Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hold the wheel and drive....

My getaways to Portland always seem to come at the right time... when I’ve had enough of the daily grind for a minute and I’m ready to spend three hours on the road solo, with nothing to distract me from dealing with my thoughts.

“May was brutal,” I said to G as I was climbing into my car on the evening of June 7. “I can’t wait to see you. Don’t worry, I bought lots of wine.”

I plugged my phone into my stereo with an auxiliary cord and pulled up a random Spotify playlist. And I began to drive, and think.

It was a good time to unplug. I’d been watching Facebook intently for updates on my friend from high school’s little son, who was battling leukemia. It wasn’t going well. I’d also begun to get a nagging feeling in my gut- related to my job, and my career future- that I wanted to drown out with wine rather than deal with. Between all of that and having my heart ripped from my chest the night before listening to E (one of the ladies in my latest bff trio) describe her fears over losing her boyfriend J to cancer, I needed the therapy that only a solo road trip could provide.

I was an hour into the drive when I heard a song I’d heard many times before, but had never really “heard.” I’m sure that happens to us all. I was lost in thoughts of “What if” when the lyrics jolted me out of my worry coma:

Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I'll let the fear take the wheel and steer
It's driven me before, it seems to have a vague
Haunting mass appeal
Lately I'm beginning to find that I should be the one behind the wheel

“Oh, God, “ I said out loud as the tears began to fall. I listened to it once, then twice. Before long, the tears had dried and I was feeling better... about everything. I was also still listening to the song on repeat, belting it out loud and proud as I cruised down the freeway...

Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there
with open arms and open eyes, yeah.....

Yeah, I thought. I don’t know what will happen with that sweet little boy. I don’t know what will happen with J, or my job, or anything. But whatever it is, I’ll be there to face it. Bring it on, world! I’ve got this.

My weekend with G was amazing. I’ve spoken before about the illness that almost took her from me a couple of years ago. The weekend I picked to visit was the weekend she finally went off the last of her medication. For me, it meant really, truly having my friend back. For her, it meant facing a world she hadn’t seen clearly in years, along with every emotion that went with it.


“I can’t believe it,” she said, looking around as we sat on the patio of a martini bar eating pasta and flirting with our server. “Everything is so clear!”


For you, maybe, and that’s good, I thought.


I headed home on Sunday night, recharged and refreshed, with better hair and a better attitude. Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there, with open eyes and open arms....


That statement is easier said than done, it turns out.


His name was Colin. He was four years old. And not long after I returned from Portland, that precious boy got very sick and he died. To watch a little boy slip away from his family over social media, not being able to do anything to stop it, was one of the most brutal, heartbreaking things I’ve ever experienced.


My heart shattered when I read the news. I cried and cried, thinking of his strong parents and his sweet little sister. I wondered if she’d remember him. I wondered if my heart would ever not break when I looked at a healthy little boy his age or saw an ad for Monsters University, which was released the day after he died and is the sequel to his favorite movie.


But through it all, I was totally inspired by the way Colin’s family came together and supported each other. They gave him so much love as he got sicker and did so much for his parents, I couldn’t help but be touched. And even though his family was dealing with unfathomable grief, they understood that they were blessed to have had their little boy even for a short time. Their hope gave me hope.


Meanwhile J got some devastating news when he saw the results of his scans. Though we haven’t faced it entirely, our trio has gone from talking about having hope to talking about how we’re going to get through this. Though our attitude has shifted, we’re trying to keep it as positive as possible. After all, though today may be all E and J have, isn’t it all any of us have? Aren’t we all supposed to live as if we could leave this world at any time?





Everyone handles their pain in life differently. Some are comforted by Jesus, Bible verses or thoughts of reincarnation. Some choose to drown out their sorrows with substances or staying too busy to deal. Some get the lesson they’ve learned tattooed on their body so they’ll never forget it, like E. No way of dealing is wrong... some are just more painful than others.


Myself, I’ve chosen to take these brutal reminders of life’s uncertainty as a reminder that I need to face my nagging, underlying gut feelings, not ignore them. I need to face my emotional ocean, no matter how scary, decide what I want out of this life, and either pursue it or not. And that’s what I spent the rest of June doing... thinking, listening to what my intuition was telling me, facing my ocean... and deciding whether or not it was worth diving in.


I think it is.


