Life in The Desert

I suppose the title for this post could be viewed literally (actual life in an ACTUAL desert) or metaphorically (some period of time where you feel like you’re alone in a dry, desolate place) but in this case: I mean it QUITE LITERALLY.

One of the perks to being ‘on the road’ for a living is that you get to see and experience many different places. My travels have been limited to the US and Canada but that’s still a lot of ground to cover! Currently, I’ve been to most of Western Canada (Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary twice each, Saskatoon and Winnipeg once each), a fair amount of Eastern Canada (Toronto once, Montreal and Ottawa twice each) and 31 of the 50 states.

This is not my first time in the desert, though it may turn out to be the hottest if the weather trend keeps up. Today’s unexpectedly high temp is 109 where I’m at. It was supposed to be 104. Thankfully, and I say this every time I’ve visited the desert, it’s
dry heat. So at least we’re skipping the sticky, moist, always-too-gross-for-comfort
kind of heat that just makes you want to sit inside a freezer and never come out again!

Temperatures aside, this time in the desert proved to be extra spectacular. Why, you might ask? Because I got to visit the Grand Canyon!

I’d never been to the canyon before, but I can absolutely attest that if you are anywhere nearby: Go. My friend and I drove just under four hours to get there and it was worth every single second/minute/hour/mile.

There genuinely aren’t words to accurately describe how breathtaking it is at the Grand Canyon. The formation of the rocks, beat down over millions of years by the river and it’s tributaries; the color of the different layers of rock; the sparse but yet very present plant life…it all comes together and will literally knock all sense of speech right out of your body.

GC18

See what I mean? Incredible. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here are some things I learned that I didn’t know about before beginning this trip:

1) Just because it’s the desert doesn’t mean it will be hot. It was a LOVELY 58 degrees for the high on the day we went to the canyon. Fortunately, I checked the weather before leaving or I would’ve been in shorts….

2) When they say the desert gets cold at night, they mean BEFORE the sun even sets. The temperature began dropping before sunset and by the time we left (at which point the sun still hadn’t totally disappeared from the sky) it was already in the low 40s with a wind chill that likely put it closer to the 30s. So yeah. Make sure you know that and bring a heavier coat than I did, LOL.

3. The Grand Canyon is actually in the middle of a national park. This sounds like a “Duh” moment but think about it: when you think Grand Canyon, usually you picture rock, sand and very little else. In point of fact, there are trees and greenery all over the place until you get to the edge of the canyon. Now, if you’re one of those crazy hikers who wants to hike THROUGH the canyon? Obviously less greenery there. But I was personally shocked because the trip into the park was a lot less ‘desert’ than I had anticipated.

4) Like most other places in our country, entry to the park isn’t free. I should have expected that. However, I hadn’t expected the $30 price tag. That fee is good for 1-7 days, if my memory serves correctly. That’s not bad if you’re staying more than one day. Me and my friend? We were only there about 4 hrs. Was it still work the price? HELL. YES. I’m just saying…I probably should’ve looked that up first so as to avoid the “It costs HOW much for a day?” moment I had in my brain.

5) There’s an amazing little Village inside the park that has a couple of hotels, a few gift shops and one very handy food court that serves a variety of awesome food (and no, none of it is from ‘chain’ restaurants). It was a lovely place to sit, eat dinner and take a break from the every dropping temps before finding a spot to watch the sunset.

IMG_0749

There are a number of view points at the canyon and I think my friend and I saw three or four of them. Each offers a different perspective of the canyon and I personally found that, even though some weren’t that far from each other, the slightest change in vantage point offered dramatically different views. Most of the view points had railing around them so as to ensure people don’t go tumbling over the edge. Others didn’t have any railing at all….

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not really the adventuring type. That is to say, I enjoy adventures but only to a point. In this case, the primary factor is a fear of heights I’ve had since I can’t remember when. I get too close to realizing how high I am, especially when I’m near the edge of a cliff let’s say, and the cold sweat begins. It’s not pleasant and I do not recommend it. So I tended to stay behind the rails or be cautious about how close I came to the edge (usually no closer than 5-6 ft from AT MOST).

