Monday, July 31, 2006

waspy and the bar(s)

I met up with Waspy this weekend at our favorite bar downtown, Hobo's, to get the scoop on the bar exam which she just took last week. She had been pretty tight-lipped about the whole thing and warned me that she'd rebuffed advances from all others who wanted to know how it went. However, only three sips into her vodka-cran, and she was ready to spill.

It's a two day exam given at the Airport Holiday Inn, where many of the takers end up staying the night before and during to help minimize stress. Waspy did it and it sounds like a pretty good plan to me. I'd rather roll out of a hotel bed at 7am and down to the 7:30 registration rather than roll out of my own bed at 6 and into my car to fight traffic to the airport, vibrating with anxiety all the way.

So, day-one starts with the practical application part of the exam. You're given a case file and an assignment and some basic instructions, then you have 90 minutes to crank out work product like a real lawyer. Maybe you will have to draft a will, an informational letter to a client, or a list of interrogetories. Waspy had to write a memorandum to a senior attorney. She said it was the easiest part and was the best way to start the whole process because it let you gently ease into the rhythm of writing and thinking about the law.

After that, there's a break, then comes the essay portion. There are nine, half-hour essays. Half-hour! That sounds, to me, like a great relief, because there's nothing more terrifying and potentially disastrous as the law school exam that consists of *one* essay question that you must answer in *three* hours. That means: there's a hell of a lot of stuff in that question that you will never in a million years catch, but you've got three whole hours to knock your brain up against it and drive yourself crazy. Nine, half-hour exams don't sound so bad.

After that, you're done with day-one and you fight the urge to go sit in the hotel bar and get completely drunk because you have to be able to get up and go at it again on day-two. You try to eat, you go to your room, maybe you cry a lot, maybe you call the people who love you and beg for sympathy, I don't know. Then you try to get a good night's sleep.

Day-two is multi-state multiple choice day. All across the country, people in every state will be sitting down on the same day, at roughly the same time to take this exact same multiple choice test -- so imagine that the cumulative, national energy around this test is powerful, like, perhaps powerful enough to send a wave of terror out into space that could knock sattelites out of orbit. I think Waspy said there were three, two-hour sessions. Anyone who's been in law school knows: multiple choice is the hardest and worst kind of test on the planet. Law school starts pounding into you from the first day that there are NO ANSWERS, ONLY MORE QUESTIONS! So the multiple choice test goes against everything you've been taught and forces you to somehow pick out ONE answer without being able to explain or qualify or say ANYTHING about your choice. It is torture.

This part of the exam only tests on the six basic areas of law that everyone learns in their first year of law school: contracts, torts, property, criminal law, constitutional law and evidence. I think. Frankly, I can't even remember anymore, but that seems about right. Once this six hour nightmare is over, it's done. You leave, you're numb, you can't believe you lived through it and *then* you go get completely drunk because it is a guaranteed fact that you will not be good for anything else at all for a few days. Then do you relax? No. You do not relax until you get your results in September, and then you only relax if the results are good. Why? Because, in Waspy's words, "I'd rather give birth to another baby than ever take the bar exam again." Sounds great! How do I sign up??

Saturday, July 29, 2006

my sordid past comes knocking

Just a moment ago, I heard a pounding on my door. I had been in the middle of writing a blog about how I haven't talked anymore to my neighbor across the street since the day we chatted for half-an-hour after my car was sideswiped. I was thinking about how weird and reclusive I can be and when the knock came I thought, "Wow, how ironic, that's probably my nieghbor popping in to say hi." She'd been ouside earlier, coming and going.

I answered the door expecting to see her there, or maybe my upstairs land people, or maybe... who might randomly show up? My friend Leo? Dreadlock moved away, so it couldn't be her. Maybe the weird mover-guy with the motobecane bicycle who dropped by right after he moved my stuff 6 months ago. I don't know. What I did *not* expect was an old, bald guy from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with my name on a clipboard.

"Are you 'Prudent Poet'?" He asked, calling me by my middle name.

"*Reasonably* Prudent Poet," I corrected and glanced at his clipboard in puzzlement. That's when I saw, at the top of the page, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Beneath it, I noticed a host of personal information including my birthplace and date. Fucking unreal. I haven't been a mormon since the '80s. I haven't been to mormon church since I was 13 and lived in Smithfield North Carolina.

"We've got your name on our records here and we just wanted to know how you felt about the church and if you might be interested in getting involved again." I think my mouth was hanging open. I haven't been contacted by a member of the church since I was in college and once a year somebody from the campus mormon group would call me up and ask me if I wanted them to send the missionaries or visiting home teachers over to visit and teach me in my home. I always politely declined. Needless to say, I have moved around a *lot* since then but god bless those mormons, they keep good fucking track of every single one of the flock and they managed to track me down years later, here in my dark little Portland basement. Unreal.

I said, as nicely as I could, "No, I'm not interested in getting involved with the church again." Which he could probably guess by the coffee smell, wafting out my door. (Mormons don't let you drink coffee. What the hell is wrong with them???) Or maybe the heavy odor of EAU DE HOMO that rolls off me like bad perfume... I don't know. Either way, he didn't fight for me, he just said, "Ok, would you mind just writing at the bottom of the sheet here that you'd like to be removed from the records of the church, then sign and date." No I wouldn't mind. At least, I thought I wouldn't mind, but I have to admit, I felt a little pang of something as I did it. Nostalgia about something. Regret about something. Why didn't he even try to talk me into coming to church again?? Why didn't he offer to send me some cute, young, well-scrubbed missionary boys over to try and re-save my soul. I knew as I signed the paper that he was thinking "Oh well, there goes her eternal salvation." He sure didn't seem too broken up about it.

Oh well. I guess I'm not too broken up about it either.

Friday, July 28, 2006

mr. crankypants can shut the fuck up

The retreat was fun. It was not a rip-roaring good time, it was not a laugh-riot, it was not a barrel of monkeys. But it was fun. There was a lot of food. There was a grill -- *two* grills, actually. There was a gorgeous forest. And, best of all, there was a really great river to swim and play in. And we swam and played and it was good. Some people snuck off to the woods to smoke pot. Some people made an effort to talk to the newer staff or the more lonesome staff who haven't made buddies yet. Some people took walks with their girlfriends and got in fights. Ahem. But, whatever. All in all it was a good time.

Meanwhile, while I was playing in the water and enjoying myself to the best of my abilities, my dear friend Waspy was taking the Oregon State Bar Exam. Fun times!! Emails were not immediately returned, but I finally heard from her today. In a tight-lipped statement she reported feeling the presence of "bad luck" but she declined further comment. I am trying to get her to agree to a happy hour engagement where I will hopefully hear more of the story. Until then... whatever.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

staff retreat!

Tomorrow we are all going to Oxbow Park just outside Troutdale for a staff retreat. We will eat hamburgers, consider swimming in the river and pretend we like each other for a few hours only because we are being paid to attend. It's pretty fucking pathetic, really. Back in the good ol' days when I first started at this joint, we were all friends and we all hung out outside work together like a big happy family. Now... we're like a big, dysfunctional family full of passive-aggressive backstabbers and lazy sacks of shit who don't pull their weight and don't care. It's awesome!

The best place to be tomorrow will be here, at work. While all the real staff are yawning and sniping at each other at the park, this place will be staffed by on-callers. On-callers are the substitute teachers of this line of work. They aren't around much, they don't know all the rules, and they're easy to take advantage of. I hope the residents have a crazy-go-nuts good time and wreak lots of harmless havoc while the rest of us have no fun in the sun on our "retreat." Yee-haw.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

confessions of a high school wrestler

I've mentioned my coworker Simba before. He's the "player" at work -- kinda dopey, kinda simple, but sexy enough, with his tight body, his shoulder-length dreads and his amber eyes. He always ends up sleeping with the women he meets, whether he meets them in bars, at music festivals or (lucky him) at work where each newly hired woman might be the next woman who hears his fateful come-on: "hey, we should go get a beer sometime."

