The Process of Trying to Act Unharmed.

For many of us, life can be a journey through pressure. It can overwhelm us so easily. Sometimes the difficulty of dealing with that pressure can be too much to handle. It can make day to day activities seem impossible to manage. Even the simplest of things can seem like burdens due to pressures that we experience.

I feel pressure very often. I feel the pressure to improve my situations in life. I feel the pressure to save money. I feel the pressure to not be single and sometimes the pressure that being in a relationship brings. I feel the pressure to live on my own. I feel the pressure to just survive.

All of the pressures I feel are connected. They stem from expectations put on me by my parents, my friends, my peers, my job, and society in general. Sometimes, the biggest source of pressure that’s put on me comes from myself. But, why? What am I trying to prove and to whom am I trying to prove it?

How someone handles pressure is key to survival, I think. Very often, I’m guilty of letting things build up inside. Of course, I come from a household that thrives on that. Positive expression of feelings was not something I dealt with a lot. Any negative feelings I had were belittled and often dismissed. I was conditioned to not be able (or allowed) to express myself. It would often cause me to feel lots of internal pressure and anxiety.

Expectations of how things should be versus the way they really are can be crushing. Trying to make ends meet when there’s no end in sight. Paying off bills just to watch more pile up. Looking forward to that next paycheck just because you know you’ll be able to put a full tank of gas into your car when you get that paycheck.

I deal with those scenarios. I deal with them endlessly. Some days are easier than others. Some day are a lot more difficult than others. What can I do about it? What am I doing about it? What options are there? I don’t know if doing anything different would matter. I wake up, I go to work. I work 40 hours per week. I have nothing to show for it. I don’t have any savings. I work so I can afford to get back to work and have enough food to live. I don’t feel like I’m succeeding at life. But, am I failing? Why are so many people that work a full 40 hour work week struggling? Are they failing the system, or has the system failed them?

I’m not going to get too into my financial situation in this entry. I have ideas for an upcoming entry about that. But, I don’t think it’s possible for me to talk about anxiety and pressure in my life without at least mentioning the burdens and pressure that borderline poverty bring.

I do place a lot of pressure on myself too. I think and I think and I think some more. I overthink scenarios in my head. I have visions of how they’re going to unfold. Then when it comes time to confront the issue head-on, I get very anxious. The pressure mounts and when the situation doesn’t go as expected, which is often the case, I don’t feel the sense of relief I was hoping for. In fact, my mind has already started thinking about the next step, or the remedy, to the situation. The cycle continues.

There are some situations in my life that I am intentionally vague about when I talk about them. There’s things I’m not particularly comfortable talking about in forms like this. Those situations are some of the biggest pressure cookers in my life. What makes it worse for me is that I see no way to escape them. There is no way to alleviate those pressures, at least not positively. Way too often, a boiling point is reached. And, there’s usually no change in anything as a result. It just starts building again.

I know that as bad as I may think my life’s situations can be, there’s a lot of people dealing with things much worse. I don’t take any pleasure in that. It’s not a comfort to know that people are worse off, but there is a slight bit of comfort knowing that I’m not alone. Commiseration is not necessarily bad. It can be a bonding experience, and it’s one that I don’t run from. Which is odd for someone with as many social anxieties as me.

But, even with all of that perspective, on an almost daily basis I wonder if I’m good enough. I wonder if I’m just a constant disappointment to everyone around me. Some people say I should do more for myself, but what if what I’m doing is the best I can do? What if this is the best it’s going to get? What then? Should I be proud or should I be ashamed? All of those thoughts add to the internal pressure.

Like my other entries when I start digging into this stuff, I’m not writing them for a “woe is me” tale. I’m not writing them to get sympathy. I’m writing them so I can get understanding. I want you to understand me. I want you to know I went through this, and I’m still going through this. If you have a similar story, I want you to know you’re not alone. I want you to know there’s someone that understands.

I try my best to not be ashamed of my situation. I know that a good deal of what I go through isn’t necessarily my fault. A lot of my situation is due to circumstances. A lot of those circumstances have gone wrong. Or maybe I just think they have.

See, I doubt things I don’t even have to doubt…
Or do I?
I really don’t know.

This confusion just adds to my anxiety and the pressures I feel.

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I Don’t Know Where I Belong or Where it All Goes From Here.

2017 is just about over. This entry will be my annual look back at the year that was as I ask myself the question “am I better off than I was one year ago?” Last year, it was easy for me to answer. I simply said “YES.” I actually did use all capital letters to emphasize it. I can’t say anything as certain as that this year, in fact, I’m not even sure if I am better off than I was a year ago. There’s just too many questions to have definitive answers.

