Zach

Three years ago today, I wrote a blog about Josh over a year after his passing. Today it seems fitting to write about Zach. Zach was Josh’s husband and my girlfriend’s best friend. He was one of my best friends too. He introduced me to Mandy, and for that, I’m forever grateful. But he took her away and I can never forgive him for that.

Zach was a good guy. All he ever wanted was to be with people that he loved and cared about. He lost the love of his life and it broke him. He never recovered and I can’t blame him for that.

But he made a stupid decision. He got shitfaced and decided to drive an ATV while it was dark out. My girlfriend was stupid enough to get on the back of it for one last ride. And it was their last ride. Zach kept going straight on a road where he should have turned, and the end result was them crashing into a ditch and dying on impact.

The last thing I ever said to him was to “Drive safe.” I can never say such a simple expression again. I wonder if I jinxed them or cursed them somehow.

I can never hate him. He’s responsible for some of the best times of my life. Addressing the elephant in the room, he’s also responsible for some of the worst times of my life. He took away the person I cared about most. He turned me into a shell of who I used to be. Sometimes I miss him. But I don’t mourn him. I can’t cry for him. He ruined everything.

I know he didn’t mean to. I know it was an accident. But it was a hundred percent avoidable and I’m the one left dealing with his mistake.

Before he left for the night, I asked him if I needed to do anything for his cat. He told me not to worry about it, that it was just going to be one night. He fucking lied to me. I feed his cat, I pet his cat, I resent his cat. I still owe it to him to take care of the little fucker.

What happened happened. What’s done is done. I can’t change the past. I can’t stop myself from dwelling on it. I wish he was still here. Because Mandy would be too.

I often find myself going down to Ocean Beach. I crack open a beer and stand by the waves as they come crashing down. I think about them. Josh, Zach, Mandy, and now Nichoh. I save my last sip for them and cheers to them as I pour it into the water. They will forever be a part of my life. I just wish they were here for it.

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Gardening

I had too much free time on my hands during the pandemic and I needed a hobby. I decided to try my hand at gardening. Then my girlfriend died and my life went on hiatus for a few months while I was processing and grieving. One day my sister came over and we were hanging out in my backyard when I noticed a weird weed growing from a crack in the ground. I pulled it up and it was a little carrot. I took that as a sign that I should take up gardening again.

My old roommate/good friend and his girlfriend/another good friend moved in to my place to take care of me. They brought along some of their plants from their garden, and we created a backyard garden together. We mostly stuck to potted plants, but when spring rolled around this year we decided to upgrade to raised planter boxes. We bought lumber from Home Depot and built three planter boxes. They weren’t the most glamorous things to look at, but they held the soil in place and that was good enough for us.

We planted tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, squash, multiple types of peas and beans, kale, lettuce, arugula, carrots, beets, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, basil, cilantro, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions, various herbs, peppers, and a bunch of other things that I’m too lazy to list. We did the bulk of planting in March and April and now we are finally starting to see the fruits (and veggies) of our labor. It’s pretty damn satisfying to get fresh produce from our backyard that we grew ourselves.

It’s an ongoing battle to keep our plants healthy and happy against the forces of nature. We live in San Francisco so the fog keeps the sunlight away more than we’d like. There are pests like aphids and caterpillars that can destroy months of work in a few days so we have to stay vigilant. But it makes everything we successfully harvest taste so much better.

Tending the garden is soothing. It’s good for the soul. It gives something to occupy my time, and it gives me something to look forward to. We are nowhere near experts, so there is a lot of trial and error. But we enjoy the learning process. Playing in the dirt makes me happy, and being happy is a nice distraction from my depression.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Vaccinated

I got my first COVID-19 shot today. Pfizer in case you’re wondering. Everyone wants to know who got what, if they have any side effects, and if it hurt. So yeah, I got the Pfizer. That seems to be the best one. Even I have to admit the the anti-vaxxers are right about how sketchy Johnson & Johnson is.

