Authors

Becca and Darren Christensen

 

About Him

About Him

A short story life story

My name is Darren Christensen and I am definitely not “P.C.”. I love to learn, I am very analytical and I’m constantly doing research (on anything and everything). I’m quite healthy and my active lifestyle ensures that I stay quite fit as well. Nature, growing and building things balance me.  I’m a bit of an introvert, not because I don’t like people but because I don’t like drama and the small minded pettiness that is so rampant today. I would love to invoke a spark of imagination, hope, inspiration, or maybe even change in the world. This blog, for me, is an experiment in doing just that, so let’s get you introduced to me and how I came to be.

After bouncing around for years in the foster care system I was adopted and grew up in a little podunk town in central Texas. With a population of roughly 12k people, Lockhart really only had one thing going for it, Barbeque. Some might argue world famous barbeque, but seriously, the barbeque joint per capita ratio is ridiculous. I may have been a bit too wild after I traded in my chili bowl hair cut for the first one of my choosing, spikes! In kindergarten I managed to rip half my face off by surfing down the sidewalk on a piece of linoleum, in first grade I busted my head open on the school playground and when we went to the zoo for a field trip I jumped into the bear pit. In second grade I petitioned the admin to let the kids bring skate boards to school to play on during recess. They finally caved and on the first day skateboards were allowed, I rode mine down the super tall metal slide and broke my arm. About this time my mom started teaching so my shenanigans had to keep a low profile. Like the time in 5th grade where some friends and I started several incognito food fights. We rigged up catapults with our lunch boxes and plastic ware that would shoot over our shoulders. The other students and admin didn’t know what hit them or where it came from, they were pretty sure it came from my direction but couldn’t prove it and so went my adolescence.   

I was always a bit of a Jew with my money, especially in my early years and have always been interested in the history of money, how it’s manipulated and ultimately how that affects economies. Growing up I did anything I could to make a buck, sold anything and saved everything. My folks threw a few bucks my way if I kept up my grades and I always had my head down to pick up all the discarded change. I set pins in an old school bowling alley where I had to jump down and reset the pins after each round. With pins flying around and bouncing off the walls that was a pretty dangerous job especially, since I did it all for tips as I was too young to legally work. I was supposed to get an allowance for all the chores I did but my folks were never dependable on that account. I had far more chores than any of my friends and felt I did what was asked but my mom would always hint at doing something extra, at which point I tended to call bullshit and cut my losses. And so born was my skepticism of people and business dealings, so now I’m much more prudent in my opening negotiations. Back to my chores, I knew they were of value because as soon as I moved out of my parents’ house they got a fridge that made the ice for them, a cleaning lady to clean the house and an automated pool vacuum to clean the pool. When I was 15 I would ride my bike across town to work at the rec center until the owner decided to give my hours away to minorities that “needed the work more than I did”. That was my first experience with the working world hiring to quotas over talent, another thing that stuck with me.

