mother had paid off the money by doing my grandma’s hair every Sunday for 12 years (she used to be a hair stylist), and with money my grandma always would remind us that we owed her for this.  He visits would often end in loud arguments about grudges past. My mom was their version of Aunt Jackie from Roseanne.  They always treated her as a failure, which wasn’t fair.  I think that’s why my mom kept the mess sometimes so she wouldn’t have to deal with them.  They seemed to care but keep us at an arms length in that way.  Maybe that’s why my apartment is nearly spotless now that I live on my own?”
“Yuri, do you have friends over now?”
“Actually these days I love to be the host.  Now that I live alone, in my own studio, I love having people over.”
“What type of people?”
“Friends from work, college girl friends.”
“What about men?”
“What about them?”
            “So what about dating?  Why don’t you talk about it much?”
            “In my late teens I was pretty much a-sexual.  In the past 2 and half years since I came out, I have dated some but not much.  After the Elijah thing I have found it hard to trust guys.  I always assume they are lying or looking past me for someone they really want.  I had a year where I assumed that all gay men had HIV which I now know is not true but that fear is often in the back of my head”
            “I have this guy I’m kind of seeing.  If by seeing you mean sleeping with occasionally because he is an amazing hair stylist.”
            “Hmmm. So you admire his job choice?”
            “No.  I like getting free haircuts.”
            “What are you looking for in a man?”
            “I can barely focus on what I want for lunch let alone that.  I want a man with a job who isn’t jealous.  Every guy I meet at the bar can’t handle it.  I was seeing this Latin guy for a few months on and off and he kept on asking which of my co-workers I was hooking up with which drove me crazy.  I didn’t hook up with any of my co-workers ever.  Okay I did once, during the first month at the Lab but that’s no one’s business and it was months before Latin dude.”
            “Why are you still single?”
            “I fucking hate that question.  When someone asks you that on a date.  Because I have standards are either way too high or too low?  I don’t know.  I just lost a good 30 pounds.  No one gave me the time of day before.  The guys who interested me looked right past me.  Like this once guy, Giovanni.  Italian name, but he’s Guatemalan.  This guy was super hot, pre-med and very fit.  His abs looked so good they looked airbrushed at all times.  He had everything that would make my Jew-senses go ape shit.  He never gave me the time of day when I met him in my clubbier state.  It was during the first few days I worked at the bar that I met him.   I thought he was a dick but he was solo hot that I didn’t care.”
            “Tell me about it.”
            “Well I met him a few times when I was the wallflower, chubby boy of the past and frankly he was rude to me.  Then about 6 months ago I saw him again.  He couldn’t stop staring at me.  It’s like I lost the weight and gained a vindictive side.  Prior to this instance I felt invisible most of the time.  Now that I had lost weight it was like I gained some new super power and people began listening to me kind of.  I noticed his eyes burning a hole on me.  It’s kind of hot.  I asked him to get some drinks after my shift.  I told my mom about it right before and was like, mom he’s PRE-MED and Guatemalan.  She said that was nice but to call her when he’s Jewish and an actual doctor, then hung up on me.  I ignored her, went out with Giovanni.  As it turned out he was also a goo dancer at a bar in the gayborhood and used that to pay for school.  It was the story I should have expected.  He was 6 foot, abs of steel, biceps and a chiseled jaw that could make anyone want to try men.  I figured that since he was also working at the bars that he would get it and there wouldn’t be jealousy.  Drinks were fun.  He was out of a long relationship, so he said.  I ignored that because I was too into the physical to care about red flags like that.  I just worked on enticing him because I could.  After a few days of texting we hung out at my studio apartment.  I made him dinner and we watch 300.  Which may well have been porn.  A bottle of wine, and 20 minutes of the movie later we were boning like rabbits.  Between the fake abs on the screen, his and the wine I was in for it.  After he left I figured I would drop him because of the way he ignored me in my previous state.  I tried to do that.  I then got really into him.  I decided he was really into me.  A few weeks went by and he asked me to come out to a club with him.  I assumed it was as his date.  We held hands, kissed a little and I really knew he was into me.  I felt bad for judging him and creating his pervious view of me in my head.  A few drinks in, I had to pee like a racehorse.  When I get back from the urine-trough gay bars call the bathroom, Giovanni had his tongue down some strangers throat.  I walked right up to him and his new concubine.  They barely came up for air, let alone noticed me being dramatic.  I left hoping that he would run after me in the rain.  The way it happens in the movies.  Instead it just started to rain.  I walked home drunk, alone and confused.  It would be hours before Giovanni would text asking where I went.”
            “How did you feel after that?”
            “I didn’t.  I moved on because what other choices could I have?”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Therapy Chance number 2.5

