It’s been a crazy week with the birth of my son and my daughter’s musical theater performances. I’m also a major procrastinator so once again my mother won’t be receiving a Mother’s Day card or gift on time. Instead of letting it slide and rationalizing it as a b.s. Hallmark holiday, I stayed up a little late last night and wrote down a few thoughts. My mom is pretty amazing and deserves at least that.
Yesterday I spoke with my sister, Mary, and brothers, Mike and Steve, to get their thoughts and make this from all of us. My memory sucks thanks to football and fighting and I wanted to be thorough. Some of these things may sound like exaggerations, especially when taking into account what I look like and things I’ve done, but I swear it’s all true. There’s only so much a mother can do.
When people talk about my mother, the word nice is bound to pop up. Her kindness is never ending and without a doubt, she’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. None of us can remember her ever saying a mean thing about anyone. She searches for the best in people and loves her fellow man.
Growing up, we lived frugally, my parents sacrificing so much so all four of us could go to private school. Mom never complained about not having something. We were lucky to have what we did and she was always grateful. Money wasn’t important but spending time with family was: dinner at the kitchen table, card games, awesome birthday cakes.
Whether we were children or adults, Mom took an interest in what we were doing and always offered to help. And something we all appreciate and that says so much about Mom is her being respectful of our decisions, even when they go against what she holds holy.
Her courage facing breast cancer is something we all admire. What’s really great is her proactive stance, how much research she puts into a healthy lifestyle, passing on the info to us because she truly understands how damaging the wrong kind of food can be. At 69 she’s more active than I am, super consistent with her yoga and walking, a great role model for all of us.
It’s also been great to see her venture out of her comfort zone and try new things, especially later in life. Water-skiing, riding on a motorcycle, going snorkeling, traveling out the country.
More than anything, Mom is full of love. There’s never been a doubt in mind that her love wasn’t unconditional. No matter what we do or who we become, she’ll always be there for us. And we’ll always be there for her, thankful for who she is.
And did I mention she made some great cakes.
Going to Esalen was so far outside of my comfort zone I almost cancelled. I started pacing, worrying. Why did I even think this was a good idea? I worked as a bodyguard. I fought MMA. I didn’t go to hot springs with hippies and “lovers” and people who say, “Art,” like they’re having an orgasm.
But if I wanted to get better as a writer, I had to push myself. I needed to surround myself with the best. I didn’t want to look like an idiot so I purchased all of Tom’s books, ordered them under my wife’s account so I wouldn’t have to see “Buyers who liked this product also bought this.” Who knew what might start popping up on my browser. Tom’s narrators were gay or bisexual. I’d never read anything with more than one guy in a sex scene unless there was a woman in the middle. I read genre. I shied away from anything literary. But I had to get a feel for Tom’s style.
Luckily, the books arrived in that cardboard Amazon packaging. For all the mailman knew, I was ordering Fight Club and Cujo. I could still look him in the eyes. I shut the door, brought them upstairs in case friends stopped by. The books stayed on my nightstand for a few days.
I reminded my wife, “These are just for research.”
Finally, one night after she’d fallen asleep, I cracked the first one open. I told myself if it got too weird I’d just replace “he” with “she” and everything would be fine. But I started to worry, What if what people said was true? What if homophobes are just secretly gay?
Oh God, what if I got turned on? What if my wife turned over and saw the sheet tented, both my hands holding Tom’s book?
But within a couple of pages, I wasn’t thinking about anything but the writing. I’d heard Tom was a great storyteller, but his attention to language was beyond anything I’d ever seen. His narrators’ sexual orientation didn’t matter; these were living, bleeding human beings, each one so painfully complex, fumbling, failing, struggling to find themselves, to find love. They just wanted to be happy and free, but living in the straight world, they faced the intolerance and hate.
Over the next couple of days I read the rest of Tom’s work. Then it was time to leave. I decided to take my motorcycle, blasted my metal for the six-hour ride. I wore a tank top so my tattoos were on full display. Didn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea as I pulled into Esalen. The place seemed eerily quiet.
