Time with Friends

January 5, 2018

Funny little vacation. We went to Vegas because two of my best friends live there and I saved enough last year to visit them. While the one friend we stayed with has known me and Sophia for at least 14 years, the other friend I wanted to see has been my best friend since freshman year of high school some 34 years. When we were both about 35, I bought us both tickets to Vegas to celebrate 20 years of friendship and our birthdays. It was a formative trip—despite constantly getting lost while driving—and it impacted him enough to move there when he left NYC. However I never realized how much that trip impacted me until I got there with Sophia.

A lot of the places we went to 14 years ago are gone, and the strips have changed enormously. I know this because I kept telling Sophia about it every place we went, and wouldn’t shut up. I’d talk about all the things we did, the places we went, and where they used to be. When we did meet up with Will, it was like old times for both of us, except for meeting Sophia for the first time, and we got a local’s eye view of the area.

But going to Red Rocks Canyon sealed it for me. Originally, I was going to take Sophia to either the Grand Canyon or Zion National park. When I realized it was four to five hours traveling time to get there and back, it was going to be Zion. When I woke up with the cold my daughter had and I was fighting to keep from getting, Red Rocks was a happy substitute. Will and I went to Red Rocks that trip 14 years ago. It was fun—eventually, in time. We hopped around a bunch of the rocks on one of the trails, then got seriously dehydrated and delirious trying to hike back to the car without water. This time I made sure we had extra water and not stay out in the sun too long.

A lot of ghosts were playing with my head as Sophia and I hit a short trail further up from where Will and I were years before. I was so happy to be climbing on rocks and steppes with her, more cautiously in my age but still out of both our comfort zones. I could feel the past reverberating through th present, very conscious that I was reliving an old adventure with a new partner in tow. Reminiscing made the new time even more special.

When the New Year rolled around on the West Coast, I was saturated with nostalgia. I used to always go to New Years with the friend I was staying with in Vegas, but this would be our first New Years together in at least 5 years. Getting both of them together for the first time in person, even though they’ve been Facebook friends for years, was a real trip. Two friends I’ve spent many times together with my daughter welcoming a new future. Rarely do past, present, and future intersect so vividly and I hope we have more like them.

 

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My friend, Adam Dickstein, is an old friend from high school as well as one of my RPG GMs. He wanted to do a profile on some of his favorite players and I had the honor of going first. I love the guy, but a couple of his stories of me are a little exaggerated (when we met in the city a few weeks ago, he told my daughter a great story involving a spy game he said I was running, but when he told me the same story when we were in tenth grade, it involved completely different people), but I’ve learned never let that get in the way of a good story. He’s a great guy and I was glad to be a part of his blog. Check out the profile at the link below.

http://barkingalien.blogspot.com/2016/07/player-profiles-david-concepcion.html

SEH cover

Had a great response so far to my story collection Starry-Eyed Hallucinations, including one amazing review from friend, former professor/current friend, and author/screenwriter Stephen Geller:

“David Concepcion is one of the best-kept secrets in dramatic writing. His characters, narratives, compassion and intensity make him one of the most vibrant dramatists and screenwriters of his generation. The fact that his screenplays have not yet been shot speaks loudly about the relentless stupidity of the marketplace. Any director grabbing his work would end up on the cover of TIME as “the most dynamic voice of the year.” Go figure. Let us praise David Concepcion for his work, and Amazon for bringing STARRY-EYED HALLUCINATIONS to the planet. Every good and great piece of writing that hits the internet is a point for nothing less than the good and the great, and a chip in the excrement-splattered marketplace.”
–Stephen D. Geller, Author  JEWS AT THE TABLE (Vols 1&2) and A WARNING OF GOLEMS

I’m still marketing the book, and on my blog I get a chance to return a favor to my friend by linking to his books 🙂  so please check out my short story collection on Amazon.com. Thanks for your support!

To order on Amazon click here.

