I opened my eyes to the world around me, seeing butterflies everywhere I went. It was the spring of 2021, and I was finally creating a new life after being in a cocoon for what seemed like forever. There were two occasions early in my childhood when I experienced trauma. No psychiatrist would consider either to be massively dramatic. Still, through the lens of my young soul’s perspective, they formed a great inner sense of abandonment that I didn’t understand until much later in life.
The first incident was when my aunt and uncle took me to the fair. Putting me on a Ferris wheel by myself, they watched me go around and around until I got stuck up at the top. I sat there way up high, crying my eyes out. All I could hear was the creak of the seat as it swayed gently back and forth; I was scared to death about what might happen if it somehow fell to the ground. Once a grown adult, I asked my aunt why on earth they put me on a huge Ferris wheel at the fair all by myself! She started laughing, and I was very confused at first, but then, her answer both shocked me and provided me with some relief. She told me that we were not at the fair and I was not on a massive Ferris wheel. It was a little Ferris wheel that only stood seven feet tall at the mall—the one you plug a quarter into. For most of my life, my perception was completely different, and as a result, I developed a fear of heights. This mistaken belief became my reality created from a brief scary experience that wasn't really that traumatic.
On another occasion, I was with my mother in a department store. While she was clothes shopping, I wandered around playing in the coat racks, not paying any attention to where she was. The racks were bigger than me, and I remember moving in and out of the coats with the sleeves brushing across my face and head. I became very disoriented and wandered so far off that I couldn’t find her. Eventually, a store clerk found me lost and frightened. She went back to her desk and called for my mother over the loudspeaker. Everything ended well with my mother coming to get me, but this minute trauma stayed burned in my memory for a very long time.
I recognize that I established an addiction to emotional reaction from a very early age. I chuckle to myself now, thinking about what I did to get an emotional rise out of people as a young boy. My folks had company drop by from time to time, and while they sat around the kitchen table playing cribbage and chatting about the weather, I stripped down naked in my bedroom and ran to the bathroom back and forth in front of them to make them all laugh. Of course, they thought it was hilarious that this reserved little kid streaked by them with no care in the world other than to see how he could make them react. But I can only imagine what they must have really thought. What I know is that this was when I began feeding my addiction to experiencing emotion—the emotion I was rarely able to express and that was rarely expressed to me.
I was blessed to be raised by my grandparents, who I refer to as my mother and father. They adopted me when their 17-year-old daughter, Gayle, gave birth to me way back in 1970. I painted them as what the perfect picture of a family was supposed to be through my eyes. My father had a long career in the construction industry that supported him to raise three kids long before I arrived. He was a dedicated worker who earned every penny he made, working harder but not necessarily smarter at times. As a child, I admired him so much, and when he arrived home at five o’clock every evening, I ran to the back door to hug his legs as he smiled and hugged me in return. He was not one to show emotion and was even awkward when trying to verbally express how he felt, so this display of connection from him was special. He did everything in his power to support his family, and in my young, innocent eyes, I saw him as a superhero. He was not a friend, but a father, who gave me every tool he had available to show me right from wrong, but there were certain tools he just didn't have. However, he was a kind man who would give the shirt off his back to help someone in need.
Born into a depression-era family that endured hardship most cannot comprehend, he dealt with an ingrained mentality of lack. His mother committed suicide by drowning herself in a river when he and his brother were just young boys. They struggled to earn what they could to survive. As a young adult, he joined the navy and fought in the North Atlantic during World War II. Unfortunately, the military embedded the mentality that sharing emotion was a sign of weakness, so instead of opening up when he was upset about something, he learned to bottle it up and say nothing. There were times when frustration built up from not expressing himself, and his words finally came out the wrong way, saying something extremely painful to his loved ones. His intention was never to hurt anyone, but he avoided conflict at all costs, which resulted in a ticking time bomb in many cases. He later apologized for what he said, realizing the damage he had done.
He had a very tough time letting love into his life, which I believe was simply due to his deep sense of loss at such an early age. He only had a tenth-grade education but did the best with what little knowledge he had—I am proud of the man who chose to make the sacrifice of taking on another child when he and my mother were almost empty nesters. However, much later in life, I discovered that this was not his initial suggestion when he found out his daughter was pregnant with me; he wanted her to have an abortion to avoid dealing with the reality of the situation.
