Life Goal: Not Getting Shot for a Pizza

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126564332I always thought it’d be fun to deliver pizzas. And it is… Or at least aspects of it are.

You drive your own car, listen to music, smoke if you want to, and aren’t supervised constantly. While you have to keep in mind your own car’s gas and repairs, if you’re easy on how you run your car, and know where the shortcuts are, you can shave off car expenses.

Poor weather conditions can be positive in that you will have more people wanting to just have something delivered instead of going out—thus more money-making possibilities—but you’ll have less safe roads to drive on. But if you’re an experienced driver, this isn’t usually too much of an issue.

You get minimum wage, yes, but you also get a delivery fee of about $1.00 per address, plus tips. If you can make 4-8 deliveries per hour, you can make a decent living wage. Essentially, to many, especially to the friendly but quiet types like me, it really can be a dream job.

But there is a dark side: Fear.

You hear the urban legends and you have read the articles.

Real headlines:

  • Pizza Delivery Driver Shot & Killed
  • Pizza Delivery Drivers on Higher Alert After Deadly Shooting
  • Pizza Delivery Man Shot, Robbed in Winton Hills
  • Pizza Delivery Driver Shot and Killed in Park Hill
  • Pizza Delivery Man Shot By 2 Philadelphia Police Officers
  • Pizza Delivery Driver Shot, 2 Men Wanted
  • Police Arrest Teen in Pizza Delivery Driver Shooting
  • Pizza Delivery Driver Robbed, Shot in Arm
  • Driver Shot, Killed During Pizza Delivery
  • Pizza Delivery Driver Dies After Being Shot

You get the idea. And if these headlines start to make you paranoid, you can add to the fear by researching pizza delivery deaths.

Vice.com reported that the Bureau of Labor Statistics repeatedly says that pizza delivery is one of the most dangerous jobs to do in the United States. Drivers/Salespeople ranked fifth in the “10 Most Dangerous Jobs” list, stats again from the BLS.

Every delivery could be a potential mugging. Every person walking by could be an ambush. Every door opened could be the last. Every second that is delayed on the porch or in a hallway could be a plotted assassination … for the $15.00 in your pocket and a mediocre 14-inch pepperoni.

It got to the point, when chit-chatting with my co-workers, I found out I was the only one out of six or seven drivers that hadn’t been robbed yet. How true this is, I cannot truly say, but can only depend on what my co-workers had told me. Perhaps it was just a matter of time before I was robbed. Not all crimes involve death of the victim. But, of course, years could go by and nothing would happen. You just never know.

After about three months, my car died. Fortunately, it was only a supplemental job, a second income, so I wasn’t too devastated. But I’m glad my car broke down and had to call into my job to quit. I was forced to get out of delivering pizzas. And my wife can be more at peace that her husband is a little safer—and less paranoid—in this metropolis.

If you do delivery pizza and wish to cut back on the fear, I found these helpful:

  • Intuitiveness is helpful
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Never have more than $15 in smaller bills on you
  • Avoid situations that look suspicious
  • Don’t go indoors
  • Keep walking distance from your car door to house door low
  • Drive around the block a few times if you have to
  • Point your headlights to the entryway
  • Have a high-beat LED flood/flash light
  • Have a cellphone on you at all times
  • Make sure the pizza establishment knows what deliveries you’re running
  • It is permissible to have a weapon inside your vehicle
  • Flash and stop an officer, telling him/her of suspicious neighborhood activity
  • Buying a dash cam couldn’t hurt; it might be your only witness

Most of these can be applied to almost any workplace environment that has a fear factor: security guard, EMS, dog walker, direct sales, flier canvassing, bus drivers, etc. One shouldn’t have to work in fear.

– Previously published at GoodMenProject.com

Knowing Everything is Knowing Nothing

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knowledge-and-ignorance1The problem with being a Christian, especially involved with a leadership position like pastor or minister, is you have to be everything to everyone. This is encouraged by the Apostle Paul, being all things to all people so that you can reach them for Jesus.

To non-Christians, you have to be able to discuss matters of all types: science, history, theology, counseling, et al. And within these subjects, you have to know an array of topics. In science, you have to know about creationism, evolution, cosmology, archeology, environment, biology.