I went to the 24th St and Capp vaccination site in San Francisco. It was really quick and simple. I got in line on the street, there were five people ahead of me, and I was got in around five minutes later. I checked in, they scanned my barcode, asked my name and birthday, and directed me to a chair to wait my turn.

As soon as I sat down they called my name. I got up and approached a row of doctors (I hope they were doctors), took off my jacket, and sat down where I was supposed to. The doctor asked me a few basic questions: did I have any allergies, was I previously diagnosed with Coronavirus, was I pregnant or planning of getting pregnant… then he prepped my arm, told me I’d feel a little prick, and injected me.

The prick was quick. It did the trick. I hardly felt anything. It wasn’t bad at all and I let him know he did a good job. After that I sat down for a fifteen minute observation period. That was the longest part of the whole process.

A little more than eight hours later and I’m feeling good. My arm is a little sore. Its not too bad, I was still able to do some yard work when I got home. I have my follow up shot in three weeks. I’ll be happy to get it over with and get one step closer to normal.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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I’m Still Writing

I know that I’m slacking. I haven’t posted very much the last year or so. But I’m still writing. I’m just not posting anything. I’ve been working on a memoir. It’s about Mandy. And Zach. And Josh. And now Nikoh. I can’t talk about one of them without mentioning the others.

Life has been weird and time keeps chugging along. I know I haven’t been as productive with my time as I should be, but it’s hard to get myself out of this funk. I try to write for at least ten minutes a day. Sometimes I type and delete the same sentence over and over again. Sometimes I have a burst of creativity and the words explode onto the page in a barrage.

But I’m still writing. I’m trying to make something positive out of all this bullshit. I owe it to them.

Critically Rated at 10/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Lagunitas IPNA

I’m doing a dry February. Lots of people do a dry January, but February is a shorter month so it’s easier. This is my third consecutive February without alcohol and it’s nice to take a break from the booze for a bit. I usually supplement my drinking habit with non-alcoholic beer. The problem is that most non-alcoholic beer is pretty terrible.

I drink a lot of craft beer, especially IPAs. Most non-alcoholic beers are based on lighter beers like lagers or pilsners, so they lack the hop heavy and complex flavors that I’m used to. Today I found a six pack of Lagunitas IPNA and I might have discovered my favorite non-alcoholic beer.

Lagunitas IPNA is a non-alcoholic IPA. They brew it like a real beer. They use hops, malt, yeast, and and water. It’s crafted with quality malts like Munich malt, English crystal malt, and Canadian 2-row barley then dry hopped with Citra, Mosaic, Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus hops. They just don’t allow it to get stronger than .5% ABV.

I poured it into a beer glass for the full effect. It pours nice, although the head is rather thin. Seems less carbonated than their flagship IPA. It has a beautiful dark amber color. It’s smells like a real IPA. Citrus and pine hops upfront, some biscuit, resin maybe.

The taste is a little thin. I was slightly disappointed because the aroma was so promising. I get pine, resin, citrus, orange peel, but it feels a little watered down. It starts to coat the tongue the more you sip it which adds to the flavor as you go along. It’s reminiscent of a session ale, but less filling which total makes sense due to the lack of alcohol.

It’s pretty close to the real deal. I think it would fool a non IPA drinker. It’s the most satisfying non-alcoholic beer I’ve had to date. I definitely recommend it. It makes those sober times easier to transition into.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Go Outside

As many of you know, I lost my girlfriend in a tragic accident last year. My grief comes in waves. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by anxiety and start to have panic attacks. Whenever I start feeling antsy I have to find a way to calm myself down. There are lots of tricks and techniques you can do, like slowly counting down from twenty or maybe petting a dog or cat. I’ve found the most efficient thing is to go outside.

Being indoors makes me feel claustrophobic when I’m anxious. I’m very aware of the walls around me. I feel trapped and confined. So I go outside. I try to be aware of the wind on my skin. I look at the plants and trees around me. I gaze up at the sky, taking note of the clouds or stars. I listen for bird song, I observe insects scurrying about, I try to take it all in.

