Love in the Time of Corona: The Theft of Something Precious

I’m filming myself as I write this. That would surprise few, I’m sure, but they might not guess why (separate my usual narcissism). I’m recording it as part of my video journal. I’m not sure how many hours I have at this point. At one time I had over two thousand. And then a thief took them away. A thief who will never know the true value of what he stole from me. His name is Matt David Jordan and if he’s ever murdered, I probably did it. He stole the video journals along with some other irreplaceable things which I will describe for you presently. Any artist or veteran who reads this will understand the magnitude of what was lost. The video journal (along with all my pictures from Iraq, video I’d taken of the Iraqi children, hundreds of pages of writing, and pictures of when RuPaul put me in drag, the only time in my life I’ve ever been in drag, and other pictures.) Matt David Jordan of Monroe, Louisiana stole all these treasures in the form of two external hard-drives. And I haven’t seen them since. 
The video journal started one day when I really had something I want to write in my journal (kept in small black Moleskin notebooks, I’ve now filled more than a hundred) but there was no Moleskin presently available and what was pressing on my heart was pressing hard. I just reached over to my laptop and pressed Photobooth and started filming. I stood there talking to my laptop while I peeled off my CrossFit-soaked workout gear and let it fall to the same floor where I’d thrown my sweaty underwear as a teen. (I’d gone back to Alabama to take care of my parents so that they could, and until they did, die at home. And that’s what happened and I’ll forever be grateful that that was my lot to carry because taking care of these people who had taken care of me was one of the great blessings of my life. So much was healed. Everything was forgiven.) During the short months before Dad died, my only get-away was when I went to CrossFit which I did at a “box” (that’s what CrossFitters call their gyms) in the county seat of Jasper. It was owned by a cousin of mine and a couple other fellers. My CrossFit Coach was also my chiropractor. I love him but that day he stopped me in my tracks. It was during that day’s WOD (Workout Of Day) when we were all doing “double-unders.” Double-unders, for those unfamiliar is jumping rope and letting the rope pass underneath your feet twice with each bounce. It’s hard. We do it with “speed ropes” which are essentially as if someone had taken a fair stretch of Weed-eater wire and put handles on both ends and called it a jump rope. Those of you who’ve been around CrossFit at all know that there are the few folks you come to know because they come to the same workouts and, when the WOD calls for it, there’s that one person you partner with. That person for me became David, this super-fit, thirty-something Black dude who was a welder in the mines. (The reason his race is important will be presently apparent.) So we were banging away at these double-unders which usually reminded me of some kind of bizarre gauntlet where people whip your shins as you bunny-hop pass. Don’t get me wrong; there are people who have mastered them to the degree that they make it look easy but that’s never been the case for me and it wasn’t the case with David because he was pretty much shreading his shins with that speed-rope. Just then, the coach (who is White) yelled out, “Dang David! In a minute you gonna look like Kunta Kinte!” (Most of you will know who Kunta Kinte is but if not, he was the ancestor of Alex Haley whose story was portrayed in the book and in the movie, Roots.)  I just thought ‘there’s no fucking way I just heard him right.” Then I tripped on my rope again and dropped it to the deck in frustration. I looked at David’s face as Kyle’s words echoed. He sort of half-laughed, put his palms on his knees for a couple of breaths before going back to torturing himself with the rope. After the WOD was finished I noticed David peace’d out pretty quick. I ran after him barefoot; I didn’t want him to leave without my saying something to him about it. By the time I caught up to him, he was near his shiny blue Mustang. “Hey man! Listen I don’t really know what the fuck to say but I feel like I should say something.” “Oh you saw that?” And we was genuinely surprised.  That ended up being the thing I think I’ll remember most about the whole thing, how completely unaccustomed he was to a White Person in Walker County, Alabama even noticing when the racist shit goes down. There are the good ones out there, Lord knows, and I’m blessed to know some of them too, but my days of being an Alabama Apologist (there were about ten years of them after I left) are long since over and I’ll let Alabama speak for Alabama with the words and actions of her citizens. I said to David, “And you know what else man? It’s not okay for you to be expected hear that kind of shit and it would be completely okay for you to say to Kyle, ‘Hey man, it doesn’t feel good when you joke about my people getting the hide whipped off of them’ and I got your six if you’d like to have that conversation with him; I’ll stand by in support. And says, “Okay.” And started walking back toward the box. I thought, “Oh damn! Okay! We’re doing this now.” I love when life offers you the immediate opportunity to back up your bravado and bullshit with action. I caught up to David as he walked back towards the box and the coach was standing outside by now. I stood a few yards away and let David have his space. I could tell that David was speaking calmly. After a few seconds I saw Kyle gesticulating wildly and smiling and patting David on the back and I thought, “Oh God, this is the part where he explains he’s not racist.” The two men shook hands and as David passed me on the way back to his car he said, “See you tomorrow.” “See you tomorrow,” I said and I walked over to my friend and coach and I said, “Yo man, we gotta do better! We gotta do better as White People. On the ground where we are standing Black men like David were beat, tortured, and killed!” “Awe man,” he interrupted, “that was like a thousand years ago!” My turn to interrupt him: “Well you’re about 850 years off but even if it was a thousand years ago it will never, ever be okay for White People to make jokes about Black People getting whipped!” And even he, now, could see how, even if he was constitutionally incapable of seeing how fucking horrible it was, he could certainly see that was convicted that what I had witnessed was fucking horrible. 

On the motorcycle ride home I screamed into the helmet until my throat hurt and on the last mile I lifted the visor to let the wind dry my angry tears. I’d been gone from Alabama so many years! I’d assured so many people, “Oh no, things are much better down there now!” 