In high school it was time for operation freedom (AKA getting a license and a car). To do this my dad gave me two conditions, I had to get my Eagle Scout Rank in Boy Scouts and I had to make the old truck run. For my Eagle Scout project, I organized the refit of a 100 year old church building. I remember replacing the original knob and tube electrical system and bringing it up to modern code. I was assured the power line coming into the building was cold but when I cut it there was a heart stopping fireworks display. My saving grace was that I was in the rafters and therefore not grounded and that I managed not to fall out of said rafters when it happened. The rest of the day my dad was jumpy every time the camera flash went off. The project turned out great but as the saying goes “no good deed goes unpunished” I managed to get bitten by a brown recluse spider on my bicep which resulted in surgery to cut out all the dead tissue and reconstruct the muscle.  As for the truck, Betsy (I know, super cliché) was a 1985 TOYota pickup, yup, just pickup, she was from the days before Toyota had a range of trucks that needed distinction from one another. Betsy was my first and I still remember her smell. Seriously though, the journey I took with that truck changed my life. It turns out Betsy needed open heart surgery since coolant had eaten though the head and was dumping into half the cylinders. As I embarked on my first engine rebuild, my dad gave me a tiny 15 piece Craftsman ratchet set (which I still have to this day) and a Chilton repair manual. My dad had been a race car driver in his B.C. (before children) days and knew a thing or two about the whole process so could step in if I got into trouble. If I had a question my dad to told me to look it up, so I did. Remember dial up internet and that awful sound it made? If not, the sound was something along the lines of circuit boards and clowns engaging in BDSM and murder. Which brings me to another thing that has stuck with me and served me well. Yes that sound stuck with me and will haunt me for the rest of my life, but the idea I got from the internet in its infancy was invaluable. You don’t have to know everything, just where to find it. If you can do that, you can run circles around most other people. This was also the first time I got high, not intentionally mind you, but I most definitely inhaled. I found that gasoline/petrol made a decent and cheap degreaser for cleaning parts and as winter came around, I still had an open container of the stuff… in the sealed up garage. Not a small container like tupperware or something but god damn livestock trough full of the stuff, it was bad. Rebuilding a motor for me was a lot like playing with legos, I loved it and was fascinated by all the parts and how they worked together. I couldn’t help but to think how the parts could be made to work better and my penchant for efficiency came to light. Soon enough I got everything in “working” order and ol’ Betsy roared back to life… well roar is a strong word for a 4 banger engine, but it was a big moment. I then began the hardest part, learning to diagnose all the little quirks, things that still needed fixing or adjusting (cough cough CARBURETOR). Fucking carburetors, I know I know, the old timers love their carburetors and points but for me they are just calibrated toilets and to be real, they really only work well/efficiently in a very narrow RPM band. There’s my efficiency twitch going off, sorry. If you have ever been under the hood of a Japanese vehicle that was built after emissions regulations but before EFI you have seen the rat nest of rubber hoses that just boggles the mind. I don’t know if I ever truly got those hoses perfect. Case in point, for a while I had this problem where one of the hoses would blow off and the secondaries on the carburetor would go wide open, didn’t matter where the throttle was, that engine was revving to her physical limits and with the old school, mechanical cooling fan she really did sound like a WW2 fighter trying to take off.

One of my first stops after getting my driver’s license was at Reba’s deli and pizzeria to pick up an application, I got the job and quickly became the weekend manager working 32 hours between Friday and Sunday plus at least one other night during the week which paid for way too much car stereo. I always had a good work ethic and with my compulsion for efficiency I found that I was far more effective in the workplace than most others.

Right about this time I started to figure out how the world worked, mind you I was still light years away but I was having little breakthroughs. For example, I started questioning the validity of the public school “education”. I recognized the high school diploma as a stepping stone/token but beyond that I couldn’t see any other value so I scrutinized the classes themselves and valued them even less. I could write an entire series on the flaws of the public education system, but suffice to say I could (and continue to do so EVERY day) learn far more, far faster on my own through books and the internet than I ever could with some boring class geared towards standardized testing to get the school funding. This prompted me to start running cost analysis on my effort vs. my projected return on my time in high school. I’m pretty sure my mom hated this but we also didn’t communicate too well back then so maybe she will see another side to it now. The first day of class I would calculate exactly how much effort I would have to muster in order to get a B in the class. That left a tolerance for my projections in which I got an A if things went smoother or a C if not. See, to me it wasn’t about getting as high a grade as possible, it was about getting the pass to get the diploma and spending as little time and effort on that task so that I could do more of the things that I was actually passionate about. I got so good at this that by my senior year I really only spent about an hour a day at school and that was mainly to see my girlfriend. The sad thing about this revelation I had in high school was the fact that I lost it… and it took me over a decade to get it back.

