A Life Collected

As you get older, you start to look around at things that you’ve accumulated and they tend to take on a deeper meaning, both monetary and sentimental in nature.  I’m going through that right now, I guess turning 40 will do that.  Instead of buying, it’s about investing.  Instead of owning, it’s about preserving.  Instead of appreciating, it’s about cherishing.  That’s definitely not the mindset that I had when I started collecting as a kid.  First it was baseball cards.  Baseball cards were a big deal to me as a kid, but they were difficult to collect.  Like everything else that one gets involved in collecting, building a serious and well curated collection involves a monetary commitment that is difficult to make on a child’s allowance.  My baseball card collecting days came to an end when I stole a Darryl Strawberry rookie card from one of my friends out of jealousy and had to do chores to earn money to replace it.  It was such a dumb thing to do.  When i swiped it from him, I got scared and didn’t know what to do with the card, so i put it in my pocket.  You can guess what the outcome of THAT was.  Baseball cards don’t depend on sharp corners and vivid (unblemished) pictures to retain their value.  Needless to say, that was probably the fastest mint condition to worthless deterioration in history.  I’m still shaking my head about it thirty years later.

One last thing about baseball cards.  My dad also collected baseball cards as a kid.  I was fascinated by the idea of inheriting his collection.  Unfortunately it had been left with my Grandma and one of my Uncles ended up taking it.  I used to be pretty disappointed about that, but looking back, I’m glad it stayed out of my hands.

As a teenager, I moved on from baseball cards and started getting interested in music and cars.  I collected issues of Hot VW’s and Hot Rod magazine.  I always kept them organized chronologically and tried to always keep them in good condition.  I never REALLY pursued magazine collecting, but I always liked the idea of it.  Just never got sucked in.  I’ve revisited that interest as an adult, but never with any level of commitment.  Probably for the best.

When TEN by Pearl Jam was released in 1991, I was 12 years old.  I bought ten on tape from Wal-Mart.  I look back at that purchase as the beginning of my 28 years and counting of collecting music.  As an adult, I’ve collected everything from DVDs and CDs, to antique radios, books and art.  I’ve sold some things throughout the years as well.  When I was young and irresponsible, I sold records for quick money, not knowing how much I would regret it later.  I regret it still to this day.  Mostly though, I’ve bought things.  I’ve always tried to be a discerning collector though.  I don’t just accumulate to accumulate.  I care about what I buy and I try to curate my “collection”.  I know that’s kind of like an alcoholic saying that they’re not an alcoholic because they drink expensive alcohol, but it is what it is.  At least collecting has been a vice that I’ve been able to control and it’s brought a lot of joy and comfort to my life.

I started collecting records after I graduated from high school.  I stayed home my first year of college and worked at a pizza place called Greek Tony’s.  The restaurant was owned by the family of a kid I grew up with.  He lived in the neighborhood next to mine and we were in the same grade.  His father coached little league baseball when I played and was a big part of the community.  To say that pizza joints attract a certain style of employee is a pretty big understatement.  The owner of the joint where I worked was very open-minded and welcoming to all manner of kids, a lot of them troubled and interested in/exploring a more alternative lifestyle.  I ran into the owner one day at the grocery store and asked him if he was hiring.  He told me when to show up and the rest was history.  I met a lot of great kids while working there.  I was introduced to many things, both good and bad.  I felt a kinship to the core group who worked with me there for those years, because we were all looking for something different.  On night in the alley behind the restaurant, I heard a tape of a band that a couple of the guys were in.  That band was called Rapport and they were a Powerviolence band.  Powerviolence is a micro genre that started in the late 1980’s.  It was a crossover between hardcore punk, thrash metal and grind core.  The band Infest was the first of the generation of bands to move Powerviolence into its heyday in the 1990’s.  That night when I heard my friends band for the first time, my entire world opened up.  Powerviolence gave way to punk, thrash, grindcore, hardcore, crust, d-beat, metalcore, emo, etc.  There was a whole world that was operating underneath the surface that I never knew existed.  I was a little late to the party, but finally wherever I turned, I could relate to what I saw and heard.  In all honesty though, it wasn’t all a great awakening.  I met a lot of kids with very serious problems in those days.  I made a lot of bad decisions and things could have easily gone sideways for me, but luckily I made it through.  A lot of kids weren’t so lucky.

