2017-03-26 12:49 pm
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LJ Idol: Abandon all hope...

I went out that night for cheese curds and beer
In some tight pants that showed off my derriere
Scooped up the friends who were on a tear
Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

Arrived at the bar, got a table for eight
Ordered the crazy-sized fried cheese plate
On your mark, get set, go, open the gate
To shovel it down before it coagulates

Halfway through there was a pang in my rear
Stomach rumbling, cramps so severe
I wished my intestines would disappear
Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

I fled to the bathroom, locked the door
Skidded to the toilet on the slippery floor
"Never again!" I think I swore
As I fell to the toilet and released the gore

Fried cheese curds & bubbles, it became clear
Turn my insides out & eminently queer
I apologized for the smell to the next toileteer
Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

edit 1 done 3/26
2017-03-19 12:34 pm
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LJ Idol: Salty

There are a lot of ways to roofie a person, but one drug that gets a lot of blame (or attention) is GHB. GHB is a liquid that can be poured into other liquids and should cause anything from drowsiness and confusion to straight-up passing out. What people don't realize about GHB is that the dose is extremely variable from person to person - there's no guarantee that what you give someone will actually have an effect. Also, GHB is very salty. I didn't realize that myself, not until dad gave me some GHB, and I had to choke down this salty (and oddly oily) liquid. More and more of it, as it had no effect on me.

Luckily this isn't a horrific story that requires a terrible trigger warning - Yes, my dad gave me GHB. But I knew it and consented to it, and went off to my bedroom alone and unmolested to, quite emphatically, not sleep at all. After dad started drinking again, he branched off into other drugs as well. He was chasing something, and despite his assertion he was going to "smoke his way to heaven," I'm not sure even he knew what he was chasing. Sometimes I see my dad in myself and my own decisions, and I grasp vaguely at his end-goal, but it floats away. Me, I'm chasing self-worth and confidence; I think it would be too arrogant to assume the same for him, though in the end we're all chasing those things - some simply to a far greater extent than others. Some of us have a much larger void to fill; some will never fill it, perhaps especially the ones who try to fill it with drugs and alcohol.

One of dad's tricks was to look overseas for his substances. Codeine from Europe, Turkish poppy pods from Canada ("for dried flower-arranging purposes"), GHB from... wherever it was from. I think also Canada, but I'm not sure. As long as it didn't get confiscated by Customs, it was smooth sailing (besides that one summer there were odd clicks on the telephone line, but nothing arose from those). So, one night when I complained of insomnia, dad gleefully went to the cupboard and pulled out a large mason jar of clear liquid - relatively odorless too. He gave me his own usual standard dose, and that's when I discovered it was salty. Gross salty. We waited; nothing happened. I took more. We waited longer; nothing happened again. Finally we maxed out the amount he was willing to give me - not because he was concerned about safety, simply because he didn't want me making too big a dent in his supply. I finally went to bed but never went to sleep, so scratch GHB off the list of insomnia remedies for me.

Another time, dad told me that if you took a sleeping pill (in this case Ambien) and stayed awake on purpose, you'd have some great hallucinations. He figured they were the dreams you were supposed to have, but you'd tricked yourself into being conscious of them. I was uninterested in this but was desperate for sleep, so I took one of his Ambien and went to bed. Again, I didn't mean to stay awake, but as it turns out, my particular type of insomnia is rather resistant to drugs. As I did all sorts of other relaxation exercises, I prayed for sleep, it didn't come, so I thought, well, if I'm not going to sleep I may as well see about these hallucinations. As I contemplated my sad existence, a crack in the ceiling wiggled. Just once, like a worm shuddering, and then it stilled.

That was it. That wiggle was the hallucination. I was unable to sleep the rest of the night; too tired to get up and move, so lay there and lay there, but all I saw was that wiggle.

Conversely, there was one night I slept the best sleep I've ever experienced. Dad had gotten his hands on about a foot of San Pedro cactus and whipped up a batch of mescaline which he wanted to share with me. As before, my partaking was a combination of interest and being unable to withstand his pushiness. We prepared - showers, clean clothes, clean house, some meditation - and then split the dose in half and alternated swigs of mescaline with swigs of orange juice. The mescaline itself is gross, but it melds with the orange juice in your mouth to make this deliciously indescribable flavor. We parted ways, dad and I. I ended up sitting on the couch, felt tired, laid down, then next thing I knew I was waking up feeling refreshed, happy, energetic, pain-free, knowing that I'd had vivid and wonderful dreams the night before but not able to remember any of them. I was excited, optimistic, balanced emotionally... it was, frankly, amazing.

I'm sleeping better these days - the PTSD isn't as present, I'm learning mindfulness to handle the anxiety and panic attacks, valerian root for the chronic pain, and I'm not in contact with my father. Often in life it's the little things, but in some cases it's also the very big things - the lack of drugs, the lack of fear, the lack of strife. Sometimes I like who I am in the context of all these random things; sometimes I struggle to remind myself that without these experiences, I wouldn't be who I am today so should be grateful, at least on some level, that I had a dad who'd feed me GHB. He tried, in his own way, to help with my problems and to share his knowledge. In some small way, too, it expands outward - if you're ever out at a bar or a pub and have left your drink unattended then take a sip, and it tastes weirdly salty - put it down. I don't know how to identify all the other roofie drugs out there, but I can do GHB. In that sense, at least, I am roofie-proof, thanks to dad.
2017-03-10 03:54 pm
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LJ Idol: The blue hour.

My father is an alcoholic and a drug addict. It wasn't the worst in my childhood; he'd gotten clean and sober and replaced drugs with religion. That's another story entirely, the religion. One feature of my life, starting when I was maybe 10, maybe 12 or 13, was the knowledge that we didn't talk about what went on at home. Dad didn't start drinking again until I was 14, but even before that, I remember my mom telling me not to talk about our home life - not with friends, not with teachers, not with fellow churchgoers. I knew that was wrong, but I also didn't argue. One feature of life with an addict of any stripe is silence. Silence maintains the structure. Silence is fear, and control. Silence for my father was validation that he was doing nothing wrong. Silence for my mother was maintaining the precarious balance of life. Codependency is a bitch.

We moved around, a little, after the drinking started again, including moving back to the home of my heart, and ultimately moving to a house on the lower slope of a beautiful, if potentially deadly for the stupid, plateau. I've mentioned, then, my fear and dislike of rattlesnakes, perhaps touched on my absolute loathing for black widows, somehow forgotten the cougars, but have not yet mentioned the coyotes.

And, you know, as much as one wants to make the coyote out to be a misaligned but noble and beautiful creature, reality is that they're often mangy and crazed looking. Still awesome - I'd still fully try to tame one if I found it as a pup, my last thought as it gnawed my face off, "but it's so cute!" - but they're... often not the most impressive animal in the kingdom.

Oftentimes, I would get off work, go out with friends, smoke weed and drink cheap alcohol (at the time, $5 got me a bottle of Night Train or Thunderbird and a bottle of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill to wash it down; definitely did the trick, though there's a horrible irony in drinking and smoking weed in order to cope with my father's drug and alcohol problems). I told my parents we were watching movies, normally. Since dad often didn't want me in the house, to the point where some nights I wasn't allowed to sleep inside the house so would drive to parking lots and sleep in my car, or at friend's houses if I could find them before they went to bed, even if they thought I was lying, it helped keep the peace at home if I said I was watching movies with friends. Always, always keep the peace.

At the same time, if people knew I wasn't sleeping at home, it would count as "telling" others about our home life. It would raise questions, possibly concerns. It would make it a lot harder for my parents to keep the silence about dad's addictions. I would sober up and drive home - or sometimes not sober up and drive home. For my life, that is the decision I regret the most, and I cannot shake that regret, of my past choices about driving impaired. If I could get home before dawn, I could rest, avoid my parents, make it back to school or work on time.