It reminds me that I’m only a speck in the universe. There is a much bigger picture. It helps to ground me and bring me back to normal. Going outside isn’t a magical cure all, but it provides temporary relief.

I don’t know what to do if a panic attack hits me when I’m already outside though. Still have to figure out a solution for that one.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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My Mandy Dream

I had my first (and so far only) dream about Mandy a few weeks ago. It was weird but a bit of a relief because I was worried and wondering why I hadn’t had one yet. Why haven’t I seen her even though she’s always on my mind? When Josh died, I saw him every time I saw someone wearing a red plaid shirt. I couldn’t escape him. Why wasn’t I seeing Mandy?

I finally saw her in one of those quick morning dreams. Where you wake up but don’t want to start the day and try to go back to bed. The magical place between sleep and awake. That’s where I saw her.

I was at a holiday party, filled with friends and family, it felt like it was Christmas time, and I was going from room to room looking for her. I found her in the kitchen, sitting on a stool by the counter. She was sitting next to a bearded hipster that doesn’t exist in real life, but I recognized him as a mutual friend. I wasn’t surprised to see her, she wasn’t a ghost or anything. She was still my girlfriend and we were just at a holiday party. I walked over to her and we started to talk about whatever.

Out of the blue, she causally mentioned that she made out with our bearded hipster friend. I was taken aback, like what the fuck did you just say? You made out with him? And she said, “Yeah, I made out with him. Your mom saw us.” She said it so matter-of-factly, like it wasn’t a big deal.

“You made out with him? And my mom saw you?”

“Yeah. You were in the room too,” she said, like it was totally normal to cheat on me. Obviously I was pissed and told her I was breaking up with her. Then I woke up mad. I was still half asleep, I was angry, until I realized that I finally had a dream about her, smiled, and closed my eyes to go try to find her again. I drifted off to another random dream, one without her or the holiday party or the random bearded hipster friend that doesn’t really exist.

I have a few theories about what my dream meant. It means that I feel betrayed. That she hurt me so much and didn’t realize or care. And that I want closure that I’m never going to get.

I felt a sense of relief. It was as if a weight was lifted off my chest. For the next few days I felt so much lighter. I thought it was a breakthrough in my grieving process. It didn’t last. It comes in waves and I got hit by a tsunami a few days later.

I’m glad I had the dream though. I got to see her and talk to her again. Yeah, the subject matter sucks, but it’s better than my reality.

Critically Rated at 9/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Three Months

It’s been three months since I lost you. Three long, challenging months. There are some days where I feel like I will be ok. There are some days where I feel like I can’t go on. But everyday I wake up, force myself out of bed, and take the pup for a walk. I walk, and I think about you, and I try to hold back the tears. Sometimes I succeed. I walk the places that we walked and remember the things we talked about, the things that we did, and think about how much I miss you.

I look at Turner running around getting his zoomies out, and I smile because I know nothing made you happier than Turner being a goofball. And then I feel overwhelming sadness that I can’t share that happiness with you anymore. I grab my pendant you made that I carry around my neck and I kiss it, and I wish I was kissing you. And I keep on walking because that’s all I can do.

I walk and I think about how crazy the start of quarantine was, how we were discovering the new normal together. You started working from home, and I got to see you in work mode. You were so good at your job. Professional, courteous, and badass. Then after work you would do something amazing like make jewelry, or a funny music video, or do some BLM activism. You got pretty good at battling Trump trolls. And you somehow still found time to spend with me and make me feel special.

I remember one night early in quarantine, you were already asleep and I was watching the news, watching the world crumble all around us, and I felt so isolated. I crawled into bed and started to cuddle with you. You thought I was being frisky. I just needed to hold you. I needed you to make me feel safe. You got me through that night. I wish I could have stayed in that moment forever.

I never imagined life without you. It’s pretty miserable. The highlight of my day is letting Turner run around off leash at the beach or park. He looks so carefree and happy. He gives me hope that I’ll find happiness again. He gets me through each day. I’ve been rationing out some of the dog food that you bought for him. Today he gets the last bit of it. I’ll let him know it’s from his mama.

