Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Blue Xmas

It is with some trepidation that I’m firing this blog up again after more than two years, but I think it’s time. Let me say this up front: I’m not writing this post to rant or disparage anyone, and I have little interest in relating all of the events that happened. None of it is ancient history to me. I am still dealing with the consequences of what my ex did. It’s painful for me to even talk about, so I generally don’t.

So I’m posting this mainly so I don’t have to tell my story again and again… people’s mouths tend to drop open and their faces go blank when they hear it for the first time. I haven’t socialized much lately. Some of the people I haven’t seen in a while don’t seem to be in the loop – I’ve hardly commented about any of it on Facebook etc., and when I have, I’ve noticed by the tone of some people’s comments that they don’t know what’s going on or what has happened. I do feel it necessary to get my thoughts out about why I haven’t posted anything in over two years – there are legal as well as emotional reasons, as you’ll soon see if you dare to keep reading this.

Those of you who know me well also know what I’ve been through in the meantime. My life was turned upside-down, dumped on the ground and set on fire. I made it through, but I am not whole and I don’t know if I ever will be again. I no longer really expect people to really grasp any of that. I understand now that what happened to me is beyond most people’s experience or ability to really understand. That is OK! I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone… well, maybe a very bad person, like Rush Limbaugh. Of course he’s been divorced three times I think, but he’s not only a bad person, he’s also a rich person. He can take it.

But I am neither a bad nor rich person, and it still happened to me. It was very much a worst-case scenario. There was literally nothing in the world she could have done to hurt me worse than what she did, short of harming Simon in some way. I don’t say that lightly. I’m not even trying to imply that she really meant to hurt me, though she did, and will tell you herself without hesitation that everything was my fault. I am simply stating a simple fact that I’ve learned about myself, and I have the therapy bills to prove it!

I also learned a lot about the type of person she is. It’s strange that I learned more about her in the past 2 years than in the preceding 8 years that we were together. Even when my marriage was really starting to fall apart, I never thought that she would do the things that she did. Then she did those things. I stand corrected.

Lest you think I’m being dramatic or spiteful, please consider that I’ve lost my son, my house, my finances are ruined, and I’m now living in my parents’ basement at age 40. I was ordered to pay her for the privilege of all the above, while she was telling half-truths about me, trying to manipulate the system and enabled by the financial support of her new lover. She left Simon behind with me in Colorado to move in with the guy. An invasive child/family investigation was done. I was drug tested. I had to answer hundreds of questions. And through extreme financial pressure, courtesy of the thoughtless judicial system in Adams County, I was forced to reach a settlement, the terms of which directly contradicted everything in the court’s own CFI report recommended.

For all this, I was duly congratulated by Judge Ted Tow for agreeing to give up my son for 9 months out of every year. Magistrate Stapp had the nerve to say a year ago at the hearing, to my face as he ordered me to pay 80% of all legal costs, “I don’t know where you’re going to come up with this money.” Due to this decision one year ago, my finances deteriorated rapidly. My lawyer withdrew for non-payment of my account – though I probably could have retained him somehow, the problem was that under the court’s order, the court would have taken a very dim view of me being able to pay my lawyer and not hers. I had nowhere to turn for legal counsel – of course the court was indifferent to my situation.

I was served with Discovery shortly thereafter (Discovery is an extremely expensive, intrusive legal process, like most legal processes), and I was facing a divorce trial versus a very aggressive lawyer, whom I was paying, in a court that I felt was hostile to me and the idea of Simon remaining with me. And of course the ultimate irony was that the CFI investigation was pretty devastating to my ex and all the stories she told about me. Had I gone to trial, it probably would have gone my way, but by the time I negotiated the settlement I had absolutely no faith in the court system or its reasoning.