Just under two weeks ago marked my 1 year anniversary at my job. In last year’s entry, I spoke about how I liked it, so far. Well, after one year, I still like it. I don’t know if I could say that I got off to a rocky start there, but it was a totally new environment for me and I had to learn something completely from the beginning. Over the year I’ve become one of the more trusted and relied upon associates in my department. And those words aren’t just coming from me, they’ve been said to me by higher ups. I’m very proud of that.

I didn’t do nearly as many 5k races as I had in previous years. In fact, I only did three in 2017. I made excuse after excuse as to why I didn’t run them. Sometimes there were schedule conflicts and other times I just said “I’m not ready.” I didn’t come to close to setting any new records for myself during the three races that I completed, and I actually ran my 2nd slowest ever during one of them. But, I did finish all three. I hope to do a few more races in 2018. And I’m going to do my best to erase the reasons/excuses that held me back in 2017.

One thing I am very proud of us is my (small) contribution to making one of those races happen. I am part of a committee in my town that does a lot of community organizing and events. Getting my town’s 5k race back from the dead was our crowning achievement. Many people in the group did A LOT more actual work than I did to get that race going, but I did have some contributions and as I said, I’m very proud of it.

Last year I wrote about how much better my social life was than one year earlier. I was in a relationship that I was very happy in. Sadly, that relationship did not last. But, there’s no regrets or ill will in any aspect of it. Sometimes those things just can’t be sustained. It happens. And as 2017 ends, I’m actually hopeful about my social life. I think there’s a chance for something. I’m not pushing the issue. I’m letting the cards fall where they may and I’ll see how it plays out.

I said that two of my biggest regrets in  2015 and 2016 were not hitting my book reading goal and not being able to perform a Black Crow pose in my DDP Yoga sessions. History has repeated itself, yet again in 2017. I didn’t come close with either. Maybe in 2018…
Maybe…

One aspect of my life that isn’t better than last year is my financial situation. I’m in a complete paycheck to paycheck cycle. I don’t know if there’s any way out of that at the moment, but I’ll keep going. It’s what I do. Of course, the political climate and situation in America also contributes to the fears I have about my finances. I don’t believe for one second that the direction we’re going will help me, or anyone in my situation.

Building on that, I do have hope for America’s future. I saw a lot of things happen in 2017 that give me the feeling that we will see a change. I think we will see a progressive movement that will help the greater good of society and not just a select few. That change has actually already started, and I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Much like 2016, I saw friendships develop and strengthen in 2017. Some people that were just acquaintances became very good friends of mine. I reconnected with some people that I hadn’t talked to for a little while. I even talked to someone (online) that I hadn’t heard from in close to 20 years.

My overall mental health isn’t too bad. I still have my reoccurring feelings of isolation, a lack of belonging, desperation, anxiety, shame, and overall depression. I’m pretty sure they’re always going to be there in some form or another. But, as weird as this may sound, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be depressed. There’s such awareness and so many support systems available now through social media that I think people have new ways to reach out. I know that I often browse various forums and will reply to posts about depression from people I don’t know. If nothing else, I want them to know that they’re not alone.

My blogs got some attention in 2017. As usual, some got more than others. One entry that I’m particularly proud of was the one I wrote about Brian Pillman. In my mind, I wrote that entry for me and the few members of the “Cannon Cult” that used to talk to Brian on AOL in the mid-90s. I thought a few others may read it, but I didn’t expect it to get such attention from Brian’s son. I also didn’t expect someone that was writing a book about Brian to read my entry and then (through a “Cannon Cult” member) reach out to me for stories. And believe me, I certainly didn’t expect to see my name in that book as a contributor after one of my stories was used. I’m so proud of that. It’s actually a bit surreal.

But now, with 2018 only a few hours away, one of the questions I’m asking myself is:
How does one truly start fresh in a new year when we just start our routines over?

I have 365 days to figure that one out. I have a lot of things to figure out in 2018. I have things I want to accomplish. I have places I want to go. I have things I want to do. Some of my goals are really simple. Some may not be as simple. But, like every single year, my resolution for the new year is just “to make it better.” I don’t know what exactly that means yet. But, as I said, I have 365 days to figure that out. With any luck, when I write my 2018 recap, I’ll be able to say that I hit goals and accomplished a lot. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see how it turns out.