In history, you have to know about the various eras, continents, and people groups, religious and cultural. In theology, you have to know about the various Bible translations, the understanding of why and to whom it was written, and the application of the text, whether it’s literal or figurative. In counseling, you have to know about disorders, personality issues, development, relationship boundaries, single-hood matters.

In each area, if you’re going to have a solid conversation with another Christian—or a debate with a non-Christian—you’re going to have to be an expert in each area. This is no simple matter.

I was reading constantly. Everywhere I went, I was reading something Christian-related: worship, exegesis, sexuality, integrity, demons, church history, intelligent design, and more. Who had time for fiction? Who had time for the Bible?

As an atheist now, I find myself in the same mess. Unlearning the false and relearning proven. That is, proven truths based on evidence and discovery.

Much of what I had learned during my Christian years, I am undoing. Also, there’s surprisingly some that I’m finding was actually true, and I can keep a hold of those things. There honestly is a bit of stress involved.

Getting involved in the atheist community, both locally and Online, I’m seeing the same thing with agnostics and atheists. There’s a lot to learn about, and there’s a spectrum of personality and belief types.

Many are learned individuals. A few aren’t. But most are very knowledgeable, and they would have destroyed me in a debate when I was a Christian, even as educated as I was.

You just get taught the wrong stuff.

Biology books written by Christians are biased and lack sufficient arguments. These Christian biology books refer constantly to the Bible, though most of what they instruct is false or distorted.

You can’t debate with a non-Christian when you keep saying, “But the Bible says….” To one who doesn’t believe in the Bible, it delivers as a cop-out catch-phrase. When there is evidence that is contrary to the Bible, and all you can say, “The Bible says…,” you look like a fool. I know. I felt like a fool, shrugging off plausible answers because they didn’t jive with Scripture.

I got to the point, as a Christian, where I was giving “God’s Word” the benefit of the doubt. I felt like there were better arguments against the Bible’s teachings, but I wouldn’t let go of some things.

The evolution argument seemed more and more true to me, and I justified the Genesis 1 and 2 stories as being old text. They were stories passed on from generation to generation verbally, until someone after Moses wrote them down. That’s why there’s two creation stories: Two stories existed, so both myths were written down. Both stories explained the beginning of time, as Jews understood it at the time. Globally, there are other myths that have been passed on, most easily laughed at, including my own.

So, I decided that maybe God used evolution to create animals and humans. I could be wrong. I could possibly am being heretical, but I was okay with that. I was sure God would understand. I wasn’t calling the Bible a lie, but I understood that there weren’t eye-witnesses at Creation, so hear-say text shouldn’t be taken as word-for-word testimony. Some Bible stories were told by humans, not all of it being words from God.

But what about the six days of creation? Some Christians believe in a literal six-day creation story. Perhaps, but it seemed implausible to me at the time, facing the evidence for evolution. There is a verse that says, to the Lord, a day can be a thousand years, or a thousand days be a year, or something to that effect. I assume it’s to mean that God is outside of time.

But that didn’t make much sense to me either. With that mindset, you can apply that 1000:1 scenario to anything in the Bible.

What if when the Bible says, “The following day…,” it actually means, “The next millennium?” What if Jesus didn’t rise on the third day, but rather will rise three thousand years later? What if there isn’t seven scrolls to be opened in Heaven, but seven-thousand? What if instead of being on the ark for forty days, Noah and his family were on it for forty-thousand? What if Adam wasn’t over nine-hundred years old, but—?

You get the point.

It started to open a can of worms. How much of the biblical text was literal, and how much of the Bible was figurative, or not even true at all? Maybe the whole thing is hear-say testimony?

I could just pull my hair out, remembering what I was going through mentally back then. And who does one ask about these sorts of things?

I went to a worship leader at the church I was going to at the time. This is maybe 2002. He said essentially what most Christians would say to another in times like these:

We all have doubts;

We have to pray about it;

We have to read the Scriptures;

We have to ask God to open up the wisdom of the Bible to us;

We have to ask for revelation in our meditation;

We have to accept that some things we’ll never make sense of;

It’ll all be shown to us when we get to Heaven.

