Douglas Martin is about that jet life.
Remember when I wrote last year that it seemed kinda narcissistic to write about oneself in 2016? With the world unfolding the way it did the following year, I had fleeting thoughts about whether or not I should keep running this annual collection of personal mini-essays; to keep my focus on the outer world and help make it a better place for people who aren’t callous billionaires, murderous sociopaths, sexual predators, proud bigots, or the depressing population of those who fit in all of the aforementioned categories.
I’ve been struggling with the idea that someone might relate to my scattered thoughts, navel-gazing, and purged feelings, that they might help them to read as much as they help me to write. This assumption is narcissistic in and of itself—the road to hell being paved with good intentions and whatnot—but if the longshot intention is not accomplished, if solace is not found, I’m sure it will at least make a good read.
I have accomplished some profound things within myself, which still feels pitifully immaterial when it comes to the wider world. As you can tell I spent 2017 trying to convince myself otherwise.
I. Roc Marciano — “Pray For Me”
I’m sitting in my car while it’s warming up in the ShoWare Center parking lot, the driveway to the home of the 2017 WHL Champion Seattle Thunderbirds, texting my grandfather and my cousin about the day’s proceedings. I had missed court the day before because the team had a parade and I spent 40 minutes looking for parking until I gave up and went back to the house where I live.
Next door, at the Regional Justice Center, a 27-year-old man has been standing trial for murdering my father almost two years prior. I’ve been emptying my pockets and walking through metal detectors for the past two weeks with no end date in sight. It sounds like masochism for someone with anxiety issues, but I’m admittedly fascinated by the process and the personalities in the courtroom. And I sorta have a crush on the lead prosecutor.
A circumstance like sudden death would naturally make you reevaluate your relationship with your deceased father, right? My dad and I were kinda distant the night he was shot. There weren’t any calamitous blowouts or deep residual pain, just petty shit.
Especially now; everything seems petty when your father’s life comes to a violent end.
I sat there, music playing over the frostbitten growl of my engine, with a bunch of different feelings converging in my head—getting into the intricacies of a murder trial, the amusement and camaraderie I felt with the prosecution for their chit chat about being lawyers and realizing every line of work has a scene, a deep sadness for the fatal event which led me to this courtroom. And as I sat there, I would occasionally look over at the man who shot my father in the forehead and think about the violence inside myself no one sees.
II. Curren$y — “Stash House (Feat. Freddie Gibbs)”
My friend, the one who lives on Tacoma’s eastside, doesn’t have an outlet for his stress. He says he used to be good at drawing, but hasn’t picked up a pencil since tenth grade.
I drove down one of the streets that leads to the Regional Justice Center, a straight strip past the police station and yet another Starbucks, past the family-owned Mexican restaurant with the delicious food—you can’t beat family recipes—where I left a twenty dollar tip and once drank a tequila sunrise or two at 11:30am on a long lunch with my brother during a court recess. I think that was the day he told me he was going to propose to his girlfriend. Later that I day I half-drunkenly listened to one of the witness list off all fourteen pages of his resume as part of his testimony. It was a scene I’d put in a sitcom if I wrote comedy.
My friend and I are both from a generation of kids raised by rap music and their grandmothers. I can’t tell you much about his life, not because I don’t know about his life. For many months in 2017, my modus operandi was to smoke reefer and stay home, but I made it over to his place fairly regularly. Extinguishing blunts and talking about life and being black men and Insecure (he later told me I spelled Kelli’s name wrong and would have been immediately disqualified from her roster) and me trying hard to catch him up on Curren$y.
We were talking, reminiscing over the particular feeling brothers get when they step out of the barbershop. My brother gave me the clippers my dad used to cut his own hair with. The shit the barbers use. I started using them when the clippers I had died. I used to feel like there was a little too much hair on my head for having just cut my hair, but then I got used to it. I can’t let my hair grow for two weeks without it looking too wooly, but when I do cut it, the cut is picture-perfect. Like, a picture of my head should be in a barbershop lookbook.
It was during this conversation my friend told me, “Sometimes I read your writing and I’m like, ‘You need therapy, bro. And then I realize, shit, this is your therapy.’”
