The Communist Dance Party.

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Hey, you. This is my final post to my 8-year-old blog. It was really nice of you to check back frequently for more updates and general banter, and then make an educated decision to continue to return here. Thanks.

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Good Riddance.

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So, there you have it. After eight years, two books, 1260 essays, thousands of comments and millions of hits, it’s finally curtains for The Communist Dance Party.

When I started the CDP, I did so on a crappy Hewlett-Packard PC under the stairs of my studio apartment. Today, I write within the masculine confines of my own office inside of my own home. In 2004, Celia was my 20-year-old fiancée. Today, she’s my wife of nearly eight years. Back then, I was an unemployed, rural transplant fresh out of college. Today, I’m a grizzled Madisonian and a proud employee of the state of Wisconsin. At the age of 22, I weighed 150 pounds, ate no meat and drank no caffeine. In 2012, I weigh 160 pounds, sporadically eat shrimp and drown every possible sorrow with a four-shot latte. I consider that last one more of a parallel step than anything, but you still get the point: Despite my repeated missteps, things apparently turned out okay for me.

I started writing stories online so I could stay connected to my friends and family back home (in 2004, MySpace was horrid and Facebook didn’t exist), but deep down, I always wrote as a therapy for never being able to properly verbalize the things that I was feeling. One facet of my writing that showcases this heavily is the fact that every essay is almost always 1% dialogue and 99% inner dialogue. For every embarrassing situation I shared with the hopes of making a connection with other downtrodden dorks, I also did so because I desperately needed to know that others had shared the same feelings and instances. My public goal may have been to create a like-minded community of people who saw the humorous absurdity of the world and experiences around them, but privately, I really needed to know that I wasn’t alone in feeling so alien. I always needed your words a lot more than you needed mine.

We’ve all had rough childhoods; I don’t care how privileged or lucky you think someone was, I’m certain they suffered at some point in their upbringing. My parents messily divorced when I was 10, and for the next eight years, my life was in complete disarray. None of my friends noticed due to my constantly cynical and upbeat nature, but I was forced to be an adult from a very early age, and the things I learned about myself even then are ethics I still hold close (and mostly secret) to this day. My escapes from reality were innocent and typical, yet integrally vital: Music, Television, Movies, and above all else, Writing.

Most people think that the concept of “I write because I have to” is bullshit cliché. Those who claim they write without the goal of income and popularity are branded as liars; merely a snooty defense mechanism when they inevitably don’t achieve the writing goals they’ve set for themselves privately. This is simply not true. I am a person that does things until I do not enjoy doing them anymore, and then I simply walk away from them when I feel they’ve run their course. I’ve made money doing this. I’ve also turned down a lot more money to do things I didn’t want to do. These decisions never took more than a second to make in my head, and there’s nothing more to it.

There aren’t many things in our lives that we get to be 100% in control of, so when these moments arise, you should hang on as tight as you can, and not let anyone take it from you, ever. If this opinion means that I’m not a ‘professional’ writer, then fine. I don’t want to be one. Still, jaded and pompous know-it-alls will stubbornly try to convince you that nobody does things (even artistic things) without personal gain in mind, and even if I burned the next 10 books I wrote before anyone got the chance to read them, they still wouldn’t be swayed to believe otherwise. If I’m nothing but a hobbyist writer for the rest of my life, that would be okay with me. And it had better be okay with me, because that’s probably how it’s going to turn out.

If I’m allowed to give you any writing advice (and I usually didn’t), it would be to ignore this talk altogether. If all you want out of life is money and popularity, attempting to achieve these goals through writing is about the most futile, soul-sucking and roundabout path possible. If you simply want money, work harder and buy fewer things. If you simply want notoriety, murder someone. If you want to be an artist, find the thing inside of you that you want to say, and find the best possible outlet with which to say it. If it can be said with a painting, paint. If it can be said in a song, sing. And if you think it can be said in a book, write. The end. Nothing else can matter. Not money or success, not embarrassment or failure. Nothing.

Also, if I may be hypocritical for the billionth (and perhaps final) time, I’d also encourage you to stop listening to anyone’s advice about how and what to write. I’ll never be the best at what I do, but one of my skills is that I’m prolific concerning content. I can write a ton of stuff in a short amount of time, and I didn’t do that by frequenting sites about motivation for writers and words of wisdom from those at the top. Shut the computer off, close your office door and say what’s on your mind. If you really want to do it, you’ll find the time and motivation. If you merely like reading self-help, you’ll find plenty of time to do that, too. Choice is yours.

