Being Wrong Physically Hurts

Once upon a time, there was a moment where I thought that I was wrong. But as it turns out, I was mistaken.

It has been incredibly terrifying for me to watch as tens of millions of Americans double down in their belief of the lies and insanity that were being sold to them by the Christian Conservative Republicans.

Of course, some will suggest you can’t talk about that without talking about the person who lead the charge, starting with lies about Obama’s birth certificate, and who ended up telling many multiple lies per day while holding the title of “president.”

But I am going to do that, because I don’t have to say a monster’s name to talk about the damage, pain, and destruction that they have caused.

One big question might be, “Why won’t they just accept that they were lied to, that they were wrong, and move on?”

While I do not believe any of the lies that are sold by politicians, I have a few thoughts on this. Others might be fooled by politicians and religious leaders, but I was very easily fooled by people who either claimed to be my friend or that they loved me.

If you have been through this, or if you’re going through it right now, then know that I am not going to be pointing my finger at you, calling you names, or being otherwise aggressive. Instead, I’ll talk about myself and my own similar experiences, with the hope that you will then draw a parallel to your own situation.

Because, in the end, being fooled is being fooled, no matter who fools you.

Why do they double down?

Before I go any further, I must stress that I am NOT a professional. I am not a therapist or psychologist. Rather, I am just someone who has been through this on a personal level more than once, who has struggled to find answers and peace.

MY OWN ANECDOTE FOR BEING FOOLED
This will be the Reader’s Digest version of the long and complicated story. And for the sake of emphasis, I will format all red flags or important points of issue like this.

I had a “friend” on Facebook, and I knew her for three years. By “knew,” I mean that I interacted with her on the site, she belonged to a private group I had created, and we messaged a few times.

One day, she sent me a message asking if she could call me. I sent her my number, as it was not uncommon for “friends” in my group to want to call me.

She cried on the phone about how she had been diagnosed with cancer. Her issues were that she had no insurance and did not have money. She told me that her friends at home were not helpful, as they sent prayers instead of cash.

Side-Bar: Her crying was an obvious form of manipulation. As for her friends “sending prayers,” she had three years to study my Facebook profile, and knew that I was an Atheist who was annoyed by prayers. She effectively learned about me, and then used it against me.

I started sending her money.

At the time, my life was complicated by a project I was working on with another “friend,” where we were building a recording studio. I was investing money and effort, as well as installing my own music gear into the facility.

Rumors started to spread that my friend was a cancer scammer. She would pre-emptively give me excuses for stories I’d have yet to hear, which presented in a way that appeared to be honesty.

Side-Bar: her pre-emptive stories were presented in a way that was mostly lies with a tiny bit of truth inside somewhere. She told the same story as those who were telling me that she was a scammer, but she got to spin it before they did. Besides, at this point, I was a member of her club, so to speak, and the leader of the club gets more reverence than outsiders.

When the studio scammer realized that he was losing control of my finances and my time, he yelled at me, changed the locks, and kept everything that was mine. But this wasn’t enough, for he started to spread rumors that I was “in on it” with my “friend” who said she had cancer.

With that, dozens upon dozens of “friends” and former co-workers began to attack me viciously before writing me off. By this point, I had sent her roughly $8,000 to $10,000.

Since she was a Malignant Narcissist and a drug addict [just like the studio scammer], her mode of operation had three phases, just like his:

  1. Love-Bomb: Telling me that I’m the greatest thing ever.
  2. De-Value: Nothing I did was right, and everything I liked was stupid.
  3. Discard: An aggressive and sometimes violent and abrupt end to the relationship.

By the time I got to the De-Value stage, I was very well invested, both emotionally and financially. I had put my all into it.

The leader of one of my bands called to fire me, saying that he didn’t want to be associated with the controversy. He asked me if this was what I really wanted to do with my life, and I said YES, because I felt as if my life had some solid purpose, beyond myself.

Side-Bar: Although I was living my life, I wasn’t feeling much in the way of purpose. My son was grown up, and I needed a purpose, much in the same way that the presidential followers felt.

The thing about the De-Value stage was that I was so hooked and invested into the situation that anything she did to try to hurt me did not matter. She would tell me that I was a problem, that I wasn’t helping enough, and would do other hurtful things. I wrote it off as her suffering from her treatments, and carried on.

THE BIG DISCARD
Close to nine months, and over $30,000 later, we got into an argument. Apparently, she was tired of playing the game and had gotten enough money. So when I confronted her about some things that were going on, she had a straight-on response for me.

“Fuck off.”

Side-Bar: She got right to the point and brought it to an abrupt end. The former president could do this, but he refuses to give up, and so the situation persists.

Those two words dropped the curtain.

There I was, alone in my shock, with the realization that I had been scammed by a “friend” who had lied about having cancer.

This was followed by messages via Facebook, text, voicemail, and even USPS, where the overall sentiments involved “I told you so,” followed in some cases with death threats.

The big discard happened in mid-2014. The damage this situation caused was very expensive, with regard to money.

However, the biggest cost for me was that I lost myself in all of it. I had made helping her and rescuing her a major part of my identity. I was going to be the guy who saved another person’s life by giving away all of the extra money that he wasn’t using to help a person in need. More about this later.

Side-Bar: My identity as a rescuer of a cancer victim is on-par with those who make their membership in the president’s club, but they take it way further, with hats, flags, and a host of ideologies.

HOW I GOT PULLED IN
She had put it out there on Facebook that she needed financial help with her cancer, in the form of a GoFundMe page.

This move divides people into two camps: Those who will donate, and those who will not. I donated, thereby identifying myself as a target.

It’s akin to a presidential candidate saying horrific racist things about Mexican people, and then seeing who is still around.

THE 419 SCAM
The 419 scam is called this because 419 is the number in the criminal code in Nigeria that outlawed this scam.

It’s the email you get from the Nigerian prince who has $25 million in the bank, but he somehow can’t get to it without YOUR specific help. He usually wants $5,000, and promises in exchange to share this larger amount with you.

These emails are written with very poor spelling and grammar, and also include religious messages and blessings. This is not an accident. They do this to figure out who will be their marks. A person like me will dismiss it because of the spelling and grammar issues, as well as the religious sentiment.

These scammers don’t want educated people. They want those who have a lower education level and who also subscribe to magical superstitious mythological religious beliefs.

In my case, the cancer scammer predator was looking for people who are overly-empathetic and/or who want to be helpful.

THE SUNKEN COST FALLACY
By the time we hit the Discard phase, I had so much money and emotional energy invested in rescuing this “friend” that there was no way I would ever quit.

Those who follow the former president do the exact same thing.

In my situation, some friends made some semi-valid points. However, most of them failed miserably in making adequate and effective points. Most just viciously attacked me.

Some even made my situation worse, when what they told me would turn out to be untrue. The best example is a “friend” who called me and told me that the cancer scammer was going to be indicted in January [2014]. She suggested that I call the DA’s office, because they would “tell me everything I need to know.”

I had no further contact with this friend. What she doesn’t know is that I called the DA’s office right after we hung up. I told them my name, the situation, and what I was told by this friend.

Their reply was that indictments are sealed; however, they could check the calendar for January and see if her name was on it.

Her name was not on it. January passed with no indictment, then February, then March. In fact, the indictment that this friend told me about in such a confident tone NEVER HAPPENED.

This only got me sunken in deeper.

The Sunken Cost Fallacy affects those who voted for and support the previous president because they have made being on his team a major part of their personal identity. Just like me, they had a hole in their lives that needed to be filled. Someone filled it adequately, and any issues beyond that are meaningless, because this hole must remain filled AT ALL COSTS.

THE POINT OF INFINITE PAIN
After my cancer scammer “friend” told me off and dropped the charade, it was a major punch in the gut. My stomach literally hurt as if I had been kicked so hard that all of the air was knocked out of me and I was struggling to get even a little breath back in.

I cried for days on end. I would throw up at least once every other day. I had persistent headaches. I developed a fear of people and a mistrust of my own judgment. Concentrating at work was nearly impossible. I was easily startled and paranoid that someone was going to get me, mostly thanks to all of the death threats I received.

Keep in mind that all of this happened roughly 3.5 years before I learned that I had High-Functioning Autism.

CAN YOU INSPIRE A PERSON TO QUIT?
When I was deep into the delusion that I was saving someone’s life, there was seemingly nothing that anyone could say that would get me to change my mind and change my ways. I was dedicated, deeply invested, and working to save her life had become a major part of my identity.

Plus, let’s face it, quitting would have meant admitting that I was wrong, and the human ego does not like doing this.

Here’s a difficult question for you: How would you get someone close to you to stop believing in god? Because this is essentially where the former president’s followers are currently residing in their heads.

FINDING PROBLEMS BEFORE SOLUTIONS
What problems did I have that allowed me to be drawn into this scammer’s world? The spoiler I am considering right now is that the issues I had that left me open are very close to the same as those who join cults, like the one the former president has started years ago.

Let’s find out.

  1. A need for meaning. My life at that time had become somewhat boring. My best bands had either broken up or stopped playing shows. I was in another performance band, and it was fine, but it just wasn’t nearly so satisfactory. My job had become boring, and life had become stale. My son had graduated high school and he wasn’t coming over to sleep over the weekends anymore.
  2. Constant contact. Much like the former president’s daily addresses to his followers, my cancer scammer “friend” would call me several times per day. She would also text or send messages via Facebook. Not a day went by where we weren’t talking. We talked from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. The same was true of the studio scammer “friend,” who had me over to his house every day after work. His mail was still being sent to my apartment, which he had lived in previously, and I was hand-delivering his mail daily.
  3. Arrogance. There is no other way to label this. The biggest thing that left me open to being manipulated and getting scammed was my own belief that I was simply too smart to be fooled. I was above it all, and getting tricked is exclusively for stupid people.

ADDITIONAL CLARITY
Now that we have established a few problems, I am going to bring some clarity and additional context to the issues.

  1. A need for meaning. When search for meaning, or even when they want to talk to their god, they make the mistake of searching externally for that which they seek. Whether it’s a god or a heightened sense of purpose and meaning, the only true and valid source comes from within. Raising my son gave me purpose, but that sense of purpose did NOT come from him. That’s the illusion that I suffered. It was inside me all along.
  2. Constant contact. Constant contact is the way in which those in control maintain their control. It’s why you’re encouraged to go to church at least once per week, and do not skip! Not only are there financial concerns, but there is also the concern that you’ll cool off and leave. A person who has to have contact with you multiple times per day is suspect, even if they are on television.
  3. Arrogance. When I believed that I was too smart and above it all, I effectively let my guard down and got lazy.

SOLUTIONS
Now that we’ve covered some of the high-level issues and have clarified them a bit, let’s look at some potential solutions. This will be a bit more complicated, so I won’t be using numbers in order to have this more reader-friendly via paragraphs.

A NEED FOR MEANING
One solution for this is something that I have mentioned in an earlier post, and it revolves around taking an inventory of your current situation and position in life.

As I noted earlier, assigning meaning to an external being or situation is a bad idea. I equate a need for meaning with seeking a source for your own personal power in life.

