Category Archives: adventure

I’m Getting Published!

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So, I received an email from a literary magazine the other day, and it seems that the Dark Horse is finally about to get published! (Confetti falls from the ceiling and there’s much fanfare throughout the entire human population… Or… well, really, I called my mom and she was proud of me. But it feels like fanfare I say!)

 

Anyhoo, that’s all beside the point. The point which is this: I have been working my ass off, and it’s finally started paying off!

If I were to flashback to 2 years ago, when I first started my masters program in writing and literature, with nothing on my resume besides retail. Or to 5 years ago, when I was stuck in my Melbourne apartment, agoraphobic, and miserable. Or if I flash-backed to 6 years ago, when I arrived back to Ohio after undergrad, feeling like a complete failure because I didn’t make anything of myself in LA. I never would have thought that any of this would ever be possible.

 

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I’ve spent most of my twenties feeling like a failure. Feeling like life wasn’t wroth living. Feeling like I would never ever make anything of myself. The spark of hope was the faintest flicker, off in the distance of some cold dark foggy night.

Writing is what got me through it all. I’ve journaled since I was 7. And I started this blog in 2013, back when my mental health was so poor that I couldn’t even leave my bedroom without feeling weak. Writing. Venting. Creating. It was what kept me going.

 

 

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When I was a kid growing up in Ohio, I knew I wanted to tell stories. I was the lone gay kid lost in a sea of uneducated, hateful trash. Movies and books were the only things that ever gave me inspiration and showed me that life could be worth living. I always knew I wanted to give that to other people.

It wasn’t until recently that I figured out it would be my story I’d be telling. The stories of growing up in Ohio. Of being a lonely sex addict in Los Angeles. Of suffering from depression and anxiety. Of collapsing all over Australia. But most importantly, of never giving up. 

I’m so excited to see the the future has in store.  Did you hear that? I’m excited for my future. That is a very recent feeling in my life. I’m looking forward to what’s next. I’m excited to see how the publication process works. I’m excited to see what people think of my writing. I’m excited to write more! And above all, I’m excited to have an adventure. Because isn’t that what life should be about?

 

rock

 

Rock on bitches, rock on!

 

~ The Dark Horse

 

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The Night I Thought I Was Going To Die

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So, over the weekend I flew back to Boston from Ohio.  I was scheduled to fly home on a Boeing 737, which looks like this:

737

 

I booked this flight back in August because a roundtrip home was like, $170 so I had to jump on it. Back in October, Delta changed our take-off time.

Then they did the same in November.

And twice in December…

And when I arrived at the airport on Saturday, I also found out that they switched our plane to a Boeing 717, which looks like this…

717

 

I honestly think I’ve only been on a plane this small maybe once in my life, years and years ago…

The engines are literally attached to the sides of the plane!!!!!! Dear Lord Help Me! 

 

Then as we board, the captain comes on the intercom and is like,

“The weather here is pretty good, but when we arrive in Boston there’s heavy downpours and wind, so it’s gonna get pretty bumpy at the end…”

Kill. Me. Now.

On small planes, you feel everything. You feel every time the plane speeds up and slows down, every time it goes up and down, every time you make a turn.  It’s basically driving a Mini Cooper at 400mph, 30,000 feet above the ground.

Luckily, everything was fine for most of the flight, but then as we hit central Massachusetts, the sun had set and the storm began.  The seatbelt lights went on.

We descended into the clouds and then stayed there for a good half hour, why? WHO THE FUCK KNOWS.

When you looked out the window, it looked like we were in a tornado. The lights on the wing illuminated the sky directly around the plane, and all you could see was raging rain flying all around. Remember that scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy looks out the window in the tornado? it was just like that.

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You could feel the G force. When the plane pushed up, you sunk into your seat. Then as the plane fell rapidly, you could feel the moments of airtime. You could also watch the nose of the plane going left, then right, then down and left and up and left and down and right, and on and on and on….

 

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I was having a massive airplane teddybear Twilight Zone episode moment. Has anyone ever seen that episode? With William Shatner and the airplane teddy bear that destroys the plane? You should watch it right before a flight…

 

But then the scariest thought of all came to mind:

THE LANDING. 