2017 Album of the Year

Medusa

1- Paradise Lost – Medusa
2- Blondie – Pollinator
3- Depeche Mode – Spirit
4- Life of Agony – a Place Where There’s No More Pain
5- Dead Cross – Dead Cross
6- Butcher Babies – Lilith
7- Arch Enemy – Will to Power
8- Fozzy – Judas
9- Scott H. Biram – the Bad Testament
10- Crystal Fairy – Crystal Fairy

Paradise Lost need to retire.
Yes, that’s how I’m starting off my Album of the Year post. Yes, that’s how I’m talking about the band responsible for the album that I believe is the best album to come out in 2017. The reason I say they need to retire is that their sound has gone full circle. The evolution of Paradise Lost from beginning to now makes a lot of sense if you listen to their albums in order. You may be confused if you skip around without prior knowledge of their changes. Medusa’s sound is very much like their original sound. That does not mean they’ve regressed, it means they just got back to the sound. And I’m glad they did. This album has a great mix of death metal vocals and clean vocals. It also has the signature doomy sound from the guitars that Paradise Lost is known for. I don’t know where they can go from here. They keep reinventing themselves and genres, but what’s left? If you’re a fan of Paradise Lost and you haven’t heard this record, you’re really missing out.

Some of the better tracks on Medusa include “the Longest Winter,” “Shrines,” “No Passage for the Dead,” and especially “Fearless Sky.” I’ve joked that “Fearless Sky” is the best Opeth song to be released in 10 years. It’s over 8 minutes long and it takes me on a slow musical rollercoaster. It’s a great song.

I don’t know if I could praise Blondie’s Pollinator enough. Like Medusa, it’s reminiscent of its band’s early work. Blondie has been around since the mid-1970s and there’s songs on this album that will most definitely be a “best of” compilation one day. It’s just a damn good record. It starts off with “Doom or Destiny” which reminds of their hit “Call Me” with the tempo. It has a few good songs after that one, my favorite song on the album, “Fun” comes on. It sounds like it could have come out during the end of the disco era, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Just like I said about Paradise Lost’s Medusa, if you’re a fan of Blondie and you haven’t heard this one, you’re really missing out.

“Long Time,” “Too Much,” and “Love Level” are also some of my favorite tracks from Pollinator. “Love Level” also features the What Cheer? Brigade as the horn section. They’re a fun act to see.

Depeche Mode’s Spirit is a bit political. But, it resonates with me. And it resonated enough to be ranked as the 3rd best Album of the Year. “Going Backwards” is the opening track and it is a damning view of the world’s political scene as it currently is. The album continues to strike chords about the direction of the world, but with the classic Depeche Mode sound.

“Going Backwards” is my favorite track from the album. I think it’s the most damning song I’ve heard about the current state of the world. “Poor Man” is another song that I relate to. “Where’s the Revolution?” and “Poison Heart” are also worth checking out.

Life of Agony hadn’t put out an album of new songs since 2005. Their 2017 release, A Place Where There’s No More Pain, picked up right where they left off. It’s like they didn’t miss a beat. Of course, they had been touring on and off since then, but that doesn’t necessarily mean new material would be good. In this case, the songs are good. They didn’t play a lot of the new songs during their 2017 tour, and honestly I like the album enough that maybe if I had heard a few more of them done live, I may have ranked this album higher. Live performances can make a difference sometimes, but regardless of that, they put out a damn good album.

“Meet My Maker,” “A New Low,” “Right the Wrong,” and the title track are some of my favorites from this album and I think they fit in with the Life of Agony catalog very well.

Mike Patton has appeared in my Top 10 lists with Faith No More, Peeping Tom, Tomahawk, and his Mondo Cane project. He’s one here again with Dead Cross. I never know what to expect with Patton. Dead Cross’s sound is a mixture of punk, thrash metal, and grind core. With Patton screaming and growling throughout most of the album, it just works. I saw them perform this album in its entirety in September and it was worth it. I’ve never seen Mike Patton so aggressive on stage.

The album starts off with “Seizure and Desist,” which I really enjoy. I also really like their cover of Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But, I think my favorite track is “Shillelagh.” It’s probably the best example of what Dead Cross is. This album may not be for everyone, but if you’re a Mike Patton fan, it’s worth checking out.

I had never heard anything from Butcher Babies until a few months ago. They were recommended to me and I sought out a few songs. I was impressed. I noticed they had a new album coming out and I ordered a copy. I was even more impressed. I have no idea how they had escaped my radar. Their album Lilith is one that I will definitely be listening to for a long time. I’ve already listened to it A LOT. Their sound is a heavy and guitar driven. They have two female singers and I really enjoy how they trade back and forth.