How much of the biblical text was literal, and how much of the Bible was figurative, or not even true at all? Maybe the whole thing is hear-say testimony?I don’t know about you, but half of this seems like it’s dancing around the question. Why not just say, “I don’t know.” And leave it at that? I can handle that.

At least sympathize a little bit, you know? Tell me that the more I studied the Bible and Christian reference books, the more confused I was going to get. Tell me the rabbit hole is deep and I’ve only just begun, after being a Christian for ten or so years. Tell me it doesn’t make more sense as time goes on, but less.

Sometimes I wish I had been as I was at sixteen or seventeen years old. Christian by definition (or “nationality!”), but freaking ignorant as a cuss. I blended in better back then. I was wild, obnoxious, and abusive.

But goddamn it, I knew what to write when papers asked, “Religion: ____________”

The more I studied about the Bible and history, the more I realized what I had feared most: my mentors knew this stuff. The stuff I shouldn’t be learning.

You theologians and apologists know what I am talking about: biblical myth stories, different Bible canonizations, the “Lost Books,” dead Christianities, histories of suppression and malice, textual tales of genocide and rape.

These things are in the Bible, but they were news to me. I knew about the Crusades and I knew about the other horrors that people have done in the name of Christianity, but I had felt those were done by people “who didn’t know Jesus personally.”

But I didn’t know about the genocides that “God’s Chosen People” did in the Bible. I knew of battles and wars, but assumed they were defending their land. You know, “bringing democracy to the people.” I thought the “Armies of God” were defeating invaders. But this is far from the case. Just read the text yourself.

I had no clue, until I took the time to actually read the Bible cover to cover, that God was commanding the Israelites to go here and there, wiping out whole groups of people—seemingly on a whim. He would even do it to his own People.

Specifically, read for yourself, Exodus through Judges, and the Books of Kings. Because people groups didn’t believe in YHWH, they were destroyed. Not just the men, but women and children, too. Even the properties and animals. Everything was tainted and needed to be destroyed, repeatedly.

Reading the Jewish Bible, the Christians’ Old Testament, you start to realize that this god of the Old Testament was quite different than the god of the New Testament. How Christians nowadays can piggyback on the Jewish text and say it’s the same deity, I cannot reconcile.

This was maybe in 2005 or so that I had read the complete Bible.

I tend to place things in a modern context. Hypothesize, you know? Place the ancient stories in a modern setting.

What if God had told Canada to invade America and wipe out everyone because they, hypothetically, had a different god? Then, after the genocide, the Canadians moved into the land. But not to stay. They’re on an exodus. After America, they are to destroy the Mexicans, because of their evil wickedness. See where I’m going with this?

How does “God’s Chosen People” decide or determine this? They don’t speak the same language, right? You don’t live among them to determine how evil they are. Getting too close is risky.

So you develop a plan and go in, destroying everyone. But you’re still on the move. The land about to be given to you is further south, so God commands you to continue your wandering in the desert, destroying large people groups—by surprise—to “give” you the rich land of plenty.

Eventually, after destroying multiple people groups, you settle down in the land you were “given,” but now you have to defend this land from enemies of your god, because you took their freaking land. You’re the homicidal invader, yet others are evil for attacking you back. The irony!

This is the path of the Jews in the biblical books from Exodus to 2 Kings. How awesome is their god?!

– Originally published 11/21/2015 at Ex-Christian.Net (with currently ongoing comments)

HURry It Up: A Commentary on Ben-Hur (2016) and Religious Movies

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ben-hur-toby-kebbell[1]Hollywood makes it money off of smooth calculations on the trends, who are involved in the film, and even the month the picture is released.

Ben-Hur and its players failed to do the math.

“Ben-Hur” in Yiddish means “son of fine white linen.”

While the story is fictional, as is most of the tales that stem from the Bible, the actual person named Hur is questionable. The son of Moses’ sister, Hur, exists in the book of Exodus in the Bible.

Also, he was either the son or father of Caleb (depending on what part you read from in Chronicles) and was slain by the Israelites under the leadership of Phinehas. He is most associated with being with Aaron, holding Moses’ arms up high to defeat the “enemies” (see Exodus 17 and 24 for the legend).

