Month: November 2014

Philosophy of Moderation – Part 2: Emotional

I am admittedly not so qualified to write this entry.  If I had named it “mental” and gone on about self-discipline and such then perhaps I would have a bit more merit.  However, as you saw in my last post, I have to write about what I’m feeling, and this is a good time to talk about emotional moderation, when it’s needed, and when maybe it isn’t.

A few posts back I talked about about what it is to be happy.  I struggle with that a bit as my natural state is to be quite neutral/cold.  On the plus side, I typically don’t get bent out of shape or overly depressed about a lot of things (there are, however, specific things, such as last week’s rape article…)  On the downside, getting me overly excited about any specific concept is tough.  I’m set at a certain level of “happy” that is very moderate.  Though my level is probably lower than your average well-adjusted “happy” person, for most people being set at a certain level of “happiness” is not a new concept.

Hedonic-Treadmill

A bit oversimplified but you get the idea.

The Hedonic Treadmill is the concept that humans tend to return to a specific level of happiness despite major events or life changes (be they positive or negative.)  In essence it compares our emotional state to walking on a treadmill, in which we simply need to keep walking (living) at a comfortable, indefinite pace in order to stay in place (so essentially our “natural” state of happiness.)  When something awesome happens, the treadmill turns up allowing you to run and gain more (happiness), faster.  But inevitably (psychologically) you’ll get tired and have to take it back down to your natural pace.  Likewise when something terrible happens, the treadmill slows to a crawl, slowing your progress and setting you back until you regain your energy, allowing you to return to normal pace.  Another (perhaps less confusing) way to look at it is like a thermostat, your normal happiness is set at a certain level.  The outside world might make you warmer or colder for a while, but inevitably your thermostat will bring you back to the temperature you are naturally set at.

The case is often made with lottery winners and those with near unthinkable amounts of money to the average person.  We always think “Man!  If I had that kind of money I would always be happy!”  But the truth is, those that do have that sort of money are no happier than you are most days.  People adapt to basically anything (good or bad,) and no matter what we have, we always want more (especially if we think we can’t have it…) Some of us are better at it than others, so it may happen faster for some, but inevitably everyone returns to that set point.  Be it Lottery, New Car, Sex, Marriage, Children, Car Accidents, Losing Your Job, Divorce and even a death in the family, life events can extend for months or even years, but your base happiness with eventually attempt to return to a certain level of happiness regardless.

Sometimes "Happy Work" means going to the beach in your suit...

Sometimes “Happy Work” means going to the beach in your suit…

Initially this idea was a little disturbing to me.  To say that no matter what happens we’re always going to achieve the same general level of happiness makes it sound like striving for anything is pointless.  But fortunately it actually gives us a purpose:  Find a way to raise your treadmill/thermostat/hedonic set point.  It sounds simple but naturally it’s more difficult than simply making yourself happy.  You have to figure out what moves you, and what you can consistently to do to make yourself happier than you are now.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s (obviously) happy work.

But there’s a flip side:  depression.  Depression (in this case) is basically the state in which perpetual negative circumstances / state of mind keep you from returning to your normal happiness setting.  This can be any number of consistent negative influences: abusive relationships (usually family or spouse), imprisonment, consistent anxiety, chronic illness and drug/alcohol abuse are fairly common examples.  Something key to note here is that this doesn’t mean the depressed person is “broken”, simply that a consistent negative stimuli is acting as a barrier to keep them from returning to their set point of happiness.  Unfortunately it’s probably possible that an extended duration of some of these could even lower the setting on somebody’s hedonic treadmill.  But the good news is, in most cases studies show that once the negative situation is removed/resolved, the majority of those experiencing this depression bounced back to their hedonic set point.

So, how do we turn up our happiness setting?  Nobody knows for sure.  To some extent it will vary depending on the individual.  Most recent research points to some fifty percent of our happiness/hedonic set point being determined by genetics.  Personally, I’m not willing to allow some unseen statistic (whether factual or not) to control how I feel, so I’m not going to think about the half that I supposedly can’t control.  Instead I’ll focus on what I can.  A pretty interesting study by psychologists Headey and Wearing (1989) suggested that our position on the spectrum of the stable personality traitsneuroticism, extraversion, and openness to experience (wiki links for you psych majors that want to dive in…) accounts for how we experience and perceive life events, and therefore indirectly contributes to our happiness levels (Elaborated via handy wiki-table:)

Neuroticism Extraversion Openness to experience
Anxiety Warmth Fantasy
Hostility Gregariousness Aesthetics
Depression Assertiveness Feelings
Self-consciousness Activity Actions
Impulsiveness Excitement/Sensation Seeking Ideas
Vulnerability to Stress Positive Emotion Values

The goal is minimizing your neuroticism category, while trying to increase your extraversion and openness to experience.  This somewhat supports my longstanding philosophy that experiences are the key to being happy (over material gains… more on this in a few.)  Don’t let the term “extraversion” mislead you though, you don’t have to be an extrovert to be happy, as you can see under that category many of those aspects are present in many an introvert.

wjn-1So WHAT experiences then?  There is no clear answer due to individual reactions to individual experiences.  What should be noted though is that your hedonic set point is, in fact, chemical.  As such experiences that bring temporary satisfaction through chemical interaction (such as drug/alcohol use) can have the reverse affect over time requiring more of said substance to even maintain your hedonic set point. Instead research indicates that maintaining a positive outlook / attitude, adaptability and altruism (due to the personal satisfaction reward) are the keys to staying on the positive side of your hedonic set point.  As a result, reinforcing or strengthening those aspects of yourself should theoretically allow you raise your base happiness.  This might help explain why those with a great deal of those with an abundance of money who appear relaxed and/or good natured are known to be highly involved and give a great deal to charity, whereas others who are equally endowed on a material level but less giving often appear more uptight, irritated or generally disagreeable.

So, long story short:  We all have a pre-set level of happiness we return to.  We should endeavor to live in order to raise that setting for ourselves and those around us.  Money is fine, but it is best used as a key to happy experiences and to help others be happier.  This, in turn, will raise our happiness.  There will be setbacks, but we are, in fact programmed to return to our hedonic set point and as such, no matter what happens, we always have a chance to make more happiness so long as we can get past any circumstances keeping us from that point.

That's a lot of experiences... just sayin'..

That’s a lot of experiences… just sayin’..

On a personal level, as stated above I am an experience seeker.  I seek those moments of bliss and euphoria (note: NOT drug related in any way… though maybe occasionally some scotch or vodka.)  But it is not so much the moment itself that contributes to my hedonic set point, but rather the positive memory of the moment that gets better and better as time goes on.  Though extremely selfish, I am also fairly altruistic towards the people I believe are worthy of it.  Going back to the title (though I haven’t said much of it thus far) I remain at a very moderate emotional state, which allows me to be objective in situations where other’s emotions may get the best of them.  However, that leaves me more vulnerable to falling into negativity, and if I do not properly moderate those feelings, they can hold me back from the experiences that would help me feel better in the first place.  All that said, who doesn’t want to be happier?  I think anyone who tells themselves that is lying.  Maybe when it comes to being happy, the philosophy of moderation should instead be the philosophy of abundance.

calvinandhobbes6

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Rage Post: Why I generally hate humans, Part 1 – Rape Culture

I was going to write about a completely different subject.  It’s the eve of Thanksgiving and I was going to write about happiness and how to promote and avoid becoming complacent, etc etc.  And then I got my latest issue of Rolling Stone, and in it was an article about a girl that was raped at UVA.

I’m going to warn you now, this is not a happy post.  It is also possible that it will upset you if you have been a victim.

anti-rape-campaignUnfortunately I felt compelled to see what this article was about, and then I immediately remembered again why i carry such a general distain towards humanity.  This article not only describes in detail what happened to her (I will NOT go into detail, but it involved and entire pack of frat boys in a room in the most prestigious fraternity there.) That alone literally made me want to murder these men that I do not know.  Murder.  Like I decided at that point that these people give up their right to exist in this world when they make that choice.  If I were their god, they would suffer and perish for thinking and acting as they do.

And that’s the core of it: I CANNOT condone, understand or even conceive, after ANY amount of alcohol (and trust me, I’ve had as much as my body can take and still function)  even CONSIDERING forcing a woman to have sex with me…  let alone HOLDING HER down with a GROUP of men and each one of them making the choice to restrain, abuse, defile, desecrate and then assist all the others in doing the same to her!?  HOW!?  HOW do you EVER even EXIST knowing you CONSIDERED doing something like that?  If I was somehow mind-controlled in to such an act.. the moment I came out of it and realized what I had done, I would find her, throw myself at her feet, allow her to do whatever she wished to me and inflict whatever amount of pain and suffering she wanted on me, and then, if she didn’t kill me, I would kill myself.

I consider this merciful.

I consider this merciful.