IMG_0860

My friend, however, is a crazy person [<— according to me, that is] and ventured out to places I would never be able to go. It was one part exciting, one hundred parts terrifying to watch as he ventured closer to the edge. But it made for some excellent pictures and my heart rate did calm down….eventually.

GC13GC3

Sunset at the canyon. I cannot really think how to describe the experience.

Mine was probably different than most because there were some clouds that obstructed part of it. The result? The Grand Canyon took on a hazy, blue/purple color that you typically would only expect to see in film…or perhaps a dream.


It was astounding how, every 30 seconds or so, the colors would shift and change as the sun dipped lower into the horizon (and the clouds). The light change would bring out different hues in the rock so at first they appeared more red, then the red faded into a brownish-tan, and so and so forth. At one point, most of the canyon looked blue from where my friend and I stood.

GC5

There was actually a fair crowd of people gathered at the viewpoint to watch the sunset. A couple of families, many pairs of friends, some older couples and a number of photographers. It was awesome to see all these people from different walks of life gathered to watch something that wasn’t media based, something on a screen, etc. We all stood or sat, watching this unbelievable moment in one of the most stunning places in the world. It really did, for a brief period, seem magical.

GC7

As I stood, basically numb from the cold that I hadn’t really anticipated (lessoned learned, LOL), I couldn’t resist one more shot in front of probably the most stunning background I could conceive of that wasn’t achieved by some sort of computerized magic.

GC9

As the sun finally dipped low into the horizon, my friend and I took our frozen selves back to the car and began the nearly 4 hour journey back to where we’re staying.

GC4

It was a long day, to be sure, but easily one of the highlights of my life on the road. And one that I wouldn’t trade anything for. Again I say: if you have the chance to visit the Grand Canyon…do it. You won’t be sorry.

Cheers for now,

d.l.k

In Defense of “La La Land”.

[Disclaimer: This blog posting is in no way, shape or form related to anything that may have happened regarding the Academy Awards this year. I fully support that “Moonlight” won and feel that is the correct decision, especially given the fact that “Hidden Figures” was so grossly overlooked.]

By now if you pay any attention whatsoever to the world of cinema, you’ve likely heard of a little film called “La La Land”.  The film has been called by some a “magical love letter to the golden age of Hollywood” (Mark Kermode of The Guardian) and “a film that re-enacts, with rare originality, a classic role for the movie medium—escapist entertainment in troubled times.” (Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal)

The premise is this:

“The story of Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a dedicated jazz musician, struggling to make ends meet while pursuing their dreams in a city known for destroying hopes and breaking hearts. With modern day Los Angeles as the backdrop, this musical about everyday life explores what is more important: a once-in-a-lifetime love or the spotlight.”

The film has been received with extremely mixed reviews that tend to range anywhere from “IT’S EVERYTHING” to people who have affectionately renamed it “Bla Bla Land”. So how does a movie find itself the subject of such extremes in the world of reviews? And what is all the fuss (on both sides) REALLY all about?

Here’s the short answer before I share my thoughts:

This movie deals with a number of things. The idea of a musical in film form, the stylings of a more ‘artsy’ film, jazz music, and living life as an artist who’s struggling to create a name or career (or both). All of these things share a commonality: they are attached to real-life scenarios or ideas that people have very, VERY strong feelings about. People who love musicals, people who love art films, jazz music or who are artists who can identify (or think otherwise) about how that lifestyle is portrayed. There are two sides to any argument…but in this case: those sides have very strong and unwavering opinions in most cases!

So, what did I think of the film? I loved it. I saw it at least three times in the theatre and plan to buy it when it’s released digitally to watch many more times.

Was it a perfect film? Of course not. There really is no such thing. But I felt that it accomplished what it set out to do and it did many things extremely well.

For the purposes of my defense, I’m going to work backwards and give you the thoughts I’ve heard from those who didn’t like the film and then present my commentary for your consideration. So, here goes!

1) “Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone aren’t singers.” (See also: “They can’t sing”, “Why didn’t they get someone else to do the singing”, etc.)

