Community outreach

THE MATH OF TEARS

I don’t have a room to walk into. I don’t have an office. I don’t have a staff calling me “Patron.” I don’t have regulars, and when those regulars pay their bill, I don’t have to punch in their frequent diner points, mercifully.

It all happened so fast. I haven’t formulated the math to calculate the emotional flip.

On Happy Valley Road, a friend flipped his car. He was 29. He didn’t see 30. He didn’t see the dip in the road, either. I can begin to imagine what he must have known, what he must have felt, the second before he realized it was over. It’s so hard to know when something is over. Especially when it’s calculated in nanoseconds.

That’s how fast 140 characters can turn your life upside down.

I’m still wired to get up at 5:35AM. To get ready for work. To beat the morning commute. I can’t turn off the wiring. Not yet. Maybe after I finish putting it all down. It takes time to find a new rhythm. So I’m gonna treat this like my work week, only instead of bagels, greg_morelli_maxs_deli_community_outreach_2017I’m gonna boil and bake words, minus the seeds.

Seeds get stuck in your teeth.

10 OCT 2017

8:46AM

WALDO CAT

Joey texted.

“Morning GAM.”

My initials spell GAM: Greg Alan Morelli. This is a brother nickname. A shorthand for love.

“I hope ur having good productive days.”

I took a picture of my cat, Waldo. He was curled up on the couch. I replied.

“Some cats nap. Some cats write. Then hit the gym. Then write some more. Hope you’ve rediscovered your mojo. It was always there. Times ten.”

At our first restaurant, Joey’s Brickhouse, named for my little brother, Joey was endlessly creative. Maybe too creative, since on the day we finally closed, 7 years after we opened our doors, I asked a regular, Jim Higgins, what he thought we did wrong.

“I hate to say anything negative, especially on the day you close,” Jim said. “But I could never explain what you guys were. So I said eclectic.”

Eclectic is the kiss of death, the surest sign no one knows what to make of you. On the other side of the equation is knowing someone all too well. This I know for sure, seeing as people know me, all too well, all of the sudden.

Joey texted.

“Did you find someone to talk to?”

I replied.

“I’m good. I have people. I have Emily Anne. I have a lot of things I need to say. And some time, finally, to write them down. If I decide to talk to someone, I already have someone, the woman I found after my last break up, when I decided I didn’t want to pester the people I love with another sad tale of “Greg Falls For Yet Another Addict.” I know how to reach her. I know she’s there. Sometimes it’s enough just knowing help is but a phone call away. Hope whatever process you’re using affords you the strength to hold yourself together while re-examining how to treat the people around you. How to be assertive yet kind. How to express disappointment without browbeating. How to step into the role of leader with the grace you’ve always had within you, brother. Have a great, and productive, day.”

I lied. I don’t know if my brother has grace. I’ve never seen it. Instead, I’ve been an enabling witness to the cruelty of his punishing moods. Even his good moods are punishing, since you know, for sure, it’s usually a dance he’s dancing to make up for something cruel he did, or said, instead of just saying these 4 magically healing words, “Sorry. I was wrong.”

It’s an epidemic. Winning.

We’ve been promised we’re going to win so much, we’re going to be sick of winning. Well, let me just say, I’m sick of winning. So I lose. It could be argued this past week, I lost everything. My business. My reputation. My sense of self. My peace of mind. My sense of purpose. My bagels, along with all the seeds of an everything bagel.

At least I didn’t lose my life in Las Vegas. There was another Mass Shooting. The only thing those of us who survive a Mass Shooting can be sure of is this…

We’re sitting ducks.

Anyway…

It’s too soon to tell. What all of this means. It’s way too soon to tell. But I can tell you how it feels. The emotion will pass. That’s the only thing I know for certain, like heartbreak. It will pass. And I will be able to look back on all of this with the calm perspective of a man who has properly assigned meaning to heartbreak. Hire me for a Ted Talk.

But I don’t want this to be that. I want this to be from emotion: messy, self-contradicting, sloppy, hurt, vulnerable, so vulnerable it’s embarrassing. I remember reading a story written by Bono.

Sorry. That’s a horrible sentence. Since you know for sure a story written by Bono is going to be loaded with insight. Is anything more exhausting than insight?

Bono told the story of how when Mandela came out of prison, from working all those years in the lime pits, his tear ducts had dried-up. So he had surgery. He wanted to be able to cry.

Nelson Mandela wanted to cry. So do I. Only I don’t need 27 years in prison and surgery on my tear ducts. Just 140 characters multiplied by retweets times a million at the speed of nanoseconds squared.