On the other hand, my mother was not about to entertain the thoughts running through my father's head at that time. She often spoke her mind to him when she felt it counted and stood up for what she believed was right. In her early years, she worked as a nurse in a mental health facility, but as time went on, she eventually settled for being a housewife as it was a more realistic option in that era based on my father’s occupation. When I say she settled, it’s because I think her goals and dreams were left behind when the decision to leave her career was made. In a way, I am grateful she did because I was blessed to be raised by two parents when so many of us do not have this luxury.
However, I later realized that she didn’t have much choice in the matter. Before my parents were married, my mother was pregnant with my Aunt Carol, but when she and my father met, she was a single mother in a time that it wasn’t as accepted as it is now. That child, my Aunt Linda was adopted and raised by my great grandparents, however, was not truly accepted by my father like the other three children. I can’t imagine how rejected my mother must have felt in more than one way because she truly loved Linda’s biological father who chose to move on without her. I also cannot imagine the psychological effect this must have had on Linda who was and is a family member who never truly gained acceptance like the other children. From what I understand, the only time my mother opened up about it was when she was drinking, but that was a side I never saw throughout my childhood. To me, she was Mom. She did everything from washing my hair in the kitchen sink to tucking me in at night. She did the best she could but followed my father’s lack of expressing himself and didn’t open up in most cases.
It was almost like saying the words I love you were taboo.
When I was a young boy and especially as a teenager, there were times when we argued every single day. I later discovered that she was just trying to help me avoid falling on my face—that was how she expressed her love for me.
Being raised by parents who grew up in the depression had advantages and disadvantages. Yes, I always had family around, and I knew they loved me, but they also planted words into my head that lasted a lifetime. Words that caused barriers and blocks carried and passed along to their children and then to me. Through my young eyes, I saw them as perfect. Moving into adulthood, I saw that I was trying to mirror the perfect image I painted, even as imperfect as it actually was. It took many years to understand I was dealing with what I call generational lack, and for most of my adult life, I fought the battle to defeat this lack, believing I had an invisible block I was always trying to pinpoint, but could never figure out.
Gayle, my biological mom, dealt with similar blocks. One similarity we both have is that we chose to live our lives and jump at certain opportunities that other family members would not. This was a good and bad thing. She was a bit of a wild child and had many friends in the Vancouver rock music industry. During my childhood, the moments we shared were like gold because we only had so many. She was out there living her life, and some may look down on a few of the choices she made, but I am proud of her in more ways than one. Back then, she didn't let anyone hold her back from doing what she wanted, even if a few of those choices could have killed her. She made memories, had experiences, and formed relationships with people who performed in front of thousands of screaming fans and were admired for all the wrong reasons. But even though that’s all she had to offer them and vice versa, their friendships were, nonetheless, true. Through the good and the bad, I admire her for being the person she was and the person she currently is because she is real.
My journey of pinpointing the invisible block in the back of my head started a few years ago when I took a good hard look at myself. I determined that I had so many things handed to me over the course of my life that I could have used to achieve success and fulfillment, but I pushed them away instead. I chose the comfortable path instead of the uncomfortable one, self-sabotaging by not finishing a job or project. Worse yet, I avoided developing into a leader and settled for being a follower. I came out of the gate on fire in most cases but sputtered out just before the finish line, taking the majority of the weight on my shoulders.
Why was this?
Why would a person who was given so much in so many ways have such dramatic self-doubt?
Why did I see myself as so low and put others on such a high pedestal?
Why did I have such high expectations for others but not for myself?
Why could I never be truly be at peace with the person I saw in the mirror?
Why was acceptance so important to me, but I never truly accepted myself?
One word—Unworthiness. It took me decades to determine that two of my most important values in life include developing memories and relationships that create true fulfillment, not only based on what they provide me, but also on what I can provide them. However, I didn't always feel this way. Due to perfectionistic tendencies and an egotistical mindset, I had a very long road to travel to find what true fulfillment means to me. I knew I had the potential to be fulfilled, but I always seemed to search for it with the wrong goal in mind. I placed people who came in and out of my life at such high standards that my expectations were never enough no matter what they did. I became critical of them at times, and even though I did not address my own issues, I expected them to manage theirs. It was unfair, and in many cases, I left a trail of sadness behind me after starting with the best intentions—in some ways, kind of like my father.