Here’s the thing: Ryan and Emma are NOT singers…that is to say, singing is not their profession and not their first talent they are known for. That said: They CAN actually sing. Do they sound ‘trained’, like professional Broadway stars or other pop/rock singers (like Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, John Mayer…note I’m choosing artists who sound as good live as on their albums….)? No. But they have good pitch, they are able to carry the phrase without breathing in the middle of a word and they did not have to be autotuned from here to kingdom come in order to sound good.

Fun fact: If you take a trip back down memory lane and watch some of the classic Hollywood movie-musicals, you’ll note that the stars often were not known for their singing. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers, Gene Kelly, Dick Van Dyke….these are not people that were known as ‘singers’. But they sang in their films, and they did so perfectly adequately. Occasionally, you would find stars who were singers in their own right (Eddie Fischer, Katherine Grayson, Frank Sinatra, etc) but that wasn’t the norm.

“But what about ‘The King and I’, ‘West Side Story’ and ‘My Fair Lady'”, (to name a few), “…they all had some of the voices dubbed over. Specifically, the three leading ladies.”
That is correct. And funnily enough, all three leading ladies were dubbed by the same woman, Marni Nixon, who sadly passed away this year but lent her glorious singing voice to these three major roles, not to mention many others.

Here’s the problem with this argument: All three of these films were adapted from stage musicals and put onto the screen. They were not an original movie-musical created for the screen alone. In this case, you were dealing with a score that was beloved by many already and the producers felt they needed the voice to be what one would expect to hear on the Broadway stage. [Personal side note: I’ve heard some of the reels of Natalie Wood singing some of Maria’s material in WSS and I honestly didn’t think she sounded bad at all. But that’s just me, I guess.]

So, getting back to my point: the original, classic movie-musicals that weren’t adapted from stage productions often employed leading players who weren’t known first and foremost for their singing capabilities.

Let’s define what singing really is, shall we?

sing
siNG/
verb
gerund or present participle: singing

1. make musical sounds with the voice, especially words with a set tune.
(“Bella sang to the baby”)

Obviously, there are other definitions for the word but this is the one that applies here.
Common misconception: the singing voice and the speaking voice are two different things. The reason this is important to note here is that we say someone “can’t sing” but in reality what we mean to say is they “don’t sound like how we feel the singing voice should sound”. In reality, all singing really involves is speaking words on a specific set of pitches set down by the composer(s).* Beyond that, how ‘good’ someone sounds relies heavily on training and the technique achieved from that training.

2) “This film wasn’t really a musical” (See also: “There weren’t enough songs for it to be a musical”, etc)

If you’re comparing this film to Broadway musicals or to films based on Broadway musicals: I guess your point is true. But that also means you missed the point of this film ENTIRELY. This film set out to re-create the nostalgic feel of the golden age movie musicals. Not the ones adapted from stage shows; original, written for the screen movie-musicals. Here are some examples:

“Singin’ In The Rain” (1952)
“Top Hat” (1935)
“The Harvey Girls” (1946)
“Summer Stock” (1950)
“Anchor’s Aweigh” (1945)

Each of these films has lots of music….but only a handful of songs. They aren’t like Broadway musicals which usually have upwards of at least 10, usually more, songs and a handful of reprises. These films focus on the story and have songs and dances interjected here and there. Some have more than others, but the formula is still very different from stage shows that have been adapted to film.

In this way, “La La Land” did exactly the same thing: It has a handful of songs that are relevant, in some way, to the story and some fun choreography interspersed here and there and the composer intelligently weaves key themes from the songs in and out of the underscoring to make the tunes more familiar to us. Which is why those of us who enjoyed classic movie-musicals (like those listed above) really connected to the presentation put forth by “La La Land”…and least, I enjoyed it.