10:14AM (All changes saved in Drive)

3:52PM

OATMEAL & BANANAS (THAT’S B-A-N-A-N-A-S)

The State’s Attorney says the Indirect Criminal Contempt matter is still on the table. I wonder why. Or who’s pressing down. Strange. But I can see it from the point of view of an ambitious State’s Attorney. If he puts the big mouth in jail, who celebrated white people shooting each other, maybe he can make a name for himself. As I write these words, it doesn’t add up. In fact, it’s the opposite. He’d be ruined. All of these allegations against me are the opposite of who I am. No one gets to define me but me. And my choices. And my words. And my tweets. I can whittle my words down to 140 characters. The tweet heard round the world, y’all.

I’m meeting with Dan-O and Mister Mann. I know I shouldn’t say meeting, since we’re going to be grilling in his backyard. Or watching the Cubs Game. But they wanted to get together, after all of the news against me broke in the papers. I’ve known these guys since childhood. It’s very kind of them to rally around me right now. I’ll be interested in seeing what they have to say. And how they see things.

My moods are still up and down. I get tired easily. But maybe it’s because I got up so early this morning, and worked out. I’m focusing on eating right, sleeping as much as my conscience allows and staying positive without slipping into denial. There are still tears. All it takes is a kind message from someone, in all the madness, and I’m sobbing. I know this telegraphs weakness. But it feels right, the release is like a re-charge for my soul.

I promised myself 10 pages a day, for at least the next month. Don’t know what this will become. Or if it’ll become anything at all. A part of me wants it to be a book. But I don’t know if it’s realistic to write your way through something. That feels naive. I think it makes more sense to look back on something, since you can’t assign meaning to something while it’s happening, no matter how good it feels to think you’re somehow in control, or aware.

You’re not!

I called my attorney, Steve Simmonian. He told me Jeff Pavletic, the State’s Attorney said my Indirect Criminal Contempt is still on the table. He texted Steve yesterday. Makes me wonder if this is somehow tied to all of the news swirling around about me.

Or just a reaction to the judge wanting status.

Guess I’ll find out. It’s easy to let it turn into something bigger than it really is, since everything seems so blown out of proportion. But I have to keep reminding myself to slow down. This is all moving too fast. There will be time for me to tell my story. And take back my narrative.

I met Alyson Carrel when I took her class in Mediation at the Center For Conflict Resolution. The other day she sent me this text.

“Hi there – I haven’t followed all that is going on but just heard you are leaving the business because of some stuff on twitter. Dude, whatever is going on, I just want you to know you have people in your corner who care about you and know you only want to do good. Be kind to yourself.”

I replied.

“Hi Alyson. Thank you so much for reaching out. This has been such a jarring, terrifying, upside down week. And all too fast. Thank you for knowing I only want to do good. That’s not the story they’re telling. And it’s gone viral. And beyond. I’m eating oatmeal with bananas, staying away from alcohol and trying to sleep. So I’m taking care of myself. Maybe being kind to myself is just around the corner. Here’s hoping. Thank you for this message. I sobbed. It felt good to sob.”

She replied.

“Sobbing, oatmeal and bananas are all good things. And staying away from alcohol, too. I am glad you are doing your best to take care of yourself. You are one of the good ones, Greg. And we are not what others perceive of us – for better or worse. We just are. But if you want to remember that you have an equally strong fan club, just know you do. You are loved and adored.”

That killed me. It stitched together my broken heart with duct tape and silly putty.

4:16PM (All changes saved in Drive)

4:16PM

I NEED TO RECOGNIZE

Emily Anne should be home soon. I want to give her my full attention when she walks in the door. I’m leaving soon to go spend time with Dan-O and Mister Mann. So we’re basically crossing paths. I’ll stop writing when she walks in the door. Pick this back up tonight when I get home.

I’m not entirely sure, but I think, so far, I’ve only banged out 4 pages, total. I want to stick to my 10 pages a day goal. I really don’t know if it’ll be anything other than a diary of holding it together while the world is pulling me apart. But this cannot last. Either I have to find a way to bring it around, or I’m not the man I thought I was.

This is certainly an interesting, and frightening time. I never expected to be this pulled apart. But if I truly have political ambition, I suppose I need to recognize I’m going to have as many people hating on me as loving on me. The hating is easier to get caught up in, since it feels permanent. But it’s not. The loving is easier to let go of, since it doesn’t feel earned.

It is. Emily Anne just walked in. Bye!