“Burn the Straw Man” opens the album and blew me away. The title track “Lilith” is the second track and I had heard that before I got the album because they had a video for it. They continued with “Headspin,” which I really like, but the 4th track, “Korova” is probably my favorite track. Give them a listen.

It’s because I like bands such as Arch Enemy that I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of Butcher Babies before. Arch Enemy also put out an album in 2017, Will to Power. This is their second studio release with Alissa White-Gluz on vocals. As I said about her debut with them, I think she’s breathed new life into them. I know some fans weren’t happy that she incorporated clean (non-growl) vocals into one track, “Reason to Believe,” but I liked it. It was not expected and it works with the Arch Enemy sound. It’s my favorite song on the album.

Other tracks I really like include “Dreams of Retribution,” “the Race,” and “the World is Yours.”

Chris Jericho is a promotional genius. He knows how to get his name out there and how to get attention on himself. He had been playing the title track from his band Fozzy’s new album, Judas, on his podcast for months before it was released. I didn’t mind because it’s a good song. He was able to market the album in a way that I was very excited about the release date. Fozzy is consistently good. I’ve ranked them in my lists a few times.

“Burn Me Out,” “Drinking with Jesus,” and “Weight of My World” are other favorite of mine from this album.

I don’t know why Scott H. Biram’s the Bad Testament took a while to grow on me. But, once it did, I realized how damn good it is. Maybe I was thinking it would sound differently, but what I got was an album that reminded me of (what I think are) his best albums the Dirty Old One Man Band and Graveyard Shift. Those two albums were the first things I heard from him after I had been introduced to his act after I saw him open for Clutch. What I like about Biram’s stuff is that while each album is good by itself, I can put his catalog on random and just lose myself in his blues/country/punk style. That’s needed sometimes.

I know I’m saying this a lot, but if you’re a fan of Scott H. Biram, you need to hear this album. Some of tracks that stand out (more than others) to me include “Set Me Free,” “Still Around,” “Train Wrecker,” “Crippled & Crazy,” and “True Religion.”

2015’s 10th best album was A Raw Youth from Le Butcherettes. I saw them open for Faith No More and I was intrigued. Their singer, Terri Gender Bender is a captivating performer. She’s different. Along with some other people on the Ipecac Records label, she formed Crystal Fairy, and their debut album is this year’s 10th best album. They have a heavy sound and her vocal style ranges from singing, to screaming, to screeching, none of which is bad.

I recommend “Chiseler,” “Necklace of Divorce,” the title track “Crystal Fairy,” and “Secret Agent Rat” as songs worth trying.

A few albums that were good, but just didn’t crack my Top 10 list include Steven Wilson’s To the Bone, the Front Porch Sessions by the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and TajMo by Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’.

Some notes about other albums from the year:
Anneke Van Giersbergen’s new project VUUR released their debut album In This Moment We Are Free – Cities. She’s my favorite female voice in music, but this album didn’t draw me in.

Anathema’s the Optimist starts off great, but lost my interest.

Moonspell put out 1775. But, all the lyrics are in Portuguese. I couldn’t follow along.

Ayreon’s the Source was a major disappointment.

Blackfield V was just boring.

Gov’t Mule’s Revolution Come, Revolution Go has good stuff on it, but it nothing too special.

Gregg Allman released what will likely be his final album, Southern Blood. He died during the year and that made this album difficult for me to listen to. There’s definitely good songs on it, but some of them deal with his impending demise and that made it too real. Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band meant so much to me for so long. I wish this album wasn’t his last.

Neither Garbage nor Muse released new albums in 2017, but they both released one new song. “No Horses” and “Dig Down,” respectively. Both songs are fantastic and make me look forward to their next albums.

I know Clutch and Lacuna Coil have new albums being worked on and I think both will be relased in 2018. Lacuna Coil’s 2016 album, Delirium, was my album of the year. I really hope they follow up with something good. I guess time will tell.

A note about eligibility for my 2017 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2017
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material

There’s Comfort With the Wealth of Gold. Increase Demands. Release Me From the Scenes of Old.

When speaking about Christmas, Charlie Brown famously said “I know nobody likes me, why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?”

I don’t currently feel that way about the holiday season, but I have, and I easily could again. This may entry may scratch the surface of that.