So if I decide to waiver my chance to be one of the hive
Will I choose water over wine and hold my own and drive, oh oh
It's driven me before, it seems to be the way
That everyone else gets around

Lately, I'm beginning to find that when I drive myself, my light is found

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Truth About Paradiso



The “why” is a long story for another post, but the “what” is this: I love electronic music.
Here in Seattle, where house music is heard at most bars and clubs and Deadmau5 and Tiesto are household names, I let my freak flag fly. I blast EDM in my car on my way to work, sunroof down, bobbing my head and swaying from side to side. I play it at the gym. Sometimes I listen to it at work, the beat drops drowning out the constant buzzing present in all creative minds.
Elsewhere, I keep my love of EDM secret because of the judgment. It’s the judgment that comes from those who can’t believe I would like such garbage when I’ve been exposed to “real” music, like the Beatles, man, and I was raised going to Broadway musicals for crying out loud. It’s the judgment from the people with untrained ears, who hear it for the first time and think it sounds like robot sex, then look at me like I’m a complete waste of life. But worst of all, it’s the people who associate the music with the drugs....that assume that to enjoy the music, you must be high. Those are the worst offenders.
I know the assumption that people that listen to certain types of music must do drugs is nothing new (Bob Marley, anyone)?. And honestly, I couldn’t care less if people make that assumption about me personally (I’ve been accused of so much worse, dolls). And I laugh, knowing I certainly don’t need to be on drugs to work or do cardio at the gym. But the people who make those assumptions tend to be the same people who are so anti-drug that they believe everything they’re told, spread rumors and unknowingly do much more harm than good because they’re afraid of something they don’t even understand.




Late on Sunday night I sat in my pajamas at my dining room table, writing a blog post for a freelance client when I should have been sleeping. I hadn’t had time to give it proper attention before I left for the weekend. At that point I’d been home from my weekend at the Paradiso Music Festival, an unbelievable weekend of costumes, carnival rides, new friends and tons of EDM, for about seven hours. My phone lit up with a text. It was a friend.


“I heard about a lot of people who got messed up on some bad stuff during Paradiso.”


“WHAT?” I texted back. I hadn’t seen one person in distress.


“There were over 100 people transported to the hospital. Some were so critical they went to neighboring hospitals,” he texted.