When you willingly and knowingly make a PRE-MEDITATED, SUSTAINED, ORGANIZED choice to devalue a COMPLETELY
INNOCENT woman (or man.. let’s not be sexist here) like that, you are the worst thing on the planet.  At that point the EBOLA VIRUS is BETTER and more NOBLE than you are.  It deserves this life MORE than you do because AT LEAST it’s simply doing what it exists to do, without the conscious process to choose differently.  It is being natural.  HUMAN RAPE, regardless of what some might say IS NOT NATURAL.  And do you know why?  Because you THINK.  You DO have the choice, and even somebody like me who’s been compared to a SOCIOPATH knows that such things are SO INCREDIBLY WRONG that there’s ZERO justification and ZERO reasoning.

“Oh they’re just boys being boys.” or “They are genetically programmed like that.” ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?  That’s like me chopping your arm off in front of you, frying it up over a fire with a little Ponzu sauce (I do love me some ponzu!) and eating it in front of you.  And then when they ask me why I did it I say “Oh well I was REALLY hungry.” and that makes it okay.

Mind you this comes from me. ME!!  I’m a pretty damn hedonistic, sexual person and even with my reputation I’m far mellower now than I was at my hormonal peak.  Even then.. NEVER could I justify restraining a woman (against her will.. willingly is a whole different story..) and actually enjoying violating her like that.  I honestly don’t even think my equipment would work.  And call me new-age but I really like my partners to be on board and enjoying it as much or more than I am…

A real man doesn't give a fuck about ANY reputation over HUMAN RIGHTS.

A real man doesn’t give a fuck about ANY reputation over HUMAN RIGHTS.

But you know what?  All the horrors above aren’t even the worst part.  The worst part is that when she finally told somebody about it, when she overcame threats, and fear and trauma, she was told to shut up and forget it.  Her friends were concerned it would affect their standing at school.  Two weeks later she SAW the guy who had led her to that frat party, to the room where those men had been waiting for her, and do you know what he said?  “Hey Jackie (obviously the name has been changed for the article) are you ignoring me?  I wanted to thank you for the other night.  I had a great time.”  What!?  WHAT!?  That’s not even biblically evil.. that’s beyond it.. that’s sickness.  He REALLY believes it’s okay for him to talk like that, as if the event was pleasant and this girl’s horror doesn’t exist.   It’s a level of programmed psychosis deeper than simple sociopathy.
Even after THAT, after she quit her job where she worked with this guy and missed all her classes for a week out of trauma, even the DEAN of the school encouraged her to keep it quiet to protect the school’s reputation. The FUCKING REPUTATION.  Because apparently the ACTUAL character of many of the students who attend the school doesn’t matter, so long as the reputation is intact.

Even writing about this is making me feel sick, it’s rage, pure unadulterated rage.  And you know, I wish that I could say it was an isolated incident.  Or just that school’s particularly dark underground.  But no, according to research and statistics, this particular story is the average situation among US Universities.  1 in 5 women on a college campus is a victim or rape, but only about 12% report it.  This is not an isolated thing, this is a cultural thing. And the rapists get away with it, more often than not.  The statistics also say (and I found this truly alarming) that 9 out of 10 campus rapes are the result of repeat offenders, and further, the average repeat offender has six rapes under their belt.  And they are getting away with it.

This CANNOT happen unless there is a SOCIETY and infrastructure in place to SUPPORT it.  The bottom line is, this doesn’t just happen because people ignore it, it happens because some sick, sick people encourage it!  Somewhere, a douchebag alumni dad is teaching his son that it’s okay to go to college, join a fraternity that openly objectifies women and use them for whatever they so desire whether they agree or not.  Maybe he doesn’t use those words, but his stories, philosophy, and “the reputation of your fraternity, brothers, and school above all” IS the rape culture.  And when these children grow up to be rapists, all the grown-up rapists who are now often rich with old money, affluent and in positions of power simply band together and use their resources to keep it quiet.  They use denial, guilt, fear, shame, aggression and threats minimize the victim and nobody thinks anything of it or looks into it until somebody dies.  Even then, action is questionable.

JT gets it because he's a sexy, classy man.

JT gets it because he’s a sexy, classy man.

It sounds like a big conspiracy.  But this is a system that exists.  It is FACT.  It is up to those of us that know better to teach our generation and the ones below us that this is wrong on every level it can be, and must be destroyed.  Fortunately women are becoming stronger, making them harder to victimize and more outspoken in order to bring these things to light, but the institutions that support this rape culture must be dismantled from the top down.

Fortunately, the government has now stepped in and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is performing extensive compliance reviews on MAJOR schools and universities that can result in the nuclear bomb of higher education – the revoking of all government funding for a school found in serious violation.  It’s enough to make everyone take notice.. but it’s only a start.  These rapists and their culture must be battled and dismantled until nothing remains except the stories of the evil, savages that teach future generations that they cannot be allowed make the same  mistakes.

The people like the rapists mentioned above are what bring the collective of humanity down as a whole.  They are parasites attempting to survive among the people that could make this world a better place, or, at least, the people who aren’t trying to make it any worse.  One way another, they, meaning the culture that created and sustains them have to die.

**Note: Let me just say that I understand this is not only not just a US problem and that so many other terrible things happen in the US and around the world every day.  This is just one example of one that I happened to read about and reacted strongly to, but I am in no way singling this situation out among the unfortunate mass of human idiocy/evil that plagues the entire world.  It’s an irony that the same species that seems to produce truly enlightened individuals also produces those who are more evil and animalistic than any other sentient being on the planet. 

A Personal Fairy Tail: Epilogue

*Many Years Later* A dialog.

Kaska-Ta  paused for a moment and turned to look behind him… nothing was there.   Then he turned to move forward and again saw only the endless grey haze as it was behind him.  “So I’m alone again?” he said aloud.  “No… never alone, you know this.  I am always here.” a voice echoed through his head, quite possibly a sign of insanity.. or perhaps a higher being.  Sometimes it was hard to tell.  “Well.. what do I do now?” Kaska-Ta asked defeated.  “The same thing you’ve always done.  Move forward.  You are weakened now, your heart is broken.  In truth it has never really healed, but now you can feel it, so you can learn to live with it, and, eventually maybe mend it.”  The voice replied.  Kaska-Ta did indeed feel weak.  “I can’t see it anymore…” he said “I can see the fantasy but not the reality.  I can see everyone else’s reality and potential… but not mine.” Kaska-Ta was certain he heard a soft chuckle from the voice of god in his head.  “Patience.”  Kaska-Ta knew that.  It was always about patience.  He had been patient for so long now.  “I’m tired.” he said “I want to just stop.”  He paused for a moment, and then continued “Everyone is gone.  Sure they are still there, but none of them are mine, not my people, not my family.  Even my fledgeling has long since been drifting away.”  “As she should.”  the voice added.  “I know… I know.” Kaska-Ta replied.  “It’s just hard to keep going when I don’t know what I have to show for it.”  The voice nudged Kaska-Ta within his head as if to gently get his attention “You have touched many lives and shaped many destinies.  Let that be enough and practice the gratitude you so readily and correctly try to teach.”  “A lot of THEM don’t seem very grateful.” Kaska-Ta was now feeling bitter toward his own weakness.  “Perhaps not.” the voice replied “But what you do, and have accomplished with or without anyone should be enough for you.  Sleep now, you will feel better as the days pass, and there is still work to be done.”  And so Kaska-Ta laid down and he stopped for a while.  He knew he would get up again, but he didn’t know when, and he didn’t know when it would feel better after he got up.  He just knew he had to move forward.  There is still work to be done.    

Interlude: A Personal Fairy Tail (Part 3)

The Tale of Kaska-Ta – Part 3: The Enlightened End

(*Note: This is a continuation of what can be described as a semi-fictional history.  The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are true.  In order to get the entire story it is suggested you read the previous posts first.)

Weeks passed and things seemed to return to normal for Kaska-Ta. It was fall now and that brought arguably the best weather of the year in the south. To strengthen their bond with both the local tribes in the southern topics and their tribe leader The King of Trees, the Prince of Stories would make many trips lasting several days. Sometimes he took some of the elder students with him, others he went to train with his seniors. The only way to become a king was to continue learning from those who were kings or were further along than he was. So he often had to make the trip to the north in order to be sure he was learning and growing properly. As a result, older warriors such as Kaska-Ta, The Lady of Diamonds, The Lord of the Butterflies and The Roman would take turns leading the younger warriors in drills. Sometimes this went very well for all involved, but the absence of the prince was missed in many ways.

It was said that to become a king, you would be judged by the quality of your warriors, and most importantly the leaders among them who make future princes, princesses, generals, kings and queens. Most who were present at the time believe that this pressure, along with a declining economy among their tribe caused a great level of insecurity that was taking hold in the Prince of Stories. The leaders in the north did their best to reinforce him by also visiting often (especially since the Gull General had fathered a child with one of the women of the southern tribe.)

il_340x270.489542062_91pl

Ouch. Unfortunately it happens.

However, as time went on the insecurity in the Prince of Stories manifested in many ways. Some of the warriors, especially the prodigy Mockingbird, were coming very close to the Prince of Stories’ ability in combat. When they would spar in the circle as was the custom, it would start out beautiful and elegant as it should be, but the Prince of Stories would become frustrated when he could not clearly best his student (who was now, in actuality the student of the Gull General, and many others…) As a result he would change the tone of practice without warning and become overly-aggressive, ending the training with some sort of unexpected violence. Everyone could feel the mood of training drop, and as time went on, though he was not to the same level of ability that the Mockingbird was, he too was the subject of this aggression.