Going back to my first day of grade eight after leaving elementary school to start middle school, I see myself sitting at my desk in homeroom. This was a scary time for me. I heard all sorts of stories—nightmares about being initiated by having my head flushed down the toilet, which never even happened. There were so many kids like me trying to be accepted in one group or another, and even though I never felt like I really belonged in any group in particular, I did form a few great friendships and still maintain a few of them to this day. However, throughout it all, I definitely lacked one thing: Confidence. I was socially uncomfortable, to say the least.
When I looked in the mirror, I didn't like the person in front of me. This is the way I saw myself during my most awkward time. When I was about 12 or 13, I carried a couple of extra pounds. It wasn’t a big deal, but I was a tad self-conscious about it. I was entering my teens, so I guess in a weird way, my priorities were one-dimensional—being accepted by my peers seemed so very important. I wanted to achieve any chance of fitting in, and I believed my physical appearance was something I could control to gain that acceptance. On top of everything, hormones kicked in without me knowing what to do about it. I didn’t really belong anywhere, but I hoped I would if I could somehow change that person I was looking at in the mirror.
I didn't know many of the kids in my homeroom that day. Feeling nervous, I looked over to my left and saw this one girl sitting in the last row at the back of the class. She had no idea that I even existed, and she was dating someone about three or four years older than her. She was part of the cool crowd, so to speak, and she had that typical 80s feathered hair, along with wearing too much makeup. But I instantly felt I had to know her. Her name was Jessica, and I genuinely believe she was the first girl I ever had a serious crush on. I lived roughly a mile and a half from her place, and her family lived a few blocks away from my middle school. Later when I got to know her better, she told me that a car with a bunch of guys in it drove by her once while she was waiting at a bus stop. They all turned their heads to check her out and got into an accident. This didn’t surprise me because she was strikingly beautiful.
I had butterflies every time I saw her, but initially, she never saw me. It sounds a little bit creepy, but I used Jessica for motivation. She motivated me to get into better shape and push out that next repetition when I was a bodybuilder. I guess at that time, she became the extra push I needed to focus on my goals, and I pushed myself beyond my limits with the scattered belief that if I changed my outside appearance, someday I might stand a chance. The caveat was that I was young and didn't understand yet that I needed to be better inside, not just outside.
When I was trying to get in shape, I did little things like give up the bowl of ice cream that my father gladly made for us. I then jogged from our place all the way to Jessica's. Upon arrival, I always looked across the street and thought to myself: One day. Then, I jogged back home. I carried this motivation into the gym when I wanted to squeeze out one more rep. And when the weight felt too heavy, I pictured the end goal of having a chance with Jessica—just one chance with the beautiful girl in my homeroom class. Almost every single time, this dream motivated me to get through my struggle.
In middle school, I was desperately trying to fit in. I would watch some of the more popular kids stealing from the corner store across the street from my school called Steve and Dots. It seemed like every day those kids would come out of that store with something they stole, and they would share what they had stolen with the others who gathered outside. I chose to follow their lead and attempted to be a little thief myself. As I walked up to the cooler, I opened it up and started shoving ice cream sandwiches into the front of my zipped-up jacket. I kept one out to pay for and stood in line nervously waiting for the people in front of me to finish up. As I stood there, I heard the man in front of me say to Dot, the cashier: You want to see something interesting? He then turned around and unzipped my jacket. As the ice cream sandwiches hit the floor one by one, I felt the fear and embarrassment hit me all at the same time. She walked around the counter and took me upstairs to the main office. She angrily told me to give her my parents phone number. We sat there in silence for 10 minutes until my father showed up to deal with the situation. He apologized to her and offered to pay for what I had stolen, but she declined. He again apologized and once we got into his truck, my father handled it in his own unique way. He sat there for a few seconds, again in silence and then asked me to explain what had happened. Of course, I lied. I explained that I was only putting them in my jacket to soften them up before I gave them to my friends because they were frozen solid. He accepted my lame excuse and told me that he believed that I was telling the truth because I knew how important telling the truth truly was. He didn’t punish me, but my guilt was so strong that the mental punishment lasted far longer than anything else he could have done. I never stole again because although he knew I was guilty, he supported me. Reverse psychology at its finest.
