In June, a 25-year-old Mexican girl was raped and killed on the beach, in spitting distance from my tattoo shop. Within a few hours her name came out and people found out what her Instagram was. I looked at it and saw her smiling big with her backpack on, saying how excited she was to be going on her first solo trip. Another one of the photos was her in a bikini, taken at a local waterfall, she wrote that she had to stop taking photos because some local creeps were perving out on her.

The morning of the murder my wife and I were walking our dog on the beach and we saw our friend Gabi with her dog. When we got closer, she asked us if we had heard what had happened? There was a dead body there, a tourist. She pointed, and we saw a white tarp with a couple of cops sitting around it on some driftwood. I was nervous our dog was going to run over there. We walked past it and couldn’t help but look. The cops looked like they were just hanging out.

“That’s someone’s daughter under there, and her family has no idea,” Giulia said. We walked down the beach, throwing rocks and sticks for Shoki to chase. We talked about what might have happened. Was it an overdose? If she was killed would they catch the killer? What would the crime scene look like if it was in the US? We talked about the town and the violence that seemed to be ramping up. When we walked back by, around an hour later, they were still there. Sitting around her body, laying in the sand, under the heat of the Tropical sun.

As the day went on, different stories started to circle around. Everyone was curious. It was tense. One girl had escaped, she had been dragged down to the water and someone tried to drown her, she got away and ran to get help. A police officer refused to go on the beach because it was high tide and he didn’t want to get his shoes wet and he wouldn’t let her use his phone because it was his private phone. Some locals came to the rescue and caught one of the guys and beat the shit out of him. The other escaped. Later on in the day, he was caught and a video was posted of him, incoherent and beat up, being put into the back of a truck.

Men talked about setting up vigilante groups and beach patrols; if the police wouldn’t protect the community, then the community would have to protect itself. Women talked about what it was like to be female in this place, and in the world itself.

I’m reading a massive book right now titled The Story of Civilization, it’s an old book, published before Gandhi liberated India from England. One thing is clear throughout it, mankind has the ability to do great and/or horrendous things. Reading the history of civilization is like reading the script from Game of Thrones, all the evil shit in that show, it’s in this book. It’s history.

We are more refined now, we have more information, regulation, and laws; individuals and authority figures are held more accountable than at any time in history because of technology and the world wide web. But evil still exists and given the opportunity, it still flourishes.

Two months before Maria was killed here, a young man was dragged out of a bodega in the Bronx, and killed, hacked with machetes and stabbed multiple times. The whole thing was caught on video for everyone to see. I watched it because I’m an idiot. I didn’t need to see that and I hope that his family never watches it. I thought about these two young kids and how their lives ended so abruptly. Sometimes tragedy just seeks people out, for no reason, except that fate deemed it so. Tragedy is always there, waiting in the shadows, you just never know when it’s coming, or for who.

High Hopes

I’m going to be 40 next month. I head into that year with the hope that I can finally achieve some form of stability. Some sense of confidence in myself, I am confident in certain aspects of myself, but not in my ability to stay up. 

There are things I’d like to have in my life. Stability is one of the main attributes I would like to attain. I’ve had so many mountaintop moments, so many moments where I thought I had it all figured out and that I wouldn’t fall back into the abyss of depression or apathy. But I always have. This doesn’t mean that I always will.

There are some issues I need to address. I’ve looked back over the past 20 years of my life and looked at what I’ve done and what I’ve left undone. I’m asking what has worked for me and what hasn’t. There’s a lot to explore.

This time though, I am going to come up with a battle plan. So that when the going gets tough, I know the way out.

 

Tattooed Heart

Tattooed in the center of my chest is an anatomical sacred heart with the word WISDOM written across it. I got this when I was around 21. I was a Christian at the time, I became one in high school. I walked away from that faith not long after I got the tattoo and I haven’t thought about it in years, other than looking at how it’s aged and softened. I also have a tattoo of Jesus whose eyes I later had scratched out and then a friend added pink bunny ears on top of the crown of thorns.

I was angry at God, with the idea of God… I was really angry with Christianity and all religion. I raged against it, in my early twenties and into my thirties. My mind had been locked down with the rules and the sin. Things were either good or bad and my humanity never felt good enough. For whatever reason, I always felt guilty. The idea that anyone who didn’t believe in Christ would go to hell, was such a bitter pill for me.

It was in Huntington Beach, around twenty years ago where I sat alone on the beach and let go of Christianity. I smoked a joint, and looked at the ocean, looked at the waves rolling in, strong and constant. I thought of how long that had been going on, that energy that has been pumping from the beginning of time.

Instead of thinking I knew how that came to be, and who made it, I thought instead about the wonder of it all. There was an entire world hidden away from sight, hidden under an unfathomable sea, where animals as big as buildings lived long lives. I saw the wonder, the magnitude of it all, and I said goodbye to the certainty of Christianity. It was a beautiful moment in my life.

It was just a couple of months ago now, I was being a gloomy cunt, I’d walk into the tattoo shop and change the whole environment, without saying anything, my tension and my mood could poison the well, I’d bring that home as well.
I had an answer to my question: I had come to where I wanted to live, to my own Shangri-La, and I was fucking miserable. One day I’d be great, the next everything would suck.

I walked down to the beach, and went in the water, I dove under the waves and screamed into the abyss. I came up and looked at the shore, looked at the trees reaching towards the sky, looked at the jungle, living, and breathing. “I don’t know what to do,” I said, ” I don’t know who the fuck I’m asking, but I guess I can’t do this on my own,  I don’t know what to do… Pacha Mama… God… whatever you are, I need some help, I don’t want to feel like this anymore, I don’t want to be like this.”

Now when I see that faded heart tattooed on my chest, through the hair that is slowly turning white, I can see a pretty constant theme in my life: a search for wisdom and understanding.  A search for connection. That’s what it was while sitting in front of the Pacific ocean 18 years ago, and what it was a couple months ago when I dove into it.