Friday, February 25, 2011

A few pictures

I was all excited on my 3rd Appointment, wanting to tell my dentist that I bought a new toothbrush--seriously, I NEVER  do that, I do that like once a YEAR if I'm lucky and surprisingly, she yelled at me! "Duh, I could have just GIVEN you one." Haha. I guess now I KNOW.

So instead, I walked off that day with a whole fricken CASE of toothpaste! Maybe by the time I use it all, I will have a brand new smile. Or, hell, hopefully before then, 36 tubes seems like a lot!

I wonder how far my appointment reminder cards will stretch by the time i am finally finished!

I have also never bought floss in my life. I like, don't even know how to do it. One more question to add to my perpetual list I bombard Rakhee with whenever there's not 1-4 hands in my mouth. 

Appointments 3 & 4, General Life Updates

Big Dental Updates

by Paul Jones on Friday, February 4, 2011 at 1:18am
Today marked my 4th appointment at the Mesa Dental School with my student dentist, Rakhee. Today we discussed a variety of plans for my long term care based on all the X-rays, consultations and numerous tests during my screening. When I first filled out my paperwork during my awkward first appointment I wrote that I thought I could pay 300-800 dollars a month towards whatever my options were. honestly, I had no idea. Part of my fear of never dealing with this long ago was because where I grew up, and WHEN I grew up, the only stories ever really of going to the dentist were of people getting all their teeth out, regardless of condition and getting dentures, which I have never wanted, even if it was "better." Listening to the conversations that first day, I felt like what was being discussed was trying to save the mostly complete teeth I had and get me upper and lower partial dentures, for around 5 grand I think. While I was excited to have that first appointment go so well, meet Rakhee and have hope for the first time in years, I still hoped that something else could be done. I have dealt with so much for so long, I simply do not wish to deal with dentures for the rest of my life.

In last week's appointment trying to get a better idea of what was on the table for me, I asked hypothetically about implants, at least for my 3 definite front teeth that needed replacing, if that was even an option. As it turns out, I am an ideal candidate for implants because I am young and have virtually no bone loss, but they do cost like $2,000 per tooth. Upon modifying my plan to accommodate 4 front implants and rear upper and lower partials, this brought my cost to about $13,000.

Although for someone who's never really had more than like $1,500 at one time in his life, this number was a little intimidating, since last week a few awesome things have happened, and I put a lot of thought into where I'm at as far as my commitment to this transformation, my comfort and trust in Rakhee and the school, and the nature of support and creative fundraising ideas on the table so far, and frankly, I think 13 grand sounds pretty easy. It is a little stupefying to me that I can even utter a sentence such as that, but given how much has changed so quickly in the past few months with my overall body image, income, support and devotion to this journey, today out of curiosity again, I asked in a "what the fuck, what if I want the OTHER showcase in this showcase showdown...what am i looking at?" kind of way, "What if I want the whole kit&caboodle? What if I won the lottery and came here, what would the ideal plan for me be, and how much would it cost?"

As it turns out, if I were to do it through the school, getting all my unhealthy teeth extracted, fixing the ones I still have, and getting all the empty spaces filled with implants, 13 to be exact, (I wouldn't get wisdom teeth back) it would cost...

Thirty-thousand dollars!
I kinda knew that before going in, but...even still, right now, with how far I've come and how I feel...I honestly believe that that is obtainable. I may get a few other opinions, and I know as everyone loves to keep telling me, that everything's cheaper in Mexico, but...
Idunno, I think for how 110% comfortable, positive and wonderful my experience with Rakhee, the school, and all the other students has been thus far, even though that might seem like an insane amount of money to most everyone, I still feel it is worth it to me to continue on with this adventure I have just begun with my excited and passionate dental adventure partner, to learn and grow from each other over the next several months, and no doubt profoundly have mutual life-changing impacts.

I should however mention, that regardless of what plan I choose, the first steps for several visits are still the same: have all my unhealthy teeth out, heal, fix the teeth I have, for about $3,500 total. What I choose from there on will no doubt rely at least partially on how I feel from enduring all of that, but I believe, as of this day, and all I know, that at a minimum, I am going to pursue the $13,000 plan. Upon mentioning the possibility of getting a full mouth of implants, a different type of Xray was needed, though I don't fully understand what for. Given the huge cost, unless I get even luckier than I have been, the logistics of how I can get implants may affect my ability to get all the rear ones, from what I understand. I am waiting on Rakhee's consultation tomorrow morning to see if they are a possibility as well so her superiors can sign off on my contract and approve that as a course of action the school can undertake.
But the bottom line is...I am happy with how much progress has been made in so little time, how much I know about myself and my health and how I can fix it that I never did, how much support and kindness and compassion I have received from friends and peers all over the country, and how eternally grateful I am for Rakhee, who after only about 12 hours of appointments without even really modifying anything in my mouth much has helped me to already heal mentally more than I would have ever thought possible from anyone. I have spent so much of my life feeling "incomplete," like I had lost part of me, over and over again, as I continued to lose more and more. Inside, I always felt morbid and this one decaying part of me each day as I looked in the mirror made me feel years older than I actually was, like I had lost something I could never hope to get back. Something was missing.

After my 3rd appointment when I had the gross debridement which removed all the tarter from my teeth, I got to see my actual teeth for the first time probably in 20 years, and though I certainly still felt far from "beautiful," it was strange to have someone else introduce me to a part of my true real self I had never quite seen in that way. I never even really knew what tarter was, let alone imagined what my teeth would look like if cleaned--I never even thought they were "good enough" TO clean! In the words of Steven King, "You cant" after all, "polish a turd." My mouth has felt like the grossest part of me for years longer than I can remember. Thinking about going to the dentist and opening my mouth to a stranger before a few weeks ago I always thought of as so uncomfortably invasive as being strip-searched by airport security and being asked to spread your ass open. Yet, that day, leaving the school, I showed my freshly cleaned teeth to a near stranger in many ways, my friend Kristen who had given me a ride, after only ever showing them to one partner my whole life otherwise. I looked in the mirror later that night up close, closed my mouth, and smiled, and cried that for the first time in probably 2 decades, I looked at myself and thought not of the pain and what was "missing" from me, but at the freshly-cleaned teeth that I still had, despite all their imperfections, and felt happy that I still had those. Rakhee from day one stressed the importance of helping me to keep as many teeth as possible, and made me feel like instead of a giant rotting hole in my existence that could never be filled, that my mouth actually contained many bricks of a strong foundation upon which a whole new smile could be built, a whole new me could be born.That is no doubt, one of the single greatest feelings, greatest gifts, that anyone has ever given me in my entire life, and a profound shift in my self-image and mental healing process. I don't think she quite can comprehend just yet HOW MUCH I thank her for this, however I can, in many small ways. Though she tells me "You don't have to do that every time," it brings me great joy to bring her cookies, pictures, bits and pieces of my writing and thoughts, anything. Because, no matter how much it might cost me, the gift that she giving me, is sincerely priceless.

So this is where I'm at right now as far as my appointments go. The other things I haven't told you yet are as follows:
~I got hired again full time at Tumbleweed, this time as a youth care worked as of this past Monday. I am still cooking and baking part time at Conspire as much as I can, and this should allow me to dedicate nearly double the amount of money I originally envisioned.
~I moved out of Robyn's and am now staying in a small studio apartment at "The Complex" where I also have access to a screenprinting shop right outside my door to use for tshirts, posters, etc.
~My friend Rocky in San Fran reserved March 30th to book a benefit show for me at the bar he works at, El Rio in the Mission District.
~Andrew jackson Jihad have offered to let me create a limited edition tshirt for fundraising purposes to sell on their website.
~Another friend has offered to let me share their paypal account for the next several months to make it easier for people from afar to securely send donations to this cause.
~With this in mind, my friend Lauren has offered to help create a video short about my story to try to get publicity in the local media and cross my fingers and maybe just happen to find some really awesome random humans out there willing to donate money or services or dentistry if we could happen to get the clip picked up by channel 10 or AZ Republic or something. What she had in mind was a narration by many local downtown friends who know me telling my story and who I am in the community over clips of me working on bikes, making soup at Conspire, working at Tumbleweed, screenprinting, etc, with the paypal info at the end and perhaps an advertisement of an upcoming benefit show or fundraiser. Please let me know if you would like to participate in something like that, I may be talking to you soon. Seems like a longshot, but would still be great to have for possibly viral potential on a local level for numerous fundraisers over the coming months.