Anyway, for some reason, when I work with Simba and things get quiet, he starts talking. He's like a curious squirrel, if I just sit still long enough and don't say anything, he crawls over and starts chattering to me. I've heard completely unprompted explanations of his sexual exploits with different women I work with on three separate occasions, among many other little thoughts and meanderings of his. Personally, I find most of it boring, but he's so affable (and also kinda dumb), I don't want to hurt his feelings by shutting him down. While he's talking, I try and imagine the glazed over look he would get if *I* were to suddenly start talking so much. I doubt the listening would be reciprocated, but maybe I'm just being cynical.

Last night he started talking about high school wrestling. I can't remember what prompted it, but he spent about 45 minutes describing to me the bizarre and dangerous things he did to maintain his target weight as a wrestler. His target weight was about 15 pounds under his normal weight -- and he was already a very lean guy. He described a lifestyle taken directly from an after-school-special on eating disorders: he would sleep wrapped in garbage bags to sweat out water-weight, he would jog wearing lots and lots of warm clothes, he would hardly eat and he'd be hungry all the time, he would sometimes take dieretics and he'd spend between 6-8 hours a *day* working out in the gym. If he wanted to eat something substantial, he would weigh it first, then jog long enough to lose exactly the same amount of weight so he could eat it without actually putting any weight on.

Of course, he often found himself dizzy and headachey, hungry and dehydrated -- he couldn't concentrate in school and in some of his wrestling matches he'd be too exhausted to wrestle. And he wasn't the only one in this boat -- it was common among the other wrestlers. And they weren't dreaming up all this pressure on their own. He described the emotional ass-whooping and public shaming they would get from their coach if they didn't "make weight." If you didn't make weight, you let your whole team down and you were a disgrace. How fucked up is all that??? He told me that, even after he stopped wrestling, he was terrified he'd get fat if he stopped treating his body in such a fucked up way, so several of the behaviors persisted for years.

I was shocked as I listened to all that. Now I won't be so surprised when I hear about the next 16 year old kid who drops dead during football practice because his heart exploded. Why isn't anyone talking about this kind of eating disorder? The kind that *boys* have, the kind that's encouraged by coaches and the atmosphere of competetive sports? It's dangerous and damaging, physically and emotionally, and ignoring it just keeps that gap wide open between the way we treat men and women in this society. Women are targetted for caretaking, but men are expected to be hard no matter what. It's depressing.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

being found out

Welcome to more of my long-winded psychologizing. I was just thinking about this process I have around being "found out." I read an interesting thing in the Sunday Times today that helped put this "process" into perspective. This story I read was about the snippet of candid (colorful) conversation accidentally recorded between Bush and Blair at the G-8 Summit last week. This wasn't the first time Bush was caught unbeknownst to him breakin' it down to his homies in the four-letter vernacular of the streets. This time he said "shit." Last time he called a New York Times reporter an asshole. That George. He really knows how to turn a phrase.

So, the story went on to remind us of some unflattering comments made by other presidents that were caught on tape in the past, from Clinton to Kennedy to Nixon -- even Ronnie was overheard making an unfunny joke about blowing up Russia when he thought the mics were off. Woops. Are we surprised to learn our leaders are not the polished gentlemen we like to think they are? Maybe. Does it end up hurting their careers? Sometimes. Does it remind us that perhaps *none* of us are as polished as we'd like to be? Yeah, I think so.

It's a little scary to realize, then, that people seem to get a lot of pleasure uncovering the bad deeds of others and denouncing them as a result. I'm sure we pounce on the bad deeds of others because we're worried about our own bad deeds and the possibility that they will soon be uncovered and pounced upon. Instead of being vindictive, defensive and sanctimonious, it would be nice if we could use our knowledge of the bad deeds of others to help us have a softer, friendlier approach to our own bad deeds. That would be better than taking pleasure in someone else's downfall while secretly hating ourselves and hourding our own bad deeds into closets and under rugs, however benign and insignificant they may seem.

I worry about being "found out," discovered as... as... what? A bad student? A bad person? I have bad grades, I have worse finances, I don't always do my best at my job, I'm sometimes a bad girlfriend. I don't want to excuse any of this stuff, I just think I need some perspective. I read about the bad deeds of the so-called good-guys in the paper today and it helps me have a context for my own "bad deeds." It helps me stop beating myself up about things. Only just a little, but it's a start.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

gems from old journals

In an effort to sort out why I'm such an ass-hole all the time, I dragged out the big, red tub which contains all my old journals and started doing some "research." Here are some of gems I uncovered, circa 1992. I was seventeen through most of this rambling and in my senior year of high-school. My motto, which I have scrawled around on the backs of notebooks and across the dividers, was "expect nothing." I was also, oddly, a christian and I had this favorite bible quote that I've written everywhere, from Proverbs 14:13: "Even in laughter, the heart is sorrowful and the end of that mirth is heaviness." Wasn't I happy and full of light? It's amazing that I didn't listen to Morrissey or seriously try and kill myself.

Other interesting bits I discovered, all telling in their simplicity and weirdness. On a page marked "story ideas," I found these: "1.) This family of forest creatures is separated when a highway is put up through their forest. They stare across at each other and cry." (What the fuck??) "2.) About this girl who gets picked on and bad things happen to her but she doesn't mind because she's used to it. You learn to love her." (Again, I ask you, what the fuck????)

Want more? I got more. This part was written in July of '92 while I was spending a month in Georgia visiting my dad and my grandparents. I used to spend all day with my grandparents while my dad was at work, then I'd run up to his house up the hill when he got home. I dreaded this part of the day because it involved my stepmother and brothers and was always miserable. So here's the journal part: "Sometimes I feel kinda guilty for staying down here all day and not going up to play with the boys (my brothers who were, at that time, about eight years old) during the day, but let me tell you a secret. One: they don't like me, nor do they want to play with me and two: Suzanne (my stepmother) hates me and she makes me feel *more* than unwelcome." Fun.

Ok, are you ready for one last bit? This one speaks exactly to the issue of the day (which is pretty fucking sad, considering this took place 13 years ago and you'd think I would've evolved a little more). This is from January of '93 and I was 18, at school, talking about a teacher: "MW (my favorite teacher) came in and I aggravated her a little. I can't help it -- I don't mean to do and say mean things, but all my life that's how I've been treated by my mom. I can't show my happy feelings in any way but by saying mean things. Do you understand? It's sad, and I know that, but I can't help it because to say unmean things makes me feel weird." God this is pathetic.

Anyway -- yeah -- pathetic. The most pathetic thing is that I'm still grappling with the same shit. It's not quite as bad. I'm not being mean in lieu of being nice like I did when I was 18. But the knee-jerk response of snappishness is sometimes still there. And the self-loathing is always sort of gurgling under the surface. Incredible not to have come any further in all this time. Perhaps I should've invested just a little more time and money in therapy over the years...? Yes. Perhaps.

mr. crankypants returns from nature unscathed

SK and I spent a lovely day and night camping, hiking and lounging around on Mirror Lake and now we're back and I'm still a total bitch, so, go figure. I've put myself in "time-out" over at my house and I will not come out until I think about what I've done. Lucky for the world, I guess, because that means I'll be updating my blog sooner than I would if I was still sitting over at SK's watching old reruns of Sex in the City.

So, we got up early yesterday morning and packed up and hit the road for weekend liesure. This particular little camping trip involved a thirty-minute hike in, uphill all the way, carrying a forty pound pack. This was a true test of my emerging athleticism and I give all the credit for my ability to actually do it to the Keen hiking sandals I got last month. Not only did those hiking sandals give me a smooth hike up the hill today, they actually inspired me from the day I got them to do lots and lots of walking which has caused me to actually get in shape. Amazing!

So we hiked up to the lake, set up camp and were on the water by noon. It was gorgeous. We spent most of the day just lounging. SK swam, I sat and stared at nature with my feet in the water (still in the sandals, mind you)... Yeah... anyway, we also ate fabulous sandwiches that SK made for the trip because she's a food goddess, among other things. Then we hiked around the lake, saw lots of garter snakes and came back to camp for some supper. It was uneventful but lovely. I was, of course, brooding and worried about my life in general, which is a fun, new state of mind for me to occupy these days. I can't fucking shake it! I don't know what to do. But whatever, I was hoping a couple days in nature might help... however... not so much.