What were my plans after high school? Well folks, that is where I lost it. I loved problem solving, building things and had discovered the German engineering marvel that was BMW, so I was told from multiple sources that I should become a mechanical engineer. I wasn’t completely sold on the college route, I didn’t know why at the time but something just didn’t add up for me. I felt panicked, I had to decide what I was going to do for the rest of my life, a decision I was woefully unprepared to make and I didn’t really like any of the options that were presented. I applied to one college (Texas A&M University) and as a backup made a contingent agreement with a military recruiter that I would become a navy seal if I didn’t get an acceptance letter from A&M. That recruiter turned out to be a class five clinger, like when you hook up with someone and make the mistake of giving them your contact info before you really know them and they start calling you nonstop and tracking you down in the strangest of places…yeah. Between that and another recruiter telling me that I would never get in to A&M and I should just sign the papers, I said “FUCK YOU” and went about getting rid of my clinger contingency. I knew I was far from an ideal candidate for one of the top colleges in the state but after doing some research I figured out what they wanted to hear and whom to prod with my story that ticked all the right boxes. I got my acceptance letter and my leverage to get the recruiter off my ass. I can tell you from experience that it is far easier to let your parents down than a military recruiter. How can someone put so much pressure on you to literally sign your life away when you are at one of your most venerable moments in your life? It makes you think doesn’t it? It made me think much deeper about all sorts of things.

So the college “experience” was upon me, what turned out to be the greatest mind fuck of my life, and not in a good way. One of the most effective education tools is learning from your mistakes, even better if you can learn from others mistakes… so hold on, I made more than a few. I was all alone, with 60k people around me. I knew I was an introvert and really only had a couple of close friends back home. I didn’t even fit into any of the high school clicks/groups but what I did have where connections in every single one of those clicks/groups that I could tap into. It didn’t seem like a big deal in high school because I wasn’t besties with any of them, but those contacts make a world of difference.

As much as I didn’t let grades rule my life in high school I didn’t see a way around it in University. You have to make the grade to get into the specialized school and then keep the grade to stay. So I gave it a go. I went to classes that didn’t interest me with hundreds of other students and professors that only showed up for lecture then promptly exited stage left and washed their hands of the process, letting their graduate minions take over. There were some better professors with smaller classes but they all tended to have just gotten their visas, had super thick accents and talked so fast and passionately about their topics that none of it was absorbable. It was killing me but after my first semester I got into the School of Engineering where I got an advisor that laid out the next 4 years of my life. I was blown away, 70% of these classes had nothing to do with my field of study and I wouldn’t use 95% of this in the real working world. I was told that this is the way that it is and that college was about making it through. It’s about making it through! Are you fucking kidding me? If I just wanted to make it through the dictates of others I would go to North Korea. I don’t take mandates or ultimatums very well and certainly don’t fall in line and follow illogical societal norms. (fun fact: I’m hyper rational so logic is my key stone) This “college experience” went against every fiber of my being, my internal compass was spinning like a god damn dreidel. I wanted to learn meaningful things, useful skills, not stand the test of time. On top of all of this I was paying an outrageous sum of money for the pleasure of being bent over another broken education system.

College is expensive, I was paying $8k a semester plus living expenses. Paying at least $600 a semester for books (and I got used ones whenever I could). Did you know universities can only charge as much as they do because the loans you use to pay for it are guaranteed and federally backed which means you collect a far higher debt load than is fiscally responsible and you can never write off the debt, not even through bankruptcy. The US has a trillion dollar student debt bubble that is actually considered a substantial asset in the GDP. And those books you pay so much for, professors can make more selling books than their university salary. They mandate you buy their book when you take their class and reprint the book every couple of years to undercut the used market mandating that you buy the latest “edition” which rarely has any significant changes if any at all. Sounds like lots of conflicts of interest to me. Where exactly does education fall on the list?