I don’t have a lot of fond memories of family gatherings at holidays. My memories of family events during this time of year is mostly of disagreements, disputes, spite, bitterness, and anger. Most of which would climax during the times we were supposed to be most joyous and festive. As a child, when the mostly annual holiday season arguments were going on, I would retreat into my room and find comfort with whatever was on TV. And depending on how close it was to Christmas, it was very possible that “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street” was on one of my local PBS stations.

I don’t feel particularly at ease discussing details for the reasons for the annual arguments, other than to say it was due to differences of beliefs that my parents had. Those beliefs were ones that were never outwardly expressed, until something was said or done in contrast to the other one’s beliefs. There was a lot of passive aggressive behavior that would always blow up into full fledged arguments during this time of year.

To be honest, that was very normal for my household. As I stated, it was basically every year. There is no doubt that it helped make me very sour on December’s holidays and anything they were supposed to represent. Of course, working 20 years of retail didn’t help that either, but that’s a different story. Family arguments never got resolved. They just got glossed over and then everyone went on as if nothing happened, but the issues lingered until they bubbled back up to the surface and it started all over again, but with more resentment.

Hiding from problems is also a family tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation for me. I hid from much of these arguments. I had to. It was survival. But, while hiding from them, I found comfort with TV. I found comfort in my own world. I found comfort with solitude.

The reason I specifically brought up “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street” earlier is that I still watch it every year. Of course, now it’s via DVD. I find great comfort in watching it. And now, since most of the fighting is done, I can watch it without the specter of Christmas Past hanging around.

In fact, I’ve realized that I have developed similar traditions of my own for various holidays. They all pretty much involve watching a specific TV show or movie that is related to the holiday or event. And they probably involve drinking a specific seasonal beer that is also related to the event. There’s a comfort level for me with these traditions. Comfort isn’t necessarily a good thing, sometimes it’s just all you know. There’s a fine line between comfort and complacent. I’ve written about how comfortable sadness can be for me in a previous entry. 

The thing is, I don’t think my personal holiday traditions are sad. They’re things I’ve developed over the years that started out as coping mechanisms and have turned into things I actually look forward to. I admit that sometimes there is a sadness to being by myself for much of these events. I do spend time with friends and family during holidays. I’m not completely isolated. But, I really do feel like an outsider during many of these events. I don’t share the same joys of the holidays. They don’t mean the same things to me that they mean to others. My anxiety usually picks up a bit during these times because I’m just not comfortable in the social settings. Even with the people I’m closest with.

As I’m writing this, I’m starting to ask myself if I’m enjoying myself while being miserable. Or am I miserable while enjoying myself? Is either scenario possible? Is it just who I am? Is it just what my programming is? I really don’t know these answers. But, as usual, I’m putting these thoughts and feelings out there with the hopes that just by doing so, things may one day be more clear for me. But until that day happens, I’m going to keep doing what I do during holidays…

I’m going to find some place I can enjoy the little things, even if that place is just in my mind.

I’m going to find a way to enjoy my TV shows and my holiday beer(s), because there’s solace there.

And even if there’s no true celebration from me, and even if I’m not exactly at ease in my settings, I’ll find a way to be comfortable, even if I’m not.

Can’t you see? All circuits are busy. Please try back again.

I had a blog entry ready to go. I just had to put the finishing touches on it. That usually means I would scrap it and start over, but keep with the theme. But instead, I’m saving it for later and writing this one. This will be a jumbled mess of random thoughts. I know that already. It’s just the mood I’m in.

Originally, I was going to write an entire entry about the three 5k races I ran this year and while I completed all of them, I was disappointed in the race results. The last one I did this year was the fastest of the three, but the 2nd one was my 2nd slowest ever. Somehow I thought I could stretch that story out into an entire blog. It was too whiny and that’s not the tone I wanted.

Then I thought about writing about the slew of sexual harassment allegations coming from Hollywood and TV. I was going to say how incredibly normal this type of thing seems to be in their bubble. How things that are being alleged now had apparently been talked about behind closed doors within their community for years and nobody did anything about it.

Maybe I would write a full entry about gun violence and how every single time a mass shooting happens we (as a society) say “now isn’t the time to discuss the issue of gun control” and it then fades from our memory until it happens again and we say “now isn’t the time to discuss the issue of gun control.”

I could talk about how the President of the United States says outrageous, slanderous, childish, and often untrue statements on Twitter on a daily basis. I was going to say how I’m not surprised, shocked, or even phased by that any more. I could have stated how I’m really bothered that this has become our normal.