This is something that is used quite frequently in a great number of movies and other stories. I’ll give you a few examples.

In the Netflix movie The Christmas Chronicles, Santa loses his hat and all of his magical powers along with it. In the sequel to this, The Christmas Chronicles 2, there is a scene where a boy is given magical cookies for surviving a mission, and he can’t remember which one does what. And in the blacksploitation comedy Pootie Tang, Pootie loses a belt that he inherited from his father that gives him magical powers.

In all three of these stories, we learn near the end that the external object actually has no power at all, and that the power was within all along. In all stories like these, the external item has its appeal and it gets treated like a lucky rabbit’s foot [which wasn’t so lucky for the rabbit].

This is true, even for those who believe in a god. While I am an Atheist, I have an understanding of how these things work. So many will turn to a church, a pastor, the bible, or whatever else. This distracts them from the point that their god lives within them. Because when it comes down to it, everyone who declares belief in a god converse with themselves.

It is not shocking that everyone has a “personal relationship” with a god who agrees with them on 100% of all issues, questions, and answers at all times!

Seeking an external solution, be it religious or secular, sets a person up for exploitation by others, or by institutions.

CONSTANT CONTACT
This one can be complex, as the issue is deeper than a person making contact with another person.

Sometimes the person being exploited voluntarily engages the contact. This goes beyond answering the phone, and can extend to social networking, email, texts, watching television, listening to talk radio, or being glued to YouTube videos all day long.

It gets worse when a confirmation bias feedback loop is in play. This happens when people join groups online, and they get feedback that they’re on the right track on a 24/7 basis from countless sources in the group.

Getting away from this stimuli is essential. If you can get the other person away from this stimuli by encouraging them to do other things, or inviting them to do thing with you, that would be optimal.

Breaking the constant contact, even a little, can be helpful.

ARROGANCE
When I was wrapped up with my cancer scammer “friend,” I sincerely believed that I was above it all when it came to being scammed. Nobody can fool me! I’m just too smart! This was my flawed thought process.

But the arrogance did not stop there. I also believed that I was saving a person’s life, in the face of incredible odds, which exist only if a person actually has cancer.

I knew better than others.

ANOTHER ISSUE: TRIBAL CULT THINK
A tribe or cult of two can exist, and I definitely feel that I was in that camp with my cancer scammer “friend.”

Churches sell the idea of others, as did the former president.

“Othering” is where you, your group, and the leadership have identified a different group that is deemed to be lesser, or maybe even not human!

For me, the others were the nay-sayers who were aggressively warning me that she was a cancer scammer, most times in very bumbling ways that were ineffective. In my situation, the others were people who either hated her, or they were incapable of getting the point.

For a church, the others are people who belong to “the wrong churches,” those who believe differently, and those who do not believe at all. The world is literally against them, in their eyes. To them, the others are sinners, evil, wrong, or less-than-human entities who should be killed.

And for the former president, the others were Democrats [ who are Americans, by the way], anyone with different religious beliefs, anyone with different skin color, and anyone who was not American. Their others are also mortal enemies who must be beaten in elections, or killed. There is evidence that they literally wanted to kill very specific people, as well as Democrats in general.

In all three cases, it’s you and your small group against the rest of the world.

This makes a person feel very important. But it also gives them a sense of ironic vulnerability, which gives them unshakable inspiration to stay close to the tribe, to never cross or disagree with the tribe, and to continue membership in the tribe.

Religion and politics are highly divisive control mechanisms. The motive for the control is typically related to money.

To maintain this control of you, your behaviors, and your money, they have to tell you thinks to keep you in line. Fear is a big motivator. Republican politicians and most churches function EXCLUSIVELY on fear.

In my situation, the fear motivator was simply that my “friend” was going to die if I did not help her. My biggest fear was that I would run out of money, not be able to help her, and she would die because of my situation.

Fear can be a very powerful motivator.

ANOTHER SOLUTION: THE SOCRATIC METHOD
When a person uses The Socratic Method is an approach where you don’t give the other person direct answers.

Yes, I am giving you some direct answers here, because I do not feel that anyone reading this is in a position where I am speaking directly to them in an effort to help them out.

In lieu of direct answers, the helper addressing the person in distress will give them other questions, which they must answer for themselves.

The purpose of this is to inspire critical thought that bears potential ideas or solutions. It may even present more than one solution.

These questions involve probing implications and consequences, questions about viewpoints and and perspectives, investigation of reason and evidence, investigation of assumptions, clarification of statements, or even questions about the question.

In my opinion, the best Socratic Method questions are the ones where the person receiving the question must provide an answer to themselves.

SOME EXAMPLES
I am thinking of a few examples from my post-cancer scammer pain. I had talked to one of my neighbors after everything fell apart and the truth came out. After I was done telling her the story, she asked me:

“Who made this your problem?”

Hmmmm. Wow. I did. Shit. It was me. I made it important.

That was a good example, because it was very concise and it was really in my face. It was almost as concise as the cancer scammer’s reveal of the situation [“Fuck off.”].

But there are bad examples, too. One person I talked to had a question for me that was in the style of The Socratic Method. His question revolved around a false rumor that was being spread about me.

In this instance, the question did not work at all because it was based on a false premise. The suggestion that I was helping her in exchange for sex couldn’t be further from the truth. Akin with this rumor was the idea that she was giving me sex in exchange for this money. Considering the fact that we lived about 2,000 miles apart, this would be rather difficult to achieve.

Bad questions only serve to make the situation first, so be sure that you investigate the situation fully and have an accurate understanding before engaging.

In my two bad examples, two separate friends attempted a type of statement or storytelling that seemed Socratic, but they were based on false information.

One friend wrote to me and said that she stole a joke that I wrote, but she did it because she needed to make a house payment. Her brother is a very famous comedian. I later surmised that she was attempting to teach me that stealing is wrong. She believed that I was stealing, and also believed that I did not know stealing was wrong. It was a very naive and insulting approach.

The other friend told me a story.

“I was at this store, when this very attractive younger woman approached me and started talking to me. She asked me out. I told her that I felt flattered, but that I was taken, and I thanked her before moving on.

His story functioned under the false assumption that the cancer scammer had offered me sex, that I took it, and that money later entered the picture. This is just about as far from the reality of the situation as one can get.

Not helpful.

I won’t get into any religious questions, as that can get complicated. But I can address it with regard to the former president and his followers.

For example, a follower of the former president will say something like this:

“He has done so much good for the country.”

With a statement like this, you can ask, “Can you give me a few examples of what he has done?” If the person seems agitated by this, you can tack on another statement, “…because I don’t trust the media.” This will put the person receiving your questions at ease, as they’ll suspect that maybe you’re either on their side or moving that direction.

If it’s someone you care about, then you are on their side. Just not in the way that they believe.

You can drill down deeper. For example, if they reference “jobs,” you can ask which ones or request more detail. Play stupid if you want. Just be aware that you are not making them suspicious. They will always be suspicious of anyone if they believe that person is attempting to change their mind.

In a final example, suppose you have a friend who belongs to some pro-former-president groups, where people are angry all of the time. I know too many people who spend too much of their time online in groups like this, instead of with friends who care about them.

I would be inspired to ask them, “What is it that you get from spending a great deal of time in a group where you agree with everyone constantly, yet are also perpetually angry?”

OH, THE PAIN… THE PAIN!
The final and most complex piece of this puzzle is the very real physical pain that comes from realizing that you’ve been had.

Let’s suppose that you’re talking with a loved one who has been roped into some kind of a scam. You’re trying out some of the ideas and methods noted above, when suddenly they start to crack. In fact, consider that they begin to break down and cry from the physical pain.

There are important things that you can do. However, it is also important to know what NOT to do. For example, do not mock them. Do not tell them that they were stupid. Never tell them, “I told you so!” Do not engage them in this manner, as it might very well end up ruining any progress that has been made up to that point.

The most important thing you can do is be assuring.

  • I’ve been there. I know what it’s like.
  • It’s a serious issue.
  • You’re not alone in this.
  • It’s not a matter of being smart or stupid. It’s about vulnerability.
  • You were victimized by a professional.
  • I am your friend, and I’m here to help.

Be there for your friend or loved one. Once the ice cracks and their Humanity is starting to return, they will actually have the sensation that they are stupid. Left unchecked, this will turn into a sincere and destructive belief about the self.

Keep in mind that this revelation is literally life-shattering. There are so many people out there who have made their politics or religious beliefs the whole of their identity. I can tell you first-hand that when you lose your identity, you begin to lose yourself very quickly. It’s a dark pit of despair, loneliness, and self-hatred.

It lands a person in a place where they must look upward, way up, and may even need binoculars so that they can see the underbelly of that thing everyone calls “rock bottom.”

It’s no joke.

NO BASHING
Of course, those of us who see loved ones getting taken by a scammer, a church, or a politician will have a great deal of contempt for them. It is only natural to despise that which harms those we love.

Do NOT engage in bashing. The risk that comes with this is substantial, to the point that it may drive them right back where they came from. They feel comfort in the mess, which is why they stay in the first place.

Make it all about THEIR feelings and how they feel.

Also be ready to contact a professional. Help them find help if they ask. Be happy to take on this task, for it’s getting you closer to getting your friend or loved one back from the Abyss.

A person who realizes that they’ve been scammed or otherwise taken for a ride will be extremely raw, emotionally speaking. Do not force them to talk if they are not ready.

Best case, be there for them. Worst case, let them know that you’ll be there for them when they are ready. Let them know that you care and that your door is open, so to speak.

IN THE END
We all have our human frailties, weaknesses, and issues. Sometimes others will work to exploit those things so that they can get something from us. In almost every case, we open the door and invite them in ourselves.

It is not a matter of intelligence, or a lack thereof. Rather, it’s about being a flawed human who has emotions and needs, but no clear path on how to fulfill those personal issues.

Dealing with this issue requires a great deal of patience and understanding. More than likely, it will also require the services of a mental health professional, to help them cope with the emotional and psychological aspects of the abuse they have endured.

Indeed, it IS abuse!

I would be interested in reading any questions that anyone may have about any of this, as I would like to challenge some of my ideas to make sure they’re solid in general, instead of being things that just happened to work for me.

My Naive View of the Truth

As a little child, I was told that I should always tell the truth, without exception. Always.

This did not work out well for me, mostly because 1) you don’t tell this to an Autistic child, and 2) I did not know that I was Autistic until I was 57 years old.

So I went about my life, being brutally honest and telling the truth at all times. For me, there was no nuance.

When a girl would ask me to tell the truth, I would, and then I’d be punished with her leaving.

When a boss would demand that I tell the truth, I would, and then I’d be punished by being let go.

When a bankruptcy paralegal gave me the advice to be honest in my bankruptcy process, I was honest, and I was punished for the better part of a decade for it.

THE BANKRUPTCY
In 1987 was working at a computer rental firm, and had recently gotten my first credit cards. One of them was for a jewelry store. I don’t wear jewelry. But my boss told me that I would have to buy something and make payments on it in order to build credit.

So I went to the jewelry store and bought a ring and a watch. Each item was under $100.