The ride up the coast had wrecked my back. My whole body was sore. I saw a sign for those cliff-side hot springs. It was late Sunday night, cold enough for a jacket. I figured the baths would be empty and made my way down the hill. The restroom was quiet, a few soft voices floating over the waves lapping at the rocks. An older man was walking up with nothing but a towel draped over his shoulder. I’d read nudity was encouraged. It actually sounded good. I was soaked with sweat despite the cold breeze. I tore off my clothes before I could chicken out.
There were two choices for the baths, a “quiet” side and a “silent.” Silent seemed safer so I hurried for the entrance, almost bumped into Tom and his partner, Sage, the three of us standing there naked clogging the doorway. I’d been in locker rooms my entire life, so being naked around another guy was never a big deal. You just nod, grunt, and move on.
But after reading Tom’s books, I wasn’t just a fan; I’d come here to learn from this man. I didn’t want my first impression to be some ape shoving past him, but I also didn’t want to start up a conversation without pants, so I gave a little wave. “Evening,” I said. My voice sounded higher than normal. We were still crammed in the door. Tom smiled. I slipped through and kept walking. I could feel myself blushing. It was so embarrassing.
Luckily, there was no one else in the baths, so I hopped in a private tub, disappeared in the tendrils of steam.
Our first workshop was early the next morning. It was my first introduction to Tom’s “Dangerous Writing,” a brand of minimalism that sends the author exploring the uncomfortable places he’s afraid to go. Another way to get naked. Not only did I make a major breakthrough in my writing, but also as a person. I spent the night writing a tear-stained paper, my two-page assignment suddenly six pages long. I’d uncovered an old wound that’d been buried twelve years. Now I was pulling it up from the ground, scrubbing it with salt.
By sunrise, that dark secret that’d been eating away at me was scabbed over and healing. I could finally move on.
Nearly everyone in that group had a breakthrough and I felt the true power of writing. That workshop is the reason I’m putting together these MMA anthologies. I know everyone has a story in them and even if it’s not perfect, it’s helpful to spit it out.
And the other thing that workshop did was force me to face my prejudice against homosexuality. I was open and exposed, and no one judged me. They didn’t place their antiquated beliefs on what I’d done or who I was. And the love I saw between Tom and Sage was more than I had seen in most straight marriages.
How could that much kindness and compassion be wrong? Who was I to judge someone’s happiness? It’s none of my business.
Since the workshop, I’ve made a few gay friends. I wasn’t trying to prove something. I just wasn’t closing myself off. Being gay doesn’t make you awesome, just like being straight doesn’t.
And this brings me back to my definition of a man. I used to think it meant you needed to be big and strong to protect your loved ones. But that’s just a bodyguard.
The most popular answers I’m given by fighters are Integrity, Honesty, and Loyalty. I’m right there with them, but I’d like to add to it.
Being a real man means to be kind and caring, loving and compassionate. Being able to express those emotions to those around you, not simply assuming they know. And not limiting that love to only those that share your same beliefs.
Being a man means being willing to question your beliefs. If you immediately respond strongly to something and you’re not sure why, a real man looks at himself and evaluates. A real man wants to be better and does everything he can to get there.
We all have our flaws. It’s our job to sift through the hate and figure out what’s best for us, our families, and everyone around us.
Being a man is being able to stand up for what’s right, not caring what others think.
I’m just learning that. In the past I often wanted to walk the line, not upset anyone, but if I’m not willing to make a stand for justice and equality, then what kind of world am I leaving my daughter and my unborn son?
I’m glad I waited until now to have a son. I’m going to be able to point at so many Unlocking the Cage interviews and show him some great examples of real men. I can point to Tom and Sage and show him two more. I’ll tell him they love each other and are married, and with his judgment unclouded by my ignorance or some religious text, I can guess what he’ll say. It’s beautiful.
If you’re looking for a tattoo, check out Sage’s work. Here’s what he did for me.
When I’m interviewing a fighter for Unlocking the Cage, I often ask what type of person do they strive to be, not just in the cage, but in life, how do they define being a “real man.” I’ve heard some great answers, but I realized I’ve never answered that question myself. But after reading a friend’s Facebook post on gay marriage I’d like to give it a shot.
