Chapter 8: April 2009 Rum, Pants & @cartermason: A Guide to Corner Turning

April did not start off with a bang.  It was really just cancerous March seeping in underneath the April door.  I’d pretty much stopped eating and socializing after Moving Day.  A breakup ended up being the best diet I’d ever been on, because the small amount of fat that had accumulated on my abs had melted off without exercise.  I was eating like one meal a day.

Oh, it’s OK, don’t worry.  I made up for it by drinking.

When you live with someone for 4+ years, and in one month, without warning, they’re gone, it’s a tremendous shock, and the house is quieter than you’d ever imagine.  I’d turn on TV and radio in every room of the house just for the noise.  I’d just vegetate for hours at a time, realize I was hungry, make food and stop eating after two bites because I was nauseated.

I really had one person who I could talk to, @kimberlyprendez.  Kim and I went back years, and she too had gone through horrible relationship problems when I was one of the only people she could confide in.  She’s an incredible listener, even when I ramble.  She’s my best friend, (aside from one other person), and was really my first therapist.  It’s convenient that she’s so good at it, because she’s in school right now to become a real one.

I realized, after talking with Kim, that I also needed to talk to a therapist. So I called one.

I’d been to a therapist once as a teen.  My parents were having some issues, my mom and I weren’t getting along, and so I saw some guy two or three times.  It was an OK experience, there was no couch and he didn’t speak with a foreign accent.  He was more like Mr. Rogers.  I think it’s akin to meeting @cartermason for the first time.  You feel comfortable, despite the smell of alcohol on his breath, you’re talking, laughing, and then WHAM, suddenly you wake up in a bathtub full of ice and a missing liver.  Carter is a great guy, and one of my best friends.  You’ll be reading about how we met soon enough.  It was a “being in the same emotional place at the same time” kind of thing.  A bromance.

SO, therapy.  I wanted to go to therapy.  I’d had friends that went to therapy, I was always slightly jealous that they got to spill their life’s problems to someone who HAD to listen.

Mostly because they were paid to.

It was a good time for me to go.  I’d had three major relationships in my life, and two of them ended the same way.  I needed to know if there was a common thread, something I was doing without being aware, something I was missing so that I could fix it before I allowed myself to be in the position where I would let someone inside and fall in love again.

I went to a place with multiple therapists at one office.  Like a pack of Skittles, you just kind of close your eyes and put one in your mouth.  OK, maybe not like a pack of Skittles. This metaphor thing is harder than it looks.  More like a police lineup.  There was one problem though.

The first person I picked out of the lineup was not a tasty Skittle. No, it was definitely a shit-flavored Skittle.

If I wanted to write a contrived, stereotypical character into a screenplay who was a psychologist, it would have been this guy.  He had a strong accent that made him hard to understand.  He blamed everything on my adoption, claiming I had abandonment issues.  He pulled photocopied sheets for me to “study from” like he had a fucking lesson plan.  This was all in the first session.  I mentioned Twitter and he shook his head and told me the internet was “no good.”  Yes, that’s a quote.  Each session (and there were only three), he let me talk for about 10 minutes, and then he talked the rest of the session.  He also quoted Freud.  Seriously.  The straw that broke the camel’s back was the third session when he mixed me up with another patient.   I had no problem walking out at the end of the session to the reception desk and saying “I need to switch to a competent therapist, please.  NOW.”

I switched to a female therapist.  My best friend in high school, Michele, was a girl.  I’ve always felt more comfortable opening up to a woman over a man.  Unless we’re talking about @roomtone.  But that’s because he wears a dress.  And lipstick.
I showed up to meet Skittle #2 the first week of April.  The first thing I noticed was that she was not ugly, and I immediately worried that this would be a distraction.  It was not.  She also told me that I was in charge of what we talked about, and to start wherever I wanted.

She was SO hired.

I knew 15 minutes in that I was going to be comfortable telling her anything, and that there’d be no judgment from her. She’d even heard of Twitter.

Going to therapy was great, but after it was over I still had to come back to an empty bedroom. One of those nights in April is where Pantsless was born.

The Pants Come Off

One night I was making pasta and shrimp for dinner.  It was a good night so far, and I was in a somewhat good mood.  I remember I was flipping shrimp in a skillet, when suddenly my brain, in a split second, went to that place where you’re imagining the person you used to be intimate with having sex with someone else.

It’s a wonderful feeling, having those thoughts.

It’s like going somewhere with @dr0id.  You think you’re going to the movies to see Avatar for the 8th time, but without warning he pulls up to some abandoned ride at Coney Island, where there’s a clown face on the entrance all melted from years of rain, old condom wrappers, syringes scattered in front of the ticket counter, and a toothless man with no pants peeing on the clown face’s mouth.  That’s pretty much the same feeling you get when you’re imagining someone you used to love “doing” someone else on a loop in your head, with audio.