            Now it’s my second stab at therapy.  I’m meeting with Dr. John cause in San Francisco they all seem to use their first name after the word doctor.  This time I am paying for the visits because now that I work at the bar I can afford it.  I also have a day job right now working for an online startup as a publicist.  Between that jobs, the bar and my drinking schedule I’m working 80 hours a week.  In terms of money I am making it rain.  In terms of life I am more lost than ever.  Overwhelmed is the correct description.  I didn’t have time really to date or socialize outside of the occasional cocktail after, at work and the random fling.  I say fling because I was too busy to focus on any one man.  I had trust issues with the world since I was born.  Maybe it was all the stories my family told me about the old country and relatives disappearing because friends turned them in for stupid things or abandonment crap from my dad moving out when I was 6.  Who knows?  The point is that at this point I was overwhelmed with life, felt like I had no voice in the world, no control of my life and didn’t trust anyone completely as a result.  I figured that if I trusted anyone to lean on emotionally I would get hurt and more so disappointed.  On the upside I somehow became everyone’s confidant.  The guy people just spilled their guts to for some reason because I would just listen.  My whole life I was everyone’s buddy who they loved to talk to but no romantic feelings for.  For this reason, on the outside I looked very “together.”  I felt that with therapy I could become a real person.
Dr. John asks me to explain why I’ve decided to see him?  Why now?  I told him I didn’t know.  Then he said “Hamm,” for like 30 seconds and I told him.  A few days before this appointment I lost it.  I went full on loony.  Walking home with a pile of groceries.  I have one bag in each hand.  I slept a mere few hours.  I get a text message asking me to go to the bar because someone called in sick.  This all happens one block before I get home.  I all of a sudden loose control and drop both of my bags.  Eggs are all over the sidewalk; I have tears running down my face because it’s just too much.  I have to go to work in the morning at 8am; don’t really feel like working tonight until 3am.  I’m physically so exhausted from everything that I am energetic.  I need a break.  I start having that flop-sweat where my pit-stains look like I’ve just come from a wet T-shirt contest.  In the middle full-on break down, a homeless person walks up and asks me for a dollar.  I politely tell him to go fuck himself.  As I am telling Dr. John this story he just jots notes on his pad and says “hmmm.”