I have been asked by friends and family many, many times about the court's "reasoning," and I have no answer.  Magistrate Stapp did not elaborate beyond his insightful comment. I only know that the court engineered this outcome and then congratulated me for being reasonable enough to settle. I only know that the court seemed to have no idea what it was doing. I only know that the entire system seemed to be biased and no one seemed to listen to me. I only know that I will never trust the legal system again. I only know that the Adams County Court does not seem to have the slightest concern regarding legal outcomes for people who aren’t rich, or their children either.

Can you imagine if the circumstances had been reversed, and I had left my ex for a girlfriend I had known only for a few months, moved out of state and demanded custody of our son? Would the court have ordered her to pay most of my legal bills? The financial hardship was not symmetrical. In addition to the legal bills, she also left me with some thousands of dollars in delinquent taxes, childcare bills and debt. I was unable to afford staying in my house, while she pulled up stakes and moved in with her new boyfriend, in a very nice neighborhood in Michigan.

Unfortunately, I do not have a lover to support my cross-country move so I can live rent free while I try to extract custody of Simon and other concessions, as she did. And of course the biggest hardship is that Simon is no longer with me most of the time.

The divorce was finalized on May 14th of this year. I drove Simon out to Michigan in July. I got the house ready to sell and moved into my parent's basement in November. The house went on the market and sold just last week. I expect to make a minor gain on it, so there is a silver lining. I'm going to use the gain to pay down the lawyers and then pay back all the money I owe to... let's see, my family, the bank, Simon's former school, my therapist etc, etc.  This windfall is entirely spoken for already.

Yes, I know this is all dirty laundry that is painful to read. Can you imagine how painful it is to type? Can you imagine living through it? I have a lot of rebuilding to do. It’s just a simple fact. I will never be the same.

On a more positive note, we are civil these days. Simon seems happy in Michigan and is very excited about Christmas. I see him via Skype two or three times per week and he came back to Colorado for two weeks over Thanksgiving. I even had a girlfriend, Lisa, for a while. Though we broke up a while back, the breakup was not hostile and being with her showed me that I still have the capacity to be in a relationship. My band Governors broke up too, but I’ve been playing in a new cover band for some time now. I’m exercising 6 days a week and crave it.

I have been seeing a great therapist for more than a year in order to deal with the emotional trauma and figure out strategies for co-parenting with my ex going forward. I am trying with varying levels of success to not be that bitter, vengeful divorced guy -- we've all met one of those, right?  We are cooperating fairly well in parenting Simon, whom I love more than ever -- he's really been through a lot lately and seems to have held up well, for which I'm so thankful.  He's such a sweet, big-hearted kid. I'm grateful that he's mine.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m trying to look forward to the time when my finances settle down and I can have Simon with me all summer long. I'm trying to end on an upbeat note here and I'm sorry if any of this makes your Xmas a little less cheery... it's just kind of blue for me.

On the bright side, for me, next year cannot possibly be worse than 2013. I assure you, I’d much rather write about music or… well anything but my divorce! So I’m going to start posting regularly again… it’s been years of hell for me, and I miss putting down my many other thoughts on the Interwebs.

I’m back. Thank you and best wishes to everyone who reads this!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting a job without getting a job

This is a rant about certain recent events in my career.

Back in August, I applied for a promising contract as a revenue accountant for the Bureau Of Land management. I interviewed one weekend late in the month with a panel of six women. Yikes!

Actually, it went well. My natural charm and command of details gave me the appearance of enthusiasm, and I won their hearts. Then that weekend I received the rejection letter. I was disappointed with how things worked out, but moved on.

The following Monday I was off work. I woke up late to a phone call telling me to ignore the rejection letter. The cobwebs cleared from my head. The contractor decided to hire me, pending a standard background check. I let out an audible whoop after I hung up. This was good news! Pending the background check of course.


I complied with all paperwork requirements the next day. I was fingerprinted in an office in Lakewood. I filled out the long questionaire, and complied with all required disclosures. I was a bit concerned that it took them two weeks after being hired to take my fingerprints. Then I had to wait.

I began to hear from people I had listed as references that they had received questionaires about me in the mail. All for what I was told was a low-level security clearance. It seemed a bit much.