4:21PM (All changes saved in Drive)

11 OCT 2017

7:11AM

DRILL BABY, DRILL!!!

Keep thinking about places to hang myself: the basement of Max’s Deli, a tree in a forest preserve, where I could step off the roof of my Mini Cooper. It’s a small car. But it’s boxy, high.

I’d have to learn how to tie a noose. Thank God for Google.

I want this to end. It feels like it’s over. But the noise has contaminated every part of my life. Last night, Emily Anne had dinner with her parents. At the dinner table, they read Breitbart News, such wholesome family fun. The hit piece they wrote about my life quoted me saying things I said on the radio, like when Sarah Palin said, “Drill Baby Drill.” She was making light of drilling in the tundra. So I had her say “Drill Baby Drill” while Todd was drilling her brown tundra.

Crude, yes. Vulgar, yes. Appropriate, certainly not.

But most especially her, since she was trying to be the Vice President of the United States of America. I was trying to be a knucklehead on the radio. Then, it was explicit. Now, it’s PG-13.

We’re living in Trump’s America, one I actually relate to more than you’d think. I like the way he talks: from the hip, crude, vulgar. I think it’s refreshing to let the hot air out of politics.

But I didn’t vote for Trump. So I can laugh. You have to wonder how the people who voted for him keep finding new ways to let him off the hook for the kinds of offenses other people have been crucified for.

Me, for example. If I let them.

If I hang myself, figuratively or literally. Then I’d be another martyr. Quick! Run out and get party favors for my pity party.

My words have been turned against me. Ok. I get it. I understand what to do next.

Nothing.

I have to be quiet, which is hard for me. There’s a temptation to use my words to defend myself, or apologize. Neither will work. Silence is the strongest response. I know this.

Shhhhh…

8:50AM (All changes saved in Drive)

8:51AM

WORDS THAT WOUND

I don’t need the language I used in the past. I’m not the guy I was on the radio, back in 2007. I’ve been through it. I don’t need to repeat the language for a result I used to chase. I’m not chasing the same result.

I’m not the same man.

Even when Donald Trump was caught on the bus, using frat boy language. I could quote the language, and act as though I’m allowed to use the language, since the words are Donald Trump’s words, not mine.

But really, it would be an excuse to use language which has been flung at women to remind them of their place. Why do I need to participate in more humiliation? I don’t. Even as I type these words, I can hear the words on the bus in my head, right now. I can turn them off, before they hit my tongue, before my fingers hit the keyboard.

This goes for words used against black men and women, words used against gay men and women, words used to steal the power from strong women, words used to remind immigrants they’re living here on borrowed time.

maxs_deli_kaepernick_rosh_yom_hp_2017It’s terrorizing.

Which is why Colin Kaepernick took a knee.

It wasn’t about him. It was about the kids coming up from behind him, who need a man to champion their fear. Or the man Colin Kaepernick will one day be, once he takes off the uniform, joints crippled from abuse, mind wobbly from too many hits to the head.

Then he will be a black man in America. And it’s scary.

But for some reason, it’s more scary for the rest of us to talk about it. So we talk about flags being sacred. National Anthems being holy. We call athletes spoiled millionaires instead of temporary warriors. It is temporary, since talent fades, bodies give out, Super Bowl Rings don’t possess the magic power to relieve the pain of hands crippled by early onset arthritis.

I could apologize to Sarah Palin for using vulgar language to defame the romantic attachment she is lucky enough to have to the beautiful man she calls her husband, Todd. I will apologize. Sorry, Sarah. Sorry, Todd.

It was not my best self. It was not my best joke.

I do think we need to allow ourselves room to be our worst self in the name of a joke, even if it’s at the expense of a budding political superstar, especially if it’s at the expense of a budding political superstar. What other weapons do we have, besides jokes that bomb?!!

At least, those are the weapons of my choice, jokes that bomb. You know what’s good about bombing? No one is really hurt after you bomb. Unlike drilling in sacred lands. Unlike bodies crippled by violent sports. Unlike words used to create an “other.”

It was never inter-racial marriage. It was always marriage. It was never gay marriage. It was always marriage. It was never true Barack Obama wasn’t born here. Of course he was born here.

Sorry if the words I just used upset inter-racial couples, or gay couples, or Barack Obama. Sorry, Mister President.

There’s a better way to make a point. And I’m going to let go of the words that wound by acknowledging them. Even if they hit my tongue before I spit them out. Especially if they hit my tongue before I spit them out. And promise to never say them again, even if I think them.

You can stop. I can stop. We can stop. It’s worth trying.