A few other ideas I see as things I'd like to work towards are:
A concert with local bands, perhaps at Trunkspace. Bake sales whenever possible, custom cookie orders or tshirt printing and bike repair. A big food night, probably with me and Mario cooking, or maybe we could get Dominic involved and do some sort of silly "Iron Chef" sorta thing. A DJ dance party sort of event with drinks and food. Maybe a silent art auction as well. A compilation CD? Any other ideas?

The next several appointments of extractions and stuff I feel I will be able to cover myself over the next few months, but once I start to get to the implant portion, regardless of wherever I went, the price will jump tremendously, and I am hoping that in that time I can save another huge chunk with fund-raising and benefits and cookie sales so i won't lose my momentum and can still get started, as installing the screws into the bone and waiting the 4-6 weeks for me to heal for 4 teeth is as expensive in itself as everything else up to that point. No matter what, I am in for several months of appointments, pain, healing and modifications to my diet and no doubt energy levels and activities, perhaps even a year or more to fully complete the process, depending on what I choose. But I feel committed, and supported, and that anything is possible. I have always prided myself on my clever, creative mind and ability to organize things, and for once, I am my own greatest art project. Every single aspect of my life, each cell in my body, is devoted toward this healing process, and momentum only continues to grow, and it is SO EXCITING to me that you will probably all get tired of hearing about it, but hopefully before that day is reached, I will be smiling, and you will just pause and look at me and let out a sigh, saying "Oh, Paul....I remember when you used to be sooo different." And you will forgive me, and be grateful, that you could truly help to change someone's life. Thank you all, so very much, for listening, and far all that you have done so far, for all that you will do.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

A secret weapon of seeds

I mentioned briefly before that to me, inviting Pinar on the bike tour was a chance for us to both escape from chaos of our daily routine lives amidst the backdrop of bustling civilization and to finally allow our minds to regroup, refocus, and heal from the heavy weight of society. It was an intense physical challenge for 6 weeks, but even more so it was a mental one. We had been through many tremendous challenges together already, and she was only the second person I had ever begun to open up to about my secret fear and daily cause of pain. I knew that traveling alone with someone for two months, that even if traveling in and of itself is often running or evasion in a way, that we would each be forced to deal with a great deal of our own issues and fears. I felt on the verge of an intense climax and turning point such as this for the first time in years, and I desperately dreamed of sharing this epic time for personal growth with my closest, trusted best friend, despite all our ups and downs and confusing dynamic over the past several months.

When it was all said and done and we finally biked over the Golden Gate Bridge after 1,100 miles from Seattle, I knew that our lives, and probably our connection, would never be the same. We each had looked our demons square in the face many times on this epic quest, and many times they squared off with one another, and one thing, though incredibly upsetting for me, was certain--our next battles, would be for the first time in almost a year of love and support, be fought alone.

We arrived back in Phoenix on my 33rd birthday and that almost seems prophetic now to look back, and realize that indeed on that day a new book was already being written. She left shortly after to write the next chapter of her own healing, on a journey at one point we were thought to be taking together, traveling to Peru to visit a Temple and undergo two weeks of guided healing by Shipibo Shamans using Ayahuasca at Temple of the Way of Light. I went back to couchsurf in Phoenix with my tail between my legs in a way, feeling alone and uncertain and in pain, scared of my next steps. I didn't know how to suddenly face everyone again, full of stories but with a changed voice from my broken tooth no one knew about. I began cooking and baking a little at Conspire to make a little money and feeling plagued by deja vu everywhere I went. Back in Phoenix, homeless again, not sure what to do, but this time, with the bike of my dreams, a few hundred dollars, and dozens of supportive friends in the community. Life wasn't so bad after all, right?

I made my "Ask for help!" shirt and tried to stay positive and began to slowly tell a few friends about my health and try to figure out what my options were, as Pinar after two months of 24/7 time together was completely out of reach. We talked briefly over skype when she was in Peru and she inquired about the status of my teeth. In a way, I couldn't help but feel ashamed. After all we had been through together, I felt like we had some sort of unspoken deal to go boldly into our days from that moment forward and face our fears, and here she was alone in the middle of the Amazon no doubt terrified, yet still finding the courage to greet each sunrise with joy, and here I was, unable to even settle on any number of googled services and make a single call to arrange a dentist appointment.

When she returned a few weeks later and we met each other awkwardly in a cafe for a limited time before she was scheduled to move and begin college in a few weeks, I was excited and curious to see what gifts she had brought me back from Peru.The picture below is my favorite one, which immediately took on special significance to me. It is a necklace created from seeds that was made by one of the shamans she had worked with at the Temple named Rosa. It is a symbolic amulet that I feel provoked great strength in me carried 1000s of miles from the hands of a Peruvian healer to help me, as they helped Pinar. In a way, I feel it was just what I needed it. Also, being made of seeds, it took on special metaphorical meaning to me, feeling like it was synonymous for my own locked away life force deep inside be that lay dormant, stifled by the great walls of fear I built around me for years. Wearing it, made me feel like I could finally find the courage to begin to sprout and reach toward the sun and greet each new day with hope and positive energy to finally begin to heal my damaged roots and grow a new smile.

It is very fragile, and has already sadly begun to fall apart, so I do not wear it as much as I would like, but I wear it to every dentist appointment, and intend to continue to until I see this whole process through, and then retire it. Perhaps, even journey to a distant land, and plant it. Perhaps back to Trinidad, CA with Pinar, full circle, with new front teeth, to bury it near the restaurant where both our lives changed in an instant. This time, though, I would eat that crusty sandwich with complete confidence!

This is a summary of my first two dental appointments on January 19th and 21st

Dental Update #1

by Paul Jones on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 1:20am
Thanks everyone for the huge amount of support and conversations and help I have received since I first posted my "secret" note a few weeks ago now! As you may not know, My scary, looming February 2nd appointment date was moved forward a few weeks, and last week I got to have not one, but my first two appointments of my screening at AZ School of Dentistry in Mesa. I was pretty anxious at first in the waiting room, not even knowing how things would begin. My name was called promptly and, presuming dentistry to be somewhat like other medical care, presumed that the the cute, upbeat young woman who led me to my chair to go over my medical history was perhaps a first year student or something.
Thank you Kara, for snapping this surprise shot with your phone :-)

Feeling anxious, I joked that I felt really awkward and guilty in a way meeting her for the first time under such circumstances, like I was bringing my broken car in to an auto mechanic only to have them yell, "DUUUDE, you drove your car 50,000 miles without an oil change!?" and shared a bit of my story of how I ended up this way and how I had finally begun to find the courage to reach out to my friends and find support to deal with  my health after all these years.
Over the next several minutes it was really strange to just open up my mouth to a total stranger after years of not even sharing with my closest friends, not once, to a somewhat intimidating, perfect smiling student, but to 3 others as well. I was led to another room to take a 360 degree xray that I thought made me look like a pirate, before i had about 20 different smaller xrays with two people putting the films in and out of my mouth so fast I felt it was such epic teamwork it seemed like I was a drive-thru window! Haha. This whole time I had thought I was told that after this appointment I would then be assigned a student dentist, presuming maybe they were assigned by the faculty or something based on the first day's findings? When I was led out to the receptionist to make my next appointment I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the wonderfully comforting and funny student who had been working with me the whole day was offering to be my dentist! A little in shock I could be so lucky when she asked if I wanted HER to be my student all I could get out was a timid "sure," to which she replied with a smile, "We will work on your enthusiasm!" and I believed her.