Rumors surfaced that the Prince of Stories was having personal issues with his wife. This was not the tribe’s business (though his wife also trained with them occasionally) except that many believed it was serving to increase the insecurity that was now blatantly obvious in their prince.   Some of the warriors had turned to the Gull General and the the King of Trees to speak to him about these things and find a solution, but whatever the meetings spoke of behind closed doors, they did not provide a solution. Kaska-Ta was becoming increasingly aware that the culture of Kappo Aera was not actually conducive to functional long-term relationships. During his time there he had seen some formed, but they all eventually fell apart. Indeed those that existed when somebody joined the tribe seemed destined to end. There were a couple of exceptions, including the Lord of the Butterflies and his would-be wife known as Dagger. But they were the exception and carried a different mentality than typical for the tribes of Kappo Aera.

Judgement Day.

Judgement Day.

And then everything escalated. One day Kaska-Ta was approached by his friend, the Red Lady. She had been the same friend who had been uncomfortable months before when they had made the pilgrimage to Krawen. After much dancing around the subject, she confided in Kaska-Ta that she had been talking intimately with the Prince of Stories. Kaska-Ta was by no means foolish enough to believe this was one-sided, and easily connected the events of this and the Prince of Stories’ marital issues. There was a long discussion that ended simply with Kaska-Ta advising against it and warning her that there was absolutely no possibility that it could end well.

In the weeks that followed things simply spiraled more out of control. His marriage issues became pubic and the Prince of Stories became desperate. It leaked into every aspect of the tribe. The elder students began to unravel and were pulled away from the tribe by both personal and professional reasons. One night, Kaska-Ta helped the Prince of Stories to his temporary home away from his wife and children, and they talked for many hours under the moonlight about how abusive and angry she had become. All the while Kaska-Ta (unbeknownst to The Prince of Stories) was aware of his quickly diminishing involvement with the Red Lady. He had used many sweet words to woo her, but he could not make a definite decision to leave his wife. The desperation and the situation were quickly causing her to reconsider her involvement. Regardless, Kaska-Ta didn’t care. Perhaps it was his experience in Krawen, or perhaps it was what he had seen from countless other elders and historical accounts, but the Prince of Stories was basically another book in that page. He was just a prince, a leader of a tribe, who had taken to a woman who trusted him as a teacher and betrayed both her and his wife.

Whether it was the work of the gods or simple circumstance, Kaska-Ta was seriously injured in a very simple training exercise a short while later. About this same time he was given an opportunity to study and work under a very different type of leader. He was called a Grandmaster, and he hailed from the lands far to the east. He did not leave the knights of Kappo Aera right away, but as the Prince of Stories became more and more desperate, the tribe fell into greater financial issues and many of the elder students whom Kaska-Ta had bonded with, were gone. While he was healing, Kaska-Ta could not train physically for a long time, and so he fell into visiting periodically, less and less frequently. His time was done… almost.

capoeira-por-do-solA few months later Kaska-Ta was able to spar again and was called to the ocean where the leaders from the north had gathered after the previous day’s ceremony (which he had missed because his new Grandmaster had needed him.) Because this event drew in those Kaska-Ta had bonded with over the years, Kaska-Ta decided to attend. At some point during the festivities a sparring circle was indeed formed, but Kaska-Ta was called out. They performed the rite of initiation that meant Kaska-Ta would receive a new rank. One by one each leader and master came into the circle to battle with an exhausted and rusty Kaska-Ta, and when all was said and done, he was publicly given a new rank, one that meant he was only one rank away from becoming a lieutenant, a true leader among the tribes.

But Kaska-Ta knew he did not deserve this new rank. He thought to himself that he might work hard to earn it, but he knew the truth. The tribe needed to expand in order to save itself from its economic issues. He, and many of the other elder warriors were being recognized in order to promote them to be leaders in hopes they would stay and draw in more people to the tribe. The King of Trees knew the situation was desperate. Later down the road, when the Prince of Stories was given the rank of General despite losing so many of his loyal warriors, Kaska-Ta was genuinely upset, but he was already gone.

That day at the ocean was the final day Kaska-Ta officially spent with the tribe. Though he would visit from time to time, he had a new journey and a new Grandmaster to attend. He kept in touch with many of the elder warriors that he had spent so many days with so long ago, but the more time went on the further away he drifted until he’d been gone longer than he was there. The integrity of the new, strict, eastern Grandmaster, and the Master underneath him reassured Kaska-Ta that this was not soley a warrior’s culture, but one that is perpetuated by specific cultures of specific people, many of whom were attracted to the history and ideals behind Kappo Aera. It was about freedom, and expression and far more sensual than other warrior clans, but unfortunately many twisted that to their own desires, and often to the detriment of the females involved.

History of Freedom

History of Freedom

The longer he was away, the clearer this was to Kaska-Ta. Even as some of his old friends asked him back, and the King of Trees himself migrated to the tropics and asked Kaska-Ta to return, he could not. He knew how the leaders of the tribe saw him, and perhaps a part of him wasn’t able to let that go, but he also believed he shouldn’t have to. There we some with a similar mindset in Grandmaster’s Tribe, but they were not typical, and were not encouraged to be as they were in the shadows. They would cause Kaska-Ta some level of conflict in the days that followed, but none had any power over him as the leaders of Kappo Aera had.

Years later the eventual conclusion Kaska-Ta reached is that neither philosophy was right. One used the concept of freedom to excuse that which should not be excused, the other was so strict it sought to strip away many things that made people individuals. Kaska-Ta, after many years and many stories with the Grandmaster’s tribe, would again become a wanderer. But he was not exiled, he was finding his own way. And that, is an entirely different story.

Interlude: A Personal Fairy Tale (Part 2)

The Tale of Kaska-Ta – Part 2: Tragedy and Doubt

(*Note: This is a continuation of what can be described as a semi-fictional history.  The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are true.  In order to get the entire story it is suggested you read the previous post first.) 

The land of Krawen is a dangerous land often covered in shadow and inhabited by many kinds of demons. On this night, as it was well past the witching hour when the demons are most plentiful, it was foolish for Kaska-Ta and the Owl Princess to linger outside the protection of a palace. As they were speaking a band of four demons passed nearby, but did not to seem to take notice of the carriage or it’s inhabitants. As it turns out, that was only a clever act.

Choose... and act.

Choose… and act.

Before either realized what was happening, a loud smash hammered the side of the carriage where the Owl Princess was sitting, the four demons approached, each with deadly fire-sticks in their hands. These projectile weapons were known to give great and lethal power to those who otherwise had none, so, especially with the princess to think about and four on one, even a warrior like Kaska-Ta had no chance of recourse. The demons pointed the firesticks, at the two of them and commanded them out of either side of the carriage. Kaska-Ta was quickly thrown on the ground and a firestick put to his head while the other demon scoured his pouches for riches. Kaska-Ta had no intention of fighting until he realized the other two demons still had the Owl Princess on the other side of the carriage. In that moment, when he thought of what they might do to her, he resolved that he might die that night. He pleaded with them not to harm her, but they told him to be silent and dug the firestick harder into the back of his head. Despite that he knew he could not allow the demons to violate her and do nothing.

Kaska-Ta’s calm compliance turned to anger and his own inner-demon that he normally fought to restrain began to surface. He knew he had to surprise the one that held the firestick to his head, and that if he could not act quickly it would be the end right away. He was certain he had no real chance, and that he would probably be killed unceremoniously, but he had already resolved to act.  However, in that moment, before he acted, he heard the other two demons approach, and the Owl Princess was put on the ground next to him unharmed. Any resolve to fight faded, and after seizing what they thought were all their valuables, they jumped into the Owl Princess’s carriage and sped away into the night.

As Kaska-Ta and the Owl Princess picked themselves up off the ground the others made their way out of the palace. Mockingbird said he had seen them jump in the carriage and leave… but Kaska-Ta could hardly hear him. He was both enraged and defeated while the Owl Princess broke down in tears. They were separated and the city guards were called to investigate the incident. Eventually they went to the guard captain’s headquarters with the Gull General. He was quiet, but did his best to calm the Owl Princess and Kaska-Ta while she was recounting the loss of her carriage to the guards.

Sunrise over Krawen

Sunrise over Krawen

By the time they returned to the Gull General’s palace it was morning, and Kaska-Ta was scheduled to travel back to the southern region that day. It would’ve been a simple enough matter to have a member of the tribe take Kaska-Ta to the airship landing by carriage, but the Gull General could not be bothered to make such arrangements and none of the other Princes or Kings thought to make a point of it. The truth was, he was livid at Kaska-Ta for endangering the Owl Princess, and he had his own mission in mind that day. He dropped Kaska-Ta at the nearest transport station and left him to travel the long road to the airship landing with the masses. But before he left the carriage, Kaska-Ta said his goodbye to the owl Princess. He told her to be strong, and not let the demons win, and then he kissed her, briefly. It was not romantic, they had bonded through trauma, but at that moment they were close. The Gull General was certainly displeased, but neither of them cared.

