It’s me. What a fucking year its been. From my PoV, fairly uneventful on the surface, and yet: from my interior view, A genuine roller coaster of the soul.
- FAMILY VISITS
- THE AI TSUNAMI
- SANTA MONICA
- RELATIONAL STRUGGLES
- EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER
- FREEBURN / JOSHUA TREE
- TED.AI / SF CONFERENCE
- TOO MANY TOYS?
Into the Free: Moving to Santa Monica
Most viscerally, I was released from Federal Custody (a “halfway house” — officially an RRC, or Residential Re-entry Center — in Orange County, CA), and moved my meager possessions, and my classic car, into a bouugie-ass loft studio apartment in the heart of Santa Monica, CA. 5 blocks from the beach, 6 blocks from the famed Pier, and 7 blocks from my favorite playground on earth: Original Muscle Beach (OMB) and the adjacent Acro Green.
That place, and its affiliated community of circus performers, acrobats, gymnasts, cheerleaders, master yoga teachers, models, physical culture influencers, calisthenicists (?), rings flyers, and just all around good-hearted people, was my primary motivation for moving to Santa Monica. I had made it a point to extend business trips over the years (pre-incarceration) to participate in the epic Sundays on the Green, so why not move there permanently?
That was my logic.
It has yet to be seen whether that logic was sound.
Though it wasn’t true at the time (my daughter hypothesized about moving to LA… my son lived in Monterey), at present there is not a single member of my blood / nuclear family who lives in Cali… or lives, for that matter, west of the rockies. In fact, I can say: my family is solidly an East Coast people. Except, of course, me.
So that was the main event: moving to Santa Monica and making a nest-of-sorts there.
a 50,000 foot recap of 2023
Let me try and sketch a quick map of the other primary events:
- finding out that, for the time being, I am financially whole — purely by the grace of god
- enrolling as a student in an AI Coding program — learning the ins and outs of machine learning algorithms and LLMs
- purchasing LadyBug, a crazy mostly restored, totally original and stunningly beautiful 1955 Dodge Custom Royal sedan. American Steel and coated in Mirror Chrome. My Lil Beast.
- totally absorbing myself in the wave of AI technology that is in the process of transforming civilization (that topic, in fact, is the major focus of this blog)
- Having all of my family — excepting my brother — coming out to visit me in SoCal
- Re-uniting with Tara — and re-breaking up with Tara — and re-uniting again, and re-breaking up again. I am starting to think that our relationship — which has now stretched well beyond a decade — is the very definition of “It’s Complicated.”
- Meeting and spending significant amounts of time and energy with my local best friend, Abram. Abram is a model and a motion graphics artist and an entrepreneur and a movement coach and we share many many common interests including the Bible, Asia, AI, Yoga and of course Rings Flying. He is a gentle soul and has coached me through various profound life changes, including:
- On Monday, August 28, 2023 I woke up at the crack of dawn, sat bolt upright in my bed, and realised that I was done — complete, totally — with drinking alcohol. I went for a walk on the beach and had something of a profound experience that morning.
a Vision for 2024
The plan for 2024 isn’t hugely different than 2023, just with more clarity. Perhaps I was a bit overambitious for 2023. I will say this much: moving out of prison and into the free world is not an event, it is a process. And as someone told me, and many metaphors have illustrated:
Walking out of those prison gates was not the end of your incarceration — it was the first steps, the beginning of a long walk to freedom. A journey, not a destination? A process, to be sure.
Here’s the full detailed plan for 2024
Now lets continue with our recap / analysis of what the hell happened across 12 months of 2023. But first, lets roll back a little earlier. To the fateful day of September 15, 2022. The day I walked out of Beaumont.