I was losing it, nothing made sense, nothing was as it seemed on the surface. I was drowning in debt, working 60-80 hours a week between multiple jobs, going to school full time, maybe getting 3 hours of sleep a night and for what? I hated all of it. I started getting physically ill, I got pneumonia and an ulcer and started to wonder if I was mentally ill-I didn’t know what to do. Once I stared into space on campus half asleep and disillusioned. When my eyes came into focus I saw a bulletin board with an ad for a paying psychology study, “What the hell” I thought. When I got to the study we were put into groups of four and given rules that were as follows. Each round you get $10 but you have to decide if you want to put any of it in the pot with the others in your group. Any money you put in the pot gets evenly divided between the members of the group. Any money that is not put into the pot is lost (you don’t get to keep it). Seemed simple enough, the more we put in,the more we get to keep. But this seemed to be lost on almost everyone but me, round after round and people kept holding on to money they would lose 30 seconds later. I left even more confused than ever. It was simple, we had all the variables, all we had to do was think one step ahead. It was all there, all but the psychological aspect. Was this a metaphor for the college experience? Was I supposed to just follow the outlined rules? Was my high school chemistry teacher (Mrs. White) right-was I retarded? I mean, I thought it was ridiculous to memorize the periodic table, it’s right there on the wall, it can fit on a post card, I could reference it anytime I needed, besides life is open sourced right? Or is it? Did I have everything wrong? Maybe I am retarded, and it was time to face the music. So I took an I.Q. test…. and as it turns out I’m not retarded, I am literally a god damn genius! Fuck me, now I really don’t know what to make of this mess. I thought if you were smart that everything was supposed to be easy. As I sit here writing this some 13 years later and reliving it a little, sweating, heart pounding and almost in tears, I remember all this and so much more was going on at this point in my life and it almost crushed me. You won’t get any sympathy by speaking of your genius and it certainly doesn’t make being any easier. Quite the opposite really, as I’ve long since come to the realization that education and intelligence are most definitely not the same thing. Intelligence means you have to cope with all the things that most are blissfully unaware of.  I take in a metric shit ton more information in any given scenario than most, it’s not better or worse, it just is. I will tell you though, I’ve had a constant headache to some degree the vast majority of my life. All the stimulus stresses me out and it has really only been in the last year that I’ve started to pacify this.

What do you do when you realize you are in the friggin’ matrix? I’ll tell ya, it’s time for a bloody roady mate (and apparently I’m Australian now). I always wanted to go on a road trip and now seemed like a good time for it. I gathered one of my best friends and my girlfriend and we went from Texas to Wyoming and back. No real plans other than I wanted to visit WyoTech. Back then, I watched all the hot rod car shows on TV and Wyotech was always advertised and looked bloody cool. As it turns out, they were pretty legendary for an automotive tech school.  Off we went, we didn’t have any of the modern electronic devices of today, to find our way so it still seems a little crazy that we didn’t have any hiccups along the way.  We did manage to find all sorts of awesome places to see, things to do and I got to forget about the crushing pressure of the world for a while.

Back home, I had some decisions to make. I couldn’t do the traditional college route, it just seemed criminal to me. Little did I know how almost every aspect of everyone’s lives are controlled in a very similar manner.  After a year and a half at Texas A&M it was time to cut the bleeding of my finances and my soul. I signed up to attend Wyotech. I wasn’t happy about more than doubling my debt load to do it but at least everything they taught was applicable in the real world and I would get done far faster. I had about six months before I moved and had to stay in school so my loans didn’t go in to default so I enrolled in a community college and took a hand full of business and finance classes that sounded interesting. Those classes were interesting and even better, the professors weren’t career educators but rather taught from decades of relevant, first hand knowledge as opposed to theory. To top it all off, I could afford it out of pocket since the classes were roughly 90% cheaper.

As it turns out I really liked business, so when I got to Wyotech I swapped out a couple of my add-on classes (chassis fabrication and hot rods) for business classes so that I could get a business degree in addition to an Automotive Technology Certificate. Everything they taught was applicable in the real world. As I mentioned, I’m hyper rational and a big problem I had in high school and college was that I would always ask for a real world application and almost never got one. Learning something and memorizing a formula that has no real world application was absolute blaspheme in my mind. But here, now, things started to make more sense and slow down. I don’t know if it was the lack of oxygen at 7200 feet (2200m) or the copious amounts of alcohol I was consuming but this was a different experience all together. I didn’t have to study, I tutored and I aced everything. This was more like it!