Flash forward one year, and the IRS closed down the business. My boss wrote me a check for $247, even though nobody was guaranteed a final check. So I deposited this check, and then proceeded to write checks for things like the grocery store.

Bank of America did not let me know right away that my deposited check had bounced. They were busy taking each check that I had written, attempting to process it, and then levying a $20 bounced check fee.

They did this with each check at least three times per day.

About a month went by, and they sent me a letter letting me know that I had overdraft fees to the tune of over $5,000, for a $247 check that bounced, and my little checks here and there that subsequently bounced as a result.

I had no choice but to file for bankruptcy at that point. Of course, I could not afford a lawyer, so I went with a paralegal who charged a few hundred dollars. She gave me some really bad advice.

“What you want to do is be a good-faith actor in all of this. If you bought something with a credit card, then return it and let them know about your situation. They’ll be grateful, and things will be better for you.”

The next day I went to the jewelry store and told them everything. I told them how my place of employment got closed by the IRS, the bouncing final paycheck situation, that I was filing for bankruptcy, and that I wanted to be a god-faith actor by returning the merchandise that I had purchased.

They told me that they could not take a return on the watch, but would be glad to take the ring back. They asked me to sign a “restocking form” that indicated that I had returned the $85 ring.

I went to court a few months later for my hearing. Everything was discharged in about ten seconds. After that, I thought that it was all settled.

FOUR YEARS LATER
By this point, I had a few different jobs, and had re-established myself. One night, I saw an advertisement for a truck sale at Foothill Nissan. They have this typical text and announcements in their ad:

“Bad credit? NO credit? Bankruptcy? NO PROBLEM! We can finance anyone and everyone at Foothill Nissan.”

I figured that it might be more expensive than a regular car lot. But that’s the lot in life that poor people have to deal with. It is VERY expensive being poor.

In the offices of Foothill Nissan, I talked to the sales rep and let him know about my bankruptcy four years prior. He said that it shouldn’t be a problem, and he ran a report.

When he got my report, he had a sour look on his face.

“I’m sorry, but we cannot help you.”

He explained that there was a “voluntary repossession” on my credit report. I quickly figured out that it was the $85 ring that I had returned. He did not care about my explanation.

“The thing about a voluntary repossession is that we don’t know the item or the dollar amount. It could have been a mansion or a yacht.”

I replied that if I had this kind of issue with a mansion or a yacht, that I’d not be stooping to the level of Foothill Nissan to do business, and would instead be back at the yacht dealership striking up another deal.

THE IMPACT
Whether legal or not, this “voluntary repossession” followed me around for TEN years. And these were the years when most adults start building up their credit so that they can buy a home.

This was not in my future.

All over an $85 ring, and my honest actions.

THE COST
I could have gotten the Nissan truck at Foothill Nissan for $99 per month and about $500 down.

Since I could not finance with them, I bought a used car instead. The thing about used cars is that you don’t know what kind of problems they really have until things start showing up.

There was a five-month period where that car constantly broke down. That used car, which I bought with cash, was costing me anywhere from $500 to $800 per month.

I could have purchased something nice with that money, but the system would not allow it.

THE AMERICAN POX
I can speak only for America, since it’s the only place where I have ever lived.

Since that time, after my experience with the bankruptcy, I have paid close attention to the dishonesty that exists in our various systems. Be it political, executive, financial, legal, or any other, these systems are built upon a foundation of bullshit lies.

These lies function in favor of the wealthy, the corporations, politicians the banks, and other large institutions. Of course, this means that they also function against the little person [i.e., me].

LITTLE PEOPLE LIES
Yes, our institutions are built upon a bedrock of lies. If anyone takes this as an implication that the little guy is always honest, then think again.

Down here in the sewers, the other little guys will stab you in the back and stand upon your corpse if it means that they can get their head above the rancid surface of the cesspool of life for just one gulp of air.

Down here, the truth is something that sometimes gets twisted. Other times, it gets outright made up.

I’ve had “friends” who were also very powerful Malignant Narcissists turn against me once they were done using me for my perceived purpose. First it’s “love-bomb,” then “devalue,” followed by “disposal.”

In this situation, all bets are off.

These people tell their lies to my other “friends,” who end up believing this relative stranger over me! It’s as if they never knew me in the first place. More than likely, they also did not like me in the first place.

The situation that comes to mind is the “friend” who convinced me that we were building a recording studio together on his property. Four years and over $10,000 later, he told me that I never did anything except sweep the floor, the property was in his name, and there was nothing I could do about it.

He did this because I was starting to help out another “friend” who cried on my shoulder about how she had cancer, couldn’t afford treatment, and was going to die.

Once the studio scammer realized that he was losing control of my money, he discarded me and used rumors that she was a cancer scammer to suggest on Facebook that I was “in on it” with the cancer scammer for profit. Specifically, he suggested that I was using it to purchase $247 plane ticket for her to visit.

Although I had a very high paying job at the time, most of my “friends” were quick to believe that I would engage in scamming others on Facebook so that I could gather up $247.

Utterly ridiculous!

And yet that rumor succeeded in destroying me socially.

MY CONFUSION
The thing that confuses me is complicated. Why did they believe him automatically?

Why did nobody talk to me about it? A few people confronted me about it, as if it were true. Yelling at me and pointing fingers is not talking to me about it, or asking me.

It leads me to wonder why people believe bullshit that they’re told.

MY HYPOTHESIS
I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I do have ideas about what is happening.

Today, people believe that their lives are completely out of control. They are absolutely correct in this regard. It is a desperate sadness; a general pulsating malaise that leaves people feeling powerless and unimportant.

Indeed, they are powerless and unimportant. We all are.

But then something catches their attention. Maybe it’s something scandalous, like a cancer scammer.

This gives them a sudden sensation of both purpose and moral superiority. It’s a new sensation for them, and they do not want to let it die off so quickly. They don’t know when this sensation will return again, if ever.

So they pound the crap out of it like a railroad spike. They go after the offender, even if there is no evidence to support the claims, and even if the motive for the person spreading the rumor is painfully obvious.

For those who don’t understand the studio scammer’s motive to lie, it’s simple. His lie gave him public support for what he really wanted to do, which was to steal my cash investment in the studio, steal my physical work, and steal all of my music gear that I housed in the facility.

Nobody is going to judge or berate him for stealing from a cancer scammer-by-proxy.

What this means is terrifying.

It was in everyone’s best interest to believe that I was complicit in her crimes, regardless of any truth or evidence that surfaced.

The truth and any evidence supporting it was not as important as the feelings they got from the rumors and lies.

In fact, the truth and evidence was a clear and present threat to what they were feeling that gave them the sensation that they were correct and morally superior.

Self-righteousness is a hell of a drug.

LEARNING TO FLY LIE
In the therapy sessions that I’ve had since that incident, especially after my diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism, I have been attempting to learn how to lie in the way that “normal” people do.

Some of those lies required a re-framing so that I could call them something else.

For example, when someone would ask me, “How are you today?” I would give them a literal reply of how I actually was. This never went over well, and I would be left wondering why they asked me, when they didn’t care about my answer in the first place.

That got re-framed from something that is a question about how I am doing, to a human equivalent of a computer ping. Kind of like when you’d have to use dial-up to get to AOL, and you’d heard all that horrible line noise.

How a computer says, “Hello, how are you?” to the internet.

When a person asks me how I’m doing, it’s nothing more than the noise of a computer talking to the internet, checking to see if it is there, and awaiting a response. The response is mere acceptance of the message.

Their message was basically shit, so the response should be the same. So I have learned how to give a shit response.

“I am fine, thank you. How are you?”

There. Utter bullshit, as is so highly-demanded by society, for some reason.

THE BIGGEST REASON OF ALL
There are many reasons why people are so willing to believe lies. To sum it all up, life is rather shitty most of the time for most people. Our lives have been reduced to nothing but work and vapid, mindless entertainment. Our lives are without purpose or meaning, not only on the intrinsic level, but also with regard to those things that we love to believe will give our lives meaning.

So they believe that if they work hard, they will get ahead. LIE.

They believe that a god is up in the sky, watching over them, and that they’ll go to heaven when they die. LIE.

They believe that justice will be served. When it comes to the wealthy, the powerful, and corporations, it’s a LIE.

They believe that the police are protecting them. LIE.

They believe that the person fucking them loves them. 75% chance it’s a LIE, and that’s being generous.

They believe their boss appreciates them. LIE.

They believe that their elected politician cares about them. LIE.

They believe that their food is healthy and safe. LIE, most of the time.

They believe that their conversations are private. LIE.

They believe that hard work will pay off. LIE. [Yes, this one is worth mentioning twice.]

When believing these basic lies is not enough, they graduate to bigger lies. These lies get big, and the bigger they get, the more stupid they appear. A great example is believing that Democrats and celebrities have a secret Satanic kabal with a headquarters rooted in the basement of a pizza shop, where celebrities terrify babies and then suck the adrenochrome out of their bodies to maintain youth, before the others take these poor victims and sell them into a pedo sex slavery ring funded by George Soros.

Really?

REALLY?

That’s some stupid bullshit. But believing things like this helps them to believe that they are morally superior, and they use it to justify a crusade, which gives their otherwise meaningless lives purpose.

People are bored, afraid, and stupid. And when they’re also poorly educated and religious, this opens the door for pretty much anything and everything. After all, if they believe an all-powerful being is in the sky watching them, caring about what they wear and whether or not they say “h-e-double-hockey-sticks,” to determine whether or not they get into heaven for eternity, then they will believe absolutely anything.

And don’t touch your dirty parts, or you’ll burn forever.

It’s the ultimate mind control; a lie that serves those who call the shots.

A THERAPIST’S ATTEMPT
The therapist who diagnosed me with High-Functioning Autism attempted to make a point with me. He asked, “When your girlfriend asks you if she looks fat in her clothes, do you give her a literal answer?”

I said yes, I do. I tell her either yes or no.

“That sounds cruel. Don’t you think that you’re hurting her feelings?”

No. She asks me for the literal truth.

“The thing is that some people ask a question, but they’re not really asking the question or seeking the answer. Instead, they’re simply looking for validation.”

I could only reply the way I know how.

“Wait, so you’re telling me that ‘NORMAL’ people are asking questions where they do not want the answers, and instead are fishing for something else… and I’M THE ONE who needs fixing? I am the one who needs therapy? Sounds like the rest of the world is the fucked up problem to me.”

IN THE END
I do not have much confidence that I will be able to learn how to lie like normal people. Even a lie by omission feels dirty, and I can’t live with myself. However, the way things look, I won’t be able to live if I don’t learn how to at least twist things into a pretzel like a politician.

I have gotten this far without having this survival skill at my disposal. Can I continue?

That question is difficult to answer, as it’s seeming to be more the case that survival in our modern age relies on it. Because in today’s society, there is no middle class. Either you are rich, or you are poor.

Nobody got rich by paying a fair wage, by paying contractors or workers, or by telling the truth.

Which side of the road will I choose? Do I even have a choice? It certainly does not feel like it.