For the last time, I want to sincerely thank each and every person who has ever read and enjoyed something that I’ve written. I cannot tell you how much that means to me (I’m not that good a writer). Your comments, e-mails, camaraderie, friendships and stories of your own have permanently and positively shaped the last eight years of my life. I have legitimately made friends with a lot of you, and for an introverted shut-in from an unincorporated town in Wisconsin, that is not lost on me. Most of you are more talented, more motivated and just plain funnier than I am. I’ll continue reading your stuff, and I hope you’ll still want to read mine.

Thanks to you, I have a filing cabinet full of handwritten letters, a CD rack full of unbelievable Mix Tapes and nearly a decade of positive memories. You gave me the courage to say what I wanted to say, the platform from which to say it, and the encouragement to work extremely hard to succeed at something I thought I was good at. I sincerely will not let you down.

Thank you to my family, especially my mom and sister. I do my best to not drag you through the mud, and it makes me very happy to know that you’re proud of my existence. There’s a fine line between encouraging your child to be anything they want while still reminding them how much of a no-nothing dumbass they are, and I think every woman in my life has towed it perfectly where my ego is concerned. As I continue to write about my experiences and the people that I love, it’s my goal to have as many people as possible see what strong, creative and loving people you both are.

Finally, I want to thank my wife. The Missus. Celia. Not only did she have to edit nearly everything I’ve ever written and pretend it’s James Goddamn Joyce, but she had to listen to every nervous breakdown, drunken tirade and egomaniacal rant about the world not going the way that I want it to (a shocker, I know). She understands the territory that comes with being the husband of a delusional, wannabe writer, and she also understands that the next chapter is going to be even smoother beyond the horizon. We were both insanely emotional people eight years ago, and we still are, just now in the correct ways. She also had to see me naked and be my best friend for the last 12 years, a job I wish on no upstanding citizen of this planet.

Thank you, Celia; because of your radiating love and awesomeness, I’ve completely run out of unpleasant stories to tell. You’ve exorcised every last demon that made my work relevant, and for that I thank you immensely.

We’re almost done here. The CDP ends tomorrow. Thanks again.

The UW-Whitewater Swim Team.

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Pooping your pants will not earn you any friends.

When I was in kindergarten, the class pant-pooper was a kid named Benji. It seemed as if he had an accident every day, so much so that his parents started outfitting him with a revolving door of sweatpants in order to make the aftermath a little more bearable and easy to maintain. He pooped his pants for years; the last time I remember it happening, it was at his birthday party when we were in the 3rd grade. It brought the tee-ball game to a screeching halt.

I’m certain he didn’t have his problem under control in the 4th grade either, but I sort of lost touch with him after I accidentally hit him with a baseball bat and we stopped speaking to each other. Whether it was math, science, lunch or recess, you could always depend on Benji to eventually freeze like a statue in mid-sentence, eyes welling up with fear and embarrassment as he once again lost the ever-present battle of not vacating one’s bowels. Poor bastard; he’s probably in jail now.

My mother is convinced that I wasn’t entirely toilet trained until I was five years old, but this is revisionist history (and more importantly, just a funny thing to say about your kid in public). Truth is, my bathroom habits were exemplary. I never had accidents, always knew when I needed to go, never asked for help and always did my work in private. When other first grade boys took great pride in urinating off the top of a jungle gym like Moses atop Sinai (I’m only assuming that was part of the story), I was avoiding splashback and remembering to tuck. Such undignified behavior and accidents shall never befall me, for I was regal, responsible and possessing of adequate muscle control.

Then I got the flu.

You know the kind of flu I’m talking about. The little kid flu. The worst virus of your life flu. The sleeping on the bathroom floor, 103-degree fever, surrealist nightmare flu. Down was up. Up was down. Full House was my favorite television show. ‘Ice, Ice Baby’ was in constant boombox rotation. It was touch and go; for a good four days, I was confined to my room. The shades were drawn, my meals were slid under the door and the days started to melt into each other like soft pocket watches in the blistering desert heat.