9:32AM (All changes saved in Drive)

9:33AM

THE GAVEL

I’m trying to write 10 pages a day, to document the time. If I keep it up, at the end of 10 days, I’ll have 100 pages. I know the number is arbitrary. But I feel like it’s a good place to start, since I can already feel the emotional roller coaster of backlash being replaced by the calming elixir of understanding.

In the 3rd act climax of Barack Obama’s presidency, he let me down.

I voted for Barack Obama. I voted for him twice. Looking back, I feel as though I let him down by spending too much time reading into the strategy of why he was doing what he was doing, as the first black president, instead of calling him out.

Listen.

Abraham Lincoln said he never would have written, and signed into law, The Emancipation Proclamation, if The Abolitionists hadn’t been yelling, non-stop, in his ear.

So when Barack Obama announced his intention to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court with Merrick Garland, I expected him to know how to get the job done. I stopped yelling. We all stopped yelling. At that point, he had 7 years on the job. More than enough time to get acquainted with how things worked.

Instead, Barack Obama made a speech, acting as though the magic elixir of his words would heal the divide, sheppard in a new age of reasonableness, woo the un-wooable senators, and lo and behold…Merrick Garland would be handed the gavel.

Instead, he got the shaft. We all got the shaft.

Now we’re living in the age of Neil Gorsuch, a man so far gone, a man so cruel, a man so entitled, he makes Antonin Scalia look rational. Neil Gorsuch isn’t fit to clerk for Merrick Garland. I used to work in Highland Park, one town over from Skokie, where Merrick Garland is from. Nothing bad ever came from Skokie.

I understand Barack Obama was done. You could see it written all over his face in the last few years of his presidency. I get it. The job is hard. I get it. He was tired. I get it. Enough is enough! But I think it’s important to remind all future presidents of this fact: you ran for the damn job, so do the damn job, damn it!

Sorry to say damn.

I’m trying to keep the language clean. But I think it underscores the level of frustration felt by women who are being stepped on by the defunding of Planned Parenthood, newly married couples who fear their marriage will once again be called gay marriage, Dreamers who came from Mexico to America and were raised here suddenly wondering if they’re suddenly going to be rounded up and sent to a place where their skin color will be the majority but their heart will be uprooted, and people of conscience, like me, who thought Merrick Garland was too moderate, but respected Barack’s moderate gestures, despite feeling as though Barack’s moderate gestures never won a single damn vote, for 8 damn years.

Sorry. Language. Sorry!

9:59AM (All changes saved in Drive)

10:59AM

HIS MAJESTY, MARSHALL MATHERS

Just saw Eminem do his Trump Battle Rap.

Impressive. Very impressive.

Finally feels like the anger he gives such a powerful voice to has something worthy of his bonfire. Eminem sounds like a furious man instead of a pissed-off boy. Glad to have him in this fight. Hope more artists lend their voice to help re-define this terrifying moment in time.

Hope they’re brave enough to draw a line in the sand with their fans.

Wish I had that kind of credibility. And kingdom of fans to command a decree!

I aspire…

11:04AM (All changes saved in Drive)

11:05AM

THE THING

Back to work.

Not sure if I stopped working, to check out what I just heard about Eminem. Or if this is how all of us work, circa 2017. We get news about something, in this breaking news circus, and stop everything to check out the big top show.

And react.

Reaction is the new danger. Since everyone is noticing how everyone else is reacting. If your reaction is outside the box of currently acceptable reactions…

Hold on! Best strap yourself in!

Only it’s too late to strap yourself in. You’re on the roller coaster called Backlash. To ride this ride, you must be emotionally 5. Or President of the United States of America.

It’s too easy to call President Trump a child. It lets him off the hook. If I learned anything from reading the excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s book, it’s this: Hillary didn’t deserve the distinction of Madame President. And I voted for her!

We have the president we deserve.

Vain. Spoiled. Totally in love with himself in the spotlight. Yep. Sound like us. Speaking of the spotlight…

Celebrity is a commodity. Anyone who’s famous, who doesn’t see this, is a child too busy chasing VIP Access to go hot tubbing with Clooney.

In 2020, we need famous people with their famous-people-skill-set to take this guy out. I don’t want impeachment. I don’t want censure. I don’t want the phonies in Congress playing phony games pretending they have our backs. They see no difference between caring and pretending.

Besides, it’s on us. We have the vote.

Here’s the thing: you cannot beat an entertainer with a politician. Sorry! The celebrity class needs to step-up. This is the nature of democracy. You need to recognize when your skill set is being called.

And step-up.