I left the school with Kara feeling hopeful for the first time about getting help with my teeth for the first time in my life, though in a kind of confusing stupor that it had all even just happened so quickly and surreal. It looked more like a busy tattoo studio to me than a place to go get teeth fixed. All 5 staff I interacted with seemed like some of the most positive experiences I have ever had with any people in health care my entire life, spending a large part of my childhood in hospital emergency rooms year after year watching my grandfather slowly die of heart disease over ten years. After putting it off for so long, when they offered me an appointment again only 2 days later, scared or not, this time, I jumped at it.

My second visit and supplementary part of my screening appointment I managed to arrive at via the help of Ian and Jo and also Becca and her Mom, and I was greeting with even more enthusiasm by my new dental heroine. On this day, Friday, January 21st, I would first be tested for bone loss. Without seeing it, it was hard to really tell what the hell was actually being done, but it consisted of what felt like working slowly around my whole mouth tooth by tooth while closely consulting the Xrays and poking at my gums at the base of my teeth while recording numbers of varying degrees. Another faculty was brought in to compare her findings and to spare me some of the pain of sensitive spots they skipped many teeth. Everyone seemed shocked that I appeared in less constant pain than they imagined, and at my body's ability to fight infection. I was told most all of the areas surrounding my teeth or lack thereof suffered little bone loss, which was good, though I am still not fully sure what it means. Upon discussion with other faculty, and answering my numerous questions, it sounds like I am probably a candidate for partial rear dentures, and I hope perhaps implants still in the front. I have a few front teeth that are infected at the root and would require root canals, and as far as I understand most of the molars would require surgery. The other faculty recommended that I have a "gross debridement" done before anything which is an intense cleaning using some fancy faster than the speed of sound device that will remove the first layer of tarter that will from what I understand do two things: the first being that after a few weeks will allow the puffy misshapenness of my gums to go down and put my mouth in a healthier state, and second, allow them to get a better look of the status of my teeth and bone loss. This as it later turned out, is going to be the subject of my next appointment, which is the first actual action towards healing that I will undergo that I fear is going to be quite sensitive during and after for a while, but we shall see. I was already administered a topical numbing agent when she was doing all her poking for her precaution of my sensitivity that tasted like coconut suntan lotion to me.

For the next task at hand, Rakhee proceeded to mix up some alginate and pour it into a little tray she pressed up against my top teeth to make a mold of my mouth, asking "You're not a gagger, are you?" I managed to control my breathing through the awkward posture and limited passage of air through my mouth despite the dripping mixture seemingly inching ever closer to the back of my throat only to have her pluck it out like a bloody suction cup to realize I needed a Size Large. Uuugh. I endured the second mint tasting mixture without gagging, and then a third for my bottom teeth, before I had to wear this other mechanical contraption that locked into my ears and against my nose while another jaw-shaped piece coated with purple dental epoxy pressed against my teeth one last time to somehow I think "measure my bite."

It was during this process that I couldn't help but think of my dental visits like an art class. Asking questions all day, trying to decipher lingo and process so much happening at once, so many expert opinions, all about little old broken me in a bizarre way made me feel like a star, but also like I was the subject of an art critique. The really moving part, was that Rakhee was the artist, with an army of teachers to help her create a new smile, a new life, for me, the sculpture.

Call it strange "crush" or whatever you wish, but...after only 5 or so hours of two visits, I am incredibly moved that I feel completely comfortable in her hands after so many years of hiding, that I trust her 100%, and am excited and eager to begin walking with a stronger stride after taking these first timid steps forward toward a healthier, happier life, and I am absolutely dumbfounded that I could be this "lucky." I am so happy knowing that with each new appointment we will each be growing together, that I will be helping her learn as she helps me heal and find a renewed self-confidence and smile and voice. It is really interesting to me, to navigate such a deep, intriguing form of "intimacy" I have never really known with anyone, to face a lifelong fear with a near stranger, whom I will be dedicating the next several months of my life to in order to experience a real life and metaphorical "transformation." She is someone who can give me something no other "partner" ever could, and I can also offer her a wealth of knowledge and experience, albeit in my very fucked up mouth. Strange perhaps, but incredibly beautiful to me. I look forward to jokes and questions and learning and healing and pain and continuing to share the unique story of this journey with her and all of you who are helping to support me in this incredible and challenging time over the next many moons.

Thank you all for reading along with me. And thank you, Rakhee, for inspiring me every day for the first time ever in my life, to try to make a daily effort to finally brush my teeth. I love you.

(On asking for help.)

I thought a lot about my family on the bike tour with the hours and hours Pinar and I had alone in the wilderness. Something I see missing from so many people in the generation after me is a DIY ethic. Growing up poor, you don't really have a choice. When the apocalypse comes, I'm not going to ask the nearest greenwashed yuppie sipping a Starbucks latte from their Prius what to do. Ask rural America. Broke people know how to fix things. They've been doing it long before the internet was invented. We may not have had much, but between all the people in my family if something broke, one of us could figure out how to fix it.

While planning for a 6 week bike tour, I tried to cover all the possible worst-case scenarios of anything that might go wrong along the way. I taught myself more and more about bike mechanics, and began to build a "utility belt" I started wearing regularly just "in case of emergency."
In true action figure garb on the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton about to begin the Owlala Bike Tour, September 2010

Explaining basic mechanics to my traveling partner Pinar on the tour who was a beginner to that sorta thing reminded me that there are in fact many skills and basic things I am knowledgeable of that I take for granted. Things that seem crazy to me, like that some peopel have never used a lawnmower or grown vegetables or can't change a tire on their car (or bike!). The more I thought about this, the more I became determined to embrace that part of who I was and wear it on my sleave, or...actually use it to hold up my pants. A lot of the time I truly do feel like an action figure or a superhero. I am always carrying a lot of accessories and tools. I come in many different styles. Pedal-Action Bike Touring Paul! Vegan Chef Paul! Screenprinting Wizard Paul with Printshop Playset (Sold Seperately.)
Thinking about this more and more upon my return to Phoenix, always being the one person on 5th Street it seemed who carried a bike pump with him, I had an idea. Two or three ideas, actually.
The first idea was for a stencil for a tshirt:

And also to use this as a theme for another "manifesto" card to add to my growing set of them to get mass-produced in the coming months. This one would probably read something like this, as posted in the facebook description of this photo when I posted it on December 18th, 2010:

"Somewhere at any given moment, there is someone in your community who has the knowledge, skills, resources, experience, love and compassion to care about you, and help you do something that makes you otherwise feel powerless. You won't know, if you don't ask. What do you know how to do better than most others? What can you offer? What do you need? Ask for help!"

The other idea was to try to start offering bike repairs to the local community in exchange for bartering, which a few weeks later, prompted me to create this business card, by making a large hand-cut stencil to scale and laying my exploded tool bet across it on the sidewalk and taking a picture of it. No Photoshop for this old school boy unless absolutely unavoidable when it comes to my arts!

I shared these words in a facebook note last December to elaborate on my motivations for these creations. As I mentioned in my story earlier in the blog, trying to offer myself and my own skills more and more to the world and put myself out there available to others in need I felt was an important part of the process of my own healing. In reality, it was ME trying hard to summon the courage to finally actually ask my community and the world for help. But you know me, I always try to turn my every passion into some sort of clever art project or performance of sorts. It feels so wonderful to finally feel like my every creative project and outlet and all my positive energy and networking is for the first time ever in my life perfectly focused, and devoted to my own healing. This time, my everyday life is an elaborate performance art project, it would seem--an experiment in mutual aid, designed to save myself, but also be used as a model to inspire others. I for one, think that thus far, it is working.

What are you good at? What do you need help with?

by Paul Jones on Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 1:02pm
What are you good at? What do you want to learn? What privileges were you born with? What resources, tools and skills do you have at your disposal to offer others less fortunate what can you teach others? What is your purpose? How much of yourself are you willing to SHARE with the world?