I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s on a heavy diet of GI Joe, Smear the Queer, football, and Schwarzenegger flicks. I got turned onto metal when I was nine. In 7th grade my parents removed their weightlifting restriction (until then I was only allowed to do push-ups or sneak in a quick deadlift on the side of the couch). I had one goal; to become stronger than all of my friends. In high school, our football coach indoctrinated us with the motto, “Bigger Faster Stronger.” I started powerlifting competitions, Muay Thai, college football. I was drinking and smoking weed the entire time. I crossed the country on a motorcycle, knife strapped to my thigh and a 9mm in my tank bag.
I was everything I thought a “real man” should be.
I was raised Catholic. One guess how I felt about homosexuality. One guess how many gay friends I had (that I knew of). One guess how many times I called friends “fags” and used “gay” to describe anything unappealing. I can’t even begin to count.
My sister-in-law tried to talk to me, tried to show me how ridiculous I was being, but I held strong to my beliefs. Homosexuality was gross, wrong, and something I wanted no part of. But as long as no one brought it around me, it wouldn’t be a problem, just something to make fun of in TV and the movies.
At Brown there was a zero tolerance policy toward any kind of hate speech. This only increased my prejudice. What about freedom of speech? Why couldn’t I say what I wanted when they could parade around however they pleased. Suddenly, it was Us vs. Them, at least in my head.
After college, I worked as a bouncer at this nightclub in Hollywood. One night the Gay Adult Video Awards rented out the place for their after party. Because of my size, the club stuck me out front, where I checked IDs and did pat downs. I nodded at the “Best Blowjob” and other anatomically correct trophies. All the guys were laughing. They were getting a kick at how uncomfortable I was, wanting to feel my muscles, telling me I just had to switch teams. I got so embarrassed it just cemented my opinions.
A year later, I took a gig as a bodyguard. I ended up spending a lot of time at one of the Beverly Hills’ movie agencies. I was interacting with the gay community a lot. I still had my prejudices, but the people I was meeting didn’t fit into my stereotypes. Things really changed when I worked a party for Ellen DeGeneres. The network was airing “The Puppy Episode,” the one where Ellen came out to the world. Everyone at the party was crying and hugging each other. You’d have to be a moron not to get why this was such a big deal. I wasn’t able to get very close, but Ellen seemed like a genuinely great person. I realized the risk she was taking. I admired her courage.
I guess I was making progress, but I doubt I would’ve reacted the same way if the kiss had been between two men.
But I stopped vocalizing my opinions. I went on with my life, hardly giving much thought to the subject. Society was clearly starting to accept homosexuals. Who was I to fight this? I had enough trouble figuring out my own life.
Little by little, my prejudice eased off, but I still cracked gay jokes, still didn’t want to watch gay scenes on TV. I didn’t like the term homophobe, but it definitely still applied.
It was a writing class at UCLA extension that started me on a path to change everything. My instructor recommended a workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur. He said it was awesome, just a week of nothing but writing. He said one of the writers at Esalen would be a perfect match for my style. His name was Tom Spanbauer. He’d been Chuck Palahniuk’s mentor. I’d read every one of Palahniuk’s books. I was sold, sign me up.
I didn’t bother researching Tom until after I’d made the decision to go to the workshop, cleared it with my wife, and arranged a babysitter to take over my stay-at-home dad duties. That’s when I got online and read about the workshop. I’d heard Esalen was known as this fun-loving place, full of hippies, yoga, and nude hot springs. But I was just focused on being able to write, get feedback on my work. The website said Tom ran the workshop with his partner, Sage. A man.
That wasn’t a big deal to me. I’d just read this essay by Palahniuk discussing Tom’s teaching. I knew this trip would change my writing forever. What I didn’t know was that it would also change my definition of what it means to be a man.
The Boston bombing is a tragedy, something that everyone can agree on. I feel awful about what happened, the lives lost, and all those affected by it. Unlike a lot of the country, I did not follow the news, but read the headlines. What could they tell me that I didn’t already know? Three people killed, hundreds injured. Fucked up situation.