I considered writing a blog about how bad my blogs had become, in my view. I felt even stronger about that one after reading one I published on year ago today, which you can read by clicking HERE if you want to. That one was actually one of my better ones.

As I’m living paycheck to paycheck, I thought about another financial rant. But what’s the point of that? Writing about that again isn’t going to help my financial situation. Well, maybe it could if someone with influence reads it and publishes my work and I get to be a famous author. Wouldn’t that be nice?

I almost wrote a blog about complacency and depression and I thought I was straddling the line between the two. At one point in that entry I was going to say that I was depressed about how complacent I am about certain aspects of my life, but also how the complacency almost keeps me away from a full depression, so maybe it’s good.

There was also a chance of me talking about relationships. I haven’t been in one for a few months. When the last one ended I didn’t get nearly as depressed as I thought I would. I was bothered by that. I was also bothered by being bothered by it. It didn’t make sense to me. None of that does. But, it made perfect sense to me at the same time. How messed up is my head that a lack of depression upsets me? Seriously. Think about that. Was it because my expectations weren’t met?

As far as relationships go, I could talk about how I’m cautiously optimistic about things right now. Maybe something is going well, maybe I’m delusional, maybe nothing is there.  Maybe I’m working myself up worrying about it as I’m writing this paragraph.

I could write about the news in Manhattan today. There was a mass murder. I don’t know more details, because they aren’t available yet. However, I’ve already seen a drastic difference in how it’s being covered depending on the ideology of who is talking about it.

Or maybe, just maybe I could tie all of these unrelated topics into a tight little knot. I could say if we took better care of each other, if we provided for each other, if we made sure that people on the lower end of the economic system were helped up, maybe just maybe a lot of the issues I could have talked about today wouldn’t exist.

I could write about that, but who would read it? My audience is small. Who among the few readers I have would, or could, do something that can truly help the world? Could I be the one by writing this? Could you be the one that reads this and gets inspired? Of course, that all depends on if you can navigate your way through this maze of randomness.

It’s possible I could just write about how I doubt myself so much that I don’t know how to end this entry. It really bothers me that I don’t know how to end on a high note. I’m almost comforted by knowing that I don’t expect this entry to be read by that many people. What does that say?

 

A Roman Candle in the Wind

On October 5, 1997 I was at Madison Square Garden watching the New York Rangers in the in their first home game of the season against the Los Angeles Kings. The game ended in a tie. When I got back to my house that night, my sister was waiting for me at the door. She asked if I had heard about Brian Pillman. I said “No, what did he do now?” She said “he’s dead.” I questioned what she was talking about before she repeated it and assured me that it wasn’t a play on words. I stood there totally stunned before I just sat on the floor for a few minutes trying to process what I was just told.

There’s a good chance that many of you don’t know who Brian Pillman was. He was a Professional Wrestler. His death obviously had an impact on me. I wouldn’t have had such a strong reaction to such news and I wouldn’t be writing about it if it didn’t. But, it wasn’t just his death that had an impact on me, it was his life.

From the first time I saw in him 1989, I was a fan. He was a great performer and in many ways, ahead of his time. When he became a villain in 1992, I wasn’t sure he could pull it off, but did he ever. He was great in the role. Not long after that, he was placed into a tag team with “Stunning” Steve Austin. They were the “Hollywood Blondes.” The two had instant chemistry and remain one of my favorite teams to this day.

In 1995, Pillman started to act weird on TV. His character started to “snap” and it got to the point where you never knew what he was going to say or do. He managed to convince his then employer, WCW to let him go. The plan was for him to go to ECW for a while, become a bigger star while being “nuts” and then return. He ended up signing with WWE and became a bigger star that way. For various reasons, including a horrific car accident, his WWE career never took off like it was expected (or hoped). But, this entry isn’t about Brian Pillman’s career. You can go to Wikipedia to read all about that. This is about how Brian Pillman understood the power of Internet way before anyone else. This is about how Brian Pillman took a bunch of fans under his wing online in the days when it wasn’t easy to interact with fans. This is about the bond that was created with those fans and how what it means to me (and us) today.

In 1995, there was no Facebook. There was no Twitter. Interaction with celebrities online was basically unheard of. But, hidden in a sports themed area of America Online was the Grandstand. There was an area specifically dedicated to Professional Wrestling there. A few of us that had already become bored with the official WWE area on AOL would post our thoughts on the product in that area. Also in the Grandstand were folders dedicated to specific wrestlers. Brian Pillman was one of them. He showed up and posted in those folders more than any of the other wrestlers. While “in character” he would sometimes go to the WWE chat room and start trouble and often get his account suspended. His wife, Melanie, often had to plead her case to AOL to get the account reinstated since her name was the “master account” and Brian was just using a name on her account.