The temperature in Boston was hovering slightly above freezing, with torrential rain and wind, and I’m in a flying Fiat. And to sweeten the deal….

screen shot 2019-01-07 at 11.28.56 am

This is Boston Logan airport. All runways dead-end straight into the ocean. yay! 

 

We began to descend into the potentially iced-over runway.

All you could see was rain rushing by the window, blanketed by a misty blackness.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, we were beneath the clouds, and literally almost already on top of the runway.

We touched town, but then bounced up.

We actually bounced! 

Then landed again.

We began stopping so fast that I was being thrust forward in my seat.

You could feel the plane swerving left and right.

I thought to myself:

Ok. Im in the aisle seat. So if there’s a Southwest woman sucked from the window event…I’m probably safe.

I’m not at the back of the plane… so if there’s a Qantas engine blows up event, I’m not near the engine.

I’m also not at the front of the plane… so if we have a Jet Blue our front wheel explodes and the landing gear catches on fire, I’m also probably not gonna die…

but then…

All I could think was “Asiana airlines cartwheeling at SFO”

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There’s no way my little flying tricycle could ever withstand that. The plane would break apart instantly.

 

But luckily, we landed safely.

I guess I didn’t almost die.  But still, the drama was there, people, let me tell you

it was thereeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!

 

~ The Dark Horse

(And no the wasn’t proofread. This was written out of trauma! Trauma I say!)

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IT’S BEEN 5 YEARS!

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WordPress alerted me today that 5 years ago was my first post. December 13, 2013.

And wow… what a difference. When I wrote my first post It Starts I was trapped in my Melbournian apartment. It was a bright, sunny, summer day…which was so weird considering I’m from America, and normally December 13th is cold and might even have snow! Normally on December 13th, I’m giddy and anxious for Christmas (like I am this very second). But back in that year, it was all so wrong.

I was completely alone in a new country. My depression was bursting at the seems. My anxiety had lead to agoraphobia. I was getting sick all the time because of how miserable I was.

I remember one of my last days out of the apartment before the agoraphobia made it completely impossible to leave, was spent at the department store Myer.

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Their Melbourne store is absolutely beautiful, and I went to walk around and get some fresh air. I was hoping to feel some of that Christmas magic I love so much in retail. Throughout December I love walking around stores. Not to buy anything, but just to be there. I love the Christmas music, the hustle and bustle, all the decorations for Christmas…and really, who decorates for Christmas more than retail?

But even that was skewed. It was probably 85F outside (30C) and the Myer department store was blasting the air conditioning. Everyone walked around in shorts. There were a few images of Christmas throughout the store. But the sun and the heat made me feel ashamed to be inside, wasting such a beautiful day.

But really, let’s be honest, most days that holiday season were wasted. Lost to the rumblings of metal illness.

 

But, let’s flash forward a few years……

 

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OG GOD! TOO FAR FORWARD!!!! GO BACK GO BACK!!!!!

 

 

 

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Alright, New York still exists?  Ok good!

Let’s just stay right for a moment.

It’s December 13, 2018. 

And this Christmas I’m going to be very thankful for 2 things. First, that I’m still alive. There are so many people out there who deal with mental health problems. And a lot of them don’t know how to get help, or feel there is no help. I’m so fortunate that even during the darkest of times, I always seemed to see a small flicker of light in the darkness. The dimmest candle in the far distance seemed to keep me going. And for that, I’m so thankful.

 

For anyone out there who feels alone or hopeless, this is a list of lifeline numbers for around the world. Please call them and never feel embarrassed or ashamed for doing so. You don’t need to be suicidal to ask for help. If you feel that living is misery, no matter what your reasons are, you have a right to talk to someone.

NEVER EVER THINK THAT YOU DON’T DESERVE SUPPORT. YOU DO.

Lifeline Numbers

 

And secondly, I’m thankful that I’m not only alive, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I’m thriving. I remember reading in chat rooms and blogs when I first started having the attacks when I left my apartment. I would sit in my room afraid to walk outside, reading stories about agoraphobia. What I kept hearing over and over again was this:

“You’ll never be better again. It will always stay with you. You might get “better”…

but you’ll never ever be “fine”. 