This film, a remake of the Charlton Heston smash by the same name (which is the third film based on the 1880 Lew Wallace novel), has nothing to do with this alleged Old Testament character. Instead, it’s a fictional (yes, like, really fictional) being.

As with religious films, you have to attempt the feat several times before you strike gold, and even when gold is struck, the same area can come up dry. This is essentially what has happened with this particular remake of a remake of a remake of a remake.

We in the mainstream make fun of these all of the time—remakes. And religious films. We wouldn’t do it if it weren’t so god-damned easy.

Religious—more specifically Christian—films are indeed the curse of the world. If there were a devil, he would be writing and directing Christian movies. Christian movies not being very good is truly the actual history lesson here. Saving Christmas, C Me Dance, Fatal Flaw, Fight, Miracle Man, God’s Not Dead, Fireproof, Soul Surfer, Persecuted, Mom’s Night Out, Heaven is For Real, Son of God, and the remake of Left Behind are several newer films that are absolute rubbish.

Long gone are the desire to see films of biblical times. Shawls, swords, camels and sandals don’t appeal to the mass market these days, at least not since the release of Gladiator.

The exception would be the torture porn of Passion of the Christ, a 2-hour film where Christians can put themselves into the abusers’ feet and beat Jesus to death, only to then have it pardoned when he becomes a zombie and floats into the clouds. A good way to emotionally vent, as a friend once said.

A few things could have saved this film:

  • Change the title (or revamp it)
  • Use some of that budget and put a star on the payroll—who is this “lead?”
  • Market it better—the only way I heard about it is through an atheist website making fun of it
  • Make it somewhat relevant. Remakes are always incorporating modern interests

On the other hand, even with these tweaks, the film still maybe couldn’t be saved. It was probably doomed from the beginning. Most religious films only have decent profits, I assume (as a former Evangelical), because of the quantity of the fan base: almost 25% of America is Evangelical (a belief sect of Christianity).

These social martyrs see it as their mission to support and exploit anything remotely Jesus-centered, and they rally up the troops to see the film in large church groups, even if the product lacks quality. It has gotten so bad that Christians take what is popular and try to make a churchy version of it.

You also see this copy-cat behavior with music, and even in their apparel. They’ll take the font of the Coca-Cola® logo and print it as “Jesus Christ.” There are musical versions of any successful secular band out there, usually marketed like, “This band is similar to ____ but has Christian lyrics.” And usually, the Christian band sounds nothing like their comparison, and are usually only half as talented. You’d think the “creator” of the universe was more, um, creative!

Ben-Hur cost Paramount/MGM $100,000,000 to make, and is expected only to rake in a quarter of that. In a business sense, this is devastating. Can you imagine buying a $100,000 home to flip, and it sells for only $25,000? Or buying a $100 in stocks and the same week they sell for $25?

Unless you can bring in loads of new people who don’t expect a rehash of a tired old 1950s film, a remake will almost never be successful. You’re almost better off making a sequel or prequel. But loading up a boring film with CGI is the best the director can do. This is not unlike a Plain Jane wearing layers of makeup and spilling her breasts out.

The best thing I can say about this remake—and the one it’s based on—is that both leave off the novel’s subtitle: “A Tale of the Christ,” as it really has little to do with the mythical being, Jesus the Christ (Messiah).

– a SteveDustcircle.us exclusive

Kindness and Compassion Can Be Just As Viral As Negativity and Rudeness

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555000421You watch period movies about the 1800’s (or even 1900’s) and you see gentlemen tipping their hat as a lady walks by. You see table dining done with a napkin on the lap. You see all sorts of proper manners being used in the good old days.

Nowadays, we think of those sorts of things as snobbish people being uptight.

I’m not the most graceful individual, and am quite actually a jerk at times, as I can be crude and obnoxious in certain company. But I try to know my limits and boundaries, being attentive to what company is present, and using discretion.

Actually, a lot of people are quite obnoxious in general, especially online.

It seems you can’t post anything without someone saying something negative. It doesn’t even matter what it is. It can be an article, a picture or a status update.

  • You have the one that is just plain rude.
  • You have the one that wants to be off topic.
  • You have the one that will always disagree.
  • You have the one that wants cite and source.
  • You have the one that will cuss you out and unfriend or unfollow you.

