On Sundays I reflect.
I didn’t drink alcohol this week. I did read something this week that caught my attention. “Alcohol is the only drug that we have to explain not using.”
I had a photo shoot Thursday, and my model asked if I wanted a shot of whiskey. When I declined and told her I gave up alcohol a year and a half ago she realized I had never had a drink during one of our shoots, nor any time she had seen me in public.
At $5 a day, figuring that to be about the cost of the beer I used to drink every night at dinner I’ve saved over $2500. That doesn’t include the dinners I was also purchasing every night (we cook at the studio five nights a week now). That doesn’t include the weekly liquor store runs to grab nice beer for the house. That definitely doesn’t include the nights out with bar tabs as low as a single drink and as high as a few hundred dollars.
Among other reasons, this was a major influence on my decision to quit. My business has been underfunded since the beginning, and not drinking is one of the few ways I can truly control my personal spending. Alcohol was one of my few indulgences.
Despite the story that I share through my social media, which includes driving lots of fancy cars, I live a rather simple existence. Every dollar I make goes into my business, in one way or another.
They’re not mine and I don’t rent them, usually. Sometimes people pay me to drive their cars. It’s a nice side hustle for me to generate more money to put into my company and my studio.
My grandfather was a car dealer. He sold Cadillacs my whole life. I remember one Channukah he gave me a trike and from then on told our family I would be the first to get the red convertible (since I’m the oldest cousin). This became a light at the end of the tunnel for me, through an emotionally challenging childhood.
When I was 15 I got arrested for possession of marijuana. My friends and I were cruising around one Friday afternoon with nothing to do. We were getting stoned in my friend’s car and stopped at the park in my neighborhood. While we tried to figure out where to go a cop pulled up and after an hour or two arrested me and the driver. I remember seeing my DARE officer who knew me personally at the jail when I got booked. He laughed, and told me to stay out of trouble. I remember refusing to call my parents at first, but caving and sharing the worst news of my life with them. I remember feeling like a criminal for smoking weed, and that was only the beginning. I was court ordered to an outpatient rehab program which consumed my life for the remaining two years of high school. I took weekly piss tests and attended group counseling sessions with other kids that had gotten in trouble. One kid was there for getting in a fight with a “toy soldier” his name for a mall cop. The kid hit a mall cop in the face, and the counselors told me that I was not different than him. I was told I was an addict. At the time marijuana was the only drug I had tried. I had never even had a cigarette or a drink. In my junior year of high school I joined AA and NA and attended meetings weekly as well. I didn’t smoke weed for two years, except one time by accident.
Once this happened my grandfather decided he wouldn’t get me the car, a consequence that dug deep.
This week a law passed in congress to allow safe banking for marijuana businesses. We’re close to decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana in this country, and I fully support this movement. I’m not thrilled about the fact that the legalization of marijuana will now make the same people rich who prior profited off of putting people in jail for its use, primarily people of color. I’m not thrilled about the idea of Phillip Morris and Altria (big tobacco) taking over and continuing to exploit us. Did you hear amidst all of this vape controversy that big tobacco is releasing a new device to vaporize dry tobacco? They lobbied to get rid of vaping because it threatens their profits, and now they’re releasing their own product that everyone will have to use. How can we expect a government to protect us from monopoly, when the government answers to lobbyists and our elected officials have invested in private prisons, big pharma and tobacco?
I’ve tried not to get too political here but I can’t avoid talking about the impending impeachment process of Donald Trump. We are living in a time of such confusion, I literally don’t know who to believe any more. I don’t know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. We can’t believe the news, nor the president. Regardless of impeachment or the phone call with Ukraine, I’ve read Trump’s tweets and listened to him speak. This man is self serving, unethical, and dishonest and these are not the traits I want to be represented by.
What I’m seeing is greed, which is natural for a capitalist society based on a zero-sum game. For there to be winners, there must be losers. As long as we continue to operate within this reality, we will allow the value of money dictate how the world will be. Crypto currency in my understanding is suggested to be a way to be liberated from this system and “the man” being the banking institutions or government. Still, it’s still money and people are still competing to get as much of it as they can.
We’ve not seen another system, so it’s impossible for me to imagine what it would look like. When I was a kid my ideas were challenged as being communist, which I was told could not work because of the corruption power creates. I was labeled as an anarchist, and asked if I desired pure chaos. I was called an idealist, and told that my vision for a better world could never happen.
Maybe it can’t, but I identify as an optimist. I recently learned the phrase “assume positive intent” which is something I’ve done without knowing most of my life. When I speak to someone I assume they are telling me the truth. When I find myself asking why certain political decisions are made, I assume they are in the best interest of the people. While I am committed to maintaining this attitude, I’m also learning (or unlearning) all kinds of thoughts I’ve had since childhood. When I grew up, for example, I believed milk was good for me because hundreds of millions of dollars were spent annually to persuade me of this. Now I understand this was an effect of lobbying by an industry that wanted our money. I grew up unaware of the prison industrial complex and how it was used to perpetuate a racist agenda. I grew up thinking health insurance was a service to provide health care to the people, and I now understand it’s a tool used by those with power to keep the masses paying into a system.
So I’ve been struggling with all these thoughts, feeling like a pawn in the system being leeched from by the top feeders. I’m sick of this game, but I don’t know how to survive without participating. We’ve all got to pay the bills right?
I make art when I can. Thursday night I blew glass until 4:30 in the morning. When I can’t make art, I sell it and put money into the hands of artists. I trade and barter as much as I can, in attempt to detach myself from currency and the systems that money perpetuates. These are my acts of defiance. They’re small, and I execute them daily. While it might never be enough, I’m doing the best I can and that’s all I can do.
I’m home in Chicago with my family to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. This holiday is followed by Yom Kippur in ten days, on which we repent for our sins. I’m not talking about breaking God’s commandments type sins, although to many that’s the case. To me these ten days are just about assessing who I’ve wronged based on my own moral compass and how I can be a better version of myself. I’m working to make amends in my life, not because I’m in a twelve step program, but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s created great discomfort for me, in self assessment and apologies I’ve delivered to people I feel I’ve wronged. This is one step for me to become a better person tomorrow, by addressing my past and maintaining my existence here and now.
One last thing I want to mention here is the background behind these posts. I have to dig back to see when it started, but it’s been two years or more. At first it was a therapeutic release for me, that I shared with my world via Facebook and Instagram. As time went on I realized there were hundreds and even thousands of people reading my words, which is unbelievable. Growing up the son of a Rabbi, I was spoiled by my father’s weekly Friday night sermons. At the time I probably would have used words other than spoiled, but as I’ve grown up and interacted with his congregants as an adult I understand the impact his words have. I highly admire my father’s commentary on the world through his sermons, and I imagine it must be a bigger influence than I realized in my life.
I don’t have a CUPDATE for you this week, as I’m traveling right now. I can tell you Reda shot new products last week and they’ll be on the website soon!
Thanks for tuning in to my rambling.
Enjoy your week!
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October 04, 2019
one of my favorite posts from you ben. should i be surprised that i too indulged in assuming positive intent? thats a new concept for me but it explains an entire black/white theme in my project. “maybe its not always black and white, the city is spinning in caveats and wine. they say truth is shade of grey lying in between the lines, never said its strange explaining truth by where it lies”. its a really important lyric for me bc to understand the world around me i unfortunately have to accept the system isnt always working like you want to believe it is. thanks for this share and the rubiks mug. see you in CO soon!