The first Black People I got to know well were my age and that age was seven. I’d just started the First Grade. We were in the first generation of desegregated schools 33 miles from 16th Street Baptist Church where four little Black Girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair had been killed when the KKK bombed their church on Sunday morning ten years earlier than when I began First Grade.  

Because I saw racist shit happen to my Black classmates and I started school in 1973 and because that continued through school until and beyond when I left the South, I saw racism perpetuated on seven year-olds, eight year-olds, nine year-olds, all the way through school and that’s horrible. These are memories I don’t want but I’m glad I have. Think of just the words, not even the actions but the horrible and cruel words that have been hurled from the mouths of racist Southerners, fueled by racial hate; now imagine those words being directed at a child. I bore witness to all that. And before we go any further, let’s constantly remind ourselves that I am a White Man talking about how hard racism was for me! Guess who it was harder on? In truth, though, it was very hard for a super-sensitive little empath growing up 30 miles from “Bombingham,” Alabama and I probably could have navigated all this better if I hadn’t already been on the ropes and put there by vicious homophobic attacks that started from the first time I stepped on Bus #57 headed toward Parrish Elementary. When I went to school each day, I didn’t know if it was going to be “faggot” or “nigger lover” or both. In the end, it didn’t matter; both hurt equally. Now I wear both as banners of pride.  
The ride home from CrossFit was a quick one as I cranked my anger into that throttle. Hwy 269 was short that day. By the time I got home to shuck my sweaty clothes and had opened the laptop to “jot down this little reminder” to myself and an hour later I was still talking and crying to the video, my video journal was born. That’s where that began. 
 And I spent thousands of hours recording my conversations with friends, talking about what I was learning in the year following my mother’s death, now both that my parents were gone. I sorted through my feelings about the war, stuff that came up ten years after I was home. I sorted through a lot of the bullshit I’d experienced on that hill over the course of my youth and I was recording it all on video journal! All that was on the harddrives! That, along with the pictures RuPaul took of me after she put me in drag, hundreds of pages of my writings, all my videos and photographs from Iraq, thousands of other pictures. He took things that were so sacred to my life’s path, part of my spiritual and person and artistic journey. Gone. All vanished, like and by a thief in the night. 
That was the night Matt David Jordan left under dark of night. 
1) I’d “met” him on Facebook or Scruff (gay dating/hookup app)

2) We visited over the phone and Facebook and he told me of his troubles.

3) He lived in Monroe, Louisiana, a place like much of the rural south, eaten up by crystal meth, opioids, and stupidity.

4) He said that he was 6 months clean and that he wanted to stay clean. 

5) He said that since he actually used to also sell meth, he didn’t know if he could stay alive in Monroe, much less stay sober. 

6) I encouraged him to move to New Orleans where there were more resources. I talked with him about sobriety.

7) He said he had a couple thousand dollars’ worth of electronics he could easily sell in New Orleans but not Monroe.
8) I had been working extra shifts in the grip-and-grunt world to try to get ahead. I had a little extra.
9) The attic apartment in the building where I lived had come vacant. I vouched for the kid with my landlady and paid security deposit and first month’s rent under the understanding that Matt David Jordan from Monroe, Louisiana would a) get a job b) sell the electronics and c) pay me back. 
10) He got busy doing none of those things. When I’d appear in his apartment at four in the afternoon to find him still in bed, I was like, “Look homey, I did what I did to try to help you get on your feet but you got to get your ass out and get a j-o-b! I vouched for you with the owners of this building and so far you’re screwing me hard!’
11) (insert a whole lot more of that bullshit)

12) He was eventually evicted. 

He left under the dark of night, as I said, and when he left, he took the two external hardrives! I had given the to him to reformat and duplicate because of the great value of what was on them, the great value to me that the contents of those harddrives held! Thousands of hours of video journal which began with my meltdown about the racism that day at CrossFit and chronicled some of the most personal and deeply powerful spiritual and emotional work of my life. Hours of me just talking it out to this imagined confidant! I even had sex with a couple friends on there and told sex-secrets about others! (That alone could get him killed if I told the right people.) It had those pictures that RuPaul took after she put in drag for the only time in my life. It had my videos and pictures from Iraq and tens of thousands of words of my writing, poetry, prose, and dramatic literature. All gone. All stolen. All vanished because I was trying to help someone. 
I think the thing that infuriates me most is that he proves the Trump supporters’ point and that makes me want to vomit. 

I’ve told this story to a few Marines who, just based on the fact that this meth dealer (who never could have the intestinal fortitude to stand on the yellow footprints) had taken my Iraq video and photos, were willing to disappear him in a way that no one would find one acid-dissolved bone because, less face it, the bone wouldn’t be there if it’d been dissolved by acid. I declined the Marines’ kind offer for now. 

Of course I’d never kill him although I’ve wanted to many times. Mostly, I think, because I’d never be okay again. No matter how much he hurt me, my torturing him slowly to death over several weeks as I have fantasized about doing so many times wouldn’t do anything positive for me and would only give me more nightmares. Or I could possibly get convicted or serve time or be executed. My life is too busy and wonderful for that now. I’ve already been hurt bad enough in the situation. Why would I want to hurt myself more? So the piece of shit gets to live. And soon I’ll tell you why I think he still has the harddrives. 

I’ve kept you too long. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about how RuPaul came to put me in drag. I always told people what an ugly woman I’d make. I’ll tell you about how it came to be and about how it all went down. 

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