            He asks, “Have you thought of cutting the stress in your life?”
            “Yeah but then I couldn’t do what I do.  I strive on stress and anxiety.  It makes me get things done.”
            “What is that?”
            “I take care.”
            “I grew up on food stamps and self-loathing.  I can’t go back there.”
            “Hmmm.  Why is that?”
            “I grew up knowing how much everything in our apartment cost.  My mom told me everything and spoke to me as an adult.  As a result I was like a 45-year old in a 5-year old’s body.  For the most part it was just my mom and me.  Both my parents had awful financial problems which changed the tone of their personal lives as well.  My dad once bought me a stuffed dog I called my $12 doggie.  I grew up mostly with my mom in San Diego.  As a result of a shitty situation, divorce and stuff I learned not to answer the phone when bill collectors rang.  I have it different.  At 21 I made more money than my mother did in the past 2 years and in cash!  I like being able to do nice things when I visit my mom because frankly she deserves it and no one else will.  Like when we’re in public places I’ll give her a roll of a few hundred-dollar bills when her husband isn’t looking.  Then she grumbles at me in Russian to take it back.  Then I ask her if she wants to make a scene and embarrass her husband?  Her eyes tear up and we move on.”
            “So she’s married?”
            “I’m 22 now.  She got married when I was 20.  Very quickly after I moved out to a nice guy she met on after at least 10 years of being single.”
            “Why do you take on so much?  You seem to be addicted to stress.”
            “I guess.  It’s not like I’m freebasing stress.   I just don’t want to be stuck.  I want to be a success and have meaning in this life.  I want to do something bigger with my life but don’t know how or what.  I want to be remembered.”
            “Remembered?  Are you easily forgotten?”
            “For most of my life, I’ve just been that guy a lot of people had seen around but couldn’t remember much about.”
            “In an ideal world what do you see yourself doing?”
            “Traveling the world on someone else’s dime with an endless supply of reefer and a handsome man in every town.”
            “Hmmm… Let me rephrase that.  What career choice would you pick?”
            “I don’t know.  I like writing.  I like stand up comedy.  I always got great reviews for my writing in school.  I used to want to be a famous writer but I could never have that career cause the odds are not in my favor.  With comedy, well, I don’t have a shtick and am not funny.”
            “Have you ever thought of a blog?”
            “No, my life is as interesting as watching paint dry.  Why would I subject others to my boring life?  Besides, I always got horrible marks for my grammar because I’m dyslexic.  No one will read that shit.”
            “Hamm.  You never know.  I think it will be a great exercise for you, your anxiety and wanting to make a mark on the world.  Every time you feel overwhelmed, just write without a goal other than to clear your head.”
            Right after the appointment I called my mom and told her about Dr. John.  She is shocked I am seeing a therapist.  “Did he ask you about me?”
            “No but I promise when he does I will describe you as 50 pounds lighter.”
            She then tells me that the blog idea is great.  I could be a famous Jewish writer like Shell Silverstein, Dr. Seuss or one of the 10 other people she rattles off.  My mom likes to give what I call her weekly Jew Report conversations.  This is where she lists famous Jews in given topics.  “Did you know Robin Williams isn’t Jewish?”
            “Yes. I got to go.”
            The following day I am laid off from that day job.  It’s nine-months since the day I started that job.  I should be upset.  I start crying as I am leaving the office with my “Mr. T” Chiai Pet and box of pen I have stolen from my desk.  It’s the type of crying that looks painful but feels relieving, like that pee after 4 beers soothing.  I get home with this sense of urgency; it’s my night off from the Lab.  I look up how blogs work and words just flow out of me.  I type of a story about how my dad thinks he’s black, then an entry a night for the next week until I see Dr. John.  I write random stories about my daily life like how coffee is my favorite drug.  I post comments for pop-culture articles I read and lots of random stuff.
            I get to my next appointment with Dr. John to tell him that I had blogged all week and while writing feels great but no one read my blog.  I’m a nobody.  He tells me to keep up the work for the next month and just let out my energy in a healthy way by writing.  I tell him that I should focus on getting another job that leads somewhere.  He tells me that my time is up.  That’s therapy.  Every time you get to a point where you’re making progress, your session is over.  It’s like watching a soap opera.  Every time you think something is going to happen, little does.  As I leave Dr. John’s office I get coffee from the shop on his block.  The barista then offers me a free drink.  I have never met him before.  He then says, “I loved the part when you talk about how your father was the only 5’7’’ Jew that was in the middle of the LA-riots for no reason! It cracked my shit up!”  I almost spilled my coffee


Get some therapy!
            As a kid I always wanted to do two things go to a therapist and confession.  Both sounded equally fun.  On TV, kids at the therapist’s office always got cool toys and if you were lucky they would give you this silly doll with fur in strange places.  All the rich kids I knew went to therapy and made it sound like having a good friend (in my head similar to an older sibling) to talk to.  As an only child, that sounded amazing.  Besides therapy, I was always memorized by the idea of confession.  Therapy interested me because I have always been fascinated with how the it works and confession because as a Jew it always interested me.   Go into a booth tell a man all of your problems, say a couple hail marries and call it a day.  I love that idea!  Jews, our guilt is a different kind.  We carry a sack of problems or guilt until it gets so heavy that we explode on someone cause it’s the Jewish way.  It’s an art really.  My grandmother once yelled at our server for making the food too spicy at the buffet even though the item he was referring to was “Cajun shrimp.”  There was a label above the shrimp with three little red chilies but that didn’t matter to grandma.  While server took the time to explain that Cajun meant spicy to my Russian grandmother she proceeded to lose her shit.  My grandfather joined in on the shouting and instantly turned the Sizzler into World War II.  He made the server, her manager and busses all cry for doing him wrong and then sold them copies of his book about his life as a Holocaust survivor.

            The one time I was in therapy as a kid was a free one at my public school in the 2nd grade.  My parents had officially divorced and I was seven.  For an hour a day, twice a week for a few months kids from newly divorced families would meet with the public school therapist-lady and talk about divorce.  The therapist had frizzy-dyed blonde hair and would constantly remind us that our parents divorces weren’t our faults.  Some of the kids would cry.  She would make us draw pictures of our families and say our parents loved us.  Most of the kids drew their mom, dad, sister, dog and other boring stuff.  I would draw my TV.  I would just stare at the kids waiting for these sessions to end.  After a few months of it, I asked my mom to pull me out of the school therapy.  I didn’t understand why anyone could think their parent’s divorce had anything to do with them.  At the time I thought of my parent’s divorce as, I’m glad my parents handled their shit cause their arguing was getting in the way of my Golden Girls watching.  My main worry as a child was being unnoticed, ignored or blending into the wall.

