Tag Archives: Brother’s Keeper

How to be Okay

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Set the story in the winter of 2015, in Portland. You will have just been broken up with by a dude you were bonkers in love with, in a way that rattled you to your core. Go grocery shopping, feel it coming on, leave the grocery store before you burst into tears on the way home. Think to yourself, Can we all agree that grocery stores should not play slow, sad Christmas songs any fucking more, please? Or at least have a trigger warning beforehand? Imagine it like that, fully: a red and green-striped rotating light descends from the grocery store ceiling, spins silently. Shoppers look up: some keep shopping but others abandon their carts, drop their baskets. Eggs shatter, a ball of iceberg lettuce rolls down the aisle as they leave the store in a row: the lonely old cat lady in her housecoat, the gutter punk in the pleather jacket, the middle aged bearded gay man wiping back his tears. Behind them, the beginning strains of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” start playing in Safeway. Continue reading How to be Okay

Pride

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You do this: you ride the bumpiest, smallest plane on the planet from San Francisco to Albuquerque. You have white knuckles and the Xanax is taking the edge off the anxiety you feel, but just barely. You wonder if the plane falls out of the sky will it spin or tumble. Maybe it will just dive down nosefirst, and for a beautiful minute everyone will be weightless in the freefall inside the cabin. You decide that if that happens, you will unbuckle your seatbelt, you will enjoy the last few moments of your life like an astronaut. Continue reading Pride

My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer, Part 5: The End of Everything

I put this here to break your heart

A post shared by Michael James Schneider (@blcksmth) on

 

Part 5 of 5. To read previous parts, click here for Part 1.

It’s the holiday season in 1991, and I’m a freshman in college. I’m coming back home to Albuquerque from spending time in Los Alamos, New Mexico, with my first boyfriend Max. I met Max’s family there, saw Star Trek 6 with him in an empty movie theater while I whispered the complicated galactic politics to him. We secretly made out whenever possible: to this day, I have a soft, nostalgic spot for the Drakkar Noir cologne he wore. We get back to our dorms on the UNM campus, and I get the call from my sister: something is wrong, come to the house right away.

I open the front door to my parents’ house, and my life is never the same after that. I see my sister’s tear-stained face, she’s in the living room with her husband Bob. My Dad is stoic but barely keeping it together while my grandmother shuffles around in her slippers, not understanding exactly what happened. My mom is wandering from room to room in the old Victorian house, incoherent, apoplectic, wailing with grief. I know then that my big brother John is dead. This is what it looks like when a family explodes from the inside out. Continue reading My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer, Part 5: The End of Everything

Lemonade

As with most mornings on my days off, it’s a slow roll to wake up this particular morning. I sleepily smile at the text from my boyfriend, reply to it. I pet my perpetually hungry cat, Ned. I browse Facebook for a couple minutes, watch the new Star Wars trailer, realize that Darth Vader’s helmet kinda always looks like the “gritted teeth” emoji. A friend on Facebook has lost a loved one, and I almost comment on the post but decide not to. I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m even sorrier for all the notifications I’ll get if I comment on your post.

Then I check the dashboard for my shitty-ass blog. Oh great, I think, rolling my eyes, Chad’s back.

Haters gonna hate. 💅🏼💅🏾💅🏿

A post shared by Michael James Schneider (@blcksmth) on

I started this blog a few years ago to chronicle my experience leaving my job for a year to have an “artistic sabbatical”. Halfway through that year, I had a rough time of it and suddenly the writing got more personal. I knew then that I was making a choice to put my ramblings out into the public domain, and I also knew well enough from Reddit message boards that not everyone would be kind. Take the above comment, posted at 1:04 am to my recent piece about transparency and honesty. Chad’s clearly trying to bring “tool” back. The overall message in my piece wasn’t very controversial, just an affirmation that it’s better to be open than not. But Chad’s had it in for me for awhile: Continue reading Lemonade

*How To Save Your Own Life, A Webseries

 

from l. to r., Kevin Kauer, Michael James Schneider, Nick Mattos
from l. to r., Kevin Kauer, Michael James Schneider, Nick Mattos

This is how it works: life happens the same as always, day after day. You go to work, you go home, you eat ice cream on the couch and pet your cat, and you lose yourself in the routine. Then, one day, everything falls apart — and things get interesting. Then, things get really interesting. Continue reading *How To Save Your Own Life, A Webseries

My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer Part 4: The Plan

On New Year’s Eve, 22 years ago, my big brother passed away of a drug overdose. This past year, I experienced a romantic loss…which would normally be fine, but this one hit me like a ton of bricks, and made some pretty old, ugly personal demons surface. Why? I think my reaction to the latter has to do with unresolved abandonment issues from the former. This series is an attempt to move past both of these losses, and start healing. We’re all in this together, and the stakes are never higher than when you take a stand for your own happiness.