I drove down one of the streets which leads to the courthouse, this time on my way home, sun shining and making the rained out streets glisten. I thought about my friend and Curren$y and wanting so badly to say to him, “You’re just now listening to this?” I’m banging 12/30, released two days before the new year, which means its impact on my daily listening skewed heavy even though it had been February by this point. I imagined my car, bouncing down the street on switches, and “Stash House” being the perfect soundtrack for that particular occasion. This was a little while before I decided I wanted to make my car less like a lowrider and more like a stylish muscle car.
He was sentenced to 477 months. I didn’t feel a sense of relief, vengeance, or elation when the man who murdered my father was sent away. I don’t exactly feel very much remorse for the guy, either. I’m writing this with the same icy face I used when the jury announced their verdict. There’s a little bit of anger there. But I can’t say knowing this guy is going to be in jail until he’s pretty much 68 does anything for me in the way of positivity. That is, 68 if he doesn’t get killed in jail. My grandmother is still angry. She hopes he gets stabbed up wherever he is sent, in no uncertain terms. I personally feel…completely indifferent about the guy. Sometimes my indifference feels like disloyalty to the man he killed. I don’t know how to reconcile that feeling, so like many feelings I can’t reconcile, I just live with it.
I felt something, a sense of humanity, while sharing the courtroom with him and realizing he’s just a person too, only thing is he killed my dad. Shot him in the forehead. Over some bullshit. Everybody who was allegedly there had a chance to deescalate the situation. I have to deal with all of them for the next month or maybe more—the woman he was involved with, who described my dad as “some dude who gave her money,” the young man who claims he thought my dad was going to beat him to death (while on crystal meth)—but I don’t even have the chance to spend time with my father, to finally get past this petty distance that got between us?
I told my friend the verdict, and I told him I had been writing about it. He told me something I had heard more than once when I told somebody: “I was wondering if you were going to write about this.” At first I wasn’t, but then I felt this creative charge while in the throes of this life-changing experience.
My friend is not even at The Thirties, yet. He’s got a long way to go to catch up.
III. Freddie Gibbs — “20 Karat Jesus”
It’s 11 AM, I’m stoned and on the way to Popeye’s. I feel anxious during periods where I write less. I always let the doubt stop me from writing, and then I let it consume me because I have no other outlet for my frustration.
I used up all my vacation time, the money I did have from my father’s life insurance was eaten up by urology clinic bills and an ER visit because I was at home writing and not working enough. At this point, I was working more, and being a cashier at a grocery store is an easy way to get burnt out. The amount of people someone like me, very much an introvert, has to talk to, is at times overstimulating, and at times just flat-out draining. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy talking to a bunch of different people, as fascinating as I think people are. But talking to hundreds of people over the course of five or six or eight hours fries your brain.
Whenever I drive, there’s always a kid in a Subaru or an old white man in a Corvette or a Silverado, revving their engine, waiting for it to roar (or whatever Subarus do; buzz, I guess) past me. I think they’re either trying to impress me or intimidate me—more macho bullshit—but I generally just find it embarrassing. I get to the drive-thru window after placing my order. Sometimes the order flows, sometimes it’s staggered by awkwardness. But the order is always made, and I always get the same thing. I’m not telling you my Popeye’s order. So many of y’all lowkey bite my style anyway.
“People don’t realize you’re like the best shit-talker ever. Probably because you’re too reserved at first.” My friend relays this message to me frequently, and I always quote a pivotal line from the mythological text “I Am Dame Dash”: “If I was a rapper, I swear to god I’d talk my shit.”
Anyway, I would get to the window, wearing a tight leather jacket like my personal style icons the Strokes and my personal twist on the look, the furry raccoon cap to match up with the buffalo plaid shirt. Sometimes it was an older woman, looked like an assistant manager. Sometimes, it was a younger girl, about eighteen, nineteen. Brown skin and a smile whose light would burn through a morning often cloudy and muggy in my mind. Some of them didn’t know what to make of me. Some of them had a twinkle in their eye. All of them were nice to me. That’s all I can ask of in my blunted state.
I once had a dream the fortune teller I saw in 2015 was right and I ended up having two kids. I was a much older man here, maybe like in my late fifties. He came out on the deck of my house, a deck much like the ones I would very seldom smoke a blunt with my dad on. My son was in his late twenties and he said to me, “Dad, you need to stop smoking that shit.”