I put down the spatula, turned off the burner, and walked into the bedroom to get my hoodie and Blackberry.  Only one thing was going to purge the cancerous images from my unrelenting & loud head.

Rum.

Calm down, @thewallsaresoft.  She likes rum so much she keeps the empty bottles and names them like children.

The picture above is me just before I walked out the door, up the street to the liquor store, bought rum, and walked home.  I was officially in a shitty mood.

I sat on the bed, made a rum and coke (more rum than coke), turned up the stereo and tweeted.  It was the first time I’d tweeted drunk, I was still very much in a place where I didn’t care if I lost followers for saying something inappropriate (actually, I still feel that way. But now it’s for different reasons), I just needed to vent.

AND vent I did.

At one point someone asked me where I was tweeting from.  My response was this:

A few minutes later I decided to expand upon the joke.  I included the word “pantsless.”  It was funny, and totally untrue since I was blasting Fall Out Boy as loud as I could in bed, clothed, the pint of rum gone in less than an hour.  I drank it faster than @boriser shoots a film.  Hmm. That was a compliment. I was really looking for an insult.  Let me try again. I drank it faster than @ekfomo can say “Cheers!”

The thing that surprised me is that everyone was into it, asking questions; enjoying my misery (I mean that in a good way, I was enjoying it, too). Also, I was gaining followers hourly in droves.  I didn’t know why.  A lot of them were filmmakers.  Why wasn’t everyone ignoring the depressed guy who wouldn’t shut up?

That’s the thing about marketing yourself on Twitter.

People will talk to you and follow you even if you’re fallible.  That’s the key to gaining and keeping followers, and the key to turning them into friends, associates, and possibly customers.  Being Yourself.

Being yourself will take you further on Twitter than any gimmick or pitch.

There are limitations.  You have to carefully ride the line between (for instance) scandalous and perverted.  If you’re doing depressed on Twitter like I did, it helps to make fun of yourself at the same time. I have always masked my pain with humor, for so long that it’s a part of who I am.  Some people don’t do sarcasm, both giving and receiving; you’ll lose some people who don’t get that kind of humor.   You just have to commit to it and stay your course, or you’ll look fake, and people will know it.

Here’s an example, but it’s not a tweet. I wrote two “stories” during April. The first one was actually a chat one day when I went off on a tangent, and then posted it to my Facebook, which I had rejoined to torture myself.  It’s a very happy story.  Really.
Picture’s Sorrow

The loss of Picture’s baby was tragic, she was taking it harder than anyone expected. Perhaps if Picture had been more careful around the fireplace, her baby would still be with her. “Wood and fire don’t mix,” she told herself as she sobbed quietly, rocking back and forth, looking very small & alone in the corner.

Picture looked down at the cracks in her frame and cursed softly. She didn’t care; she wanted to be placed in a quiet hallway of the house, the far end of the hallway that never saw the sun’s rays, a picture of a small puppy shivering outside in the rain placed inside.

What happened next seemed to be in slow motion, at least to Picture. She never saw the baseball come through the open window, a victim of Tommy Jarvis’ wild left arm. Then she saw the ball coming at her, spiraling slowly. The stitching on the ball looked like a mouth, screaming at her as it landed on her glass front. There was a moment of silence, Picture could hear nothing but a bird chirping outside, and smelled the tulips outside the window. Then her glass shattered explosively, shards of her body flying in every direction. There was a flash of pain, Picture thought it reminded her of the time John put a nail in her frame, and then, suddenly, she felt nothing.

Picture looked down sadly at her wooden frame, which was now in three pieces. I still feel whole, she thought, and wondered if this was what her mother had felt when she had been killed in that tornado years prior. Picture tried to take a breath, but she couldn’t inhale well, which was mostly due to the fact that she didn’t have any lungs. She closed her eyes and, for a second, was relieved that her pain would now go away. Then she died.

Then a clown burst into the room, squirting water at everything from a broach and honking a horn with his butt.

The second one came a week later.  Don’t worry, it’s more comedic than the last one (shakes head no).

A Flower For Prudence

Prudence had always been aware she was a vase. The fact that people kept putting flowers in her gave it away, and she was made of high quality ceramic.

Prudence looked down at the dead roses inside her. Most of the petals had fallen off and were floating in the water, which had begun to stagnate. Prudence peered over the edge of the China cabinet she was perched on. She could see the body of Susan Summers on the floor below. Prudence had belonged to Susan for over three decades, and knew she was dead. At 93, Susan’s heart attack had been inevitable, and Prudence watched in horror as her only friend collapsed last Friday night while reaching for her tea. For a few hours, Susan twitched. Prudence wished she’d been made with arms and hands so she could call for help, but Prudence knew the window of opportunity for that had now closed.

It had been almost a week, and no one had come to the house. Prudence was glad she was a vase, and didn’t have a nose, she knew the smell of Susan’s decaying body would be unbearable at this point. Susan had outlived most of her family and children and no one had visited her in months. Even the mail had begun to pile up in front of the door, just below the rusty slot that creaked every time mail arrived.