Well, bitches, listen up. That shit aint true. 

One of my idols is Jenifer Lewis, cuz she knows how to inspire in the face of adversity.

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And she’s damn right. If the elevator is broken, take the stairs. Sure, the fight is long and hard, but don’t ever give up. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t have a full life ahead of you, even if those are people who claim to know more than you.

I feel bad for the people on those chat rooms who are convinced that life won’t get better. I feel bad that they don’t believe in themselves. I feel bad that this is happening to them.

But one thing that really pisses me off, is when people try and tell other people that SHIT CAN’T HAPPEN. CUZ MOTHERFUCKERS, IT CAN.

I remember how scared I was after reading those stories. After hearing countless people who suffered in the same way that I was, tell me that this will never get better. I never want anyone to feel that way.  And nobody should ever have to.

 

So, this holiday season, remember to help others, but also help yourself. Grab a tea, go for a walk, paint a picture, open a nonprofit, star in a movie, become president, change the world.

Ready for some inspiration? Ok, here it comes…..

 

 

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Naaaaaaaants ingonyaaaaama bagithi Babaaaa!!!!

choir comes in: Sithi uhm ingonyama!!!!!

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5 years goin, and still aint proofreading!

~The Dark Horse

What Is It That We Want?

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

I want to find true happiness in life, but what is true happiness?

For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the combination of 2 things:

The Personal Life

and

The Meaningful Life

 

 

First off, we have the personal life. This is you and your family, friends, loved ones, romantic interests, and so on. It’s the social connections that keep us as humans from losing our fucking minds. Think this isn’t true?

Well, here’s some news articles for you on the topic:

BBC

New Republic

Science

I learned that social isolation destroys you the hard way… I was socially isolated.

Growing up gay in Ohio, with parents who were homophobic (and trust me, I love my parents, I understand they were just a product of their time. I hold no resentment towards them). Anyways, with everyone avoiding you like some kind of untouchable, and then not even being able to tell your own family about how wrong everything is, you go a little insane.

You go inwards. You start to live in your own world because the one around you doesn’t want you in it. For me, I had a savior. I had what I thought would fix everything. I had the dream of…

LA

LOS ANGELES

 

I told myself that LA would change everything. There, I’d find where I belonged. The people in California would be different. They would love me. And I’d go into the film industry because what’s more accepting of differences than Hollywood? (Rimshot please!)

But again, I was alone. I had nobody to tell me otherwise. I had nobody to guide me. I had nobody to make see how shallow and horrible LA is, especially for someone as socially retarded as me.

So, from the very first day I arrived in LA after high school, everything collapsed. I didn’t know how to connect with anyone. I had never drank, or smoked, or been to a party, or a concert, or stayed over at a friends house, or anything.

I’d try to connect and make friends, and it would instantly fall apart. Actually, it wouldn’t fall apart because it never got to the point where there was anything to fall apart. People just looked at me like I was this strange mutant from bumfuck nowhere…which, let’s be honest, I kind of was, and then they’d keep walking, making sure to keep their distance.

And thus, depression and anxiety crept into my life. My dream. My salvation. The cure-all that I always thought LA would be for my life…wasn’t. My only bit of hope was crushed and gone, and there was no longer anything to hold me together.

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I remember Bruce Vilanch once said something like, “Ah yes! LA, where the palm trees are filled with crows.”

Well, I had started to see the crows.

 

 

But on the flip side, focusing simply on your social life also kills you. I learned this in Melbourne.

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I somehow managed to finish college in LA. And sure, there was that whole part where I dropped out because I lost my mind and wound up on the streets having sex for rent money, and there was that last year in LA where the depression was so bad that I’d collapse everywhere I went, but ya know, how time flies….

And so, I found myself with a Work and Holiday visa in Melbourne, Australia. SURELY GOOD PEOPLE EXISTED DOWN UNDER RIGHT? 

I went to Melbourne with one goal: It was time for me to be the dumb kid I wasn’t able to be in high school. My goals were to make good friends, fuck hot Aussie boys, get a boyfriend, and live it up!