IV. Quelle Chris — “Popeye”
The weather is getting warmer, sometimes a little too warm for the now-trademark raccoon hat. I’m still getting stoned pretty much every day but not spending a lot on weed. You would still hit me with hella edibles, though I have always been fond of the ancient ritual of smoking a blunt. Sometimes I’m eating an edible at 10:30 AM and smoking reefer by 5 PM.
On this particular day, I’m on the way home from Emerald Leaves in Tacoma, a store in which I will consider myself a regular, and I’m trying Gorilla Glue #4 for the first time. I have a not-exactly platonic friend coming over later to watch Smackdown Live (she has a thing for AJ Styles), and I never told you about it because you told me in no uncertain terms you didn’t want to know about who I’m with when I’m not with you.
I usually drive through the tide flats and up through Tacoma to Emerald Leaves’ 6th Ave. location, passing Stadium High, where I was a smart but undisciplined student. I got kicked out of my creative writing class over some frivolous bullshit contest between teachers. I failed Geometry because my gym teacher caught me copying Brooke’s work, like a lot of it. I didn’t expect Brooke to fall on her sword for me, and she didn’t.
And then I go past O’Malleys, where a woman I used to know named Jen once took me for a fun night in Tacoma and later at the hotel she worked, a random guy who was at the bar told her, “He loves you. I see it in his soul he would treat you right.”
I put my not-exactly-platonic friend up on artists like Quelle Chris and Tree and the latter-day work of Earl Sweatshirt (which I have a deeper personal connection to than most music, astounding for an artist more than a decade younger than me). I put her on to Insecure and Paid in Full. She put me on Mitsuharu Misawa, someone I count as #2 all-time on my Greatest Wrestlers Ever list. My #1, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, was in a coma for weeks. A publication asked me if worse came to worst, would I write about it. It’s a massive opportunity I’m over the moon elated didn’t have to happen. I don’t think there has ever been a time where I secretly hoped an opportunity would fall through for me.
We liked to smoke blunts and slow dance. She’s a 27-year-old suburban-raised blonde who somehow likes me, who sees the unsavory parts of my personality and sees enough good in me to remain my friend for as long as she has. We don’t really talk about why we’ve never been romantically involved. We like the sexual encounters that usually happen the morning after she stays the evening, but we’ve never tried to date.
Maybe this is just easier for us. Either way, I enjoy her company and her conversation, I enjoy the idea of hanging out one-on-one at roughly the same time every week, I enjoy her perspective on pro wrestling and life, I enjoy that she loves giving head. I enjoy our emotional intimacy, especially since I know she is very, very introverted and has told me explicitly I am one of the few people she has truly opened up to.
There is a spiritual fulfillment I get from being a good friend. I don’t think I ever got being in a family right, even though I feel as though I have time to get better at it—or thought I did before my parents died. We talk about our relationship woes; she tells me about men who open up too quickly and snap at her when she can’t reciprocate, I tell her about my various flings and how a woman will have a fleeting romantic epiphany about me and completely disappear within three or four days.
When I drive her home—a four-minute drive, though she usually prefers the twenty-minute walk—we’re listening to “Popeye” and I laugh to myself at adjusting a Quelle Chris line: “Martin Douglas could’ve been that dude, no one remembers, though.” Put it on my tombstone.
Months prior to now, she told me, “I know when you’re mad at people, you don’t offer them any eye contact. I know it’s because you want people to think your soul is less angry than it actually is. Remember the first episode of Justified, when Wynona told Raylan he was the angriest person she had ever known? Sometimes I feel that way about you.”
I looked out the window at the middle of the morning and a man walking a boxer with quick, tiny steps.
V. Jay-Z — “4:44”
We listened to Jay-Z’s new album on repeat most of the way up to Everett. We checked into a Clarion Inn or something. I’m your date to your friend’s wedding. I have the same suit I wore to my friend’s wedding last year in a suit bag. My brown wingtips are on the floor behind me somewhere. This is the first time we’ve spent the night somewhere together other than our respective homes. We’re in your car as we watch the city grow, swallow us whole, and diminish behind us. We’re not talking about much, just chatting about shit.