The Day of Emancipation (2022)
Tara was the only person who decided to actually show up the day I was released from Federal Prison (I’d like to say, “the day I walked out the gates… but that’s not technically how it works. As much as I wanted to, when I did actually walk out, and start walking on the road into the free, the guard said : “If you want to get shot, just keep walking.” I said: “Am I free or not?” And he replied: “You’re free to walk right back into this lobby and wait for the transport van to take you to the bus stop.” I said : “Can I walk to the bus stop?” and he replied, hand on his firearm: “You’d better get your ass right back into the lobby and wait like I told you.” And I complied. And waited. And waited. So, AFTER being officially released from Federal Prison, my first act in the Free World was to wait in a glass-walled lobby for 4 hours until an unmarked SUV came, driven by a fellow prisoner, to cart me and my fellow emancipatee to a remote bus stop in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of Beau-fucking-mont, Texas.)
(To be clear, technically, while I was now outside of the custody of Beaumont Federal Penitentiary, I was still in the full extreme custody of the U.S. Government, specifically the U.S. Marshalls. I was being transported — bus ticket in hand — from the bowels of East Texas to my designated halfway house — a decent two story apartment building in the heart of Orange County, California, just south of Los Angeles. A halfway house is a place where you are heavily monitored, and have controlled daily movements into and out of the free world. The point of a halfway house is — as the name implies — to allow you to slowly adjust from the extreme environment of prison to the equally (or opposite?) extreme environment of the Free World. Basically, you go from having NO choices, to having INFINITE choices. It is actually overwhelming. A halfway house helps, by introducing Free Choices gradually back into your life. I am very grateful for it and (most of) the staff there.)
Just as I was thwarted from using my own two feet to walk out of the pentitentiary, so Tara was thwarted from driving all the way up to the front door of the prison (yes, there actually is a “front door”, and its glass… it looks like the lobby of a YMCA or something. Its for visitors, basically. The facade of a civilized place. It is only after you go through the lobby, across the moat, to the inner ring, that you enter the real prison… and the archetypal “gate”, which is indeed metal, is crafted of very thick solid steel bars, and makes a resounding “clang” followed by the “click click” of massive locks, when it slams behind you. But that’s for the prisoners, not the visitors.
The Tara Files
Here is the complicated story. Does it have to be? Or am I (are we?) making it this way?
Sobriety came to me in several parts: one near-death experience, one visceral moment of decision, and one solemn conversation of committment, marked by a ritual slaying of the demon.
8/19: The Near Death Experience
On Saturday, August 19, I motorcycled to the beach, locked my bike to a pole, and went hunting for my friend’s birthday party. It was rumored to be somewhere in the vicinity of Lifeguard Station 9, and I searched up and down the beach, until finally I came upon the crew. Right behind Lifeguard Station 11. Go figure. It was a nice party. A very good mix of couples and single people, mostly young, all walks of life. Decent conversation. And coolers full of beverages. Which, with only slight trepidation, I indulged in.
Honestly, I don’t remember if it was 3, 4, or 5 beverages I had that night. They were 12 oz. cans, and they were branded “High Noon” something or others. I felt only ever so slightly buzzed, just a little loose at the lips. But the conversation continued past the epic sunset (honestly, its almost always epic, which shocks me every time), and it soon got dark, and then it got quite dark, and by that time I was at my motorcycle, trying to unlock it from the pole.
Someone had taken a liking to my vehicle, and broke the lock, but been unable to remove it from my motorcycle, so it took me almost 10 minutes to unleash my beast. Or was it my mild intoxication? Hmmm… I was feeling a bit full of myself, and also a bit frustrated, as I had met many women that night, and gotten the usual collection of cellphone numbers and instagram follows / DMs, but didn’t actually feel excited nor confident that any of them would turn into anything meaningful. Just more healthy beautiful fun SoCal passing acquaintances.
There were thousands of those. I walked up and down the beach meeting them every day. I was getting jaded. The ease of hello. The fascinating conversation. The commonalities. The obligatory digital contact connection. The silent & often abrupt goodbye. It was starting to feel like LA was just one massive network of very tenuous connections. You knew several people who knew this person, but how well did anybody know anybody?
Anyways, I digress.
I hopped onto my motorcycle. Now, I had arrived there safely, via side streets and the bike path, at low velocity. But it was Saturday night, I was feeling myself, and I had some unexpended testosterone energy to burn off. I switched off the regulator (the eqwuivalent of switching a Tesla from “comfort” to “Ludicrous” mode), jumped over a curb, whipped through the parking lot, and decided to take the PCH back up into town.