I understand. You’re not supposed to want this job. I understand. Who would want this job? Besides a narcissistic nutjob. Well, as much as the celebrity class might not like hearing this, your skill set is being called for the presidency: non-narcissistic non-nutjobs need not apply.

Right now, we need someone in the celebrity class, with a conscience, with a fire, with a sense of purpose, to step-up to the call of a good greater than chateau hopping with George & Amal.

No offense. They’re beautiful. No offense. I’d love to chat with them about baby names over cheese. But the conversation needs to be less about the full-bodied flavor of gruyere, and more about voting.

12:16PM (All changes saved in Drive)

4:16PM

BMF

So back and forth. So up and down. One second, I’m living in regret. The next second, I’m sure I have something worth fighting for. Conversations seem to set the tone. I’m so wired to emotion, whoever I’m talking to sets the tone.

coffee_joint_chicago_community_outreach_2017I texted Eddie Gee.

“Are we still on for coffee? Today? Noon? Coffee Joint…”

He replied.

“Yes, but can we push a little to meet at 2PM? Is that too late for you? Or even 1PM?”

I replied.

“1PM. Please. And thank you. I don’t wanna rush. But I need to be home for Emily Anne. Things are rough right now. Will I see you there at 1PM?”

He replied.

“Yes, see you at 1PM.”

About an hour later, I texted again.

“Heading over in 6 minutes. Please be there. Time is tight. Thanks.”

He replied.

“En route.”

I replied.

“Bien, Bien, Brah.”

I walked into Coffee Joint. Got a cup of coffee. Sat down.

I got a text.

“Just turning on Irving Park…”

It was 1:07PM. Eddie Gee finally walked in the door at 1:19PM. This is as close to being on time as I can ask of Eddie Gee. Is he the perfect messenger? No. Certainly not. But maybe that’s exactly why he’s the perfect messenger. All of the people posing as perfect messengers are what I call Ted Cruz Cowboys, the only thing real about them is the Ostrich Skin on their boots.

Truth is, Ted Cruz Cowboys never stick out their necks. Not for anybody but themselves. They’ll squeamishly vote against Health Care For All, while at the same time, protecting themselves with a resounding vote in favor of Health Care For All Elites.

Ted Cruz Cowboys voted to give themselves socialized medicine, paid for by We The People. It’s time to skin these crooks alive, hang their hides in prison.

Eddie Gee brought me a book, “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*CK,”  a counterintuitive approach to living a good life, by Mark Manson. I handed Eddie Gee a pen.

“Will you sign it for me?” I asked.

“For My Dearest Brother Greg – In times like these, and for all times…the messages in these pages will serve you well. BMF, Eddie Gee. PS – This was my personal copy.”

We met in Gainesville, at the University of Florida. We were fraternity brothers. BMF means “Brother Mine Forever.” At the time, even though it was long before I had any reason to be cynical, I used to roll my eyes at the sentiment. Now I know it to be true: BMF.

“How’s Emily?” he asked.

It’s the first thing I’m asked by anyone who truly loves me.

“It’s rough. Things are rough,” I said. “Her parents had her over for dinner last night. I wasn’t invited. They’re worried about their daughter. I don’t blame them. They’re wondering if this is going to be a pattern in our lives together. The death threats. Me speaking out of turn. Jokes bombing on an international scale. Not even sure if they were jokes to begin with. I love Emily Anne. I’ve never loved a woman like this before.”

“Emily is everything. Fight for her! The rest will fall into place. I’ve known you since Gainesville. But no one from Gainesville really knew you. Not like I do. We became friends in New York. Without knowing you in New York, I never would have known you,” he said. “Not really.”

Eddie Gee was going to NYU Law School when I got accepted to NYU Film School, at Tisch School of the Arts. For 2 years, we were attached at the 40’s. We used to buy cheap beer.

40’s.

We’d walk from 14th Street down University Avenue along Waverly, in and out of Washington Square Park, along Bleecker Street, chasing life, pulling ourselves apart, using the energy found on the streets of Greenwich Village, stitching together the words we’d use to build the dreams of our future.

One night, walking through Union Square Park, we got into it about Malcolm X. I was convinced Malcolm X was a reverse-racist. Eddie Gee told me I had it all wrong. Before he could present his side of the story, I riffed on a catalog of offenses, the vein sticking out of my neck.

He finished his 40. Told me I was wrong.

I.

Lost.

It.

The next day, I bought a copy of the autobiography of Malcolm X. I had a secret agenda. I was going to read the book, over the weekend, gather facts of my own, and then show Eddie Gee what was what. I finished the book before the weekend was over.