Just like trying to remember the first show that I went to, I can’t for the life of me remember the first record I bought.  My dad had a few records when I was a kid, but vinyl definitely wasn’t something that I had any knowledge of.  I worked with a kid at the pizza place who I would go record shopping with.  I remember that my first record player was one that I had found in the parking lot of Wall-Mart, next to the dumpster.  I took it home, cleaned it up and it actually still worked.

Thinking back, I must have bought my first record at one of the many record stores in Houston that still miraculously exist to this day.  It could have been at a show though.  I remember being instantly taken with the experience of buying a record. Vinyl is a very immersive medium.  Once I bought my first, I was hooked.  Just the act of going to the record store and feeling the records on my fingers as I flipped through the bins was amazing.  I was interested in art, so the covers and inserts and layouts were endlessly fascinating to me.  The level of creativity in the DIY punk community is unparalleled.  I’m still amazed to this day with what I see.  If you follow Mark McCoy and Youth Attack Records, you know what I mean.  I would take my stack of records home and look through each page of the booklets, reading the inserts from the record labels and letting the music transport me to another place.  During those years, if I had any money in my pocket, I was buying records. Collecting records was as much a personal discovery for me as it was an activity to build friendships and share experiences.  Those were years that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

After my first year of college at home, I ended up going to University of North Texas in Denton.  UNT has a prominent music department and the town has and still does have a thriving music scene.  Lots of talented kids means a lot of good music.  Riverboat Gamblers is one of the more prominent bands to emerge from the Denton music scene.  Anyways, I was going to school to study graphic design, but I rarely attended class.  I struggled a lot with depression and self-doubt while I was living there, so I spent a lot of time in my room, hanging out with similarly disaffected (lazy) college “students”, and buying records.  Denton had a small record store on Frye street and I spent a lot of time there exploring the bins.  I can’t remember the name of that store, but I remember how it felt to me.  It was like a warm blanket.  I was depressed and struggling with mental health issues, so while collecting records before had been a social activity, it now had become a solitary activity.  The records had become my friends and collecting them now brought me comfort and security.  I felt safe and confident in the record store.  Walking home with a bag of new vinyl to look through, knowing that I had found some gems during my visit, made me forget all of my troubles for a while.  There is definitely a high that comes with shopping (retail therapy), but sometimes it just has to be that way.  At least it wasn’t destructive.

After I moved home from college, I met my ex-wife and lost touch with my friends.  She was a different person and wasn’t a part of the world I was used to.  I had been smoking a lot of pot and ended up selling some of my records for money to buy more drugs.  My life had changed again and I had lost sight of how much all of those hours of looking and collecting had meant to me.  I did keep a large portion of my collection, but I had stopped collecting for the most part.  I always missed it though.

Once I decided to quit smoking pot get my life back together, I slowly began to regain my interest in collecting.  I had steady employment finally, but I didn’t have a partner who supported my interest in records, so I just did it here and there when I could.  However, when I got divorced, that all changed.

All of a sudden I was alone again for the first time in over ten years.  My marriage had been deteriorating for quite some time, so I had been emotionally alone, but now I was physically by myself.  I felt those same feelings again that I did back when I was in college.  Depression and loneliness are unmistakable, so I turned back to what I knew would bring me comfort.  I started collecting records again and I started enjoying it.  I started collecting and restoring old tube radios.  I started a collection of books and logged all of my records into the Discogs.com database.

One day someone asked me why I collected things so much.  I told them that I’ve done it for many different reasons throughout the years.  The more I think about it though, the more I realize that it’s really only for one reason.  I collect things that I know won’t ever leave me.  I collect things that I can look at and surround myself with, because they’re mine and I know that I can count on them to always be there to make me feel better.  Introverts are like that.  I’m not a hoarder though, because thankfully I have a fair amount of OCD, so I care about what I collect, and I’m willing to do hard work to add to my collections.  It’s all valuable to me, and if it’s not, I will let it go.