It was on one of these nights in particular when the incident in question occurred. I was barely clinging to reality as I drifted off to sleep, sweat soaking through the sheets and mattress as I began dreaming about having to run a mile for gym class.

There I stood on the dewy track, wearing nothing but shoes, socks, and a pair of skintight swimming trunks that I inherited from an older cousin. They were purple, with the words ‘UW Whitewater Swim Team’ embroidered on the back. These Speedo shorts existed in reality, but I hardly ever wore them. I always pushed them further and further back into my underwear drawer, as they were ill-fitting and I couldn’t swim (I considered this false representation). Furthermore, they looked like a Crown Royal bag, and were nearly as tiny. However, I was low on laundry this week, so I had no choice but to don them. Why they had to follow me into my dream is beyond me.

When the gun went off, I began my journey around the track, overgrown with weeds and moss. Everyone was there to cheer me on: My mother, my 18-month old sister, Neil Armstrong, Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Carter were just a few of the more notable names in attendance. Not wanting to let them down, my legs began pumping and I hurtled my pale, mostly-nude body along the blacktop, the cheering and clapping serving as my incentive to set a Winneconne Elementary School class record.

Then I shit my pants.

My sprinting turned to a jog, then a saunter leading into a confused duck-step as the realization of what happened arrived in waves of confusion. The last thing I remember was Jimmy Carter
shaking his head in disgust as I began to awaken. My hair soggy with perspiration and body atrophied by this horrific flu, I peeled myself out of bed to steady my consciousness, make sense of what had transpired, and grab a glass of water. It wasn’t until I stood up that I made the unfortunate discovery. Of all the dreams that I ever wanted to come true, it figures that this was the one I was granted. Much like my disappointing effort on the track, I had indeed had a Benji moment in my own bedroom.

I was sick. My head wasn’t in the right place. Nothing was making sense to me, and now I was in a state of panic. It was probably three in the morning at this point, and any logical idea that I had to possibly quell this unfortunate circumstance was still hours or even days away. Going with the first idea I came up with, I took off my underpants and made my way over to the attic. My bedroom was on the second floor of an old farmhouse, and the attic was on the same floor, accessible by a spooky-looking half-door on the far side of the room. For years I would have nightmares about aliens and phantoms emerging from this door, but on this night, I pushed these fears aside and made my way towards the intimidating entrance. I had a deposit to make.

Working only under the guidance of moonlight, I pulled the tiny attic door open. Within were long-forgotten boxes of baby clothes and Christmas decorations, exposed insulation and probably about a dozen wasp nests. I clutched the underpants, reared back and flung the contents far into the pitch-black depths of the attic. It was over. I closed the half-door, remembered to wash my hands, and went back to sleep. My irrational fear was that I’d somehow face embarrassment or even punishment if it were discovered that I accidentally shit myself while in the throws of a sickness that I probably should have been hospitalized for. My theory (and I’m assuming here) was that I’d hide the evidence and it would never be spoken of again.

And I was right. For a while.

Months passed. I got better. By this point, it was winter and I had forgotten all about the tragic incident. My parents had taken trips into the attic from time to time, but my shameful delivery hadn’t been discovered. I was operating under the assumption that everything, underpants and all, had been eaten by mice. I had committed the perfect crime.

It was about two weeks before Christmas when I heard my mother screaming from the attic. I was playing River City Ransom on my Nintendo in the living room when my body suddenly went cold. This wasn’t going to be good for anyone. For the next 20 minutes, I eavesdropped on my parents as they tried to make sense of what they were looking at.

What is that?” my mom inquired.

It…it looks like shit,” my father eloquently stated.

What animal could have done that?” Mom fired back.

I dunno,” Dad said quizzically. “Maybe a raccoon. A big one.

Maybe we should put a trap up here or something,” Mom said. Surely, she didn’t want wild vermin running rampant throughout the house.

This went on for what seemed like forever: my mom and dad hovering over a pile of their son’s feces, hypothesizing as to its origin. Apparently, it all must have been thrown clear from the UW Whitewater Swim Team trunks that fateful night, and for that, I was simultaneously relieved and disgusted. In that moment, silently listening to this exchange from the stairwell, I knew how poor Benji felt every day of his childhood; being chastised, frightened and embarrassed due to a mere lapse in cognitive reasoning.