This is why it is by far safer for me to simply avoid humans for as much and as long as possible. This is also not a sustainable strategy.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I know that I have one reader who will have some rather intelligent things to say about this. But what about anyone else who is reading? What do YOU think?

Do you lie? I mean the kind you might call “stretching the truth?” How do you reconcile this? How do you approach it, and what do you think about it?

I am curious about how others view the issue of lying. It seems to be a necessity when it comes to survival, or even for growing wealth. When lies work this way, someone else always ends up getting hurt. If you engage in these types of lies, how do you sleep at night? And don’t say that you sleep on a really expensive mattress. I want to know if it messes with your conscience.

And if you don’t have a conscience, then do not bother replying. Nothing you have to say will be of much use for me.

The Social Buddhist

I have never been a religious person.

When I moved to Los Angeles in late 1986, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that my success was highly dependent upon the cooperation of others. The group project was still fresh in my mind, so I took this to be a fact.

I spent my early weeks and months on the streets, struggling to get somewhere with it all.

Imagine trying to sell yourself as a musician, when you own no instruments.

But somehow, I did it. I ended up meeting a singer named Robin, who was forming a band. She asked me what I could play, and I gave her the list. Initially, she decided that I would play keyboards.

Circa 1987: The earliest known photo of me performing in Los Angeles. I’m on the KORG keyboard with Robin Baxter at Club 88 in Santa Monica, California

Robin did a great deal for me, including taking me into her home, which was a condo in the San Fernando Valley. But it wasn’t all fun and games.

The first night, when her husband came home, he saw me on the couch. He went into the bedroom to confront her, where he gave her the ultimatum, “It’s him or me. Choose now!”

She chose me, and sent him packing. He was more of a control freak and was also an impediment to her goal of becoming a musician, or at least being musically active.

1987: My first new drum set and first studio apartment./

One night before a show, the drummer did not show up. We borrowed the drum set from the band before us and I played the entire set on drums for the first time, no rehearsal. Robin was so impressed that she got me a drum set to play, and even set me up with my first apartment.

In exchange for this, I was willing to tackle whatever project she had. For a while, she wanted to do a one-person show, where she would sing, and I would program most of the music via MIDI, while drumming with it. This was one of many configurations that were being discussed.

But there was one other thing that she wanted me to do in all of this. She asked me to join her Buddhist chanting group.

I had nothing else going on, and was really at the mercy of her whims, so I was agreeable and went with her.

MY FIRST BUDDHIST MEETING
Back in 1987, this group was called NSA, which meant something like Nichiren Shoshu of America. Today, it is called SGI-USA, or Soka-Gakkai Inernational-USA.

We got into Robin’s car and headed south on the 405 toward Venice. This was my first time in Venice, and the first thing I noticed was how difficult parking spaces are to find.

John Astin was a gracious host who made all of his guests feel very welcome.

We walked up to a house, where many people were gathered. I would quickly learn that this was the home of none other than the John Astin.

Yes, that John Astin.

I learned about things like Gongyo and Daimoku. I must admit that I was more than a little uncomfortable with the whole thing at first, with almost everyone being a stranger, and the chanting everyone did.

If you’ve never heard it before, you can hear it in this video.

To be really, truly clear about it, I am NOT trying to sell you on this practice. What I am doing is sharing my true-life experience with all of this.

John Astin’s home was warm, inviting, and much nicer than other places where I had stayed. While on the streets, I would sometimes rely on the kindness of strangers, mostly drug addicts, alcoholics, and prostitutes. I would take them up and thank them, without judgment.

He always had a nice spread of snacks, and always put out way more than what was necessary. This allowed me to eat, as well as put some extra snacks in a bag to take home. I would ask politely before doing so.

It was a far cry from my usual, which included eating out of trash cans.

A close-up of my Gohonzon, which I’ve had since 1987.

MEETING PEOPLE
I met some really interesting people. A few of them had more influence on me and my experience than others.

You already know about Robin.

I also met a music producer, who was A&R, R&B at Warner Bros., named Greg. He had played drums for Stevie Wonder, and had produced bands like Tangerine Dream. Greg kept me involved, but actually wanted me to be more involved than I could handle.

Greg had the capacity to stand at the side of a giant Butsudan for up to FIVE DAYS without sleep or movement. I’ll explain the Butsudan soon.

“Food” was a band, and it may have been Ted Ashford’s final project.

Another person I met was a man named Ted Ashford. He had played keyboards with Big Brother and the Holding Company, and supposedly dated Janis Joplin for a spell. He was also in a band that had what I consider to be the absolute worst band name in the history of bands.

Still, he was a very talented keyboard player and musician, and I grew to respect him very much.

Finally, I met a fine musician named Alois Navratil. He went by the stage name “Christopher Hyde,” and was rumored to be related to Martina Navratilova.

We wrote a handful of songs together. In my search for him online, I could not find much, except for a copyright application for the songs we wrote together. He listed my name on the copyright. I can say with all honesty that he’s the only musician who didn’t try to screw me over, and also included me in legal paperwork without my needing to asking.

A FEW TERMS TO KNOW
Earlier, I referenced a Butsudan. A Butsudan is basically a tall, rectangular box that houses the Gohonzon. The Gohonzon is a scroll of paper. I won’t get too deep into what any of it is supposed to mean.

Pictured: My ORIGINAL Gohonzon scroll and paper protector that I received in 1987. The chanting beads, book, and Butsudan were a gift from my dear friend and former music student, Becca. She gave it to me as a parting gift before I left California for Oregon. I keep this on my wall as a reminder of where I have been.

There are a few other terms, but I’ll save them for as they come up.

AN IMPORTANT ASIDE
I should say at this time that I am NOT a practicing member of SGI-USA. I have trouble with groups and organizations that wish to control. And, as noted earlier, I have never been religious. Anything that feels even remotely like a religion is something I tend to avoid.

But during this time of my life, I was highly reliant on Robin, as well as the other friends I had made during this time. It was a matter of survival, so I played along.

ANECDOTE FROM JOHN ASTIN
After the chanting at Mr. Astin’s home, they typically have people stand up and give chanting testimonials about how it made their lives better.

His story was compelling.

He talked about how he was on a movie set. The scene they were filming involved him being shackled to two motorcycles by his wrists and feet. The comedy was that they would try to split him in half, but the motorcycles would fall apart instead.

He said that he was laying on the ground, shackled to two motorcycles that had been conditioned to break apart. He was really afraid that this would go badly. They left him on the floor in the position, and he chanted his ass off while waiting for the shooting to continue.

They had a change, where they would use a different camera angle for the actual action, and just chain the motorcycles to each other.

The two motorcycles drove in their separate directions. Instead of the motorcycles falling apart, the metal shackles were destroyed!

So clearly, chanting saved his life. Or so he believed.

AN EARLY MORNING CEREMONY
One sign of cult-like behavior is when a person’s sleep is not respected. One morning, at about 4:00am, I had a loud knock on the door. It was Robin, Ted, and Greg. They were there to do a Butsudan hanging ceremony.

They hung it on the wall, so that I would be facing east. There was a huge ceremony. It ended with them telling me that I should set up my chanting area with a metal bowl / bell, candles, and some fruit offerings. My response to that was that they would have to help me acquire these things, since I was flat-ass broke.

TED ASHFORD, MY LION HAHN
A Lion Hahn is like a mentor who is in a position above you in the organization. I despise org charts and heirarchies, but I made an exception for Ted. After all, he was really kind, he was a fellow musician, and he had become a real friend.

Ted was roughly 42 years old, but didn’t look a day under 60. Being a musician on the road in the 60s and 70s had taken a toll on him.

AN ANECDOTE FROM TED
I confided in Ted and let him know that I wasn’t too certain about this chanting business. He told me that we could chant for anything. Chanting is very close to prayer, so I was skeptical. I still am, but more about that later.

Ted responded to my concerns by telling me his story.

When Ted learned that he could chant for anything, he decided to chant for weed. Every day, he would chant for about an hour, and every day he would get some weed. It was like a miracle.

One day, he chanted for weed and got nothing. So he chanted for two hours, and still nothing. He then dedicated a half day to chanting, and nothing.

He took this concern to his Lion Hahn at the time, who told him that, “You are not receiving that of which you ask, because the Universe has decided that this is not a good thing for your life right now.”

Really. This is classic Confirmation Bias. But I kept mouth shut as Ted confidently told me how the Universe works.

THINGS START TO FALL APART: SHAKABUKU
I paid something like $20 for my Gohonzon and another $20 for my Butsudan. The one I got was made of cardboard, and those were discontinued shortly after I got mine.

What I liked about the organization was that they would not be asking me for more money. However, one can upgrade their Butsudan as they gain more clout in the organization. A person can spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on a huge Butsudan.

This is WAY more pricey than what the average person can afford.

But I digress.

I would later learn the down-side of this, which was that they would want me to engage in Shakabuku. This is where you go out in public, find a random stranger, and invite them to come back with you to chant.

The three of them took me to a random street corner and encourage me to walk up to strangers to invite them. Hell, I barely wanted to be there, and was only there to enjoy the company of my friends and to make music industry contacts.

I was what I call a “social Buddhist.”

I walk up to this random guy and tell him about it. “Hey, you don’t know me, but I’m with this group of people who do this Buddhist thing. They are forcing me to talk to strangers and invite them to chant, in an effort to get new members. You don’t have to show up. I just need for them to see me talking to you so that I can say I tried. Please feel free to say no.”

What a sales pitch.

He very eagerly accepted my request. He was almost too eager.

AN ATHEIST’S WRATH
The stranger went with us to Mr. Astin’s home. He sat patiently and observed the Gongyo and Daimoku.

Then they invited the new stranger to stand up and tell them what he thought about it.

He let them know.

“You people are horrible. Pathetic. This is because you’re messing with Karma so that you can try to get more out of life than your lot. Karma is like mud in the bottom of a pond, and by chanting, you’re putting a stick in the mud and stirring it up. You’re muddying the waters, which can cause harm to others. You want more money? You’re taking it from someone else who might need it. You people are so very selfish and misguided. The whole thing makes me sick.”

He was rather brave to stand up and say this.

It shocked everyone in the room. News of the event made its way up to management. Word made it back to us that ALL Shakabuku practice was to be halted, effective immediately, while they reviewed their processes and customs.

THINGS FALL APART: THE BAND
After a live performance with Robin, I noted that she was standing still on stage a lot, with her eyes closed, and she had a death grip on the microphone. She said that she needed to close her eyes while singing, but that she would get dizzy.

This prompted her to go see her doctor. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

This changed everything and prompted her to bring her music career efforts to an abrupt close.

THINGS FALL APART: ROBIN
Robin had decided to host a meeting at her condo. Things were going fine until some of the organization’s leadership showed up to observe.

The leader attempted to chastise her for using red candles instead of white candles.

This was when she blew up and told everyone to get the fuck out.

This would be my final meeting.

THINGS FALL APART: TED ASHFORD
I was sitting at a bus stop, when Ted pulled up. He said he was going to McDonald’s, and invited me to go. He said he’d buy me lunch.

So we drove over to Reseda, where they had this McDonald’s that required the passenger to participate in the transaction. Ted jokingly said that it was “very romantic.”