3) “The jazz music in the film isn’t really jazz.” Okay, to be fair: I’m not someone who’s entirely knowledgable about this. But, here’s my thought: while the music may not be as true to jazz as the jazz purists would like, I would argue that this score does have plenty of jazz elements in it. Not just in the actual construction of the tunes but in the orchestration, as well; for example, the composer uses a LOT of vibraphone and upright bass. Both are very common to the jazz language, at least in terms of orchestration. See also: a number of settings for solo trumpet, solo sax, piano/bass/drums…also not uncommon in the jazz world, especially classic jazz. I won’t argue that the construction of the music is actually jazz, but I know it involves some of the chordal elements and gives the illusion of it as such. And to the general public: it opens the door for conversation about the style and the education of what real jazz actually is. Given the state of the classical arts these days, I would think this should be something we embrace in order to get the conversation started rather than bickering and bitching about how it “isn’t real jazz”. Maybe it isn’t, but if it sparks the interest of someone who was previously uninterested then that’s a good thing!

4) My favorite critique is where people like to suggest the film isn’t realistic in regard to the struggles both Mia and Sebastian go through in regard to their separate struggles to ‘make it’ in the entertainment business as well as how those struggles affect their personal lives/relationship(s).

I make my living as a touring musician. Before that, I worked (read: struggled) to make ends meet as a musician/voice coach/conductor in and around my hometown. When I wasn’t on the road, I would work 3, 4, 5, 6+ gigs AT THE SAME TIME just to attempt (usually failing) to make ends meet for myself and then for myself and my spouse. Anyone who is a musician, artist, composer, actor/actress, etc has likely gone through this and, sometimes, even worse struggling to lock down a consistent, well-paying gig. Those who haven’t experienced this: give it time because one day you will.

Having an arts-related career is tough. You audition, submit, apply and then wait. Often, you do these things for many, many different gigs hoping to snag just one. Sometimes, you do all of this while working an entirely different part (or full)-time job, all the while telling yourself that one day you’ll be doing what you love full-time. And the sad reality is: you do this knowing that there is a solid chance you will never, and I do mean never, make it…EVER.

[If you haven’t seen the film, I’m about to reference a few things so go watch it then come back.]

The audition montage of Mia? Yeah, I know actors who saw the movie and reacted strongly because they have literally been in the same position.

The scene where she and Sebastian argue about him being on the road full-time (among other things)? I have personally lived moments very close to that scene.

And the scene where Sebastian finds Mia to tell her she’s booked the biggest audition yet? She has a minor meltdown and reveals that she doesn’t want to go because “what if I’m not good enough” and “maybe I’m not meant to do this” (paraphrasing, but you get the gist). Everyone has those moments in life but artists? We have them ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Even when you have the gig and you’re past the probation period where you can be let go, you still question yourself constantly about whether or not you’re good enough. That’s just how our mindset works.

I cannot personally speak to the struggles of those living in places like Los Angeles and trying to make it in the film industry but my understanding is it isn’t all that different from what I’ve described and I even saw where someone I know wrote (in regard to this film, funnily enough) that the film did a good job of giving a small taste of what that world is like.

[You’ll notice I didn’t address the ‘artsy’ film part. That’s because I really don’t have any authority in that realm because I don’t tend to see many art films, though I’m hoping to change that this year! So, rather than open my mouth and insert my foot entirely: I will graciously accept that those critics may be correct in saying it doesn’t hold to the typical style of an art film. And that’s fine with me. They were going for nostalgic, movie-musical anyway!]

So, what’s the point of all this? The point is to say: give “La La Land” a chance. You may not care for it; that’s fine. You may love it; that’s fine too. But don’t go in expecting a Broadway-style musical filled with a doctoral dissertation on jazz that’s set in an art-film setting with actors who are also grammy winning singers living out a documentary about the struggling artist. Over the top? Yes. But this is how many of the people I hear arguing about the film are acting. No, it doesn’t get everything perfectly correct. But it doesn’t need to. None of those original, classic movie-musicals were all perfectly correct either.

What “La La Land” does get right far outweighs the few things it may gloss over or do incorrectly. Ultimately, it’s a nostalgic throwback to the golden age of cinema where musicals were created specifically for the silver screen that told stories of dreamers, artists, romantics and comics who all yearned for that perfect Hollywood ending.

I’m not telling you how “La La Land” ends. But as someone who identified with so many of the themes/scenarios put forth by the film: I left both overjoyed and overwhelmed by the reality and amazingness that is chasing after your dream and finding your place as a working artist.