Yadda, yadda, we lounged in the tent to avoid the hordes of biting flies that plagued any part of the lake area that wasn't breezey (like our campsite) and ended up going to bed pretty early. We got up early too and took a long, awesome hike up a ridge that looked way down on the lake and across to Mt. Hood. It was gorgeous and I was proud of my newfound hiking abilities. No more burning lungs for me! I'm a pro now! Then we hiked back down, stuck our heads in the lake for refreshment, then packed up the camp and headed back to Portland.

After a whirlwind trip to my house for showers and over for our weekly, weekend burritos at Bonita Taqueria on Alberta, we ended up back at SK's by 5 watching episodes of Sex in the City on DVD from the library. I have to explain, through the duration of that show on television, I didn't have cable (or even a tv some of the time... like now...) and until a couple of weeks ago I had never seen a single episode. Not a single episode! Not even over at someone's house or playing in a bar or any of the other places where I manage to catch episodes of other stupid shit like Everybody Loves Raymond and Reno 911. So SK started checking them out of the library and playing them for me a few episodes at a time and I have to say... I've been diggin' em. At first I was disappointed, but the characters started to grow on me and, of course, we watched the season where that hot guy who used to be on Northern Exposure played Carrie Bradshaw's boyfriend, and that was pretty fun to watch...

But I digress. I was also feeling hot and tired and crampy and I said something bitchy to SK, something I'm not even sure I remember, I just remember the effect it had, and that's when I decided to put myself in time-out. I'm not liking myself very much these days and I'm not sure what to do about it. But, being a jerk to my girlfriend is not the answer. So here I am, home alone, to think about what I've done. My land-people (who live above me) are out of town for the weekend... so maybe I'll take advantage of my unusual solitude and play my guitar and sing really loud. That always cheers me up.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

mr. crankypants goes to nature

Due to inexplicable hormonal fluctuations, I have been a total crankypants asshole for a whole week now. I am so sorry to anyone (SK, especially, and some other innocent bystanders) who were on the recieving end of any of my snarkiness this week. Today took crankiness and compounded it with exhaustion and made me almost too tired to be cranky, but I still managed to behave less than pleasantly when SK started fleshing out a plan to camp up at Mirror Lake tomorrow. Instead of saying "Yay! SK, I love to camp! What a good idea!" -- I got whiny and unbearable when she suggested we swing by REI tonight after work to pick up a flashlight because we don't have a single one between us. What's worse -- I forgot I have *two* flashlights and we don't even need to buy one. God I'm an asshole. Anyway, if SK can still stand me, we'll be driving up to Mirror Lake near Mt. Hood tomorrow and it will be really nice. More to come whenever I return. Ciao.

talking about writing

Tonight at work, Fat Tony and I talked a lot about writing. Fat Tony is a writer and, in terms of our both being writers, we have mostly behaved like two good-natured yet slightly territorial dogs at the park. We sniffed each other out and jostled each other at first, but somewhere along the line we decided not to bother figuring out who was alpha and to just play nice instead.

Tonight, Fat Tony was reading a book on grammar called "Eats Shoots and Leaves" (a phrase, the meaning of which chaanges dramatically with the addition of commas) and I was reading a Hemingway biography. Fat Tony started things off with an excited explanation of the complicated and completely subjective status of the comma according to the author of the book. I lamented my own overuse of commas and how it got me in such big trouble with birdlady who, at one point, after much comma-brow-beating, said to me, pointing to a comma in a draft of the brief I'd written, "Justify your use of that comma! Give me the reason you chose to put a comma there." And she waited for an answer. This was not a rhetorical question.

After commiserating about commas, we started talking about Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast," which is a sort of memoir about his time in the '20s writing in Paris. I just finished it today and I was struck by the atmosphere he described. He spent his days writing in cafes and socializing with a stellar crowd of other authors: Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound. Fat Tony and I talked about how amazing it would be to be surrounded by other great writers and living in an atmosphere that encouraged and held our work. Instead, we're isolated and only see other writers in workshops that often feel stilted and unhelpful. We laughed at the thought of Hemingway, sitting in a workshop full of terrible writers, passing around copies of excerpts of his great works with a nervous, expectant face. "Well, guys... what do you think?" That would never happen.

There's so much bad writing out there -- really bad writing from people who actively identify as writers -- I literally cringe when I hear someone else claim to be a writer and I never, ever want to read their stuff. Unless I'm feeling completely selfless and uncharacteristically altruistic, nothing good can come from reading the writing of a casual friend or aquaintance. If the writing is bad, I will always think of that person as a bad writer and it will make me uncomfortable. However, if the writing is *good* (ie: better than mine) it will make me anxious and insecure. A lose/lose situation.

I have never wanted to read any of Fat Tony's stuff. Recently, he had a short piece published in a web journal and he heavilly publicized it among friends and even at work, which I would never have done and which made me feel weird. I avoided reading the story for a long time, but he finally wore me down and I finally googled the journal and read the story last week. I was worried that I would realize Fat Tony was a bogus writer. I was equally worried I would realize Fat Tony was the next Papa Hemingway and it would probably make me want to kill myself. Fortunately, the story was solidly mediocre. It was respectably clever with comforting room for improvement. It didn't throw my opinion of Fat Tony (or myself) towards either extreme, which is good.

"A Moveable Feast," and tonight's conversation with Fat Tony, for that matter, reminded me of something really important I had forgotten over the years: the value of honing one's craft. It's easy to focus on the wrong thing when you're writing -- easy to get too involved with the concept of the muse -- easy to wait to be swept up by something -- easy to feel carried away by awesome ideas or completely stagnant from the lack of them. It is easy to forget that there's a *craft* to writing. There is something slow and deliberate about it. There is value (incalculable) in the *how* as well as the what. *How* to tell the story, not just what the story will be. How to shape the narrative, how to use language. To write a paragraph and take it apart and put it back together again and know the function of each word, each comma.

Writing this blog has been such a helpful exercise, but it has caused problems too. It has helped me to focus, to write with less doubt and more speed, to start and finish something in one sitting. But it has made me lazy because it hasn't demanded rewrites or revisions or edits. It doesn't support the deliberate crafting of language, its more of a zen calligraphy kind of exercise in spontaneous creation. I need to work more on the balance.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

happy 20th

Today is an anniversary of sorts for SK. She has officially been out of her little hometown (maybe you've heard of it? London, England?) for twenty long years, which is exactly as many long years as she lived there. So now she's spent half her life in London, and half her life out. Happy 20 years out, SK.

If I were celebrating an anniversary like that, I'm quite sure I'd be spending a lot of time in deep contemplation of the path I'd just traveled and the direction I was heading. I spend a lot of time thinking about that kind of stuff anyway, so a big anniversary would probably send me into some kind of irretrievable tailspin. Who knows.

As for me, I'm still trying to figure out a palatable career path as the end of my schooling rapidly approaches. I'm like the person who thought it would be really cool to go parachuting, who took the training course, learned how to do it, got all suited up and climbed into the plane, only to have a complete and total bat-shit crazy freak-out once the plane was the in the air and the door was open. "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I don't wanna, I don't wanna, I don't wanna, I don't wanna!!!!!!!!!!!" That's how I've been feeling for the past few months and I'm sure everyone around me (ie: SK and anybody who reads this blog) is sick of hearing about it.

So I'm updating my resume and contacting Legal Aid and hopefully something I can stomach will come along. I just got something in the mail from school recently announcing, among other things, that the Career Services department has just hired a full time Public Interest Law counselor to help people like me find jobs that aren't slimy. So I'll be making an appointment to talk to her as soon as the semester swings back to life next month. Yippee! The fucking summer is almost over! (Can you hear the panic?)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

runs in the family

When I was about ten I was medically diagnosed as lazy. My grandmother took me to the clinic one summer to have my iron checked. She assumed I was anemic because I was listless and lacked energy. (Disregard the stifling heat and humidity of the Georgia summer, that certainly had nothing to do with it.) The nurse pricked my finger and squeezed the hell out of it, then she left with the sample. A few minutes later she was back with the results. Anemia? "Nope, she's fine," said the nurse. "Just lazy."