I spent the next couple of years at that school and saw many kids simply trying to find their way. One of my childhood friends, Steve, was also trying to do exactly that. He wanted to be in a particular crowd that I did not fit into. Kids are driven by different things at that age, and even though we were very close childhood friends, he decided to start bullying me for some reason. I was minding my own business one day while standing at my locker when he came up with a couple of his buddies. He wanted to fight me for what seemed like no other reason than to make himself look good in his own way. It was the first time I ever had someone step on me to get ahead—to get what they wanted by damaging others.
Having low self-esteem, I reluctantly backed down. I was embarrassed and held my head in shame—the little pride I had was shattered. Barely having any friends at the time and feeling like a victim, I was shocked that he would do this to me. Fortunately, this motivated me even further to better myself, or at the very least, to become bulletproof within these types of situations.
At this time, I still had no communication with Jessica whatsoever. Frankly, I didn't have the guts. When I went to tenth grade, I had the choice to stay in middle school or transfer to another school with an older demographic. Princess Margaret Senior Secondary had kids between Grade ten and twelve: the rockers, the jocks, the nerds, the punks, the new wavers, and the mediocre with no label like me. I wanted to go there to start a new beginning—an opportunity to start over. I wanted to surround myself with new people and do whatever it took to transform myself into someone more appealing, from the caterpillar I was to the butterfly I could be. I wanted to level up instead of staying in a stagnant pool of kids trying to be something they weren't. My grades suffered because my focus was on being accepted rather than on becoming educated.
Back in those days, we all went to these places called arcades. I usually played alone, and I don't want to know how many quarters I put into those video games. Then one day, I saw a kid in there who lived on my street and he was a regular customer. He was a couple of years older than me and known locally as a bit of a badass and a tad crazy. His name was Cody, and he was a good person, but he had issues and could get very angry at times. For some strange reason, we gravitated towards one another, and that was the beginning of my transformation. I was 15 years old, and I started working out with him in his parents’ carport. There were two benches, a mirror, and a boombox. He kept me accountable and showed me what I needed to know. I think my parents must have cringed knowing I was associated with him, but they trusted I had enough common sense not to get into trouble. I give Cody credit because, at that young age, he taught me discipline and consistency. Something about him motivated me to stay dedicated to my goal. I worked out with him for roughly a year, and then out of the blue, my dad offered to get me a membership at Golds Gym. He saw how committed I was and figured a gym membership would keep me off of the streets; he was right, and I made sure that his money didn't go to waste. So, while many other kids back in high school were partying or getting into trouble, I was in the gym. When I started working out that year, I weighed 165 pounds. At the end of the year, my weight had not changed, but I looked and felt completely different.
The next two years were very interesting. My old friend Steve who bullied me in middle school, moved up to high school. I had formed this friendship with Cody, along with one of his other big, badass buddies. His friend, Malcolm, was rumoured to have bitten a guy’s nose off in a football game, which I still don't know if that was true or not. He was actually a pretty good guy who was simply misunderstood. I still have no idea why I gravitated toward these people, but they came into my life for a reason. I did build some self-confidence, but I still had insecurities mixed with anger due to the bullying I experienced at my previous school. I could not forgive Steve for his actions, and I manifested that negativity instead of working through it. For the next few months, I made his life hell as a result. When I saw him walking down the hall, I intentionally bumped into him, seeking revenge by constantly harassing him. Finally, one day, we fought it out in the hallway, and after I slammed him into a wall, we were told to take it outside.
After the school day, when most kids had already gone home, my big buddy Malcolm and I stood at the end of the hall and waited for Steve to go to his locker. When he arrived, Malcolm approached him and explained that I wanted to kick his ass and would meet him outside with no one else around. He declined the invitation, and looking back, I can't blame him. He was staring into the face of a huge, scary-looking juice monkey—I probably wouldn't have gone outside if the tables were turned. We waited for him to go out the doors and proceeded to chase him off the school property as he ran home with his tail between his legs. The next day, his father showed up at my house. He was a good man, and I always got along with him, so when he asked me to leave his son alone because I was affecting his grades, I did just that. I wonder what it must have been like for Steve’s father to have to deal with us at that time. The point is that he did, and my battle with Steve was over. We were just kids, and I suppose we were trying to belong in all the wrong ways. Years later, we had a conversation, and we were very civil to one another. I am thankful for that because we were both able to forgive one another for our actions. Besides, we were just a couple of screwed-up kids from Surrey, a place known for badass, criminal little punks trying to fit in any way we could.
