When I was younger, I often had visions of the man I wanted to be as I aged. I wanted to be strong, broad-shouldered, charismatic, and wealthy. I’d like to think that I’ve achieved much of that in some regard, but while to others I may have reached the summit of the mountaintop regarding those goals, from my own perspective there is still much, much work to be done. And that’s good. Who would want to go through life easily capturing perfection, as if it was a child’s plaything? What would be the purpose of anything? I want to fulfill my desires with nearly fatal perspicacity defining my efforts. Too often, the spoiled, sheltered, wispy and coddled are shorn to the bone by the elements of reality. I know this lesson all too well, because I was one of them, cast into the world by the uncaring hand of my own naïve ambitions. By the time I had discovered my mistake, it was too late, and I thank God for that daily. It’s better to struggle seemingly vainly daily, to flex unbendingly against pitiless hindrances and barricades. How will a man become a man if he is never forced to prove his worth or test his mettle in the arena of life? It’s been said that whenever you are being pushed roughly and forcefully by life, you are no victim of cosmic bullying. Rather it’s God, fate, or sheer evolution grasping your wrist tightly and, tired of the unmotivated straggler it He sees before Him, ushering you along powerfully into a new step in your life, a fresh plateau in your destiny, to be savored, enjoyed, adapted to, and overcome ultimately. Relish it.
My standard uniform, when not in uniform, is a pair of dark brown Timberland boots, one of several pairs of dark Levi’s 513’s, a trendy pick from an assortment of black, grey and white t-shirts, whether emblazoned with a graphic or a dependable, solid color, a pair of aviators or wayfarers, and a black or grey hat. I’ve been told I wear too much black, that my wardrobe needs to be spruced up desperately by the addition of pastels or, at the very least, a semblance of brightness. To these criticisms and opinions, I casually respond with the same phrase that has served me well since the age of 13 when confronted with narrow-minded naysayers; Fuck Off. This outfit, in all of its permutations, is, to me, the garb of the rebel, the vagabond, the outlaw. Granted the addition of a leather jacket, the most holy of all accoutrements, and I’m on Cloud 9. The style, which I’ve been told is anything from rugged to biker, encapsulates my mindset perfectly. I’m just a guy, no more no less. I’m blessed with certain talents and gifts like anyone else, and my deployment of said skills has earned me recognition from several select groups of people. Yet, I’ll be the first to concede that there is nothing inherently special about me. I’ve simply learned to make what I’ve got work for me expeditiously and exponentially. Although I’m steadily and gainfully employed, I still consider myself an outlier that exists perilously, yet excitingly, on the edge of society, cockily snubbing normalcy. They can keep their beer guts, sports teams and unfulfilling sex with unattractive, corpulent women. Bonnie and I will continue to be outlaws, cast hopelessly asunder and adrift in the torrential waters of the unknown and unexplored. Tattooed, fit and angry, one hell of a triad.
We drove aimlessly yet fervently through the mountains en route to another non-descript Southern California town. The beach, while gorgeous, vast and intimidatingly captivating, was neither our natural inclination nor our preferred habitat. So we travelled. On a whim, I entered my home address, and we set off in that direction. Along the way, she fell for the scenery at first sight, and my passion was rekindled by that old flame, the wilds of Northern California. The mountains reminded me of Nevada, heading up to Reno, the foothills steeped in mining history, awash in the moribund detritus of untimely deaths and the promise of glittering gold buried deep in endless red dirt. These mountains are the horizon of my undying dreams, the rush of battering gusts of ramrod wind swooping through the rustic trees, forming the soundtrack of my sleepless nights. I recall fondly and often the excitement laying thick and palpable inside our car as my parents took me on our family excursions throughout the summer, every weekend gleaming with silver and thick with green, the sound of clinking and jangling coins a seductive symphony promising one more jubilant night in paradise. It was here that I learned firsthand of the power of skillful gambling, the forbidden, dark, enticing art of bending the casino to your will with the alchemy of mathematics, psychology and fortuitous luck. These movies played constantly in my head as we flew into oblivion, love the only salient thing guiding both of our compasses.
I had long viewed freedom as the sole purview of the single man, the man untamed and unburdened by martial relations and that disgusting word, exclusivity. But, as we rode, fluid and unmatched, I realized that this, what I was experiencing at that moment, was freedom. My solitude cracked skillfully and gracefully by this deceptive little siren, who, rather than entering my sacred personal world and trying to conquer it like an unwanted pest, instead inserted herself unnoticeably, until I was unsure if she was ever absent in the first place. Brantley Gilbert blared chaotically through the speakers, our hearts and the raucous drums pounding rhythmically, in perfect sync with the rough form of refinement we created when together. I beheld her, wide eyed and jovial, aghast at the beauty lying hidden just an hour north of that hated island, and a wide, jubilant smile crept involuntarily over my face. There were no chains around me, no padlocked cell door keeping me from my life. Instead I found a partner riding beside me on horseback, ready to raise hell and kill our demons. We aren’t perfect, we both drink too much, and we both get too physical. No one else can handle either of us, and we can barely contain each other. What a ride.