Here’s a hint: it doesn’t always play out the way you expect….but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Cheers for now,

d.l.k.

*Footnote about singing/speaking and the approach to a song in a musical:
As someone who often coaches vocalists, I so desperately wish I could explain to you how often I spend my time pulling the singer away from the notes and have them focus first on the text. In musicals (and especially musical theatre), the story is what we’re trying to tell FIRST. Obviously, the hope is that the singer sounds good; but if you’re singing the words on the notes and not bothering to put expression behind it: you might as well be paint drying on a fence for all the emotion I’ll feel toward you. Rather, you should learn the notes, learn the technique but then also ACT the lyrics, adding emotion and feeling to the words that are so important to a story. Sometimes this means sacrificing a ‘pretty’ sound for one that is more raw; sometimes it means speaking a word or two instead of singing the notes on the page. Every scenario is different but you have to be willing to dig in and find out what’s right. In this case, Emma Stone’s performance of “Audition” in this film, to me, is a gold standard example of excellent storytelling through music. She proves she can sing where she needs to (and even belt) but never at the expense of the emotion or the story she’s telling. We see, hear and understand exactly what she’s feeling and the music and it’s beauty are never compromised in the process….but the story gets told and we feel for her in that moment.

In Memoriam.

Three years ago on this day, a light was abruptly diminished from this world.

That light was my beautiful cousin and she was gone without preparation or warning from this earth. I’ll never forget that day because it was so unexpected.

I felt many things; extreme sadness that she was gone, grief for her immediate family who loved her so dearly and for all the time that I could never make up in getting to know her better.

She was a few years older than I and we grew up in different states. She was a brilliant artist/graphic designer who had a love for the arts and a passion for music that I often thought might even exceed my own.

A number of years back, and I don’t quite remember how it happened, we started and on-again-off-again email correspondence in which we shared film soundtrack suggestions with each other. She would send me suggestions and I would investigate them and I would do the same in kind to her. It was fun to see what we already had in common and to learn about new things from each other. Sadly, I did not keep up as well as I should have and the emails gradually died off between us.

Somewhat randomly, though I believe it was God, a little bit before she passed we started to chat briefly about soundtracks again on Facebook Messenger. I really should dive backwards into my messages and see what brought it about. But I will never forget that the final soundtrack I shared with her, just months before her passing… It was the soundtrack to the movie “Beautiful Creatures”. I love it for many reasons but the main one was it doesn’t conform to the typical sound of other film music. It’s a little indie pop, a little orchestral and a lot of awesome… and something inside me knew that my cousin would appreciate it too.

I still think of her often and find myself wishing that a younger me hadn’t put off keeping those conversations alive. Part of me will likely always regret that. But the other part of me is thankful for the time we did have. She was an amazing, talented, smart and incredibly witty person. The world deserved to know her better. But I’m thankful that the heavens do; I know she’s up there watching down…and likely painting on the canvas of the stars. That brings a much needed smile.

I’m ending this post with the song I wrote in her honor when she passed. Words absolutely failed and I often find music will speak for me when I cannot find the words.

All my love, C. May your light continue to shine brightly down on us, somewhere beyond the stars. ❤

– d.l.k.

Music Composition.

So, despite my work in the theatre world (which I absolutely love), at one time I envisioned my career to be something a little different. I wanted to be a film composer.

Now, that dream hasn’t died and I’m only 30 years along in my life so it could still happen! But for now, it still remains a dream. My ability to compose, however, is not a dream and is a skill I’ve been working on for around 16 years now.

I grew up around music. My parents always had music playing; whether it was the radio, cassette or CD player: music was a big part of our lives. We also watched a lot of films that were musicals, whether in whole or in part. From old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies like “The Gay Divorcee” and “Top Hat”, “Singin’ In The Rain” with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, all the way up to the latest Disney Musicals (at the time things like “Pocahontas” and “Lion King” were still brand new…hah!): I loved all of them! But there was something about the magic of the Disney scores/orchestrations always caught my ear.

Embarrassing childhood story alert….