I had three months of quarantine with you. Now it’s three months of quarantine without you. I keep slipping further and further from the past and into the future. I feel like time is pulling me away from you. I feel so helpless. I feel so afraid that I’m not going to remember everything, that I’ll forget all the little things that made me love you so much. So I jot down every memory down when they pop up. I got enough to write a book. I will one day, but it’s hard to be motivated when I’m so depressed right now.

I try to keep myself busy. Well, that’s kind of a lie. I try to keep myself distracted. It’s hard when everything reminds me of you. I have the Cowboys vs Rams game on as I write this, and it hurts because the last NFL game I saw was the Super Bowl with you. It makes me feel guilty. It’s tough to do something alone that we used to do together.

Time to wrap this up before the roommates come home and see me crying like a bitch. I fucking miss you. I love you, baby. I’ll never stop loving you. I promise you that.

Critically Rated at 1/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Fart Ban

Mandy and I were together for about four and a half years before she passed away. In all that time, she never once farted in front of me. Well, at least never intentionally. She might have let some slip out while she was sleeping but those don’t count. She didn’t want to fart in front of me. I returned the favor and didn’t fart in front of her either. It was an unspoken rule at first, a casual fart ban if you will, but it eventually came up in a few conversations with other couples about how to keep up the magic and passion in relationships. We both thought that you shouldn’t fart in front of someone you want to have sex with. It’s not attractive.

I farted in front of Mandy one time and one time only. To be honest, I farted on her. But it was her fault. We were lying in bed on a lazy Sunday, I told her to pull my finger, she did, and I let one rip. She got a little mad, but she should have known better. Don’t pull fingers if you don’t want to be farted on.

That was a one time incident, and we stuck to not farting in front of each other. However she would always tell me when she had to use the bathroom, so it kind of defeated the anti-farting pact. Holding your farts in isn’t the key to a successful relationship, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. And if you can fart unashamedly in front of your significant other, good for you. Let those farts fly. I’m not judging.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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I’m Back

I’m back. This post marks the end of my self imposed hiatus from Critically Rated. I got 2020’ed pretty bad. I lost my girlfriend and close friend/roommate in an unfortunate ATV accident. Everything came to a sudden halt, and two and a half months later I’ve only just started getting used to my new reality. It’s tough waking up each day knowing the love of my life is gone.

I’m trying to make sense of it. I’m trying to make it mean something. But it’s pretty fucking hard. I used to believe in fate. I thought fate brought Mandy and me together. I thought the universe wanted us to be together. But if I believe that, that means I was supposed to lose her. I don’t consider myself a Christian, but I believed in God. I prayed every night before falling asleep. I don’t know if I believe in God anymore. I don’t know how I can. I prayed that he would protect the ones I love and he fucked me over hardcore.

So I don’t know what to believe anymore. I don’t know if I believe in anything. I don’t want life to be random. I want it to make sense. I want to know that things happen for a reason. I know that any sense of security is an illusion. I can’t take anything for granted because everything can change in an instant.

I’ll never get over it, but I’m getting through it. Can’t stop the clock. Tick. Tick. Tock. Minutes into hours into days into weeks into months. Each new day takes me further away. I know I have to move on, start a new life, but I don’t want to. I want to wake up to Mandy.

I’m only living because I know she would want me to. But every new experience makes me feel guilty because I can’t share it with her. I’ve taken up gardening as a hobby. It helps pass the time, it gives me a sense of responsibility, and it gives me a sense of control. I can’t control what happens to me, but I can control what happens in my burgeoning backyard garden. Except for the fucking weather. And the fucking bugs. And the fucking gophers.

I’m afraid my happiest days are behind me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be happy again. But I know that I will be ok because I want to be. I’ll be alright. I’ll be ok.

