As I have been reading these beautiful responses, I have been slowly answering them myself. Truly enjoying thinking back through life in this introspection.
Here is part one of my Beautifully Human...
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Tell me a story that shaped your life…
- I remember music always playing a role in my life. I never knew where it would take me but I knew it took me away from where I was when I was listening to it.
When I was growing up I was supposed to only listen to christian music. I would constantly get asked by my mom how I knew a song that came on the radio or a commercial and I would say...I heard it at the store!
I remember I got a sampler CD that had a song called Teenage Politics by MxPx on it. I had never heard anything like this style of music before but I was really glad it was on the compilation CD that I got because I knew it came from the christian bookstore that we went to on Friday nights at the time.
I remember being so excited for the first time to go back to the store because I would find out what other CD’s Mxpx had and I would be able to buy it again since it was at the bookstore.
I started buying any and every CD that was associated with this band, with punk rock. Some horrible now that I look back, but I absolutely loved it.
I then found a college radio station, 88.9 the eagle, who had a punk rock hour starting at 1 am on Friday nights. I remember waking up, putting in a tape and smashing down the record buttons and putting my headphones on and loving the music I was finding.
This was when I found Bad Religion, Pennywise, AFI, Millencolin, No Use For A Name, Anti Flag and countless others. I loved that they were standing up for what they believed in. They were fighting for what they believed to be right.
I knew in my life I was watching adults who were saying one thing and living a completely different life. That never made sense to me. Sundays we are good and the rest of the time we do life the way that is convenient for us. Oppressing your spouse in front of your two children who do not understand why. Oppressing others for no reason other than what you believe politically. Not truly standing for what you stand for on a Sunday. Not challenging yourself to get out and tell the world this good news. Keeping safe with like minded people and not letting others in because they are different or believe differently.
I still did not understand why this would be such a significant part of my life, even until recently. But it shaped my way of thinking. It opened my mind to thinking for myself. To stand for what I believe and go my own road.
I still know that these musical discoveries when I was in sixth grade shaped my life, it sent me on a path of my own and a life that I wanted to live. Not perfect but shaped by my beliefs and truly my own.
Tell me a story that enriched your life…
- I met this man the summer of 2019 living on the sidewalk on the walking path from Weehawken, New Jersey to Hoboken, New Jersey.
Syiad is his name. He told me to call him homeless man and that was not good enough for me.
The first night our interaction was shorter than our next one.
Lindsey and I stopped to speak with him and offer him our leftover dinner. It was Indian food and he was delighted.
Syiad speaks in numbers, riddles, and a rhythmic pattern that is almost lyrical.
I sat with him for a few hours one afternoon. He told me stories of his life on Wall Street. As a high end watch salesman and the parties and life this awarded him.
He then spoke of the mishaps that he had. How higher ups were threatened by him.
How a few massive mistakes with his money and his partying being out of control landed him on the streets.
He kept saying to me, I am sure you have places to be. I kept saying, there is nowhere I would rather be than here with you.
He got choked up and said that he had people that would say hi or leave food.
But no one took the time to sit with him. To listen, hear, and see him.
To me this was a beautiful conversation. To him it was a gift of feeling human. That he was important enough to sit with and laugh.
I look back on those moments so fondly. I hope to see Syiad again one day.
His outlook on life is beautiful. His mind is beautiful. His smile is beautiful. His laugh is beautiful.
He was free from walls holding him in was how he liked to look at it. I think that is quite beautiful.
These few hours made me re evaluate how I look at humans. Every story has power. Every human deserves to be treated with dignity, respect and love.
Tell me a story that enriched another life…
One of the coolest parts of working in the music industry is the fact that you can gift others with better tickets or awesome merch surprises.
I think of my favorite times on tour when I can go to the top of the arena and bring down two massive fans, right to the front row.
Or is someone is getting picked on to bring them to a better spot and send the asshole out. Making sure that the magic of the night is still happening for everyone. Upgrading anyone possible.
Tell me a story of crazy life…
- One of my craziest nights happened in Oklahoma City on a Monday on a day off…
The bass player in the band I was working for was hellbent on finding an open mic jam to take over. One of his best friends was coming in to hang so they wanted to play.
He warned me that shit got a little wild when his friend came into town. I was ready.
After dinner I got the text to let us know our destination for the night. We walk over and find a drink special of 3 dollars for a PBR tall boy and a shot of whiskey. DANGER!
We start drinking and playing pool while listening to the locals jam.
My buddy comes up to let us know they are up after this song.
The word gets out and people start to recognize some of the band members.
The bar starts to fill up, quickly. They go on and blow the roof off of this bar.
A man comes up to us who owns the coyote ugly down the road. He wants us to go to his place for body shots and to hang.