We met half way between our dorm rooms. I offered to buy the 40’s.

As we turned the corner on Broadway, I told Eddie Gee I was sorry. I’d been wrong. The book had awakened in my mind the sudden awareness I could have thoughts in my head put there by someone else which, for some reason, I took as my own.

This scared me. And woke me up. Eddie Gee woke me up.

Now here he was, all these years later, at Coffee Joint, in the darkest hour of my adult life, telling me this had always been the trajectory of my life. He’d heard from my brother, who’d called, in a panic, asking Eddie Gee to offer me good advice. My brother said I was addicted to social media. My brother said I needed to be talked off the ledge.

Eddie Gee didn’t talk me off the ledge. Instead, he invited my brother out for beers at Murphy’s Bleachers, to watch the Cubs Game, to calm his nerves. Then met up with me, at Coffee Joint, with pride in his eyes, to wave at me on the ledge.

“But get your house in order,” he said. “Emily is everything. Fight for her!”

BMF

6:14PM (All changes saved in Drive)

8:37PM

GLIMMERS OF HEARTBREAK

This might be the hardest thing I’ve had to write so far. But I don’t know if things with Emily Anne are going to hold together. She came home tonight torn apart, emotionally. The talk she had with her family last night has made it so she’s considering me leaving for the weekend.

Since this story first broke the internet, everyone has been telling me to take time away. But it feels like the wrong thing to do. I’m not sure how people who know me, or have gotten to know me over the past year and seven months, can be so easily swayed by things they’ve read or heard about me.

It’s amazing, the power to undermine someone’s credibility.

But this is just now. And I have as much time as I need to speak from a place of truth. I’m not going to be pulled into the speed of social media, or seduced by the noise, into a response.

I created a response, a 16 minute video. But it feels less like a response and more like something that would fit into a larger context, perhaps a documentary film. Of course, I don’t know, at this moment, if the things I’m thinking are me rationalizing the overwhelmingness of emotion, or if I’m seeing things clearly.

Seeing yourself, while at the same time being yourself, is tricky business.

I’m starting to feel like myself again. It’s the combination of eating oatmeal with bananas, making sleep a priority, staying away from alcohol, (since the highs are too high and the lows are too low when you’re running on emotion and adrenaline). Also, I’ve been aggressive at the gym, pretty much every day since I started sleeping again. I took today off, which is why I’m probably not as tired as I’d like to be right now.

Or maybe I’m amped on how upsetting it was hearing Emily Anne talk seriously about things not working out between us.

“We see things too differently,” she said.

“Get your house in order,” Eddie Gee said. “Emily is everything. Fight for her!”

I will. But she has to fight for me, too. If it’s this easy for her to be swayed, by the people around her, then I’d rather know it now instead of finding out down the road. This has felt like heartbreak since the beginning. So maybe it was my intuition telling me how things were going to unfold.

Or maybe we’ll find the future we’re building together has room for turbulence. I hope so. Keeping quiet is no longer an option, for me. The voice I’ve spent a lifetime building is starting to bubble up.

I can’t keep myself down. Or run. I know I created an opening for people to take me down. But it’s the wrong people. If I had to choose my enemies, I couldn’t ask for a better bunch.

This isn’t easy. But nothing is. Without Emily Anne, sleep will leave me. So will peace of mind. So will a sense of home.

But I’ll find it again. I always do. I suppose I was hoping to finally travel down the road with someone sharing the view, holding hands.

8:57PM (All changes saved in Drive)

12 OCT 2017

6:05AM

109.9

Emily Anne weighs 109.9.

This is the lightest she’s been since we met. She was trying to get back to 110. But this is ridiculous. Maybe I should go. Maybe I need to move on.

I love Emily Anne. Our worlds felt good together. But surviving this might be too much for her, too much for us. I don’t know if this is the final indication I need help, to seek help, to ask for help. Or if this is just another casualty of the twitter shitstorm.

How can so much unravel so fast?

I felt great, after having lunch yesterday with Eddie Gee. But maybe I heard what I wanted to hear, which is something Emily Anne has been saying about me. Eddie Gee kept talking about suffering in order to effect change. Maybe I was reacting more to the emotion of being with an old friend, instead of hearing what he was saying to me. Thinking back, maybe I took it too lightly when he was talking about me suffering by going into exile and then coming back down from the mountain like Mao. I don’t know anything about Mao. I’ll have to ask Eddie Gee more about it, next time we meet. But it begs the question: who’s suffering, really, when you’re having a late lunch at Spacca Napoli Pizzeria, with a friend you’ve known since boyhood, over fish salad and pizza? To borrow a metaphor about rebirth, maybe it was the last supper of the guy I thought I was.