I'm asking all who read this to ponder these questions, and make a list to repost.
Reclaim knowledge from the capitalist "experts" of auto repair shops, engineers and technicians, and teach yourself the skills that you wish to have, or that you can't afford to pay someone else for. Do it YOURSELF. Or ask for help from a PERSON, not the internet oracle. Wikipedia, Youtube and Google hold a wealth of answers, but we need to take this knowledge back and empower ourselves to teach others in our communities and build supportive networks for each other, not just rely on the internet (or the library for that matter) for everything. We need to relearn how to communicate with people right in front of us. We need to learn to disconnect from computers and reconnect to each other. Yes, I recognize the irony that I am using a computer to tell you this, but trust that I am striving each day to reach out and do it in person as well. We need to relearn the knowledge of our great-grandparents to fight the future. The present is a wonderful gift, and self-empowerment is a marvelous book that once opened, can never be closed, that we can all write together to prepare ourselves for the future, to get us through today with a slightly lighter load on our shoulders. I am ready to begin this journey with you all, and I'm asking for your help. "Many hands make light work," and many minds can change the world.

So I ask you again, what are you good at? What are your passions? What can you teach me? How can you use the gifts you were given and/or have nurtured your whole life to make the world a better place? What do you have to offer, freely and happily to others? How can you barter your way to a better life? And when will you begin to start doing so?

Here are some of my skills I am prepared to share with the world, on a sliding scale, or in exchange for others' offerings.

-how to cut and paint stencils in an endless amount of ways
-how to screenprint
-how to prepare a large variety of vegan meals and baked goods
-basic bike repair and maintenance
-how to prepare for a bicycle tour
-basic woodworking and general "handyman" sort of mechanics
-writing, poetry, how to be honest with yourself and express with language
-general entrepreneurship and how to start your own business
-how to build a loft bed
-how to change a tire on your car
-guerilla marketing strategies
-organization skills

and all sorts of smaller, "subcategories" of these things, like how to find a bike that fits you, to how to use bleach to put a permanent image on a tshirt, homework assignments to help you get in touch with your inner writing voice, how to build a spice rack, etc.

Now it's your turn!

‎"Will we be the monsters of our great grand-children's nightmares, or will we heroes and healers in the epic poetry of those still unborn voices? Will we be reviled for our entitled, destructive ways, or will we be lovingly remembered in the songs of our descendents as they recount the story of this lost and ...very wounded tribe that stepped back from the abyss and found its way home to the community of living souls? We get to choose. Who are we going to be?" ~TS Bennett (From the awesome documentary, What a Way to Go)

I want you to tell me a secret...

I've been making little sort of manifesto "business" cards for years. I made this one a few years back, inspired by the website For years I had thought that I could tell my closest internet friend, Kathleen about my own secret, hoping we could each help each other through rough times, bathing in each other's honesty and coming out clean. The internet, however, in my opinion, isn't always the most inviting, comfortable place to discuss such emotional things. I had wanted to create a little secret box of sorts, with pictures and various things telling my story to give her, to be opened one day when the time was right, but I never did. I always felt like my writing lacked a certain integrity, no matter how honest it might seem, because I could never find the words to approach this one taboo subject. In that regards, all these cards I gave out in the past made me feel hypocritical, but no longer. Secret's out. I can tell it to total strangers now almost like I was talking about the weather in only a few months. If that isn't a profound example of growth, then I don't know what is.

From here on out

The next several posts will be to catch you up to date on the care I have received up until now over the past month, and anything else I determine is relevant to bring you up to speed of my progress and growth and current health. To begin, I am going to share with you the pictures I uncomfortably took of myself in the bathroom of the cafe in Trinidad, California on the bike tour last October the day my front tooth broke in half. Please be advised that from this point on that there may be very "up close and personal" pictures of me in future blogs, to document my progress if they might make you uncomfortable. I offer them boldly in a healing effort to face my lifelong fear of opening my mouth to friends and strangers, to challenge you all to face your own fears, to document my progress and also show all who have donated what their money is paying for, and possibly even, in hopes to inspire you all to, you know...






Paypal Fundrazr Facebook Application

 The link below is the fund-raising page I created on February 6th, 2011. If you cut and paste this link, anyone from any computer regardless of having a facebook account or not can read a bit of my story and donate to me directly via a credit or debit card through a secure Paypal format. All proceeds are transferred to my account at the Mesa Dental University and will help pay for my treatments over the next several months, which are approximately $30,000. Sometime in the next few months I hope to create an assortment of gifts in the form of thank you cards, art prints, tshirts, etc that will be mailed to all donors of different levels as a small show of my immense gratitude for all of your support. Thank you!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

This is the longer autobiographical narrative in the works I posted today, February 19th.

This is the story I've been working on,

by Paul Jones on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 11:48am
of how I grew up this way, with this secret, and this pain.
I share it in hopes of inspiring others to not isolate themselves from the world due to fear, depression, alienation...
We are all in a state of constant flux between stagnation and growing, fear and love, chaos and harmony. We all hurt, we all have secrets, but the more we open up to the world, the more we can connect and reach out, however it is we can, with whatever means we have to create or use our voice, together, we can all heal.
Thank you in advance for reading this. This is in many ways the closest thing I have ever tried to write of a "life story." It is about half done, at least in how my teeth have affected my life, up until the present, and the exciting new chapter I am writing right now. I intend to document as much of this process as I can, and perhaps one day, it will finally be the book I've wanted to write for the past 10 years, that can inspire the world.
Sincerely, Paul

Part One - Perspective

I am an only child. I was born 2 months premature to a 15 year old mother and 22 year old father, weighing 3 pounds, 9 ounces. The doctor apparently told my parents that night, "it's not as if you can't have another." I lost about a pound of weight, and spent the first several weeks of my new life in an incubator with jaundice. Many might say it was a "miracle" I survived.
According to all of my memories, I was raised by loving grandparents, and 4 aunts and uncles ranging from nine to seventeen years older than me. I was always told by my grandmother that they were "just too young...they were kids themselves...they didn't know how to take care of you." I grew up with "real parents" that came to visit me on Sundays for a few hours I never really felt a connection with, who would bring me candy and occasionally toys, and for the majority of my childhood, pay my grandmother $15.00 per week for my school lunches and know...for taking care of me. Apparently in their minds, that is all it took to raise a child. But that as they another story.
I was by all means, Lucky. So many children I am sure are abandoned and neglected (or shaken to death!) in this country by ignorant young parents and in so many regards, I had far more of a family and a home than they, but I certainly nonetheless still grew up with many "issues" due to my relationship with my parents. It wasn't until only a few months ago that I learned from my aunts and uncles more of the circumstances surrounding how I came to live with my grandparents. There is no short supply of bitterness and resentment in my mother when speaking about them and the family that actually raised me, though i have always hoped somewhere deep inside it was really due to regret, but nonetheless her perspective would never admit these truths to me, one of these truths I speak of being that my mother used to always try to pawn me off on my aunt Carol to watch me so she could skip school and get drunk. I did live with my parents for the better part of my first year, but it was always described to me as a child like they brought me to my grandparents like a gift while they tried to save money and get on their feet and get along better. I only a few months ago learned that in fact, my grandmother (who everyone in the family calls "Ma") one day went to visit them and found my bed was covered in maggots from old rotting food nearby and i had flea bites and she could not take it anymore and took me from them. Funny thinking back to the confusion of my childhood now, and who I was always told were my "real parents," and who were just my grandparents.

Me and my grandparents in North Wolcott, NY

This picture hung above my grandfather's chair for as long as I can remember.