Twelfth grade came along, and I took uncomfortable action on day one. I had still not talked to Jessica, and well, that changed immediately.
This showed me that accepting discomfort
and being bold is the only way to truly get results.
I knew almost every guy in that school would consider asking her to graduation, so I took the initiative to finally approach her, nervously asking her to go with me—shockingly, she actually said: YES! Based on a couple of the guys she dated in high school, I thought maybe her decision wasn't that much of a stretch. And then, it all made sense: once I got to know her, I realized she didn't look at what people seemed to represent on the outside as much as who they were on the inside. That is the part I came to love about her—how she viewed the world around her. She always took the time to appreciate the little things that most people passed by without recognizing the beauty standing right in front of them. Years later, we were walking down the street, and she stopped and grabbed my hand: Look at that tree, she said, It's just so beautiful! She took the time to live in the moment and appreciate everything, including nature, for what it was. While in school, she dealt with disfunction at home, but I had no idea she was experiencing so much inner pain. There were days when she looked into empty cupboards because there was no food on top of dealing with the sexual trauma inflicted by an older ex-boyfriend. I didn’t understand because I only focused on what she presented on the outside, never showing how much she hurt on the inside. Through to the end of high school and beyond, she and I remained nothing more than distant friends, eventually going our separate ways and living worlds apart.
As my final school year went on, I formed a friendship with a guy by the name of Wayne, who also trained at Gold's Gym and went to my high school. Like many of my friends at that time, he was a little older than me. He was a bouncer at a local nightclub called Casablanca's. Some of my high school friends used to get into the club even though they were underage, and Jessica was one of them. One day, Wayne invited me out to the bar and told me he would let me through the door. He said to wear a university or college shirt so I wouldn't set off any alarms. I showed up at the nightclub just as it was opening, around seven o’clock, and the only ones there were David, the manager, myself, and Wayne. David asked me if I was in school, and I said: Yes. The next question was if I needed extra income. Once again, the answer was: Yes. He asked me to take my shirt off, and since there was no one else in the club, I did. He immediately told me I was hired if I wanted the job, and I would be working on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for ladies’ night. The job entailed serving drinks and shooters to the ladies who came to the show while the male dancers performed. Talk about a good time for a 17-year-old kid! I had no right to make the amount of money I was about to at that club because I had no idea what the value of earning a dollar was in the first place. I worked there as a male waiter for a couple of years. Initially, I was so unfamiliar with the reality of the bar scene, but it was a good introduction to working in that industry.
Yes, I met many women—some older, some younger,
and I realized after many years that there was no love to be found there.
On one of my very first nights, I experienced one of my most awkward moments. The male and female dancers all used the same change room, which doubled as the office. After ladies’ night ended, I went inside to get changed. As I walked in, I saw two beautiful girls doing a show together just outside the door. It was a duo act, and it was hot. Naked, they busted through the door once they finished. They both smiled, seeing me with my pants down around my ankles. I felt so embarrassed at that moment, but it didn't faze them one bit. This wasn't the first rodeo for them, but it was for me. I never experienced anything like it; there I was, chatting with these two tanned, sweaty, beautiful blondes, acting as if we were out on the street fully clothed. I was beyond nervous for many years, having nightmares about being exposed to the world with no clothes on and being mocked for it. I started in this industry as a naive kid, but that most definitely changed as the years went on.
Back in the 80s, Casablanca's had the most original, popular ladies’ night in British Columbia, Canada. As you walked to the top of a massive flight of stairs, the smoke-filled bar was separated into two different sections high above street level overlooking the downtown core of New Westminster. One side was for the ladies with a good-sized dance floor, and then, a velvet rope separated them from the other side, with female dancers doing random acts providing entertainment for the men with a very small dance floor just outside the main office. Ladies’ night usually started at eight o'clock and ended around eleven when the entire club opened up with the most popular dance tracks of that era blasting through the speakers. The atmosphere was amazing most nights and I quickly realized why it was one of the most popular clubs of the era. One of the more original DJs I met was Richie Rich—he even looked like the cartoon character. Richie used to go behind the bar and steal Heineken beer; he put them in a mini fridge in his DJ booth and sold them for a lower price to certain people. He had a cable strung over the dance floor connected to his booth, and when he really wanted to get the crowd going, he wound up a siren and swung a rubber chicken across the dance floor. The crowd always went absolutely insane.