I spent most weekends out of state, mostly in Colorado. This was before there was legal weed, I just found Colorado more interesting and all the driving in the mountains helped me clear my head. There wasn’t much to do in Wyoming in the winter other than drink and fuck and all the women were bundled up so you never really knew what you were getting into. The local populous tended to focus on the alcohol-seriously, it was everywhere! The ratio of places to get booze in that tiny town put the barbeque ratio of my home town to shame, most of them even had drive-throughs. I started training and working out more in hopes of get into the local fight club but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it got shut down. I continued to work out and finally started putting on some mass when I discovered there is an inherent respect given to beefy dudes. My time in Wyoming was up, I graduated with all sorts of extra tassels, cords and sashes.

Next I was headed to Phoenix, Arizona. I got into a graduate program put on my BMW North America that only about 30 people get into a year. Promptly moving to the desert was a bit of a shock after the winter wonderland of Wyoming. I found a tiny apartment before I moved which turned out to be located on the edge of the ghetto-for real. There were several shootings and drivebys, most of which took place around the Wal-Mart that was a couple of blocks away. Sometimes I would set off my car alarm from my apartment to disperse the people shouting and waving guns around. The grad program was intense, only 27 weeks long but we would cover every bit of a 4 ft (1.2m) stack of literature. Seriously, we all had rolling luggage to carry it around. Class was relatively short from 7am to 1 or 2 pm and much more comfortable as the 15 of us sat around a board room in leather chairs. The shop was awesome with a couple dozen BMW’s to play with. We got to take the cars out to play with the different systems we were learning about, which was a ton of fun. One time I took out a 7 series with an instructor and a couple of other students to test the braking and stability control systems. Driving on some back road in the desert, my instructor told me to put one side of the vehicle off the road, into the gravel and slam on the brakes. This seemed kind of dangerous but hey, I was in a big ass BMW. I got the car up to 55mph (89kph), dropped the right side of the vehicle off into the gravel and literally lifted myself up and stood on the brake pedal. The car pitched ever so slightly and stopped about as fast as my Ford Taurus would if I drove it into a wall. My heart was pounding as I looked over at my unfazed instructor who said “Is that all you’ve got? Why don’t you try and really test the car” So I did the same maneuver, only this time I got up to 120mph (193kph). This is it folks, I’m about to wreck a $100,000+ car. Nope, not in the least. The car pitched slightly more than the first time and took a bit longer to stop, all very controlled, but this time the car really came to life. There were all kinds of sounds, groans and reverberations not to mention that the tires and brakes were smoking by the time we stopped. That shit was amazing, all hail the German engineering gods!

 After class I was mentally and physically exhausted so I would go home and take a nap. When I woke up I would run a mile down the road to the gym and work out. I started body building during my time in Phoenix. The respect from being a beefcake also helps when you live in the ghetto, you tend to get left alone. Putting on over 70 pounds (32kg) of mass, I got big, and at 21-22in (55cm), my biceps were literally as big as my head. I had a few wild trips to Las Vegas since it was about half a days drive across the desert on Americas’ Autobahn. There is a speed limit, though I have no Idea what it is and no one follows it anyway. I remember driving 110 mph (177kph), bouncing off the rev limiter in my car and being passed by other cars like I was standing still… just nuts. I got offered a job at BMW in Las Vegas but there were just too many lost souls there, it was actually kind of haunting (pun not intended). I got offered a job at Mercedes-Benz in Beverly Hills California, but that just didn’t seem like a good fit. I almost moved to Colorado but decided against it since they spend half the year under snow. I had already been caught in three bad snow storms and figured that was enough. So I flew back to Texas for a fourth of July bender on the lake and a Job interview at BMW of Austin. I drank enough to give a small village alcohol poisoning so I chugged a jug of water and went to bed, sleeping with frozen pizza and shaving cream everywhere. Somehow I didn’t have a hangover in the morning, maybe frozen pizzas and shaving cream is the trick? I jumped in my buddy’s car and picked him up from the sorority house that he ended up at and we were off to my interview. With the formalities done and offer letter in hand I was so glad that my new boss left the office because as soon as I tried to focus on the paper work to sign, I came real close to passing out and falling out of the chair… real close.