And soon after I arrived I did find a friend group, and got a job at LUSH. But nothing seemed to get better… I was going out to bars with my friends (even though I don’t drink). I was going to food festivals with them. I was going to comedy shows. More bars. Clubs… bars… and more clubs and bars… OMG normal humans are so obsessed with bars and clubs, what the fuck is with that?????

And I just found myself bored. They would talk about their day, and the friends they knew, and gossip about others, and share memories of their past, and I would sit there, staring off into space, realizing something was wrong; I NEEDED A PURPOSE. I would go to work at LUSH, and be bored, because it’s retail and retail isn’t mentally stimulating. Then, I’d go to some bar and listen to these shallow people talk about shallow things, and I’d still be bored…even though I thought I had what I wanted.

I WAS SITTING WITH A GROUP OF FRIENDS!!!! It was everything I would have dreamed to have when I was 15. But now that I had it, I realized life isn’t just about sitting in a bar with friends. If that was enough for me then I should have just stayed in Ohio like everyone else… But life needs to have meaning. I wanted a career. Something I could be furiously happy about. Something I could invest myself in that would change the damn world! I didn’t care that Leon got a hot girl’s number, or that his ex-girlfriend wanted to get back with him, or about how excited he was to try shrooms for the first time.  I wanted to bash my head into the wall.

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So, despite my naive intentions, Melbourne was a bust. (Oh, and also, I go so miserable and destitute that my depression and anxiety burst into agoraphobia… what fun…)

 

 

And, just to really make sure that I knew what I was talking about, I made the mistake again! I went home broke, because I lost all my money paying for therapy, had to get a job in retail in my hometown to re-save up money, then I ran away again to Auckland…JUST TO WORK IN RETAIL! What the fuck was I thinking?????? 

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And so that was two more wasted years of my life….

But Auckland is where the change happened. I was in therapy one day, and I was just like, “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!!!! WHAT AM I DOING?” I had a midlife crisis at the age of 25. I was like, “HOLY FUCKBALLS! IM GOING TO BE STUCK IN THIS CYCLE FOREVER UNLESS I CHANGE IT RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!!!!!”

And thus, the plan was formed. I decided to apply for grad school. There, I could gain more experience, find mentors, meet other determined people, and reboot my life.

And that’s when I got into a program at Harvard, and the rest is history… Now, I’m getting ready to make the move to New York City with a great job offer that I’m so excited and proud to have.

 

And that’s why I think that life needs both. You need your social half, but you also need your meaningful half. It’s a tough tightrope to walk, finding both. And lord knows I’ve fallen off that rope many a time… But, I think for lasting joy, and true fulfillment, that’s how it’s done.

 

Keep up the dream!

~ The Dark Horse

NEW YORK, HERE I COME!

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So, as I mentioned last time, I had an interview in New York last Monday for a television company. Not even joking, on Friday, just FOUR DAYS after the interview, I received a phone call.

Ladies and gentlemen, it appears the Dark Horse has had a victory. I will be going to New York in January!!!!! WOOOOOHOOOO!!!!!

And this got me thinking about my journey here in grad school. When I first arrived at Harvard, I had nothing. I didn’t know a single person in Boston. I had no internships or connections to professors.

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I picked up a job at Whole Foods to pay for rent (and luckily I have federal grants for tuition). I had no real skills that I knew of, although I knew I was smart, and I knew that I knew how to survive. But nobody had every cared about me, or had ever given me a chance in life. Mostly, I just felt alone and stupid.

Essentially, I had no real skills to speak of that would make an employer outside of the food industry think I’m worth investing in. I had always taken the first job I could find somewhere, completely terrified of the idea of being unemployed and homeless. This means I’ve lived an entire life slogging through whatever restaurant or retail chain would give me a job. And thus was the cycle. Restaurants lead to restaurants. Retail leads to retail. My brain slowly rotting away with boredom in the process.

I always knew I wanted more. I was never one of those people who could work their 9-5, bored out of their fucking minds, and then justify their horrible life by going to bars and drinking it all away every Friday and Saturday….just to then have to repeat the cycle the next Monday.

 

But, growing up in Ohio during recession made me afraid.