But it’s very important to remember that this was one isolated incident, in one state, in one city. The United States is not under attack, despite what you may read by power-hungry politicians looking to snatch up civil liberties. The odds of being killed in a terrorist attack are around one in 20 million. You’re thirty times as likely to win ten thousand dollars with your next lottery ticket. You’re sixty times more likely to die in a plane crash (and not because of terrorists). You’re twice as likely to become a billionaire.
If you’re worried about your safety or the safety of your family, stop. Worrying will not help a thing and only add to your anxiety. A great way to break this fear is by turning off the television. The mainstream media is not your friend. You are a consumer, a number. They want you to watch while they mold your mind, tell you how you should feel. Ratings soar when tragedies occur. If it were up to the networks they’d schedule one a week.
If you’re still worried about a terrorist attack and want to do something to even further minimize the odds of one happening, take a good look at our foreign policy and demand that your representatives change it. Do you really believe that terrorists want to hurt us because of our freedom? It’s called blowback. I’m not saying it’s justified, but I do understand it. Just as many Americans want to retaliate and hurt whoever might have burst our peaceful bubble, imagine how much that feeling would intensify if your cities were destroyed with drone strikes, innocent men, women and children rationalized as acceptable collateral damage. Imagine if you lived in a country where over a million lives have been lost in a war based on lies. It’s not our freedom that’s pissing people off.
The United States is not a battlefield no matter how much some of our leaders would like us to believe. Look outside your window. Drive around your neighborhood. Don’t live in fear, an emotion that clouds judgment. Live every day like it may be your last and enjoy the hell out of it. Let your loved ones know what they mean to you.
And if you’re the type of person who just wants to worry about something, remember there’s a fifty percent chance you’ll get cancer in your lifetime.
Music has been a big part of my life. And by music, I most definitely mean metal. It’s also been a big influence on my writing, which is probably apparent as a line from Machine Head starts off Brightside and Slipknot lyrics kick off 25 Perfect Days. In addition to the impact on my novels, many of my short stories were sparked by songs, several of them sharing the title as my way of acknowledging the bands.
When I began writing, I’d always have music playing in the background. I didn’t understand just how influential the music could be, I just liked having it on. It wasn’t until I began the rewrite of Brightside that I realized this.
As I discussed in this post, there were three bands that played a big part in Brightside: Machine Head, Fear Factory, and Puscifer, each used for a different purpose. But there was another I was listening to a lot when Tom Spanbauer convinced me to switch Brightside from third person to first, something I’ll always be grateful for despite the extra years of work. The first scene to rework was the bedroom scene with Joe and his girlfriend, Rachel, who just ‘heard’ him dreaming of his ex. In the original it took place near the end of the book, in the revision it occurs first, setting the stage for these two telepaths that had been ripped from their lives and imprisoned in the beautiful internment camp.
The switch from third to first person is not simply switching ‘he’ to ‘I’ and it proved to be much harder than I anticipated. I went through several revisions and wasn’t able to find any music that helped. Finally I settled on an In Flames’ song with very little singing so it wouldn’t disturb me, then put it on repeat. The music seemed to work and I finished the scene just in time for my weekly video chat with Tom.
The scene had become way more sexual, angry, and disturbing. Rachel went from being a broken girl, ashamed of being exposed, to a psychotic mess who’d strapped Joe to the bed, threatening him and his manhood with a pair of razor sharp scissors. (Snips of the scene down below)
Tom said it was a pretty solid scene, but asked if that was the real story, is that what happened. It didn’t fit with what he’d read so far and I had to admit he was completely right. I’d written a disturbing short story that had no business in the book. Although the lyrics of the song don’t have anything to do with what I wrote, I couldn’t help but notice the title of the song was exactly what I’d written. “Your Bedtime Story is Scaring Everyone.” Whether it was my subconscious fixated on the title or simply the feeling the creepy music inspired, I couldn’t deny that it affected the story.
Now I’m much more aware of what music I listen to, especially when I’m creating. I try to match the music to the character’s frame of mind or type of scene. The faster the music, the quicker I’d write, throw on some old Slayer and shit is on. If things need to be deeper or darker, maybe I’ll put on some Sabbath. For my Norse mythology retelling, I’ll most definitely be rocking Amon Amarth and going with some lighter folk metal like Eluveitie for the softer scenes.