We sat in the parking lot in his car and ate, before he dropped me off at home and said goodbye.

Robin would call me the next day to let me know that our beloved Ted had died from a heart attack in his sleep.

To this day, I do miss Ted and think about how fortunate I was to see him one last time. In fact, based on what I was told, I was the last person to see him alive.

GREG’S VALIANT EFFORT
Greg wasn’t so quick to give up on things, including me. He tried to get me involved in the marching band. I told him that I did not have the gear needed, I could not afford the gear, and quite frankly, I was feeling anemic from a lack of proper diet.

Greg had a solution, and a goal. He wanted to take me to a year end celebration and introduce me to President Diasaku Ikeda.

We went to the year end event, and at the end he pulled me through a side door that wasn’t labeled or lit. We made our way into a crowded room full of people clamoring to meet President Ikeda. He pushed forward, pulling me behind him.

We make our way up, and there we are, standing face-to-face with President Daisaku Ikeda. Greg tells him about how I’ve had a difficult life, that I cannot find my way, and that I am seeking serious life advice.

President Ikeda grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “Turn left.”

As quick as he gave me this “advice,” he disappeared into the sea of people.

Greg was blown away. “Dang! You got to talk to President Ikeda, and he gave you advice!”

I was not so blown away, as this advice was simply not specific enough. I didn’t understand it, and still do not. If I had to guess, what he said meant that it doesn’t matter. I suppose.

THINGS FALL APART: LEADERSHIP
Robin was done. Ted was gone. Greg was getting busy with other things, so a little distance was all it took.

I was attempting to move on with my life. I was in a porn store called Le Sex Shoppe near the corner of Victory and Van Nuys. I went there because they were looking for help.

The guy behind the counter told me about how they had three locations, and that a car was necessary for the job, because I could work a full shift in one location, and then have to turn right around and work a second shift in another location.

I was about to give up, when a customer came up to the counter to purchase some books and other items.

I looked at the guy. My Autistic mouth uttered, “Hey, you look familiar. Don’t I know you?” He got nervous, before I said, “Oh yea! I saw you at John Astin’s house! You’re a higher up in the NSA thingy.”

I learned a valuable lesson right there, that NOBODY likes to be recognized or interacted with in a porn shop.

I’d later heard that he left the organization, quite possibly because of that interaction. I had single-handedly disrupted their Shakabuku practice, and everyone knew it.

I didn’t do it on purpose, but that’s how things go for me. If you need someone to disrupt your cult, then I suppose that I’m your guy.

MY POSITION ON CHANTING AND PRAYER
I view chanting as a form of prayer, to a degree, although it doesn’t appear to be pointed at any gods in particular.

What these two practices have in common is that they rely heavily on the concept of Confirmation Bias.

This works in much the same way as a Magic 8 ball. You ask it a question and turn it over. You may get a “yes” or a “no,” or even a “maybe.” My personal favorite is “ask later.”

For example, let’s talk about chanting for weed, in memory of my dear friend, Ted Ashford. The premise is that you desperately need some weed, so you chant or pray for it. Doesn’t matter which one. You still get the same three outcomes, and they are handled in the exact same way.

Scenario 1: You get your weed. Ah, chanting does work! Or so it seems. With regard to chanting, you are told that the Universe has answered your request. With prayer, it’s a god doing the answering. All is good.

Scenario 2: You do NOT get your weed. This is where the Universe or a god is removed from the equation, and the blame is placed squarely on the shoulders of the person chanting or praying. The excuse is that you did not chant for long enough, you didn’t pray deeply enough, or you did so without much faith.

To recap so far, successes are attributed to the Universe or a god. Failures, on the other hand, are your fault.

Scenario 3: You still did NOT get your weed. We know that one potential answer is that the Universe believes that the weed is not in your best interest at this time. Why a Universe would care about one person is beyond me.

This scenario is a little different from the previous one, in that it offers up a “maybe later” element. This is followed by encouragement to keep chanting or praying, with the promise that it will work again, either once the Universe believes that you’re read, or once it is determined that your prayers were executed with enough faith that they were actually delivered.

If all of these answers seem highly convenient to you, the congratulations! You now understand Confirmation Bias. My hope is that you already knew about this, so please do not take this as an assumption that my readers are not knowledgeable. I try to cover all bases, just in case.

WHY HANG MY BUTSUDAN AND GOHONZON IN 2021?
I am not a member of the SGI-USA organization, and I never will be. I have too much of a problem with things that feel like a cult, organizations that control with rules and expectations, and anything that feels like going to church every week. It’s just not for me.

While I’m at it, I will not be getting into any of the controversies that have come up with this organization over the decades since I left.

The big question revolves around why I would keep this around if I am not a practicing member.

The answer is complicated, but I will do my best.

When I first moved to California in 1986, I had all of my hopes and dreams ready to go. I was at the precipice of what could have been something truly magnificent in my life.

My dedication and hard times were a monument to the drive that I had to achieve a dream that would never turn out the way that I had wanted. For all of my being homeless on the streets and starving back then, I could have gone to a payphone at any given time and had my mother pick me up within a timeframe of two hours.

That never happened, and I’m proud of myself for sticking it out.

My Gohonzon reminds me of Robin, Ted, Greg, Alois, John Astin, and other people who cared about me, beyond gaining another member. Outside of the organization, we had some really good times that set the tone for the rest of my pursuits.

Every time I see the Gohonzon, my first thought is a state of wonder in how this fragile piece of paper could survive, unblemished and untorn, throughout the decades. I went through a nasty divorce in 1998 and lost just about EVERYTHING at that time. How I had this with me through it all, I may never know.

September 21, 2004: With Becca after one of my shows with WHIPLADS in Hollywood.

Beyond that, the Butsudan is a gift from my dear friend Becca, as noted earlier. Becca is someone I met on MySpace. Anyone who knows me understands how dear to me the MySpace years were.

Becca was not only a friend, but was also one of my music students. Her instrument was bass.

Although MySpace was a social networking website, it actually got me PHYSICALLY out the door, spending time with people. As an Autistic adult, I value that very much. It’s a hard thing to do, and getting invited out was a nice change of pace.

September 21, 2004: Becca with her future husband, Chris, at one of my shows in Hollywood. They both became wonderful friends.

In putting the Gohonzon and Butsudan together, it effectively joins my early years in California with my final years in California.

While I am not a member of SGI-USA, and I don’t believe that any of it connects me with a Universe that cares, I will on occasion chant.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Sure, these words have some rough English translations, including “Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra” or “Glory to the Dharma of the Lotus Sutra.”

Since I have no devotion, do not speak Japanese, and have nothing in the way of “devotion” to any of it, these words effectively have no meaning to me at all. In meditation, the goal is to escape the thinking mind and sink into the subconscious. A highly-repetitive mantra, of ANY kind, can do the trick.

The repetitious nature of the chanting, along with the ritual of bell ringing to start and end, serves to take a person out of their conscious mind, and into the moment. In other words, it brings you to a state of mindfulness, or presence.

This can be an effective way to avoid things like rumination or worry about the future.

I don’t do it to get a job, or weed, or food, or anything else. I do not seek special prizes in exchange for the effort. What I can gain from it is a special type of focus that gives my day a better start.

Besides, I put a great deal of effort into learning it, back when I was a social Buddhist. I could learn other methods, such as Transcendental Meditation, but I have no interest in joining another group or engaging a new practice. Maybe later, but not now.

I already know this practice, I have a history with it, and I have some good memories and life lessons attached to it, so I will keep it for the time being.

IN THE END
While true that my pursuit of my music-related dreams ended up not working out in the way that I wanted, there was still an intense and fascinating journey that included some rather interesting people.

Many will say that this is the most important part of it all. As I get older, I tend to agree with this.

I would talk to Robin and Greg one last time in 1994. I ran into Greg at Rae’s Restaurant in Santa Monica, and I talked to Robin that same year, when I was looking for an apartment after my future ex-wife threw me out. There seemed to be no hard feelings.

All the same, my urge to contact them is somewhat calmed. Greg is nearly impossible to find. Robin is exactly where she was in 1987, but I don’t feel like disrupting her life by contacting her again. I’m finding that as time passes, it is sometimes better to leave those in the past where they were. It keeps memories from being destroyed.

But I think about Robin, Ted, Greg, Alois, and Becca every day when I walk into my office.

If nothing else, sometimes it is good to remember that there are people on your side.

Blocked by Formal Education

Once it became obvious that my teachers were of inferior intellect, I became an autodidact with a mentor who lacked experience.

THE END OF HIGH SCHOOL
In 1982, my senior year had just begun in high school. The impetus for me to put forth anything resembling effort was almost non-existent.

But there was ONE thing that got me truly excited about being at school.

My school was K-12 in one building, serving the needs of about 1,150 kids. We had one small room that served as the library.

In that library was a computer! Just one computer, for the entire school. The thing I noticed about it was that nobody was using it.

One of the kids in my class had told me about it. He knew that I was interested in computers and gadgets.

He was also from a relatively wealthy family, which means that he had his own computer.

He offered to teach me some basic programming commands. He wrote a bunch of things down and gave me a floppy disk! It was the greatest gift that I would receive that year.

Every day at lunch, I would go to the library. If nobody was there, then I would sit down and start working on my programming assignments that my friend had given me.

I would do the same at the end of the day, staying late to use the computer.

Circa 2005: The view of Santa Monica beach, from my old office at MySpace. Those were the days.

As I did this, I remained mindful of the idea that somebody else would want to use the computer. However, it turned out that this computer was the best kept secret in school. Nobody ever asked.

Eventually, the librarian did ask me what I was doing. I excitedly showed her the programming notes I had and what I was doing.

This was when the librarian informed me that, “the computer is for educational software only.” I had looked at the educational software, and determined that it was below my educational level.

The librarian was not finished with this dressing down. She was actually upset that I was doing my own thing on the computer.

“You are banned from the library for the year.”

This meant that I could not even go into the library to find or check out books. Way to support education!

Harsh treatment at school was nothing new for me. This was 1982, and it would be another 35 years before I would be tested and formally diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism.

So I put the floppy in the folder with the notes and stowed it away in my room, just in case I was able to get my own computer soon.

That never happened, at least not soon enough.

My desk today [L-R]: Commodore 64, Windows 10, and AlphaSmart 3000 word processor.

THE BEGINNING OF COLLEGE
When I started my first year of college, I became thrilled to learn that there was a computer lab on campus.

I went one night to check it out. There were about 30 computers in the room. I had gone in the middle of the night so that I’d not get in the way of anyone who wanted to use them during the day.

The night I started using one of the computers, I shared the room with two other people. This meant that 27 computers were not in use.

A security guard came over and asked to see my student ID. He then asked me, “What is your major, sir?”

I replied, “Percussion Arts. Music, sir.”

He shook his head. “The computer lab is for Math and Science majors only. I’m sorry, but you are going to have to leave. Please do not come back.”

And just like that, I was banned from the Computer Lab in college. Le sigh.

WHAT THIS MEANT
Oddly enough, it meant that I was prohibited from using computers during my formal education. The institutional educators ACTIVELY prohibited me from using computers, and in one case, a library.