You’re in the hallway adjacent to the bathroom in the Clarion Inn or something. There’s a big mirror there and you’re curling your hair and putting on makeup. I’m quietly feeling like a schoolboy looking at you in your dress. You look like the kind of woman I wanted as a boy. You’re listening to “4:44,” a song about fucking up in love and almost losing the sort of love that defined your life. We recently agreed the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” kind of oversimplify what we are.
We ride about 35, 40 minutes to the gorgeous farm where your friends are getting married. We have weed brownies on the way. We have a very intimate conversation about something I would consider to be very private. I loved having that sort of conversation with you, where we talked and found a deeper understanding among one another. We were pretty good at that. We finally get to the farm, and on the way into the hall, resplendent with wood and mirrors and immaculate fixtures, we walk along a gravel road and both notice a customized (or at least “tastefully aftermarket”) Porsche Panamera and you wonder whose it is.
I meet some people very happy to see you, very overjoyed you were a part of this moment, this union between two of your friends. You told me why and it made me realize why everybody was so happy to see you. I’m shifting in my suit because I’m stoned and still a little nervous to meet people, but I eventually realize a wedding is a piece of cake (no pun intended) compared to a funeral.
The ceremony was the kind of scene you hope for at a wedding, just a bunch of joy and little jokes and kids unsuccessfully trying to stay still, and love—not just the love of the bride and the groom, but everybody present for this pivotal moment in their lives. As soon as we make it onto the galleria the wedding reception was taking place, I glanced over at the immaculately green fields of farm in the distance. By the time my mind was back with everybody else, a plate of tequila shots were in front of us. I took a shot because you took a shot because the bride’s mom and sisters and cousins took a shot. We fielded more than one older couple tell us how cute we looked together.
I almost lied to your friend’s son about where we met. I didn’t say Tinder, I said “a dating app.” I wasn’t going to tell him, but then I pulled a U-turn in the middle of my train of thought and said, “Uh, actually, I think, I’m pretty sure, we might have met on a dating app.” I knew I wasn’t fooling him. He seemed like a bright, perceptive kid. And furthermore, I thought he was cool.
Besides, he’s a teenager. He knows what’s up.
We’re just all the way live tonight. We’re drunk as shit, on the dance floor pretending we’re the only two people in the room. The band kept playing and we kept dancing. We smoked weed in the parking lot with a bunch of marijuana industry people, a fucking lot of reefer. We found the owner of the Panamera, and he’s telling us about how a comment he took personal offense to on Facebook, one you made, inspired him to get his hustle on and be able to afford a Porsche. I saw how proud you were of that. He’s telling me he thinks I’m a really cool dude. To which I would say, “cool recognize cool.”
We stumbled around the rose garden in the dark because one of us wanted to see it, get some fresh air, and stumble around. I busted my upper lip while we drunkenly made out in the dark. We made it to the gravel drive just in time to see the bride and groom say goodbye to everyone, with the groom’s teenage son asking if we were cool to drive home.
The bride and groom drove off, we’re in your car about to leave. I picked up a warm La Croix from the backseat of your car. As soon as the warmth hit my tongue, I knew I was going to throw up. I opened your door and puked without taking my seatbelt off. The next morning, I cleaned out the door jamb with a handful of tissues because I thought I cleaned up all the vomit last night but didn’t.
Before we hit the freeway that next morning, we went to McDonald’s and you bought me a large order of fries. I drove back to my house from Everett. That was the point where I envisioned being with you for a long time.
VI. Karriem Riggins — “Bahia Dreamin”
“Can you turn that down?”
I’m sitting with my laptop on the coffee table, listening to Headnod Suite and reading stuff online as you announce to me you’re ready to do my aura reading. I’ve been admittedly waiting for this a long time, not solely because I’m curious to see what they universe has to say about me (though I am), but because of my eagerness to witness something you have a talent for in action.
We called it our “adventure in cohabitation.” Your friend came over the evening before and I put on Jonwayne’s Rap Album Two while the three of us played The Game of Life. You bought fried chicken from Stadium Thriftway and even asked the folks at the food counter to put the seasoning for their salt and vinegar wings on a fried breast for me. I washed the dishes while you drove your friend to the airport.