Graduation came and went and soon enough it was time to move back to Texas and start the new job. Since I had just gone through this BMW grad program, I pretty much came in at the top of the game as a BMW Master Tech minus a couple of years of experience. The job wasn’t quite as glamorous as it was made out to be but I enjoyed tinkering with the cars, acquiring lots of new tools and most of all, driving these incredible cars to just short of their limits. All my friends were still in school so I was the only one with a real job and I fell in to the instant gratification trap of buying whatever I wanted whether or not I needed it. I was 21 and had $65,000 in student debt. Even so I was making more than my parents and the banking industry was just throwing credit at me. I just pissed money away… not a single good investment.

I stopped working out. Not for any reason most people would think but because eating became a chore. To maintain my mass I had to eat 8,000-10,000 calories a day which meant that I was constantly shoveling food into my face. I love food but this was ruining it for me.  It is amazing how fast you can lose all that muscle mass, within six months I was back to my lean self. 

I worked at BMW for three years, the last year of which I started to feel lost again. I was noticing lots of ways the business could be run more efficiently but got shut down every time a made a suggestion. Like I said before, I came in at the top of my field, there was no more advancement without switching jobs, so I jockeyed for management. Job advancement had never been a problem for me before but this time I was introduced to the Good Ol’ Boys Club. That, boys and girls, means the guys had their jobs not because they were the most qualified, certainly not for diversity, but because they were buddies. This is also why my business advice went unheeded, they were riding the gravy train and didn’t need or want to do anything any better.

I once again was searching for purpose but this time went about it differently. I still had the gut wrenching tension of being a lost soul but acted out to cover my insecurities. I embraced my dark, angry side, bought the fastest, most powerful Harley Davidson motorcycle of the time (the V-ROD), jumped at a fight and ran through women. A lot of my life I have felt like Jarod from the old school TV show The Pretender where I can be anything I want but I’m not really any of those things that I have been.  

After several months in a tail spin I came across this real estate group, that, to be honest, had more than a few similarities to a pyramid scheme. Don’t worry, I didn’t go all in and full retard. What I did do was pay my dues so that I could observe, learn and target the strong players. I did this for several months and found some good people, some with good resources and lots that had been played. The real estate investment market was interesting and there were so many ways to go about it. There was, of course, lots of bull shit in the air, but I started to make sense of it all. And then I found my mark-the oddest and most perfect partnership had formed and I had it in my sights. On the one side we had the Bulgarian, the scrappiest and most aggressive guy in the group. Think small, angry, Eastern European military man with Russian mob ties. On the other side we had a young (my age), white, Mormon with nothing to lose and a family to fall back on. As I looked into these guys, I befriended anyone that they were close to in the group, connected with their wives and followed up on any deals that they were a part of. Then the day came when we met and “naturally” hit it off. I mentioned I was bored with BMW and set up a time to stop by their offices. We talked for a while and then they mentioned that they were looking for someone to make cold calls (I think they actually called them warm leads or some B.S.). They must have been drinking some Kool-Aid at one of the recent meetings so I informed them that I would rather slit my wrists than spend my time making cold calls. I cut our conversation short and promptly left.