It was this hour, the blue hour, the hour just before the sun rose, that the coyotes started to come through our yard. I'd get home, park, trudge upstairs and get some water or coffee, then go out onto the upper deck to smoke my final cigarette before sleep. Only a few miles from the river, we often had a fog wafting through the valley, which diffused the light into a soft shell around the house. Before the sun peeked over the horizon and the clouds turned to pink and orange, the world was a misty blue on top of the greens and golds of the valley. Every morning for an entire summer, a pack of coyotes coursed over the road, up the hill, and cut across our yard to circle the plateau on their way to wherever.

This was the only silence that calmed me - myself alone, the gentle sky, the quiet air, the aura of the coyotes' intent focus - halfway between "normal morning commute" and "really important coyote business." There was always one coyote about 15-20 feet behind the rest; I never knew (and still don't) if that meant he was an outcast or the rear guard, but in typical high school fashion, I named the straggler "Holden," and empathized with him every day. In hindsight, if that was a rear guard coyote, it was probably a different one every day. But at the time, all I saw was that lone coyote, not part of the pack but determined not to be left behind. It was never a clear-cut metaphor; I never realized I loved that coyote so much because it was me, and the pack was my family. I do remember the peace that spread over me; if I missed them one morning, I missed them the entire day. Life moved on; I went to college, they went wherever coyotes go, but for one summer, the blue hour was the only hour I knew peace.
2017-03-01 06:43 pm
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LJ Idol: Take a hike.

If there is one thing I, your hero, am not good at, it's seduction. I can't even pronounce the word correctly because it sounds too silly to me, so I pronounce it like seduckseeon which obviously is way more ridiculous, so at least I laugh at it. To myself. Because I have driven people away with my lunacy. But, in the way of coincidences, I'm soon to be faced with yet another seduckseeon (don't forget the vaguely French nasal "on" when you pronounce that), and this week's prompt reminded me of one of my first.

Cut for sheer embarrassment )
2017-01-30 04:55 pm
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Monday: Where I'm From

It was a dark and stormy night in the foothills of the Cascades when I, your hero, was thrust into this world. Well, it was night at least, so it had to be dark. Stormy is up for debate, though February near the mountains there had to have been some little gusts or flurries. So, dark and stormy it is! I was born in the hospital of this small town because the even-smaller town in which my family lived had no birthing facilities. It turns out the even-smaller town didn't have much else to recommend it, besides being situated in a truly beautiful location. Sadly, this location is inside Cascadia, and not the state of Jefferson which has always been the home of my heart.

My father, when asked, claimed that we lived in the above small town for one reason and one reason only - he was forced to move there. Somewhat forced. There was another town he could have gone to which apparently was even worse. The force came in the form of his boss, who discovered that my father had been embezzling money and told him to get out of Jefferson or get beaten, and dad chose to get out. Take this story with a grain of salt; I always have. Dad fancies himself a criminal mastermind of sorts, when really he's just a drug addict who's not very good at not getting caught. He is, however, weirdly good at weaseling out of the consequences of his actions, but that's another story entirely.

I spent my childhood going back and forth between the northern towns and the southern valley which I love, the home of my heart. At one point we moved from the very-small town up north in with my paternal grandparents in the southern valley. Three blissful months in the sun, the heat, the orchards, and the barn, until dad packed us back up and we went even north, further away. Though, granted, this may not have been the worst choice, as once you've spent 3 days with his parents, let alone 3 months, you may understand why he was a drug addict.

Cue another round of back and forth, back and forth, north to south, south to north. Your hero here and her older brother spent vacations running up the Table Rocks, where the world began, rafting down the rivers of life, gorging on the succulent fruits of this land of milk and honey. Then we trudged back up north to the gray and the grind. One time, around the age of 9, your hero broke her strong facade and sobbed, "I want to go home," as she was packed into the car and driven north past the shadow of the Table Rocks. "We ARE going home," your hero's parents exclaimed, "We'll be there in 4 hours." Your hero tried to explain that in fact we were leaving her home, the land of milk and honey to the south, to the bewilderment of her family, who did not understand how one could have a home of the heart separate from the roof over one's head.

It was some years later that I, your hero, was able to make her way back home in the presence of her family at the age of 16. But that is also the age when one is going to leave the nest, make the way into the world, and your hero sadly had to leave many times before coming back, possibly for good, possibly not, but at least for now in the home of her heart.

Pictures under the cut, because pictures take up a lot of room )
2017-01-22 08:35 pm
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LJ Idol: Heel turn.

America is a myth. It's a beautiful myth. It's the myth of equal rights, acceptance for all, and democracy. It's the myth of,

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

It's the myth that we can call something a "right" but only allow some members of society to have that "right." It's the myth that anyone from anywhere can achieve the American dream. It's the theme of New York amplified: "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." It is the myth that all are equal.

Then there's America the reality. The reality that even while we are built on a foundation of immigration, each large wave of immigration has been met with prejudice and backlash. It's the reality of "No Irish need apply" and "No vacancies for blacks". It's the reality that allows an entire country to deny sheltering refugees from a war-torn country - men, women, and children all - because of the fear that one of them will be a terrorist, despite the fact that at least 80% of terror attacks on American soil are committed by American citizens".

This is not to say there's no intersection of the two. The reality is that the right for adults of sound mind to marry whomever they love is still not an actual right. It's a privilege extended to only certain groups of people. The progress is that Americans have fought, and fought hard, to extend that privilege far enough for it to be considered a right. In 1967, it was finally deemed legal at the federal level for people of different ethnicities to marry each other. That's only 60 years ago. In more recent decades, of course, the right to marry has been extended - slowly and lurchingly - through various states to those in same-sex partnerships. The myth and the reality of the right to marry are coming closer and closer.

Voting is another right some take for granted because our reality is much closer to the myth, but that gap was closed after hard work and hard fighting. Women were granted the right to vote in 1920. It wasn't until 1965 that LBJ enacted legislation to ensure that barriers to minority voting were lowered, so that all citizens could in fact exercise their rights as guaranteed, without interference, intimidation, and manipulation by those who did not want minorities to vote. Up until last year, I myself felt pretty secure in all our citizens' voting rights, excepting of course those criminals who are barred from voting due to felony convictions (which I don't agree with, but that's another tangent). Then in this last election, we learned that there were far fewer polling places available to voters, disproportionately affecting poor, rural, and minority populations", as well as targeted actions focused on party lines and also affecting poor and minority populations". Many people focused on the ID issue - shouldn't voters show ID to prove who they are? It's hard to argue with - except my entire state uses mail-in ballots. I've been voting since 1998, and I have never once had to show ID. I sign up online, my identity is verified with certain numbers, and I'm registered. Yes, I need my driver's license number. No, I have never shown ID.

As you may be aware, a Women's March occurred on Saturday. It was affirming, rewarding, community-building, concrete action. Even if that is the only thing a person does in their lives, adding numbers to the estimated 4 million (worldwide) is an act on its own. It states not all of us accept an administration aimed at killing the myth of America. This administration rests solely on the reality of the United States, and it is a grim, ugly reality. It is the reality we deserve to be slapped with in our collective face. It is the reality that many citizens are complacent; that we pay more attention to the myth of the United States than its reality. Part of the shock and horror of this election is that cognitive dissonance from waking up and realizing things aren't as good as they're said to be.

There are, of course, those who have been struggling and working all along to bring the myth and the reality together. These are the people we should all emulate. There are also the people who don't realize there's a distinction at all - the ones who scornfully ask just WHICH rights women don't currently have, dismissing the action as a bunch of spoiled middle-class females reacting to a bigoted serial sex assaulter in office. The ones who say this march means nothing, that it's one big collective virtue signal, that it is a waste of time. The ones who are bewildered, dismissive, and condescending are the ones for whom the reality and myth are synonymous. They are the ones on the inside who cannot look out and acknowledge theirs is not the only American experience. These are also the ones I find myself not being able to communicate with; the ones so hard to defend against, like trying to pick up a blob of oil with your bare fingers. It's very hard to explain to someone that the very fact they are insulting those who march is the exact reason the march needed to happen.