The one fortunate turn was that they had not managed to steal Kaska-Ta’s money. Somehow, in their haste the demons had missed his pouch which contained an unusually high amount due to his traveling. So though he was exhausted, had no personal means to send messages and was still recovering from the situation itself, at least he had funds for the long journey. When he arrived his tribe was there, supportive and sympathetic.

The Castle of the Southern Kingdom

The Castle of the Southern Kingdom

Over the next few days after Kaska-Ta arrived back in the southern tropics, the tale became easier to tell and things began to feel normal again. He heard from the Owl Princess and she was having a harder time recovering emotionally, but she was getting better by the day. If anything her concern was to the many rumors floating around of what happened and why.   Many stories had been told, including recounts of how the Gull General had heroically set out alone on his mighty steed the same day Kaska-Ta had left. Scouring the realm of Krawen in daylight, he eventually found the cave in which demons that had attacked resided and had summoned soldiers to arrest them and retrieve the carriage.

Kaska-Ta had avoided mentioning the Owl Princess in his recounts because he also didn’t wish to perpetuate the spread of rumors, but those who were present (such as Mockingbird) also knew what had transpired, so it was impossible to keep completely quiet. Regardless, days and then weeks passed and the memory of the incident faded.

Until a private message arrived for Kaska-Ta from the Gull General, it read:

I wanted to wait a few weeks to make sure that what I wrote was free from all emotion. Initially I was nothing but anger and I needed to let that go. Your actions and behavior in my palace were the topic of discussion for days after you left. None of the men in the house could understand why you acted the way you did while you were here. So that we are clear I am talking about your leaders and kings. When you set your sights on the Owl Princess we were all just a bit confused. After speaking to her and hearing her side so that we were not just basing our judgment on what we saw, we were sure that we were confused about your intentions. It appears that you were interested in her and made some very bad decisions and actions.

To tell her that you were upset about the amount of time that she spent with me is an insult. You were a guest in my palace, and you were upset with a woman you had just met about how much time she spends with me, in my home. That makes no sense. If a woman spends time with a man who is your host, you back the fuck up. Under different circumstances, like had he not allowed you to stay in his home, do what you want. I take this as a personal insult to my kindness for allowing you to stay and you are not welcome in my palace again. After the Princess told you to back off and insulted you, you persisted in your efforts. Under the guise of asking for a short ride to an airship landing that is 90 minutes away you persisted in trying to talk to her.

You took her out of the safety of my palace to the outskirts at well past the witching hour. Even further you followed her to her carriage and stayed. In effect not allowing her to leave because you were in there, and still talking about a ride to the airship landing. You took advantage of her kind nature by continuing to ask her and sitting in her carriage knowing she would not send you away. Even had the demons not attacked, this is unacceptable behavior for a man. We wondered what kind of sex act you were hoping for her in the carriage. As men we know what we do, we persist until there is no hope of conquest. You never had hope in this situation, but you persisted until the end was past and tragedy struck. To say that you never should have shown romantic interest, weather blatant or covert, is an understatement. From the beginning she was not interested but you never gave up. As a man you broke a cardinal rule of manhood. Never put a woman in danger. Not even in the south would I sit unprotected in a carriage so long past the witching hour with a woman. So why do it in these lands with a princess as she is?

You asked to be attacked. Of course I blame the demons, but they only work on opportunity, which you gave to them. Take the following as lessons: Never put a woman in danger. Never persist where you are not welcomed. Take no for an answer. Do not take advantage of the kindness of others. And never disrespect a man in his own palace. When your prince left you here, you were his representative, so what he says to you about this incident has nothing to do with me. As a member of our tribe, what you do on a journey such as this reflects the rest of the group. What the King of Trees says to you about this incident has nothing to do with me.

As a General in this tribe and the man you offended I would never cross a line and use a training circle to show you my anger. My anger is gone, I will not go after you in sparring, I will not try to hurt you in any way. I told you what I needed to say to you, and now it is done. Reply to this or to just let it go. I will let it go and we do not need to discuss it further unless you choose to.

Again this was from me personally, I will visit your tribe in 2 weeks and I have no intention of discussing this with you or acting towards you with any anger.”

 

Kaska-Ta was shocked. Not so much by the Gull General’s anger or banishment from his palace (he had no desire to return there ever again anyway,) but by the statements made in the letter. He, Kaska-Ta, had persisted in his efforts? Unwanted!? He had taken advantage of her kindness!? He was “hoping” for a sex act!? This was simply not the case. He could understand the conclusion given his… liberal reputation among his tribe, but that had been the last thing on her mind that night, and he’s known it. The Gull General had a story that had not transpired, and this disturbed Kaska-Ta greatly. Now, the leaders of his tribe had this judgment of him, a judgment that was false. It was true that he’d had a part in endangering the Owl Princess, but he had not understood the danger, and his ignorance was indeed his fault. But the other accusations… they made no sense. Had the Owl Princess turned on him so easily? He supposed it was possible, she lived within the Gull General’s territory, and so it would be much easier to feed him a story in order to make peace there.

Kaska-Ta sent a reply essentially explaining that he believed there were many misperceptions, miscommunications and possibly two different stories being told. He accepted responsibility for being recklessly foolish about the timing, but also knew that was the only place that conversation could’ve happened as the Owl Princess did not wish the Gull General or any of the others to overhear her laments.   He was thankful, and hopeful that perhaps Mockingbird would back up his side of the story as he had been there for much of it. Still, Kaska-Ta had doubts. Many false stories had been been floating around now.

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The Sunset of the Golden Age

That evening, Kaska-Ta sent word to the Owl Princess of the message he had received. He asked her what she had told the Gull General and if the things he said were what she truly felt. When her reply came it seemed much as he’d expected. Immediately after his departure the Gull General had cornered her and demanded she explain herself to him. Though she denied saying the things the Gull General wrote about in his message, Kaska-Ta could easily understand her desire to protect her own situation, especially after a recent trauma such as she had endured. In the end, somebody was lying, and it came back to him either way. Kaska-Ta wanted peace, so he did not push her, nor did he instigate with the Gull General after he did not respond.

A few days later the Gull General arrived. It was exactly as he said it would be in his message; no signs of malice or unusual aggression when training. When not training he and Kaska-Ta more or less avoided each other. Neither the King of Trees or the Prince of Stories said anything further. The matter was done and Kaska-Ta had his peace. But in addition he had learned an important lesson about the mentalities of his superiors, and though he would continue with his tribe, this lesson would stick with him and remind him every time he saw similar situations transpire. This was the end of his golden age. The beginning of doubt.

Interlude: A Personal Fairy Tale (Part 1)

The Tale of Kaska-Ta – Part 1

(*Note: This is what can be described as a semi-fictional history.  The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are true.) 

Long ago in tropical lands far in the south, there lived a warrior known as Kaska-Ta. Years before this story, he had been a lonely, exiled traveler going by a different name. But a group of knights had taken him in and given him a new name. The Knights of Kappo Aera taught him the ways of song and dance and war, and became his family.

Early on these knights lived under the rule of a mad king. This king was not evil, but arrogant and violent to some.   Thus, for this and perhaps some other reasons in the shadows, the Prince of Stories who led this particular band of knights separated himself from the kingdom, causing much divide and resulting in a feud that would be forgiven by many but never forgotten by all.

Tropical Lands

Tropical Lands

For a time these Knights of Kappo Aera remained autonomous, the Prince of Stories who now led them called upon some of the elder knights (including Kaska-Ta) to help him train the younger warriors properly. Overall their band was happy and Kaska-Ta enjoyed spending time with and helping his peers where he could. Often, when sparring with the Lady of Diamonds or the young prodigy known as Mockingbird, he could not help but smile. In those times there was synergy and peace, even in combat.

However, the Prince of Stories who now led newly separated tribe knew he was not yet prepared to be a king, and so over time his uncertainty grew until a general from a different tribe he had met in his travels invited him to meet his own king. This king was far departed from the prince’s previous king. Though a giant physically, he was calm and serene much like his name. This man was the King of the Trees. After much discussion an arrangement was struck in which the Prince’s tribe would join with that of King of Trees and his Gull General. Thus began the golden age for the knights of Kappo Aera who would now be recognized as warriors.

It was during this time that the Prince’s Tribe was the most active and many locals came to join the tribe of warriors in the tropical south. The King of Trees and his Gull General hailed from a much colder climate and so made the trip to visit the young warriors often. Kaska-Ta was happy, and enjoyed the company of his tribe both new and old. But as everything must, things would change.

Fierce! But...

Fierce! But…

The traditions among all the tribes of Kappo Aera carried heavy tones of misogyny and disrespect for the female members of the tribes. Though the more progressive members of the tribes didn’t believe in such things, and it was often brought up only in humor, the fact remained that it was very real occurrence as evidenced by behaviors specifically at social gatherings. There was a saying that a true lord among the warriors of Kappo Aera would have a woman in every land that they traveled to. Combined with that was the Kappo Aera tradition of deception as a battle strategy. It was very often said that the sparring circle in which they trained battle was a reflection of their outside lives. As such, this deception made it’s way into many of the member’s actions. Thus was eventual bane of Kaska-Ta.