That's my story about being lazy, but really, the real story about laziness goes way further back than that. It goes back to my mom and my dad, first married, when my Dad got out of the Airforce and my mom realized she'd married a "loafer." I know this the way I know a lot of things I wish I didn't know: people talked to me. Even when I was really young, adults vented to me like I was some kind of pocket confessional. My mom, my dad, even my beloved grandmother. This is *still*, 30-plus years later, one of mom's favorite complaints to repeat about my dad. He's a lazy bum who has to be told what to do all the time or he just wallows in slovenliness.

When she met him he was stationed in Miami. He was crisp and clean and I'm sure she thought he was passably handsome and his Georgia drawl probably seemed pretty charming. All that, plus the promise that this farm-boy would take her away from her own mother she couldn't stand and whisk her off to a pastoral wonderland where she would definitely own and ride horses (every girl's dream), was all she needed to marry him. Her first sign that things would not go well? He stopped shaving as soon as he was out of the Air Force.

It got worse from there. "I could always tell when your dad had been laid off," she would say. "It was the only time he'd come in from work smiling." Laid off, he would "mope around the house doing nothing" all day until she finally made him get another job or the lay off ended. They eventually ended up moving in next door to my dad's parents so he could "mooch off his parents for the rest of his life." It wasn't long before mom (with little me in tow) left. He was devastated. Too bad for him. "He wanted me to tell him what to do, to make him shave and go to work and give him structure in his life," mom would say. "Sorry. Not my job. So he married Suzanne and now she runs his life and I'm sure he's as happy as he could be."

Personally, I don't think he'll ever be all that happy, but the rest of mom's assessment sounds about right. As for me, over the years I started to see that no-good, laziness in myself and it terrified me. I mean, there's a laziness that's ok -- a kid's laziness. The pull to lay in the floor of a nice cool house watching t.v. rather than playing outside in the heat and humidity of a sweltering southern summer day. That laziness makes sense. But as I got older, I got scared of the other, adult-laziness that is too close to the fatal laziness of my dad. The lack of ambition. The complacence. Left to my own devices, I am temporarily content to do very little and the less I do, the more I dread doing anything more. Because I spent my childhood hearing this demonized in my father, it is hard to reframe into anything less than disgusting, pathetic behavior when I now see it in myself.

I work. I go to school. I maintain my life, but just by a thread. All the official things are precariously balanced and I am often afraid, as the stakes get inevitably higher, that I will realize too late that I have made some huge blunder, some huge gaffe, and it will be too late to correct. I only want a simple life that feels, somehow, meaningful, and I have no idea how to get it. Maybe it is that we, my dad and I, are both in the wrong era. My dad fantasizes about a simple life too -- a life on a farm with a horse and a buggy and goats and a garden and when I go visit him, he tells me how much he'd enjoy a life like that. That would not be a lazy life, it would be a hard-working farm life. That's the kind of work my dad enjoys. If I could find the kind of work *I* enjoy and build a life around it, I would be set. I wouldn't have to worry about being lazy and I wouldn't have to beat myself up. But is it possible? I don't know.

Monday, July 17, 2006

another heartwarming, thought-provoking nugget of wisdom from the internet

My male coworker, Simba, forwarded this to me two hours ago from the work computer and has asked me ten times since he sent it if I've read it yet. I didn't have to read it because I heard him read it all out loud to some woman he was talking to on his cell phone. He laughed at the end and said "That's tight! That's hella tight." To translate: he thinks it's pretty interesting and accurate. And he wanted to share it with me so I could also be entertained and enlightened. Thanks Simba, this is so deep.

This is one more reason why I have to get the fuck out of here. The people are embarrasingly stupid. Enjoy:


When I stand up for myself and my beliefs, they call me a bitch.

When I stand up for those I love, they call me a bitch.

When I speak my mind, think my own thoughts or do things my own way, they call me a bitch.

Being a bitch means I won't compromise what's in my heart. It means I live my life MY way. It means I won't allow anyone to step on me.

When I refuse to tolerate injustice and speak against it, I am defined as a bitch.

The same thing happens when I take time for myself instead of being everyone's maid, or when I act a little selfish. It means I have the courage and strength to allow myself to be who I truly am and won't become anyone else's idea of what they think I "should" be.

I am outspoken, opinionated and determined. I want what I want and there is nothing wrong with that!

So try to stomp on me, try to douse my inner flame, try to squash every ounce of beauty I hold within me. You won't succeed. And if that makes me a bitch, so be it.

I embrace the title and am proud to bear it.

B - Babe
I - In
T - Total
C - Control of
H - Herself

B = Beautiful
I = Intelligent
T = Talented
C = Charming
H = Hell of a Woman

B = Beautiful
I = Individual
T = That
C = Can
H = Handle anything

P.S. -- they call me a bitch because I'm sometimes nasty and mean. But that's just me.

the pretty people

I have no business criticizing SK's neighborhood for being snotty because mine is equally snotty. I just spent the morning sitting on the corner of 15th and Fremont, hub of the snotty Irvington neighborhood, elbow to elbow with all the pretty and semi-pretty people. The pretty people were at Starbucks and Caffe Destino, sipping a variety of mutant coffee drinks and smiling from underneath sunglasses. The semi-pretty people were standing around in the laundromat with me, pumping quarters into machines and folding clothes.

After my stuff was in the dryer, I walked into Starbucks (gritting my teeth all the way, I promise) to buy a New York Times. Why is Starbucks the only place on the fanciest corner of the fancy neighborhood where you can get a Times during the week? I don't know. While the pretty people drank lattes or mochaccinos or whatever the fuck they drank, I sat on the ground outside the laundromat and read about the beginning of WWIII in the middle-east. Hello, America! Pay attention!

It reminded me of the way I felt in 2001 right after the planes hit the World Trade Center. I cycled down to this same corner to get some food at Wild Oats and bought a paper to read about the catastrophe that was happening, finally, on our own soil. I was amazed and disgusted by the pretty people who sat around that corner having their normal days, their normal conversations, drinking their normal coffees over normal scones like ash and debris weren't still drifting out of the sky in New York and the people in the rubble hadn't even all finished dying. SK and I talked this weekend about how the lack of violence on American soil fuels American complacency -- however, on 9-11, I saw American's behaving complacently in the face of a violent attack in our own front yard.

I guess we each have to literally have our very own bomb dropped into our very own front yard before we can, any of us, be bothered to give an actual, concrete shit about anything. Otherwise, we pay lip service to giving a shit or perhaps we give a theoretical shit. Yes, I give a theoretical shit about people dying in Lebanon and Israel and Gaza and, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan still, but I'm not going to let it put a damper on my well-earned, American brunch.

I mean, really. The day here in Portland, Oregon is particularly gorgeous. In fact, it can be argued that Portland is having the absolute best weather today in the entire U.S., spared, as we are, from the heatwave that's afflicting the rest of the country. The temperature is good, the sky is bright blue, the trees are green and it seems like the best, most beautiful place on an equally wonderful earth. So we have to fight extra hard to remember that the earth is awfully full of shit and bloodshed and shrapnel today, regardless of our "Katrina-fatigue" and "Iraq-fatigue" and other "bad-news-fatigue." We have to get over ourselves.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

r.i.p. golden chariot, hello zombie car

Last week I dropped my partially-squished car off at the body shop recommended by my insurance company, and was told by the bleached-blonde guy who surveyed the damage that repairs would take a week. "I'll call you when it's time to pick it up," he said as I left. Excellent.