In a few hours from this moment, we’re going to the DEFY show at Temple Theater, a three or four minute drive from your place. But at this moment, you have two chairs faced together next to your front window, the street obscured by a very tall, very green bush. There was a light breeze rustling your white, lightly laced curtains. All your living room needed was that dream sequence blur from old TV shows to make me feel like I was in my own version of these deeply personal half-hour series that are popular nowadays.
You gave me a couple rules for the process and I botched one of them almost immediately. There were a lot of details I remember about this reading: The intimacy of us sitting by this window and across from one another, your easy facility with words in explaining deep emotional truths, the connection with the things you told me you found. I watched in awe as I saw your talent shine through while you worked.
A low-hanging vine, heavy with unfinished projects. A shaky relationship with power because of bearing witness to people abusing theirs. Dimming the golden light which beams from me because of being afraid other people would think it’s too much light. An outer layer of deep, deep darkness. A feeling of discomfort in my own body. A rose in the very beginning of its bloom, the bottom of the bud a solid white and the tips a bold red. A strong stem and strong thorns for protection.
Even while we were at Temple Theater, watching bodies crunch and wretch on impact, I was thinking about this reading, this moment we shared. We had a good time at DEFY, went home, had an awkward moment when I was being goofy with you, and watched Insecure in bed before we fell asleep. And then the lamp went off on the final day we spent together as romantic partners.
VII. Jonwayne — “Hills (Feat. Zeroh)”
I just got off work and I’m nervously driving to your place with a bouquet of apology flowers riding shotgun. What a dog I am. I should have bought you flowers long before the possibility of you breaking things off with me, before having a manic depressive blackout and texting you during (I thought I had left those in the past), before stepping outside from my job, feeling overwhelmed by everything, and crying in my car for five minutes the next day. I just spent two whole days staying with you. Three days later, I’m looking at the empty glass which was once our relationship, only a couple drops of backwash left.
The sun had a long day and was starting its retreat to the western horizon. I was headed due south. The heat muscled its way into my car even as I drove a little faster than usual through the tide flats, my eyes watery with the fear of losing your love. I knew I already lost it, really. I told you I already knew this was over and you sternly rebuffed me for the only time during our 18 months seeing each other. There was a pain in my chest for days, partly out of a wounded ego, partly the sobering feeling of knowing things could have worked but didn’t.
I got to your house, seeing you for the first time since Friday morning, where we kind of did our own thing before you left for work. Neither of us looked happy to see each other. I dropped off the flowers and made my way to the door. You gave me the hug of someone trying to console a stranger. Light, the vaguest whiff of emotion, a couple pats on the back. Though I tried to deny it was truly over between us, I knew when I got in the car. I knew before then. But this moment confirmed it.
The next day, you sent me a text breaking up with me. The emotionlessness of it kind of hurt my feelings. But you said something you’d said before, only with the added profundity of it applying to us: “It takes a long time to make an old friend.”
VIII. Kendrick Lamar — “FEAR.”
“Why god, why god, do I gotta suffer?/ Pain in my heart carry burdens full of struggle”
The beginning of August has blazed its way into my windshield, and just like pretty much every other conscionable person I know, the heavy load of living in 2017 feels like too much to carry. I’ve spent much of the past three years in my own head, trying to alleviate myself of self-doubt, my underlying (and formerly blinding) penchant for self-destruction, my sensitivity to other people’s suffering. When my mother was alive, she used to warn me against my tendency to isolate myself. There’s a little guilt in my heart for shutting in with everything happening in the world; now’s not the time to wilt under pressure, now’s the time to fight.
“Why god, why god, do I gotta bleed?/ Every stone thrown at you resting at my feet”
Watching the various tragedies and revelations of past tragedies after having two of the most personal losses of my life has made me more prone to the aforementioned isolation. I feel the strain of other people’s pain taking its toll on me. It manifested itself in the form of many childhood hurts. That doubt, that hopelessness, a not-too-uncommon sense of brutalist anger. That physical pain from childhood—getting into too many fights, getting beaten up too much—carried a sense of fulfillment, a release of negative emotion. Otherwise, as I’m experiencing in adulthood, that pain, that frustration just festers.