Kaska-Ta was well liked by the tribe, and especially so by many of the female members. He was kind, flirty, and humorous and made them feel at ease, especially when others were far more aggressive and overbearing than he was. Though not initially problematic, Kaska-Ta began to hear whispers from other warriors (both male and female) that some of the higher ranking warriors were displeased at the attention he was receiving. Of course, Kaska-Ta knew not all of these whispers could be entirely trusted either, but among the many there was some truth he could confirm himself. He resolved though, as long as he had his people, he would simply carry on.

The time came to make a pilgrimage to northern climates. It was the summer months so the weather was very agreeable. One of the great kings from the far off lands in which the tribes of Kappo Aera had originally descended would come and bless all the warriors under the King of Trees.   The prince and as many of his southern tribe as possible made the pilgrimage in order to strengthen their union with the warriors under the King of Trees.

A Krawan Demon Prison

A Krawen Demon Prison

The Gull General existed in a dangerous part of the northern lands known as Krawen, but offered up his palace to most of the travelers from the south. However, Kaska-Ta was given different arrangements and was sent to be hosted with one of the students and families who trained under the Gull General. Though this family was very accommodating, very friendly and he had excellent arrangements, Kaska-Ta did not like being separated from the rest of his tribe. One of the newer females in his tribe had become close to him (intimately for a short time, but that time had already passed) and sent messages that she was uncomfortable among all of the generals and princes. Kaska-Ta expressed his desire to re-join his tribe, and the next day was allowed to stay in the Gull General’s palace (later he would learn this was much to the dismay of the General.)

The ceremonies began and all seemed well. Kaska-Ta marveled at the amazing talents the guest Kings, Queens and other royalty exhibited both in music and in combat. His extended family of warriors from the northern tribes of the King of Trees were equally impressive. It was an overall a joyous occasion filled with much learning and positive energy, which was what Kaska-Ta had always loved about the Kappo Aera tribes. In the evening he and some of his tribe-mates new and old were taken to largest city on the continent to marvel at the many towers and castles filled with mystic lights and great paintings. The day had truly been great.

The next day was another ceremony for another local tribe who was allied with the King of Trees. This tribe’s leader was a great scholar of his art named Onaib. Though not yet a king, he was well on his way and was truly a professor of the art and beauty that was the culture of the Kappo Aera tribes. Kaska-Ta was familiar with this teacher from a previous ceremony in which he had traveled south and personally tested Kaska-Ta (among other young warriors of the southern tribe) in combat. He was good natured and skilled while sparring and greeted each student with a combination of vigor and gentleness. He sought to test, not to punish the younger students and Kaska-Ta respected him greatly for it.

Her Namesake

Her Namesake

Transportation to Professor Onaib’s event was arranged for Kaska-Ta and his tribemate Mockingbird traveling in the wagon of a student of another small local tribe known as the Owl Princess. She mused that her and Kaska-Ta had similar hair color and they got along well early on. One of the wheels broke along the way, but Kaska-Ta and Mockingbird were both skilled at such repairs and before long they were traveling again having bonded some through the small circumstance. They made the ceremony right on time and all was well.

During the ceremony, the Owl Princess remained close to Kaska-Ta and would often mess with his hair or rest her head on his shoulder. He enjoyed the attention, but it drew the attention of both his tribe’s Prince of Stories and the Gull General, whom Kaska-Ta was unaware had their eyes on the Owl Princess. As the day progressed the ceremony completed successfully and after further celebration many of the warriors (including the Owl Princess) made their way back to the palace of the Gull General. Immediately after the ceremony, during the after parties and dinner, Kaska-Ta had noticed the attention of the Owl Princess was being intentionally diverted away from him, to some extent by the Prince of Stories and then aggressively by the Gull General.

Once at the palace, the Gull General disappeared to the tower, and so too did the Owl Princess.   During this time, the Mockingbird, who had long been adopted as a second son of the Gull General warned his tribe mate Kaska-Ta that the reason the Gull General had pulled the Owl Princess away was because she had long since been “one of his girls”. Kaska-Ta replied that she had told him she was without a dedicated mate, and was somewhat surprised because the Gull General had recently impregnated one of the southern tribe women, though it was not established they were dedicated mates either. “It matters not… you know this.” The Mockingbird replied. Yes, Kaska-Ta was familiar with the culture, even if he didn’t agree with or follow it.

69e8746bf35ce80eec33946f36cbb38141afaa66473df48c35c0f5fdfe727d32Later, after the festivities had died down, the Owl Princess approached Kaska-Ta, who had been distant and asked him why. Irritated at her deception, he asked her why she had not told him of the Gull General, but she did not answer and instead became defensive, denied her involvement and moved away again. However, when the witching hour had passed, he once again approached her to say goodbye as she intended to return to her home and kingdom. At her request, Kaska-Ta agreed to escort her to her carriage. When they arrived at her transport, away from the ears of the palace, she asked him to stay with her a short time so she could speak with him. Kaska-Ta agreed and for some time they spoke of her family and then her involvement with the Gull General. She was sad, and said that he confused her by sometimes treating her as a princess, and then other times ignoring or even berating her. She knew that he paid attention to other women, but sometimes when he was with her, he would be so tender that she felt he truly cared. Kaska-Ta was irritated by this as he had heard such things many times before.   But he listened patiently, trying to cheer her up and convince her  that the fault was not hers. Unfortunately, during this dialog disaster struck…

What is it to be happy?

As inevitably happens this time of year, I was prompted to think about what I am thankful for.  I worried a bit about how ungrateful I might actually be when I initially struggled to answer the question.  But the the truth is that picking any specific thing is the hard part.  So I thought to myself “Well… if I’m happy, then I just need to pick what makes me happy.”  But then the realization came to me:  I’m not happy.  I’m content, even cheerful, but regularly happy?  No.  Or am I?  On the other hand I am by no means unhappy.  Overall I’m pretty pleased with myself and the world around me.  Certainly I have a number of misgivings about that world around me and my own lack of progress in many areas thus far, but I have been depressed, miserable and even suicidal before and I am nowhere near any of these things.  I’m “good”.  But is that happy?

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Dave Matthews Band in Tampa 2014 – I was happy.

I have most certainly been happy in moments.  There are many moments in recent and distant memory that can only be described as love and/or unadulterated joy.  This can be attributed to anything ranging from Dave Matthews Band Concerts (pretty consistently.. at least once per concert..) to some sort of amazing food (often involving cheese or ponzu sauce…) to memories of when certain people looked at me the right way and it made the center of my chest warm and tingly…  I’m also a sap for certain movies / shows to where I am so happy about the story I’m almost in tears.  But all of these moments are spikes, high points that only last so long as the moment does, and then it’s back to being “good” or “alright” or “content” (with occasional low points as well… we all have them.) None of those terms sound like regular happiness so it makes me wonder… what exactly does consistent happiness feel like!?

My first inclination is to say gratitude.  Indeed I am typically in a better state of mind and feel things are going my way when I can genuinely count my blessings and be grateful for the things I have.  Admittedly (though I’m not where I want to be and/or going there fast enough just yet,) I realize I have a huge number of things to be grateful for, but it simply isn’t enough to allow me to hold on to that “happy” feeling for more than a short time.  Perhaps this means I really don’t appreciate what my life has given me, maybe real happiness is a matter of being endlessly grateful for all this life has provided you no matter how much or how little you have in comparison to others.  If such gratitude should be relative then despite having grown up relatively poor, I and most others living in this country should indeed be happy pretty much all the time.  That would also mean, though, that in order to be consistently happy we would have to compare and contrast our lives against either (or both) our own previous misfortune or that of others.  In a sense that’s almost like celebrating the fact that I have it better than so many people around the world.  I realize that I actually do.  But I can’t imagine that recognizing and celebrating that is the secret to happiness.

Some gifts make folks happier than others...

Some gifts make folks happier than others…

Naturally the way around that dilemma is giving.  I like to give selfishly, meaning that I do so because it makes me feel good to give things to those who are either important to me, have earned it or sometimes are just in the right place at the right time (such as the homeless I usually feed during Ramadan.)  All of these things give me a temporary sense of accomplishment or pride.  However, I also really hate being indebted to people (again pride I believe.)  When I was younger I was forced to rely on others for basically everything.  Now that I don’t have to, I hate to be in a situation where I feel as if I owe somebody something.  Giving to others helps me even the “score” (again generally speaking) or even shift it as far to the other side of owing somebody as I can.  That sort of standing is very satisfying, but is that happiness?  Even if it is, like all the other situations it is fleeting.

I suppose then that I want to see an example of somebody that is visibly, obviously in an elevated mood (as in “happy”.. like Pharrell?) as a regular state of being.  What’s the secret? At what point do you meet the criteria that you can be honest when people ask you “Are you happy?” and you can honestly reply “Oh yes! Absolutely!”  Maybe it is really something we all strive for as often as possibility but we are hard-wired to be unable to grasp it constantly.  Perhaps it is (as we say) “the pursuit of happiness” that continues to give us purpose and causes us to seek out new and meaningful experiences.  Having been in an emotionally grey state of mind for many years now, I’m trying to figure out if it’s just me who isn’t sure about this sort of thing, or if in fact it’s part of the human condition.  In all honesty I try to avoid classifying myself as “human” whenever possible, but some concepts come with the territory of this life and maybe the secret to happiness is accepting that it will never be a regular thing but instead the one universal goal or ideal each individual can shoot for in their own personal (sometimes really twisted) way.  Regardless if you feel you are generally happy all the time, share you secret with me!  But if you’re more like me, as the holidays descend upon us, let’s make it a point to have as many happy moments as possible.  If it can’t be all the time, let’s make it as often as possible.