I was a little surprised, then, to get a phone message yesterday, not nearly a week later, from "Bryce, in the Total Loss Department at State Farm." Excuse me? The "Total Loss" Department? Sounds like something Click and Clack the Tap-it brothers might say at the start of one of their weekly episodes of Car Talk on NPR: "Today we're broadcasting from the Total Loss Department of yadda-yadda-yadda..."

Gee. The Total Loss Department. I wonder what Bryce wants to tell me??

For christ's sake, don't bend over backwards breaking the news to me that my car is totalled. Just give it to me straight, I can take it.

So I called them back and learned that, as SK warned early-on, the damage was far more costly to repair than the actual value of the little gold car, regardless of how much *I* love it as a sweet, gold extension of myself. It will now remain a sweet, gold extension of myself with only two working doors instead of four. So what? It still drives just fine. The insurance lady rattled off the values and the deductions and the ultimate pay-out figures. I had two choices, I could surrender the car for one payout, or keep the car for $300 less of a payout. Since the car still drives, I'm obviously keeping it and now I'm greedilly salivating over the thought of a surprise payout speeding my way. Yippee for surprise payouts.

Anyway, the salvage value of my car is now $307. So, basically, I'm essentially driving around about three hundred bucks. That's all. Hearing that the car is "totalled" and knowing that it's worth less than a good digital camera leaves me feeling a bit like my car is the living dead. It still drives, it still looks alive, but it's not till you see the disfiguring gash running down the passenger side and notice the sort of lifeless look in the headlights that you realize it's not just any car, it's a *zombie* car.

The lesson, here, is to keep good insurance on your car. Thank god I never dropped my comprehensive insurance, even though it cost a little more every month. I always said, "I have to keep the comprehensive in case something happens and my car gets totalled." And guess what, that day came. I would be totally out of luck without my insurance. I'd still be driving my zombie car, but I wouldn't have any payout to salivate over. So I'm patting myself on the back for being smart and keeping good insurance, one of few adult accomplishments I can celebrate in my life thus far. Yay for me.

Friday, July 14, 2006

hidden function of little ones

SK and I were just talking about kids. Neither of us want any, but kids serve this hidden function and that's what we were discussing. Kids serve to emancipate their parents from their *parents* parents. Kids provide this deeply imbedded, well-understood right-of-passage into adulthood. Once you have kids, you are no longer a kid anymore. Even if your parents keep treating you like a worthless sack of shit who will never make a good decision in its life, at least *you* know you've got something really important, devastatingly important in your life, that *you* created. A whole new person. And your own parents opinion of you is understood with a new perspective. Whereas, those of us who choose never to have children, never cease to *identify* as children in the extended drama of our relationships with our parents. We're forced into a "peter pan" extended childhood, always second guessed and never respected as valuable, independent units. At least by more traditional parents and extended families. I'm sure this isn't everyone's experience, but it seems like a good theory. Any thoughts?

stranded in snobville

I am sitting outside a very snobby cafe in NW Portland and, you know, I wasn't going to say anything about it, I was just gonna let it slide, until a woman walked by with a whippet and, well, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Whippets, those tiny, toy cousins of the greyhound, are like the gold-tennis bracelets of pets. Delicate, classy, purely ornamental and expensive. Gag me. If Paris Hilton wasn't so trashy, she'd be dragging around a whippet instead of a chihuahua, which has so much class it gets to be the spokesdog for taco bell chalupas. Whatever.

I don't know what else to say except: why am I here?? My car's in the shop and I'm at the mercy of public transportation this weekend. I've made SK's apartment my homebase, everything I own is neatly stacked in ber bedroom floor. She's working on some freelance stuff for an hour this morning and I've walked down for a coffee and some wi-fi, and it's like I walked into the twilight zone. I do not belong with these upscale yuppies. They make my skin crawl. It doesn't help that I drew stars all over my left hand with black ink pen yesterday at work and I look a little like a carnie today. Oh, and, I'm not wearing a bra. I don't think they like that either. Oh well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

spinelessly causing suffering

I think I've sufficiently, passive-aggressively pissed off the Cuban so he'll stop calling. I am a bad person. The Cuban, call him Juan, is an old resident of the program where I work. He moved out years ago, yet he and I had a nice rapport (read: he totally loved me and I tolerated him) so, after he moved, he'd still come by now and then to visit.

Scroll forward, I stop working regular shifts for several months, he moves out to a suburb with no good public transportation and we fall out of touch for a long time. Scroll forward again and he bumps into a mutual acquaintance downtown at a doctor's appointment and learns that I'm back working regular shifts, so he starts calling me at work once or twice a week to chat. Fine. No big deal. He even manages to get rides every now and then to downtown while I'm working and I take a break and meet him for coffee. He's a nice guy. I like him ok. It means a lot to him. Whatever.

Ok, scroll forward one more time. The calls stop coming and several months pass and I wonder what became of him but I don't exactly lose sleep over it. Mysterious and misdirected documents arrive at my workplace that indicate that he lost his housing and ended up in the hospital, but I'm not sure when or why. Finally he calls and it turns out he went off his meds (as lots of people do when they've been feeling so good for so long that they forget it's the meds that helped them start feeling good in the first place) and he got pretty psychotic, lost his housing, ended up homeless and crazy, etc., and finally ended up in the state hospital.

"Oh, nina," he told me. "I was so crazy. I was going up and down the streets looking for you. Calling for you. 'My angel! My angel!'"

Wow. I don't want to be his angel and I wasn't excited to hear that I'd been figuring into his hallucinations. He started calling me at work every night from the state hospital and I humored him for a long time, even though the calls were pretty tedious and repetitive. I started finding reasons to end them sooner and sooner. Eventually he told me he was being moved to a hospital in another part of the state and I was secretly excited by the possibility that he'd be unable to make long-distance calls from his new hospital. I was wrong. He kept calling. Eventually he was moved back to Portland and that's when he started begging me to come visit him. Begging. I avoided it over and over by claiming to be busy, claiming to have camping plans out of town for the weekends, etc, etc. Eventually, my excuses became frail and thin and worn to nothing.

How do you tell somebody stuck in a mental hospital that you aren't going to come visit them because you simply don't want to? You just don't feel like it. "Sorry, man. I just don't care that much about you." I mean, as a pseudo-social worker, there are ways I'm supposed to handle this kind of thing. I can try and deflect the invitations so as not to hurt his feelings, which I did. I can also say something like, "I'm sorry, but I'm not supposed to meet clients outside of work. It's company policy." Unfortunately, I'd rendered that one void by meeting him for coffee several times already. What to do...

So I caved and went to see him a few weeks ago. It wasn't so bad. I considered it an educational experience, my first time visiting anyone in a mental hospital. We sat in a stark, empty visiting room for about an hour and had the same kind of conversations we'd been having on the phone for a month. Boring. A lot of not-quite-inappropriate-yet-still-creepy stuff about how much he misses me and the good times when he used to live where I work, etc. Fine. Ok. He kept referencing some things he wanted to talk to me about, really important things, really private things, but he never actually talked about any of these things and finally, when I looked at the clock and told him I needed to leave, his face fell through the floor and he said, "Nina, I never got to tell you what I needed to tell you!" He was pleading again. I said, "We'll have another chance." By then I was backing out of the door and avoiding a half-attempted hug.

Of course I didn't want to have another chance and the next night at work he called and started asking when I'd be able to come back. What now? I was annoyed and wanted to say, "Juan, I just saw you. Relish the memories and quit begging." But instead I went back to quietly putting him off. Busy, sorry, working extra-shifts this weekend, going out of town, whatever. The begging got so annoying, so insistent, I started avoiding his calls. I made my coworkers answer the phone whenever it rang between certain hours and they all dutifully told him various lies.

I learned the hard way that, even though he'd been told that I went home sick, he might still call back an hour later to try again. I answered the phone one night, thinking I was in the clear, and I almost choked when I heard his voice, "Oh nina! What happened? Were you sick??" I told stupid lies about feeling bad and going to lay down but deciding to stay at work rather than go home. He started sounding doubtful. Then he asked if I could come see him Thursday. Christ.