When I was probably 7 or 8, Disney’s “Aladdin” was still new(ish) and I loved the movie. Jafar was my favorite character but I LOVED singing “Friend Like Me”…but that’s another story for another time. My dad taped a performance of The Boston Pops, featuring James Taylor (why HE was watching it) but it also featured an orchestral suite of the music from “Aladdin” (which is why I wanted to watch it). I was fascinated at the time particularly by some of the percussion instruments. The one that caught my eye/ear the most for some reason was the bell tree, not that I had any clue what it was at that time! (For those wondering, this is what a bell tree is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_tree)

I wanted to play along and create a similar sound. My mom, ever encouraging of my endeavors (no matter how bizarre), helped me to pull out the metal racks from the oven as well as the pots and pans and I proceeded to play these things with a metal spoon, especially running it down the rack to recreate the bell tree sound, LOL! I made a lot of colossal noise and completely wore out that VHS tape the concert was recorded on.
(Fun fact: the conductor of the pops at that time was John Williams. I had no idea who he was but I would figure it out later on…if you don’t know me, I’m more than a little [read: CRAZY] geeky when it comes to Mr. Williams compositional abilities)

As I got older, I continued to listen to more and more Disney scores, and learned to play most of my favorites on piano. But it was in 1996 that things changed drastically with the release of Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

Something about that score hit me in a way that no other had. And one day, while I was obsessively listening to the opening song of the film, something in my hearing changed. Instead of hearing the orchestra as a whole, I suddenly heard the breakdown: oboes, clarinets, horns, violins, etc. They all came to life in a way that I couldn’t explain. Suddenly I was able to hear the intricacies in the scores that I hadn’t noticed before. To this day, I’ll often ask someone if they noticed [insert a random instrument line here] within a song and often times I get a very strange look, because not everyone hears music that way….or so I learned when I was younger.

From that point on, I began to grow an interest in composing music. My dad, who is a technology nerd (for which I am VERY thankful!) made sure I had what I needed to begin that journey. It started with very basic midi software where I would try and recreate orchestrations I heard by playing them in, one part at a time, into a computer. Then it turned into wanting to put the notes on a page.

Around the time I turned 14, there was a guy at my parents church who lead music for one of the youth groups I think. My memory is a little fuzzy on the details but suffice it to say: he had studied composition at Stetson University and put us in touch with the head of the composition department there. Against most odds, this head of the department agreed to teach me privately. And so, I began to study composition once a week.

I studied with this teacher until the age of 18. I began to look into the idea of attending Stetson (which I did, only for one semester….long story for another time); however, about halfway through my senior year of high school, my composition teacher informed me that he was transferring to another school. [He did and has now been the head of composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston ever since. Pretty fucking cool, if you ask me!]

I did study composition that one semester at Stetson but that was the end of my private training. As the years have gone by, I continue to compose here and there and my love for it has never gone away. Last year, I completed the original orchestrations in addition to some arrangements for a brand-new musical called “Sherlock (Holmes) in Love” which I also music directed in it’s world premiere in Central Florida. Before that, I composed incidental music for two separate plays at the same theatre, composer the score for a handful of no-budget short films and even (years ago now) won first place in a composition competition for a concert band piece I wrote. [Yes, I really am THAT nerd.]

So, as I sit here at 4:34AM in the morning with nine (yes, 9) John Williams related YouTube videos open in my browser’s tabs, I can confidently say I still dream of writing music for the big screen one day. The art of creating a score that helps tell a story is something I have such passion for and I think I always will. (And don’t worry… there will be an entire post devoted to explaining my absolute love [read: obsession] for John Williams’ brilliant compositional talents. But that’s for another time.)

To wrap this up, I’m sharing a clip from one of the short films I scored…well, technically this was from a three-part, web-short series. Ultimately, these cues didn’t end up in the final cut (a long, twisted story that doesn’t need to be told) but I’m happy with the work I did and so I’m happy to share it with you! The desired style of the score as described to me by the director of the project was something along the lines of the television show “24”; the web series was edgy and needed a score to match. The following clip is from the 2nd part of the ‘series’.

I’m extremely thankful that my parents chose to make music such an important part of our lives. If not for them, Disney, my composition teacher and (yes, I’m gonna say his name again) JOHN FREAKIN’ WILLIAMS: The above composition might never have come into being. And since I don’t have to imagine that alternate universe: I’m not going to!