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I watched as adults with college degrees applied to work in the diner I worked in. I thought it was so strange and scary that I, a high school student, was working the same position as someone with a college degree.

I watched my mom lose her job due to a merger, then lose her next job due to a merger, then the next due to the company going bankrupt. By the time America had finally climbed out of the hole, she had been through 5 jobs.

 

But the whole time…I knew something was wrong.

Everyone kept telling me to be thankful for what I had. They kept telling me to get my head out of the clouds. They kept telling me about the dangers of big cities (which actually, is hilarious, because my hometown has a worse crime rate than cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Fransisco). But, when you’re 16, and everyone around you keeps telling you that being a waiter is better than being homeless, it’s hard not to let it get to you.

 

And so, I worked and worked, and the depression, the misery, and the boredom grew until it was intolerable and I lost my mind.

Flash-forward to being in grad school. I knew I needed to make a change in my life. I knew I had what it took to achieve my goals. I knew that if I could just have some way to prove myself, I could show the world that I was a force to be reckoned with.

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And what better place to do it right?

And so, the job at Whole Foods turned into a job on campus, giving me more flexibility to get involved in school,

which led to me joining clubs,

And then I picked up an internship with a nonprofit where I created Facebook posts to help inspire students,

Which then led to another internship managing social media for a literary magazine,

which led to editing for that literary magazine,

which led to me getting an internship at a second literary magazine,

which led to me getting an internship with a podcast,

and then my internship with the literary magazine started paying (woohoo!),

and then I created and hosted a huge event at school,

and there was that paid job I had in Shanghai over the summer that I never would have gotten without all the other experience from being back in school,

and now, the real fuckin’ deal. Working for a big TV channel in New York City.

Is this the fabled American Dream ? 

Have I just made something of myself ? 

 

giff

 

Am I about to be a writer living in New York City? Just a small-town boy tryin to make it in the big city?

(Also, (Groans) Im sorry for using yet another Sex and the City GIF… God, Im such trash…)

 

 

Anyways, I’m excited for my future.

I’m excited and I think my writing talents have grown. I believe in my writing now. I believe that I can get published.

I also believe that my life can be filled with adventure.

and most importantly, meaning and happiness. 

 

Are there people out there who are happy living in Ohio or Iowa or Indiana? YES.

AND GOOD FOR THEM! THEY CAN DO WHATEVER THE FUCK THEY WANT.

But just like they’re allowed to work at H&R Block in some city like Dayton, you’re also allowed to go big, and want to work a big city, doing whatever the hell you want. Never let the people from where you’re from try and tell you you’re not allowed to dream big. Because changes in this world only happen when people dream big.

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~ The Dark Horse

(#NotProofRead. Proofreading is for your grandma! Live on the dangerous side!)

What China Taught Me

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So, I got back from China a month ago, and I realize I still havent blogged about my time there. And I think it’s pretty important to.  So, here it goes: I was there for a summer internship, and I recently returned back to Boston for school.

However, I’ve come back a changed man.

I feel more confident now. More sure of myself. Stronger. Wiser. and…. Well… I’m trying to figure out why.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this new feeling. I love feeling like I’ve somehow reached a new milestone in my life. A new “breakthrough” as the physiology world would like to call it.

And I think I’ve discovered what happened:

I was teaching English with this program. The program was horrible. The other Americans there were racist against Chinese people. They hated China and thought it was so “like totally weird” as one girl put it. And so, I had no choice but to breakaway.

SH sunset

 

I taught my class. I had to obviously. It was how I was making my money in China. But after the schoolday was over, I left. I didn’t hang with the Americans at all. I needed to escape their toxic, and frankly, disgusting fucking attitude towards the world. I still get mad just thinking about it.

Like when my boss…my 35 year old boss who chose to work in China picked up a pair of child scissors, and then said “I wish they made full-sized scissors in this country, but Asians have these damn midget hands” ……

There are so many problems with that, not to mention that my classroom had full-sized scissors, so my boss had either gone his entire 3 years in China using only child scissors, or he just didn’t respect Chinese people (and apparently little people either).