My coworker, Mohawk, came in and saw me in such obviously bad circumstances and said, loudly, "Hey, I need to talk to you about something really important." I cupped the mouthpiece of the phone and searched her face, "Really?" "Yeah. It's really important." I honestly didn't know until I'd gotten off the phone that she was just trying to help me out. Thanks. Meanwhile, Juan was deeply suspicious. "Call me tomorrow night," I heard myself saying as he asked again if I'd come Thursday. "Really?" He asked. "Yeah, really." "Really??" "Yeah. Really." Click. Goddamn.

And that was the last time I actually talked to him. All last week, I managed to avoid his calls with help from coworkers. I knew he was probably getting mad enough not to call back when I listened to one side of an exchange he had with Chubby last Wednesday night. Chubby said, "She's unavailable." (I prefer they just say I went home, but who am I to get pushy when I'm asking people to lie for me?) Then he said it again. Then a pause. "Dude," Chubby said. "She's UN-AVAILABLE." He sounded like the jealous boyfriend I never had. It was great. Chubby hung up and shrugged at me. "He just kept saying, 'is she available or is she no available?'" Poor guy.

I waited Monday night and refused to answer the phone, yet no calls came from Juan. Same story last night. So, mission accomplished. Now he's mad at me because he thinks I'm avoiding him and he's not calling anymore -- all that, and I never had to actually say: "hey, dude, I don't want to visit you and I don't want to talk to you every single night that I work." I'm still not one-hundred-percent sure which method of handling this situation would've been better, but I'm at least satisfied to be where I'm at having taken such a spineless, easy path.

Now I can wonder what's happening to his mental health, now that his angel has dissed him. I'd feel worse, I guess, if I was anything other than an object to him. He doesn't really know me, doesn't really care about me as a person. I'm just a cute-enough girl who he doesn't fully understand was being *paid* to listen to him and hang out with him all those evenings in the past when he lived where I worked and when we used to sit around in the Drop In Center together, listening to Hoot sing Journey songs and laughing. Those were fun times and those fun times are over. Sorry Juan.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

ignoring for the moment everything else

I finally took my car in to be repaired today. I mentioned, I believe, that it was sideswiped last month while it sat peacefully outside my little hovel, bothering no one. Holes were ripped in the metal by a long, flat-bed truck as it gouged itself along my passenger side, denting in both doors and doing no other damage besides lifting the rear end and depositing it neatly on the curb. Well.

I took it to a place suggested by my insurance agent on 6th and Broadway, then I walked away and thought how nice it felt to just walk away from something and how I might like to practice walking away from lots of things in life. Instead of making any other dramatic gestures, however, I walked down Broadway until I found a sub-shop (past a Subway and a Quiznos to a small place owned by locals) and ordered a sandwich for lunch, which I took to the park and ate. I finished my book. Now I am about to go to work for the evening where I will eat free food and play card-games and otherwise pass the time until midnight when I will catch the bus and come home and another day will pass away thusly.


Sorry, I prematurely announced the demise of my existential crisis. My life is stupid and meaningless. Everything I do, I do for entertainment or comfort, none of which have any lasting value. Lately, whenever SK finds herself whining about something she considers petty, she stops and says, "It's not so bad, really. At least we're not in Darfur." True enough. Except, maybe we *should* be in Darfur. Maybe we could find something meaningful to do there. Instead, I sit here wasting my summer days away, waiting for the Fall semester of a school program I'm no longer particularly moved by to start back up and start sucking up my "free" time with classes and homework, so I can graduate in December and immediately begin bar study for the February bar exam so I can -- what? Hope to find a job practicing law, something I stopped finding compelling about five months ago. I should've gone to nursing school with all the other laid-off social workers, at least then I'd have some useful, transferable, life-saving skills that could be helpful in, say, Darfur. Unlike my ability to read and understand a contract or to parse the language in a statute or to explain the difference between substantive and procedural due process, which I can't do anyway, because I forgot. Fuck it. I'm gonna go for a walk before I just get bratty.

Monday, July 10, 2006

my new fancy shirt

This weekend, in between long hikes through Forest Park, rerun episodes from the fourth season of Sex in the City on VHS from the library and BBQs, all with SK, I found time Saturday to wander to the thrift store in my neighborhood and buy myself a fancy, green shirt way outside my usual comfort zone.

Just so you know, my usual comfort zone is somewhere between twelve-year-old-boy and homeless-schizophrenic-guy -- usually androgynous and usually a little tatty. It's the perfect reflection, really, of two of my life's biggest influences: my queerness and my job with homeless, schizophrenic people. Think: basic t-shirts with trousers cut off around the ankle and ragged like an island castaway and that's basically my summer look.

So, Saturday I went to the thrift store on 7th and Fremont with a whole new look in mind, inspired by SK who learned how to dress for super-hot-heat while living in India and studying textiles. (In addition to all the other things the lovely and talented SK is and can do, she is also a textile designer.) She has lots of long-sleeved, lightweight, cotton shirts to keep the sun off and the body cool and I've been watching her in these clothes for awhile now and suddenly started feeling envious.

I've also been inexplicably drawn to everything orange lately. Mango, actually. The color mango has attracted me like nothing else, beginning as early as March when I started having dreams about orange shoes (very similar to the Keen hiking sandals I just got, which are berry red with orange stitching). So Saturday I walked into the store (called "Rerun") looking for a lightweight, cotton shirt, preferably of the mango or orange variety. I found one shirt that would have been perfect, right color, right texture, however it was the kind of shirt designed to be tied just below the tits, bearing the torso like a belly dancer and... yeah... that's way further outside my comfort zone than I'm prepared to travel this summer.

Pretty soon, after flicking through a lot of racks, I ran across a pale green shirt that fit the bill perfectly (besides being green instead of orange) and was even made in India. Perfect. My lingering butchiness prickled at the understated adornments on the front (some rufflish type parts and some... well... clear, spangly things...) but I tried it on and the cut was perfect. I chose to see the dandier elements of the shirt through pirate colored glasses -- I can see Jack Sparrow lounging in this shirt and if it's good enough for Johnny Depp dressed as a pirate, it's good (ie: butch) enough for me. So I bought it.

I wore it, with SK's indespensable encouragment, to the BBQ last night and got lots of positive feedback from all the older lesbians in attendance. And, really, what feels better than getting positive feedback from a circle of sweet, old lesbians? While eating a bunch of grilled chicken and roasted pumpkin and baked potatoes and sour cherry cobbler? And then shooting off fireworks? Not much.

today's brief adventure

I went back across town today, back to my favorite punk rock barbershop on SE Division, for a "re-cut" -- which is what they call it when you realize you hate the way they cut your hair and you want to go back and give them another chance to fuck it up more, but this time for free. Fortunately, the woman who cut it last time wasn't around, so I got my re-cut from another chick, who was nice and moved veeeeeeeeerrry sloooooooooowly, but she did a good job cutting it like I wanted it, so I gave her a substantial tip, since she was there correcting somebody else's mistake.

Then I left and headed in the direction of Fred Meyer (like WalMart in the Pacific Northwest) for a lightbulb. That's when I saw the dreaded CB sitting outside at the coffeeshop we used to hang out in way back in the day. First I saw her truck, then I saw her. I got a weird little shivver, then I thought about how she's currently unemployed, living on loans and more or less drinking her life away. Then I got another little shivver along the lines of "Yuck! What was I doing with that crazy woman??" At least she didn't see me.

Then I stopped off at Powell's on Hawthorne to buy my dad a very late father's day present. Because, when it comes to my family I'm a pathological liar, I told my grandmother the other day that I was avoiding my dad's calls because I felt bad about not sending his father's day gift. Of course, I hadn't gotten him any such gift, but I kept spinning out the lie by sheer force of habit and ended up explaining that I had a book for him and I needed to take it to the post office to get postage on it so I could send it and I kept forgetting and yadda yadda. So I roped myself into getting my dad a father's day book. I spent all of one minute picking it out -- I went straight back to the Oregon history section and grabbed the first Lewis and Clark Anniversary picture book I could find, chock full of interesting factoids and drawings and reproductions of maps and letters and diary pages all relating to their big, fat Northwest Passage, or whatever it's called. It's right up his alley.