The ironic thing? I didn't even make it to the march. Insomnia messed me up. I'm pretty disappointed I wasn't there walking alongside others who want to make a difference. We probably don't even agree on what that difference is, and that doesn't matter. What matters is that the complacency and oblivion are melting away; in their place are growing, footstep by footstep, a new awareness that "We the people..." is not just an old phrase. It is the very literal foundation of our country. "We the people" allowed the circumstances that resulted in this mess; "we the people" will fix it. Bodily. By being together, walking in step, enjoying unity of purpose, making the myth of the United States become its reality. A reality where anything called a "right" is in fact extended to everyone, not chosen groups. A reality that merges with the phrases and slogans we sling around so handily - of acceptance, welcoming, community. It will obviously require more than a single march. It will require hard work, dedication, and inclusion, going forward with future actions at all levels in all communities. It will require an awareness and a compassion for others and the ability to extend a helping hand to anyone.

That's what brings me joy, and relief, now that this march has happened. It is a perfect example of myth becoming reality. It's a glimpse of the future to come. All balanced on the heels and toes of those who care enough to step outside.
2017-01-06 01:02 pm
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LJ Idol: “I don't skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going to be. "

I had a hockey phase - watching, not playing. Something about the speed, grace, and burly men occasionally grappling each other out of nowhere (same reason I sometimes watch MMA, I'm not gonna lie), and I was hooked for a good... year? I had a basketball phase as well, though that lasted longer (the late '80s/early '90s Trail Blazers were a team of beauty). I'm into football and baseball now, football more so. Horse racing on a sporadic basis. Ever since that one time I lost a winning ticket at the track up in Portland, I've been a bit leery of the ponies, though later - much later, when I got over the fact I'd bet my last $10 and won but threw the wrong ticket in the trash - I was able to appreciate living out a Bukowski poem of my own. Mostly appreciate.

The Pox is really into horses - I already bragged about the Pox a little bit yesterday, but this is a public post, so I get to brag again. The Pox just received an Oregon Literary Fellowship to write about horses and horse-related things. It's the Pox who taught me how to bet on the ponies in the first place (or at least tried, I'm still not very good at gambling), and who reintroduced me to horses after a long hiatus (I won't tell my own sad horse story now though). When she and J.Bola were off to get their masters degrees, I could've tagged along with them, shouldered my way into a program, or at least enjoyed the delights of Fargo/Morehead (hereinafter referred to as F/orehead), but instead I stayed in Portland and occasionally pestered them for writing tips. I called it "my vicarious MFA," though really didn't do much with the knowledge.

I worked. I made extra money for the first time in my life, and I tried to enjoy it. Granted, it wasn't a lot of extra money, and granted much of it was spent on beer and restaurant food, but I was finally free(ish) from the burden of caring for my parents and out on my own for the first time, so I enjoyed it. You see, and there's no good transition here so we're not even pretending to segue; see, part of the reason I moved to Portland was to get away from the family (drug addiction and codependency issues), and I used going back to school for an art degree as an excuse. I could've done that anywhere, but Portland was the choice at the time. I had - still have- always wanted to be a better artist. I would like to make art to sell it. I would also like to be a better writer; make stories, and sell them. But I also have a lifetime of obligation behind me. Despite not speaking to my father for a few years now, I can still hear his voice in my head telling me that while I'm good at these things, I can't support a family that way, so I'll have to choose something else.

Only lately have I really internalized the bitterness in his voice was for him and his obligations, not me and mine... though since the age of 14, he was my obligation. When he talked about supporting a family, it turns out he was talking about himself and mom (which is also another story I won't tell here; in fact, have told too often before). To this day, right now, sitting here typing this - for fun, for practice, for me - I have an underlying sense of guilt that I'm not completely occupied with finding a job, that I'm a burden to my family.

So, you also see, ever since my business collapsed a few years ago, I've been determined to make my old dreams come true. The dreams that made me run away from my supposed obligations, the dreams that I dreamed all the time I was doing what was expected of me. I have ideas. I have a plan. I have things to set in motion. I am simply sitting here not doing them (I am, in fact, trying not to get anxious because a therapist friend just - and I mean that literally - messaged me this: "So I hesitate to say this because I know how your anxiety goes but a sense of foreboding and mental confusion can both be signs of impending heart attack. Are you okay other than those two things?" So, basically, I'm sitting here waiting to die, now, with my dreams definitely not fulfilled).

Years ago the Pox and I had a talk about dreams and paths through life, and I tend to forget this, but after seeing the Pox move forward and achieve yet another goal, accomplish yet another.... accomplishment (sorry for redundancy; I'm still worried I'm going to die), I'm going to remember it: The Pox follows not a path but a trajectory. I tend to follow a path. Step 1, step 2, step 3, SUCCESS. This is not realistic or helpful. There's even a helpful internet image going around lately - success is not a straight line but a squiggle. A trajectory, an arc, an orbit, an arch, a bow, a crescent, a vault, a parabola where puck meets stick no matter what happens in between. Channeling my inner Gretsky, pummeling grown men out of my way to score that goal, to finish this post and get up and take a baby aspirin and my blood pressure because oh my god I'm going to have a heart attack any second now! But from excitement, not fear. Writing this did the one thing I didn't expect it to - motivate me.

edited at 1:11 PST to add: This Facebook status is what prompted the therapist friend to message me about my impending death: "I have a deep sense of foreboding about today, presaged by my mind going completely blank and having to google "angry postman poet guy" because 'Bukowski' so completely evaded me."
2016-12-15 04:16 pm
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Thursday: LJ Idol: Brushback pitch.

I have 3 stories about baseball. Scratch that, I just looked up the definition of a story. I have 1 observation, 1 anecdote, and 1 story about baseball. The observation is that, as a small child, I always wanted to do what my older brother did. I was jealous of everything he had, by dint of being older and a boy, and wanted it for myself. He played Little League, and I never got to.

The anecdote is that, on a bright sunny day in my middle childhood, my father broke my heart by tagging me out during a neighborhood pickup baseball game.

The story is this: In middle school, my 8th grade year, I had a horrible PE teacher. I've no idea to this day what I did to annoy him, if anything, besides being not very good at team sports. Oddly, because my family had been very active, and I definitely enjoyed physical activity. I simply did not like physical education class. Or this teacher, so at least that was reciprocal. I also had asthma and bad ankles and a bad back, plus had a religious waiver so didn't have to participate in the dance unit of PE, which was both a relief and embarrassing at the same time. I also, quite frankly, would have preferred to spend all my time in the library.

That said, on yet another bright and sunny day, we began our baseball unit. My class and another PE class trooped out to a back field together, the teachers strolling and chatting, the kids lugging bins of equipment. I stared off into space as per my usual, dreading my turn at bat, the eyes on me, the inevitability of despair - I'd either hit the ball and have to run - run! - in front of everyone, or miss the ball and disappoint my team. Horror.

When I walked up for my turn at bat, my PE teacher - Mr. Griffin - turned to the other PE teacher and rolled his eyes a little. I saw it, but I figured I'd strike out and be done with it. He'd let me go sit in the grass and pick dandelions once he saw how useless I was. I picked up the bat and held it loosely, staring off into the grass and mentally picking out the spot I would sit in, out of the way, not bothering anyone. First pitch whooshed by, too close, and I swung apathetically. I can't even call it a bunt, it was the baseball equivalent of a whimper. I heard a few laughs, imagined more eyes rolling, and ponied up again. I got a better grip on the bat and swung - missed.

At this point, Mr. Griffin yelled something at me - "Tighten up! Fix your stance!" or something like that. Who knows? It didn't matter, he was a windbag and the bane of my existence for 45 minutes every day. But I did tighten up. All those years of wishing I could be in Little League like my brother, the long summer afternoons of joyfully playing with the neighbors and family, my dad's voice in my ear and his hands over mine, showing me how to turn my body, point my toe down, coil up on myself and make the bat an extension of my arms.... I went into a perfect batting stance. Third pitch, third swing, and a -CRACK- as the bat connected with the ball, slicing it out over right field, over my classmates' shocked heads, right into the blackberry bushes that bordered school property.