My parents cleaned the attic and bought a raccoon trap. I never told a soul, and they never caught the raccoon.

For a decade, I considered this the most embarrassing thing I could ever tell anyone about myself, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I even told my wife, who now brings it up at any and every social occasion possible. Personally, I don’t think this should be held against me too much, though. If you dream about pooping your pants, and you wake up having pooped your pants in real life, and you cover it up by heaving the evidence into the adjacent attic, then have you really pooped your pants at all?

Yes. Yes you have.

The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen.

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When I was a sophomore in high school, I was fortunate enough to spend nine days in the UK. While the trip itself is well worth its own essay (I had a gun pulled on me during an attempted mugging), there is one moment that will always stick out in my head whenever I think of London.

Well, two moments, actually. When I think of London, the first thing I usually remember is how it poured rain every single evening, and how I lurched through the back alleys on a nightly basis like Jack The Ripper for the sole purpose of slinking from my hotel to a nearby Burger King. For nine straight nights, I ate nine straight Bacon Double Cheeseburgers by myself, clothes soaked and very much alone. But hey, that’s the Morrissey-esque portion of the trip; we’re talking about funny stuff here (of course, Morrissey’s a vegan, so he’d never be caught dead inside of a Burger King).

Oh, and I also tried to purchase a replica of Excalibur at the Stonehenge Gift Shop, but was told that it was impossible for them to ship a five-foot long, diamond-encrusted weapon back to the United States. Pricks.

On one particularly beautiful Friday morning, a few friends and I took a walk to a nearby courtyard that was bustling with children, pigeons and random British passersby. Our goal was to relax for a few hours, take in the scenery of a foreign country and maybe purchase some souvenirs for our folks (my mom got a crystal paperweight, proudly endorsed by the Queen Mum herself!). The vibe was gorgeous. The elderly were feeding breadcrumbs to birds, the uniformed schoolchildren were laughing and skipping about, the architecture was stunning and the sun was shining. It was something I’ll hopefully always remember as a truly beautiful moment.

However, when in Britain, do as the Britons do. For Americans like us, our only experience with English culture was Benny Hill and Monty Python. Fortunately for me, I was about to see the epitome of slapstick from a first-person perspective.

From across the courtyard, about 20 yards away, my buddy Vinnie spotted an empty, single-occupant park bench in the shade. At the same exact time and distance away, an elderly woman, maybe 80 years old and sporting an armload of groceries, spotted the same bench.

Now, when this normally happens in life, one of two things occurs. One, the younger man backs down, gives the bench to the old woman and continues about his day. Either that, or they exchange in an awkward dance that consists one of person offering the bench to the other until someone gives in.

Neither of these things happened.

Vinnie’s eyes tightened and locked onto the old woman, who in tune, tightened and locked onto Vinnie. They took turns darting their glare back and forth from one another to the distant bench. It looked like the beginnings of an Old West shootout, only instead of gunfighters, we had a scruffy punk kid taking on a geriatric with a basket full of vegetables and bread. I was in between them with a front-row seat, and quite frankly, I was already laughing. I knew exactly what was about to happen, even though I knew it made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Like nothing I had ever seen before, both Vinnie and the old woman started moving towards the bench. Slowly and unassuming at first, always keeping a peripheral on one another, then breaking out into a saunter and eventually a full-on sprint as they, honest to God, raced each other to the abandoned bench.

I didn’t know what was more hilarious; that Vinnie had no intention of giving up this bench to precisely the type of person that you should give a bench up to, or that the old woman had clearly been in these types of battles before, and knew it was kill or be killed.

Like a car wreck, time slowed down as these two sprinting idiots reached the bench at exactly the same time (I still have no idea how the old woman was able to move so fast). Akin to the grand finale of Musical Chairs, Vinnie’s left ass cheek and the old woman’s right ass cheek rammed into each other and hovered inches over the bench, as they tussled, tug-o-war’d and fought for sole possession of, apparently, the only empty bench in England. Had I not been around Vinnie all morning, I would have sworn that I was on a hidden camera show. Normal people don’t act this way.

We’re not even at the best part. The old woman won.