How to: Casual Sex

My last post on relationships / cheating / communication was the most popular in the last five posts or so.  I know, you want juicy stuff as opposed to pictures of fantastic food (though I maintain that tasty food is one the great joys in this life.)  I think you’ll find that communication (and a lack thereof) remains a major theme in many of these posts as it directly affects the success of probably 90% of human social interaction.

It's tough.  He understands.

It’s tough. He understands.

Anyway, as you’ve read a few times now I’ve been single for right about eight years now (I’m literally within a week or so of the anniversary of the breakup.)  Post relationship I spent a lot of time focusing on myself and rebuilding, and then a few years later I started looking around for somebody who could be “the one”.  Well, the bad news is I haven’t found her yet.  The good news is I’ve gotten pretty good at this bachelor thing.  I’ve had a fair amount of forward movement professionally,  I’m improving my financial status daily, I’ve got some pretty strong bonds with friends of mine personally and (sometimes related) I’ve generally been pretty successful sexually (As in, women have regularly found me desirable enough to share themselves with me in that manner…)  So if I can’t have the one, this is a pretty awesome close second.

What blows my mind when I talk about this with some people is why they (or more often their “partners”) really suck at this casual sex thing.  It’s like they took something they saw in a movie and expected real life to be like that (thanks Hollywood.)  While I understand the male need to “alpha” (ugh) and the female desire to not be a “slut” (really ugh) you need to understand that those terms, and even those concepts are fucking ridiculous ideas created by insecure morons who were likely trying to manipulate you in order to keep you “in your place”.  Men must be physical, unrelenting, dominant, stupid cave men, and women must be weak, blindly dedicated, subservient nurturers.  Obviously… NO.    Now don’t get me wrong, this sort of role-play in the bedroom as playtime is all fine and well and healthy if that’s what you’re into, but as a standard of operation in the real world it’s narrow-minded and limiting for both genders.

So, whether you’re in-between serious relationships, getting a little on the side (legitimately.. or not..), indefinitely single by choice or you’re like me and are holding out for “the one”, here’s a few guideline “Dos and Do Nots” that have worked very well for me and I think are pretty universal (but is nowhere CLOSE to a complete list.)

First, DO:

Honesty at work.

Honesty at work.

1. Be Honest.  If there is one thing that will ruin a potentially good situation and make it ugly, it’s you spouting a bunch of bullshit.  It’s not “the game”.  It’s real adult life, so act like it.  Be straight up about what you want (and even how you want it…) in the beginning, even if it’s tough to let somebody who was hoping for more down.  It’s true, this might damage your chances of getting busy in the short term, but think of it as an investment.  The worst thing that happens is they respect you for being straight up with them and move on.  Sometimes though, they become friends, and sometimes that comes with benefits.  More than a few times I’ve been told I’m a good choice for that sort of thing because they know where I stand and don’t have to worry about complications.  Honesty keeps it simple.  When things are simple we can do our thing and get on with our lives.

2. Be Respectful.  This is huge.  Did you know that when somebody feels like you respect them, they are much more likely to let you see them naked?  It’s not rocket science.  This means eliminating words like “slut, whore, etc” from your dictionary as those are basically misogynistic double standards created to shame women (and albeit far less often, men.)  Newsflash: If you make people feel bad about being sexual, they are a lot less likely to be sexual with you.  This is ironic because people will often put down somebody’s sexual activity/history with others and then turn around and try to make something happen. You’re not going to make them feel okay about hooking up with you if you berate them for hooking up with others.

flirty-just-friends3. Be A Friend.  So a big part of functioning as a friend with benefits, is (wait for it) being an actual friend.  I’m not saying you need to pour your soul out to them and spend a bunch of time with them, but communicate, relate and hang out without any expectations periodically.  You’ll find some people become important to you and others stay very casual, but as long as there’s not false expectations, things stay pretty light.  When the benefits DO kick in, it depends on the person, but they might be wanting to play every time they see you anyway.  Sometimes that really IS the core of your “friendship” (gee darn.)  But the danger is in assuming.  So be cool, be a friend, keep it light, and fun.  The more fun and flirty (if accepted / appropriate) you are, the more likely at some point you’ll hit that moment when you know something is about to go down.

4. Be Patient.  If there is any one major secret to my sexual success, it is that I know when to be patient.  Often times people are not in the mindset / position to hook up (or, maybe just not hook up with you) when you first meet.  But that doesn’t mean they won’t always be. If you were honest (see step 1) and told them what you were about in regards to them, and then you were respectful (see step 2) then you will probably have some level of interaction with them on a friends basis (see step 3.)  So long as you’re not overbearing about it, if they thought of you sexually at some point in the past, odds are somewhere deep down it crosses their mind from time to time IF you’ve been fun and easy to be around.  Then if you’re lucky, they’ll let you know when they feel like acting on those thoughts.

Possibly overkill....

Possibly overkill….

5. Be Smart.  Sometimes I tell my friends stories of people I know that have literally slept with over a hundred people.  To this day they are healthy and happy and obviously know how to attract attention.  On the flip side I have personally witnessed somebody in a Frat House years ago who had been with probably five people in their life at most, hook up with three different people consecutively in a drunken rampage that didn’t appear to include protection.  That, to me, is a stupid, sad story.  (For the record, there was no visible rape involved… this person was literally seeking the people out and they were very happy to receive them…)  Point being, both sound pretty scary right?  Yes and no. There’s something to be said about numbers, as number of partners can indeed affect your chances of contracting an STI.  But the point of my example is that the first person knows what they are doing, is protected and communicates openly with their partners.  The second… not so much (obviously.)  Who’s the bigger risk for you to hook up with?  Call me traditional (see that whole friendship thing) but I kinda like to get to know my partners and even moreso communicate with them.  Does this mean I haven’t hooked up randomly at a party before…?  Well, no.  But I was protected and though I left the next morning, I left my information (which she was super surprised by), we became friends, had some great sex and her and I have hooked up a few times in between her boyfriends since then. Regardless my point is:  Learn about your potential partner by communicating with them, use protection, get tested.  It’s all fun and games until you start screwing around with somebody’s health (including your own.)

Next: DO NOT:

1. Have expectations.  This isn’t just about friends with benefits, this is about dating in general.  Numerous times have my friends told me the person they were out with made some offhanded remarks like “Oh man you’re going to be so amazing when we finally sleep together…”  What?!  I can’t even make up something that ridiculous.  Needless to say that sort of attitude is a very quick way to screw your chances (no pun intended…) and possibly damage the friendship.  Having expectations also leads to inevitable disappointment if they happen to not feel like hooking up at that point.  This can cause you act out in stupid ways and damage your chances in the future too.  So play it cool, show your interest (casually!) and don’t count on something happening the first, second or any time.  To be honest I’m not certain of the science behind it but I very often end up getting busy when I am pretty sure something won’t happen going into the evening for whatever reason.  It’s nice to be surprised!

What.. are.. you?!

What.. are.. you?!

2. Try too hard.  I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all gotten to the point where we got really really excited about a potential date/hookup/girlfriend/boyfriend/etc.  We got super nervous, put on too much smelly stuff, forced the conversation and likely drank entirely too much in the process.  Where did it get you?  Lot’s of places, but not in bed with the person you wanted.  Both genders have a sense for when the other is trying too hard, and it comes off as desperation, which in most cases is a huge turn-off.  Sometimes they may have totally planned to hook up with you, and the sort of erratic behavior that comes from nervousness and irritating passive-aggressive pushiness convinces them it might be a bad idea.  It’s good to seem interested, but keep your cool because desperation will scare most people off.    

Don't Judge. :D

Don’t Judge. 😀

3. Judge.  I’m going to be straight with you here, your opportunities for casual sexual encounters will come from all kinds of unexpected places (I mean.. they have websites for this stuff.. and no, for the record, I’ve never used Ashley Madison.)  Anyway, the point is regardless of circumstance, judging the other person for their choices will (obviously) screw up any chance you have of hooking up with them.  I’m not just talking about those fooling around on their spouse either.  You want to take the moral high ground?  That’s your business.  But otherwise people are in totally honest, open, polyamorous or even mostly monogamous relationships that might, for some reason with to include you and/or legitimately see you outside of it.  Maybe the idea of multiple people weirds you out? Well that’s fine!  But judging others about their activities outside of their involvement with you is not.  At the very least, it’s really hypocritical being that you’re trying to make yourself a part of those decisions.