Ladies’ night was top-notch. Tuesday nights had a Hawaiian theme, and our outfits consisted of Hawaiian shorts and leis, which we put around the necks of the girls as they entered the club. On Thursday’s, we were more upscale with bowties, cuffs, collars, and black dress pants. I was hired as a male waiter, which not only consisted of serving drinks but also required doing a choreographed dance routine at the end of the night alongside the other male waiters. After the show was finished, we gave away a free bottle of champagne to the loudest group of ladies in the house. It was always a hit. Some nights, the roof felt like it was going to blow off, all for a ten-dollar bottle of champagne.
I built a relationship with one of the other male waiters at the club. His name was Darren. One night, he was hooking up with one of the girls at the bar, and she had a cute friend with her. He came over and asked me to be his wingman, and I gladly accepted. We ended up going back to Darren's place with the two girls. He went into his bedroom with his girl, and the action began. Meanwhile, the other girl and I were out in the living room. This was the beginning of my sleazy phase to a certain extent. At only 17 years old, I, admittedly, loved meeting the older women at the club. I did my best to put on a more mature face for fear of being exposed because if my age was revealed, the house of cards was sure to fall.
This girl was the second person I had sex with, and she was 23. Somehow or another, she figured out that I was underage; it might have been from something I said, or maybe she noticed my lack of stamina. Well, I somehow let the cat out of the bag, and she was so shocked that she loudly said: You're only 17-years-old?! Darren overheard this from the bedroom, and my secret was out. However, he never revealed this to anyone at the bar. In fact, when I turned 19, we pretended it was my 21st birthday. That night in Darren’s beautiful apartment, it felt like my virginity was broken for the first time. Of course, that wasn’t the truth because I lost it a couple of years before on a bad one-night stand, but being with this woman, it felt like the first time all over again. It only lasted one night, but it was spectacular.
There is one Casablanca’s story that sticks in my head as a moment of reality when I opened my eyes to how others perceive relationships. I had a couple of regular clients who used to come to see me and only purchased drinks. One lady often came to the bar and bought 130-dollar bottles of Dom and would tip me 50 dollars at the end of the night. On top of that, I made 15 percent commission on all the drinks that I sold, so she was a very valued client. Every week or two, she showed up and left right after ladies’ night. She watched the male dancers and enjoyed our interactions. One night, she introduced me to her husband. I shook his hand, and after a couple of minutes of conversation, she asked me to give her a kiss. I kissed her cheek, but she wanted more. Even though her husband was perfectly fine with it, I was not. I refused to give her what she was looking for because I was uncomfortable in the situation. It was about my morality, not theirs. Unfortunately, this ended the money train because she was upset and never showed up at the bar again.
I was still going to school through all of this mayhem, and as the year went on, I saw Jessica from time to time, including one night when she showed up at the bar while I was working—she was blown away to see me there because in her eyes, I was not some charismatic entertainer, but a somewhat distant school friend with a reserved personality. By the time we hit graduation, she was dating a guy on and off for roughly six months, but she remained true to her word and went to the grad ceremony with me. The high school year ended, and as friends got together to sign yearbooks, I prepared to go to my graduation with the girl of my dreams. A group of roughly 10 of us went together, and it was an experience with people who I had tried to fit in with at times, but never truly connected with until that night. It proved to be the end of many friendships, but the beginning of my adulthood. Before the official ceremony, we had a small get-together at a friend’s house. Jessica looked stunning, wearing a frilly, peach dress which at the time made her beauty stand out even more than it already did. I wore a grey rented tuxedo trying to be cooler than I was, but for me, graduation was not only the time to celebrate, but to level up and bring you’re A-Game. I awkwardly tried to pin her corsage to her dress, but she could tell I was struggling, so she grabbed it and pinned it on herself. She then showed me the leg garter she had made, and I had no idea if it was a sign or if she just wanted to show it to me, but it was hot—really hot. I never did get to take that garter off her leg; she just handed it to me after the ceremony. Lack of confidence, along with fear and self-doubt, defeated me, but the ceremony was fun, and the after-party was even better, lasting until sunrise. Unfortunately, Jessica's boyfriend showed up at the party, and that pretty much ended my night. I was depressed, but what did I really expect? I was Corey—the person she knew but didn't really see.