These guys were perfect! (That probably doesn’t add up, hold on I’ll explain.) I went into that meeting having literally no idea how to play it. I didn’t have resources they needed, I didn’t have any experience and could barely keep up with the industry jargon. I could tell by our conversations and state of their offices that they were just getting things sorted but were still spinning their wheels. Oddly enough my move ended up being the same as with the ladies out on the town. Observe, show some interest, pay a back handed complement and turn my back. They called me back before I even got home. I knew that I could learn a ton from this scrappy, limit pushing Bulgarian and that the Mormon would keep him in check. I wasn’t disillusioned and I knew this wouldn’t last, but if I played my cards right, this could be a whole new kind of invaluable education. By this time in my life I had a penchant for determining the parameters for which I would cut my losses and move on. A skill that I had been refining since the days of my childhood chores. The best part about these guys was the Mormon! (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.) In my experience, Mormons are good people with strong morals and strong family ties, so I knew that the second he overlooked his morals or family, it was time to cut ties and burn bridges.

I knew that I seemed absolutely crazy to my friends and family when I quit a seemingly great career out of the blue and made sure to burn my bridges. (I’ll explain my penchant for burning bridges since I’ve mentioned it a couple of times now. I burn bridges so I can’t go back. You have to rip off that rear view mirror of life, hit the gas and focus on what’s ahead of you.) I wasn’t happy being stagnant in my life. I need adventure, forward propulsion and above all to continue learning and growing. So BMW went up in flames and I went to my new office, mind you, I never agreed to a job and they never agreed to pay me but I kept showing up. I lived off of credit cards, cashed out my 401K and showed up day after day. Before long I was the go to guy to get things done, whatever it took. I had to push through personal limits almost every day. I had weapons pulled on me and even got knocked out cold as I mastered my negotiation skills. I’ll tell you though, you might take a hit from those tough guys but it’s the ones that play it cool that you need to worry about. I collected all the money, handled all the conditions and cleaned up any loose ends. I became a third partner of sorts, granted my name wasn’t on any of the businesses paperwork but I did negotiate for a newly remodeled house on acreage, a car (Jaguar) and I took home more money than the other two partners. Things were always crazy but we managed to shift from residential to commercial investments through the collapse of the banking/mortgage bubble with the influx of private and angel funding.

I had learned a lot about myself, about how the world worked and a good bit about how to bend things to my will. Things were far from stable, but I no longer feared the “what ifs” of life. I had the confidence to handle whatever came at me and if I got knocked down I’d be all the better prepared for the next round. There was a disconnected feeling growing in me though, as I became a social recluse. After all, it was a bit hard to describe what I did at the time. Now though, looking back, I’d say I was a cleaner. I didn’t clean up bodies per say but rather business deals, which can get just as ugly. I didn’t have any sort of connection with any of the women that came and went in my life-they were generally younger, had no idea how the world worked and loved texting. I on the other hand really hated texting so it was time for a change there too.

Anyone remember Myspace, the precursor to Facebook? While Myspace was on its death bed I got a message from this Becca girl. She had never done the Myspace meet up before but still went through with meeting a stranger, at night, that drove up in a blacked out, old school Jaguar. We talked for hours. She was smart, beautiful, had a real backstory and an idea of how the world worked. She had no idea of her potential, though I could see it. I had become really good at reading people and sweet baby Jesus, this one read like a unicorn.

Becca and I started dating and I started feeling human again. She had these small gestures of affection that meant the world to me. No one had ever put forth that kind of effort on my behalf before. My personal life started to come around but wouldn’t you know it, my business life took a turn in the opposite direction. The businesses were diversifying but deals were getting shadier. Bills weren’t getting paid, which was normal protocol sometimes if we needed to pull cash together for a deal but this was different. I overheard on more than one occasion the whisperings of running off with the investors’ money to Argentina. And the Mormon, well, he triggered my G.F.O. (Get the Fuck Out) contingency plan. I had something real and meaningful with Becca, something worth protecting and I’d be damned if I was going down with a ship guided by a broken moral compass. I warned the investors and even mapped out the weak links in the businesses and contracts. Jumping ship I was risking retaliation and staring down the barrel of bankruptcy. I lost everything except my dog (and my frickin’ student loans), but I did it with a clear conscience. Amazingly, Becca hung in there with me too and we have been inseparable ever since. Our cohabitation marks the beginning of Living Our Best Story.

The Chickensens

The Chickensens

You Are What You Eat

You Are What You Eat