The computer makes someone feel like they can be more candid in their rudeness, especially if you don’t know them personally. And even if youdo know them, they still say things that they normally wouldn’t say in real life conversation.

But this attitude becomes rooted in who you are—this negative trolling—and it eventually comes out in your personal interactions.

So how do you deal with these types of people?

Online, I try not to “feed the trolls.” If I post something that needs backed up information, I will occasionally post links to the evidence, especially when dealing with statistics and facts.

I try to keep my memes and cleaver photos to a minimum. Everyone shares these. They’re eye-catching, but rarely fuel a productive conversation. Half of the time, the quotes are out of context or just blatantly incorrect.

If your status is complaining, people who complain about it should be expected. I try not be attention-seeking, but I do try to do status updates that are either funny, reflective, or a serious update on what’s going on in my life.

There are posts all over social media about bad news: poverty, racism, rights violations, religious nuts, local and national murders, and the like. While some are worth knowing about, and maybe even passing on to others, you can possibly be adding to the apathy and discouragement that some already feel about the world in general.

I’m not saying to stick with the cute cat videos, but consider what you’re sharing and saying on social media. Consider what you share and say in person. Not every horrible event should be celebrated. Not every car wreck should be photographed. Not every disability should be gawked at. Not every post should be mocked.

Not everything in the world is bad. Not everyone is rude. But behavior is a habitthat can formed Online and continued on in your real life interactions.

Remember: kindness and compassion can be just as viral.

Originally published at GoodMenProject.com, Dec. 26, 2015

Surely Were Put to Death

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Act-Of-Terror-50-Dead-53-Wounded-In-Shooting-At-Gay-Club-Pulse-In-Orlando.-Gunman-Omar-S.-Mateen-Killed-By-Police.-Worst-Mass-Shooting-In-U.S.-History-VideoPics[1]Once again, religion kills.

Nearing closing time, a regular patron of an Orlando, Florida gay club targeted his peers in what is tokened now as the bloodiest gun attack against Americans … and this was committed by an American.*

The shooter in this article will remained unnamed, so to minimize the notorious fame he desired, as he knew he’d be named, hated by most and praised by a few.

Can we call it a “hate crime?” I would. But was it really religiously motivated? I would say, sure it was.

All across Facebook and on comment threads, I saw people debate whether it was the religion of Islam—specifically, the fundamentalist version pushed by ISIS/ISIL—or it were his hatred of the LGBTQ community. The debate is hot and easily counter-debated because both sides are true.

The Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) cause a hatred for people who are not lined up with their holy texts. You see the extremists with their signs, memes and videos containing Bible or Koran quotes on how same-sex attraction is evil, some verses calling for the death of the sexual deviant, apostate or infidel.

Are all religious people of the Abrahamic religions hateful? Not at all. I know, because I used to be religious. I was fanatical, in fact. My religion was all that I read about, all that I prayed about, all that I consumed.

I’m not going to give specifics about my deconversion (as is detailed in my book, Leaving Worship), but in heartache and pain, I left Christianity. This decision was intellectually and not an emotional one, but it was the emotional and political things within religion that started me on the path to questioning what exactly I was endorsing when I called myself Christian.

Dated texts, like the Bible, speak of what was going on in those time periods (and in that part of the world), being written over a long segment of time by several people, and then being re-written by others.

Hypothetically, if the writings (Bible or otherwise) were applicable ages ago, you’re taught within your religion that they are the “perfect” words of “God,” and everything should be defined through the lenses and glasses of what your holy book first says, and how it applies to other books, lifestyles, time periods and yourself. If there is conflict, you’re supposed to choose the ancient text first and foremost.

Even when I was religious (rather, had my relationship with Jesus), I never had a prejudice towards gay or bisexual people, let alone hate. This is before I knew about the biology of sexual orientation and gender identity.

I was always taught to hate the sin, but to love the sinner. But if there is a quality one is taught not to like about someone, that person cannot help but have a lesser liking towards that person compared to others that are more similar to him- or herself.

I am not gay but I would say that a majority of my friends are. Now, any way. Unsure how that happened, but it has. And I’m grateful for it. They’re great people, are loyal, have awesome senses of humor, and made me realize how horrible their fears are.