Everyone - including myself - was shocked. In fact, I was so shocked that I didn't quite know what to do. As I stood there, jaw open, bat dangling, watching the ball arc through the sky, I heard Mr. Griffin turn to the other teacher and say, "Even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut."

Maybe he meant to whisper it. Maybe he didn't realize I could hear. Maybe he just didn't care. I turned to him, my awesome-shock turning to anger-shock. We locked eyes. The other teacher said nothing, just looked deeply embarrassed. Mr. Griffin didn't even show embarrassment. I had a choice, right then. I could walk into the principal's office, sit down, wait politely to be seen, and inform them that... what? That a class I didn't care about and a teacher I didn't respect had proven to be the same old things they always were? Or, I could run to first base.

I compromised by walking to first base. I gave (what I hope was) a condescending sneer which communicated my utter lack of regard for Mr. Griffin, dropped the bat, and strolled around the bases while the other team scrambled to extricate the ball from the blackberry bushes. Neither teacher would meet my eye for days afterward. I hadn't stood up for myself, but I also hadn't cried publicly so at the time counted it as not quite a win, but definitely not a loss on a personal level.

Sometime later, during the hot months, I barfed on Mr. Griffin's shoes. I've always felt he deserved it, and I hope somewhere inside, he felt he deserved it too.
2016-12-04 11:19 am
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LJ Idol week 2: That One Friend

Let's not name names, let's not point fingers, yes? Let's just talk it out...

That one friend who:

Is trapped in a vicious circle making the same mistakes over and over again. "I've learned my lesson this time!" then 2 weeks, 3 months, half a year later is worried about her new boyfriend, same as the old boyfriend, because he can't pay his rent (or his bail or his child support), and she doesn't want to give him money but isn't she basically obligated to?

No, you tell her, and try to distract her since calm reasoning doesn't work.

That same friend who:

Thinks nothing through but excitedly jumps into action. The one who blurts out secrets or painful truths - far more painful than they should be, because the blurting-words are the harshest words. The same truth could be said slower, with more caring, more couth. It would be the same truth, but better, because you wouldn't have to watch her eyes get wide or hear the same old/same old panicked apologies and explanations fly out of her mouth.

It's okay, you tell her, because you know she meant well.

And that exact friend, once again, who:

Goes out, again and again, sparkling and witty and brave, for just long enough to get attention. Then she eats up the attention, thrives on it, stands up straighter, eyes are sparklier, wit is faster. Attention is her candy, her sugar rush. You watch her subsummation, inevitable, drawing her away from you and completely into this new person's world, where she doesn't exist except as a mouthpiece to talk about how GREAT things are going.

You wait, glance at your clock now and then, because you know she'll reappear when the rush of the crush is gone, wending her way back to your shared world, knowing she'll cycle straight back to #1, "I've made a huge mistake, but I've learned my lesson this time!"

Somewhere in that cycle, That One Friend is a great friend, or else why would you be my her friend? Maybe someday I'll she'll finally learn those lessons, and I'll she'll be just a friend, not That One Friend.

Life goals, I guess.
2016-11-22 06:41 pm
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Tuesday: LJ Idol Week 1: I need the struggle to feel alive.

I once paid off a student loan. Well, twice, but one of those times I used a student loan to pay off another student loan, so I only count it as once. Do you have student loans? Maybe a car loan, a mortgage, a credit card?* There's nothing quite like paying out your, say, $150 a month, all proudly, then checking the balance and realizing $95 of that went to the interest, which will simply compound itself again next month, and the pride you feel in whittling that loan down is replaced with the numbing knowledge you have as equal a chance of getting hit by lightning as paying it off before you retire.**

Now, without listing out my struggles - which are long and mighty and sometimes depressing, let me assure you - student loans are one of the constant struggles. They are there, like that oddly greasy fart that lingers with you the entire day, even if others insist they smell nothing. So what did I do after I paid off this student loan? I bought a car. With a loan. And then I moved to a more expensive apartment in a different city because fuck it, I was rich! I'd paid off one of the handful of student loans, like a real adult!

The move was necessary, the car not so much, though I got a really good deal (despite the payments). But here I'd scrimped and saved and budgeted and paid extra, all to kill this bitty little loan off, and immediately replaced it with more expenses. This is representative of my entire life. When things are going well, I get nervous. It's often pervasive and low-level, but my conscious brain will be very pleased: Bills are handled! Extra money! No family drama!*** Everything is great! So obviously I have to have a panic attack because things are so good, and my subconscious brain fully believes my life is not allowed to be good. Ever.

Right now, as long-time readers know, I'm stuck in yet another situation that I created for myself, that is emphatically not good. The unfortunate part of this situation is that it's depressing, I'm prone to depression anyway, so it's a horribly affirming vicious circle of not-goodness, and I'm content here. Comfort zones are a bitch, you know? I hate that "completely dissatisfied with myself and my life choices" is my comfort zone, but there it is.

My task is to create a new comfort zone. I just today, just a few hours ago, stopped thinking of it in terms of depression versus happiness, success versus failure, but in terms of creating a new comfort zone.

Step 1: Mike**** called me earlier and told me that he loved me, and I told him I loved him as well. It is very strange, but luckily my current comfort zone includes strange, so that's familiar. It's a much different kind of strange, of course. I'm still tasting it, learning the flavors of it, but I'm determined that love-strange will be part of my new comfort zone, whereas lonely-strange will be left behind.

Step 2: The panic that is already starting to creep in? I don't know. Because it is already starting. I also feel at peace, happy, and excited. So good that I'm not even going to enumerate all the problems I will have to face tomorrow. For now, I'm feeling alive without the struggle. This was, in fact, the easiest thing in the world, which is mind-blowing on its own, so perhaps I can simply enjoy the struggle to understand that good things can also be easy*****, and that will placate the part of my brain that thinks without horrible things happening, I'm not really alive.

*Please note I don't know how mortgages work, are they compound interest loans?

**Please note I also don't understand "odds," though I do understand hyperbole.

***I'm actually trying to avoid family drama as much as possible these days.

****Mike being a guy I met just over a month ago who lives in Florida.

*****I had a neighbor who once told me, when I was complaining about how difficult a brand-new relationship was, that when things are meant to be, they're easy. The whole "no pain, no gain" attitude was, to her, stupid and self-sabotaging. I've parroted her in the past but never fully believed it until today.
2016-11-10 01:57 pm
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Thursday: LJ Idol week 0 - intro post

Well and so, here we are... I'm a 36-year-old Jewish cat lady who currently lives with her alcoholic grandmother and bitter, codependent mother in a trailer double-wide mobile home in rural Oregon. I'm unemployed and depressed. I am working on fixing about half of those things to be better.

I've done Idol a few times before now, and was hesitant to do it this time - if showering and applying for 2 jobs a week is hard, how will I write? But writing brings me out of myself, interacting with people gives me hope. Connections, y'all.... connections are important.

Despite it being week 0, I haven't come up with a cohesive plan for Idol. Not that I've ever come up with a cohesive plan for Idol, but it seems like such a good idea, you know? I'm toying with writing memoir/short stories revolving around sadredneckville because 'they' say to write what you know.... If you've read the book Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock, that's what I'm shooting for... not in a "plagiaristic" type of way, in a "I didn't know people would like stories like this" kind of way, and then we're back to writing what you know! But there may not be a theme for anything either. It's a crap shoot.