Pieces of the scary bedtime story scene:
Rachel kissed my neck softer. Then harder. Left side, then right. Because Ivy Leaguers don’t quit, they just keep trying and trying until they get what they want. Don’t care who gets fucking hurt.
And that’s when she used my line, said it so I’d know it was a lie. “Relax. Everything will be fine.”
I said nothing because Rachel burped Bacardi all over my neck, made me clench my stomach to barely hold down my dinner. Then she went back to kissing me like it didn’t still smell and I said, “Sexy.”
Rachel got right up in my face, so close I could barely see her, and said, “Jesus Christ,” like he had something to do with what was going on between us.
Her words covered my face like a pillow, made it hard to breathe. I’ll never forget that smell. The smell that said the last thing in her mouth wasn’t her toothbrush.
It was too dark to make out her face, but there was no question Rachel was enjoying seeing me chained up, all that black and nowhere to hide.
She chuckled, told me to relax. “They’re sheets, Hercules. Keep pulling like that and you’ll cut off the blood.”
I didn’t care about that so I kept at it, bed posts banging, tried to give an order she’d have to obey, wasn’t that surprised it came out like begging. “Get these fucking off me.”
Rachel put her hand on my cheek, left it there. She stayed calm, waited until I did, and asked, “What’s your rush?”
I changed tactics, kept it clean. This was my girlfriend, someone I should be able to trust. “Rachel, please get them off me.”
Her voice was spooky coming out of the dark, a black space moving where her mouth should be. “Do you still love her?”
I shook her hand off me and yelled, “Take these off now!”
Rachel waited a few seconds so I was really listening. Then real quiet, she said, “No.”
Everything went silent, not a fucking sound anywhere beside my breath, my heart, my gulping all that saliva because it wouldn’t go down on its own. And then the tiniest screech, metal on metal as the scissors closed super slow, one, two, three seconds, then a brutal snap to say that’s it, guess what I just took off.
My neck was strained, but I couldn’t see her standing by the door seven feet away. I couldn’t see the door either, but that’s where she was doing the slow snip again and again, me just holding onto the sheets, not pulling on them because I had everything focused on that corner of that room, listening for any sound, waiting for her to pounce, give me what I deserved.
In all that black, I couldn’t see how big the scissors were, had no way of knowing where Rachel got them. I hoped she hadn’t brought them from home because that changed everything. I had small ones in the bathroom, but that snip was too long for those. Sounded just about right for the extra big pair I used for pizza. The pair that could pretty much cut through anything.
Rachel was just a shape in the darkness a safe six feet away. I couldn’t see her face, know what she was thinking. I tried to keep everything scared out of my voice and said, “This isn’t funny, Rachel.”
She chuckled liked she did whenever she told her stupid joke about how wrong it was that John was the Bobbitt everyone remembered, Lorena just some lunatic.
Rachel took another step, was still too far away to read.
The scissors did their thing and I almost prayed this was all a joke. Almost, because I don’t pray. I refuse to believe there’s someone up there that could make a difference. And if he is up there, then fuck him. I’m not praying to the prick who made me so special, let me fall in love with a lunatic, trust her with a key to my room.
I was on my own on this one. And that’s what scared the crap out of me, made me scream, “Turn on the lights! Turn them on!”
Last year, I wrote a blog on how The Disaster Diaries by Sam Sheridan was the first book I’d ever pre-ordered. I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a great deal from both of his fighting books and I have an almost unhealthy preoccupation with the shit hitting the fan on a very large scale. As a child who grew up afraid of nuclear war, and a parent who’s spent too much time paying attention to politics and studying so-called conspiracies, it’s hard to find balance between being paranoid and prepared. I was hoping this book might help me.
Just as with his other books, Sheridan grabs the reader on the very first page, letting us into his nightmares, his fears, the reasons for the book. He’s a great storyteller with a distinct voice that stays true throughout and it was immediately apparent this wasn’t going to be a boring instructional guide.
With openness and humor, Sheridan lets the reader experience everything alongside him. The attraction and horror he had with the knife, the pressure of performing under the critical eye of a master, the pride of pulling it off. Each chapter was unique, something for everyone, as he considered all the situations his family could face. Because of my limited reading time, I only got in one chapter a night, but the book is perfectly suited for people like me. An exciting two pages of the nightmare, Sheridan’s experience and new understanding of the subject, and tied up neatly with his family’s survival.