The idea that someone dislikes you because of who you are attracted to is horrible. It’s downright scary. No wonder, even as our country and our world slowly become more progressive, that people stay in the closet. The paranoia and PTSD that one must constantly be in must be overwhelming. The idea that someone would want to even kill you, your beloved and your friends is a terrible thought to entertain. And we’re not even speaking of entertainingthe thought, but realizing that it can actually happen … to you.

I’m sure there are Muslims out there saying to the gay and lesbian communities that this horrific act of terrorism in Orlando doesn’t represent their brand of Islam (as Christians have said in the past about “Christians” killing human beings). But this is rubbish.

While religious people say that their gods are defined by the word specific, Love, the ancient texts representing their gods—all Abrahamic—do in fact look down on any relationship that is sexual outside of the time-period specific definition of marriage. Older, Jewish texts actually call out for blood.

Most religious people are nominal and have no clue that their “holy” texts call for blood for the sexually “impure,” as a majority have never actually read their Bibles, Korans or Torahs. And if there were heavens, I’d thank them that ignorant, religious people don’t act on their texts’ commands.

Gratefully, most people are better than that. Most people reach beyond the call of old, ancient words. Most would not kill in the name of their religion. But sadly, a few do. Rare, thank the heavens, but some sadly do.

One thing I know, is that it’s horrible when you yourself is gay and you’re told it’s evil to have been born that way. The internal struggle within has got to be maddening. The weight has got to be so burdensome, feeling constantly that your “creator” can’t have made a mistake with you, but says you shouldn’t be attracted to who you’re attracted to—the error must be yours, essentially. How does one deal with that sort of depression that your god puts on you?

I have heard it said that homicide is suicide turned outward outward. Depression can do that. Religion can do that.

– This article has never been previously released or published

I Wanted Them All

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transformers[1]When I was a child, I didn’t just want one item for Christmas. I wanted them all.

I was a big Transformers fan.

But I also was a huge G.I. Joe fan.

My brother and I would go through the toy catalogs with a pad of paper, and we’d write down every toy we wanted. The list for our small family would be sometimes pages long.

We tried to make it simple. I would select the “bad” guys (The Decepticons and Cobra) and my brother would have the “good” guys (The Autobots and the American Hero). Sometimes there’d be a random other toy named, but our lists usually compiled of these two brands.

And of course, when Christmas time came, we’d open up boxes and boxes of shirts, pants, scarves, and socks. I was courteous and would thank my family members for the apparel, but I’m sure the displeasure of money spent on non-fun items showed.

That didn’t mean we didn’t get some of the things on our lists. We’d get some cool toys, but some of the ones we were really looking forward to weren’t present (no pun intended). But we did have that one uncle that would get the one big, expensive thing on the list, so we’d always look forward to that one toy he would get us.

One thing my brother and I always wanted was the G.I. Joe aircraft carrier. Obviously, this sucker was huge and probably expensive. But we never got it, no matter how many times we’d request it.

How unappreciative we were, looking back on it, but hey, we were kids.

If were told to stick to ten items instead of a hundred, we would have been taught to be more selective. I say this, because long lists have carried into my present life. I still struggle to keep things to the necessities.

Free ebooks are plentiful, and I’d download a book I will never read just because it was free. A digital library, which takes up no physical space in my office, can be amassed easily. Got to have them all, you know?

I did the same in my twenties with bands I liked. Having all of the major releases on CD wasn’t enough. I had to have the CD singles with the B-sides and live or acoustic versions. I had to get the cassette single with differing b-sides than that of the CD singles. I had to buy soundtracks and other compilations which would the one song that I didn’t already have by the same band.

Things like this get out of hand, being a collector of anything that interests you. They not only cost money, but they also take time to accumulate, even if your time is building Wish Lists on various retail websites. Got to have them all.

Recently, I’ve toned things down, and even got rid of a few things. Trying to change from the wants in my life, I was able to gain a few of theneeds.

I have a better car than I used to be able to afford. I have a house now. I am able to invest into my small business. I can now have the bigger things in life now that I don’t hoard the endless list of small ones.