Hello and welcome, either way. I look forward to talking with you and reading your work. Also, all concrit is welcome here - I do love and enjoy all the encouraging "this is great!" comments, but if there's something you see that you think would make my writing better, please don't hesitate to tell me! Nicely though, I'm fragile ;)
2016-11-01 09:21 pm
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Tuesday: LJ Idol season 10

LJ Idol season 10 is up! http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/945807.html

I... am signing up. Because I have to get out of this slump somehow, and writing tends to do it for me. I also found a picture I would like to paint, if I can get my shit together. A vague Facebook friend (also from The Homeland, but more a friend of friends?) has been doing a lot of photography lately, and doing a lot of the thing where she combines 2 or 3 pictures together. The latest is a vague outline of her face overlaid with fall leaves, and it's pretty cool. It will be ridiculously hard to paint, especially out of practice. But some years back when I was in a slump, I also found a random person's picture on FB and decided to paint it. It... weirdly turned out looking like me, and never got finished, but hey, it's something right?

So I'm making this post public, encouraging y'all to go check out Idol for some writing goodness, and signing off for tonight :)

edit: Also I forget why, but my posts already default to 'friends only' and so I have to back and edit the entry to make it public... So it may show as each entry being edited for the competition; I'll try to make sure this happens before it's posted so it doesn't look shifty, but if I forget, I trust the readers to point it out quickly ;)
2016-03-16 01:16 pm
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Wednesday: LJ Idol week 14: Obligation.

I started working when I was 13 years old - old school style, babysat over the summer from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for $20 a day. That family ended up moving without warning; I transitioned to after school during the school year, went over to their house like usual, they were gone. Without paying me my final check no less.

That's not what this post is about, though. Not really.

We also had chores growing up, like most kids do. Dishes after dinner, cleaning our rooms, an actual chore schedule (the kitchen garbage can, for instance, got washed out once a month without fail). I was so short I had to stand on something to do the dishes; my dad would check the water temperature and, if it wasn't hot enough for sterilization, he'd let it all out and run the hot water in. Any time I protested the water was too hot for my delicate little hands, he'd grab them and plunge them into the dishwater until they acclimated. It only hurts the first minute or so. Little bright red paws are clumsy, but the dishes got done.

This is closer to what this post is about.

When I was 14, my brother moved into the college dorms. After we dropped him off, dad drove us to a furniture store where he bought a lamp. He held this lamp in his lap and cried all the way home. My brother was 16. He would drop out of college at the age of 18.

That has much more to do with this post.

Despite dropping out, my brother didn't move back in with us. He worked at a restaurant and split a studio apartment with two of his friends, who jointly owned a comic book store.

I stayed home, of course. Despite hours - days, weeks - spent daydreaming of running away, I knew I didn't know how to take care of myself. I did, though, know how to take care of my parents. I knew how to iron dad's dress pants and work shirts to perfection. I knew how to loop his tie and draw it just tight enough. I knew to use up the fresh produce as quick as possible, as dad hated the expense of food gone bad. I can see him still, holding a fistful of wilted, slimy radishes in his hand, "Do you know how much this COSTS?" and flinging it away. I knew how to make a shopping list in aisle order, so my mom could get through the grocery store as fast as possible. I knew which coupons to clip, how to double them.

At 17, with a better job at a local restaurant, I was promoted to more cooking duties and the expense of grocery shopping. I learned you can half-ass lasagna by not boiling the noodles first. Put enough watery green vegetables in there, pop the tinfoil on top, and the noodles steam on their own. I pored through cookbooks. I made meatloaf the way dad used to, with a package of onion soup mix, Saltine crackers, and ketchup on top. I scrubbed, wiped, sanitized, made it to work, made it to school, made it out for parties now and then.

Nearing 18, it was college time. My vote was no college - My jewelry teacher thought he could swing an apprenticeship with a local silversmith. I wanted this. I wanted it badly. I floated the idea of beauty school - cut hair on the side, make jewelry, become a famous artist, done and done.

Dad wasn't okay with this. He'd had one child drop out of college, negating all the status and attention he got for having a child prodigy in the first place. Dad wheedled first - promised he'd figure out how to pay for the entire thing - then threatened. If I didn't go to college ("real" college, 4-year liberal arts type), he would give me 2 weeks to pack everything I owned and find a new place to live. Anything left behind he would burn. I capitulated. After all, "real" college would at least get me out of the house*.

Over and over through this process he told me, "Art doesn't pay the bills. You can't support your family with art. You can't support yourself with art." The argument that being a hairdresser would make up for this fell on deaf ears.

Off to college I went. I worked - couldn't be a burden on my parents, had to buy textbooks, gas, insurance, beer, all that stuff. I made it through. I got jobs. I mostly lived with my parents, dad's logic being that I'd have to pay rent somewhere, why not pay it to them? I could never save quite enough to move out, though I did run off to Brooklyn for a year. Slunk back after realizing the big city wasn't for me, but I go out for awhile.

At 26 I decided to train for medical transcription; I became self-employed at 27 and have been doing it ever since. I'm supposed to be transcribing a report right now, in fact. I'm no longer self-employed** but still a transcriptionist. Since becoming an employee again, I've had to borrow around $3000 from my brother, was forced to stop paying my mom's cell phone bill, couldn't send my dad any more cash***, and am now living with my granny and my mom in a trailer manufactured housing unit, struggling to make ends meet.

Today I'm waiting to hear back from a man named Josh, the manager of a local paint store. Industrial, commercial, domestic paint. Not oil paints, not acrylics, straight house paint. I should hear by tomorrow, Friday at the latest, if he would like me to join his team and sell the shit out of some paint. I have a choice - I can continue on in medical records, buy a business casual wardrobe, maintain certifications, claw my way up a ladder, and make beaucoup bucks. Or I can work at a paint store, make enough for me to support myself (and only myself) and have access to all the free mis-tints my heart desires. There will be no stress. I will have the energy to clean out the garage and set up a silversmithing bench, an easel, move the gemstone faceting machine from my brother's apartment to here.

I will make art. It might be mediocre art; it might be sloppy, ill thought out, unsellable art, but it will be art, and I will be happy.

Also, since this post will reach a wider audience than usual, this is where I ask humbly for good thoughts, prayers, and chicken sacrifices on my behalf. I'm sure the Gods of Paint will also accept chocolate and whiskey sacrifices if you're squeamish about the chicken.****

*There is a long and possibly triggering story behind this, which I will not share now.

**There is a medium-sized story behind this, which I will not share now.

***There is a very long story behind this; in fact, because I can't figure out where to put 4 asterisks, there's two stories - one about the jewelry career and one about dad having a drug-induced psychotic break, neither of which I will share now.

****I keep telling myself I shouldn't get my hopes up, but right now it's down to me or one other guy, and I can't help but hope.

This has been an entry for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol; please read and enjoy all the entries, and vote for the ones you like!
2016-03-11 02:53 pm

Friday: LJ Idol week 13: All that is gold does not glitter.

When I was 16, after we'd moved back to Methford from Washington, dad got a gold claim. I used to mess up and call it a gold mine, and that's obviously not the same thing. Anyway, he got this gold claim outside of Merlin - far outside - or somewhere thereabouts, and was going to slowly make a fortune. You can, right now, still go out to the Rogue and the Applegate and pan for gold and find a few flakes, though you do have to watch out for the fool's gold. The way the gold claim works, best as I understand, is that you get a lease from the BLM for 99 years. You can then sublease your claim, or sell it outright, which is how dad got his. What you find is yours, of course, and you can't do much to the land itself, but this claim came with a small trailer so one could conceivably spend the night out there.

In this process dad met a few cronies, and he learned the ropes pretty quickly, the ropes being simply etiquette and safety. There's bears and cougars out here, plus the rattlesnakes (and black widows; those are relatively shy, though I'm sure the trailer was riddled with them), plus the drug dealers. In southern Oregon it's meth and weed for the most part - was true back then, is true now (though sadly heroin seems to be making a comeback). So for the animals you took a gun (in dad's case, a Russian-made SKS he later sold for a pittance of its value because he was out of booze money), and for the growers/dealers you kept an eye out for PVC pipes, what they'd use for irrigation, and avoid them.

