Let me tell you a story…
My name is SHAZZBARBARIC. That’s me above, well a picture of me. Here are a couple more showing what I look like with a mustache;
I messed this one up so I just erased half of it. “Artistic License”
Shazz is a pretty cool name I know, I picked it out myself.
Well, a friend gave me the email address from some Star Wars fan fiction around ’94 so I think I was in 6th grade?
Anyways, I really wanted Dash Rendar but he got that one for himself. So email@example.com was born.
I didn’t draw that one, that’s from this artist I met in line in for a comedy show in Manhattan, Vincent Kings. Good guy.
He made me look cool but I was just really tired and stoned.
That’s where I live, Manhattan. I have a real estate brokerage here. If you click on the logo below it’ll take you to my real estate website, though I still need to do some work on it so be kind 🙂
I know what you’re probably thinking and yes, Manhattan’s an expensive place to survive. My apt is a $2600 one bedroom and my shower is in the kitchen! But the West Village off Carmine and Bleecker is really one of the best locations in the greatest city in the world.
Trust me, this is my job.
It’s a good life. You might have noticed in the links above that I started out in real estate as David McNerney, before I changed my name legally.
I guess changing your name is kind of like artistic license too in a way, if your life was a drawing.
I know, most people don’t just change their name to match their email. But it’s not quite that simple.
You see, a writer was the earliest thing I could imagine becoming. I read a lot, and the first epic books by big name authors were always C.S. this or J.R.R. that, so you start imagining what your name would be.
“D. McNerney” just didn’t have the same style as an “S.B. Baric”
Below is a screenshot from a website I made maybe 10 years ago.
That was back when my folks still owned their house. I’d found a couple literary references for the barbaric part and was making it work.
But you’ll notice it says I was based out of California. My life has not been a straight line, so I guess I should just start back at the beginning.
Ok, California, 1982. I don’t want this to be too long so I’ll just catch you up to high school really quick;
That last picture was getting a little ahead maybe, ’cause that’s the Army after High School. But first I shouldn’t be rude and introduce you to my folks, since they’ll be in and out of this story as well;
My dad’s half Irish, my mom’s full Mexican, someone might have slept with a jew in there somewhere.
I’ve always thought that was a funny line but I’m not sure why.
When you’re a “mixed kid” though you get used to the “where are you from” question, so you keep a couple zingers in your back pocket. I always say I’m just a mutt. Less explanations. Though I probably have a decent one developed by now. But back to high school…
Stuff like this underground newspaper was probably why I didn’t get good grades in school. It just didn’t make sense to me.
I always resented not being allowed to play and learn on my own time. And eventually I did just do what I want and barely graduated, taking mostly Advanced Placement classes that finished in April and then leaving my senior year to live with Dash Rendar near the beach, skipping out on the whole ceremony and prom and all that other stuff.
Got my diploma though, not that it mattered. A friend of mine had offered a recruiter my name to get him off his back. And I never really planned to go to college anyways, even though I had Ivy League SATs. I got a 1430 out of 1600 which back then I think was pretty good. We didn’t really have much money and I didn’t want to either go into debt or hang around my hometown.
Since we all have to take the military tests they also knew I was smart. Last time I figured out these numbers I think I would have qualified for any job I wanted? 95th percentile or something, whatever language schools they offer. So of course they give the brown kid Arabic and shoot me off to Monterey, California to learn a language in a year.
Not having done well with the structure of high school, I’m not sure what I expected from the military. Imagine college where they can take away your money and freedom for dropping below a C average. Also, you don’t have a Bill of Rights but are property of the government now.
But I always wanted to be in the military. Grandpa flew planes for the Navy. Some people serve, I wanted to be one of those people. And while I was in I met a lot of other military families. You can scan the above papers to see what kind of troublemaker I was. But long story short, 2 years into a 5 year enlistment both myself and the military thought we should probably call a mutual break up for everyone’s benefit.
Got a Top Secret clearance though, that was pretty cool. And I learned to drink, smoke & play guitar, as I like to tell people. Oh! You may have noticed the documents are about Korean and not Arabic classes. Yeah I switched because I had a friend in Korean. Don’t worry you’ll meet him further down the page in a drunk poker game threatening to sue me.
But back then, thinking ahead, I figured Korean was closer to Chinese, which might be more useful when I get out.
Little did I know…
Yeah I got to watch September 11th happen from the barracks of a military base with a bunch of other mostly 18-20 yr olds staring at the rec room tv as the 2nd plane crashed into the towers.
And only last month we had been complaining in the smoke pit that our generation was cheated out of its Vietnam experience.
Marijuana. The first time I smoked weed was actually the day I got out of the military. You see, they actually check on your past for those security clearances. So they talked to my friends and teachers from High School. We were a pretty conservative christian family and I wasn’t the type to jump into experiences. And since I was always told I was smart I didn’t want to mess up the main thing I had going for me.
Buuuuut I had just regained my freedom. So on the drive back down to Southern California from the Defense Language Institute I went for a hike in Big Sur up some gorge, where another friend proceeded to get me high for the first time at age 20. I didn’t feel it, I guess it doesn’t work on me. And then we pushed a redwood log into the water and rode it down the river.
And then I noticed the sun had begun to sparkle in slow motion, like stained glass. There was a depth I never noticed in the shadows of the trees. The greens were vibrant. The water felt amazing.
I was high.