So I was a miracle, a last chance for my grandparents who had raised 7 kids, to have another. I was always thought of as special and unique. I seemed for whatever reason far different than the rest of the family, and often got more spoiled and had more freedoms that would have been unheard of no doubt with my aunts and uncles. Honestly, I think in a way they were afraid. After they all began raising me and loved me, I think they were subconsciously fearful of that day down the road that my parents would finally grow up and accept responsibility for their actions and come back to get me. So I think they tried to be as nice to me as possible, so as not to make me want to leave them. I don't know, but some things I seemed to often just get away with. My memory somewhat betrays me, but I know that Ma wiped my butt still til I was well into my first year or two of school. We didn't have hot water until I was probably around eight, and I remember always hopping up on the kitchen table before school in my underwear for her to bathe me with a washcloth and soapy water heated on the stove. I chalk it up to the lack of nurturing in my first year and my confusion of neglect by my other mother that made me require more attention, but whatever it was, it just seemed like in areas of hygiene, I grew up with no self-confidence, discipline or sense of responsibility whatsoever. I never wanted my hair combed, and more than anything chore, ever, for some reason I absolutely HATED when the time came each night to brush my teeth.

Somehow, more often than not, i got away with it. There were no spankings, no being sent to bed without any supper, mostly it seemed just a calm acceptance, or a trust at least that when I was asked if I indeed did brush my teeth during that time in the bathroom before bed, that I actually did, and did effectively. Although my aunt Barb I often remember tried to inspire me with fear, "You don't want to grow up with bad teeth like your Mommy and Daddy that hurt all the time, do you?" I grew up for the majority of my childhood barely ever brushing my teeth at all. And when weekend love came in the form of candy bars from parents who were each immature themselves with two mouthfuls of pain and negativity, I blew through my first set of baby teeth before I ever knew what tooth enamel was.
Random school pictures, I believe from Pre-1st, 2nd and 5th grades

I only have two memories of ever visiting a dentist's office. The first time I was in 4th grade, and I felt so proud being able to tell my teacher and friends that it took not one but FIVE shots of novacaine before they could finally remove my tooth. Those teeth didn't matter anyway, right? The quicker they came out, the easier it would be for the next ones to find their parking space. By the time I hit middle school, my mother began to get more and more frustrated with me during her visits, her and Ma always arguing about SOMEthing I didn't want to do. In 6th grade, I still didn't want to comb my hair, let alone wash it. She also seemed to grow up angry at Ma for always parting my hair on the side, whereas apparently to her it was meant to be parted in the middle like hers. Instead of ever trying to simply speak in a calm manner and TEACH me any of the things that she yelled at Ma for apparently not teaching, it seemed she would just scold me like a dog who shit on the floor, when it was her fault for never letting them outside. Further evidence of this can be found in my parent's lifelong disgusting house, where 5-7 inbred poodles roam free at any given time barking their heads off and shitting all over the floor while one of my parents screams at them. Look anywhere around their hoarder's house and you will find piss and shit and dried up old newspapers that once covered it strewn about, with an apathetic, defensive attitude that almost suggests that no one else in the world possibly would raise dogs in any other way.
Somewhere during this tense time of frustration with me when my mother would always be bitching about SOMEthing, whether it be my "caked-in dandruff" in the checkout of the grocery store or that I didn't take off my school clothes or whatever she could think of to complain about whenever she saw me, it became time for my second dental visit. (I do want to point out however that though I was incredibly shy, lacked confidence and the responsibility to take care of myself, that I had better grades than anyone in the family ever had, and was not only in a gifted art program as early as 2nd grade, but also was one of only two people in my grade of a hundred to be in my school's gifted and talented program from third through eighth grade when it was cut from the budget, during which time I recall not a single "Good Job" or "Congratulations.") This dental visit I don't really recall much of except that I had to put a mask over my face and got to watch myself blowing up a balloon through it...and waking up with a mouthful of gauze and a bloody hole in my mouth. Apparently when I was unconscious my mother had been talking to the dentist, and later reported to me with authority, that they confided, that "it ain't gonna matter if you brush your teeth or not, the dentist said that they are so bad they are going to rot from the inside out, not matter what you do." For a kid with already low self-esteem and poor body image being one of the skinniest and smallest 3 kids in the whole class, who happened to hate brushing his teeth to begin with, this was just the permission I needed from my "real mother" I was "supposed to listen to" to virtually abandon the chore altogether from that point on...
Me caught playing Nintendo in my messy room in 7th grade.

Part Two

That last photo I'm aware of that exists with me smiling with an open mouth is my eighth grade school picture.

It was later that year that my grandfather died, and my parents for the first time in my whole life when I was fifteen suddenly decided to ask me if I wanted to come live with them. I know in some way, the repercussions of their repeated abandonment of me are connected with my own repeated abandonment of care for proper hygiene during that time of my life. Why, after all, should I respect the orders of someone telling me to clean my room each week, when they had the filthiest house I had ever seen? They simply couldn't fathom why, after all these years, that I didn't want to live with them, and in turn mostly stopped visiting for the remainder of my time in high school.
The time after my grandfather's death was lonely and confusing. He was no doubt the closest thing to a real life hero that I had. He was simply so funny, so generous, so...weird. He was always tinkering with something in his shed, always fixing something (or breaking it) and gave me my first tools at an early age that inspired me to do likewise, one Christmas getting lectured by my mother for taking apart all my toys, like, somehow that made them worthless or broken to her, but far more exciting, interesting, and full of knowledge to me. For a few years after he died, I spent a great deal of time alone, playing video games, playing in the 125 acres of fields and woods and creeks that our landlord owned, or working on art. My aunts and uncles had all left but my uncle Robert, and to me, it felt like the heart of my family was gone. Ma and I eventually were forced to go on welfare, and with neither of us having a license or a car or family that came around as much, I think that both of us continued to feel more and more abandoned and lonely.
Ma and I at Niagra Falls, Summer 1993

Though we spent a great deal of time together, watching television and putting together jigsaw puzzles and borrowing movies from our neighbor, I became more and more inward and focused on my morbid art and writing. Growing up shy in a small hicktown in upstate NY with an old-fashioned family without transportation during most of my adolescence did not exactly allow me to find my extroverted side. TV and games and food and our yard were all the life we often had, and though I spent huge amounts of time on couches and eating junkfood others never imagined would be possible, I never gained weight. Being skinny my whole life made me self-conscious enough in school, but when my lack of brushing my teeth began to catch up with me around tenth grade, I became a whole different person. While I tried to empower myself with descriptive words like "quiet, deep, introspective poet' and "sensitive, serious artist," I knew in my head that it was all bullshit, and what I was, really was, was a coward who was filled with regret. When everyone else was partying and learning to drive and getting laid, I was home hiding in my room working out and watching movies of hero underdogs saving the day or overcoming their fears. When i graduated high school with the record for being able to do the most pull-ups in the school, make no mistake that it was because I spent the past 3 years trying to compensate for my broken smile.
If you ask me now, I am not even sure how it got so bad. I didn't grow up getting regular medical or dental care, and I was terrified of doctors because I spent my whole childhood in hospitals watching my grandfather slowly die every few years. When I first began to have molars that hurt, I honestly had no idea what to do. My parents at that point weren't visiting or really even much talking to the family because all of my aunts and uncles of course were on MY side, being the ones who truly raised me and cared for me my whole life. We never really had insurance, and until my senior year, were mostly surviving off of about eight grand a year in Ma's social security. The more that cavities started to appear, the more it became easier for me to just take tylenol and not tell her than to make her worry about any additional expenses when we already didn't really have any extra. By the time I was 17, I had cavities in three of my top front teeth and virtually no enamel resembling anything pearly or white when I opened my I quit opening it.
Me at my house in the room that used to be my uncle Robert's. 18 years old in 1995.