Critically Rated at 2/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter. It seems like most Americans actually understand that now. Yeah, we all have that one racist friend on Facebook posting All Lives Matter, but most people are getting on board. And they are staying on board. It’s been two weeks since George Floyd was murdered by cops, and the protests have not let up. They’ve been getting bigger and more widespread. All fifty states have had BLM marches. Fifty-nine other countries have had BLM protests. The protests aren’t going away, not until there is real change.

It starts with defunding the police. People freak out when they hear that because they don’t know what it means. I won’t tell you what it means. You have the Google, so do the Google. I will tell you that it works. Just ask Camden. They already did it and the sky didn’t fall. Camden, New Jersey did it in 2013 and shit got better. Read about it here.

I’ve been to two Black Lives Matter protests in the past week. What did I see? I saw people of every color, of every age group coming together peacefully to demand change. I saw grandparents marching with their grandkids, witnessing them experiencing history in the making together. I felt hope and optimism. And I still feel a connection to everybody else out there holding up signs and chanting and honking horns in support.

The fight’s not over. George Floyd’s killers haven’t been convicted. People will protest until they are behind bars. And cities will burn if they get acquitted. We demand accountability. Not just for George Floyd, but for everyone that’s been a victim of police brutality. We all agree that bad cops exist. But there are no good cops if they’re all covering for the bad ones. Those two cops that pushed the 75-year-old protester got suspended and that inspired 57 cops to resign from the riot unit. They care more for their brothers in blue than they do about us.

It’s sad that we can’t talk about Black Lives Matter without talking about systemic racism in law enforcement. The two go hand in hand. We have to accept that and make some real changes to who we are as a society. Now is the time. If you haven’t been to a Black Lives Matter protest yet, this is the time. Be a part of the movement. Don’t forget your mask though.

Critically Rated at 17/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Amy Cooper

I’m sure we’ve all seen the video of Amy Cooper by now. She’s the latest Karen to be caught on camera using her white privilege to harass a minority. She is the ultimate Karen, the worst one of the bunch by far. BBQ Becky tried to break up a barbecue. Permit Patty tried to stop a little girl from selling bottled water. Pool Protocol Paula broke up a pool party. But Amy Cooper (we should all use her real name to shame her) got caught using the police as a weapon on a black man.

All Christian Cooper did was tell her to put a leash on her dog in an area of the park where dogs are required to be on leashes. I have a dog, I let it run off leash sometimes and if someone tells me to put the leash on, I put the leash on because I know I’m in the wrong. But Amy Cooper decided to escalate the situation by calling the cops on him. She warned him that she was going to be a racist cunt, and then she proceeded to be a racist cunt. She called the cops on him, made sure they knew that a black man was threatening a white woman, all while choking her dog. It’s actually impressive to witness Amy Cooper destroy her whole life in a minute.

I’m glad the Internet tracked her down. I’m happy she got fired. I’m elated that she had give up her dog. She says she made a mistake, that she’s not racist, that her life’s been destroyed. That wasn’t a mistake. You can see her formulate a plan and act on it. And it backfired spectacularly. Amy Cooper, Queen of Karens, is a racist cunt and deserves no pity, no forgiveness. Fuck racists.

Critically Rated at 1/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Real TV (TV Show)

I used to watch a show called Real TV. It was a thirty minute clip show of footage from amateur/home video. Think car car crashes or near misses, daring rescues from natural disasters, animals doing stuff, celebrities before they got famous, things like that. It’s the type of show you put on when you want to be entertained but not pay too much attention.

I don’t remember the format too much. The host would present some clips with a vague connection, sometimes there was a quiz or question to hook the viewer, but that was about it. It aired from 1996-2001. It wouldn’t exist today because all that content is all posted on YouTube and Reddit these days. It’s probably the reason I spend hours on YouTube and Reddit these days to be honest.

Was it a good show? No. But I watched it. And I remember it. And I took the time to write about it for some reason. Real TV was a thing once is all I’m saying.

