“Be the Freak You Were Born to Be”

My ex-girlfriend’s best friend’s blog back in the day had that as her tagline. Admittedly I never much paid attention to that tagline and even laughed it off as somewhat funny but I have to say, as I’ve gotten older (and maybe wiser, I have no idea) I’ve come to embrace that saying more in the way I express myself.

I’ve never been one to totally fit the mold so to speak, though I did try when I was younger. I would do my best to mask my autism and act neurotypical when in the public eye. After all, neurotypical people were the proper ones and I, the autistic, was the abnormal one who needed to make myself fit in the mold, right?

Well that was the way I lived for many, many years, though as I got older it got more and more painful to do. It’s like the depressed person who tries to put on that fake smile, pretend to be fine but really feels like shit day in and day out. Eventually that feeling like shit can’t be masked anymore and when that mask breaks sometimes the consequences are catastrophic. Having clinical depression which runs comorbidly with autism spectrum disorder, I know the results of that all too well also.

When I started learning to express my true inner self, it was like a huge burden lifted off of me. I’ll never forget the time I tried on a pair of short shorts for the first time (oh how seeing women in them made me envious during the hot times, but being male I wasn’t supposed to wear them). It was so liberating and comfortable (yes, I chalk my liking of them up on account of a sensory processing issue – I briefly explained this in a previous post), not to mention I kind of liked the way I looked in them. So I permanently adopted the look and quit caring about societal standards in that way.

Once I got over that one hurdle, I started expressing myself more genuinely in other ways, allowing myself to “geek out” (term borrowed from my ex-gf) about the things that interested me and showing and engaging in those interests openly, however weird those interests might have seemed to others. I’d keep my motor tics to myself as I could, but if I had to let it out I did so (man, I can’t imagine how badly it must suck to have Tourettes).

Though most recently, entering the world of body modifications was like the real big thing in ultimately just being that freak I was born to be. As I continue to add tattoos and piercings, I find other things to change about my appearance or otherwise that more accurately reflect who I am. In addition to the ink and jewelry I’ve even added black eyeliner and such to my appearance, because quite frankly it just matches my soul (the emo side of it anyway – and I am an emo dude deep down).

Unleashing my inner self, in addition to being liberating and just easier, also had a more profound effect that I never anticipated – I actually have more friends now. I honestly imagined I’d have fewer because people would realize the freak I really am, but no. Though I did lose a few friends in the process (who thought I had gone off the deep end), I formed new friendships that were much more deep and profound and ultimately wound up with a net gain in friends. I still don’t have all that many friends, mind you, but it was an interesting observation.

So here I am, 30 years old, still autistic as ever, the only change is I don’t hide it the way I used to. If I had a choice, would I still choose to be neurotypical? Absolutely. That much has not changed. My life would have been a lot easier being neurotypical and if a “cure” were to become available today I’d still likely accept it. As liberating as it is to unleash your true inner self it’s still not easy being a freak, but if I had to be born a freak I’d much rather openly be the freak I was born to be than to try to put on a false front and conceal it. I’ll never forget how miserable that made me.

Cigar Review: Blanco Nine Minutos (Best Quick Smoke?)

Yes, I’m still on a Blanco kick, I have to admit. They just really tick off everything I love in cigars. I’d even say it’s surpassed Padron for my overall favorite brand. The flavors, build quality and overall experience makes for a great cigar and they’re a US-based company and I always love buying from US based companies.

So you don’t have an hour plus to sit back and enjoy a cigar? Welcome to the problems the modern cigar smoker faces. You don’t want to toss out a half-smoked super premium cigar if your job, family, etc. calls. It’s a total waste and cigars just don’t taste good after being put out for some time and relit later.

Enter the Blanco Nine in Minutos. It’s everything that we’ve come to know and love from the Blanco Nine in Lancero but in a shorter form (4″ x 38 RG) for those situations when you just don’t have that much time to sit down and enjoy a cigar but you absolutely refuse to skimp on quality and taste. These also won’t burn a hole through your wallet at $3.39/stick**. As with all the vitolas in the Blanco Nine series, this cigar is a Nicaraguan puro featuring an Oscuro Corojo wrapper, Jalapa binder and Triple Ligero long filler.

First light reveals a perfect draw with plentiful full-bodied, buttery smoke featuring flavors of roasted nuts, dark chocolate, espresso and a peppery finish and retrohale. Getting into the first third the body mellows out slightly to a medium/full dialing back the pepper just a little bit and retaining all the other great flavors making for a bold yet smooth smoke. Flavors remain consistent throughout, ending at a 30 minutes where the smoke goes too warm for me. Strength matches the body at medium/full. Near razor-sharp burn.

Between the rich complex taste and the more than ample nicotine kick, this cigar packs a lot into a small package. This would be a perfect cigar for a lunch break smoke. Of course, if you already love the Nine in Lancero (which I absolutely do) you’ll love this; it’s just about half the smoke time. You just can’t go wrong with it.

Rating: 4.5/5.

**Price as direct from Blanco Cigars online store.

Concert Survival Tips?