In my more fatalistic moments, a smile would slowly spread across my face while mouthing these lyrics:
“Why god, why god, do I gotta suffer?/ Earth is no more once you burn this motherfucker.”
IX. Chris $pencer — “Shark Wrestling”
It’s the morning of the solar eclipse and I’ve been pet sitting for my brother’s girlfriend’s dog—a sweet pit bull named Bella—while they’re away in Hawaii. He’s been planning to propose for months and not too long ago they found out she’s pregnant. As the saying goes, “Man makes plans and god laughs.” It’s been warm and dry, so I’ve been making sure Bella’s water dish is full and cold, spending ten or fifteen minutes a day playing with her in the dried out yard before one of us or the other are too hot to stay outside. Mostly it’s me and she spends another half-hour laying in the sun.
I’ve been spending most of the week smoking joints on the deck on the backside of the house my parents shared when they were alive and looking at the touching limbs of tall trees stretching a few yards back and a few yards down. I read most of the 640 pages of Meet Me in the Bathroom on those hot days and Bella would rest her head on my right leg. I spent those nights in a stoned daze watching WWE or Impact Wrestling programming on the big television in the living room since I just watch stuff on my laptop when I’m at home. I thought, with the exception of work at the supermarket a couple days out of the week, it would be a nice vacation. I ended up spending a day reviewing Blessed.
While immersed in my appointment reading of weekly and monthly horoscopes before this weeklong house sitting engagement, I’ve been taking in testimony about how solar eclipses are signposts for big, big changes in a person’s life. Two weeks prior, I went from imagining a future with a person I had been dating for eighteen months or so to getting dumped via text message. The discomfort of big change, the tension and anxiety buzzing inside my body, was still there on the morning of the eclipse. I’m sure smoking reefer damn near every day didn’t help, at least when liftoff first hits, before my altitude was too in the clouds to feel uptight about anything.
I didn’t buy a pair of those paper glasses you’re supposed to wear if you actually want to watch the eclipse, so I smoked my first joint of the day (it was 9:30 AM) and watched the trees behind my brother’s house, transfixed by the sample of “Shark Wrestling.” I always imagined everything going really dark for a few seconds, but it was like someone turned the dimmer switch on the sun. I went inside to fix a glass of lemonade, went back outside, and finished my joint while the branches on the trees swayed.
In a stoned haze, I washed my car the next day, the blanket of jarring tension lifted from me. It was so hot I hardly even needed a chamois to dry it off. My summers these past few years have been long and stressful, constant battles to not be as easily susceptible to other people’s understanding of me, to reclaim my own life. I find myself a lot more stressed in the summertime these days; I think a lot about my dad being killed on Memorial Day Weekend two years ago.
I finished washing the car and ate some lunch. I drove down 21st Avenue in Federal Way on the way to Barnes & Noble. A junkie was eating blackberries off the bushes.
X. A. Savage — “What Do I Do”
You know the Silver Jews song “I’m Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You?” I feel as though I’ve felt that way in regard to my relationship with every concept I’ve held dear before my parents died, at least the important ones: Being only oneself at all times, being able to let other people’s hangups roll off of me, focus. But the things on my mind weigh me down sometimes.
It’s September and the days are getting shorter and cooler. I’m getting stoned less often (read: not every day) and pulled my racoon hat out of the closet. I’ve been listening to the press advance of Thawing Dawn and struggling to remember what I did before I could rely on press advances. I’ve spent more than three decades trying to climb out of the gallows, only to step back in. Lately I’ve been climbing out of the quicksand, the overwhelmed feeling of having too much to keep up with, too much to catch up on. The past three years have been especially trying, but I’m starting to feel better about myself because of it. I don’t think it’s maturity, just on another level of being able to trust myself, to believe in myself.
Oftentimes I find myself more afraid of personal success than of personal failure. The former breeds change and change is undeniably scary. I’m far more used to the latter; there is a comfort in failure that is not necessarily alluring, but akin to the embrace of an old friend. It’s not exactly dignified to admit this to yourself, but a good way to snap out of the feeling. Some old friends do nothing to help you grow.