I still do not understand how this was helpful to anyone.

A FUTURE WITH COMPUTERS
I left college in the spring of 1985 and moved to sunny Southern California in early 1986.

By 1987, I was working at a computer rental firm. There, I delivered systems.

Over time, I learned how to configure systems, and spent a decent portion of my day building computers. I learned how to format and defrag hard drives. I learned how to back up systems, print reports, and other computer related activities.

In 1989, I went to Manpower, a temporary agency, looking for typing related work.

I got fidgety, and the lady who was interviewing me had a Rubik’s cube on her desk. She stepped away for 30 seconds, which gave me enough time to solve it. Back then, I could solve any cube in about 23 seconds.

She saw this and was impressed. “You appear to be a problem solver. I’ve got the perfect job for you.”

This job involved me being a software teacher for Manpower. In conjunction with IBM, I would go to businesses and teach entire groups on how to use DisplayWrite/36.

I would be their first-ever Skillware Administrator.

The software program took about on week to teach to a class. It took the average person four hours to go through the program alone.

I spent 90 minutes with the software the night before my first class.

My students — end users and Admins — enjoyed my presentation and learned quickly.

How strange that I got this job by implementing a seemingly useless talent [solving a Rubik’s cube]. This means that I got more out of high school study hall than I got out of the rest of the experience.

I would end up teaching other software classes through the 90s and beyond, while working as an Administrative Assistant. Titles included Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect 4.2, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, MS Access, and custom software.

As I write this, I have taught several software classes, and have yet to actually TAKE one myself.

BRANCHING OUT
I spent a few years working as a Quality Assurance Engineer in the Tech industry before getting hired at MySpace.

My former boss and everyone’s first friend on MySpace, Tom Anderson

I was at MySpace from mid-2005 to mid-2008, which is the time when MySpace was at its peak.

I would continue to work in Tech until mid-2016, when the industry decided to abandon people like me, in favor of automation, contractors, H-1B workers, and energetic young workers who are easily manipulated.

TODAY
I have not found any substantial work in the past five years. It is more complicated than it may seem, and involves taking some time off from everything for a while after my little sister died and some other family issues surfaced that required my attention.

Commodore 64: Re-do your thermal grease at least every time you remove the heat sink. I re-do my thermal grease once per year.

While I sit at home in the middle of a pandemic, I spend some of my time maintaining and using a Commodore 64 from 1984. I recently had to redo the thermal grease on the chips, as well as clean the keyboard. Next year, I will “recap” or replace all of the capacitors on the motherboard.

And I do NOT have my formal education to thank for any of this.

IN THE END
Ideally, I’d love to go to school and learn programming. I know enough to get into some trouble. However, it would cost a good deal of money, and I know for a fact that nobody will hire me in the industry because of my age.

Maybe I can learn enough to create something on my own. Who knows.

Sometimes I wonder how far along I could have gotten, had my formal education not gotten in the way.

Computers and technology provide me with a great deal of curiosity, education, and entertainment.

I am typing this on an AlphaSmart 3000 word processor that I bought for $8 and restored. It works great!

The AlphaSmart 3000 is a great solution for portable typing and auto saving. Tear-down and restoration is a breeze.

My formal education may have failed me miserably, like it does many others in America, but I consider myself fortunate to be able to teach myself and learn quickly.

End-Stage Capitalism: An Anecdote

@therobertvargas posing with his creation. Beautiful!

This is the new mural of the late Edward Van Halen, revealed on a wall at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, California. To see it, you have to drive inside, through a hole in the west side of the building, which leads you into their parking lot in the back.

Read more about it here.

Behind and to the right of this mural is the building. To the right might be where the stairs can be found to go up to the drum department.

The building had been remodeled, so I’m not sure if that’s the configuration today. But it was the configuration for the majority of the 33 years that I was there.

Most of the time, I was a customer. But for six weeks in 2002, I was a salesman working in the Drum Department. During that time, I saw some crazy things.

For example, this band walks in. They’re called TRAPT, and they had a new song called “Headstrong.” The band had a single on air, but did not have a drummer.

They scanned the room. Of course, they skipped right past me, since I was considered to be old by industry standards 19 years ago. They asked a few other drummers, who turned them down. Then Aaron Montgomery walked up from the basement storage with some drums. They asked him.

Ginger Fish, aka Kenny Wilson, of Marilyn Manson fame.

His response was to take off his employee badge, drop it on the floor, and walk out with the band.

Hell, I even met Ginger Fish of Marilyn Manson there, right before he ended his relationship with Premier drums.

But today, I’m going to talk about what it was like in 2002 to be a salesman at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, California.

By the end of my piece, my hope is that you will not only understand why I quit that job, but also what is wrong with America’s current form of Capitalism, which is in its end stages.

SALES AND MANAGEMENT POWERS: PRICING
When it came to the final price for a customer, we had power, up to a point, to lower it for them. However, there was a General Price, or GP [ironically pronounced “GIP”] that would require management approval to dip beneath.

Selling below this point meant that the salesperson would not get a commission. We were paid a very low salary, which was treated like a loan of sorts.

With every sale, one would get a commission, in theory. Your commissions would be kept by the employer, unless you were able to “break the fade.” Once you did that for the month, you would see commission checks.

I never reached this level, and you will find out why.

CUSTOMER HAGGLE GROOMING
The Guitar Center customers of this time were groomed to haggle. They always did it, without exception. It’s almost like someone at the door told them to do it, although I know that is not the case.

For me, there were THREE types of haggles.

The first haggle is the basic broke person. They’d just use a sob story to try to grind you down. In this instance, a customer picked out about $250 worth of percussion items. He asked me for a deal, then pressed me again, and then pressed me again.

At this point, we had hit the GP, so I could do no more. The store was closing and I was trying to ring him up. As I was preparing the ticket, he says, “Ninety.”

He’s still trying to negotiate while I’m ringing him up. I tell him I can go no lower. He says, “Okay.” But after pausing for three seconds, he says, “Ninety,” once again. I tell him NO, once again.

With Longineu “LP” Parsons at The Guitar Center in Sherman Oaks, CA. We were “celebrity judges” for the Drum Off 2009.

He says, “Oooh. No burritos for me,” as if I’m supposed to feel sorry for him because I’m going broke and I don’t get to eat as well.

I lose it after this continues, and I yell at him, “We are closing, so get the FUCK out of the store!! NOW!!!” He replies that he wants his stuff, so I compose myself and start to ring it up.

“Ninety.”

I give the sale to someone else, since there’s no commission. I’m actually losing money talking to this guy. I went home feeling defeated.

The second haggle is all about the other guy. In other words, customers were encouraged to bring in ads from other music stores, so that we could compete with them.

The problem I had with this was that they were very loose about it with regard to requiring the ad. They didn’t want to lose a sale, even if they lost money.

Celebrity judges, evaluating the drummers at the Guitar Center Drum Off 2009 [in the Sherman Oaks, CA store]

A guy comes in and he wants to buy a drum throne. The throne sold for $160. The guy starts to haggle with me, so I work with him and get it down to $120. He gets upset and says, “They have it for $90 at Sam Ash.” I ask him if he brought in an ad, and he says that he did not.

He starts ARGUING with me in the store! So I tell him, “Well, then you should have bought it at Sam Ash when you had the chance, fucker.”

My manager, “Too Tall Vanderpaul,” heard me and rushes over. He apologizes to the asshole, bypasses the GP, and sell it to the guy. He actually sold it for LESS than what they paid for it.

I look at Too Tall and ask him, “How the fuck am I supposed to make money when I’m constantly being undercut?” He hands me a book on how to be a great salesman. I don’t remember the name of the book, but it was that condescending bullshit that gets sold to people in multi-level marketing schemes.

The third haggle is the celebrity asshole. These are probably the worst, because they have even more leverage.

Stefanie Eulinberg was the drummer for Kid Rock at the time. She came in and I spent almost an hour helping her acquire a great number of percussion items. Her total came up to $300. When I told her this, she became indignant.

“Sounds kind of expensive. I don’t spend this much when Tyler helps me.”

So I got Tyler to help her.

While that’s the end of that particular transaction, the celebrity purchaser would often times pull another move, which was to “ask to talk to Ransom Comfort.” Mr. Comfort, and I guess that’s his real name, was an Artist Relation manager in the store.

The idea was that Ransom would give them a “celebrity discount,” and then you’d see your commission. I never saw a commission. Every time a celebrity asked for Ransom Comfort, I would be reminded that I was wasting my time.

On a side note, celebrity musicians were often times abusive and pushy. John Dolmayan, from System of a Down, would often times bully people in the store.

One of his favorite things to do would be to grab a NEW pair of drum sticks from the rack and use them to “test out” things, damaging them and making them unsellable in the process.

He came in one time and asked me for sticks. So I gave him the “audition sticks,” which are beat up and often times mismatched.

He complains, “I want NEW sticks! Don’t you know who I am?”

I replied, “Yea, I know exactly who you are. New sticks are five bucks, and I should charge you ten, fucker.”

I clearly have a way with people.

And for those who may not know my story, this was roughly 15 years before I would find out that I am Autistic.

CUT-THROAT EMPLOYEES
Because of the environment created in the store, employees will stab one another in the back. As one example, I was helping a customer pick out a new snare, when the loud and intrusive music stopped playing over the sound system.

The policy was that music must ALWAYS be playing.

Another salesman called out to me, indicating that it was MY turn to change the CD out. I told the customer that I’d be right back.

This was when the guy who told me to change the CD swooped in and stole the sale.

I QUIT
This was when I went down to Too Tall’s office to quit. I threw the book down on his desk, and my employee badge on top of it.

He begged me to stay, and said I needed to give it more time.

I told him that even if I wanted to stay, I would not be able to stay because I could no longer afford the gas that it cost to get to work. I was more broke than ever for taking that job. I seriously would have been better off staying home and doing nothing.

A CORRECTION IN POLICY
I talked to a Guitar Center employee here in Oregon in mid-2019, and told them my horror story. They said that the company is not like this anymore, and based on my observations of customers in the store checking out, I would say that she was telling me the truth.

With Chad Sexton of 311, at Chad Sexton’s Drum City.

WOULD I SHOP THERE NOW?
After my horrible experience at Guitar Center Hollywood, I stopped going there. Instead, I would go to Chad Sexton’s Drum City [now closed] for everything I needed that was drum-related.

I would also go to Instrumental Music in Thousand Oaks, CA, for all of my guitars, basses, pedals, and guitar or keyboard peripherals.

And, as shown in some photos above, I did go to the Guitar Center location in Sherman Oaks, CA. I was a “celebrity judge” for their Drum Off in 2009. This location was also the last place where I saw Nick Menza [Megadeth] alive before his untimely passing in 2016.

In August 2018, before moving to Oregon, I did go to the Guitar Center in Hollywood with my friend, Bob, while they were still under remodeling. The sales people were not pushy, the selection was overwhelming, and the overall atmosphere was positive.

So if I were in Hollywood again, and needed to buy some gear-related things, I would definitely recommend going back and checking it out.