Shit, I thought. My Mind was racing. Who in their right mind would sell bad drugs to kids to take and dance for 48 straight hours in the raging heat? Those dumb kids, don’t they know there are already a bunch of shitty assumptions made about their kind anyway?
And then I realized there was no way that all those toxicology reports had come back yet, much less been released to the media. The festival had only been over for 22 hours. Where was he getting his information? I Googled. I found one lone article, on komo.com. And what I read made my blood boil.
They’ve since gone in and majorly edited the original article (check out the difference between that piece and this one) but it said over 100 kids had been admitted to the hospital for drug overdoses (actual fact: it was between 40 and 50 people, and since they didn’t test most of them, they admitted it easily could have been severe dehydration because it was 100 degrees and they camped and danced in that all weekend without adequate water). The drug suspected to be the cause was “something the kids thought was Ecstasy but was actually Molly, a powerful form of Ecstasy sometimes cut with other drugs...” drugs like cocaine, meth and LSD. Cringe.
It takes ONE Google search and browsing...not even fully reading...some articles in medical journals, to know that much of that is false. I’m pretty sure even my grandmother knows that “Molly” is what MDMA is referred to. To make a long story short (but please, do Google it), Ecstasy was sold in pill form back in the day, and it grew so damn popular that the MDMA in it was cut with other things so the makers and dealers could make more cash with less. The raver kids weren’t keen on the other stuff. They wanted to know what was going into their bodies, bad or not. The need for pure MDMA led to the increase of “Molly.” Supply and demand, you know?
I am in no way advocating the stuff... it’s dangerous! It has side effects, especially when people take a lot of it and don’t take care of themselves (like, you know, dancing for 12 straight hours in the scorching heat two days in a row). But putting out a bunch of ignorant information as a news source just trying to get the first scoop at what will be a controversial story is poor journalism, to say the least. I stopped trusting the media years ago, but many people still look to them as actual news sources.
There were 25,000 people at that music festival. I was all but strip searched and they searched every crevice of Mr. W’s backpack (which is how I learned he carries a tampon everywhere. Thanks babe!). One water bottle per person was allowed in and there were free water filling stations (I never found them but apparently they were there). USC Events, the masterminds behind Paradiso, emailed ticket holders plenty of warnings about staying hydrated and keeping cool. Truly, they did all they could. Out of 25,000 people, 50 going to the hospital is a slow news day. The only reason it made such startling headlines is because of the assumptions...the assumptions that were likely true in some of those cases, but truly, probably not all of them.
The assumptions, the misinformation and the propaganda are not doing those kids any favors. Again, I am not and never would promote drug use at music festivals (I know it’s hard to believe it but they really are not about the drugs), just like I don’t promote promiscuous sexual activity or the existence of the Mormon church. But whether we like these things or not, they are going to happen. Statistics show that making abortion illegal doesn’t reduce abortion. Abstinence only education doesn’t keep the kiddos virgins. And simply telling everyone that if they do drugs they will die does not keep them from doing the drugs.
I am not suggesting we legalize everything. If I had more faith in humanity, I’d like to! Think about it: how great would it be if one day you woke up, decided you wanted to try magic mushrooms, went to a designated location, bought some organic, GMO free fungus, took them in the government-designated area, had fun, and then saw a scary rabid unicorn, realized drugs are messed up, and decided mushrooms weren’t your thing? Or better yet, how great would it be if you read all the factual information with NO lies or scare tactics and realized the negative aspects (like the fact that the ‘shrooms grow in poo) was enough to make you steer clear?
I’m suggesting parents stop turning a blind eye and talk to their kids...and I mean really talk to them. And for the love of God, parents, read everything you can on the stuff...the good, the bad and the ugly, and know your terms, so you don’t sound like some kind of KOMO jackass but instead someone your kid will respect. And while many disagree with me on this, I believe events like that should have people from places like Dancesafe.org there to discreetly test their stuff, at the promise of no legal action being taken against them.
Some say that promotes drug use, that it will make kids more likely to try it because they know it can be tested. I don’t know whether or not that’s true. Personally, my parents taught me that my brain was everything to me and if I lost it, I lost my life. As a writer, I know that’s true, so I know exactly what I will put in my body and what I won’t. I’d like to think the raver kids are the same way. But if they’re not...if having people test their drugs would really persuade them to try it... well, I’d rather lose a few more to the dark side than to have a ton of kids unknowingly ingesting Drano or meth and ending up in the hospital or dead. Trust me, no one is going to get their Molly tested, realize it’s a combination of broken glass and baby laxative and take it anyway.
The articles that were released after the KOMO article portrayed a different scene. There were quotes from staff members of the Gorge who said concert-goers get dehydrated at events of all types, all summer long, not just EDM events. There was a police officer who said everyone he talked to at the festival was kind, respectful and polite to him. There were comments from people who worked the event saying they didn’t see one single fight and that everyone watched out for each other.
I witnessed the last part myself. I sat on a grassy hill for hours on Saturday, taking in the sunset and watching tons of groups of people in their early twenties and every last one of them, no joke, had a designated “Mommy.” These Mommys, both male and female, were the backpack holders, water carriers, phone watchers and snack pushers. They took care of their friends. And I’m so very sorry to hear that some of those kids slipped through the cracks.
A young man lost his life during Paradiso. He had just graduated from college. While we won’t have results found for awhile, I won’t be surprised if drugs are found in his system. And it breaks my heart for so many reasons... because maybe if he had known how serious the risks were he wouldn’t have done it, because I know he wouldn’t have ever traded his life for a false high, because maybe if he’d better studied the effects of MDMA he would have consumed much more water and been fine... but most of all, because I know he will be used by the wrong people to promote an agenda of intolerance and misinformation that is the last thing our society needs right now.
Plenty of people think he deserved to die simply because he was dumb enough to take a drug. I wasn’t aware we had so many people in the world who have never had too much to drink, or driven while they shouldn’t have, or texted while driving, or done something else totally stupid that could have killed them but didn’t. For everyone judging the people that may or may not have overdosed, that’s something to think about.
I was treated with nothing but love and respect last weekend, and that’s something that hasn’t happened in a long time. Not one person acted inappropriately in front of, or to, me. I met drunk, stoned and rolling people. I met stone cold sober people. I met college students, grad students and professional people. I met hippies, geeks, artists and other writers. And we were all there for one thing: that priceless feeling you get when the beat drops.
It’s not about the drugs. Not even close. But they’re there. And if you ignore the issue, spread misinformation about it and judge everyone as if they’re all the same, you are on the same level as the mysterious drug dealer who sold the fake E... unless there was no shady dealer and this was just a case of too much heat and not enough water or common sense. We’ll never really know.


Don't take my word for it. Please read this.




And if you think this whole thing is as messed up as I do, consider signing this:

https://www.change.org/petitions/usc-events-provide-comprehensive-harm-reduction-services-at-your-events
 
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