Before I began the last chapter, I wasn’t exactly sure I should have read the book, despite how much I enjoyed it because it seemed to be adding to my anxiety. As someone who has had zero training in a few of the areas Sam tackled, and just enough training in the others to know how inadequately prepared I’d be, reading about what could happen really increased my to-do list and amplified my urge to get the hell out of Los Angeles. If something bad is going to happen, that’s not where I want to be.
The last chapter is what really made the book for me. Not only did I love the way Sheridan points out what really happens in times of crisis and how the media warps it, but his take on if the apocalypse will ever occur was reassuring. The one line that really spoke to me is what I’ll keep in mind when I get a little crazy:
“At some point, when you’ve done your best, you have to get on with your life and trust the universe not to fuck you.” – Sam Sheridan, The Disaster Diaries
I try to follow the careers of the men and women I’ve interviewed this past year, but with over 250 of them and all the other stuff going on in my life, it proves to be a bit difficult. That’s why I was excited to see the CES email earlier this week that three fighters that I interviewed at the start of Unlocking the Cage would be fighting on the same “Path of Destruction” card this Friday at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln, RI.
It’s been nearly a year since I stepped foot into Tri-Force MMA, the first real fighters’ gym in Unlocking the Cage. As I climbed the stairs to the gym, which was hidden away in an industrial warehouse in Pawtucket, RI, there was little doubt what kind of fighters I would find. This was a place to put in work, not to look pretty. These guys were here to fight.
I wasn’t disappointed when I got inside and met the group and started taking photos. Todd Chattelle, a muscular heavyweight, was one of the first guys to catch my attention. He was training hard and very focused, bouncing back from a disappointing loss just two weeks prior. Although I didn’t have nearly enough time to talk with him after the training session, I got a good sense of who he was, the type of guy I’d be friends with. Todd was intense yet gentle, confident yet humble, someone you could trust. I owe Todd and the rest of the Tri-Force team thanks for getting this project off to such a good start. They helped me remember what fighters were all about and that this project was worth spending a good chunk of my life on.
A few days after my time at Tri-Force, I headed to Plymouth, MA to watch the Cage Titans FC fight. I’d torn the cartilage in my ribs that morning and nearly left after the first five hours of fights, but I’m glad I stayed to catch the main event, Johnny Campbell vs. Tateki Matsuda. I very impressed with these two guys trading blows, Johnny continuing to come after Tateki no matter how many brutal leg kicks were landed. Johnny lost the decision but in a fight like that there’s no real loser.
Two days later I was at South Shore Sportfighting and Fitness where Johnny trains out of. He wasn’t in any shape to make it to the gym, but his coach put me in touch with him and I did my first house visit, a nice change from rushed interviews at the loud gyms with onlookers that could sway answers. Johnny and I probably spoke for an hour, both on and off camera, about fighting, philosophy, and life in general. By the time we were finished, I was even more impressed with him as a person than as a fighter. Unfortunately, as with Todd’s, I was still in the learning stage of filming interviews and more than half of the footage wasn’t usable.
When I returned to Massachusetts the next month, I had the opportunity to stop by Wai Kru’s brand new South Shore facility. The gym was still finishing construction and not open to the public, but the fight team was hard at work. My rib injury was still keeping me out of training, but after watching five minutes of practice, I was thankful I wasn’t joining them. Besides it being the end of June and blazing hot, the Kru was relentless, on his guys every part of practice.
One of the fighters I was watching was John “Doomsday” Howard, who I recognized from his fights in the UFC. I remember thinking at the time that if someone was going to beat John, it wouldn’t be due to them training harder.
After the team finished the MMA class and a workout with weights, I had the pleasure of interviewing John and several of his teammates. For those that don’t know him, the nickname ‘Doomsday’ could be a bit misleading. Like nearly every other MMA fighter I meet, John’s a great guy. I loved his definition of what makes a man and think it’s something most fighters would agree with. “Being a bad ass doesn’t make you a man, it’s your attitude and how you carry yourself. You don’t have to fight to be a man. It’s about being true to yourself and standing up for what you believe in.”