4. Be Possessive.  This happens all the time, and women get the bad rap for it despite the fact then men very often get emotionally attached and fall into this trap.  “No Strings Attached” means no strings attached. (Like “no means no” with more words.)  Do not come into a situation claiming your ability to remain unattached and keep it casual and then expect it to magically change (thanks again Hollywood.)  If you begin to feel differently, you’re gonna have to talk about it.  The whole point of the benefits behind casual sex is that it’s casual.  You can get together, have a good time, maybe grab a bite to eat, and get on with your lives without having to take it with you.  It’s like going to the gym: you might be sore from it the next day, but otherwise it has no effect on your outside life other than making you feel better about things.  I realize that for some the emotional separation is difficult, and it’s easy to attach to somebody that is both a good friend and fantastic in the sack, but once you start feeling like you can tell them not to see anyone else, or go on dates, or even how often they need to see you, you’ve crossed the line from casual to trying to control them, and that’s not okay.  If you find this happening you need to talk about it, and it may be best if you downgrade to regular friendship.  If by chance you’re both wanting to take it to the next level?  That’s wonderful!  But very rare, so don’t hold your breath.

1332453942295_473877If you keep you head in the right place and your emotions in check, you can have a really great time and take care of those urges without hurting anyone.  I think that’s the best thing: when everyone knows what they want, they get it, and everyone walks away happy.  But this is only going to happen if you’re willing to be honest and communicate about your situations.

I could go on about this forever, I even considered dividing it into two posts.  But I liked how it flowed, and I felt it was related enough it warranted a long post.  Last week was the longest post yet until this one and it was very popular so perhaps you don’t mind a lot of words as long as I can keep it interesting (or maybe just sexy.)  Regardless, expect more on this, we’re just getting started.

(In)fidelity

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Worth Reading!

I recently finished Paulo Coelho’s newest book titled “Adultery”. The subject is exactly as the title states and involves a woman’s journey from marriage to the temptations of an extra-marital affair and the ultimate resolution/consequences . I won’t give too many details as I don’t wish to spoil it for you, but I will say that thought the middle of the book got a little bit far-fetched, the overall story, thought processes and moral dilemma presented were solid and realistic. (Do note that “realistic “ is often not necessarily a happy ending.)

As you know, during my recent trip to my Seattle, I had the opportunity to discuss this (and many other) subjects with an old high school friend of mine, and contrast my lifestyle to hers. As a regular reader of my blog, she followed up with me and was interested in elaborating her views while asking me to write about mine. Since I really enjoy answering questions and providing feedback I ‘ll all to happy to oblige, especially because this is a subject that comes up a lot.

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You know who you are. Get on it!

My friend is the portrait of what many people see as the ideal relationship / marriage. She has been with her high school sweetheart for some seventeen years now and still very happy in her marriage. I haven’t seen or spoken to this man since high school, but he was good-natured and devoted to her then, so I have a feeling he is much the same now (judging especially from the photos and what-not I see on Facebook.) They have a house, two adorable children, and if they don’t have a white picket fence, I’m going to suggest she get one. Her marriage is one of two I can think of that have the chance to be that rare, older (not even “elderly” really) adorable couple celebrating their fiftieth anniversary.

At some point during our conversations in Seattle, my friend(s) and I got to talking about relationships and those that sometimes decide to include a third party (or more) in their sex life.  I’ve been involved in situations like that in the past (both as inviter and invitee) and I mentioned I’ve observed it bringing a new element into the bedroom and sometimes reviving a situation that may have become routine or mundane.  Later, my friend commented that she believed that if that happens with your partner, they may not be the right person for you.  She said: “I believe that when you are with the right person, sex should only get better and I don’t think that you need to add additional parties to make this happen.”  Further in the conversation she elaborated that every couple has problems, and the key was to attack those problems when they are small.  She gave an example of a friend of hers who is married but hasn’t had sex with her husband in (literally) years.  She hit the nail on the head when she said the solution was communication, and should’ve happened a long time ago.  The years (or even months barring medical conditions…) without sex are abnormal and destructive to the marriage.  I agreed that it was a total communication breakdown at it’s core, but where her and I may differ is that I actually believe that such communication is MORE important even than basic monogamy.

Wise man. (I can't believe that's a legit quote...)

Wise man. (I can’t believe that’s a legit quote…)

Allow me to explain: I often wish / fantasize about having the sort of situation that my friend has.  I won’t say everyone does, as times are changing and the “ideal” relationship can differ very much depending on the individual.  But many people (including me) still dream of finding “the one” on some level and living happily ever after.  However, finding that person is difficult and as my friend pointed out, even the  “perfect” marriage goes through dry spells and requires effort on both parties to continue to be a giving situation for both.  So, when things go wrong you encounter one of two scenarios:
 

1.  This is a problem we need to work out, but we’ll get past it and get stronger.

-or-

2.  One or both of us is no longer the right person for this relationship.  Either we weren’t from the beginning, or things have changed and instead of growing together, we have grown apart.

There’s nothing “wrong” with either of these situations.  Sometimes things simply are what they are and no amount of good faith effort will fix them.  But let’s focus on situation one, because once you’re in situation two, it’s just a matter of admitting and accepting it (which unfortunately can take a number of years anyway… and I can blog about that in the future…)

Cute/Funny but...

Cute/Funny but…


When a problem grows into an otherwise great, loving relationship, the vast majority of the time is the lack of honest communication.  When almost any issue is addressed straightforwardly, constructively and honestly, the majority of the time it can be resolved.  If they cannot, there’s a good chance you fall into situation two above.  VERY often I hear a primary issue of long-time couples is a stale or near nonexistent sex life.  I can tell you now that even as a 35 year old bachelor I don’t have the obsessive drive I had in my mid twenties, but I’m talking a couple of days off as opposed to weeks, months or years.  Why does this happen?  Routine? Insecurity? Too busy?  All of the above?  It happens because one or both parties is no longer excited about the prospect, it’s not longer turning them on.  Then, the situation becomes one-sided and turns into “work” instead of “play” for one or both parties.  Situations like this are what lead to people finding alternatives: Porn (individually.. and I’m not saying this is necessarily bad as it can excite one of both partners..) Toys (again, CAN be a good thing, all about how they are used…) and eventually other people (my friend doesn’t agree, but this can also end up a positive situation.)

The solution again is wide open communication.  But what get in the way is that people are afraid to tell their partners what they want.  After years, they worry about damaging their ego, being judged for something different they are craving, or coming across too needy or unreasonable for being wanted.  But I believe there’s nothing wrong with wanting something else or having expectations of your spouse on a sexual level.  If this is an ideal “forever” pairing, a partnership, both have to try to give the other what they need.  So many people are brought up on the outdated belief that love and sex have to be exclusive (and if that’s your preference more power to you), but it’s scientifically proven that this is simply not the case.  But instead of talking to their partner and being wide open about their deepest, darkest desires, they bottle it up, feel ashamed and tell themselves they are “wrong” for wanting these things. Then they try to pretend they are okay with the routine they have, but lying to yourself like that never ends well, and the all too common feeling of feeling “trapped” sets in.

Oh jesus.. THAT guy..

Oh jesus.. THAT guy..

One day, they come across somebody who is flirty and seems interested in them superficially.  Normally they probably wouldn’t even give the possibility a second thought, but two things come into play: 1. Human nature magnifies the feeling of wanting something when you feel you can’t have it (the initial desire has to be there first though.) and 2. Compared to their spouse, this person is not connected to their “real life” and is for all intents an purposes, a toy.  There is no marriage, no children and no responsibility to be an ideal spouse in this situation.  The opportunity arises to be fun, flirty, desired and greedy.  They get to demand what they want and if the person doesn’t like it, they are more or less discardable without issue.  The freedom is a huge turn-on, especially for somebody that has gotten into the habit of having to repress themselves.  I hate to bring Disney into this conversation, but this is the chance for them to “Let it go.”  Sometimes it’s a fling and nothing comes of it, others they are found out, or can’t handle the guilt and the world comes crashing down.  But it’s only a temporary solution either way, eventually the problem marriage still exists, or it’s been destroyed.

So, how do you avoid a situation like this?  I keep mentioning communication, but on a whole different level.  I’m talking about a soul-bearing, demon revealing, perverse, fucked up, this might hurt your feeling but you need to know this, holy shit this is scary but only you are worthy of this level of communication.  This is supposed to be your life partner, so you have to be willing to tell your deepest, darkest secrets and show them all the sides they signed up for before you end up feeling like you need to show that to somebody else.  Once the communication is on that level, you can figure out how to work it out (or not.  As it’s possible they simply can’t handle what you have to say, at which point I would be more likely to say you fall into option two above.)

Problem... solved?

Problem… solved?

Regardless sometimes that communication alone will solve the problem through new activities (red room anyone?)  But where I disagree with my friend I mentioned earlier though, is that when this communication takes place, it’s possible that another person, or even some other people might be discussed.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s ok.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re with the wrong person.  As long as the relationship has a totally open and honest level of communication, including potential feelings of pride, jealousy and inadequacy, and they are addressed respectfully with a constructive solution sought, then I don’t believe infidelity has occurred regardless of who does what with who.  The bond between two people who love each other is not merely based on the physical, and to say that somebody being involved with a different person negates a legendary bond of love is just ridiculous.  What matters is the trust.  If that is intact, so too should be the bond.