I only went up to the claim once myself. Now, I'm biased, I think southern Oregon is one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. and definitely the most beautiful part of Oregon itself. But, still, the claim was objectively beautiful - golden grass, dark green oaks, crystal-clear creek, the dampest, loamiest dirt ever. There was a massive quartz boulder up the creek a ways, and dad was convinced this was the key to the gold (heaven forbid he just pan the creek, slowly amassing gold flakes; he had to find the mother lode a.s.a.p.). As we walked up the trail beside the creek, we hopped over a few bear or cougar scats - probably bear, as they were large and full of half-digested berries, but oddly I never tried to figure this out. I'm sure there's a Guide to Wildlife Shit, but I never did bother to study up.

We got to the quartz boulder, and part of the slope around it had washed off in a recent rainstorm, leaving a new face exposed and churning the dirt up around it. I saw a gleam in the dirt, stuck my finger out, and came away with a single gold flake. I called my parents back and they got all excited - dad hadn't found any actual gold yet, but he had the little sample bottles ready and had me carefully transfer the flake into a bottle. We walked on, encouraged, then went off the trail a ways where dad showed us a pile of PVC pipe that had recently appeared, making him a bit nervous. We saw nothing (definitely didn't smell tortillas, had a nice day, and left with our single gold flake and a new sense of hope.

Dad would go out to the claim now and then, go out with his cronies and have a few drinks, but that pile of PVC pipe was worrisome. He came back once or twice with stories about running across these guys, them giving him the evil eye and warning him off, how he and the other miners (panners?) were growing increasingly concerned. Then one day he came back and said the PVC pipe guys tried to run him off. I don't know exactly what happened, but one day dad came back from the claim, got some extra supplies, and only came back much later that night, reeking of whiskey and completely - completely - freaked out. The story was garbled, but the gist was that he'd met up with some of his gold-friends to protect his claim from the growers. There had been gunfire from both sides. There was entrenchment and ducking and weaving and shooting back and forth. He was rather afraid he'd killed someone but wouldn't say much more than that.

He didn't, though, go back. Much to my mother's relief (and my own). He claimed some paperwork saga - perhaps someone else over-filed the claim, perhaps his sublease/purchase of it wasn't legal in the first place, I don't know, and honestly I don't care. Even given dad's penchant for drama and exaggeration, I've rarely seen him as freaked out and nervous as he was that night.

For years that sample bottle with the single gold flake sat on our windowsill. Like so much else, it's lost now, but it remains the only piece of gold ever found by my family at that claim.

Bonus song:

This has been an entry for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. Please read, enjoy, and vote for the entries you like best!
2016-03-08 12:39 pm
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Tuesday: LJ Idol open topic (second chance)

The morning started off on the wrong foot, most especially as it wasn't morning, but about 9 at night. I'd been sick (thought it was mono, turned into pneumonia) and sleeping all the time, on my camping pad in the room I shared with the Pox. We'd moved out of the House of Good Names into an apartment in Bed-Stuy that went horribly wrong, so moved back into the same building as HOGN but upstairs, with Nicole and Mackenzie. We had to share a room so split it down the middle with a barrier of suitcases, discarded the queen-sized bed, and used the camping pads pilfered from Bed-Stuy. Not conducive to restful sleep, let alone properly propping myself up to keep the liquid sloshing in my lungs from sloshing up my airway.

Mackenzie was sweet; Nicole was a coke fiend. A coke fiend with a penchant for cooking (but not cleaning) and on-point personal accounting, at least as far as shared bills went. We hadn't bonded much, I guess, so N&M decided it was roommate-bonding time. We were to attend a party not far away, at the Chicken Coop. I knew a few of the guys at the Chicken Coop; I was interning at a museum, and they were art handlers with the company contracted to, well, handle our art.

Despite my protestations, I wasn't much for standing up for myself, and it would be an opportunity to hang with these cute art handlers outside of work parameters, so I gave in to Nicole's demands that I take some of Mackenzie's ADHD meds to perk myself up and handed over approximately $2 in change so Nicole could buy us beer. (Note that I also have ADHD, so the meds weren't amazing helpful, but I took them anyway.) The Pox and I were both pretty broke, so gave firm instructions to get us a 40 ouncer of Ballantine's each. Nicole came back with a half-rack of Corona and a bag of limes, informing us that we each owed her for the beer, despite her going against our express instructions. We piled into her car, she handed me a kitchen knife, and roared off down the street. I proceeded to cut the limes, handing them to the Pox who stuffed them into the Coronas and handed them out on the drive, desperately trying not to poke myself - or anybody - in the eye in the process.

When we arrived, we were first harangued by a man in a wheelchair guarding the door. "Are you 12? You're too young to party!" Etc. etc. etc. Not sure of the etiquette (was there an entrance fee? Should Nicole fight him? He's in a wheelchair, she can't fight him), we mumbled and shuffled and sipped our Coronas until he finally stood up and walked away, to our relief and surprise.

Up the stairs to a dimly lit empty loft space, dance music pumping, about 3 dirty punks flailing away. Nobody familiar. Into the next room, a repeat of the first, so up the stairs to the second floor. The door to the living quarters was locked, nobody answered our knock. Back down the stairs to the second loft space where we milled ourselves into a line of confusion, still politely sipping our Coronas, trying to act casual. Off to our right was a knot of bike messengers, clustered around someone, but we couldn't see who, so we stood there, sipping... finally a guy walked up to my left and stood in line with us, sipping his thematically appropriate 40 of whatever, then finally said, "yeah, that's him."

"Who?" I asked, as I still couldn't see past the knot of bike messengers.

"Puck. That's Puck," he replied, "The guy from the Real World? All the bike messengers are pretty pumped."

I nodded, not caring, not caring to fake looking like I cared, and sipped my Corona more.

A second passed, and this guy whipped out a little baggie and asked if I'd like to do some coke. I figured nothing could make this night worse, so nodded and slipped behind a small partition with him, snorting out of the palm of his hand, while we chatted a bit. After slipping back out, Nicole caught my eye and gestured frantically - "Were you doing coke? Is that guy holding? Get me some."

I couldn't quite resist the force of her personality so wandered around finding the guy (oddly difficult in a room with so few people, until I realized there was an open window to the roof where a few more were hanging out). He happily agreed to share his cocaine, so the rest of the party involved him taking us, singly or in clumps, behind a partition and snorting his coke. This didn't last too long, but long enough, until the party was finally obviously dispersing. By this point, Nicole and Mackenzie had run across some acquaintances, the Alabama brothers. I didn't know their names then and don't know them now, they were always referred to as the Alabama brothers. They were to come home with us, and after a furious whispered discussion with Coke Guy, he was as well.

We all piled into the car, sans Coke Guy who was on his bike, and endured another terrifying ride home, one of the Alabama brother's erection poking me in the hip the whole way, as I had to sit on his lap, but going 50 through Brooklyn, it wasn't a long ride. Soon after we all reconvened, Coke Guy showed up and slapped down another baggie. We all did a few snorts, then Nicole and Mackenzie retired to their lairs with an Alabama brother each, leaving the Pox, myself, and Coke Guy all staring at each other.

So he flipped out another baggie... and another and another. I'd never seen so much coke in my life. He'd forget one was on the table and bring out another, and another. He asked for beer, but we had none, so we just kept snorting the coke until dawn broke. In a daze, neither the Pox nor myself had figured out how to get rid of him. He seemed perfectly at ease, himself, and there was also this tiny idea that we had to politely chat to say thanks for the coke, but then he'd flip out another baggie and it just kept going.

Finally - FINALLY - one of us said we have to go to bed, and if he could please leave, or he could crash on the couch, but preferably leave... He looked up sharply at this, looked at us both, and said, "I thought I'd be getting more than beer out of this." We stared at him, befuddled, coked beyond words, and he sadly started packing up his coke. However, he couldn't get it back into the baggies. He asked for a MetroCard, which I didn't have, and the Pox shook her head vehemently, thinking he wanted to borrow it to get on the subway and she'd never see it again. It took a lot of thinking - the hamsters turning the wheels in our brains having died of a coke overdose hours prior - to realize he just needed it to scoop the coke back into the baggies.