I wish all three of these men the best this weekend, but regardless of the fight outcomes, it’s great to know that all three of them are on the right path. They understand what’s important in life and are giving it everything they’ve got.
I also hope they’ll each be up for participating in the short story collection I’m putting together where I’ll be working with MMA fighters on writing about a moment from their life. Each of these guys has some incredible stories behind them and I’m hoping they’ll be up for sharing one with me and the rest of the world.
In my post last week, I discussed a quiz that showed where I landed on the political spectrum. Prior to taking that quiz six years ago, politics was an evil I wanted nothing to do with. The system was screwed and I couldn’t change it, so why bother. I had never even heard of libertarianism.
Discovering there was a group that had similar beliefs was pretty exciting, but first I had to make sure the test result wasn’t some sort of fluke. The way many of the questions were worded made them difficult to answer and I’m not sure how much an agree or strongly agree would change my placement. I checked the Political Compass’s reading list and delved into Ron Paul’s writings, Frederic Bastiat’s The Law, and my wife, who’s been libertarian since she discovered it in high school, gave me all her Ayn Rand books.
After just a few weeks of reading, there was no question I had found a philosophy congruent with my belief system. The only problem was that I was on the losing team. How could a movement gain any kind of following when the mainstream media does everything it can to ignore and ridicule it? The good news is that I’ve always rooted for the underdog, feel I’ve been one most of my life. Why not do it again.
After witnessing the last two elections, it’s pretty apparent that most people have misconceptions of what libertarians are, they just know they don’t fit nicely in the so-called two-party system. I’ve heard them accused of nearly everything and while I am by no means a spokesperson for the group, and there are many different branches of thought, I can explain what it means to me.
At its simplest, libertarianism boils down to increasing individual liberty by minimizing government and shifting any necessary government functions from the Federal to the local level. The government should be downsized as much as possible to get rid of the enormous inefficient bureaucracies that eat up so many resources. The economic market should be truly free and politically connected corporations should get no unfair advantages. Welfare should come from the individual, a much more efficient, and very plausible, system than what’s in place.
To me, it comes down to individuals being free to choose what they will or won’t do with their own body and property as long as it doesn’t harm another individual. Whether it be the bedroom, the food or drug you choose to ingest, or how you want to save for retirement, what right does anyone have to tell you what you can do? It is great seeing everyone up in arms about marriage inequality, but why stop there? How can you say the government shouldn’t force that decision on you, but they can make all the others? I’m over eighteen, I’ll sign the waiver saying I take full responsibility for myself and the decisions I make. I don’t need a nanny.
And for those of you that might argue that the government is a benevolent nanny that’s looking out for our best interest, save your breath. The government allows alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription pills which have caused more death and destruction than all illegal drugs combined. The government does not give one shit about your well-being except that it’d like you to be a good little wage-earner to support it. The drug war, and almost every other policy, is about money, always has been.
We also have no business interfering in other countries and participating in never-ending unjust wars. We should be able to use whatever currency we want. It’s why I’ll be adding Bitcoin to the new website store and would barter my books for silver pieces if it wouldn’t land me in jail. We should end the Federal Reserve. Kill the absolute worst-named Patriot Act. You can probably guess where I stand on guns. Disarming everyone would create a forced dependency on government, unions and corporations that profit from it and do nothing for our safety that the media would like us to believe is under constant threat. We’ve given away enough of our liberties and rights.
And as for freedom of expression. Absofuckinglutely.
The message of freedom has most definitely influenced my writing and I hope both Brightside and 25 Perfect Days will encourage people to question just how much liberty they are willing to give up.
‘With Liberty and Justice for all.’ It’d be nice if those were more than meaningless words.
Here are two UFC veterans, Matt Lindland and Roli Delgado, who I interviewed for my my MMA project, Unlocking the Cage. In these clips they talk about what libertarianism means to them.
And here’s a video where Adam Kokesh does a great job of stating the difference between libertarians and the two parties. Both Republicans and Democrats want to use the government to force the rest of the country to follow their preferences. How about we stop fighting over who we point that giant gun known as government at and start figuring things out ourselves.