Over time I learned to speak while opening my mouth less and less, my lifelong shyness easily befriending my new habit of mumbling through tight lips and rarely looking people in the face while speaking to them. I lost whatever confidence I ever might have had in talking to girls or making positive, smily first impressions, and took on the reputation of a quiet, deep, brooding poet and artist. It seemed the more I allowed myself to easily fall into this role, the more I succumbed to speak with the sarcastic and often negative and critical tongue of my bitter, absent mother. It was also around this time that I began writing to penpals as an outlet to communicate in a way that did not require anyone to be able to see my face when talking to me, god forbid they might, just might, catch a glimpse of my imperfect teeth. Long before the days of the internet, I still had at one point, ten penpals from the surrounding states, whom I began to spend hours each day writing out my every thought to in letters. For about a year straight with all the spare time that I had I wrote and wrote and wrote, learning to capture every moment, however mundane from my solitary life with my widowed grandmother to share with the world, somewhere out there, where people existed I dreamed might not judge me for my teeth if I could just talk to them enough and show them how awesome I was before they might finally get to meet me one day and learn that I was in fact, "White Trash."
Me at the Sterling Renaissance Festival the day that I met my penpal Sonya. Summer 1996.

Part Three - College

College came and went in a heartbeat, and my sad tragedy only continued. "Oswego's Most Promising Young Artist Continually Alienated By His Appearance Despite Gifts." "Bright and Inspiring Student Racks Up $10K in Credit Card Debt on Alcohol and CDs To Avoid Issues." By sophomore year, I had lost a front tooth, and avoided every possible conversation I ever could about the dentist, that Halloween trying to explain to a room full of my closest friends why I was offended that they all dressed up as "white trash" without actually telling anyone specifically why I was so sensitive to that term. My closest and most inspiring female friend I had ever had since the second month of school I allowed to become my "best friend" when for that year and many after I would in my heart know that she was the first true woman that I was ever felt like i was in love with, though I was always unable to tell her. My first front tooth actually broke in half while I was eating a toasted sandwich with her in the dining hall and to this day it was one of the most terrifying moments of my life, scared that my closest friend in the world I thought I had the biggest crush on with perfect teeth from her rich father the Supreme Court judge in the Bronx might finally discover how truly white trash I was and...and...WHAT? Think I was gross? Not want to ever love me, or even love me as STILL her "best friend," who just happened to have fucked-up teeth? Who back then might have been the first friend I might have ever had who would've offered to go to the dentist with me, or convinced me to use my credit cards on the dentist instead of beer and CDs and band tshirts. How or why I let my teeth build a wall of perpetual fear around my life and between that and my connections with others I honestly still don't fully understand. I don't know what it is about losing small parts of one's body over time that makes you unable to trust people, but to me it always seemed like the more my teeth decayed, the harder and harder it was for me to fully ever believe that anyone else with perfect teeth would not abandon me if they knew my secret. The more I was afraid to open myself up to people I became close with or become vulnerable with crushes I had because I thought if we kissed, they would KNOW, and they would be grossed out and offended. Thus began a pattern of me having crushes on people that ultimately became "best friends" that I was always waiting for the perfect moment of connection and mutual trust that I could finally confide my secret with...but it never came. Christine, though still my best friend for several years, transferred and later got married--and I can't deny if on that day, even though I was seeing someone else, that I wasn't filled with immense regret that I had never acted on my feelings. Even if we might have afterward still decided to be best friends, at least I would have taken that risk after two years of college thinking about it every single day. Beth one day just quit talking to me after weeks of what I'm sure were missed opportunities I was too shy and scared to accept, telling me I was too negative and that people "don't like being told they are wrong all the time." Ashley moved back to Rochester and continued to date another crop of unappreciative men for another few summers before our connection faded. Lizz made out with me two years late when we were both drinking and our friendship never really recovered from the awkwardness that followed, or my bitterness that I didn't seem good enough for her in my mind.
I was going to graduate college with the reputation of a true, hotshot NY art critic, eager to go tear the world of bad art with no content a new ass. One friend confided if I ever became an art critic, they were giving up being an artist. At the time I considered that perhaps the greatest compliment I could get. I had honed my tight-lipped commentary and scowling, finger-pointing to an art form in and of itself over the past four years, and my sarcastic jokes and criticism often became the focus of my every conversation. My new career was interrupted my last semester however, by my first confusing attempt at a girlfriend, and her ultimate admittance that I was sort of being used to cheat on her other dumb boyfriend back home. Part of me was just mindfucked for the first time letting someone in that close to my secret, naked world. The other part of me felt cheated...for having someone that close, sooo close, and still not getting the answer I had wanted all these years: "Okay, now that you know this secret of mine, how does that make you feel? Do you think any less of me? Does it gross you out to be intimate with me?" I barely did any work for the rest of the semester, though I did write the first poem that truly captured my raw honest inner emotions about the way that Becca made me feel, and left college with my BFA feeling like I had been cheated out of the supposedly happiest, craziest memories of my life somehow, still a virgin, never having really fell in love, never "came out of my shell," not even really wanting to make art anymore. Whose fault was it? Was it my parents? My grandparents? Mine? I don't know. I still don't know. But I know if I could have taken it all back and began college with perfect teeth, I would have had a very different and much more free experience, and have no idea where I would be or what I might be doing right now.
Taken by Lizz. Last semester of college, 2000

Part Four - Patterns, Katie

If I were to write it all out in detail, what would follow for the next nearly ten years would be more of the same. More crushes and missed connections, more bitterness, increasingly cynical poetry, perpetual feelings of being misunderstood. If you carry around a secret long enough, it begins to define you. The more lies your inner critic tells you, the harder it is to rewrite a single sentence of the story of your life that you offer with your every subtle action to everyone you meet each day. Over the years, I became known by some people as a variety of nicknames unspoken to me. "Oh, the really negative guy?" "Angry Paul?" Sometimes, they almost become terms of endearment. Volunteering in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, my friend Jaimie proudly refered to me as "The Cynical Voice of Reason!" I even learned to find my own sense of pride and integrity for the way I behaved, always feeling like I was at least the ONE person who had the balls to say what was on other's minds who didn't. But it was also usually always the negative thing. Idolizing Bill Hicks for years may have helped me tap into my blunt honesty and shifted my gears from criticizing bad art to the dominant culture instead, but he also gave me another reason to strip my tongue of any tact it might have once had. Combine that with years of my mother's painful pissing contests and guilt trips of everyone around her and throw in a perpetual desire to always have the last word, and you've got a pretty good idea of how I've managed to alienate many of the people who were once my friends and acquaintances over the past decade. And now remind yourself, if you know me at all and have taken the time to see through my harsh exterior and talk about my passions with me, that deep within the fragile face I've erected such a serious eyebrow wrinkle over for the past 18 years, is an extremely sensitive, compassionate, caring, generous, honest, loving person with one of the biggest hearts you will probably ever meet. And think of how it might feel, for over half of your life, to let something that might seem so insignificant to others, completely control your life and affect your every action and how the world perceives you, and every moment threaten to never let the world know the real you because of fear.
Silly photobooth pics of me and Katie taken at Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY 2003.

When I was twenty-five, I fell in love for the first time with an eight-teen year old who caught me completely off guard during probably the worst and most depressing times of my life after I got a DUI and was stuck living alone in a new suburb with no friends, unable to drive for the past several months. For a while,  I almost managed to finally overcome my fears and trust her. But when it did finally reach the moment of truth and she one day realized that she had never seen me smile a REAL smile and wanted to see my teeth and I awkwardly refused to show her for a half an hour, it destroyed me that I still felt she would abandon me if she knew the "real" me. She agreed to stop pressuring me if I would at least show her pictures that night, and I spent one of the most awkward nights of my life trying to take webcam pictures of myself thinking of nothing but our happiest most bliss-filled joyous moments and trying to free myself to contort my lips into a shape that had not regularly taken in almost 10 years. Her first response I remember still was, "That looks like it hurts. A LOT." and of course that I was "still beautiful" but I still don't think for the months that followed of our intense, eleven month romance that I ever truly believed it. The mindfuck is, not knowing if she genuinely meant it, or if I actually myself really believed I was indeed beautiful. If I did, why would I ever really care what anyone else thought? Why did I always seek approval, though rarely finding the courage to even give anyone the chance TO tell me if I was still beautiful or not?