A few weeks later I received a phone call in which I was told I was clear to give notice to my current employer. Which I almost did. Thankfully I decided to check my personal email that morning. An email from another bureaucrat told me I hadn’t completed the information and so-and-so was on vacation until next Monday. What information was incomplete was not specified, until the next Monday. That same day I provided the information and faxed it again. Later that week I confirmed that the OPM had received it. Then, nothing.

After inquiries for a couple weeks, I was forwarded an internal email chain between the contractor, the BLM and the Office Of Personnel Management. Someone I had never met or seen said about me and my background check, “He doesn’t want to quit his current job until he knows it’s good.” Something about this phrasing still nags at me... perhaps because it did not describe reality. In fact I wanted to quit badly, but had explicitly been told not to quit until the background check was complete.

I wasn’t worried about passing the background check. I was becoming worried that someone wasn’t telling me the truth, intentionally or not.

Finally, last week I received a call. The BLM “decided to go in another direction” because your background check is taking too long.” The people at the contracting office “feel terrible” about this. I did make a mild protest that I didn’t think this was fair, since I had complied with everything as timely as possible. They explained to me that since nearly two months had passed already, only 10 months remained on the contract and the BLM had decided to promote from within.

I was actually excited to have found this job. It sounded like great accounting experience. I would have been helping to implement a new billing system for well inspection fees. Losing this opportunity was a big blow, in several ways. My job search was delayed by more than six weeks. It’s dejecting to be strung along in that way.

I do feel like someone is not telling me the truth, or at least that I don’t know the whole truth. It’s a somewhat bitter irony, as I was completely honest in my disclosures.

Finding a new job in this horrible economy is neither easy, nor fun.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

"Poem" of the day #4

I wrote this in memory of Wendi’s brother, who died under tragic circumstances in 2008. I didn’t know him well, but his death affected Wendi greatly, not least because they had not been very close for a long time but she had recently spent some time with him and had been trying to reach out to him towards the end. With reverence and respect...

“In Johnny’s Room”

we struggle to find a name for it

as we are overwhelmed

stare into the abysmal black mirror

as if we are compelled

what is rising to swallow you

try to lose what follows you

in the end to just lie down

oh in happier times he was not happy

in bleaker times lost his way

now there is nothing left

now to clean up the wreck

she reached out her hand and was bitten

but still worried for him

when the news came she cried quietly

mourning the memories so dim

and nothing would fill in the gaps

a life with no strength left to sap

waiting for the end

your daughter

like her son

cannot say

how must they feel

now you’ve gone away

without a word to them

they are your next of kin

look what you did to them

now there is nothing left

now to clean up the wreck

while they are living still

life will do that, man

you could’ve used that, man

but the light was too dim

can’t see the bottom from here

Your humble blogger has been scribbling words of varying degrees of coherence in countless spiral-bound notebooks for many years. This is one small sample of them.

Apologies again

Well I was going pretty good there for a while, only to drop out of sight for 8 months or so. No promises this time. But I am going to try harder.

I guess I just haven't had much to say. But I have been thinking a lot. More soon.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

An artist statement

"I find artist statements to be tiresome, so I limit myself to the following: yes, your kid could do this." -Inept, 1992

While shopping among the scratched records and random detritus at Goodwill sometime in the early-to-mid 1990s I found a tape by a “band” called Inept. It was a hand-dubbed Memorex with a photocopied cover, and contained10 or 12 songs of stumbling, out-of-time rhythms, mangled guitar chords and funny, self deprecating lyrics. Though nobody would claim (including the band) that the album contained great music, the “musicians” obviously had made it with much love and had fun doing it. It had a certain homemade charm, and it still holds a warm place in my heart. I think the band was from Montana somewhere, though I know nothing else about them.