We get there and it’s just our crew of 9 people and one other man hanging by himself in the corner.
Body shots start happening and this random dude starts filming.
Our drummer yells at him to stop filming… this dude does not stop filming.
So our drummer grabs him by the neck and slams him into the wall grabs his phone and deletes the video.
Instantly the kid threatens and calls the cops. Owner of the bar sends the drummer and a few of the crew out the back door.
I try to play the drunken peacekeeper and walk up and pat him on the shoulder and say it’s a misunderstanding.
He then says he’s been assaulted again. My turn to get the hell out. I grab our bass player and start running out the back door. We take a left and wrap around towards our hotel. Bass player the whole time screaming how he cannot leave the drummer behind.
To the point where when we cross the front, where we could walk to the front door of the bar and it is littered with cops, our bassist was yelling how he could not leave our drummer behind and almost ran to the bar.
I convince him he’s at the hotel safely and we need to join him.
We get to the hotel and our tech has a room full of booze so we decide to keep the night going.
Bass player and I decide to challenge each other. He gets punchy when he is drunk anyway and I decided to enter the ring with him.
We went punch for punch for almost 20 rounds. He hits like a sledgehammer. Bastard!
Then I stop that nonsense and look at him and he’s about to smugly light a cigar to celebrate his victory.
I look him straight in the eyes and I slap the shit out of him. Open hand slap.
He looks at me… hands me the cigar, I put it in my mouth and he slaps the shit out of me.
This goes on for about 5 rounds, and to our credit neither let the cigar fall out.
We weren’t done quite yet. Our friend whose room we were in convinced us to play the game
Rock Paper Scissors Nuts.
In his version we put pillow cases over our faces because why wouldn’t we at this point.
He proceeds to be the judge of the game. The game being we do the typical Rock Paper Scissors and then he says ah sorry you lost… and slapped us in the nuts.
It gets very hazy after a few rounds of that game.
I do remember how much fun we had. How wild of a night it was. How much we laughed.
Most importantly I remember not being able to lift my arms over my shoulder for about 3 days. Also having small plate size bruises for weeks after Looking like a solar system in my arm.
It’s really good that I am sober now! Haha.
Tell me a story of hope…
- A story of hope to me happened while listening to a zoom call with teenagers who were fighting for the climate and for their futures.
I hear an 11 year old talk about how she drew houses that were in bubbles and the people inside having to buy air to survive because we had destroyed every other way of getting aiir.
The reason it gave me hope was that our future generations are thinking of these important issues in ways that I never did. I also heard a great quote recently from two teenagers from Bali who helped get plastic bags banned in their country.
They said we might only be 10 percent of the population but we are 100 percent of your future.
Add that to the 78 million who came out to vote against ignorance and hatred. To stand for equality and justice.
That gives me hope.
What did / do you miss most during covid 19…
- I miss traveling without border restrictions. I get it, this country and its “leader” were horrific in the handling of this pandemic.
I understand why not many countries want us there now.
I miss other cultures. I miss the freedom that comes with that.
What brings you the most joy / smile the most…
- My partner Lindsey and I laugh constantly. She brings me incredible joy.
What has been bringing me the most joy has been reading my friends answers to these questions in this series. Having beautiful conversations on this project as well.
Bringing love and humanity to any open ear and mind that is willing to hear other lives. That’s my greatest joy.
If you were given a plane ticket to anywhere, where would you go…
- Georgia… not the state. Even though one of my favorite humans lives there. I also live in a state connected to it, so I would just drive. Annnyyyway.
Georgia is atop my list right now. I have fortunately knocked a lot of my tops off my list already.
I’m fascinated by the region where Georgia is in the world. The culture. The people. The Black Sea.
I want to travel the Silk Road.
What brought you to where you are at in life today…
- My first thought is to quote a friend of mine in regards to me. “He’s too stupid to give up”. In this context, he sounds like kind of a dick.
But the way I heard it was that I wasn’t going to fall for life any other way than the way I was going to live it.
I was too “stupid” to give up or give in.
I took massive risks. I haven’t saved. I travel every moment I can. I learn from those experiences. I gave up normality a long time ago. I gave up convention.
Some would say that is “stupid”.
I say that’s life.
What is your most prized possession…
- My life. When presented with the words… “He’s not going to make it, he won’t make it to tomorrow”.
You get a whole new perspective on what is important to you.
What is worth worrying about. What is worth keeping. It’s not material possessions, I can tell you that.
The farthest thought from my mind in those horrifying moments in the hospital was what was going to happen with my clothes, my truck, my money. None of that mattered at all.
My life mattered. My friends mattered. My experiences and memories mattered. That was all that mattered.