For those unfamiliar, the PCH — Pacific Coast Highway — is essentially a very long freeway that runs all along the California Coast. Where is parades underneath the Santa Monica ocean cliffs, it is 5 lanes: 2 north, 2 south, and a turn lane in the middle. It was dark. Cars were coming fast. I was facing perpendicular to the highway, at the mouth of the parking lot. So what did I do?
Whip it from Zero to Full Throttle, all while cranking the wheel 60°, effecting a sharp turn and acceleration into the traffic flow.
It did not occur to me that I had never punched that baby to full throttle yet, at all. And I certainly hadn’t done it with the regulator switched off. And adding that crank of the front wheel? Noooooooooo….
Electric vehicles are notoriously “torquey,” and electric motorcycles like mine, weighing well under 150 pounds, are insanely torquey. What that term translates to is: If you go half throttle out of the gate, your motorcycle will absolutey pop a wheelie, every time. If you go FULL throttle from zero? Well, I found out:
That motorcycle went airborne into a complete backflip, leaving me facedown on the pavement, with a very hard hit to my knees. The bike kept spinning and bouncing, within mere feet of the oncoming cars, zooming past at 60mph. I was terrified. I couldn’t feel my leg at all. I had hit hard. And a care was coming right at me, fast. I went on pure adrenalin and instinct:
I ran up to the twisted motorcycle, grabbed it, and threw it over the curb back into the parking lot. I quickly followed, as the oncoming car came within inches of me, its horn blaring. I then limped over to a nearby fence, sat down, put my head between my legs, and prayed to God for ten minutes, thanking him that I was alive at all.
During that time, I also carefully and fearfully self-assessed my leg. Feeling came back slowly. And I slowly flexed and bent it. It hurt like hell. My knees were bleeding profusely (I was wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt). But I could move it. And — thank God! — nothing appeared broken.
I sat still for another 5 minutes and decided that I had to give myself some medical attention. So I pulled the bike up — the frame was hella bent from impact — kicked and pushed and pulled until the steering was roughly back in alignment with the centerline of the vehicle, re-engaged the regulator, and slowly, cautiously, took the bike path at 8mph back to my apartment.
That was the near death experience.
In the hours and days that followed, I came to realise that I would have never attempted that stunt, had I not had that alcohol rocket fuel in my blood. Just another event in a looooooong chain of bad decisions I’ve made under the influence of alcohol in my life. But while others have been (at the time) a bit more abstract in their consequences, this one felt utterly obvious: I had come within seconds, within a hair’s width, of trauma, amputation, paralysis, or death. But by the grace of God went I that night.
8/28: The Decision
It actually took me 2 days to even be able to walk after that. I crawled around my apartment, and moved veeeerrryyy slowly. But I figured since nothing broke, it would heal. Ha. I am writing this almost 4 months later, and that knee still hurts like a sunovabitch. Its my reminder from God: Stay Sober, Move Slowly and with Control, Don’t do Stupid Shit.
I definitely did not stay sober. My solution was: drink heavily to assuage the pain, just don’t get back on that Death Machine while buzzed. it seemed to work. But 8 days after the accident, something truly profound happened.
After a Sunday of drinking my usual six to eight beers, I awoke with a start at the crack of dawn on Monday, August 28, about 15 minutes before sunrise. I felt wonderful, awake, and most importantly, a message was lodged in my brain: I never need to drink again.
I got out of bed, threw on my sweats, and walked out the door, no particular destination in mind. I didn’t even have my trusty backpack, which up until then I’d take with me everywhere. Nope. Just me, my sweats, and my iPhone.
I ended up walking all the way to the beach that morning, and doing yoga at surfside with the rising sun. It was glorious. Even more glorious (in the context of that day and that decision) was that I met a beautiful, interesting girl on the beach that morning, and we sat and talked for close to 2 hours. It felt like God was showing me: If you choose a sober life, I have many rewards in store for you.
Ironically, just like the day where I found my dog (ReXx) who I didn’t know I was looking for, waking up with that idea in my head didn’t seem like my personal decision. It felt more like some gear had shifted inside my body, soul and brain… and that the decision had been made for me, not by me. Maybe that’s how it works. I don’t know. I am simply grateful that it happened.