Oh son of a…

When I have these conversations, people try to flip it on me.  They say: “Well that’s very ideal, but what if the love of your life came to you and told you she wanted to be with somebody else sexually, or that she already had but she still loved you!  Could you really still be with her?”  Short answer: Yes, probably.  Longer answer:  If she had already done so, I would be pretty upset, pissed even to the point I might need some time.  But would I end it right away?  No.  I would try for the level of communication I mentioned above.  I would need to understand why she needed it, and what the solution was.  If I was satisfied with it, and I felt I could trust her based on that communication, I could stay.  In fact, once, a long time ago I already did.  But then many years later when I was similarly tested, I couldn’t open up and be that honest, I couldn’t bear my soul and make myself vulnerable, and so, I lost.  Rarely is it the actions that will kill a real relationship, but the reasons behind them that are locked away and never addressed.

When love and trust and that level of communication exist, I believe the right people for each other can overcome almost anything.  Then again, that’s awfully romantic of me… what do I know?

Of Food and Wine (and other wonderful consumables.)

Epcot Food and WIne

One of my favorite times of year here in Florida is the fall season.  The weather is damn near perfect, the holidays are upon us and most importantly, Epcot holds it’s annual Food and Wine Festival.  As an annual pass holder this is by far my favorite Disney event of the year in what is (arguably with Animal Kingdom) my favorite of the parks.  I figured this was a great opportunity to elaborate on my love of food and drink!  I am unapologetically the guy who takes pictures of his food and posts #FoodPorn.  I’ve come to terms with the fact I may lose followers as a result of that admission.  This will probably make you hungry…

 

Soda

Though not specifically part of the festival, I wanted to highlight the “Cool Zone” as it’s one of the very rare places to get FREE unlimited soda in the parks.  (The other being the “Chase Lounge” but it’s only during Food and Wine and only for Chase card members.)  Long ago I drank soda like water, but frankly it was making me fat and causing me stomach issues, so I gave it up, dropped about 60 lbs and now only rarely partake.  I do have a bit of a weakness for Ginger Ale, and it is one of the very few things I will mix Scotch with (very rarely!!)  This Cool Zone features various Coca-Cola products from around the world.  Unfortunately they introduced a number of new flavors about a year ago (which took out the Ginger Ale!!!) leaving only Brazil’s “Kuat Guarana” worth drinking.  I remember a version of this soda from my Capoeira days!   The others are worth trying, but not regularly in my opinion.

 
Pork

So, you’ve probably already gathered I’m a carnivore.  But this grilled lamb chop from the Australia section is amazing.  The pork is cooked perfectly and slides off the bone effortlessly (impressive considering how many of these they mass produce throughout the day.)  The meat is tender and juicy, but even better is that it retains spectacular flavor while not being too gamey.  The mint pesto balances the flavor perfectly and even the “potato crunchies” (read: glorified crushed potato chips) added a nice texture in the absence of (undesirable) char.   I go back for this every year and feel it’s one of the more underrated offerings.

 
 

MahiMahi
Singapore is also an annual favorite, but not for what I got this year.  A new offering was the seared mahimahi with jasmine rice and “Singa” sauce.  Normally I’m not huge on fish that’s not in a sushi roll, however a good friend of mine demanded I try this and she was absolutely right.  The fish was good: tender, boneless and flavorful, but WOW that sauce did it.  I’m a sucker for a good sauce (I’m addicted to Ponzu…) and it really made this for me.  Add that to the cheapest (and surprisingly well paired) wine offering in the park, the Marqués de Cáceres Satinela, and you have a fantastic and flavorful snack!  I tend to prefer sweet white wines, this one was a little dry, but it balanced the fish / sauce out really well.

 

Sling

Also from Singapore is the “Singapore Sling”.  This gets it’s own section as it is in fact the reason I go back to Singapore every year.  For $8.00 you get this cup of what is essentially a combination of two alcohols: gin and “Cherry Heering”. Traditionally a “sling” was an American term for any spirit and water that was sometimes sweetened or flavored.  It seems a bartender from Singapore initially mixed some sort of cherry brandy (may or may not have been Heering) with gin and the Singapore Sling was born.  The exact recipe changes from bar to bar, but almost always involves gin and some sort of cherry flavor.  The important thing about this particular incarnation is that on Disney property you’re getting essentially 3.5 – 4 shots of liquor for roughly $2.00 a shot.  Good deal.  In past years the gin ratio was really high resulting in a really potent drink that smelled and tasted like rubbing alcohol.  This year they evened it out making it a bit weaker but much more palatable.

 

Marsala

Normally the Italy pavilion is all about the stuffed ravioli (offered every year,) but this year they had a chicken marsala that was new to the menu.  I’m a sucker for mushrooms and a good wine sauce and this did not disappoint.  Even more surprising was how tender the chicken was.  I have to hand it to Disney, not only do they have natives from each country serving the food, but they manage to perfect the cooking process enough to mass-produce really well cooked food.  I wouldn’t call it “gourmet”, but regardless really tasty!  Well about the average you could find in your average chain restaurant!

 

Cheese Platter

Cheese.  If there is any reason in the world I would hate to go vegan, it would not be giving up meat, it would be giving up cheese.  I love cheese.  I often joke that one of two things in this world will be the death of me: women, or cheese (or some freaky combination of the two.  This offering was at the “Hops and Barley” pavilion (read: USA.)  This actually had the one cheese I’m not terribly fond of: bleu cheese.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat it, it’s just my least favorite in my favorite category.   However, the other two made up for it.  In the middle of the tray was a fantastic cloth-wrapped cheddar, and on the left was (my favorite of the three) soft, creamy goat cheese called “Purple Haze”.  It was so good that I think I understand why then made it’s name sound like a designer drug.

 

Frozen Martini

Next up was the France pavilion.  It is very difficult to choose here as they offer arguably the best assortment of food and drink that is, while pricey, generous and well-made.  While not the deal the sling was, this “La Passion Martini Slush” gives you more than enough to cool off in the Florida heat while a combination of (presumably mid-level) vodka and Grey Goose Le Citron helps you feel it.  It’s tasty, cold and easy to drink, so basically an expensive slurpee for adults, which is pretty fitting for this sort of event.

 
 

French Food

France has an equally wonderful selection of foods.  Most people go for the escargot, an annual favorite.  I’ve had it before, and I love the garlic, but it didn’t win me over enough to ignore other offerings (and my wallet can only handle so much!)  New this year was the “Gratin De Crozet De Savoie”  Since I have no idea what the name means, it was the description that sold me: “Wheat pasta gratin with mushrooms and Gruyere cheese.”  Carbs..?  Mushrooms? CHEESE???  SOLD!  Let me tell you, it was probably the highlight of my festival this year.  It was a pretty good serving but it was just not enough.  By now I was already quite full and I considered getting another.  Very, very good.  I hope it makes it back next year.

 
Canada is probably the winner for my kind of diet.  I’ve had the pleasure ofSteak dining there at the legitimately gourmet “Le Cellier Steakhouse” thanks to an amazing friend of mine who works at Epcot and put our names on the list months in advance.  This offering during Food and Wine is a petite version of the amazing steak I feasted on before and it does not disappoint.  Granted, it’s really hard to go wrong with a decently cooked Filet Mignon, but what you see on top is truly wonderful truffle butter accenting a bed of wild mushrooms.  Really, really good.  Compared to the full-sized, fresh cooked to order version I had, this is probably an 8 out of 10, which is pretty good considering the circumstances.  I love steak… and mushrooms… and butter.  Yum.  Also worth mentioning is the Canadian cheddar cheese soup!  However, it doesn’t photograph well (rather plain) and this was already a long entry, so ask me about it if you like (also really good!)

 

Honey Mead

My last highlights come from Ireland.  (Greece is also great, but again the presentation left a bit to be desired and that’s an important part of the package!) As I mentioned before, I prefer sweet wines so when I come across something called “Bunratty Meade Honey Wine”, it gets my attention.  You get a relatively small serving (about your average shot.. maybe a bit more) but the flavor is distinct and sweet.  Though this is not a pure mead (from honey only,) it’s a dessert wine and you can absolutely taste the honey heavily used to flavor this treat.  Most importantly the dulled bite of the white wine pairs really well with…

 

Irish Cheese

Irish cheese! I can’t resist another cheese platter, especially one offered by Kerrygold!  I’ve long been a fan of their unsalted butter (I’ve even put it in my coffee!)  This particular selection includes a Reserve cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout and Skellig (a slightly sweeter Irish cheddar developed specifically by Kerrygold.)  The chutney, bread and butter add substance to the platter for the price, but the cheese is exactly what you expect: quality Irish cheddar with no real surprises.  In my world, that is very, very okay. I’ve picked up this platter every year for the last three years (or more.. I don’t remember…) and I will look for it next year.  If you love cheese like I do, don’t miss it.

There are many more pavilions, and probably a lot of fantastic food I didn’t try, but that’s what next year is for.  In the meantime though, if this manages to make you as hungry reading it as it made me posting it, I’ve done my job.  Unfortunately the Disney Food and Wine Festival is done for the year, but I’ll see you there next year!