With a swift, LeBron-esque shimmy, she rodeo-clowned Vinnie with her bag of groceries, confusing him just long enough to claim the seat for her own, as he stumbled and shuffled over to a drinking fountain, a defeated, embarrassed and completely classless man. As long as I live, I’ll never forget the look on that old woman’s face when she lowered her head and started running.

That final night in London, we spent the last of our money on cheese, bread and tin foil, and made grilled cheese sandwiches by cooking them in the complimentary trouser presses that were in every room of our hotel. We had five different sandwiches going in five different rooms, which led to a particularly surreal quote by Vinnie as he chatted with me in the hotel bar. After complimenting him on the deliciousness of the sandwich, his wristwatch started beeping.

Crap!” he exclaimed. “I’ve got to go; I have a sandwich up in room 108!

Every now and then, it doesn’t suck to be me.

It’s Great To Be Eighteen.

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Everyone in the Emergency Room was disgusted when they saw me.

As I stumbled through the coughing, sneezing and moaning onlookers, I pressed my left hand up to the left side of my head. The pain was still radiating through me, and the blood that soaked through the bandages and onto my palm was a reminder that the most painful moment of my life was seemingly finished.

My surgery was over. My mother was clutching my right forearm, leading me back to the car. I could keep my balance fine without her, but she clung to me because I couldn’t hear anything. The bandage was wrapped tightly around my head, cocooning both ears in silence. Tufts of hair sprouted out of the gaps where the turban of gauze was haphazardly applied, the left side soaked completely through with dark blood.

Even though I was hurting, I still wondered what the stunned onlookers were thinking. Maybe they thought I was shot in the temple. Perhaps they thought I had attempted suicide. A freak, earlobe-lopping accident at the barbershop was a long shot, but still entirely possible. One thing was for sure: I was officially deformed for life, and I could have easily prevented it by not being such a selfish, spineless, prideful kid.

I had turned eighteen less than two months prior, and for someone so intent on being treated like an adult, having my mother drag me out of the ER wasn’t necessarily what I had in mind. For as concerned as she was with my well-being, she still took a moment to revel in my misfortune when we got to the parking lot.

Tell me again how great it is to be eighteen,” she said with a satisfied grin.

I couldn’t hear a word she was saying.

ONE HOUR EARLIER.

AAAUGH! God f***ing damn it!

I was screaming so loudly, the entire wing of the hospital must have heard me. I was face-down on the operating table, strapped in tight and given no medication for the pain. Instead, two female nurses did their best to console me as the doctor began the process of cutting the back of my left earlobe off.

Ryan!” my mom exclaimed. “Don’t swear!

It’s okay,” one of the nurses said. “This is a very painful procedure.”

SHIT PISS CHRIST,” I howled through gritted teeth, my face mashed against the vinyl gurney.

I felt every scalpel slice. I heard every incision. I felt the warmth of the blood running down my head, and in my peripheral, I could see the mountain of crimson gauze the nurses were using to soak it up. If you were to tally up every drop of blood I had spilled in the seventeen years leading up to this moment, this topped them all combined.

This is one of the more…pervasive infections I’ve seen,” said the doctor in a horrible display of bedside manner. I responded by repeatedly kicking myself in the back with my heels. It was literally all I could do.

Let’s start suction,” the doctor said, motioning to the quieter of the two nurses. She then produced a device I normally see at the dentist’s office, only this time around, it wasn’t being used to remove fluoride and lukewarm water from my palate. It was being used to suck the pus and blood from the gaping hole in the back of my head.

As you can assume, the sound of this was repugnant, and the sensation was unbearable. I was making up curse words by this point.

AAAUGH! TONY SHIT-ASSING LITTLE!

This went on for about 45 minutes, until the doctor felt that he had sufficiently cleaned out the infected earlobe. “We’re just going to bandage it up for now and let you clean it periodically until it heals,” he said. “For the love of God though, don’t OVER clean it. Jeepers…that lobe blew open like a spider egg; you’re lucky the infection didn’t get into your bloodstream.”

Thank you for your time,” I said, composing myself as the nurses unstrapped me and began wrapping the gauze turban around my head. One of them got my mom’s attention. “Please assist him out; his hearing may be impaired.

ONE DAY EARLIER.

You have to go to the hospital right now,” Celia said. Thankfully, she was speaking to me again.

My girlfriend was checking out the back of my ear; I had been hiding it as best I could for the last six weeks, but it was becoming too big of a concern (emotionally and literally) to ignore.