A week or so ago, I started a new Instagram page.  I was sitting at home and thinking back about that baseball card collection of my dad’s that I missed out on.  I got to thinking about my record collection and how I’ve always dreamed of having a son or daughter to pass it on to.  I’ve always dreamed about opening their minds to the world that made me who I am today.  I’ve always dreamed about them caring for it and adding to it like I have.  It may just be a dream, but it’s a dream that still makes me smile.  So I’m going through and opening up each and every one of my 1000+ records, reading the inserts and the booklets, looking at the art, cleaning the vinyl, listening to each song, photographing the art, replacing the sleeves and sealing them up for safe keeping.  It may seem silly to some of you to do all of that for a silly record, but it’s the least that I can do for all that they’ve done for me.

The Measure Of A Man

“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”  – Thomas Paine

I love John Mayer.

Not the ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’ John Mayer or the celebrity John Mayer, but the recovering ego addict John Mayer, the hopelessly messy romantic John Mayer, the work in progress John Mayer.  The Born and Raised John Mayer.  The Paradise Valley John Mayer.  The imperfect but honest John Mayer.

More about him later.




What the hell happened to men?  How have we made such a mess of things?  How have we completely lost the plot of what it means to be a man?  How have we allowed our sons to stop seeing us as heroes?  How have we created an environment where women feel suspicious and nervous first, rather than loved and respected?  How have we allowed assault and harassment and objectification of the fairer sex to become acceptable, to the point where we’ve voted for and elected officials to represent us who have openly admitted to doing reprehensible things?  What the hell happened to men?

When I started dating, I came up with this idea of putting a flower on the passenger seat of my car, so that when I opened the door for the girl, she would see the flower and immediately fall in love with me.  My rate of success definitely wasn’t what I wished it could have been, but I always thought it was a special thing to do.  My goal was absolutely to get a kiss at the end of the date, but when it came time to say goodbye, I was usually too petrified to make my move.  Probably a good reason why my high school nickname was Duckie, after Jon Cryer’s character in Pretty in Pink.  I hated that nickname then, because Duckie couldn’t get the girl.  He was the friend.  Always the friend.  He wasn’t “the Man”.  That’s ok though, because I like to believe that Duckie stuck to what he believed was important and found a woman who truly appreciated his version of what a man should be.

That’s the fairy tale, right?

The state of manhood these days might make you think otherwise.

Earlier today, my girlfriend was followed in the store by a man.  He followed her to her car, only to run away when she acted like she was making a phone call and began yelling at him.  When the police came, they told her that a house had been broken into in her neighborhood and a woman had been snatched, in broad daylight.  Seriously, this is the world we live in now.

Our pseudo, womanizing president tweeted speculation regarding the allegations of Christine Ford against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh this week.  He said that if it were really as bad as she says it was, surely it would have been reported by her and her loving parents when it happened.  This is the same man who made “jokes” about dating his own daughter.  Kavanaugh also allegedly liked female staffers to have “a certain look”.

Louis CK and Aziz Ansari are back on stage making people laugh.

Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed though.

Oops, wrong topic.

Or is it?

Colin Kaepernick stood up for something that he believed in.  Colin Kaepernick is trying to be a man of substance.  Maybe if he slapped his grilfriend at a club or took advantage of a woman after a game, he’d still have a career.  Seems to have worked out pretty well for Ben Roethlisberger.

Stay focused.

Researchers estimate that 41% of all first marriages end in divorce.  Almost 50% of all marriages end in divorce or separation.  Boys are growing up all over the country with single parents.  Boys are growing up with dads who grew up without dads.  Boys are seeing men in power, who grew up without positive male role models, consistently fail to set positive examples for them.  Athletes are beating up their girlfriends and wives, musicians are being investigated and going to jail for sexual misconduct.  Actors and artists are being pulled out into the light and having their tawdry behavior exposed.  Politicians are explaining away their reprehensible behavior as just “boys being boys”.  Movie executives are ending the careers of actresses because their advances were rejected.