And that was just one of MANY…. Don’t even get me started on the time when my boss brought the two African American teachers into a classroom and said, “We’re doing a scavenger hunt for the students and one of the tasks is to take a picture with someone born in Africa, so they’re probably going to come up to you and ask for pictures… is that ok?”

FIRST OFF: THIS IS COMPLETELY TRUE. PEOPLE, I SHIT YOU NOT.

AND SECONDLY, WHY SAY THAT WHILE I’M IN THE ROOM? HOW STUPID ARE YOU? So obviously, when the two black teachers went and told everyone what he said, I was there to back their story up.

OK. MOVING FORWARD. MY BLOOD PRESSURE IS GOING OFF THE CHARTS JUST THINKING ABOUT THAT FUCKING PROGRAM.

 

ANYWAYS…..

So there I am. In China. I don’t know much of the language. I don’t know a single person. And the one thing that I’m sure of is that I want nothing to do with anyone in my program. I signed up for that program being promised a great way to visit China, make some money, and have a group of friends to explore with.

That wasn’t going to happen…..

So, I ventured out alone. I had no other choice. I couldn’t handle being around a group of people who went, “Squat toilets? OMG EWWWW LIKE, WHERE ARE WE, THE JUNGLE??”

I joined a gym. Gyms are a great way to burn off energy, meet people, stay healthy… and hey, if all else failed, and I literally couldn’t find anything to do, considering I was now in China alone, I could always bum around at the gym for hours.

So, I went to the nearest gym (which was three subway stops away at the China Art Museum Station). I walked in and held up my translation app. I tried showing the words, JOIN, GYM, MEMBERSHIP, WORKOUT, and EXERCISE, but nothing worked. The women at the front desk didn’t understand.

So I mimed the actions of lifting weights. Then I pointed to me. And then I pointed at the ground. Trying to show Me, workout, here. Finally, the women understood. They went and got a trainer to give me a tour. The trainer, named Tommy, was hot as all fucking hell.

PEOPLE LISTEN TO ME -> The young men of Shanghai are like the fucking Asian Adonis.

shum

They’re way taller than any Asian stereotype. They gym like crazy. Their skin is perfect and hair always impeccable.

I stared at Tommy and shook his hand. Oh my god his biceps.

He didn’t speak much English, and I didn’t speak much Chinese. We toured the gym completely using translate apps.

He would speak into the app: “1,000Rmb for the summer.”

It would translate it to English, and then he would hand me the phone.

I would then say, “1,000 is too much. Make it lower.”

Then it would translate it to Mandarin, and I would hand it back to Tommy.

Something about haggling with an app, rather than face-to-face emboldened me. It was much easier to demand a cheaper price when you didn’t have to look the guy in the eye when asked.

Finally, after much back-and-forth and such, we arranged that I would pay 600Rmb for the summer. A good 400Rmb cheaper than the original offer. After I paid, Tommy, my new gym buddy, had me add him on WeChat (which is like the Chinese WhatsApp…and Facebook…and Instagram…and Apple Pay…it’s kind of like everything, really)

That night, I felt proud. I had just walked into a gym and managed to get a membership and haggle the price, even though I hardly spoke the language at all.

Then, I got a message from Tommy. It was in Chinese, but luckily WeChat has a mode that translates it.

He said he wanted to hangout. He could teach me Chinese and I could teach him English.

Obviously I said yes. How could I turn down a hot straight gym guy who wanted to hang out with me?

I told him yes.

He responded with: 哥们

I translated it, and it read brothers. 

I didn’t immediately know what it meant, but I imagined that it was probably the Chinese version of calling someone “Bro”. The idea that a hot guy called me bro made my heart beat fast… also, it got me a little horny.

 

SH FC 1

My gym was in Pudong, along with my work. So I started visiting areas of Puxi a lot (the other side of the river). I did a lot of exploring around The French Concession, Shanghai’s  trendiest area. It’s tree-lined streets, cafes, and mega-malls were always fun. And it was there that I made another group of friends. I wandered into a bookstore/cafe called The Mix Place.

 

I was walking around, flipping trough books and magazines, blown away by cool this place was. Then a girl next to me, very shyly informed me that the books here are all in Chinese.