Every day, the infection seemed to get bigger. No amount of ointment, rigorous cleaning or gentle massage seemed to do the trick. The pain was intense, and the swelling was now at a veritable breaking point. “It looks like a peanut M&M full of pus,” Celia said, silently contemplating just how much of a naive doofus her boyfriend really was.

Serves you right, really,” she chirped as she inspected the discolored lump. “This would have never happened if you wouldn’t have ditched me.

I…ouch…I already told you I was sorry,” I said. “Besides, it…OW!…it wasn’t my fault. And it was my birthday.

Yeah…how’s being eighteen working out for you, by the way?

Okay, that’s enough. I’ll go to the hospital tomorrow.”

TWO DAYS EARLIER.

I reached my breaking point on St. Patrick’s Day.

At school, all of us seniors wore shamrock-shaped nametags around our necks, and throughout the day we would give our lanyards away to a person of our choosing. This could be a significant other, a good friend or merely a random passerby (if you didn’t care). Like most high school gimmicks of this nature, the popular kids were given the most nametags, and the rest of us felt like the Sneetches without stars.

I was sitting in the library, doing the People Magazine crossword puzzle, waiting for Celia to show up so I could give her my lanyard as a way to apologize. Surprisingly, nobody had noticed my infected ear to this point; I was covert in my mannerisms and always backed away from friends when I ended conversations. Sort of.

Just then, Paul strolled in. Paul was a gangly, overbearing, foul-mouthed bully (one of those kids that got held back in kindergarten and took it out on the rest of the class for the next 12 years). I usually steered clear of Paul’s wrath, but he was on the warpath today, snatching lanyards from around the necks of anyone in his way. I’d say he was sporting about 30 of them by the time he got to me.

I’ll take this,” he grunted, as he violently yanked the lanyard from around my neck with an upward thrust. I was in the midst of standing up as this happened, perfectly content to remove the nametag myself and simply hand it to the mongoloid… but I didn’t do it in time. The pain hit me a millisecond before I realized what had happened: the back of the lanyard was snagged on my massively swollen earlobe, and Paul was tugging on it with all his might.

I’m not one to pick fights with bullies, but not only was I in pain, I also faced potential eternal embarrassment if my secret was discovered. Losing the nametag was no big deal; having the Class of 2000 discover an alien life form growing out of the back of your ear is another disaster altogether. I flipped out and started swinging until the lanyard came loose and we had to be separated.

Minutes later, I ran into the bathroom to survey the damage. The cyst was bleeding and hemorrhaging, and I spent the next 10 minutes getting it to stop long enough to face my peers for the remainder of the day. Celia, expecting to receive my shamrock, continued to not speak to me.

I couldn’t do this anymore. I had to tell someone.

TWO WEEKS EARLIER.

People with OCD shouldn’t get their ears pierced.

Everything I read preached constant cleaning and meticulous attention, but nobody said anything about the risks of over-cleaning and excessive attention. Using alcohol, saline and peroxide to the point where your body no longer manufactures the necessary chemicals with which to properly ward off infection and allergy. Chalk it up to inexperience; this was my first time.

When the swelling initially began, I did my best to drain it naturally and let nature do the rest of the work. However, once things began to get out of hand, everything closed up shop and I was unable to get anything out of there. Even my earring was stuck.

Nonetheless, I kept this a secret, mainly to save face in front of my girlfriend (who wasn’t talking to me) and mother (who was pissed off beyond words), but mostly because I was embarrassed and terrified. This was supposed to be something I did to look cool and rebellious, not something I did because I wanted to go to the hospital and get a piece of my head lanced off.

ONE MONTH EARLIER.

On the day of my 18th birthday, I was supposed to be at the high school. Celia was playing in the school’s Pep Band, and I promised her that I would be there to see her play for the first time. However, my friends had different plans for me.

We’re taking you to the mall to get your ears pierced. It’s free on your 18th birthday.

Guys, I really don’t want to do this. Besides, I need to be back at the school. Celia’s playing in the-

So what? You’re not leaving the mall until this gets done.