So after going back and forth for the past couple of months on “do I go, do I not” I finally realized to take the advice the band has for the young at heart, because soon I will be older and I’ve got to make it work. I pulled the trigger on a ticket to the Tears for Fears and Hall and Oates concert at American Airlines Center in Dallas in July.

Now, I will say I have a bit of apprehension still but I think I can make it work. In an effort to save money and reduce sound pressure levels I opted for balcony seating. I’ll definitely be taking my musicians’ earplugs with me to wear as I’m sure it will be loud and I have super-sensitive hearing (seriously, don’t you dare try to talk shit about me when I’m anywhere close, I will hear you even if you’re just whispering in the ear of someone right next to you!). My big thing is how to deal with the crowd? I know it will be a sellout crowd so I just don’t know how I’ll be able to handle it.

Of course, I’ve been in venues with large crowds (most notably Texas Motor Speedway; which I’ll be there again in the next couple of weeks) and handled it OK with minimizing eye, physical and verbal contact with others and largely keep to myself but I just don’t know if that will be possible in such closed quarters as a basketball arena (at least TMS is a 1.5 mile track so it’s more dispersed). Whatever the case, I know to just keep to myself, avoid interaction and enjoy the music.

As long as I can do that, I think I’ll be just fine. Again, much to the chagrin of my fellow spectrumites, I do really wish I was neurotypical. It would be much easier to enjoy these kinds of things if I was.

Song Lyric Sunday 5/28/17 – Another Old Soldier

I would say “Happy Memorial Day” but in reality, Memorial Day is anything but happy if you get down to it. It’s a somber reminder of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our safety and freedom (and this doesn’t apply to just the US, but to any first-world, free democratic country).

So a song about the military is our assignment for Song Lyric Sunday. Fitting for sure. When I saw the prompt I knew exactly where I was going to go with it.

This song is particularly emotional for me, coming from a family with multiple deceased military men. My great-grandfather (who I am named after) served honorably in the US Army cavalry and his memory is forever etched into the dermis on my left calf. My step-father’s dad was retired Air Force. When I think of them and reflect on their memories, I am reminded of this song and I can’t help but tear up a

Here then is “Another Old Soldier” by Mark Collie:

He was haggard and gray, and he walked with a limp
He’d have him a smoke, and he’d take him a sip
Born in the summer of twenty-four
Son of a veteran of the first world war

He entered the service in forty-one,
And he didn’t come home till the fighting was done
Wearing a silver star on his chest
Damn proud to say he was one of the best

Twenty-one guns, the stars and stripes
An eye full of tears, and a heart full of pride
When you hear that distant bugle play
And another old soldier fades away
And another old soldier fades away

He took a bullet in the hip, outside in ‘Chang(?).
But he was back in the field by fifty-one
Said Douglas MacArthur was a man among men
And Harry S. Truman was a horse’s end

He never questioned his uncle Sam
When they sent him into Vietnam
When they brought him home in seventy-three
A hundred percent disability

Twenty-one guns, the stars and stripes
An eye full of tears, and a heart full of pride
When you hear that distant bugle play
And another old soldier fades away
And another old soldier fades away

He loved this country with all of his might
Right up until the day he died
In a crowded ward at the local V.A.
Another old soldier fades away

Twenty-one guns, the stars, the stripes
An eye full of tears, and a heart full of pride
When you hear that distant bugle play
And another old soldier fades away
And another old soldier fades away
Source: Lyrics transcribed by me as no accurate lyrics were to be found. The (?) has to do with my inability to discern this particular word – it’s been a mystery to me since the first time I heard it.

Anyway, that’s my contribution this week. Hopefully it makes one reflect on the gravity of the day. It definitely serves as a sobering reminder for me.

You Never Know What You Might Mean to Someone

When the news broke that I will in all likelihood be relocating to the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex for work I got this lovely message from the bartender who most often serves me at my local hangout:

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 7.37.24 PM

Needless to say that was a huge wake-up call. I was under the assumption that nobody really gave a fuck about me and it would go largely unnoticed if I committed suicide or some accident occurred that claimed my life. I was totally wrong in my assumption.

I dropped in to said hangout this evening and the outpouring of support from the staff there was almost more than I could handle. I had to choke back tears as I received hugs from the bartender and the owner’s wife, not only as I was greeted upon dropping in, but as I was departing for what might be a considerable amount of time (though I did reassure them the situation wasn’t “goodbye” but rather “until we meet again”). I reassured them I would be back, but even that was almost too much for me. As I got to my car to head home, the tears flowed full-throttle. I couldn’t hold them in anymore.

Sure, I’ll never have a significant other and children. The two are just incompatible with me and my lifestyle. That does not mean, however, that I’m meaningless to everyone. You just never know how much you might mean to someone and you won’t unless those people express that to you. To know that the entire crew at my hangout will miss geeky-glasses, short-shorts clad, strange minded me when I relocate was like “wow, people really DO care.”

I’m at a loss for words, but even through all the pain I might endure and the clinical depression induced dark thoughts that cloud my perception, it’s little stuff like that which just makes it worth it to carry on. I’ve survived five suicide attempts to date (including one as recent as the past 60 days) and little things like this just remind me why I did survive it. I’m not a believer in god or anything of the sort, but I do believe in some transcendental force that connects us all life together.