I still have the soda bottle I bought right before meeting David Berman on my 25th birthday. I was in the midst of a minor quarter-life crisis and asked him for advice. He offered something to the effect of, “As long as you’re not doing the same things at 35 that you are at 25, you’re on the right track.” I’m writing this while looking at this sentimental relic—green and faded on the outside, cloudy on the inside. It’s funny how I pretend I’m not nostalgic about things.
XI. Mach-Hommy — “Sous Vide”
I’ve been in the throes of writer’s block for what seems like months. Straining and searching for the words, the energy, the motivation to articulate something, anything. It’s November and I’ve got the heat on blast, reading Out of Sight. I’ve never seen the movie.
There’s a quote from the book that has stayed on my mind for a while: “There’s nothing like work to take your mind off your worries.” But what if worrying is part of your work, and you spend too much time worrying about your work to do anything worthwhile? There was a period between spring and summer, and then between summer and fall—a brief period—where I told myself to get my shit together and stop getting stoned every day. And from 95 degree temperatures to be 25 at noon, mind shrouded in a cloud of reefer or not, the months just bled together.
It’s funny how being in a creative rut is like watching each grain of sand in an hourglass fall like drops of water from a leaky drain, but you hang onto every slow second because you’re afraid of the months passing you by. I decided not to worry about it on this particular day, as Washington Hall was calling. DEFY was putting on a show this evening and I had decided to head up early and hang out, somehow going from purely a fan writing a Seattle Weekly cover story about them to their neighborhood friend who rides his bike down the street and invites himself over for dinner.
I felt a charge as I drove north on I-5, words upon words rushing into my head as I rapped along to the songs of Dollar Menu 3, which took firm charge of my listening rotation awhile ago.
Dressed in my raccoon hat (of course), black hoodie, black pants, red shoes, and a red bandana as a pocket square (trying to not be self-conscious about being one of those guys who wears a bandana as a pocket square), I watched Ethan Page train a quintet of young men trying to get into the wrestling business, bouncing off the ropes and working out short matches amongst each other. I chatted with my friends who run DEFY, a couple people who worked along various tasks for these shows, and Damian Abraham of Fucked Up, who was filming a documentary series about wrestling for Viceland.
Several people wondered if I was a wrestler or if I was there in some capacity with Vice. My reply was fairly sheepish when I told them I was neither. Unless I want to take the Diamond Dallas Page route, my window for becoming a wrestler is pretty much closed. If I got over my unease with public speaking, I could become a pretty good heel manager, though.
I had two and a half hours to kill between the training seminar and dinner with my friends at the Ethiopian restaurant on the next block over. So I smoked half a joint in the car and scribbled thoughts in a red notebook. I was feeling high and inspired for the first time in what felt like months. This feeling had been alternating between simmering and boiling for a while, but this was the perfect storm. I ordered a glass of wine and became one of those guys who pulls out his notebook at the restaurant. Pouring over the menu (figuratively), I thought about ordering scrambled eggs for a second, the first time I would have eaten them since I was five or six years old. But then I felt my mouth dry up and my tongue recoil.
One of the undercard matches on the event was Kid Khash—a talented, young-ish guy billed from Tehran, a narrative accoutrement that would have gotten him booed out of the building and his car set on fire at a wrestling event thirty years ago—face a kid named Cole Heart, someone they refer to in the wrestling business as a “white meat babyface.” He carried an American flag and got eaten alive by the crowd. A fan near me tried to get a Howdy Doody chant started.
I found my friend Jim, one-half of DEFY’s braintrust, during the main event. We stood in an open space on the balcony as the crowd was whipped into a frenzy by Brody King’s challenge of Shane Strickland’s championship, each man offering their best shots at each other. If there is a friendship I made in 2017 that my year will be defined by, mine with the guys who run DEFY will be etched in stone. In my years since coming back to pro wrestling fandom, the greatest thing I’ve learned about the genre is that watching the dance between wrestlers is a communal experience, one of the greatest uniters I have ever known.
As King—by no stretch of the imagination a small dude—nailed a ridiculous tope con hilo on Strickland which brought every person in the building to their feet, I smiled at Jim and told him, “You’re just like me in the regard that you worry and you worry and you worry, and then things turn out amazingly.”