It was during the beginning of my senior years of college, around the time that I was still just friends with Elijah but not with him that I started therapy.  I found out that there was a therapist I could see for free for up to 6 sessions on campus.  Being the poor college student I was sold at FREE.  There was a period of time for about five months where I Elijah confided in me about his HIV status mostly because I was once of his only friends in San Francisco.  This was also because I was there when he got really sick with flu-like symptoms while no one else was.  He made me keep his situation a secret.  At first it seemed easy.  He also mentioned that since we have fooled around a few times over the year, that I should also get tested.  While I had already found out I was HIV negative within 2 days of his diagnoses (I took a blood test fast than you could say “make it a double”), he swore me to secrecy about his status.  Friends would ask me why Elijah was out of school.  I would say it was because he found a sugar daddy that forbade him to complete college.  Truthfully Elijah was learning how to become a walking medical lab with as many prescriptions drugs he could get his big hands on.  After my test, the nurse said that even though I was negative that it could take months to show in my system if I in fact had contracted HIV.  While I knew deep down in the place where my soul should be that I was negative it was still a hard thing to carry silently.  I would have to leave the coffee shop early to take Elijah to the hospital for his appointments.  I would sometimes choose to leave class early to drive him to the doctor’s.  It was the secrecy of the whole thing that really got to me.   I remember my mom calling me around this time, asking how things were and I told her that Elijah was great and that I was okay.  Being the Jewish mother she is, her spidey senses went up and she told me to tell her what was wrong.  I lied and kept lying about the situation for months because that’s what Elijah asked me to do.  It got to the point where I didn’t know what to do with my angst a keeping all my emotions on the HIV front quiet so I figured therapy may be a good thing to try.  Once I started my therapy session it soon came apparent why they were free.

            I got to her cubicle and she asked me to call her Dr. Lailani.  She was wearing a Phish t-shirt, had long black hair and smelled of patchouli.  She also had a touch of black armpit hair that I could see leaking out of her short sleeves.  This aspect put me on edge.  That should have been the first red flag.  She seemed nice enough.  Very much the San Francisco person we have all seen on TV.  I think it weird that she went by her first name.  Anyone that goes by doctor and then their first name is too hippy dippy for my taste but may be therapy will change that. I’m too cynical to take her seriously. My first issue is that she seems very happy and chipper.  I don’t trust anyone who is happy all the time because as my LA has-been actress teacher once said, I could “smell the acting.”  First thing she asks me is if I was named after Dr. Zhevago.  I quickly get defensive and explain that Yuri is a very common Russian name and was not invented by that movie.  If I could get a penny for every time get asked that question, I’d be rich enough not to need free therapy.  Then she asks me about coming out.  She kept asking about how my parent’s divorce sculpted my coming out process when I couldn’t understand the relevance.  For the next 4 sessions she focuses on the topic of coming out even though I didn’t feel the need.  I got annoyed because for me coming out wasn’t that big of a deal.  I told my mom I was gay at twenty years old.  She cried onto my shoulder, dried her tears and then asked me if I was seeing anyone Jewish.  She then asked me to fix her hair a bit and we went to dinner.  That’s it.  I live in San Francisco.  My family did not disown me or anything like that.  It would take my parents years to understand my gayness but they tried to be supportive with the tools they had.  I told Lailani this and she stuck to the topic way longer than needed.  It was like watching the movie Titanic, at least two-hours too long (our sessions were 45 minutes).  Since it was November, at this point, she asked me if I was sad not going home for the holidays for “CHHHHannukaaaah.”  She spent like 30 seconds doing the hmmmm noise.  I told her that it wasn’t a major Jewish holiday and I didn’t really care.  She looked at me as though I had single-handedly killed baby Jesus or something.  It was the same look many teen girls must have had when they realized George Michael was as gay as the day is something.  I then explained to her that while Chanukah is a Jewish holiday, it is a minor one that does not have the importance that Christmas does to Christians and those who have a tree just because it’s pretty.  She then asked me about the 8 days of gifts.  I then told her that I didn’t get that; it was an exaggerated thing to compete with Christmas.  She then asked me why I couldn’t have the holiday spirit and always have to be a bummer.  I then asked her realize that natural deodorant has never worked, to purchase anti-perspiring, to stop talking and left.


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