My friend on Facebook had a 5 day challenge posted on his status. You were to spend five days listing five things you are grateful for each day and tag three people to do the same. He hadn’t tagged me but seeing what he wrote for what he was grateful for, I decided to take up the same challenge, and put it in my blog. I figure I can always go back to being bitter after the fifth day, but for now I can do something to kind of change my mood for the time being. The abridged version in on my Facebook page; this is the full version 🙂

  1. Sophia, my daughter: I’m grateful she is in my life, doing well in school and life, making friends, and is happy. Sometimes it’s hard to tell she is happy but then she’ll do something to surprise me and show who she is coming through. I’m also proud of her as she thinks about what to do with her life. She told a friend that she’d like to work at her current afterschool program as a junior staff member when she gets old enough; she told me she wants to major in English or art and minor in zoology in college. Sometimes I feel she is my last admittance ticket to humanity (admittedly that’s a little dark to be considered grateful), but I am very grateful she’s here and teaching me how to be more responsible.
  2. Sense of humor: As dark as it is and as inappropriate as it can get, it’s the one thing that has kept me from suicide and/or true insanity (I have mental health issues, but I haven’t gone so far over the edge that I couldn’t return). While gallows humor helps me deal with life, being humorous has helped me start and maintain friendships, connects me with others, and helps feed a moral compass when necessary. It also gives me a decent amount of Polish and dead baby jokes, for which I am grateful.
  3. Both parents are still alive: This was hard fought, but it is important to be grateful for this. They both hurt me (sometimes intentionally, more often unintentionally), scarred me, and made mistakes in the lessons taught to me, but I am who I am in part because of who they were. My attempts to get away from them only served to realize I still need to learn things from them. Now that I’m a father, I understand some of where they were coming from (though some stuff is still a mystery to me). Ever since the 2008 recession and all the fallout thereof, they’ve both helped me with financial and emotional support, as well as making sure their granddaughter is taken care of—the depths of which sometimes surprises me. It may be selfish to be grateful for the help they’ve given me recently, but it has helped me to understand parent-child relationships better and still gives me something to aspire to when my daughter moves out on her own. I can’t take for granted that I know this while they are both still above ground to do so.
  4. Friends: When I never wanted to be at home with my family, I could always be with my friends. They’ve been with me through thick and thin and know me best even at my worst. The close friendships I’ve made in high school and college have lasted the test of time. My closest friends have always been at my side and had my back wherever they may be. I’ve been grateful for their stability and presence in my life. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without most of them.
  5. Writing ability: I’ve been writing since I was old enough to remember. Even teachers who hated me said I had writing talent. When I realized I wasn’t as good enough comic artist to make it in the business, I fell back on my writing to get me through. It’s the one common thread and the biggest strength in all my jobs and creative endeavors. Even with my recent mental troubles, I never lost those abilities; sometimes they have helped the healing process. It’s been harder to do lately, but I plug at it. I’m grateful that I can still do it well.

Naiveté and Usual Suspects

October 23, 2013

For all my intelligence and cynicism, I am pretty naive and dense. Earlier this month I was at an Art & Design get together in Corona Park, NY. It was a daytime family gathering—the first organized one I’ve seen in a while and was able to go to—so I took Sophia with me to meet my old high school friends (well, those she hasn’t already met). Despite a two hour walk in the sun trying to find the meeting place in the park (directions of exactly where were not easy to figure and I made a big wrong turn), we had a great time. Except when the cops showed up.

This was one on the last Indian summer cookout weekends of the year so there were a few families trying to get one more BBQ in before fall hit. However we were probably the only ones with open beer bottles on the table in plain view. So when the Parks Department SUV came rolling by, we were surprised they came right to us. Luckily there were only two beer bottles out; Kim had the vodka stored up in a cooler. While the cops checked IDs of the organizers, the rest of us tried to act natural. For some of us, that meant eating.

Chachi decides he wants cheese on his burger and went looking for it on the table, where it was at one point. When he couldn’t find it, I remembered where it was: in the cooler… with the other alcoholic beverages (obviously you don’t want it to melt). So knowing where it was, what do I do? “Oh, I know where the cheese is. I’ll get it for you,” and start making my way to the alcohol cooler to help my friend. I figured it’s the least I could do. Of course there’s at least six people waving me off in slow motion and giving me the stink eye, but of course I don’t notice this: I’m on a mission to get cheese. So they’re freaking out as I’m Wander-over-yondering my way to the cooler and get about four to five feet from it when I spot the green Parks Department uniform, and it suddenly dawns on me what I’m doing. Plus Chachi finally catches up to me to grab my shoulder while two other friends are mouthing “Don’t open the fucking cooler” to me, at which point I back off. We were let off with a minor fine, but nothing compared to what it would have been had I opened the cooler.