The above quote comes from a short, spoken intro to one of their songs. The only reason I mention it here is that it has stuck with me to this day. An artist statement usually accompanies an exhibition or commission and is intended to provide some insight into the artists thought process or inspiration. Wendi has had to write a number of them in her college career, being one of them hoity toity art majors (in a fairness, she just now walked in as I was writing this and told me I was a “podunk philistine”).

I won’t argue. I love and appreciate art, but I do find much of the theorizing and philosophizing of the academic art world to be ponderous and wordy… tiresome, even. Hence, the above quote.

I’m not a visual artist. I can’t really draw or paint and the few times I’ve tried are better forgotten. But I have been playing and practicing music now for more than 20 years, writing and recording songs and absorbing lessons from the music that inspires me. I’ve been posting some of my random scribblings lately… some of the better ones anyway.

So, whatever the quality of my output, I guess I qualify as a creative person. I’m a fairly skilled songwriter and guitarist and have made plenty of efforts to study music theory and formal songwriting, in my own slacker way and time. But I also listen to and have made music in my time that was deliberately primitive, unskilled and… well, inept, and that is another reason that the above quote has always stuck with me. I’ve always said that making great music has little to do with how well you can play your instrument, and I still believe it.

Anyway all of this is just to give a bit of background to my own artist statement, and my thought process when writing music or words. I really don’t take myself too seriously, whatever the tone of the following; having said that, creativity and expression is pretty central to who I am. As I continue to post various poems, and as people hear the music I make, if anybody has questions about what they “mean” or how I come up with this shit, this is as good a place to start as any.

Narrative. What is it?

Narrative is the human compass. Texts are the expressions of the collective consciousness. The human capacity for forging narratives and myths is very nearly infinite. The peculiar and paradoxical features of narratives are that they are both universal and strictly individual, collective and differentiated, simultaneously. Every person is therefore both a repository for and manufacturer of stories.

But narratives are more than stories. They are ways of making sense of the world, understanding the associations we experience, the subconscious reactions and conscious reflections our minds’ eyes. The self both authors and experiences narratives, interpreting the manifold symbols and never ending chaos of life. The simultaneous objective and subjective nature of narratives’ relationship to our consciousness is, I believe, unique to human beings.

This dual nature of the power of narratives is what the best art strives to nurture. The experience of the viewer/listener/reader is an integral part of a work of art, in some cases more so than the contributions of the artist. The artist/audience dynamic and dialectic are essential to art.

In my work (if you want to call it that), I have tried to nurture and encourage this dialectic between the listener and this humble artist. The lyrical content of my songs has become more important as I have progressed as a songwriter and musician.

In the songs by other artists that I appreciate most, the deepest feelings and most unvoiceable thoughts were caused in me by their ability to foster this dialectic. Therefore, I try to encourage the listener to make up his or her own narratives or story. While I generally have a specific idea in mind, I consciously attempt to avoid specificity in voice or causality, but trying to leave enough significant signposts and monuments upon the convoluted path that (I hope) the listener will appreciate as their own the view to which it as brought them on the journey. I believe it to be ultimately more meaningful this way. I just hope the view is scenic enough to make them want to continue the dialectic.

What does it “mean”? Exactly what it says. Exactly what it sounds like.

I hope that clears things up a bit.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Poem" of the day #3

"Reign O'er"

The terrible tyrant trots out another excuse

Tries to rescue himself from the swing of the noose

"And the statues they build of me
must surely reflect my nobility
of blood, most goodly bred."

The armies clash in the streets outside

Even unto the fall of night

Black treason in the air

Hear the oaths the generals swear:

"This day we stand together,
if for no other
than each other."

Now, as the thunderclouds roll over the sun

Behold the chosen one

White trash son-of-a-gun

As the stars fortold

So done

The armies dash like water off his flanks

Victorious sign with a roar from the ranks

A forest of spears in the sky

The cries of hawks upon high

"Let the glory of this noon
be remembered.
Let each man to fight
choose his own legend."