Part Five - Poetry and Integrity

The questions and perpetual internal struggles of my own integrity and hypocrisy have haunted me for years. After Katie and I broke up in 2003 I turned to writing again quite intensely and for a time performing at three open mics per week. Our love had been a period of rejuvenation for my lonely spirit, and though our relationship ended badly, I knew that I was a much stronger, more mature person than she who was more in tune with who they really were and what they wanted. I poured myself into my writing for the first time in years, completely intent on being as honest and true to my real feelings as possible. I was determined to share my pain and my perspective with the world, and to be as blunt as possible as an antidote to so much of the cliched, uninspired poetry of "support group" open mics as I thought of them. While there was no denying that I wore my heart and my passion and my opinions on my sleeve through my words at that time, there was always a certain edge that was missing from it. No matter how true to myself I was and all I inspired and touched with my words, I still always felt cowardly and dishonest, because even in a few sentences on a page, I could never bare to write about my teeth, nor could I perform with the charismatic stage presence of those who slammed because I couldn't face an audience without the shield of my pages in front of me, and I couldn't project and inflect courageously because missing teeth made enunciation a chore.

Although my writing was always very personal and a source of great pride for me, with the inability to ever perform with the voice that I dreamed of, it felt as though even through my writing I could never overcome my darkest fear. I recorded a spoken word CD and even earned a feature in NYC, but utimately felt like a failure, and began to move in a different direction to try to focus on visual arts again, helping to found a new art collective back in my old college town. I started over again, made a new group of friends, and pushed repeat on the narrative of my tortured existence in isolation. I stumbled upon an exciting new connection for the first time since Katie with my friend Sarah who I met at SUNY Oswego's new social justice group. Here I was again, 4 years later, still trying to connect with college kids and relive the past I'd ultimately deemed a failure. Sarah graduated and left before I could ever get out the words I wished to share with her, and after proceeding to alienate myself from many of the friends I had made in the community because I lost all passion for making art with my biggest inspiration gone, I turned to writing lyrics for comfort.
Though I have used the name "themightyhumanrace" as the name I create stencil art under for almost 4 years, it began in fact, as the name of a band I dreamed of singing for. With no knowledge of music theory nor skill at playing a single instrument, I nonetheless began memorizing lyrics while screenprinting at Arograph that I would write down any chance I got, and trying to give them shape using the beat-making program Fruityloops. With nearly a full album of material and a few songs with full drums and bass recorded, I searched frantically for friends to help give me a voice to the pain and frustration of the past several years, and the heavy weight of digital culture on all of our hearts. On the way home from seeing Ashley for one of the last times, I wrote a spoken word piece to an Explosions in the Sky song entitled "The Exclamation Point of My Life Sentence" that to this day I still consider probably the single most beautiful thing I have every created in my life. Its words in that moment felt almost like a suicide note, a desperate cry for connection after an entire life of isolation, full of universal truths most anyone I felt could identify with:
"to whatever gets you through it when you feel like giving up,
this song is just another toast to never growing up and
remembering the way it felt when everyday was new
this song is just another way to thank you for being you and
to the people who remind you what it's like to feel alive and
to the ones who lie awake at night just trying to survive and
to the people that you never see, and how much that you miss them
this song is dedicated to anyone out there who'll listen."
but once I had created something I felt was so absolutely necessary for the world to hear, I had no idea what to do with it. I found myself singing my empowering songs about seizing the day and breaking from your routine life...ironically while continuing to drive my 45 mile commute each day to a job I hated, broke, alone, and in pain, not knowing what to do with my life, but knowing I could no longer continue to do what I had been doing. I sold my belongings and cashed in my vacation pay, moved out of my shitty apartment to couchsurf with my friend John, and counted down the days to leave NY shortly after my 28th birthday. The details of the next four years and all of my travels, though many tremendously empowering, are not really relevant to this story. I will add however, that leaving NY was the first real step I had probably ever taken, towards truly facing many of my fears and running off into the night, full of uncertainty but dedicated to embracing each day's journey for the first real time in my life.

To be continued...

This is the revised story I first posted on Facebook on January 11th, 2011

I have a secret. I've carried it with me for about 18 years. I really want to let it go and give it away to you & move forward.

by Paul Jones on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 1:19am
I feel so "pump up the volume."

(Please be advised that this is going to be the most blunt, honest, open, vulnerable part of me that I could ever share with you, and if that is a relationship you do not feel comfortable having with me, perhaps you should not proceed reading. What I am about to write has been a lifelong fear ever since I was a teenager to communicate with anyone, be it family or even my best friends, and though I am choosing this forum to reach out to many of you at once that would otherwise be unavailable, it does not for a moment change how difficult it is for me, or how important. If you are among those whom I have tagged in this note, please know that I value you as friends in my life and I believe that by sharing this with you it will help you to understand a great deal of mystery there may have been about me. I am doing this, for a change. I am desperately trying to change my life, and how this secret has effected every aspect of who I am over nearly the past 2 decades. Consider this moment for me, an "Intervention" of sorts, that I am having with myself, that from this moment, I am taking a leap of faith in trusting you all, and asking you for support in the road ahead. I stenciled a shirt a few weeks ago that reads "Ask for help!" While I have made a conscious effort to be more positive and help everyone in any way I can over the past several weeks since I returned to Phoenix, and the shirt is meant to remind others that help can be found in their own communities when we stop isolating ourselves, it is also a reminder to myself to do the same. So here we are, and this is me, with a sober mind, on shaky legs, looking up at you all like the scared child that got himself into this mess...asking for help. Thank you in advance for reading my story. Take some time with it if you need to, it will surely be a long one.)
Love & Gratitude,
Paul Clark Jones Jr.

Okay, so this being said--I began this story 2 weeks ago. It immediately became longer than I ever thought it would, and has been tremendously healing to get out and to read to a few close people. But for now, it is simply too much to put in a note. I have been inspired and want to continue it now and possibly turn it into a zine to connect with others, but I still feel that I need to share what I'm going through immediately with those I consider close to me, because it affects my health and well-being tremendously, and I have come a very long way in my ability to deal with it over the past several months with the unconditional support of my beloved best friend and traveling partner, Pinar. I am holding off on sharing my "life story" kind of note til I finish it, and and writing a summary of what's going on right now. So here goes:

You may not know this. I have spent almost 18 years molding my persona, posture, voice and personality to hide it, but...I am in desperate need, of a great deal of dental care. For now it does not matter really how I got this way, only that I am...and for the first time in my life, I am trying to summon the strength and drive to do something about it. I am trying to believe in myself and trust that I can find a way to use my clever ideas and creativity and skills to perform monetary miracles I never thought possible and try to overcome finally the painful and alienating prison I allowed myself to create around my self-esteem ever since I was a teenager.
There is a great deal of perspective I wish to share about how I got this way, patterns that evolved, and irrational fears that developed and began to push me into this lonely roll of brooding, cynical poet or tortured misunderstood artist, or whatever, but for now, I am going to try to make it as short as possible, and if any of you wish to talk more in person, you are welcome to.
Part of the reason I invited Pinar to go on the bike tour with me was because she was going through a rough time and facing many of her own demons alone in Turkey, and I wanted to challenge us each to face our fears alone amidst the gorgeous, comforting backdrop of redwood forests and the pacific ocean, removed from all the daily chaos of society finally, alone with our closest friend in the woods for 2 months. I knew that without dayjobs and a 100 other daily distractions, that our deepest truths would only be further exposed, and I knew it would be probably one of the hardest things we had each ever done in our lives, but I wholeheartedly believed we each needed that time, and that space, and that support, even though there were lots of nights we seemed at each other's throats, and many others we cried ourselves to sleep. We made it, and I for one, am forever changed.
In Trinidad, CA, eating a toasted sandwich, another of my front teeth broke in half. Ironically, this happened at the exact same time that she got her acceptance call from Naropa University. In retrospect, the extreme opposite emotions we felt in that moment seem to stand as a reminder that however close we are with anyone, we still, at the end of the day, must confront how we feel about ourselves. Though totally in love with someone, if we cannot find the same love within us for ourselves, we are doomed to live lonely lives of isolation.
I was already missing most of two front teeth from years of untreated decay. I knew this day would come, but I must admit I was in total shock of how drastically it affected my voice, my ability to enunciate, to bite my lip, to eat certain foods, losing only another 1/4 inch of a tooth. Crying on a beach that night felt like the deepest bottom I had ever hit of my own personal hell, and if Pinar was not with me that night I honestly don't know what I would have done. It also in a way felt like the first time in my entire life that I was truly able to let go, and escape from my perpetual numbness and denial of this issue for most of my life. The next several days were incredibly hard for me, but as I slowly began to talk again and learn to deal with the awkward and frustrating new sound of my voice, I feel I began to slowly heal. I knew from that point on, that I had to finally begin to make a change in my life. I also knew, that I needed to stop carrying around such a heavy secret and isolating myself from those who cared about me out of a childhood fear I warped into something terrifying to express with anyone, and I needed to begin opening up to the world if I wanted to begin to find the answers and help that I needed.
It is this reason, that I have decided once again, to remain in Phoenix for the time being. I know that I have a rough and painful road ahead, and I need the love and support of my community of friends to help me through this transformational time. I am trying to stay as positive as I possibly can, and I hope that most of you can see the difference in me now from the Paul of the previous years you may have known. I have been working hard on a great variety of activities and creative projects, and wearing my heart and my skills on my sleeve, and trying to purge my negativity and poor self esteem, deflating my confrontational ego, and trying to be nice to everyone. I am trying to find a balance, and I am trying harder than ever to live my life being the example I wish to see in the world. Even if that is often a silly action figure-looking sort of person. I want to be my own hero, live my own movie, and inspire others. I want to find the strength to face by biggest fear, and smile, and be comfortable with my body, and filled with love and gratitude in each moment for all that is beautiful around me. I want desperately to share the intense love and passion and laughter that I've often locked away deep inside me hiding behind the harsh and scary mask of my face as I've allowed it to turn into after all these years. I want to eat all the foods I love or loved long ago that I no longer can because I am in pain. I want to wake up in the morning without blood in my mouth. I want to be able to take the words back with "nds" and "nts" and countless other sounds in them I can no longer say and perform poetry people can understand clearly and sing and rap and slam and unleash my words from a lifetime of pages and inspire the fucking world to think in different ways as I know I can. I want to smile without holding back, look people in the eye when I talk, and laugh uncontrollably as much as possible. I want to not be in constant pain every time I eat, or constant frustration at what I can't eat. I want to not take painkillers to try to even face the world on days when it sometimes gets debilitating for hours at a time. But I need your help...

I made an appointment a few days ago for the first time ever in my life at a Dental University in Mesa for February 2nd. I have not seen a dentist in over 20 years, and have only been twice in my life. I am terrified in so many ways, but I know it is a necessary next step that I must take on my road to healing after finally first finding the courage to open up to Pinar about my lifelong secret, and briefly with a few of you over the past couple of weeks. After the initial screening appointment, I will go back shortly after for a 3 hour discussion of my options and status of every individual tooth, be assigned a student dentist, and be recommended a plan of action. I know not how soon I will be able to afford this plan, but I won't know the numbers and options until they go, so... here I am. This is who I am, this is where I'm at, this is what I have wanted to tell you for a very long time. I am not sure what form of "help" any of you can offer, but it is important to me that you were aware of this information about me. After I get my initial few visits out of the way, I will probably need help arranging for multiple rides to Mesa to have probably 16-18 teeth extracted over the coming weeks. I also may try to organize some subtle kinds of fundraisers and benefit art shows and concerts, bake sales etc. if any of you would like to offer your help with that or donate or have any suggestions. If it is not yet obvious, virtually every cent of any kind I make over the next several months outside of food, rent and phone is going to wholeheartedly be dedicated to raising the necessary funds for this dental work, or into projects I believe will do so. So if you want custom stencils or artwork, vegan cooking and baking, bike repair and maintenance or screen printing and probably lots of other things, please by all means consider asking me or recommending me to others. Thanks in advance for anything you can offer, and thank you for listening to such a long story. I hope to write and release a much more elaborate story as a zine for Anna's Mental Health Collective Art show for Art detour as well, the rough draft of the first 5 chapters of perhaps 10 already being written, if you wish to read further.Every person I get to talk to about this has helped me tremendously, and although this is certainly a strange and awkward format to share something like this is, I am grateful for all of you who will read it, even if you don't know how to respond immediately. Perhaps if you can at least "like" it or something after you read it, to let me know, or talk to me in person afterward, that would help ease the status of my my mind made abnormally anxious by facebook's frustrating false promise of instant gratification. Thank you all, so very much, for being there, in one way or another, and making me feel comfortable enough to share this with you.
I love you,
Paul Clark Jones Jr.


This blog will not all be chronological. It will begin with a collection of various writings, backtracking a bit and no doubt adding different kinds of documentation as I acquire or create it, different ideas and thoughts and epiphanies as they unfold.
Before you read any further, I should mention, that the next entry I am going to post I wrote mostly in a 4 hour sitting trying to get "my story" out for the first time ever in my life, but the more I wrote, the longer it seemed to get. I was hoping to capture everything in a small enough format that I could somehow feel comfortable to share it with 20 or so close friends via facebook in December 2010, but I was never happy with it. Don't get me wrong, I like it, but it felt like a very overwhelming way to first share such a thing with the world, so I never posted it for the public until this morning, February 19th, 2011 to all of my facebook friends. Instead, I first rewrote a kind of awkward different attempt to reach out to everyone, which I posted instead, which was the first that many of my friends and acquaintances and peers in the community had ever heard of this part of me. I will share these two entries next.


Hi. In case you might not know me, my name is Paul Jones Jr..

I am 33, currently living and working in Phoenix, AZ. I am an artist, a writer, vegetarian and avid cyclist. I work in social work for Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, am a vegan baker and soup chef at a worker-owned cafe and art boutique and performance space, Conspire, and also part time as a bartering bike mechanic. I am creating this blog, to further reach out to the universe, and to share my story. We all have a "story," right? We all have hopes and dreams, fears and flaws, passions and pet peeves. I've personally always dreamed of changing the world. The focus of my story, in many ways, has gotten in the way of that for the past several years. My story, is about how I hated brushing my teeth as a kid, and how the decay I was faced with during my teenage years living in poverty without proper care mutated into a huge irrational fear and general feeling of powerlessness with the lack of affordable health care in this country, and forced me to grow up in pain and isolation, living in fear of even my closest friends finding out my "secret," that I had those gross teeth that they all often mocked as "White Trash," never understanding the emotional damage over several years that it inflicted on me.

My story, however, I aim to make a happy one. I have learned the hard way over the years how isolating yourself from your community and circles of friends is unhealthy, and I have also learned the value of being open and sometimes brutally honest and how it can elevate us all to a higher level of communication and understanding and inspire us to face our fears together, all of us, knowing that we all have them, and I have tried to live my life for over a decade being as open and honest as possible with my feelings and opinions in a constant search for clarity in my own expression in hopes that it could inspire others to seek out their own truths and find their voices and do the same. We may never be able to fully understand what it is like to walk in another's shoes, but we will never even begin to if we do not attempt to even try them on. This blog, is my shoes, and I hope that you will walk with me for a little while. I hope we can all walk together by the end of it, fearless, smiling, and free of pain. Thank you in advance for reading along with me. It is going to be a long and painful walk through this recovery process! I know I cannot do it without all of your compassion and support.

Paul Jones Jr.

P.S.- For those of you who wish to donate in support of my ongoing treatment, click on the Paypal "DONATE" link below, or when browsing other entries, always at the top righthand side of the blog. Thank you in advance, for reading, listening, sharing and reposting, donating, and above all, caring and taking the time to hear my story. Every day, you continue to shape its outcome. Thank you.