So to me… my life is my greatest possession, and after almost fucking that up, I hold to it quite tightly and open my eyes wide, breathe deeply, and enjoy the ride!
Traveling is my life, and has also saved my life. It shows the beauty of other cultures. tell me a story of your favorite travel moment…
- One really cool memory that pops into my mind comes from Istanbul. My friend and I were out walking and heading towards a cemetery, one of my favorite places to walk.
As we progressed we knew we had to cross a major road. We got to this intersection and it was hectic and chaotic. 6 lanes each way.
As we patiently wait to cross, we notice a group of dogs seemingly waiting to cross as well.
When it was all of our turn to walk, the pack leader set off with the most agile and young pups. Once across the street he quickly returned to get the second part of the crew. They crossed safely.
He then returned to the side he started on to help the 3 eldest dogs. They sat for another light cycle, then he slowly walked them across to the other side.
It was so beautiful to watch this dog go back and forth and make sure he accounted for every pup, young and old.
Off we went towards the graveyard all smiles. Loving what we had just witnessed. Up ahead we saw the pack take a turn, turns out that was our turn as well. We all wanted to wander the incredibly old graveyard.
In another life, what are you doing…
- In another life I’m rescuing and saving all of the animals. I have a bitchin’ ranch for them to roam and play.
I don’t have to be heart broken ever because I save every one of them.
How has your life been different than you thought it would be…
- In almost every single way. I never imagined a life this beautiful. Even in all of the shit of life.
I never imagined traveling with bands and seeing the world.
I never imagined being an alcoholic. I never imagined part of this life’s memories being completely fuzzy or blacked out.
I never imagined being controlled by a bottle, not having the strength to not drown myself in its fueled liquids.
I never imagined being on the verge of death at the age of 33.
I couldn’t have imagined how incredible of a journey life would let me stroll.
What is your greatest accomplishment…
Overcoming my addiction and getting it under control. I will never be over it or struggle with it. But to get a grip on it when I absolutely would not have made it without getting that grip.
I would say that is it. Living and loving my life.
What is your biggest fear…
- I have two. One is being stuck in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night. Amidst all of the darkness. It freaks me the fuck out. I’m a good swimmer but no way in hell am I supposed to be in the middle by myself.
Second is the fear of jumping. Jumping when I get close to the edge of a building, a hotel balcony, any edge. I know if I did, I would instantly be super bummed with myself, as I don’t want to hurt myself. I truly love live, but I get these insanely strong urges to jump when I’m by any edge.
I have had dreams of free fall since I was a kid, incredibly vivid dreams of free falling. I am pretty sure it’s telling me to go sky dive.
I know on my close to death bed, I was thinking of getting into a wing suit and flying over a fjord in Norway.
What is your biggest regret…
- I do not believe in regrets… but if I’m thinking of something that I would tell my young self to do differently…
I would say Nik… learn languages… all of them, any of them, be a language nerd, love them.
Also not to have stopped playing guitar after one “sold out” chapel performance of “Wipeout” on guitar in sixth grade… music is another language to fall in love with.
What do you do for work… and why…
- I have worked the last 15 years in the music industry. Doing a plethora of different roles.
Most commonly running VIP programs for the bands or being on the merchandise crew.
Why I do it. Pretty simple. I love feeling as if I joined the circus. I had a fleeting moment where I wanted to do that.
I also love seeing such joy in other humans as they enter a show. How they have to choose the exact right item to commemorate their evening. Maybe their one and only time seeing the band they love.
That keeps me going. That separates it from anything else.
What was your first tattoo…
- The state of Ohio with an American flag in it, even though I asked for the Ohio flag.. I got it for free when getting your home state was cool to get, I guess it was cool? Who knows, but I did it. An artist came to a Maylene show and wanted to do some work for us for free. So I jumped on the offer.
I was broke and could not afford one on my own so it was time!
It started my obsession.
If you had the ear of everyone in the world, what would you say to them…
- Be kind. Truly kind. Not this religious kind of kind. Where you show up on certain days and act the part. Dig in. Help other humans. Be there for them.
Know that you are not perfect and that is the best you can be. But then be the best you can be. Fight for the oppressed, for the voiceless. Stand up for their rights when they have no rights to stand up for themselves.
Be a human that stands for change. Stands to challenge other humans to be beautiful.
I can tell you for sure, life is short, no cliche about it. When you almost die at 33 you get a new perspective on how short life can be.
Stop filling it with bullshit and hatred. Be a beautiful human. It takes so much more energy to wake up and hate people than it ever will to wake up and be there to love and accept people for who they truly are.
Live life as if every moment is your last. You never know when your last moment is.
Peace signs up
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