Cheers for now,

d.l.k.

My Failed Marriage.

Here’s the thing: something can look great on the outside but be completely messed up on the inside. This is true of people and relationships alike. And in my case: both were true of myself and my marriage of the last nearly 5 years.

[I will say this right now: I’m not looking for sympathy. That’s not why I’m penning this. I am penning this because for too long I have made excuses, softened the details and manipulated situations so I wouldn’t have to face my own reality and just how messed up I was. I also did this because I didn’t want people to see me that way; I don’t think anyone ever wants to be seen for their addictions, hang ups and problems but truthfully that’s the only way to get better.]

Around the age of 8 years old, I first discovered pornography. I discovered it in two ways: playing in the woods with my friends, we discovered some Playboy magazines that had been hidden in the leaves by some older kids in the neighborhood and I also discovered it on the Worldwide Web. Unfortunately for me and my parents, I was always the living definition of “curiosity killed the cat”….so when puberty hit early, I had a lot of questions that they weren’t ready to answer. And so, being the curious kid I was: I went in search of my own answers.

Now, I was 8. I knew right from wrong; and when I discovered porn (both times), I knew it was something I shouldn’t be seeing. But, like with any other addiction, once you’ve done it once: you want to do it a lot more.

And I did. It’s a weird combination of wanting to quit but wanting to continue that I cannot put into words, but where I went wrong was: I never really allowed myself to ask for the help I so desperately needed. I would try to walk away for a bit but then, when I thought I was doing a good job, I would let my guard down and fall in deeper than the time before. By my late high school/early college years and up through more recent times: it wasn’t unheard of for me to watch 5-6 hours of porn straight in one sitting, when the time was available to me. Am I ashamed to say this? Absolutely. It’s unbelievably disgusting and horrifying to think that I could not only do that to myself but to those who loved and cared about me, from my parents to my spouse.

Needless to say, I carried this addiction into my marriage and over the years, it completely destroyed any semblance of trust that was there. Because it isn’t just that I was cheating with my eyes; there were lies told to try and cover my shame, manipulations in order to buy myself more time to watch porn, etc etc etc. That my wife stayed with me, stuck up for me and loved me through all of that alone is beyond my powers of comprehension. She is likely the strongest person I know and it will always be my biggest regret that I didn’t fight harder for her. She certainly deserved it.

In addition to, and really spurred on by, the porn: I had three minor affairs with real life people. Meaning, two of them I flirted with on a regular basis (in addition to the thoughts left only in my head) and the third was an indecent encounter, though I don’t think this person ever knew I saw anything. These people never knew and never will know because that isn’t their burden to carry. But I had a crush and I allowed it to grow and take up space in my mind that should have only been reserved for my wife and my wife alone.

Beyond that, I learned somethings about myself that I think I always knew deep in my subconscious but had never wanted to admit to myself.

1) I am an incredibly manipulative person. This is the exception to the above statement because I knew this about myself and, in business situations, had even prided myself on it. What I didn’t want to admit to myself was that I was just as manipulative in my relationships, and in particular my marriage, as I was in the business world. I don’t honestly know why I allowed myself to be that way in regard to the people I love. I can only assume it’s an ego and a pride thing and also a desperate need to be right and get my way. And yes, I realize how disgusting I sound right now. But the only way this gets better is if I fully admit that I did these things and that I know how awful they really were/are.

2) I am an emotionally abusive person. This one I cannot explain. My genuine desire is to be a good person and to love those I’m close to. But somehow, in the middle of all the other shit: I began behaving in ways that were emotionally abusive. Figuring this out about myself and then seeing it in action was probably one of the worst moments of my life.

3) I am incredibly selfish and narcissistic. It’s true, and it hurts to admit. If it isn’t something that directly affects me, makes me happy or in some way fulfills me: I generally find myself drifting off from it. Whether it’s in conversation, at a theme park, whatever. And it’s one of the many things I’m desperately trying to correct because I do NOT want to be that person. But I have been for years and, yet again: it played an integral role in the destruction of my marriage.