Another painstaking process took place, getting every last crumb and trail back into the bag, then he left. Relief. Such relief. Except we couldn't sleep, at all. As the day got brighter, I sat on the couch trying to play solitaire on the Pox's laptop, blocking out the sounds of /smack-smack-moan-smack-moan/ coming from Mackenzie's room, just letting my brain rest and my heart recover. I don't know when it was, that day, a few days later, a week... Nicole asked how it went with Coke Guy, a sly smirk on her face, and I told her he left at daybreak, all innocence.

I've never seen an expression like that before - I can't describe the anger, horror, panic that flashed across her face. She yelled, "But I promised him! We couldn't pay for the coke, and I promised him!"

It took awhile to get out what the promise was - but Nicole had guaranteed, for a fresh supply of cocaine for herself all night, and us too because she's not totally selfish, that if he came back to our place he'd get laid. She'd assumed it would be me, since I'd talked to him the most, but the Pox was there as backup, and we hadn't come through with our end of the deal at all. She was absolutely terrified that this coke dealer would come for her, that she owed him something she was never going to pay for herself, and it was all my fault for not putting out.

Lesson learned? Don't drink Corona with lime. In the end, it can only result in getting traded to a drug dealer for sexual favors, and that's a situation nobody wants to be in.

Also: Don't do cocaine.

bonus picture )
2016-02-26 09:48 am

Friday: LJ Idol week 11

I am afraid of flying. I have to fly, to get to places I want to be, and I try to console myself by repeating (obsessively, while death-gripping the armrests of my seat) that there's a bravery in doing things you're afraid of. I also remind myself that physics are wonderful, that if there is a God, It doesn't want me to die yet, and on some flights even figuring the over-priced airport fast food nuggets count as a modern-day chicken sacrifice. Flying is innocuous, yet I'm terrified of it. I hate turbulence especially, so when we hit turbulence, I remind myself that turbulence rarely, if ever these days, causes the plane to crash. Much more likely is mechanical failure; the most dangerous times are takeoff and landing. Which makes takeoff and landing rather awful, but it works for the turbulence. Spectacularly unhelpful were the fellows one row back on my last flight home who decided to converse about Interesting Plane Crashes Through History, but I managed to tune them out.

I think what I'm afraid of isn't so much the flying itself (again, physics! very comforting!) but the idea that I will have my last moments be full of terror and awfulness and screaming. "You will feel a slight tingle, followed by death," is the exact opposite of this. If I knew death was coming, I might be scared of dying itself, of no longer being alive, but at least it's a slight tingle, versus fear and pain and screaming and all that. Since I'm not really sure what happens in the afterlife, if there is such a thing, I'd take a slight tingle over a flaming ball of wreckage hurtling from the sky any day.

I also get this sense of vertigo. Or at least I used to call it vertigo; I didn't realize there's a word that may describe it. The definition for occhiolism from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is rather long, but is elsewhere summarized as "the awareness of the smallness of your perspective in the scheme of the universe." I have had one or two flights where I was struck by the absolute beauty and amazeballsness of flying, and was able to contemplate the wonder of being 30,000 feet over the earth... then the 30,000 feet concept strikes. The sheer nothingness between myself and the ground, the weirdness of being this tiny human in a slightly-less-tiny tin can, surrounded by air and sky and clouds, separated from any firmament by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or millions of miles, and suddenly I'm caught in an emotional vertigo, a speck, a nothing. It's the same sensation I get when swimming, especially in the ocean. Suddenly the depth below me and the height above me (coupled with a fear of something slimy brushing my leg), and I'm gasping with the knowledge of how insignificant I really am in the scheme of things, both physically - in mass and size - and mentally/emotionally. It's not a horrible sensation per se, but the wrenching of perspective from ego-filled-me to speck-of-a-being is dizzying.

All that said, I had a good trip to Puerto Rico. It was laidback; I didn't make it to a drag show or a punk show and completely missed the handwritten sign to a burlesque show just down the street until it was far too late to go. I didn't swim in the ocean (see above), but I did frolic in the waves. I didn't swim with the manatees, either, but maybe next time )
2016-02-16 10:11 pm
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Thursday: LJ Idol Week 10

About 11 years ago, I bought a car. I hadn't owned one in years, but she came up for sale and I couldn't resist. A '68 Rambler*, powder blue, 3 on a tree, blocky and old and adorable. I named her Phaedra**. I only drove her twice, once on the way home where she died and had to be towed out to an auto shop; a second time when the mechanic refused to work on her at all and demanded she be removed from his business. This second drive was the most terrifying of my life. If you've never driven (or heard of) a 3 on a tree, it's a 3-speed manual transmission, the shifter being on the wheel shaft***. The car is practically unstealable because nobody knows how to drive one these days. I was given a crash course by the guys I bought her from and sent on my way; this second drive was weeks afterward, struggling to remember how it worked. Plus the brakes were bad, the turn signals didn't work and I kept mixing up my hand signals... and there was no speedometer. I collected my brother to be a pacer car; it was about 8 miles out to granny's house, much of it on busy roads.

The bright side? Every single person I passed over the age of about 50 brightened and smiled and waved enthusiastically as I went by. The down side? Everything else. My brother was supposed to go in front, you know, keep to the speed limit so I knew how fast I was going. But as I struggled with the transmission, he slowed down... and slowed down... and every time he did, I had to slow down too - with no brakes. I spent a lot of time veering into the ditch to lose speed, then swooping back out to catch back up. He'd see me come out of the ditch too fast and speed back up, then lose me and slow back down, so we had this sort of... slinky effect, I guess. Getting onto the highway itself almost gave me an aneurysm, I'm a biological coward, but I got it to granny's safely. I parked it there, intending to work on it slowly, enter it into some car shows, then got a job up in Portland and left.

Cut to about 2 years later, I'm on the phone with dad, wondering if I should sell it or order some parts and start working. My dad wasn't much for advice giving, not one of those dads like you see on TV, kicked back in front of the TV sucking on a pipe and ruffling his kids' hair. His nuggets of wisdom came, say, on the front porch, when he'd crumple up the roll of tinfoil he'd smoked his salvia/weed mix out of, and he'd whisper, "Oh my god, did you see that dragon? It WHOOSHED up the driveway!" When he did give input, it was surprisingly pithy. After a long and rambling deliberation, he cut in with, "Sometimes you just gotta cut your losses and walk away." Granny had been threatening to turn the damn thing into a flower planter, if only she could get the trunk open (it came locked, with some tantalizing rattling noises - never did figure out what was in there), then some old guy came over the mountains and knocked on her door. He offered her $300 for the Rambler, and he'd haul it away any day. I couldn't figure out how to hedge my bet on this one; I'd gambled and lost. I had her forge my signature on the necessary documents, and she collected the money. Next time I came to visit, Phaedra was gone. But I did have $300 (minus the $18 or so I used to buy granny a rack of Busch Light to say thanks for her patience), and a pretty good story. When I could remember it better, that terrifying drive knocked people's socks off. And other things... For whatever reason, girls who are into cars are either fetish territory or automatically suspect as lesbians****, so when I told guys about my cars, I'd get one of two reactions - "Oh my god that's so hot," or "Are you a lesbian?"