IN THE END
The early to mid-2000s were a bad time for Guitar Center, and a bad time for me. I would later go on to land better jobs, which mean that I was buying gear. I would estimate that Guitar center lost about $60,000 worth of purchases on my part, over the following 18+ years. Oopsie!

Speaking of guitar shopping online, here I am with Rob Chapman, founder and CEO of Chapman Guitars, at his first-ever US demo event at The Whisky in Hollywood on the Sunset Strip [January 17, 2016].

The Guitar Center near where I live now has a really horrible selection. It’s bad enough that I’d rather order online than go into the store. They don’t have any decent premium guitars at this location. I guess they don’t need to have those here, for some reason.

My personal economy has been in the pits, to the point that I’ve sold every electric guitar I own, and play a $100 CORT that I bought for my girlfriend. My hope is that I can rebound, the world can rebound, and I can get myself a super-sick WOLFGANG guitar.

It’s either a Wolfgang, or I will build my own guitar again, as I have done two times before.

However, the way things look, it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen. For now, all I can do is make music with what I have and hope for the best. Should our corrupt End-Stage Capitalism not be corrected or otherwise fixed, then we will all be in a great deal of trouble.

The Abolition of Labels

Labels are typically a very useful way of conveying a more complicated idea with a simple word or two. However, this practice opens the door for those who are full of hate and fear, allowing them to invent a response.

The label of “Atheist” is one that borders upon pointless and almost shouldn’t exist. It represents a falsifiable position of not believing in any gods. That’s it. It’s the opposite of “Theist,” which is a label representing those who do believe in a god or gods.

This should be simple enough.

However, people who are full of hate and fear have an odd, yet effective strategy.

BAGGAGE LOADING
Baggage Loading is what I call it when someone adds things to your self-prescribed label that are not a part of that label.

I’ll stick with the label of “Atheist” for the sake of keeping this simple. I have given the clear definition above. I don’t believe in any gods. It’s very simple.

However, those full of fear and hate — typically Christians and Republicans — will engage in baggage loading, in an effort to sully the label so that they can attack the label based on the fact that it is sullied by their own baggage.

In other words, they make up their own definition of what it means.

I have been told that it means a great number of other things:

  • I have no morality.
  • I’m okay with killing, stealing, and general crimes against Humanity.
  • I worship Satan.
  • I practice witchcraft.
  • I’m less-than-human.

When they do this to a label, it allows them to point a finger, pass judgment, and even engage in cruelty. Some of the baggage they attach to it also serves to dehumanize others. When other people are dehumanized, it makes it easier for them to enslave, kill, or otherwise engage in amoral behaviors against their “enemy.”

This has been my experience throughout my life. Oddly enough, it never encouraged me to go to church or to try to believe.

THE YOUTUBE DAYS
I made Atheist videos on YouTube from 2009-2011. I ended up stopping for a few reasons, one being that I had taken a job with a Tech firm. Part of their hiring process is to scan the internet to look for any videos I might have uploaded.

The other reason was that I got tired of a few things associated with the people who would challenge me. There were the death threats, which I took in stride, from self-declared “good Christians.” There was the fact that they could not discuss the bible because they didn’t read it. As one person told me, “I don’t need to READ it, when I BELIEVE it.”

But I think the most frustrating thing of all was their focus on the definition of the label.

For a while, I worked to drop the label. I would say, “If my label is causing you some confusion, then I can clear that up. I can drop MY label, and simply say that I’m not the person who is buying what you’re selling. Can you drop YOUR label?”

ABUSING ONE’S OWN LABEL
Of course they can’t drop their label, for it is everything to them. It’s where they hide, in the darkness. Try calling them out if they rip you off, lie to you, or do anything horrible. They’ll clutch their pearls and declare, “But I’m a good Christian! How dare you!”

This is usually followed by their declaration that I am some kind of evil person, before I am dismissed. I had a mechanic do this to me 28 years ago, and it prompted me to never again do business with anyone or any company that is based in Christianity.

The label is a shield for their own dishonesty and darkness.

MY PERSONAL ABOLITION OF LABELS
I have decided that I am going to try my best to avoid using labels to describe myself, since it gives the other person to redefine what I’ve said, my positions, or even how I live. They just strap on some baggage, and you know the rest.

I cannot control others, but I can control how I approach others.

What this means is that I will use their self-applied label as the baseline for my expectations.

So if someone has to tell me that they’re a “good Christian,” I don’t buy it at face value. Instead, I look for the things that might constitute a “good Christian.”

Okay, calling yourself a “good Christian” is the move of an ego maniac. But I’ll look for how they talk, how they carry themselves, and how they treat others. My expectation is utter hypocrisy, and I have yet to be disappointed.

IN THE END
My expectation of others, with regard to labels, is simple.

Don’t TELL me what you are.

SHOW me who you are.

Someone had asked me if I believed that I am a good person. Most people would probably just answer with “yes,” which is the same as applying a label to one’s own self.

I couldn’t answer that question in this way. I didn’t want a label, and I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. So I gave them the best answer that I could.

“It is not up to be to determine whether or not I’m a ‘good person.’ This assessment is up to those with whom I interact. It is not up to me to make the determination of whether or not I am a good person. You will have to interact with me, observe me, and then let me know what you think. Just understand that your opinion of me is none of my business, so I’d prefer that you keep this opinion to yourself.

fin

To Post Or Not: Personal Stories

Today’s entry will be about adult High-Functioning Autism, the music industry, storytelling, and asking YOU the question of whether or not some stories should ever be told.
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HI. I’M AN OLD AUTISTIC GUY
I’m 56 years old and received my formal professional diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism just three years ago. It is said that “early detection is key,” and I missed that boat by a half a century.

No big deal, except that it gives me the morbid sensation that I’ve lived a life that was wasted. Had I known, had I gotten help, my life would be so much different.

There is no need for alarm, as I am working with a therapist. At least one of my readers can see evidence of this in the difference of my attitude. All the same, it is a daily — and sometimes hourly — struggle to find a way to somehow be okay with my entire life’s pursuits being in vain because of a disorder that I didn’t even know I had.

I knew that I never fit in. The problem was that I didn’t know why, or what to do about it.

Had I known, I might have something resembling retirement now. I also may have had a career, which would have allowed me to own a house, purchase a new car, and other things I’ve never been able to do.

UNFAIR JUDGMENT
I spent 30+ years pursuing a career in the music industry. Before that, I spent the majority of my life in music study, mostly in isolation in my house growing up. While other kids were playing, I was working.

I always worked.

And I continued the work in college. When my ticket to California showed up in the form of an invitation from family, I took it.

During most of my time in California, I worked and worked. I sacrificed and kept pushing. Recording, performing, songwriting, promotions, and more. I did it all.

And it didn’t work out.

This leads to unfair judgment, thanks to the culture in America that promotes the idea of the “rugged individual,” as well as the lie that we live in a meritocracy.

The idea is that, if you fail at something, then it’s because you didn’t try hard enough, you gave up too early, or you’re simply not good.

Since my pursuit was in the music industry, there is additional insult to be laid forth due to this. Some people have actually told me, TO MY FACE, “You can’t really call yourself a ‘musician’ unless you earn at least $10,000 per year from music.”

Fortunate, due to my pursuits in music, I did make some friends and acquaintances in the business. They just weren’t the kind of connections that could actually help me. But their stories give me perspective today.

I know many, many musicians. From my perspective, they are better than me. Some are shredders, and others have written and performed with actual big names.

The ones who are better than me will never get anywhere with their music. They keep creating it [and I may return to that myself] because they enjoy it.

As for the ones who were once in big-name bands, when they lost the gig, their participation in that big band meant nothing. The majority of them never got another big-name gig, and were forced to get jobs elsewhere.

Zoot Horn Rollo, waiting for me to make an adjustment to my audio before we start the guitar lesson.

Hell, my former guitar teacher, Zoot Horn Rollo, is on a Rolling Stone list of “Top 100 Guitarists of All Time,” and he was hard-pressed to make any money in industry at all. This is one of the big issues that feeds his contempt for the world and himself.

I dare ANYONE to tell him, to his face, that he didn’t try hard enough, that he gave up too early [after roughly 17 years], or that he’s simply not talented. He played on several albums, went on world tours, and at the end of it all he was in line waiting for food stamps and hoping that the rent check from his mom was in the mail.

The way the industry treated him was an utter slap in the face. He knew it, and I feel that his response was appropriate, even if it is frustrating to fans.

HERE’S THE DEAL ABOUT THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
It is a very corrupt industry, where the musicians are the ditch diggers. Moreso today than ever, musical talent has NOTHING to do with success in the music industry, at all. There are SOME talented people who make it, but they’re the exception, not the rule. They do not negate the rule, and even stand to bolster it.

It’s all about luck. Sheer luck. It’s also all about who you know.

STORY TELLING: TO TELL OR NOT TO TELL
As I lamented my wasted life in my therapy session, the therapist told me something that was an attempt to make things better, but ended up making things slightly worse, for now. It’s complicated.

She said, “Maybe you didn’t ‘get anywhere,’ as you put it. But you had a dream, you went after it, and you’ve got some really interesting stories to tell.”

Hmm…. interesting stories.

There’s a problem with this.

An interesting story is NOTHING unless you tell it. This fact might compel you to suggest a solution to this dilemma; that I should tell my “interesting stories.”

The problem with simply telling my stories is that I don’t have photographic evidence, or really ANY evidence that these events or interactions ever happened.

Some would suggest that I had some dark motive for telling my stories. I can’t even think of what that would be, beyond “clout chasing.” I don’t value online clout and don’t care, but that would not stop the accusations. In fact, declaring this would only make them more rabid in their hatred of someone who has the nerve to tell a story.

In fact, I’m not so certain that I want anything to do with internet success. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing any of this.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you think it’s okay to tell true personal stories based on experiences, where there is no evidence of any kind?

My position is that my stories are valid to me, as I lived them. But others may not value these stories, and might even develop a negative opinion of me as a result of my telling of my stories.

Not that I should care too much about what others things. However, what others think of me determines whether or not I will be accepted into any social group, or accepted by others in general.

I would love to tell my stories. What I would NOT love is people online who live for attacking others. Personal anecdotes always leave a person open to attack.

I suppose it would be more accurate to say that personal anecdotes always leave ME open to attack. I don’t know if this happens to anyone else. That’s society: one set of rules for everyone else, and a special set of rules for me. I hate it.

What would my philosophy be if I were to tell my “brushes with fame” stories on here? Could it be that my personal anecdotes are not causing harm to anyone, and that I should not care about attacks that transcend the concept of criticism?

Should they simply be ignored, and their complaints not given any oxygen? Blocked?

I have seen first-hand how aggressive other can get online when they don’t agree with me. And it doesn’t even have to be anything important.

EVEN “FRIENDS” HATE STORIES
There was actually someone on Facebook — a former friend — who responded to a story of mine with, “No, you didn’t.”

This was their response to a story that I told about needing to have two molars removed, and my experience with the dentist and the pain meds they subscribed.

This is someone who was not there. I had NO motive for telling a lie in my story. It was merely me sharing my experience.