The truth is that none of this is new.  Its been going on for years.  The difference is that now it’s out of the shadows and the depths to which we as men have sunk keep getting deeper and deeper.  The days of John Wayne and Johnny Cash and Clint Eastwood are long gone.  Men today are more interested in being a man of conquests, rather than a man of substance.  Boys would rather sit in front of a television and play video games all day, instead of getting up and working with their fathers.  Fathers aren’t pushing their sons to be better than they were, because those fathers haven’t put in the work themselves.  Women in turn have been conditioned to accept less and always be suspicious of what’s underneath the surface.  Infidelity is almost assumed.  As boys enter puberty, they see women as objects first, existing for THEIR pleasure.  Fathers aren’t teaching boys that women are the fairer sex and should be treated as such.  Boys are following what they see, and the cycle continues.





My dad is a good man.  He’s the reason that I am the man I am today.  He taught me to be a man of substance and to lead a purpose driven life.  I grew up watching him love my mom, always sticking by her side and supporting her.  He always came home and kissed her at the end of the day.  He helped around the house and showed me that a relationship worked not because of defined roles, but because of teamwork and support. He texts my mom when he gets to my house, so that she knows that he’s safe.  He dotes on her when she’s not feeling well and he carries the load when she needs rest.  He volunteers and works to be well-rounded.  He taught me to fix my own car and to use tools.  He showed me what a man SHOULD be.  I’m one of the lucky ones.

So you may be asking yourself, what does any of this have to do with John Mayer.  Well, i’ll tell you!  When I was going through my divorce, I started listening to a lot of John Mayer for some reason, specifically the albums Born and Raised and Paradise Valley.  Those two albums were made after John retreated from the celebrity life and tried to find himself again.  They are great albums.  They spoke to me.

When John emerged from his self imposed exile to release his latest album, he did the inevitable round of interviews.  I watched a lot of them.  One of the biggest taglines from those interviews was that he described himself as a recovering ego addict.  He was very honest and self effacing about his struggles to find peace and understanding, to confront who he was and what he had let himself become.  He was a prolific dater, hopelessly looking for the love that all of us crave.  He had no qualms about admitting that he was an imperfect man, but he was also very eloquent about trying to be better.  He was on a journey to find a deeper understanding and to be the best man he could be.

I related a lot to him, because I’m not perfect either, but I have that desire to be better.  I have that desire to be the best that I can be for those who love me.  The idea of being a great man is one that I find very romantic.  I don’t identify with this depleted and misguided version that we see today.  I want to love big, love hard and love with respect.  I want to teach the younger generation about respect and that power comes from within.  I want to be well read.  I want to be able to discuss art and music and politics and faith and love.  I want to be sensitive and vulnerable.  I want to admit when I’m wrong and work to always be better.

We can’t accept what we’ve become,  Sure, there are still great men out there, but there has to be more.  We’re better than this.

Like John says……..

“I’m a good man with a good heart

Had a tough time, got a rough start

But I finally learned to let it go

Now I’m right here, and I’m right now

And I’m hoping, knowing somehow

That my shadow days are over

My shadow days are over now”

SONG OF THE DAY 9/22/2018

She Lives 1,000 Miles Away

Go ahead, tell me that it’ll never work.  Tell me that I’m crazy.  Roll your eyes when I tell you that we met through Instagram.  What are you going to do, quit your job, sell your house, move across the country for a girl with kids?  She’s going to pick up everything and move there to live with you?  Have you thought this through?  Make sure you know what you’re doing!  Make sure you’re not playing with fire!  Do you know how much work kids are?  What if her family doesn’t like you?  What if your family doesn’t like her?  OMG she has tattoos?!  Have you tried Match.com or Eharmony yet?  Maybe Christian Mingle?  Take things slow.  How can you already be in love?!  When’s he moving?  When’s she moving?








Stop it.  All of it.  Why do we have to go through this when two souls find each other and want to be in love?  Why does it have to be a problem when it doesn’t fit into everyone’s idea of what a relationship should look like?  Why does it have to evolve in a way that makes everyone else comfortable?