At this point, my friends had a 60/40 stroke over my decisions compared to Celia. However, today was the last day they would misuse their power of manipulation over me, as from February 2, 2000 onward, this Balance of Power switched permanently. In a moment of teen selfishness, I went along with this excursion, and Celia played her first Pep Band concert in front of nobody. I apologized to her from a pay phone in the Food Court, but she was having none of it.

The piercing didn’t hurt, but my anxiety was already in hyperspace. I asked volumes of questions concerning care and maintenance; why I didn’t just tear it out when I got home is beyond me. I guess part of me thought it was cool, and at that point in my life, I was doing anything I could to demonstrate my newfound independence in front of my mother.

That night, I burst through the front door of my mom’s house sporting my piercing with pride.

It’s great to be eighteen!” I shouted. And it was.

11 YEARS LATER.

Celia, now my wife, claims that it looks like a ‘baby’s butt.’

She’s referring to the back of my left earlobe, which long ago shrunk and healed up, but not before leaving me with a lump of misshapen scar tissue that (to her, at least) looks like the rump of a newborn. I never got another piercing, and to this day, my mother reminds me about the masterful judgment lapse on my first official day of adulthood.

We all make mistakes. Some of us get arrested. Some of us get our asses handed to us in an alley. For me, I just wanted to impress my friends and rebel against my parents in the most stereotypical way possible. In doing so, I was reminded that when it comes to me, there’s no such thing as ‘the most stereotypical way possible.’ I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about tattoos and piercings, but most of them don’t end with “And then they lanced my earlobe off.

Lesson learned. Again.

Technically Speaking.

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Here are a few technical (and personal) things I wanted to address before the CDP signs off next week.

1. The CDP isn’t physically going anywhere. The site, the essays, the photos, the comments and everything else is staying right here. In fact, I just renewed both of my Photobucket Pro accounts for two years each (at a steep cost of $80, no less) to make sure nothing went dead as time went on. I’m not a fan of watching websites deteriorate with age and neglect, and even in retirement, I don’t plan on watching the CDP suffer a similar fate. The message board where my wife and I first began conversing in 1999 is now a porn site, and that’s unfathomably tragic to me. It’s like watching your childhood home get bulldozed and pooped on.

The only thing that could possibly change in the distant future is that the forwarding URL (theCDP.net) could lead you to another page should I choose to create one sometime down the line (I currently have no plans, but I will be renewing the domain because I want to keep it). The root destination of the CDP (communistdanceparty.blogspot.com) will be around as long as Blogger exists. In short, nothing is ‘leaving the web’ except for me, because…

2. My online presence will be greatly diminished for a while. It’s kind of like when your parents get divorced: Daddy still loves you and cares about you very much, but he’s not going to be around as much as he used to. I work best in quiet, dark rooms with little-to-no subterfuge and lots-to-yes whiskey, and you people are constantly distracting me with your productive lives, cat photos and sexy glasses. Personally speaking, I want to legitimately spend some time away from my computer, and professionally speaking, I need to get back to my roots, because…

3. I will continue to write. I promise. The whole damn reason for this shift is because I want to write books, and I intend to work very hard in the upcoming months to accomplish this. For a while now, I’ve been working on two future book ideas simultaneously. Nothing furious, just mostly outlining and note-taking (one is at about 18k words, the other at 13k). It is my goal to get both of these books in your hands within the next three years or so. If I’m fortunate enough to work with a publishing house that will take some backline work off of my hands and put a little money in my pocket, fantastic. If not, I’ll simply self-publish again. What’s important is that I get to write whatever I want, and you get to read it if you’re interested. That’s all that matters, and all that will continue to matter. Speaking of you and I…

4. You can get a hold of me at any time. My e-mail address is communistdance@yahoo.com, and my Twitter (twitter.com/ryanzeinert) and Facebook (facebook.com/ryanzeinert) accounts will remain functional for the foreseeable future.

Thanks much. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend. The final week of the CDP starts Monday, and we’re going out with a bang.

Today I Am 30.

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I wasn’t, nor am I now, apprehensive or depressed in any way about turning 30. I could have just as soon gotten myself killed in a farming accident before the 90’s even began (and believe me, I came close a few times). 30 doesn’t mean what it did even a decade ago, and for me, it’s just a new set of challenges and goals I cannot wait to accept and promptly ignore while watching The Walking Dead.