Why did I share this experience on Facebook? Have you ever tried to strike up a conversation on that website? It doesn’t happen. So I figured I’d tell a story that might be relatable to some people on my list.

As it turned out, nobody cared about the story, except for the one “friend” who boldly told me that my story was simply not true, and a second friend who posted something about how the government was “out to get us.”

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
The older I get, the less I care about the opinions of others. This sentiment is strong enough that I feel that I should keep my stories to myself and not invite any attention my way.

The problem with this is that it leads to isolation.

I also don’t need anyone to agree with me.

What I’d like is to share my stories, and then have this inspire others to tell their stories. This is probably wishful thinking.

But I’ll end it here. What would YOU do? Would you write and ignore those who get harsh with you? Would you not write?

It’s like fireworks. I can go out with a bang, or fizzle like a dud. Either way, nobody lives forever, and I have to find a decent way to spend my final years, or months, or weeks, depending on what happens to me in this pandemic-ravaged world.

My COVID-19 Anger

In the wee hours of the new year, I was awake and washing dishes, when a ceramic bowl hit the edge of the counter and EXPLODED in my hands. Both hands were shredded and bleeding profusely.

For a moment, I thought, “Well, I COULD go get a bandage and do something about it. But the bowl was made in China. So maybe if I just declare this a “China Bowl” incident and blame it on China, and then do nothing else, that maybe the whole situation will “just go away.”

Then I did the right thing and took care of it with bandages and Neosporin.

Of course, the above is a metaphor for how our “president,” our “leader,” has treated this deadly virus from the beginning.

But a Narcissist do-nothing calling it “China virus,” as if that will absolve him of responsibility is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the many people who have said it’s a hoax and those who STILL believe that.

The list goes on, and I suspect there are too many people who are all too familiar with these issues.

Today, I’m going to write about my latest issue, which may be unique to me and my area. At least, I hope this to be the case, because you don’t want to be where I am right now.

THE THURSDAY TURN-AWAY
I was talking with a friend who lives in the next county over, who said that he went and got a COVID-19 vaccination. He set it up through a health care app that is used in our state.

He detailed how the app will tell you it’s less than a half hour, but it actually takes two hours. In his county, the National Guard is there providing assistance, as they work to reach a goal of vaccinating 250 people per hour. Cars are lined up all around.

I got excited and optimistic about it, which is an issue I’ll detail at the end, and registered myself to get a vaccine in MY county. It had no notes on restrictions, as the app gladly accepted my registration to get the vaccine. It said that I would be waiting 27 minutes. Off I went to the county fair grounds.

WHEN I GOT THERE
There were five or six people at the entrance. One comes over. “You here for the vaccine? Just go through this maze in the parking lot and talk to the people at that shack over there, and they’ll set you up.”

The maze in the gravel, pot-holed parking lot was a zig-zag back-and-forth, driving around cones. The weirdest part of it all was that I was the ONLY car there.

I get to the shack, and there are seven people at this location. One person comes over, and she has a bit of an attitude.

“Hello, and what qualifies you for the vaccine today?”

I wasn’t ready for this question.

“Uhhhh… I live in X county? I’m a human?”

She explained, “We are only vaccinating front-line workers.” Now, I had heard this before. Why would the app allow just anyone to do this, then? Why would it not say anything? For all I knew, the policy had changed and they were going to inoculate all 16,000 of us here in this tiny location.

I could feel Autistic rage boiling under my skin as I struggled to contain myself. “But, nobody’s here.”

To be really clear, I have made the unfortunate mistake of moving into a small town. Small towns are full of stupid people, so there is no shortage of people who believe it to be a hoax, or who simply don’t want it. Every block has a big truck with six Trump flags mounted in the back.

We went back and forth a few times, until I’d had enough. “Best of luck with sitting on your ass and doing nothing.” I angrily drove away.

MY ISSUE
People are dying. A station is supposedly set up. They’re doing NOTHING but turning people away all day long. Meanwhile, in the county just 10 minutes away, the National Guard is helping them to vaccinate as many people as possible.

In a town that has fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, they should not be very picky about who gets what. I can understand the frontline workers being first in a major city. But here? Especially when the county next door, which is significantly larger in population, is using the National Guard to help inoculate everyone.

I’m going to die of incompetence.

EXCITEMENT AND OPTIMISM
As promised, I’m back to this topic to close out this entry. Whenever I feel excited or optimistic about something, it always backfires and brings more upset and disappointment.

Yes, I know. Life is full of disappointments, be an adult, blah blah blah. I am an adult. The problem is that this still affects me.

I have read the Stoic [with a capital “S”] writings of the likes of Epictetus and Seneca. The Stoic method is to start the day off with very, very low expectations of the world.

Epictetus and other Stoics teach that the only things truly within our control are our thoughts and actions.

Maybe I need to have low expectations of Mankind in general, so that I can avoid frustration and disappointment. Doing this makes it difficult to be optimistic.

I’m such a depressing person that the few around me will tell me, “Be more optimistic. Things will work out.” Now, I’m finding that I need to abandon optimism if I’m going to avoid disappiontment.

Anyone who gives me a lecture about any of this will be showing me that they either didn’t read this, or they did and failed to understand it.

I logically know things.

Practicing them is another. And making them fit with other issues adds a new complexity.

So, my challenge is to avoid optimism while remaining optimistic.

Facebook Manipulation

PREFACE
Social networking was truly fun in the 90s. I made my own NEW connections, joined my own groups, and was never in anything resembling an echo chamber.

One great example was mIRC. I had joined a group called “Married But Flirting.” Of course, very few people were married, and nobody was flirting. It was named that to scare away the younger people. The thought of an old person flirting with you is unsavory to them.

We had a GeoCities page, where everyone posted one photo and their name. We had monthly meet-ups in Long Beach, California, as well as an annual meet-up in Las Vegas.

But now, it’s all about addiction, anger, “engagement” [advertising], and making bigger and bigger money.

EXPERIENCE IN SOCIAL NETWORKING
Everyone has opinions about social networking. My opinions are based on two things. The first, yet maybe less important, is my experience in social networking activity online. I’ve been using the publicly-available internet since it was first made available in April 1993.

Before that, back to 1987, I ran a BBS for a year, which was a bulletin board service.

The more important basis for my current opinions on social networking are based on professional experience. From mid-2005 to mid-2008, I worked at MySpace. These are often times referred to as “the years that mattered,” as my time there represented the bookends, where the site started to get massively popular, up to when people began abandoning the site.

With everyone’s first “friend,” Tom Anderson of MySpace.

Yes, Tom was real. Yes, I worked closely with him at time, at least in the early days when there were only 40 of us. By the time I got downsized with 5%, there were tens of thousands of employees in multiple locations.

Since this entry is about social networking and manipulation, there is one other aspect of my experience that qualifies me to talk about this.

DELETING ALL SOCIAL NETWORKING
Another aspect of my experience that is relevant is the fact that I deleted ALL of my social networking accounts. From mid-2014 to mid-2019, I had NO social networking accounts at all.

I had deleted Facebook, my primary access point, along with Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

I would end up starting another LinkedIn profile in 2015 for a few years, but that was only because I accidentally ended up working for LinkedIn for one year, after they purchased lynda.com.

A FACEBOOK PRIMER
For the purposes of simplicity, I will be keeping my focus squarely on Facebook. It is the most accessible and possibly the most addictive website. This is due to their use of algorithms that generate anger, frustration, and a phenomenon known as “fear of missing out,” or FOMO.

The anger generates more time on this site. This is known as “engagement” by advertising people.

While people experience anger while interacting with “out groups,” or people with whom you disagree, they also create echo chambers that encourage you that you’re on the right side of everything. They give you “friends” and you can see each other, so long as there is agreement.

It is a very tricky tight rope act, and Facebook does it very well.

WHEN YOU DELETE YOUR FACEBOOK
Since 1993, I had used social networking. It started with AOL, then CompuServe, then ICQ, mIRC, and so on. With Web 2.0, it was Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook.

It is safe to say that I’ve deleted lots and lots of personal social networking accounts over the decades.

But when you delete Facebook, something very interesting happens. When I deleted mine, I was effectively run off by an angry mob of people who believed that I was “in on it” when I got manipulated and destroyed by a “friend” who claimed that she had cancer.

Nine months and $40,000 later, the truth came out. I got the “I told you so” messages, along with death threats from “friends.”

In other words, I had a major motive to go away and stay away.

During the first month, it was a nightmare. FOMO ran through my Autistic, ruminating mind. What are they saying? What’s happening? What are they going to do to me next?

Lost sleep and the added stress gave me perpetual sweats, slight tremors, stomach pains, and panic attacks. Psychologically speaking, it was almost as bad as the manipulation I suffered from the cancer scammer. This must be what it feels like for drug addicts to quit.

By the end of the second month, and this is the good news, all of those symptoms and stressors faded away. It left me wondering why I had ever posted anything online at all, at any time. Why should anyone care?

THEIR BIG MANIPULATION
When you are in the process of actually deleting your Facebook account, the website immediately engages in manipulation. They start with how they’re “sorry to see you go.”

The two main points of manipulation are key. The first is a fear of loss, when they warn you that all of your data and everything will be “permanently deleted after thirty days.”

This is a complete lie. My account was deleted and NOT re-activated for FIVE years. In my attempt to create a new account in mid-2019, I found that the system noticed me and funneled me into a process that resulted in my OLD account being revived.

There is one other big lie.

YOUR FRIENDS WILL MISS YOU
They will show a handful of random “friend” from your list, and they will tell you that these people will “miss you” if you go.

There are a few reasons why that turned out to be a big lie. I have been searchable online since search engines have existed. Google came into being in 1998, and I’ve owned my website since 1999. Before that, I was on other services, so there was no excuse.

A friend looking for me online in 1993, or even 1987, could have found me.

During those five years, NOT ONE friend on Facebook looked for me. They didn’t email me or call. None of them asked if I was okay. For that, I relied on my two regular friends who have the ability to call, text, or email. They don’t need a bloated hunk of garbage like Facebook to remind them that I exist.

Additionally, when I was forced to re-activate my old account that had been “deleted” for five years, I noted that I still had the same friends. Only ONE of them had wondered where I had been.

The rest didn’t even know that I was gone for five years. I could have DIED and nobody would have missed. me. This is a hard truth to realize.

IN SUMMARY
If you are planning on deleting your Facebook profile:

  • It will not be permanently deleted after 30 days.
  • Your “friends” won’t miss you.
  • You will have physical and psychological withdrawals.
  • The harshest withdrawals last 4-6 weeks.
  • By 8 weeks, you’ll be so over it that you’ll never want to go back.

So if you’re considering deleting your Facebook account, but have some concerns or feel that you’re facing uncertainties, then I hope that my entry here today will guide you through your journey of freedom.

And if you think that you’d like some consultation on doing this, please feel free to comment on this OR email me through my website. I can answer a few questions for free and reply to a few emails.

For more in-depth support, I would recommend consulting with a therapist.

Best of luck!

Selfie taken at the MySpace front desk in Santa Monica, CA [2005].
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