At this point I wasn’t SHAZZBARBARIC yet. I had the email, but I was very much still David McNerney. I just knew I didn’t like the army. And I just discovered I might really like weed. At least in nature.
Indeed this early part of my 20’s was a time of trying on identities. I did what I thought was expected of me, which oddly meant drinking was more acceptable than smoking.
I can say with 100% certainty that I would have gotten into less trouble in my youth had this been inverted. But I had to find out for myself which was the greater danger to my health. So for the time being I did what everyone else did; go to college and get fucked up.
But things just didn’t click for me. I started with business, then switched it up to creative writing thinking I should focus on my passion.
It didn’t feel like my story though. The teachers and coursework were uninspiring. The partying seemed like we were doing what we were told was fun, but I didn’t feel like I was actually expressing myself. Everyone seemed to be going through the motions.
I didn’t want to pick an identity, even if it ended up fitting. I wanted to figure things out.
What things? I didn’t know. I just kept reading. There was a connecting story to history and I wanted to know what it was, and put it in my own words.
I wanted to create my own life.
Once I fell for a girl and she told me in my car how she was raped at a frat party. I had already stopped going to school by then but that was just confirmation.
I was in Northern California at the time visiting a friend and Berkeley had just expelled students for organizing a protest against the newly fabricated war in Iraq. A war that historic global protests had tried to prevent.
Wherever the truth was, the honest opposition, it wasn’t on campuses. All I saw was careerism entitlement and excess. I dropped out, got a job in consumer lending and rented a house near the beach with some friends.
And for a little bit I felt like I had my shit together.
So why’d I quit consumer lending? I can’t really say, not as clearly as I can say why I quit school.
I mean, I did try to go back to school a couple times, just like I always had to get another job to keep working to survive. And I guess owning my own business now has been my compromise, perhaps some people shouldn’t work for others. Maybe I get that from my folks, who own their own insurance agency.
But it was something else too. I really wanted to FIGURE IT OUT. Why was no one stopping this war?! It was like you’re the only person noticing that the chain is not connected to the gears and yet everyone wants you to keep peddling faster.
But we’re not actually making the tires spin. And we sure as hell can’t make them stop. So I got more jobs, where sometimes I quit and sometimes I was fired.
Yeah I did make it back to Big Sur, I love that place. But again, careerism and entitlement. Everything I got fired for others did as well. I just did it in a socially unacceptable way. My boss let people in the park for free, but I didn’t let the right people in. The college kids got drunk together, but I got drunk with the guest visa workers. Or the weird kid who was squatting in our bike camp.
I mean, to be fair though, as far that parks job went I probably was technically bad at the job.
But the bigger picture was that I had begun to realize in High School and later in the Army, but only was able to articulate after my time with Occupy Wall Street later on, there were formal and informal structures in society. And I was rejecting them all for some reason.
And reading. I would just work to buy books basically, then I guess take time off to read them. I just remember weeks at a time reading, sometimes on a night schedule so I’d have the house to myself. I didn’t read everything, but I started to read enough to have my own opinion.
So through maybe 2008 I was just accumulating information and trying to form my own opinion of the world.
Some of those opinions were hard won. I remember the cognitive dissonance reading my first book on Islam, which I was raised to view as an inferior religion. Then afterward how I’d tell my mom I wanted to celebrate Ramadan and she told me let’s make it Mamadan instead. We would disagree and she would argue with scripture. But I think she knew what I was trying to do.
She just didn’t have the time. By then I was hardly working, traveling between Santa Cruz and the Inland Empire every couple months when my money ran out. Self exploration apparently is one of the excesses of youthful poverty.
And what was the end of this self-education? Well there was this one guy, self described acid casualty gutter punk, maybe 40, had done some traveling, lots of tattoos and always shirtless. He pitched a pagoda in a friend’s backyard until he took his life by jumping off a bridge.
But he was a seeker too, and he read furiously. And this world caused him a lot of pain. Obviously because he had a mental illness. But also because he had an amazing heart.
He cared too much. And I was starting to realize that in this world that could be a liability. So I had to either learn to not care as much like everyone else or acknowledge insanity or at the very least social isolation and rejection lay at the end of this journey.
Of course, I’m being a little melodramatic. I came from a good family and had a great support system. It wasn’t either really a choice between cynicism or the loony bin. But as I revealed the historic record of my country’s aggression, at home and abroad, I also passed the warning signs against antagonizing supreme authority.
Most are familiar with the major canon of martyrs who’ve died standing in opposition to injustice. The trinity of Martin Malcolm and JFK (or is it Martin RFK & JFK?). But I had never heard of Fred Hampton before I stumbled across his documentary online. We see Che Guevera all over the place but no one told me about Lumumba who was his contemporary, the first democratically elected president of the Congo who supposedly declared upon his inauguration “We are no longer your monkeys.”
Here’s a recent example; Dag Hammarskjöld, the 2nd secretary general of the UN and a man JFK called “the greatest statesman of our century” only recently was acknowledged to have been most likely assassinated.
I was supposed to have been smart enough to have figured the 3rd way between hopelessness and mania, the artist exploring the true historical record, Milan Kundera illuminating the Prague Spring with a little sexiness and style thrown in for good measure.
It’s when I learned that authority here in the United States, not some communist country but the one I had wanted to fight and possibly die for, could come after the artist as well that I started to have doubts about my self described life’s path.
Why did they have to kill Lenny Bruce?
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