You can’t explain love.  You can’t fit it into a box.  It doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t happen when you want it to, or when the timing is perfect.  Love isn’t a straight line.  It doesn’t have smooth edges and brilliantly polished surfaces.  You can’t choose who you fall in love with.  You can try, but it can lead to a very frustrating and limited existence.

After my divorce, the idea of dating was horrifying to me.  I dipped my toes into the cesspool of dating apps and that did little to assuage my fears.  Endlessly shopping for potential love matches seemed so contrary to how I felt about the process of falling in love again.  Dating apps have taken all of the spontaneity and unexpectedness out of love.  If there’s one thing that you don’t like about the person you go out with, you know that there are thousands of more options to choose from.  You don’t have to try anymore. Everything is temporary.  Sex is always implied.  Chivalry is officially dead.  Infidelity seems to almost be an eventuality.  How is it ok that love and commitment has deteriorated so much over the years?  For those of us who long for that traditional romance that can last a lifetime, the state of things these days can be very disheartening. Why are we always looking for the better option, rather than appreciating what we’ve been given and working to evolve and grow the connection that we have?

up cute quotes " we come to love not by finding a perfect person but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.

It took a long time for me to accept being divorced.  I fought through two separations that I didn’t want.  I put up with emotional infidelity and forgave more bad behavior than I want to admit, but I did it because I took the vows of marriage to heart.  My parents have stayed together through all of their struggles, only growing closer and stronger through the years.  Both of my grandmothers unfortunately lost their husbands to health issues, but those men remain the loves of their lives.  My aunts and uncles have all stayed married to their first loves.  Divorce had never been a part of my life, until it happened to me.  I was so embarrassed by the fact that it was happening that I had to hit rock bottom before I could admit that it was over, even though it had been for several years.  I just couldn’t let it go.

So here I am, in love with a woman who lives 1,000 miles away from me and trying to navigate in a world where organic and spontaneous love belongs more in a science lab than in your dreams.  Guys aren’t opening doors for women anymore, or pulling out their chairs for them.  They’re too busy swiping and hoping that the next one in their feed will be “perfect”.  They’ve lost the ability to see past the aesthetics of everything.  God forbid that a man be vulnerable and sensitive.  GROSS! Everyone is selling themselves now, curating an online persona that is more marketing strategy than life story.  Women have become so hardened by how men have devolved that they are instantly suspicious when a sensitive, caring man comes along.  It’s like when you see a story about some guy who disappeared from society and went to live off the grid, only to be pulled out and thrust back into society.

Look, don’t get it twisted.  I absolutely understand that those who love us need to know that we are going to be safe and taken care of.  I know that questions have to be asked and I know how important it is to have the support and confidence from those who are closest to us.  My problem is the built-in stigma around what we think of as non-traditional relationship scenarios.  People are still falling in love every day, but true love seems so much harder for people to accept when it doesn’t “look right”, because everything is such a mess now.

I wasn’t trying to fall in love, but I did.  It happened before I even knew it.  The planets aligned, the stars collided, my karma account was full, God’s plan for me was revealed, I got lucky, things happen for a reason, etc, etc, etc.  What I do understand is that no matter what you believe is controlling this life and pulling the strings for you, if you don’t recognize it and grab on with both hands when it’s presented, you may very well run out of chances.  So what if it’s not ideal.  So what if you meet online.  So what if you have to change your life to make it work.  Love is the reason why all of us are here.  At the end of our lives, we will only be able to live on in the hearts of those we loved and those who loved us.  Everything else is only temporary.

So I’m going to be the man who I know I am and I’m going to love the way that I believe I should love.  The road forwards may be crooked and bumpy at times, but it’s the road I’m choosing and I’m going to follow it.  So ask your questions and tell me what you think, but also take solace in the fact that great love stories can still happen, and that there are still men and women out there who are willing to take the leap and trust the process.



Song of the Day 9/20/2018


She Cooked For Me

I’m 39 years old and I’ve never had a woman I love cook for me, besides the women in my family of course.  My ex never learned to cook and she never cared to change that.  I did all of the cooking, every night.  I didn’t complain because I enjoyed doing it, even though there was never any reciprocation.  I was good at it too.  Still am, but I would be lying if I said that my heart didn’t yearn to feel that love that comes from preparing a meal for someone.