– Originally published at GoodMenProject.com

I Could Have Been an Active Shooter

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497948131-gun-violence-student-shooting-gettyimages[1]I stole from my dad often, things I felt I needed.

I took coins to buy candy. I took a bottle of liquor for playing hooky. I took various things to build things like insect boards, a skateboard, and many other things.

But I never stole my dad’s gun. Reason? He didn’t have one. If he had had one, I might have taken it.

You see, I was a little guy in middle school and high school. And a little guy with a big mouth doesn’t exactly earn friends easily. I tried to be intimidating, to scare off the bullies. But it wasn’t of avail. I tried to be into sports, but I found watching it boring and participating unexciting.

I either listened to heavy metal—or gangster rap—depending on what crowd I was trying fit into. I didn’t want to be common, boring or known for being intelligent. But I didn’t want to be a loser, loner or nerd. All of my music and TV idols were raw, rowdy and rambunctious.

I got a lot of flack for it. I’d get sneered at, mocked, laughed at, teased, pushed around, beat up, and even had my life threatened.

I’ve been chased home.

I’ve been cornered and jumped a few times. And I always vowed revenge. I hated my peers. I hated my teachers for not saying anything when they saw it. I hated my dad for also putting me through similar things at home. And I hated myself.

  • Fortunately, I never brought a gun to school.
  • Fortunately, I never used bullying to set an example of classmates and my abusive father.
  • Fortunately, I was able to move on with my life, go to other schools, become an adult, gain employment, and seem to be liked by my current peers.

Seeing things in perspective when you’re younger is hard to do.

The brain is still growing and developing. Philosophy and worldview are a constant change, as well. A younger person does not understand permanence. One decision, no matter how “courageous,” could change absolutely everything. Sure, eliminating a few headaches seems tempting, but there’s no returning after the long term consequences happen.

My life, I would have right now. If I had access to shooting up a classroom, I could be dead now. Or I could be in prison for life or on death row. I wouldn’t have the wonderful things I have now.

I have a wonderful wife who cherishes me and encourages me in all I do. I have a nice house with tons of great books. I have an adorable, intelligent cat that I had rescued as a kitten. I have a few small businesses that are exciting, as I deal with collectibles, vintage goods and antiques. I write books and articles, also, which is a good way to channel pent-up feelings, memories and problems.

My life is good, and I wouldn’t have had what I now have if I became an active shooter.

– Originally published at GoodMenProject.com

This is Not a Bill

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bill[1]Things change as you age. When you’re younger, your major purchase of the month is the new Spider-Man comic book.

But as you get older, you have rent to cover, a couple of utilities and your Netflix bill.

After that, things start getting more complicated. You have mortgages and health insurance to worry about.

And some of these things don’t straight up come to your house saying, You owe XX amount. No, that’d be too easy. There are variables. You owe XX amount, but we’re still deciding on what to charge you for 1-2-3.

Okay, so what is this? A discretionary amount? It’s like they’re saying, Your firm amount for services one and two are This, but service 3 is to yet be calculated. You will either be charged $4.00 and/or $400.00. This amount will be determined and reflected on your bank statement.

Whoa, what the hell is that? This amount or that amount?

And they also send you things like, This is NOT a bill. Okay, what is up with that? Especially when the envelope clearly stated, Enclosed is your bill.

This is like what magazines are starting to do—send you an invoice for something you haven’t ordered, with an invoice that has a box that you can check that says, Bill Me, but the envelope says, Invoice enclosed.

And you get like four of these This is not a bill letters sent to you, meticulously itemized for all the services rendered at the hospital listed. The return address is for a state that is not even your own. You ever notice that?

You get like five of these things, and you’re bracing for the actual bill. Will it ever come? You’re like trying to budget for this, too, setting aside a portion of this $4 or $400 variable. It’s like trying to save to pay off a mobster. How much do I owe? And will he break my legs if I guess wrong?

You start getting nervous about these notices when you get home.

Is my electric going to be cut off?

Will I have AC?

Will my other car still be sitting there or will it be repossessed?

Over a repeating $4.00 This is not a bill.

The Daughter You Didn’t Know I Had

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* NOTE: This article was published merely months before my daughter looked me up, and now we have an awesome long-distance relationship!