I live in a city where 30 means less than nothing. Madison (like Portland, apparently) is a place where young people go to retire, and despite being part of the white collar workforce since 2004, I sometimes feel like I haven’t worked a single day since I moved here. Every week for the last 9.5 years I’ve lived a life of simple pleasures that I refuse to take for granted.

Two weeks ago, it was 55 degrees outside. Any time it’s over 50 in Wisconsin, we’re happy; for it to happen in January was absolutely unfathomable. I left my office to get coffee, and as I walked the two blocks I saw beautiful people, complete with beautiful friends, clothing and domestic pets, thoroughly enjoying an unexpected afternoon of unseasonable warmth. The vibe was optimistic and giddy; nobody seemed to be taking that day for granted, and were making the most of it by merely being out and about during a stretch of Winter where most Wisconsinites have no choice but to cocoon and regulate their heartbeat. Spring in Madison is a rebirth, and we were getting an early sneak peek of what we have to look forward to in a couple short months.

Between my office and the coffee shop is a nondescript brick building that it probably overlooked by thousands daily. The rest of us recognize this place as Smart Studios, the hallowed ground where Butch Vig produced life-changing masterpieces of music by bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, Archers Of Loaf, The Promise Ring, The Poster Children, Jimmy Eat World and Death Cab For Cutie. It’s a landmark; the entire structure should be airlifted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I have also walked past this building nearly every day for the last eight years, always taking at least a second to remind myself what it has done for my overall enjoyment of being alive. This unseasonably warm day created a snapshot of a moment that caused me to tilt my head and smile.

In February of 2007, our good friends moved from Green Bay to literally down the street from our place. Understand that, until the age of 18, I lived in an unincorporated town miles away from the nearest friendly neighbor (I went to school in a different village). Being able to spend every weekend for five years now (and sometimes many times a week) drinking, dining and playing MarioKart with your friends is a luxury I never had the opportunity to experience as a teenager.

The first night I drunkenly left their apartment and merely walked down the street back to my place, I remember feeling incredibly lucky. There is no substitute for living close to lifelong friends, especially when it’s something you never had growing up (my house was on an unpaved road). It’s not lost on me, and being a Madisonian, it’s a privilege most all of us have now. The next time you rely on your neighbor for something, take a minute to realize how awesome it is that you get to do that. Again, a snapshot of something seemingly small that has made me very happy.

Celia and I have known each other since 1999. I was 17, she was 15. Today, we are 30 and 28 respectively. We’re such different people in so many different and astounding ways since we first met, both as a couple and as individuals, yet every day we become stronger and more inseparable, and I’m hopelessly addicted to that feeling. Just a few days ago, we drove down the street to the diner nearest to our house. We spent the next hour conversing about our families. It was a meal and a topic we have shared many times before, yet the conversation was still passionate and insightful.

I had been trying to get her to go through piles of rubbish in the basement in the hopes that we would clean it out enough to utilize the empty space more efficiently. She refused to part with tons of childhood memorabilia, memorabilia of which I had none. Celia, being someone who never had to move into a new house until she met me, had successfully been able to hang onto each and every possession she had ever obtained. I, on the other hand, moved frequently and inevitably had to part with nearly everything I had owned prior to 2000. This spawned our conversation, and it allowed major insights not only into our upbringing, but also the reasons why we value (or devalue) certain things in certain ways as adults.

I learn something new about Celia every day. It was the type of conversation I want to continue having with her until I die; we talked long after the check arrived, only to drive home and continue talking. Again, this is something I cannot possibly take for granted. If I get to live this way for another 60 years, I still wouldn’t be sick of it.

Today, I am 30. My 20’s were an absolute joy; I received, accomplished and achieved more than I ever thought I deserved. I am healthy, comfortable and complacent, yet fiery, cynical and motivated. I wholeheartedly appreciate what I have, yet I will work harder than ever to get more. I’m not as quick to fly off the handle concerning the people that I love, but I will still throw an entire sandwich at my television if I see a commercial I feel is insulting to my intelligence (seriously; I’ve done this). Dare I say, the pieces are falling into place that are turning me into a better person, whether I was asking for it or not. I’m optimistic enough to proclaim my 30’s as a decade of evolution and success, but pessimistic enough to see the humor in being hit with a cement mixer first thing tomorrow morning.

Because really, how fitting would that be?