Brian was Professional Wrestling’s “Loose Cannon” and a few of us were his “Cannon Cult.” We were the ones he would sometimes ask to start trouble in a folder. Those folders would usually belong to another wrestler that he just wanted to mess with. He would usually pick up where we left off. All of this was in good fun, as we got to interact with one of our favorite personalities, and he got to help increase the awareness of his character and got more attention on himself, even in the days when most people didn’t know what the Internet was.

From time to time, Brian and Melanie would talk to us on AOL Instant Messenger and we became close. As close as possible on the Internet. Another wrestler that was on AOL at the time was “Diamond” Dallas Page. DDP and I would also talk online from time to time. I remember one day in late Summer of 1996 when DDP signed on and I asked him if he had heard from Brian recently. He said no, and that Brian hadn’t returned his calls for a while. I asked him for a deal, I said “if Brian signs on, I’ll tell him to call you. If you talk to him first, tell him his AOL friends miss him.” DDP agreed.

A few weeks later, one of the most controversial episodes of WWE Monday Night Raw ever happened. It’s known as “Pillman’s Got a Gun” and the premise was that Steve Austin was going to break into Brian’s house to injure him more than he recently had. Brian had a gun. Just watch the clip HERE.

I watched the show live that night and I went on AOL when the show was over. Not long after I signed on, Brian’s name showed up on my buddy list. I sent him a message letting him know how great I thought the episode was. We talked briefly and he said he had to go. I didn’t get to deliver the message.

Just a few minutes later, Melanie Pillman signed on. I chatted with her for a few minutes. She wanted to know if her hair looked good. I asked her where Steve Austin was and she told me that he and Brian were downstairs on the couch enjoying some beer. I loved that answer considering I had just seen Brian pull a gun on him. She said she had to get going, but before she did I told her that DDP said Brian hadn’t returned his calls. She said she would get on him about it. I emailed DDP about it. A few days later, he replied letting me know that Brian had called him.

I got to meet Dallas Page in 2013 and I told him that story. He laughed about and told me that he remembered that happening. I’m proud that I played a part in those two reconnecting.

Brian’s WWE career never really took off, for various reasons. Mostly due to nagging injuries. But we didn’t know about his alleged issues with pain killers and other substances. Unfortunately, it all caught up to him on October 5th, 1997. He was found dead in his hotel room. The official cause of death was ruled as heart failure due to an undetected condition.

I have no doubt in my mind that if Brian Pillman was healthy and substance free that he would have been one of the biggest stars in Professional Wrestling during its boom period of 1997-2001. In many ways, much of what happened in the business since his death is due to doors he’s opened online and how seriously he took his character.

To me, his legacy is complex. His in ring work was great. His personality was ahead of it’s time. But, what he did in 1995 and 1996 on AOL is what’s most personal for me. He talked to fans before it was cool to do that. He treated us with respect. He also taught me very early on how much somebody can use the Internet to communicate. He showed me the importance of words and, when used carefully and intelligently, just how powerful they can be.

This post isn’t doing justice to Brian Pillman’s career and influence. I’m not trying to recap his highlights here. I know this entry may make me seem like a “Mark” or a “fanboy,” but so what? Access to someone you thought so highly of was not common in 1995 and I was thrilled to have such access.

He was a big part of what made a few of us lifelong friends. Yes, I still talk to some members of the “Cannon Cult” to this day. It’s something I’m very grateful for.

To some, his death is just another death in a long string of Professional Wrestling deaths. And I understand that. But, as I’ve tried to explain here, this one was personal. He had a profound impact on me and many others. I hope he knew that and I hope he understood that.

CLPTLESS, MFLCannon, IamTheJer, and EcMFW were all proud members of the “Cannon Cult” and 20 years later, we still are.

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Brian William Pillman aka “Flyin'” Brian aka “the Loose Cannon.”
May 22, 1962 – October 5, 1997

#CannonCult4Life

Proud to Serve the Country that Served him Weak.

Just a little bit more than one year ago, I was having a conversation with a celebrity. He had just finished talking to a group about some of his issues with depression. I thanked him for speaking out and told him that his voice holds a lot of weight because of his fame. I also told him about my blog and how I don’t believe my voice is as impactful as his. He made it a point to let me know how I was underestimating myself and even if I’m not reaching as many people as he may be, I may still be reaching somebody. I thanked him again for speaking out and for saying that to me. It stuck with me.