I almost missed out on meeting Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith when I visited Northern California in December. Our schedules weren’t matching up and I was prepared to make the long drive back to LA, but then I got a text that she was going to be participating in a wrestling seminar at El Niño Training Center the following morning.
I headed down to San Francisco and caught the first half of the all-day seminar taught by Travis Lee. Although Leslie was the only female in the group, there was nothing strange about her being there. That’s one of the awesome things that’s changed in the MMA community: everyone’s welcome on the mat.
Not only was I able to watch some great techniques being taught, but I managed to squeeze in a quick interview with Gilbert Melendez and Gracie Fighter black belt, Alessandro Ferreira. As interesting as both of those guys are, talking with Leslie was definitely the highlight of the day. She has such a positive take on life and is fighting for all the right reasons. I was so inspired by her interview that I had my four-year-old daughter sit with me and watch it when I returned home. Part of that was so Livvie could see we aren’t the only ones who play the make-someone-smile-by-smiling-at-them-first game, but also because Leslie is the type of woman I want my daughter to grow up to be. I hope that my daughter doesn’t go into fighting, but I do want her to have the confidence that she can do anything she wants. I also want Livvie to stand up for her beliefs and not be afraid to voice them, something else Leslie seems to do quite well.
MMA fans shouldn’t be fooled by Leslie’s Peacemaker name. She’s an exciting fighter to watch and I can’t wait to check her out this Friday, Apr. 5, at Invicta FC 5 in Kansas City, Missouri. Leslie (5-2-1) is fighting Sarah Kaufman (15-2), a very tough and experienced fighter who Strikeforce fans are very familiar with. Invicta always puts on a good card and it’s only $9.95 for the pay-per-view.
Check out Leslie’s interview to see why I’m a big fan.
Last month, my wife, who was 27 week pregnant, told me she had to go to the doctor because of some bleeding and back cramping during the night. We’d already had a couple trips to the ER for similar issues so I didn’t think much of it.
When Jen called that afternoon, it was obvious something was very wrong. She was at the hospital and had begun preterm labor, was already dilated, starting contractions, and the baby’s head was showing. I assured her everything would be fine and asked her to relax while I googled every term she’d thrown at me, trying to determine how common it was, what the baby’s odds would be if he were born so early.
I tried to sound positive on the phone, but my thoughts had turned to worst case scenarios, memories of the first pregnancy where our daughter was whisked away to the NICU because she wasn’t breathing. That experience scared the hell out of me and was one of the big reasons why I wasn’t so sure about having another child (That and how much I enjoy what little sleep I currently get.)
Everyone worries to some degree and you’ll hear people say it’s a natural part of life. It’s easy to get caught up in it. Especially if you’re like me and have spent your entire life worrying about everything, something bound to happen with an Italian grandmother who worried like it was part of her job description.
After I got off the phone with Jen, I headed to the hospital and was able to refocus, everything I’ve learned and accepted in the past few years coming back strong. I wasn’t going to worry and I wasn’t going to let her either. Jen was understandably scared, but my positive attitude definitely helped her more than it irritated. She began to accept that no amount of worrying would change a thing except possibly bringing the baby earlier.
Some people may read this and think that I just don’t care, but I assure you that’s not the case. There’s also a big difference between being worried and being prepared. You can still figure out the best way to handle a situation without it causing needless stress or strain. Remember that no amount of worrying about a possible tragedy will prepare you if it does occur. You won’t mourn the loss of a loved one any less because you’ve spent everyday worrying they might die.
The father in Brightside might have been kind of a dick about the way he raised his son in this regard, but his head was in the right place:
I’m not going to make it if I keep thinking like this. I have to stay positive, get through the day. That’s what Dad also said. “Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. And if it doesn’t come, then your worries are over.”
For those of you who find yourself worrying way more than you should, check out the list of what worrying can do to your body and understand there’s no need for it. One of the books that helped me quite a bit, was The Power of Now. If you live in the moment and realize that thinking about the past or future is pointless, then worry goes out the window.
Plus, if Jake is anything like my wife or daughter, he’s going to be a fighter. There’s no quit in either one of them and I know he’ll be just fine.