109.9. That’s not a rebirth. That’s a frightening loss of weight.

7:24AM (All changes saved in Drive)

7:34AM

GLEE OF OUTRAGE

Social Media? Or Anti-Social Media?

When you stop to think about all of the people who threatened to kill me, over a tweet, who wished I had been at the mass shooting, who romanticized the destruction of my business, who turned Yelp into a lynch mob, you’d think at least they could afford me the courtesy of threatening to destroy me in 140 characters, or less.

I had to stop reading. I had to stop reacting. I had to stop.

It wasn’t getting me anywhere. For 2 days, from 7AM-9PM, the first day, I took all the calls at Max’s Deli; and from 7AM-7PM, the second day, I took all the calls at Max’s Deli.

All 3 lines were lit-up. Non-stop!

The anger in the voices, the violence in the voices, the glee of outrage in the voices, I’ve never heard anything like it. I’ll tell you this, if we ever figure out how to corral that outrage toward an actual problem, instead of an ill-advised tweet, the mass shootings will stop.

On the second day, at 7PM, a guy walked into Max’s Deli. He threatened to kill me. Jose, my manager, a guy I’ve known since 2004, an illegal immigrant, came and got me in the office. He told me to stop taking calls. He walked me to my car.

I never went back.

7:51AM (All changes saved in Drive)

8:33AM

UNHOLY WAR

I turned to Amy Winehouse for strength, after the twitter shitstorm shook my house, reducing my homelife to rubble.

“If my man was fighting some unholy war, I would stand beside him. With strength he didn’t know, it’s you I’m fighting for. He can’t lose with me in tow. I refuse to let him go. At his side, and drunk on pride, while he waits for the blow.”

I think these are the words. I didn’t google. I simply tapped into the melody floating around my head, like the voice of an ex-girlfriend, raw from a recent breakup.

I can’t sleep after a breakup. That is to say, I can exhaust myself and fall asleep. But somewhere around 1:36AM, when my subconscious reaches the surface, in a dream, when I’m no longer wearing a mask for the world to see I’m okay, I wake up, stare at the ceiling, alone in the dark, and cry.

Amy Winehouse had a special voice, loaded with emotion, I still carry her around in my head. I saw her in Chicago, at The Vic. Her band, probably the best backing band I’ve ever heard, hit the stage first.

They played, waiting for Amy to take the stage.

She took her time, but when she finally approached the mic, the room erupted. She began singing. Then stopped, forgetting her lyrics. She stood there, taking in the room, and then walked off stage.

Her band kept playing.

She walked back out on stage, for the next song. She sang, then stopped, forgetting her lyrics. She stood there, taking in the room, and then walked off the stage, again. Her band kept playing. Clearly, they’d been through this before.

The next song started. She didn’t come back out. The room began booing. Amy reappeared with a basket in her hand, filled with Tootsie Pops. She began tossing Tootsie Pops into the audience. When the basket was empty, she started singing, then stopped, then passed out, falling off the stage.

34 minutes into her set, the lights went up.

The crowd was furious, booing. I left, thinking I’d seen the worst show of my life. But the next morning, when I woke up, I knew, instinctively, I’d just seen the best rock ‘n roll show of my life. I knew what it felt like to see Jim Morrison.

Staying true to the myth, before the year was up, Amy Winehouse was dead. She was 27.

It’s easy to romanticize what could have been. The adult I’ve become wonders how come the people around Amy didn’t realize they were torturing a fragile bird, plucking her feathers for merchandising, passing her around in a cage, when it was clear she was happiest at home, in the tree of her backyard, on a branch, singing for herself, singing from the heart.

It wasn’t an act. It was never meant to be an act.

Emily Anne is nothing like Amy Winehouse. She’s a musician. She’s a trained musician, playing percussion with the Skokie Valley Symphony. But she didn’t make music her career. She kept it for herself, getting a master’s degree, then a second master’s degree, to become a school teacher, the opposite of a rock star.

Emily Anne teaches 3rd graders. For fun, she plays with the Skokie Valley Symphony. She’s complex. Shy. Quietly brilliant. Introverted. Thoughtful. Not a single tattoo on her body.

I’ve dated my fair share of Amys. It never ends well. Yes, they load my guns. Yes, they stand beside me. Yes, in a tall glass, over ice, they serve pride. But all war is unholy war.