4) In the midst of all of the above, I also found myself becoming quite a good liar. It goes hand in hand with addiction and manipulation and I got very good at it. I am not happy to say that this one I was aware of and I didn’t allow it to scare me as much as I should have. But, I am also happy to say that it is one of the areas I am getting better at quickly. It’s not fun to have to admit when you made a mistake or something is your fault but it’s better than being a liar. Believe me.

5) I was a complete control freak. Not in my life so much as in my marriage. The money, what she was doing, who she was talking to, the whole nine yards. I genuinely don’t know why I was that way, but I was. And the scariest part was that I didn’t see it for a LONG time. And she deserved so much more than having to put up with that, or with any of this for that matter!

So, where is all of this coming from? Well, my previous posting was really a disaster for many reasons. The intention behind it was pure and, though I knew it would hurt people in my life, I really felt like I wanted to post it. I won’t pretend that there’s not a small chance some of the reasons deep down were self-serving; I don’t know in the midst of everything exactly where I am with my shortcomings. But I truly believed that I was doing the right thing and tried to be as careful about it as I could.

I’ve made mistakes, which ended up causing a lot of pain and hurt beyond what I ever could have imagined. The first was that I wrote it very late at night and made the decision to allow it to stay posted on the blog. Originally, I hadn’t intended for it to publish but since I hadn’t really blogged all that much, I was going about it wrong and it was published. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal because it wasn’t on Facebook and therefore not likely to be seen by anyone my wife or our families know.

The second mistake was that when my wife pointed out it had been published, I didn’t delete it until she had time to give the okay. I showed her first because I knew it was a hurtful subject and ultimately wanted her permission to post; but all the while I continued to leave it public.

The third mistake was after I published it on Facebook, I met with some heavy criticism from a family member. I did not defend that family member when some of my friends attacked them (out of love or not, the defenses were fairly pointed) and when my wife chimed in to point out that I hadn’t been truthful when I said she’d given permission: I panicked and deleted the post. I will not lie and say it wasn’t from a selfish point of view; but I can also tell you that the other part of the truth is: I didn’t want people to take her (my wife’s) anger out of context and attack her next. This isn’t justification for the other mistakes, it’s simply part of the narrative and part of the truth.

So, here I am. My wife is incredibly hurt, her family is incredibly hurt and I am here to say publicly that I am very much a messed up human being. I have made some horrible mistakes, terrible choices and caused a lot of hurt and heartache to many people over the last 8+ years. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if that’s “not what I meant to do” because the damage was done either way.

I apologize sincerely to my wife for all of the hurt and heartache, the lies, the manipulations, the cheating (in real life or online), the emotional abuse and for not standing up for her when she needed it most. Nothing I can say or do will take these things back.

I apologize to my parents for any hurt and heartache I have caused them throughout this ordeal and most especially if they feel that I, in any way, threw them under the bus with my previous post.

I apologize to my wife’s family for the residual hurt and heartache you have suffered from me not being there for your daughter/sister as I promised to on our wedding day. I also apologize for the times when I have not defended you like I should have. You all were my family and I should have given you that courtesy just as you have me over the years. You all deserved better from me as well, and I’m sorry I didn’t give you that.

And I apologize to everyone else for painting a picture of myself that misrepresented me. I may have the best intentions in my head and heart but I often fall very, very short and I never want anyone to try and paint a picture of me that isn’t accurate and doesn’t include the fact that I’ve done some seriously messed up shit.

To all of you: I am not taking this lightly anymore. This public admission comes because I am done trying to hide myself from you and from me. I have already begun to make serious changes in my life and I will continue to do so and all I ask is that you bear with me as I do. I promise I will seriously fuck shit up along the way, but I will also own it and rise above it to be the person I know I should and CAN be.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. My only request is that you refrain from commenting. Feel free to private message me with any comments, concerns or beefs you may have. I will do my best to field all of them.

Oh, and if you’re a friend to my wife: please let her know that she’s loved. Let her know that someone cares and that it will get better. Because she deserves that happy ending that I couldn’t give to her.

Cheers for now,

d.l.k