Prudence wondered what would become of her now that Susan was gone. She imagined men coming in and clearing out all the “junk.” Prudence imagined herself being tipped upside down and emptied, and then tossed in a bin with the other trash. It was an almost comforting thought, she was tired. Tired of being a vessel, tired of being filled with other’s broken promises and fake apologies. Prudence wished she could throw herself from the China cabinet, and land next to Susan’s head, shattered in dozens of pieces but finally at peace. But she couldn’t, so she’d have to be content with sitting there indefinitely, until the day the house was emptied by strange hands, and she was discarded.
Then a clown with floppy ears came into the room, riding a unicycle and juggling pies
.

What is it with me and clowns?  (Scratches head).  I should probably bring that up in therapy.  Anyway, I tweeted drunk.  And I felt better.  And more people followed.  Good people, people who cared and asked questions and commiserated with me.  Not @GraphikDeziner.  She pointed and laughed.  She even spit.  Not really, she’s actually an amazing graphic designer named Jenny who almost illustrated this book, except that she’s so good she’s swamped, and I have enough pictures in here already I realized if we added more we might as well make this a pop-up book.  But you can see her stuff at www.bandwagongraphiks.com.  She also bike rides like a gazillion miles a day.

What?  That’s a number.

Meetings

On top of that, this other weird thing happened in April.  Filmmakers I’d been talking to and schmoozing for months and months suddenly wanted to meet to talk about scoring projects.  One of them was @JonathanNail.  Jonathan is one of the funniest, animated guys you’ll meet.  He’s an actor, he’s been on Mad Men and Carnivale, but he’s also a writer.  He even wrote a blurb for the back of this book.  Go look, I’ll wait.

He was working on a webseries about a guy stuck in space on his way to Mars.  We met for lunch, I hadn’t read the script yet, and he pitched his ass off right there at the table.  He was acting out parts, flailing his limbs and shouting out lines.  Once I realized he wasn’t having a stroke, I was intrigued.  I went home, read the script and almost peed my pants with laughter.  Like when @brownambassador is tickling you, and you’re laughing so hard you can’t breathe, and then he starts tickling your inner thigh and it feels… different… and then… Wait, this doesn’t happen to you guys?  Just me?  Hmm.

I emailed @JonathanNail and practically fell over myself wanting to score the project.

And I am.  And it’s because of Twitter.

There was another filmmaker I met with during the same week, a Twitter person I’d been talking to semi-regularly. Little did I know he’d become far more than a business associate.  Unless you consider drinking “business.”  His name?

Carter Mason.

You have to say it like that, too; you can’t just say “Carter.”  There’s like a law, you can be arrested for not saying it properly in five states.  Think of it like Jack Bauer.

Carter is a writer/director and an actor as well.  Carter and I had been talking on Twitter, I was feeling a little cocky after the @JonathanNail meeting for @SOLOtheSeries, so I scheduled a meeting with Carter (I’m allowed to abbreviate his name, by the way, I got permission from the man himself) to talk about his short film that needed music.  We met at a bar called Big Wang’s in North Hollywood.

Later I would remark that it was a fitting place for us to meet.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Carter was going through a breakup of his own.  We met after he had played a softball game (not an adult league, he used to crash little league games and force his way onto the mound to pitch), and he was already a little inebriated by the time I got there.  And I was perturbed.

Perturbed that I wasn’t already drunk, too.

I grabbed a beer and we started talking about the film, we watched it right there at the table on his laptop.  But then we switched the conversation to relationships, and found that we were both in a slump.  Now, I’ve said that @kimberlyprendez is a great friend.  An AMAZING friend.  But she was in a happy place full of flowers and bunnies, whereas I was full of crab grass and bunny shit.  Although she was a great ear, I needed to talk to someone else who was in the dark place.  After meeting Carter, I realized how nice it was to have someone to confide in that knew how it felt.

Carter and I had like a four hour “meeting” at the bar.  We talked incessantly about ex-girlfriends, drunken escapades, films, upbringing, it was an instant bromance.  I’d like to think it helped us both.

Carter and I are still friends; he even got back together with his girlfriend and they moved in together.

What about me, you ask?  I never found anyone; I decided to stay single, collecting locks of hair from supermodels and building model airplanes.  And I wrote a book.

After that last statement, I can hear some of you yelling “Liar!”, while others of you are yelling “Cheers!” (shut up, @ekfomo) and other things not fit for print.  Yes, @jasonburns, I can hear you.  Fine, it’s possible that I met a new friend that happened to be female, but that’s a boring story, and really not fit for this book.  I think it’s much more appropriate at this juncture in the book to talk about the health care crisis in this country, and what steps we need to take to remedy the debt we’re accumulating.

Hey, don’t get mad.  It’s not like I met her on Twitter or anything.

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