My work at Casablanca’s merged from waitering on Tuesdays and Thursdays to including working the door as a bouncer on Monday, Friday, and Saturday nights. This was where the fun really started. I think I got myself in more shit doing that job with the guys at the door than I ever have in my life. Jason, Gill, and Joe were the main bouncers, along with another guy named Aaron. He was huge. I think he had more steroids rolling through him than anyone I had met at that point…and he was a total slut. In fact, he was quite proud of it. It almost seemed like a game to him. He took girls from the club down the street to have sex with them in the church parking lot while working—definitely a class act.
Along with many black folks from the US who crossed the border into Canada, I dealt with some crazy characters who came to experience Monday night Funk Night, including pimps, hos, and gang members who frequented the bar. I was the bouncer who checked the IDs, and I worked out a sweet deal with Shannon, a girl I formed a great friendship and business partnership with. She was the coat-check girl and the person who took the cover charge. We had a good thing going because we made a deal with each other working the door together. We had to do this because I was only getting paid 50 dollars a night for putting my ass on the line, and she wasn't making enough to live on. Here’s how it went: Pimps showed up in line with 20 girls behind them on some nights, and once they got to me to pay their cover charge, I asked them how many underage girls they had with them. I told them not to lie, or I would check every girl’s ID. They paid me 20 dollars for each underage girl I agreed to let in. Shannon and I split the profit, and yes, this made us some extra money. Hell, I was a guy who had developed a passion for becoming a pro bodybuilder, and what I was getting paid wasn't cutting the mustard for the amount of food I was eating.
That nightclub had some interesting characters walking through the door! One of the pimps who frequented the club was Charles, otherwise known as Snake. He was an older guy who had been in the industry for quite some time. He did something that might be considered very out of the ordinary for someone in his career. There was a lost girl from Vancouver featured on America's Most Wanted. Her parents had no idea where she was but thought she may have been on the streets. Snake tracked her down, found her, and was able to get her off the streets and back to her parents.
I guess there's a little bit of good in everyone—even a pimp.
But life at the bar wasn't just about the pimps and hos as the gang members made their mark as well. There was one guy who stood out, and his name was Ruggy. He was an East Indian fellow who thought he was invincible. The reason being that he was somehow caught up in a gang fight at one point and took six bullets. One of the bullets went right through his Adam’s apple, and crazily enough, the guy survived, but he was left with a raspy voice and at times was hard to understand. He and his brother thought they owned the place most nights, and in fact, his brother, Noah, was a prick who never followed the club’s rules, one being no hats or jackets—they had to be checked.
One night, Noah was asked multiple times to take his jacket and a hat off. The manager asked me to chat with him about it and make sure that the rules were enforced. Instead of walking up to the guy and being the usual bouncer, I chose to let him save face and had a one-on-one with him. I told him I had a job to do, but I understood his position. He wasn't about to be pushed around by some bouncer, and I wasn't about to be pushed around by some gang member. But even though I had never talked to him before, he respected me. I reciprocated and asked him one last time to abide by the rules, which he did—I never really had a problem with him after that. That night after the bar closed, Ruggy and I talked. He said he had something to show me outside, so I walked out with him. It was roughly three in the morning when he opened the trunk to his car. He had more illegal guns in the trunk of his car than I had ever seen in my life. In his own way, he was making a statement to me. It was a show of force without having to use force. After that night, I never had a problem with either one of them. I guess there's something to be said for helping someone save face.
On another occasion, I was at the bar on my night off. Somehow or another, a fight broke out. While helping my fellow bouncers, I ended up in the middle of it, and the fight was wild. While being tossed around all over the place, I was slammed into a mirrored pillar that smashed. We all ended up in a big dog pile on the floor. My adrenaline was pumping so hard that I didn't even realize I had a piece of the mirror sticking into the back of my arm. The fight continued, and we were pushed outside. When everything settled down and the drunken assholes left, one of the waitresses came up to me to tell me I was bleeding. I responded: Not my blood! She looked at my arm and asked me to rethink that. I walked back inside the nightclub, and low and behold, I had a nice little shard of mirror sticking out of the back of my arm. Getting sick to my stomach, I went around to the back of the bar and grabbed a bar rag to help stop the bleeding and yanked that piece of mirror out. I still have that scar to this day.