Now I have to send it, and this is where the lie will meet reality as I procrastinate indefinitely on taking the thing to the post office to mail. Oh well.

food, fun and leftover fireworks

Last night, SK and I went to a BBQ up in the west hills at the home of one of SK's Process Work friends. Attended entirely, in fact, by SK's Process Work friends. It was our second BBQ of the weekend and it was very peaceful and pleasant and the food was great. At the end of it all, we lit these crazy little fireworks that were leftover from the fourth. I've never been among the firework-lighters, so these were completely new to me. Little cylindrical cannisters that you sit on the ground (preferably pavement) and light (a tiny wick sticks out of the top) -- then you run the other way and hope for the best. We had three of them and each one behaved a little differently (shooting sparks, fireballs, shrieking, spewing, etc) and we were all disproportionately thrilled by the experience. We laughed and laughed and it was really sweet. It's the simple things -- like fire and explosions -- that can be so entertaining.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

big dyke wins wimbeldon

French jock-dyke Amelie Mauresmo just won women's Wimbeldon! Nice. SK flipped on the tv this morning and we watched burly Amelie walk around the court holding up her winner's plate for everyone to see -- holding up that plate with her big, sexy tennis-arms, looking like a big, ol' sexy homo-girl -- and even though I'm not as excited about the atheletic types as SK tends to be, I did have a special feeling inside and I fervently hoped she would really turn out to be a Sapphic sister. I tend to always think female atheletes are lesbians and lots of them are, however many are in the closet. Which is a big bummer. But not this one! SK Googled her and not only is she a big dyke, but she's a big OUT dyke, which is the best kind. Yay! Now I can go back to not caring about tennis.

Friday, July 07, 2006

i belong in the sky with the stars

Not here. Knowing that about myself makes being here a lot easier. I don't have to be so frustrated and disappointed with everything. I don't have to hate the whole world for not holding me better. I don't have to talk shit about all the people in the barbershop. I don't have to deny my own wonder or anyone else's wonder. I can just relax.

I know it probably doesn't make any sense -- just know it came out of an hour of really great therapy. And I feel finally like I moved through the shitty feeling that's been plaguing me for awhile now. So... yeah. Big sigh of relief. Thanks for putting up with all my whiney, tacky, boring, woe-is-me posts for the past few weeks. I'm feeling so much better and I'm sure my upcoming posts will begin to reflect the good feelings.

For anyone who wants to approximate my supergood, dreamy, happy mood, I suggest you listen to Willie Nelson's Stardust album, which happens to be playing on my computer right now. It will make you smile.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

family affair

I am sick of my favorite punk-rock barbershop being all clogged up with families! God! This is the third time I've been in there and had to wait behind toddlers -- toddlers!! -- who are too young to even appreciate their punk-rock barber, brought in by aging, hipster parents who don't seem to know what else to do with their little brats but send them to school with cool hair. Jesus.

Today it wasn't just toddlers, it was also a whole creepy family, led by an old, pot-bellied hippie guy with shoulder-length, greasy, surfer hair, who seemed to be showing off his cool, punk-rock barbershop to his elderly parents who both just stood and stared blankly at the posters on the walls as dissonant indie rock music blasted from wall speakers and drowned out anything any of them said.

Please, people, two rules: rule number one, until your kid can pay for his or her own punk-rock haircut, don't waste my time by dragging him or her into my barbershop and making me wait while he or she pitches a fit and refuses to sit in the chair while you beg and plead and cajole and threaten and try and bribe and whatever else. You're being ridiculous. Pay eight bucks at supercuts if you *must* take your toddler to a professional. Or just cut it at home. Or let it grow, who cares. Just stay out of Rudy's on Division, please.

And rule number two: Barbershops are for haircuts, not freakin sightseeing. Don't bring your parents in and make them get haircuts there just to show them how cool you and your town are. You're not cool, you're a loser. And you probably don't even live in town, you probably live in Beaverton or Gresham and you just drive into town every so often and go to Rudy's for a trim so you can *feel* like you're part of something cool. If you lived in town, you'd realize that your weird surfer hair is lame. Don't let me see you, or your poor, hapless parents, back in my barbershop ever again.

There, I feel a little better.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

where do i get off?

My exhaustion is boring, even to me. Who am I to whine all the time when I'm really living such a happy life so much of the time? Maybe I'm just embarrassed that so much of my happiness seems to result from my relationship with SK, as though self-generated happiness is the only kind worth having, and relationship-happiness is second rate. Bollocks, as SK might say. That's ridiculous.

SK and I are having a pretty happy time of it. We had lots of adventures this weekend, starting with a mosquito ambush on Sauvie Island. Sure, the sand was filthy and the people were creepy and I had a headache and wished for a bunker-buster bomb to come and wipe us all out -- regardless, when I look back, it makes a nice memory. Sauvie Island was gorgeous. SK was as kind and magnanimous as ever. And I bought a new straw cowboy hat for ten bucks at Walgreens (constructed, I'm sure, by some nine year old in Indonesia, dammit all) specifically for that trip. All in all, it was good.

We also took, over the weekend, two super-long walks through Forest Park, proving once and for all that I am not a completely sedentary blob. SK, so impressed by the improval of my stamina over the past few months, offered to finance for me a new pair of ultra-fancy Keen hiking sandals. They're all the rage among the outdoorsy-yuppie NW Portland crowd. I've been coveting them for a couple months now but couldn't afford them. Sunday afternoon all that changed when SK took me to REI and fronted the cash for a "berry" colored pair which are gorgeous and which I completely love. The plan had been a slow payback of the entire amount, but now SK has decided that she only wants paid back for half. "One shoe," she says. "I have bought you one shoe. The left one."

I love these oh-so-comfy hiking sandals so much, I actually walked all the way to work yesterday just so I could enjoy my new shoes. The walk is three or four miles and took over an hour. On the way, I stopped at Wild Oats to buy SK a lovely, orange lily to make her office cheerful this week. I had hoped I could make it to work fifteen or so minutes early so I'd have a few minutes to spend with SK before my shift started, however, the walk took longer than I anticipated and I got anxious as the minutes slipped by and I felt so far away. SK called my cell as I was crossing the Broadway Bridge and she promised to watch for me out the bathroom window (which has a great view of the direction I'd be coming from). However, the walk from the bridge to work seemed to take forever and when I finally made it to the building and up three flights of stairs to SK's office, she was gone! Gone!

I was astonished. I laid the flower on her desk and ran to the bathroom (where I hoped I'd find SK watching for me out the window) to change into a non-sweaty shirt for work. No SK. Then I ran downstairs, where I thought SK might be waiting for me by the front door (which I'd bypassed by taking the sneaky side-door in), but no SK there either. By then I was sucked into shift change activities -- I counted the narcotics in the med the cart with Mexinugget, then went up to the loft for shift report, wherein the log was read. (Is SK waiting in the loft? No.) Once all the shift change formalities were over, I ran back down and called a coworker in an office to ask what had happened to SK. "She left before you got here."


I was so confused.

Turns out, SK decided to try and catch me coming off the bridge so we could have some quality time together outside of work before my shift started. As soon as we got off the phone, she hopped on her bike and cycled like mad to catch me at the bottom of the bridge... but alas, I never came off the bottom of the bridge. I thought I'd be clever and take the pedestrian staircase down *waaaaay* before the bottom of the bridge. Instead of happilly walking into the surprise arms of SK, waiting not far away, I skipped down an infinitely long staircase and walked through the Yards apartments, across their skybridge which took me over the train station, and finally up to my work. SK and I were like ships passing in the night. We had no idea we were missing each other in such a silly yet well-meaning way.