Thus was the kingdom established

And prosperity reigned

Until the pestilence threatened

In the year of the plague

Thirty years yonder

Very few remained

Your humble blogger has been scribbling words of varying degrees of coherence in countless spiral-bound notebooks for many years. This is one small sample of them.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I am so tired

Oy, I am so tired of living from paycheck to paycheck. It's been like this for years, but in the turmoil of the past year has been the worst ever. There have been times when I literally couldn't have bought a pack of chewing gum. You can imagine how this makes me feel about my ability to support my wife and son. I generally live from day to day, just hoping I can buy groceries to feed Simon or eat lunch at work.

But this week I was finally given a significant raise at the job I've had for 8 months. We're not on easy street now, but at least I hopefully won't have to go begging for handouts from family members so I can buy enough gas to get to work for the next couple of days. Yes, it was getting that bad. Humiliating at best, desperate at worst.

My employer does seem to value me to some degree, and I like my immediate bosses. But I don't care about wacky things like having a jazz band playing live in the office (yes, that actually happened last month), or having no dress code, or praise. I need money, badly.

I'm glad they stepped up to the plate, but I've been dissatisfied with quite a few things at my job lately, and I'm not the only one. There has been a lot of grumbling around there, and in the past few weeks a number of people have quit. Just last week, a guy in my work group went to lunch and didn't come back. I can't say I blame him.

The upshot is that I've been looking for another job for a few weeks. This raise has diminished my dissatisfaction somewhat, but lo and behold this week I managed to get two interviews for jobs next week. Real employers, not the usual shady recruiters that flock around you like vultures when you post your resume on Monster.com. This is a much better success rate than when I was unemployed last year; back then, I sent out over 200 resumes over the course of a few months and got only 5 or 6 interviews. This time, I applied for about 12 jobs over a few weeks and already have 2. Maybe the economy is improving? What other opportunities are out there...?

So I'm conflicted. On the one hand I would really love a satisfying job that doesn't require me to donate 10 pints of blood a month. On the other hand, I absolutely hate looking for a job and the whole interview/hiring process, and I feel I have some more potential for advancement at my current job, and they did give me a pretty fat raise. So I am going to check out these two opportunities next week and see if they lead anywhere.

They are going to have to offer me some serious $ incentive though, if they go so far as to make offers. That is my number one concern! You might not understand if you haven't been through the sort of financial trauma my little family has been through. We have been barely holding our shit together.

The other thing: my band had a pretty good rehearsal this evening. But I apparently blew a speaker in my amplifier, my beloved 1976 Fender Twin Reverb. It sounds like bacon frying when I hit the low notes. Oh well... they are the original speakers and are nearly as old as I am, so something had to give, sooner or later.

I don't really have much more to say right now. Time has just been so short lately. My job is working me an average of 10-12 hours per day, plus weekends too... it's hard to find the energy to say something worthwhile. But I will persist in my attempts!

Maybe some more "poetry" tomorrow, if I get a chance. People seemed to dig it... to my surprise. I only posted it to fill a bit of space. Anyway, that's all for this evening.

Have I mentioned that I like bourbon? Jim Beam is calling me. Bye.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Poem" of the day #2

"Object Lesson"

it's a plush chair to sit in

the comfy spot under the bridge

the paperbacks you'll never read

they are all you'll ever need

it's a dirty coin to pick up

if someone will make change

collecting the odds and ends

dissecting the fads and trends

it's a plastic toy dump truck

the child would never grow up

a sad reminder of the past

but happy days are here at last

it's a ticket stub from a show

back when the band played cheap

wrote your name with your young blood

before you saw the grave was dug

a soiled scrap of twisted paper

the thoughts that came and went

the missing moments that didn't come back

from the void where they were sent

a rusty can, a ripped-up shirt

a soiled mattress in the dirt

a pickle jar and broken sticks

the thoughts you lost and found again

now you forget what they meant

Your humble blogger has been scribbling words of varying degrees of coherence in countless spiral-bound notebooks for many years. This is one small sample of them.