My parents and my Grandma taught me how to cook.  We didn’t eat out much as a family and we always made a point to sit around the dinner table each night of the week and share a home cooked meal.  Family recipes and traditions have always meant a lot to me.  Sure, my mom definitely made some clunkers here and there (pot roast leather and baked fish come to mind), but she always made the effort, because she loved us and it made her happy to do it.  She made some great things too.  Now that my parents are retired, my Dad has taken over the bulk of the cooking duties at their house.  He’s great at it too and he often has me over to eat and share in his creations.

The age old cliche’ that the most important ingredient in any great meal is love was proven true to me this past weekend by my girlfriend (hate that word, what does it EVEN mean)?  This was her first visit to my house, in our growing (long distance) love affair.

That’s right, she cooked for me.


We went to the grocery store together on Saturday and attempted to purchase coherent ingredients, fighting to stay focused through the electricity of our intense connection.  We have both been through terrible divorces that challenged our ability to trust and believe in the hopes and promises of love, so to feel those feelings again in their purest and most powerful form was a truly transformative experience, at least for me.  I sincerely hope it was for her as well.  I THINK the feeling was mutual. *wink*

First thing that she did was make me football snacks on Sunday.  The fact that she even wanted to sit down and watch football with me was amazing and incredibly sexy.  Never experienced that one either!  She took it a step further though.  She LOVES sports (Hockey fanatic), was actively involved in the game AND rooted for my team, even though I had to agree to root for her team in return (Broncos…..eye roll, amirite?!)

Look, let me be perfectly clear.  I am a progressive traditionalist (made that up), when it comes to relationships.  By no means do I expect a woman to cook for me and be “barefoot and pregnant”.  Gross.  I believe that love should be a partnership and that both participants should encourage and support the dreams and desires of the other.  You’re only successful if your power can come from your collective strength and commitment.  I believe in shared experiences and that boundaries and defined roles shouldn’t exist in a truly successful relationship.

But I digress.

If you truly appreciate your wife or your girlfriend, then you know how incredible it can be to just sit back and watch them be their transcendent selves.  You know how amazing it is to smell their perfume in your house, watch them move, feel the softness of their skin and to just be in their presence.  What a piece of work a woman can be.

So ANYWAYS……….she cooked for me.

We had a great time on Sunday, especially when we fell asleep on each other halfway through the Broncos game.  Hey, who knew they would come back?!  Yesterday though, she took things a step further.  Amongst the melancholy and infinite sadness of our first visit coming to an end, she decided to prepare the rest of the food that we had purchased, so that I would have meals to eat for the rest of the week.  She knew that I could cook it for myself, but she insisted on doing it.

She thought I didn’t really like it.

She thought it wasn’t that big of a deal.

She was wrong.

While I was busy breaking down about the inevitable goodbye, she was opening her heart and making sure that she left her love for me to experience for days to come. While I ran to the store to get a couple of things to preserve the dinners that she created, she was busy leaving hidden notes around my house, to let me know all of the reasons why she loves me.  When I got home, the house was full of amazing smells and there she was, listening to her music and being the amazing person that she is, making sure that I was taken care of, even though she was MY guest.

When you’re trying to come back from heartbreak that you never wanted or thought possible, you never believe that you will find love again, let alone find someone who is the epitome of everything that you always wanted, but here I am with that very thing in front of me.

So yes, for the first time in my 39 years of existence, a woman I am in love with cooked for me.  She doesn’t fully understand what it meant and I’ll never be able to properly convey that to her, but it absolutely meant the world.  She doesn’t know how much I needed it.  It’s not about the food, it’s about the love.  It’s not about what you cook, it’s about the act of preparing something that nourishes and comforts the ones who have your heart.  It is love in its purest form.

So I’ll eat dinner tonight and I’ll say thanks for all of the love that she has already given me.  I’ll let her spirit nourish me and I’ll remember how lucky I am for all of the love that I have been fed throughout my years.

I’m hungry for more.