Critically Rated at 10/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Throw Away Your Bag of Dog Shit

I saw a bag of dog shit on my morning walk. I didn’t think much of it until I saw another bag of dog shit on the next block. And then another in the park, this one was actually hanging from a tree branch. It’s weird that someone had the time and consideration to bag up dog shit so people wouldn’t step in it, but then they just leave it there. It seems like a very time consuming way to litter. They even take the time to tie up the bag.

I don’t understand why it’s so hard to simply throw away your bag of dog shit. You already bagged it. That’s the bulk of the job right there. The worst part is over. Chuck it in a bin and you’re done. Task completed. You’re an asshole if you leave it for other people to deal with.

The many bags of deserted dog shit makes me wonder if there are multiple violators or if it’s a lone serial dog doo doo ditcher in my neighborhood. I’m curious but not determined to catch the culprit. I’ll keep an eye out but I’m not setting up any cameras or sting operations. I’d throw away the bags myself but I won’t touch anything I don’t have to in this time of Covid.

Critically Rated at 4/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Magic Tricks

I was probably seven or eight years old when I got a magic trick kit for Christmas. It had everything you needed to perform over five hundred magic tricks! Instructional video included! I learned about basic sleight of hand. It had special packs of card that looked normal but had hidden secrets that only the magician knew about. It even had a fake thumb tip to make handkerchiefs disappear. I knew how to do all the basic magic tricks that birthday party clowns do. It was a fun little hobby that I drifted away from as I grew up.

I’ve forgotten how to do most of them, but I have a handful of tricks that I can bust out. Like I can still make a quarter disappear and find it behind your ear, I can tell you which card is yours, and a few other simple tricks that I don’t need customized props to perform. It’s come in handy from time to time. It’s fun to amaze drunk friends, it’s even more fun to amaze my little nephews. One of them is convinced that I am a god, the other one knows it’s not real but can’t explain it. “Hey, you’re tricking me!”

I have a gut feeling that he’ll be getting a magic trick kit when Christmas rolls around.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Changing Seasons

I’ve been out of work and sheltering in place since March 15th. That’s eight weeks and counting. Needless to say that I have a lot of free time these days. Netflix is great and all, but nature keeps me sane so I take the dog for epic walks in Golden Gate Park. My girlfriend is working from home, but she joins us on her lunch breaks when she can. We explore the park, taking different paths and trails looking for hidden gems like the buffalo paddock, gravity hill, the fly fishing pond… Golden Gate Park has many secrets worth discovering.

I’m spending a lot of time there. I’m starting to learn bird calls. I know that chirp is coming from that little guy with the red breast. I don’t know the name of the bird, but I know what it sounds like. I’m watching the flowers bud and bloom. I’m watching the days get longer. I saw normal American honeybees slowly became dangerous Asian murder hornets. For the first time in my life, I’m truly aware of the seasons changing. Spring is happening in front of my eyes. It’s sad that it only took 56 days of sheltering in place due to a global pandemic for me to finally see it.

Hope all you cool cats and kittens are staying healthy and happy. Don’t get coughed on!

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Growing My Hair Out

One of the many new hobbies I’ve picked up during shelter in place is growing my hair out. I’ve gotten pretty good at it. It’s easy when all the barbershops and salons are closed and I don’t trust my girlfriend with sharp objects. My last haircut was probably in late November or early December because I didn’t want to look shaggy in holiday photos. I should have gotten a haircut in March before I went on vacation but I ran out of time. I came back on March 10th, had a couple days of work, and then everything shut down.

So here I am, stuck inside with ever increasing follicles. My bangs cover my eyes, some strands reach down to my nostrils. I spent over fifteen years of my life with a shaved head, now I have the luscious locks of a 90’s heartthrob. I’m not used to it. I’ve started wearing hats when I leave the house, something I never did before unless I was going to a baseball game. When I’m at home I’ll alternate between wearing a beanie, a headband, or simply running my fingers through my hair. It’s so soft. It’s like a puppy that lives on my head.

I know I can just shave my head and be done with it. But it’s become a symbol. My untamed hair represents how life has forever changed. It’s the new normal. I will only cut my hair when this is over.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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