One night not too long after Phaedra's departure, I went out to meet a guy... I can't remember his name, actually, let's call him Colin. So, I don't really date to "type." Sincerely and truly, personality and intelligence are way more important than looks. That said, if I have a type, it runs to tall, skinny, fluffy haired, beaky nosed, and covered in tattoos. Colin was all of these things - about 6'4", built like a scarecrow, nose like Pinocchio after 10 lies. So there we are on our first date, having identified him in a bar thanks to his outlandish socks, and we immediately strike up a bizarre conversation where he tells me he's into the arcane. Like, Aleister Crowley type of arcane. Which, fine; I'm an agnostic Quaker Jew, I won't judge. After a few beers, though, he told me his trick to dating - masturbate beforehand and smear the juices all over your underpants. There may or may not have been a spell along with it. Wash your hands so it ain't so obvious, but go out laden with pheromones and you'll be beating the ladies (or laddies) off with a stick. On the walk back to his place, we started talking about cars. Over the Hawthorne Bridge, I waxed poetic, all about my '69 Rambler (that was a Freudian slip if such things exist, as it was a '68), all the way back to his place. After he showed me his collection of occult books and introduced me to his cat, we got a little snuggly. Stayed up late doing some light necking (for real, just making out... I might be fast, but I ain't easy), and the next morning he was kind enough to send me off with cab fare. I used the money for a bus ticket and grocery store sushi, stomach wobbly, head throbbing, the sunlight streaming ice picks into my skull.


*Like this but way more beat up.
**I was pretty obsessed with this song back then.
***I wish Youtube had existed in 2005, so I could watch videos on how to drive a 3-speed manual transmission.
****Let's not even get into the whole gender/sexuality identity spectrum problem here... just a subjective and fast explanation of my past experiences being judged solely on my hobbies and interests.

This has been an entry for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. Please also see my teammates' entries (and vote for us all!), which are: [livejournal.com profile] i_love_freddie, [livejournal.com profile] ellison, [livejournal.com profile] inteus_mika, and [livejournal.com profile] prog_schlock.
2016-02-12 10:03 am
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Friday: LJ Idol week 9: Normalization.

The last few weeks have been good for me. I had my first professional facial (with ear massage! Get yourself an ear massage, holy crap), my team won the Super Bowl, it's been unseasonably warm and sunny*, and a friend who's working in Puerto Rico sent me a plane ticket to visit her. Most importantly, my supervisor at work, who has managed to ignore multiple emails about work-related issues over the months, responded to my time-off request quickly and nicely. Even stressful things like taking my old fat cat to the dentist, and the young half-feral cat for her shots, have worked out well. The coffeemaker broke, but I quickly figured out how to use the old percolator.

I'm also exercising more. I signed up to run a 5K in the summer, so I need to train. The best side effect of this is that it allows me to hang out with my mom without wanting to strangle her. As mentioned last week, she can be bossy and nitpicky in a real condescending way. I didn't want to spring for an interval trainer app, but I am doing the Couch to 5K program, so I can hand over my phone and have her yell out the intervals to me as the stopwatch is going. She gets her exercise AND gets to tell me what to do, and I get to feel like An Athlete. The shin splints don't help, but I'm icing and elevating and stretching, and I think it'll be okay.

And yet I'm completely clenched up, on guard, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Nothing in my life has prepared me for a solid 2 weeks of goodness. Sure, there was that final fight with the guy I broke up with a few weeks back**. And, sure, there's been figuring out how to pay for the cat-dentist and juggling bills, as well as coordinating a relatively last-minute trip to Mosquito Death Land. But nothing is truly wrong, and that apparently scares the shit out of me.

The last years have been intense. In 2012 my dad had a drug-related psychotic break, I was ending an abusive relationship, moving to a new town; in 2013 my business failed, and while I was lucky to find a job quickly, it pays about a third of what I used to make. I found myself spending days off at the food bank and drinking to excess on my friends' dimes. I decided to move back home, but when my dad got out of jail and started threatening my mom, she asked to move in with me up north - then never did, and I needed that money to pay the rent. Somewhere in there I enrolled in, and dropped out of, graduate school. My brother had been picking up the slack on my bills, and indeed on the day I was set to move back home I discovered I'd overdrawn my bank account and credit card both with a mistimed power bill, so my brother, bless him, paid for my entire move at the last-minute (as well as drove the U-Haul).

I've been home almost a year now, and it's been an adjustment, but it's weird how pleasant life is without 3 a.m. phone calls from dad, telling me how the only thing that blocks the government radio waves from entering his brain is public radio; or how empowering it is to pay my own bills, without having to ask someone for just $20 to cover the electricity; or to simply go grocery shopping, instead of standing in line then finding out the bread is moldy. Not to say that only bad things used to happen, and only good things are happening now, but somehow there aren't the huge ups and downs.

Normal feels really good. It's nice (which I'm now convinced is a vastly underrated word), and apparently nice freaks me out. There's no emergency, rare urgency; an ebb and flow of good and less-good, but no terror, no panic... It's completely surreal, but if this is normal, I rather like it. Life is pleasant.

footnotes )

This has been an entry for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. I'm a part of Team Clueless, please also read and enjoy my teammates' entries! [livejournal.com profile] inteus_mika's is here, [livejournal.com profile] prog_schlock's is here, [livejournal.com profile] i_love_freddie's is here, and [livejournal.com profile] ellison's is here.
2016-02-04 08:50 pm
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Thursday: LJ Idol week 8: The abstainer's vow.

Two mornings ago I woke up and coughed once, a thumb-sized piece of phlegm in my throat. Still in bed, I grabbed the nearest thing to me and hocked into it, staring at a gray-flecked jelly-like wad of mucus. From my lungs. Better out than in, but I've been quitting smoking for months now, obviously not successfully, and here was proof of my backsliding.

I just smoked my last cigarette before coming to write this. It's my last because tomorrow is my birthday and my quit date. I've got nicotine gum and a book called The Easy Way to Quit Smoking, which actually doesn't recommend gum or any other replacer, but there it is - I already bought the gum so I have it just in case. The book talks about psychology versus physiology, and being on a quest to regain control of my psychology, I find it very helpful. I do recommend it.

I haven't smoked marijuana since June 6, 2015. I've been drunk exactly since 3 times since July 31, 2015. Each time I did so because I was avoiding emotions and dealing with stress in the least helpful way possible. It's been... 5? years since I did cocaine, even longer for any other drugs.

I'm tooting my own horn a little bit, listing the accomplishments, but here's the thing: If you've read my comments on your own entries, you'll notice I've been a bit emotional. I've stripped away all the layers that stand between myself and emotions, and it's utterly surreal. I like metaphors, and I've searched pretty hard for an accurate one - the best I can come up with is that it's like being outside on a bright sunny day and taking off your sunglasses. It hurts. Your eyes tear up, you feel blinded at first, you can either put your sunglasses back on or you can adjust to the daylight and keep going. This time, I'm keeping going. It's me in the sunlight, me and my emotions.

I looked up 'abstainer's vow' and ran across mentions of the Nazarites; I have a degree and a half in religion so I thought at first I'd come up with some amazing story or a nice essay that would blow your minds. But then I looked up the definition of abstain itself. It is to "restrain oneself from doing or enjoying something."

I can restrain myself from smoking because smoking isn't actually enjoyable, it's simply something else to do when I'm bored or frustrated or need time to myself. Granted, I can't actually shake my mom til her teeth rattle*, but I don't have to go outside and smoke to deal either. There's no great wrap-up to this, no real meaningful and witty zinger of a last sentence, but a simple thank you to the people around me who have encouraged and supported me. You guys have done it, and you didn't even know it. The enjoyment of reading your entries, the amazing comments I've gotten on my posts, the conversations that have started - all these things are meaningful to me. You never know when your tiny action is a huge deal in someone else's life, or when your kindness and interest are the bright spot in someone else's day.

*Example of a maternal interaction:
Me: "I'm going out to the garage, back in a second."
Mom: "It's dark so turn on the porch light."
Me: "..........."

Me: "I'm going for a walk."
Mom: "Tie your shoelaces tight."
Me: "........."

She says it's a mom thing, that you never stop worrying about your kids, but in my opinion, if I fail to turn on the porch light and fall down the stairs, I sort of deserve it. Or if I've reached the age of (almost) 36 and can't remember to tie my shoelaces, something is very wrong.

Bonus song:

edit: Please also read my teammates' entries and vote for us all! i_love_freddie, prog_schlock, inteus-mika, and ellison!