This would be a surprise to many that know me, but I have a daughter.

145083489-close-up-of-teenage-girls-eyelashes-gettyimages[1]This is a surprise, because I don’t talk about her. I don’t really have pictures of her. I don’t talk to her. I don’t see her. I don’t refer to her, because I’m embarrassed—I don’t want to be that guy, the absentee dad.

I do think of her often though, almost every day. She had just turned sixteen. So I imagine her driving in her car. I imagine her going on dates and dances. I imagine her in school plays, and maybe playing softball like her mom did years ago. I don’t know if she’s doing those things, but I imagine she’s having a good life. After all, don’t we all deserve a good life?

Sometimes, I feel like I shouldn’t have the good life I have. I’m married, own my own house, run several small businesses, and I make money doing what I enjoy. I have great pets, have decent health, and eat balanced meals my wife and I prepare. But do I deserve these good things? Perhaps. But in mind, I feel like I got a cake-walk.

I wasn’t the single mom, I’m not the sacrificial step-dad, I’m not the hurt grandparents. I wasn’t the one abandoned to pick up the pieces. I wasn’t the one trying to make ends meet to provide for a child.

My daughter was conceived with my ex-girlfriend after we went to the mall with her friends. It was essentially a one night stand with someone familiar. I liked her, and I enjoyed dating her, but I was pretty much a drunken asshole at the time.

I was fiscally irresponsible. I used people. I kept having my utilities cut off. I lost jobs. I was a loser. I was resentful that in my early twenties, I was going to have to settle down, trade in my wild ways, and provide for a family. I couldn’t do it.

We broke up after trying for a year. After that, I got even more wild, and lost yet another job.

I moved three-hundred miles away from my college town back to Chicago, my childhood hometown and place where I still had friends and resources. I got my old job at an ice cream shop and moved in with friends from my church. I had to get my shit together.

As soon as I moved, my daughter’s mother married someone new and he adopted my daughter, saying I abandoned her. This wasn’t really the case, as I had moved to get my life back on track so I can build a better life that would include her. I’ve sent cards throughout the years, and mailed letters to my ex pleading for some level of involvement. I never got one response.

While I hit some more bumps in the road, causing me to again realize that simply moving to a new location doesn’t necessarily mean that old demons stay put. Long story short, I had a wake-up call, and completed my transformation into adulthood.

My ex’s family still keeps in touch with my grandmother, where I hear secondhand how my daughter is doing, what she’s up to, and how good of a step-father my ex’s husband is. They have built a life together, and seem to be doing well. And it makes me feel horrible that I brought a child into this world, and not be the person I should have been at that time.

It also hurts that she knows about me, knows I had left, but probably doesn’t know my side of the story. She probably doesn’t care what my side of the story is. All she knows is, she was born and I left. She might know more, but as this piece started out with, I tend to imagine.

I do hope that someday she and I could reconcile on some level. She’ll probably have a lot of venting to do, but that’s okay. I can deal with that; I’ve earned that anger, I know. But I want her to know that I always wanted the best for her.

My biggest regret is not having had a child, but for thinking that I could do better by her by leaving town.

Originally published and relunctantly retitled in 2015 at: http://goodmenproject.com

Vacation Hangups

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iStock-13234958_toilet-orchid-orange-tile_s4x3.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.960[1]How many of you have weird things about going on vacation?

Are there traditions that you have? Or something you always have to pack? Maybe it’s something you just simply don’t do that you usually do. Maybe you don’t smoke on vacation or drink every day? Maybe you have that road-trip mix CD.

For me, I can’t go number two. That’s right. Usually cannot go. Maybe it’s the muscles within; maybe I can’t relax them, because I’m not completely relaxed everywhere else. Maybe it’s my diet when I’m away from home. Maybe I just like to use a room that is comfortable.

I don’t like using friends’ bathrooms. I’m not big on sitting on a family member’s throne. I certainly won’t use gas station toilets or outhouses (aren’t they essentially the same?). Just can’t do it.

However, this doesn’t mean I haven’t. If I’m at your house and I use the toilet for number two, either I’m super comfortable at your house, or I’m in dire need for a doctor’s visit.