As I start the next chapter in my life, I’m reminded that no matter how tough things might become, whatever challenges are ahead or whatever put-downs strangers and/or my haters might throw at me, I mean something to someone and I never know just how much I might mean to someone. Though I will always believe in the right to individual sovereignty and ultimately the right to commit suicide, don’t dare question the value you have to someone. I couldn’t do that to my friends at my hangout or any of my other friends.

Though existence is more often than not painful, it’s those moments that make it worth it to carry on. I’m sure the same could be said for all of us, so please express your appreciation and love for someone. You never know what it might mean, and you never know whose life you might save in the process.

Beer Review: Avery Vanilla Bean Stout

What do Imperial Stout beer, bourbon and vanilla have in common? They all come together in this delicious treat from Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, Colorado. This big mother of a beer is an Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla beans. It weighs in at a hefty 10.8% ABV, has an unspecified IBU and gravity and packs on the pounds at a rib-sticking 324 calories per 12 ounce serving.

Pours a near-black opaque dark brown hue with a half inch of tan head that quickly recedes to a thin ring. The nose is greeted with a wallop of vanilla, some bourbon, fruity esters and a touch of toasty bread. The palate is greeted with a strong vanilla blast supported by a backbone of roasted malt, plum, dark chocolate and black coffee. Bourbon dominates the finish with a slight burn going down and leaves a long finish. Thick body with low carbonation. Drinks very smooth with no roughness.

What can I say? This is a world-class beer. I can’t really find fault with it. Definitely a winner in my opinion. It would be a great beer to pair with dessert and would lend itself well to a number of different cigar pairings (for those who are curious I’m currently smoking a Blanco Nine Lancero with this beer – goes very well together).

Rating: 5/5.

Hankook Tires: A Horror Story

I’ll be the first to admit I absolutely love my little Ford Fiesta. At just 2,500 pounds and change and 148 lb./ft. of turbocharged direct injection goodness and getting as much as 45 MPG on road trips, it’s probably the best car I’ve ever owned. Yeah, it’s nothing super special but the price was right, it drives well and it’s a manual transmission – what’s not to love?

Well, how about the OEM tires? Seriously. In order to maximize the fuel efficiency of the SFE (Super Fuel Efficiency) model Ford decided to pair the 1.0L I3 engine with low-rolling resistance tires. Well that’s all fine and good – but at least they could have picked something better than the shitty ass Hankook H426s that come stock on the car! At just 26,000 miles, one of the tires was on the brink of catastrophic failure and the other three were starting to head that way.

I was lucky I noticed the one tire that was about to go because if I hadn’t noticed it when I did I might not have a car today. I noticed it in Little Rock. The left front was showing significant tread separation and had I not noticed it when I did I’d have probably had a blowout (on a drive tire no less!) on the way home from Little Rock. Yeah, not good. Luckily I did notice it and got to the nearest tire shop (which happened to be a Firestone – a nice reputable brand) and got that thing replaced.

Well, it wasn’t but a few hundred miles later that the other front tire started really showing signs of impending failure (same thing – tread separation around the entire circumference of the tire) and the two rear tires weren’t that far behind. Not wanting to take a chance, I completed the transition to Firestone Champion Fuel Fighter tires and chucked those Hankooks in the fucking trash!

There is absolutely no reason for a tire to fail at 27,000 miles under normal driving conditions. None. Hell, back when I was a broke college student I put some cheap ass Walmart brand (Douglas Performance) tires on my ’00 Focus ZX3 and even those lasted me nearly 70,000 miles! You mean to tell me cheap ass Walmart tires outlast a big name tire like Hankook? I don’t buy it for a second.

If it is a silver lining out of all this, I noticed impending failure of the tires before they had a chance to fail and I acted accordingly. I won’t say I’m a car nerd or anything, but I do meticulously take care of my vehicles – maintaining the correct tire pressures, checking oil levels regularly and changing engine oil, rotating tires and changing filters as required per the specified maintenance schedule. I’m a big believer in protecting big investments, no matter what they are.

Another silver lining? Ford better fucking reimburse me for the cost of the set of tires. I doubt I’ll get it all back because the Firestones were predictably more expensive than the Hankooks but I’ll be happy if all I’m out of pocket is the difference of what it would cost to do a direct OEM tire replacement. I’ll pay that little extra for a better tire.

Oh, and so far, the Firestones have proven superior – they’re quieter, they handle better and have better wet traction (something that really showed up with the recent deluges we’ve had here). I’ve not had an opportunity to do a direct apples-to-apples comparison of fuel economy but as the tires I opted for are also low rolling resistance I don’t see why it would change those numbers. The only downside is these have a lower speed rating than the Hankooks, but I don’t drive 118 MPH on a consistent basis so that doesn’t affect me at all (even though my car is surprisingly capable of that speed).

Anyway, all I have to say is don’t buy Hankook tires. Just don’t do it. Oh, and Ford, please for the love of everything good switch to a different OEM tire for the Fiesta SFE. It’s too good of a car to put such a terrible tire on.