The thing is that’s just like me to do that: obliviously open a cooler of contraband items in full view of the park rangers. I’d reach over, pop it open and say “hey guys, the cheese is here next to the vodka, the brick of uncut heroin and the SIG Sauer. While I’m here, does anyone want more dip?” Yes, I can be that bad.

Having said that, it seems like, of course, our group is the one to get picked on. We’re surrounded by families who most likely have similar beer bottles as us, each of them equally as loud as we are, and we’re the ones to get busted. I feel they could be doing worse things than us and we’d still be the ones the cops come down on. Imagine: one family is using the BBQ station to cook crystal meth while wearing full hazmat suits; another are gang-banging an illegally trafficked, extremely underage male Thai prostitute;  and the last are strapping on backpack IEDs dressed in full length neon yellow and hot pink burqas. And who do the cops consider the detriment to society? A bunch of 40-something former art students playing dominoes with a two empty beer bottles on the table. We can’t catch a break.

Other than that it was a nice day.

Withdrawal

March 16, 2013

There is a process after a traumatic event when people tend to hide away. It’s called withdrawal, a psychological self defense mechanism to keep the psyche from harm. I tend to refer to it as cocooning. To me, in some sense this withdrawal is supposed to be transformative, hence the whole caterpillar/butterfly terminology. The thing is if you stay in that mode for too long, you get stuck there.

I’ve been out of touch with—it feels like—everyone for the last two months, the amount of time since being evicted. I’m not pushing away as much as I’m making no effort whatsoever to reach out or engage friends. It’s both a response to trauma and the subsequent isolation. When you’ve been hurt, you need time to heal, so some withdrawal is natural; but if sustained it becomes isolation. However my reaction to isolation is to further isolate. Call it inertia or masochism but it’s what I do. I was telling myself I need to heal as a knee jerk fear response to engaging. So people don’t really hear from me except from an occasional “like” on Facebook posts.

I’m trying to break out of it now, especially since I now recognize what is happening instead of denying it (which also means I’m not too far gone hopefully). Funny thing is my writing/blogging is affected the same way. Writing is communication and if I’m withdrawing, I’m not communicating. But blogs aren’t always the best way to talk about it. I’m not sure it would be fair to share my life with many unknown readers and not share with my friends of many years. However since writing is my strongest suit, it makes sense to use this as one avenue to reach out to others. Though, yes, I am texting people, too. Baby steps.

“What I have done
That might you nature, honor and exception
Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.
Was’t Hamlet wronged Laertes? Never Hamlet.
If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away
And when he is not himself does wrong Laertes
Then Hamlet does it not. Hamlet denies it.
Who does it then? His madness.
If’t be so, Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged.
His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy.”
“Hamlet,” Act V, scene ii

I’ve been that lost over the last year or so. I’ve dealt with depression most of my life and all of my adult life. It never left me non-functional, but the economic recession seriously exacerbated it. There’s nothing in the world that can prepare you for the mental struggle you go through being unemployed and underemployed for a long length of time. The jobs you want always seem to go to someone else; the jobs you get aren’t close to doing what you want, the hours you need and/or the pay you need to survive, but it beats having nothing come in. Over a year and a half of this and it plays on your emotional health–your self esteem, your confidence, your sense of core abilities falter in the growing waves of  “we’ve decided to go with another candidate.”

For a while I thought it was about stamina or positivity: look on the bright side and things will be okay. But to ignore depression as the mental illness it is is dangerous. It’s not an attitude that can be thought or willed away, it’s an illness that gets worse if not treated properly or stays untreated.

I got help and a good core group of friends around to see me through. Still some of the scars are tender. I know I’ve lost a lot of friends because of how bad my situation got. You can see the people avoiding phone calls or the de-friendings on Facebook. As one friend told me, no one wants to be around the downer. This sucks when you are down and need help up. It’s also an illness that thrives in a vacuum. But as I needed people more, some people disappeared from my life. In retrospect it’s probably a good thing, but to abandon someone when they need you still hurts, especially if you’ve been through there for them. It also opens wounds if you’ve been abandoned for less before.

I know I’ve pushed some people away, but that was during dark times for me and not always when I was in control. I am sorry to those who didn’t deserve it and tried to make amends. Those who I haven’t tried to get back or who never came back, I know where I stand. To those who stuck around, nothing need be said but thanks.

What I have done I here proclaim as madness. No more, no less. The rest of the fallout I can live with.