I remember another altercation in the bar, and the guys were thrown out immediately. Usually, the bouncers hung out after the club closed and had a couple of drinks with the rest of the staff. On this night, I was waiting for the bar to close, and as usual, it was packed. While people were being let out, the guys involved in the fight were at the top of the hill, waiting for all the bouncers to come outside. They wanted to get their revenge, and as I walked out with my fellow bouncers, the blast of a sawed-off shotgun rang out along with the sound of the shrapnel hitting the telephone pole above our heads. I have never seen so many people in pure hysteria.
I went back inside, and the shooters jumped into a red Jeep and took off. While all this happened, I waited inside the club and watched the street below from the office window. As I safely stood there, I saw four or five police cars surrounding the red Jeep with their guns drawn, protecting themselves behind their cars. I believe the police were acting accordingly in the situation based on the lead that they had as they prompted a tall, skinny black man to get out of the Jeep. He got out and knelt on the ground with his hands behind his head. Then I saw another person in the passenger seat and two people in the backseat. The poor guy on the ground was scared shitless and in tears. The police had the wrong person kneeling in the middle of that street, and the assholes who were shooting at us were on their way out of town in a different red Jeep. From what I understood, they were caught, but to this day, I still have no idea what happened to them, or the poor people caught in the crossfire.
During another Monday night experience, a naval officer from the US military and his girlfriend were on the dance floor. We heard them arguing over the music and gave them two warnings, but they weren't listening. There was a three-strike rule, and they were on their third strike. I went up to them and said: It’s time to leave. folks. Your coats are in the coat check. Have a good night. I then escorted them to get their stuff and directed them out of the club. When someone was booted out of the club, they were gone for the night. But things took a turn when roughly one hour later, the girl came limping back up the stairs. I reminded her that she was booted out and not allowed back in. She looked up at me with tears flowing down her face and told me she had been stabbed. I looked down at her leg, and the gash must've been six inches long. She was bleeding everywhere—I determined the argument had obviously turned physical. The paramedics showed up after we did everything we could to control the bleeding. She was taken to the hospital, and we all assumed she was fine. I never saw either of them for months but assumed they had gone their separate ways. Then, six months later, they showed up back at the club together as if nothing had ever happened. I guess love comes in all shapes and sizes, but all I know is that if somebody decided to shove a knife into me, it would be over for good. However, who am I to judge? What I felt was acceptable in my relationships may not have been the same as someone else.
Working in the bar made me realize that people can go to extremes to find satisfaction, either sexually or just generally in life overall. However, that kind of gratification is usually short-lived. As much as I enjoyed working in an adult environment as a young man, I never found true satisfaction from any woman I met in that club. I will never forget some of those times, but I also wish I could forget some of them. I saw everything from dicks swinging in women's faces to a pimp cutting another pimp's ear off and throwing it on the floor. I could write an entire book called: The Stories of Casablanca's, but I only included the ones that impacted me most during the beginning of my career. As I was serving drinks, I used to look at the guys who stripped on ladies’ night and thought: I could never do that!
Well, I did, and with little regret. However, I did see some dancers who simply shouldn't have been on stage anymore. In a way, I found it to be kind of sad because they were past their prime and didn’t know anything else. I never wanted to be that guy—the one out there trying to get the same the response from the crowd as he heard in his prime. When I saw him, I made a promise to myself I would never be That Guy.
The Naked Truth
The inner voice tried to control my actions based on past situations that presented a false reality. As much as I desired something more with Jessica, I never thought the person I saw in the mirror was good enough to have her in my life. I viewed her as flawless—a deceptive story I created in my mind. Also, the gang members and the pimps were perceived to be horrible people, but in some cases, I was able to see past what they represented to find a positive in an otherwise negative situation.
Perception of the childhood trauma I experienced, as well as the adult I looked at in the mirror dramatically affected how I chose to live my life. Those little traumas of being bullied in my teen years could have held me back from many life experiences if they were never addressed, but I rose above them and found resilience to be a better person through self-acceptance and uncovering my truth.