While, the celebrity was right, I may reach someone, the power of a celebrity voice IS powerful. As of the time I’m writing this, I have 225 followers on Twitter. I have barely more followers/friends on another site. The amount of people that could see my writing is not that large, and the amount that actually do read it is pretty small. But, that doesn’t stop me from sitting down (at least) once per month and writing something. I have something to say and if ONE person gets something from it, I’ve done well.

Celebrities often get criticized for expressing their opinions on social issues. I don’t understand why. As I said, their voice has more relative weight than mine based on the size of the audience they can reach. And that is exactly why I’m proud of the players in the NFL and MLB that took a knee during the National Anthem recently. This goes back to last year and Colin Kaepernick not standing during the anthem. I wrote something about it then, and I’m writing about it again because the issue is quite newsworthy and it needs to be discussed.

Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to social injustice. At no point was his protest designed to do anything but that. That’s what the issue was about and that’s what it is still about. It was never a protest of America or a protest of the anthem. It’s a Constitutionally allowed gesture that he did to get attention on himself so he could get attention an issue he felt strongly about.

A flag is just a flag. An anthem is just a song. Saluting them is not a mandatory thing in a country that prides itself on freedom. It’s not a mandatory thing in a country that allows freedom of expression and assembly. It’s not a mandatory thing in a country that was founded on and prides itself on peaceful protest. It will never be a mandatory thing as long as the founding documents are upheld.

The NFL stars that did not stand are not protesting the United States. They are not anti-America. They are not anti-police. They are not anti-soldier. They are anti-injustice. I’ve seen pictures go around recently of Rosa Parks with the caption “Thinking NFL players are ‘protesting the flag’ is like thinking Rosa Parks was protesting public transportation.” I’m not going to explain to you who Rosa Parks was. Quite frankly, you’re a lost cause if you don’t know already. But, I brought up the thing about her because of how relevant it is. Don’t let the story be something it isn’t. This is about social and racial injustice. It always has been and it shows how while we’ve made some progress, we still have miles to go.

Some critics of the NFL protests are saying that the players should be proud of the flag and what it stands for. I agree, they should be. But the flag is just a symbol of the country. It’s a symbol of a country that brags about being #1. It’s a symbol of a country that says it’s the “land of the free and home of the brave.” It’s also the symbol of a country is which minorities are treated like they don’t matter. The middle class is treated like they don’t matter. The poor are treated like a burden. The flag represents those people being held down. It doesn’t currently represent them being lifted up.

Donald Trump ran his campaign last year talking about the “forgotten men and women” in the United States. What about the people that aren’t forgotten, but barely acknowledged? What about the ones that are ignored? What about the ones that don’t have a fighting chance? What about the ones in which the American Dream is just that, only a dream? That is what the protests are about.

People need to be more offended by policies that allow the Middle Class and minorities to be driven into poverty. People need to be more offended by government officials that won’t properly condemn true racism. People need to be more offended by racial and ethnic profiling that exists in the country. People need to be more offended by people being oppressed and suppressed by a system that isn’t designed for them to succeed.

I’m a 41 year old white male. Some of you think I’ve had all the chances in the world to make something for myself. But have I? I’m a 41 year old white male that lives paycheck to paycheck. Any time I come close to getting ahead financially, I face a setback. I admit that I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and yes I am aware that I do have certain advantages because I’m white. That isn’t a good thing, by the way. It’s part of the problem. Why should the color of my skin matter? But, this entry is not about me. I’m not trying to make it about me. I’m going to keep struggling, but I’m going to keep fighting. If you’ve read my other entries, you know I’m a survivor. But, I digress…

The main point of this entry is this: The celebrities and athletes speaking out are the voices of the voiceless.

I know some people stopped reading this entry the second they saw Colin Kaepernick’s name. They have their pre-conceived notions about him, his protest, and his reasons. They won’t pay attention to any facts about the protests. They just believe what they’re told to believe about who and what the protest is offending.

But, a song is just a song and a flag is just a flag. They both stand for something, but until every single one of the citizen of this country are given truly equal rights, equal freedoms, and equal opportunities, the flag and song don’t stand for much. And if I were a celebrity with a bigger audience then the small amount I reach, I wouldn’t stand for the anthem either. I don’t stand for injustice. I don’t stand for inequality.
You shouldn’t stand for it either.