Why fight? Who wins? Really…

At The Vic, when Amy Winehouse fell off the stage, I wish I caught her. I wish she could have turned to me for strength. Amy needed a hug, not a fan. But I was there to see the show.

Shame on me.

9:38AM (All changes saved in Drive)

11:35AM

MASS OUTRAGE

I passed out. Slept for at least an hour. Maybe more. Not sure what time I fell asleep. I was reading a few pages of the book Eddie Gee gave to me, “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck,” since I give too many fucks, about twitter, about Emily Anne, about the world’s reaction to my ill-advised tweet. I give too many fucks about the fact that Emily Anne, and her family, think ill-advised is an understatement, to describe my tweet, and if I don’t find a way to be sorry, completely sorry, we’re done. Yesterday morning, Emily Anne said the damage done to her family was irreparable, which is a big word for “deal breaker.” If I had to sort out all of my fucks to give, I’d put all of my fucks in this basket.

But…

What if I’m not wrong? What if we have to learn, as a culture, to allow people their reaction? Especially if we’re not going to do anything about it, which is clearly the case. How many mass shootings in America? How many schools? How many shot dead? How many nearly shot dead? What the number? How many thoughts? How many prayers?

Listen.

You don’t see me walking into a church in Humboldt Park, yelling at people, “You’re prayers aren’t working. Stop playing with your imaginary friend. For Christ Sake!” I wouldn’t do this. If seeking comfort in a church helps, seek comfort in a church, kneel, take a knee, both. You don’t see me walking onto a golf course in Scottsdale, yelling at people, “Get off the back 9. Get back in life. God Damn It! We need you to participate.” I wouldn’t do this. If seeking comfort on the golf course helps, swing until you throw out your back. You don’t see me walking into a beer garden in Walker’s Point, yelling at people, “Put down your stupid flight of fancy beers. You pretentious turds. Stop pondering the merits of an IPA. Wake up! There’s blood on the streets of Las Vegas. There’s blood on the streets of Fort Hood. There’s blood on the streets of Virginia Tech. There’s blood on the popcorn of The Dark Night. There’s blood on the chalkboards of Sandy Hook Elementary School.” I wouldn’t do this. If self-medicating helps, if beer takes the edge off, drink until your edges are numb. You don’t see me walking into a pot dispensary in Colorado, yelling at people, “You’re not Willie Nelson. You haven’t written songs capable of waking up the hearts of broken people. Put down the bong. Pick up a guitar. And by the way, dude, you can’t pull-off pigtails.” This I would do, even though I love the smell of pot, and remain firmly convinced, the war on drugs is a sham.

Let people react how they want to react.

If the President of the United States of America, and me, want to blow off a little steam, since we both have stressful jobs, since we both have stressful lives, since we’re both stressed out about these mass shootings, him because he wants mentally ill people to have more access to guns, me because I wept all my tears away at the candlelight vigil for Gabby Giffords.greg_morelli_vigil_gabby_giffords_2011

Let people react how they want to react. So what if we both fire-off ill-advised tweets? If you don’t like what someone is tweeting…

GET OFF TWITTER!!!

It’s simple. It really is simple. You know what’s complicated? This is complicated: noticing your own reaction, or lack of reaction, instead of jumping on the emotion of the moment, instead of following the anger of other people, instead of riding the wave of outrage as far away from the actual problem as you can ride the wave. You’re not a surfer. It’s not a ride. It’s a distraction. And it’s killing us. All of us. The only thing those of us who survived Las Vegas can be absolutely sure of is this…

We’re Sitting Ducks.

Cuz it’s gonna happen again.

Why can’t we point the outrage where it belongs? At the mass shootings. I didn’t kill anybody. I didn’t point a semi-automatic rifle at a crowd of strangers and pull the trigger to test the validity of the 2nd Amendment. At the core of it, if you break it down, all you can really say I did was  point my stupid fingers at my stupid keyboard and fire-off a stupid tweet, stressed out, swirling with emotion, as a reply to a question posed by Ava DuVernay.

I don’t remember her exact tweet. And I’m not googling, since I don’t want to risk seeing another round of people celebrating the destruction of my life, like mass takedowns are sport.

Here’s the essence of what she said: how come when the shooter is white, he’s called a lone wolf, but when the shooter is black or brown, he’s called a terrorist?

I’d also like to point out, even though I don’t know Ava DuVernay’s exact tweet, I do know for sure it was a HE, not a SHE, since all mass shooters are MEN.

Take that in, women! Especially the 53% who voted for Trump.

12:19PM (All changes saved in Drive)

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