I smiled, and said that it was fine. Then I complimented her on how good her English was. She blushed and acted shy. She told me studied a year in America, in San Diego. Then her friends, another girl, and a guy (who of course was fucking hot as hell. How do these Shanghainese guys stay so fucking fit?) We got to talking. I told them about my love of Asian food, and how I fell in love street food like Jianbing and baos.

They were all impressed that I, an American, had ventured into the realm of Shanghai street food. We all swapped WeChats.

Flash-forward a few days, and we were all hanging out again. Running amok all over the city. Imagine one of those movie montages where a group of friends are running around town, eating all the food, laughing, walking through the city lights, and there’s all that fun music playing to much fanfare, hoo-ha, and pfeffernusse.

We tried foods I wouldn’t dare alone. Stinky Tofu, century eggs, Chicken stomach.

We also got amazing treats, like milk tea, bubble tea, duck jerky, soup dumplings, and the list went on.

 

It was a culinary bender of epic proportions.

And we did this A LOT! It wasn’t just once! These people became good friends of mine. We hung out a lot, and It was amazing. They showed me Shanghai.  The ins, the outs. The wonderful, and the even more wonderful.

train

 

On the train, where to next? The options were endless.

 

 

BUT DON’T THINK I STOPPED GOING TO THE GYM! I gymed 5 days a week.

And Tommy was a big help with that. Being able to walk in and get a high-five from that sexy motherfucker was a huge incentive. Then we’d say hi and ask each other how we we’re doing. Then there was this one time when I saw him in the locker room. After his shifts, he would work out… and I saw him in his underwear! (squeal!)  Oh my god. I don’t know what else to say besides that he was just a beautiful work of art.

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And then came the day when we actually hung out. We got coffee (but both of us ordered tea) We did a lot of talking through WeChat translate and Google Translate. He always gave me a look though… A look that made me think maybe, just maybe… he wasn’t straight. I never asked him, I liked the silent, multi-language game of cat and mouse we had developed.  Was I his bro? Was he just a super confident and sexy-as-all-hell man?    … or was he secretly wanting me as much as I wanting him?

 

Through Tommy, I was introduced to more of the Shanghai gym bros. And I have to admit, I developed crushes on all of them.  And here’s the best part: Shanghai has 24 million people. There isn’t much room to have personal space. To solve this problem, the folks of Shanghai just stopped caring about personal space. (How easy is that?) It was totally normal for one of the gym bros to see me in the locker room, while he was completely naked, just chillin out naked, cuz why not? And then just start chatting with me. My eyes would always wander southward… glimpsing at the pecs….the six pack….the adonis belt…. OMG HOW DO THEY DO IT? 

 

By the end of the summer, between my French Concession friends, and my gym bros, I had a very full social life in Shanghai. More full than here in America actually…

Is that kind of sad?  Naw.

Anyways, it’s like this: I realized that I built a life for myself in a city I didn’t know, learning the language as I went along. It was a crash course in life. But I did it. I survived.

Nay!…not survived, I thrived!

I said fuck you to the all douchebags around me. They spent their entire summer experiencing “China” only by clubbing with other Westerners in the tourist clubs until 4am, coming back to campus, having to wake up at 730 to “teach”, after class they’d go take their naps, so they could be ready to hit the clubs again that night.

They ended up loving “China” by avoiding China. They stayed in their groups of 10 or more Americans, keeping each other safe and in a bubble that would never be questioned. They were weak.

On the flight home, I thought of Tommy, and the other sexy as fuck gym bros.

blarg

 

And then I thought of my French Concession friends. And how much fun I had running all over the city, eating everything in site.

And that’s when I realized I had balls. 4 years ago I was collapsing from agoraphobia in Australia. The depression I was trying to fix, alone, for the past ten years had finally broken me. The depression brought anxiety, which brought panic, which ultimately led me to lock myself in my apartment, afraid to experience more panic attacks in the outsides world..

But now, I felt like the King of Shanghai.

How time flies right? 

 

~ The Dark Horse

(PS- I’d like to thank Harry Shum Jr. for standing in as my “Tommy” visual representation.)