It was as if my body was rebelling against me working for others.
My hand wouldn’t move, I couldn’t type without incredible pain …
Two articles were created using a dictation service, along with copy/paste.
I was told they had been my best articles yet.
If the product is great, but the process is flawed; production won’t be sustainable, rending the product useless.
The only choice was to quit trying to type.
This meant, I wouldn’t be able to code either.
Over ten years of work, a lost marriage, an estranged daughter, exiled from family and community; I was within reach, I had been for some time.
My body was telling me I needed to finish this before anything else.
Man About Town
This is a term one community member referred to me as.
No one knew what I did, but I was often around community meetings, events and the like. I always seemed to know someone, or be talking about something of import.
Though for whoever I might have known, I was consistently relegated to jobs in the food service industry.
When I did finally break into the local tech scene, it was to be perpetually as someone else’s show piece, it seemed.
Regardless, I had a project, and a dream.
My entrance to the urban core was through my time at the local university.
I was in a band during high school, and had been writing poetry since middle school. Though I lacked the social connections to find a place to perform.
While my skin is brown, and I present indigenous features, my cultural mannerisms and prevalent psychology at the time was suburban white male.
Granted, I wasn’t the typical SWM; though the unknown I sought was still to nebulous to be of consequence, or observation, to a casual observer.
I was unable to connect with individuals at organizations like La Raza or the Native American Student Center.
Fear on both sides of the table :/
Though I never stopped writing.
After my first year at the U of M, I left to pursue a relationship that resulted in the birth of my daughter.
Her grand-father was a government contractor who lead both foreign and domestic engineering projects.
When the relationship between her mother and I completely dissolved; at least for the beginning years of her life, my daughter would be financially cared for.
I continued to struggle to find stable employment.
And eventually I returned to the local university, in an attempt to complete a degree; only to drop out again.
Though by now I was living by the local university; their demographic allowed me to blend in as a brown person. I was able to find a niche to exist within for a time.
“You all hiring?”
“You know how to run a sound-board?”, came the reply from slightly disheveled man sitting at the bar, beer in hand.
So began one of the most formative friendships of my life to this point.
I had experience working a grill, as well as a cash machine; so the only other part was to pull out the sound board, and start playing music.
And then I would need to start organizing shows …
But no complaints!
I had a place to sleep, food to eat, and work to do; things to learn, and a teacher competent in the field able to maintain for my personality.
This was a first in my life.
By no means perfection; while the bar was low, it was refreshing and new.
And it got me into the local music scene!
As soon as I started directing events for the venue, a group of students contacted me about hosting bi-weekly events at the venue.
The spin was that these events would be co-hosted by a local non-profit, along with music!
I met with the students who were about 2-3 years younger than I, once per week to organize these events; as well as managing the majority of the event, as I was the sound engineer/event director/host all wrapped into one.
And occasionally I was allowed a platform to perform myself.
Eventually, I got the idea to video tape the shows, and make the footage available to folks through YouTube.
Many years ago, I asked a man how I could become a local community organizer; not someone who worked for an organization, or had an important title. These things mean little.
How can I be someone who make a difference in their community?
Who is aware of what is happening, while listening to those most effected, and being of service and support to them?
How could I do this?
To which was replied that I just needed to live with open eyes, ears, heart and mind.
I didn’t understand; but now I think I am better able to.
The students for whom I was working with create their bi-weekly events soon sought to graduate to a block party.
Though in this endeavor, it was decided that I wasn’t explicitly needed; and so was left out of the conversations.
Race was not nearly the issue at this time, as it is now.
What then makes this curious is that while it may have been just casual, this is our project, and we’re growing beyond you, it doesn’t follow other social patterns we would like to see in a healthy community.
The students had been introduced to me through a mutual friend form high school. As the students grew beyond me, they continued to use assets who were moderately close friends of mine from high school.
[The high school band I was in, was soon followed by another band who made a bit more of a commercial mark; nonetheless it was a small school, and we we recorded as the same dad’s house. And organized shows together.]
Without recourse, I already believed in much of the work; armed with a video camera, I could continue.
A glass curtain
Success rarely depends on skill, but rather who recognizes and supports that skill.
Without recognition, skill means nothing; and in a competitive environment, it is not always in one’s best interest to recognize skill.
It can be a better move to stunt it’s growth, if at all possible.
And this can be accomplished a number of different ways.
Though I digress to say, proximity to the stage did not necessarily give me access. I was still working for white people who required their due.
Though I met another; he was allowed on stage, but off stage was not allowed to be anything other than a savant; or whatever trope could be conjured for those on the autism spectrum.
He had majored in computer science, and worked in the field for a day job.
He played with the band every Monday night!
I was able to start asking questions …
The kozmikyak continues to be an incredible friend to me, and hopefully I to him as well.
We have been through much, and put each other through enough; there was a time when we weren’t talking.
But we found a path to resolution, and I am not to timid to say I hold back a few tears for the beauty, kindness and joy he has brought into my life; and so provided what so few others ever could in times of desperate need.
I was trying to build a dream, and I didn’t know how. I would continually make mistakes, technical not just social, and he fields my questions with kindness.
Rarely could he give me the answer, but he helped me narrow my questions, and disambiguate the answers I would find.
It is in no small part due to his friendship, time and kindness that my dream is now beginning to take shape.
A contentious community
Working at a bar wasn’t a sustainable path for the father I sought to be; I needed to return to school.
Armed with a bit more life experience, a goal, a purpose, and the foundations of the skill sets needed to follow them, I found out I was able to return!
No more fluff majors, Creative Writing, or mushy social sciences; Economics and Statistics were going to be my foci!
I loved it! I like numbers, and equations are fun — I like writing proofs … (sssshhh you didn’t read that.)
And I also got a job in the field writing test for Django!!
OMG, dream come true ~ the job was remote too!
I was finally ready to pursue time with my daughter; I had somewhat stable footing!
As soon as I got back into school I started the court process to see my daughter, and we were able to meet through therapy sessions.
I thought the therapist would be cool, he had a signed poster of the Grateful Dead in his office, and … had probably taken enough acid to be legally insane.
[I have micro-dosed acid about 4 times in my life.]
He ended up being a complete jackass.
While the courts said I would see my daughter every other week, after the few few sessions he decided to go on vacation and not tell me.
Upon returning from vacation he was booked out.
And when I was finally able to schedule an appointment, I was accosted for waiting in the waiting room.
In the future, I was told to wait in the car to be called in, like a dog.
Thus the process was stymied and I needed to focus on paying bills and preparing for the upcoming school year.
Unknown to me, the people who had bought me used my same lawyer to sign an agreement with my daughter’s mother.
They agreed to not tell me anything about my daughter, nor that they were spending time with her; in exchange for spending time with her.
And to their evangelical minds, this was reasonable.
These people became devils to me at this moment.
We now have words like colonizer, settler, white-supremacist, and such for these individuals.
Though at the time, I was viewed as crazy for lamenting the blasphemy of whiteness. It was too easy to use the rhetoric, “it’s all your fault, because you have a bad attitude and are ungrateful.”
I had been raised by these people.
In their house, which had never been a home to me, and could never be.