Today I am 111 (one hundred and eleven) days sober.
But while that was the day of the decision, it was to be another fortnight or so before I actually made the commitment to the sober path. Enter Abram.
9/10: The Commitment
Long story short: Abe and Mayber and Timsy and I did our very own primordial Burning Man Festival this year, on BLM land, just north of Joshua Tree National Park. We built and burned an effigy, ate wonderful organic mushrooms, and danced and spun and conversated until late late late into the starry night. It was the evening of Saturday, September 9… the morning of September 10.
After midnight, after Mayber went to bed, it was just Abe and I. Suddenly, the man seemed to take on a demonic energy in his laser-focused mission to convince me of how toxic alcohol had been in my life story. All the bad decisions, the wrecked relationships, the missed opportunities, the physical trauma… all that had happened under the influence of alcohol. I kept trying to wiggle, keeping some toehold of the situations where I could safely drink, and Abe… Abe knocked ’em down, one by one. relentlessly: Why, dude? WHY?
By 4am, I was committed, logically, to sobriety.
The next morning, at sunrise, for the 10th time, Tara and I broke up (it was highly unusual… she called me from Black Rock Desert, where there didn’t used to be any cell service.). I walked back to camp, and realised that I had brought my very last beer with me:
La Fin Du Monde.
We did a ritual atop the burn pit, and I slayed that beer dead… with a big sharp knife.
There is a video. Ask me, and I will play it for you some day.
And that is the three part story about how I got to be 100% sober.
Its felt like slowly waking up, ever since.
Every day is more and more clear.
I walked into my apartment in Santa Monica in two trips: one for my clothes, and one for my “things”. And that was it. An empty apartment, with only the bare necessities. I had everything I needed. Or did I? This was my original inventory:
- basic clothes
- 2 pairs of shoes
- a racing bicycle (Dark Angel)
- basic toiletries
- my laptop (Apple MBA M2)
- my Bible
- my Chess Set
Since then, like Katamari Damarcy, I’ve relentlessly added to the collection of my material possessions. Most notable additions include:
- an e-Motorcycle (this is 5 stars! I love this thing!)
- a motorcycle helmet (mando)
- an acoustic guitar
- 2 sets of LED poi (flowtoys)
- a surfboard (learning)
- 2 pairs of rollerblades & body armor
- an Icarian Acro back bolster
- 2 skateboards (sort of learning)
- an e-skateboard (lethal!)
- a snowboard, boots & helmet
- a MIDI keyboard
Those are the toys. Too many? Perhaps. There’s still a wishlist, you know:
Many of these, Abram has helped usher into my life.
There are 3 major revelations I’ve embodied in the past 120 days:
- A renewed and final commitment to sobriety
- A new way of communicating authentically / speaking to / relating with / honestly listening to / expressing desires to women
- A renewed respect for eating healthy / sourcing quality foods / preparing meals / eating at proper times-of-day
The final one came from me, personally, largely as a result of conversations intitiated along vector 2, above: (this is classic self-help wisdom, a little trite, and yet… you don’t grasp these truths, until you grasp these truths:)
- In order to attract the life mate / romantic partner that I seek, I must first be completely comfortable / happy and content, all alone by myself. If I think I need a partner in order to complete me, then I present primarily as needy. And needy is not the same as worthy. Once I become full confident in my self-worth and am content and happy in my own earthly shell, that energy will radiate outward and by its very nature, attract a proper mate.
As in, neediness repels quality mates. The best partner relationship will be two complete, powerful people coming together consensually by choice… they may amplify eachother (hopefully!), and support eachothers efforts in the world, but they don’t need eachother to do that. It is amplifying power, as opposed to needing a partner to make up for my weaknesses.
That said, I am working on becoming a fully self-sustaining, self-fulfilling, self-powered entity. Once I walk through the world with that confidence, I feel I will naturally attract the mate / partner that is right for me: someone else who moves through the world with conscious volition, not desperately needing / seeking a partner to fill their holes.