If you’re new and just joining this journey with me, you should probably start at Part 1. If you’ve read some of this already, you can join me at Part 2 or Part 3. If you only want to read this entry, I really don’t understand you. We probably can’t hang. Major spoilers ahead, boo.

John Hastings would have been 49 years old today. Happy Birthday, big brother.

The last few weeks have felt even better. I’m stronger and happier. My life doesn’t feel like I’m wandering through a Lars Von Trier film anymore. I’m nearing the end of this journey to find Mxxxxx Bxxxxxxxxx, the person my family has held responsible for my brother’s death. It feels like perfect timing. Not only personally, but professionally: I don’t want the search to take over my life, or be the focus of this blog (“BLCKSMTH? Oh, you mean the Dead Brother Blog?”), even though the point of BLCKSMTH is to tell the story of people’s paths, however difficult, to lives they love, and were probably meant for all along.

One thing that has helped me heal is vast amounts of boxed wine working on my set design for the stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. It’s a dream project of mine, combining Mr. Gaiman’s storytelling while aesthetically being inspired by a favorite artist of mine, Lee Bontecou. Most days, for almost two weeks, I have been at my theater from 10 am to 10 pm. I am exhausted, my hands look like hamburger meat, and I think I might permanently smell like metalworking/welding fumes. But I am so happy working on this project, making art again, and it’s so gratifying to see members of my “extended family” at Sacred Fools Theater in Los Angeles come by and help out. There are some pretty talented and generous people executing this project.

This week, I broke away from the set build for a couple of hours to talk to Mark De La Garza, Gilda De La Garza’s brother. Mark was probably the last person to see John alive, and the conversation solidified my decision on what to do with the new information I have now (that my resourceful sister Linda found), about where Mxxxxx Bxxxxxxxx lives. Continue reading My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer Part 4: The Plan

My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer, Part 3: Ouroboros, Or The Myth Of Closure

On New Year’s Eve, 22 years ago, my big brother passed away of a drug overdose. This past year, I experienced a romantic loss…which would normally be fine, but this one hit me like a ton of bricks. Why? I believe my grief from the latter has to do with unresolved issues from the former. This series is an attempt to move past both of these losses, and start healing. We’re all in this together, and the stakes are never higher than when you take a stand for your own happiness.

If you haven’t yet, please read Part 1 here. And if you read that already, here’s Part 2. I just sold the rights to turn this into animated webisodes (this is a lie, I just wanted to type “webisode”).

Wow. Travel, time, and friends. In the last couple of weeks, I have finally felt like less and less like a grieving widower, and more like my old self again, the person I was before October 8th. Actually, I haven’t felt like my old self. I have spent the last couple of months challenging everything I think I know about me: I conquered a previously debilitating fear. I smoked weed for the first (and second) time in my entire life. I’m going to a gym for the first time in my life (this is a bigger deal than you think), getting on my bike most days. I am suddenly fearless about meeting people and making new friends, inserting myself into social situations. I made the decision to try out another city, one that fosters creativity and is a softer, kinder place for me to be right now than Los Angeles. Yeah, yeah, make all the jokes you want about “midlife crises”. This journey to find Mxxxxx Bxxxxxxxxx, the woman who my family (but not me) calls my brother’s “killer”, is changing me, making me stronger. I like what I am turning into.

Don’t get me wrong. There are good days and bad, but the bad are fewer and fewer. No, friend, I still won’t go to see Silver Linings Playbook with you, not quite yet. No, I’m still avoiding watching that episode of Girls (just kidding, I’m not watching it anymore at all…Joe introduced me to it, and all it does is remind me of him now). And I can’t change the station fast enough when fun’s Some Nights, or Mumford’s I Will Wait comes on (haha, I just admitted I LISTEN TO RADIO. This is more embarrassing than anything I’ll ever cop to on this blog). But I am surfacing. I still miss “Joe”, but his ghost is fading. I’m going to be okay.

And then a funny thing happened: I found Mxxxxx Bxxxxxxxx.  Continue reading My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer, Part 3: Ouroboros, Or The Myth Of Closure