We sorted it out on the phone later and both felt sweetly heartbroken about it. Being in love makes everything sweetly heartbreaking. It's awesome.

word of the day


Main Entry: elide
Pronunciation: i-'lId
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): elid·ed; elid·ing
Etymology: Latin elidere to strike out, from e- + laedere to injure by striking
1 a : to suppress or alter (as a vowel or syllable) by elision b : to strike out (as a written word)
2 a : to leave out of consideration : OMIT b : CURTAIL, ABRIDGE

With thanks to Merriam Webster Online Dictionary.

Monday, July 03, 2006

heading into remission

A few thoughts, the dying spasms of my last bout of nihilism:

1.) I just re-learned how being a woman can be dangerous and painful.

2.) I just re-learned how being queer can be dangerous and painful.

3.) I just re-learned how being a sensitive human being can force you to grow enormous callouses around the parts that would otherwise feel one and two a lot, all the time.

4.) I just re-learned that there's more to life on this planet than making yourself comfortable, if you're willing to look a little more deeply.

I've had fantasies lately of a life in disguise -- to travel in the disguise of a man, safe from the dangers that befall a woman traveler, a lesbian traveler. To go back to visit my family in the disguise of a straight woman, to take a boy, pretend to be married -- to experience my family's small, rural, Georgia, mountain home as something other than politely hostile. To go into the world disguised as a middle-class, middle-aged, middle-of-the-road woman, maybe in a burqa, hidden, tucked away -- to travel the world with SK, pretending we are sisters (we look enough alike), drawing no attention to ourselves, passing unnoticed.

I am naive. I have spent too much time insulating myself, protecting myself against something. Too much time hiding. I remember the day in college when speakers from middle-eastern countries came to answer questions in a humanities class. Some well-meaning, lefty, hippie kid said "What's it like for gay people in Turkey." The reply from the man from Turkey (man? he was maybe 19): "There are no gay people in Turkey." The hippie followed up: "Well, statistically, there *have* to be gay people in Turkey. There are a certain number of gay people everywhere." The man-boy from Turkey, scowling: "If there are gay people in Turkey, they are hanged."

I was the gay person in the room who did not want to be hanged. I was one of the gay people in the room who did not want to be hanged. So what do I do? Hate Turkey? Avoid Turkey? Yes. Avoid Turkey. Among other places I otherwise don't suppose I belong. And now, avoid the Dalai Lama, until I find some way to redeem him.

Anyway, I will continue to dig myself out from my little nihilistic pit, and I'll start by pondering this passage from the Katha Upanishad:

"The good is one thing; the pleasant is another. . . Both the good and the pleasant present themselves to men. The wise, having examined both, distinguish the one from the other. The wise prefer the good to the pleasant; the foolish, driven by fleshly desires, prefer the pleasant to the good."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

confessions of a relapsed nihilist

Having lost the Dalai Lama, I've really kind of gone downhill. I'm always cycling up and down, I guess that's nothing new. But this particular existential dilemma has been knocked into double overtime by the sudden loss of one of my spiritual anchors, one of the few pillars of light which had, until now, helped balance out the forces of darkness constantly fighting it out in the gladiator arena of my mind.

Merriam Webster Online defines nihilism as follows:


Main Entry: ni·hil·ism
Pronunciation: 'nI-(h)&-"li-z&m, 'nE-
Function: noun
Etymology: German Nihilismus, from Latin nihil nothing -- more at NIL
1 a : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths

That's exactly where I'm at right now. I think it all gelled for me yesterday on Sauvie Island with SK, sitting in the filthy, hot sand on the bank of a polluted river with a bunch of scantilly clad, white americans with tacky tattoos and cigarettes and coolers of beer, letting their kids swim in the city's toxic run-off, listening to SK read a story from Vanity Fair magazine about the idea that the blowjob is the classic, american sex act.


Yes. The blowjob has been analyzed and a full-length book has been written about it's particularly american contribution to the world's sex life. The blowjob? Really? I mean, I'm no prude and I don't have any bad feelings about blowjobs as one fun thing one person can do for another person, but to say that the blowjob is America's signature sex act is to say, "In America, we like our women on their knees, doing all the work and having none of the orgasms." Fuck that.

As SK read the article, I felt an overall despair of humanity coalesce within me and I imagined the relief I would feel in that moment to see a giant bunker-buster bomb falling out of the sky and exploding nearby, destroying me and everyone else around me. That's disturbing. In my new state of bitterness, I offered that America's real signature sex act is fucking the rest of the world up the ass. SK, levelheaded as she is, reminded me that this sentiment was pretty unfair because it takes a sex act that is precious and important to a lot of people (anal sex) and makes it into the ultimate humiliation. True enough, true enough. SK, then, picking up some of my bitterness, explained that the *real* ultimate American sex act is the shameful, puritanical fanaticism that fuels a range of sexual pathologies from abstinence campaigns to gang rapes and pedophilia. Amen. Then, for good measure, she added that this puritanical-fanaticism has left many American men so confused and clueless, they have "no fucking idea what to do with their fucking cocks, take it from someone who knows."


So, I love SK, but hate the world. The issue of sex was just a catalyst, the futility of every human endeavor and the cruelty behind so much human interaction has been bubbling up in my consciousness for awhile and now, after losing the Dalai Lama, I no longer even have a human face to connect to something loving and uplifting. There's not much point to anything. However, I have made a big pot of chili and an apple crisp for SK. Until I can come up with anything better, the only value in life right now is creating happiness within the smallest circle: me and SK. Starting in the mouth and moving to the belly. Wish me luck.

i am not an athelete

I played tennis with my friend Leo on Thursday. In order to play tennis with Leo, I had to rush home from work, change clothes, grab my raquet, and then run over to Leo's house to pick her up and walk her over to the courts, which all had to occur at precision speed because I was booked to meet up with SK in exactly two hours and I didn't have a moment to spare. I was also exhausted, having been at work since 8am, on five hours of sleep after working till midnight the night before. Yeah, yeah. Cry me a river.

So, at precisely the moment I was supposed to be arriving at Leo's, I found myself trudging from the bus to my house in the hot sun, running late, of course, so I called Leo and suggested that I bring over some beer. "You wanna drink beer and play tennis??" "Well... I want to drink beer..." I whined about being exhausted and Leo said "Bring some beer over, that's fine, but we're playing tennis, I don't care how tired you think you are." So I brought beer over and hoped Leo would see my wilted little self and say "Hey, let's just sit in my shady backyard and drink this delicious, cold beer, and chat for an hour, then you can go run your errands and meet SK." Leo said no such thing. She said, "Put that shit back in your bag, let's go." And we went.

There were four fire department people (three men and a woman), all big and burly with tight-fitting, navy blue t-shirts, playing tennis on the one court at the park in Leo's neighborhood. Leo, being Leo, ran them off. We set up and each took a few swigs from the big, brown screw-top bottle of Pabst I'd brought over. It's what SK and I have been using to kill slugs and I can't look at it without thinking "poison," and I'm sure SK would agree with my assessment. However, when you're really tired and it's really hot and you can't be bothered to do anything and your opinion of the world is already pretty poor, it's a poison that goes down refreshingly well.

So, fueled on Pabst, Leo and I played the roughest 45 minutes of tennis on earth. We sucked, but we had a lot of fun, running and laughing and missing and tripping and hitting it too hard, too high, too far right or left. Our goal had been to "just volley" and have a good time, however, we sucked so bad we couldn't even keep a volley going, but we *did* manage to have a good time. I was shocked when I checked the time at what I thought would be the middle point of our game and it turned out to be late, later than I'd planned to leave, longer than we'd planned to spend. So we gathered our stuff and made plans to play again. I took my slug poison back home and took a super fast shower and ran to the store for supplies for the dinner SK was cooking and managed to make it from the tennis court to SK's in 45 minutes. Amazing.

By the time I got to SK's, I was as exhausted as I could possibly be. Tired from lack of sleep, from working, from running around -- tired, obviously, from the exercise, which was a shock to my sedentary system. SK was worried that my poor, underused muscles would sieze up in the night, that I would awake the next morning immobile. She wanted to force me into a warm bath before bed, but I resisted and it never happened. Miraculously, I woke feeling fine, no tightness in the calves or ass muscles, no soreness in the shoulder or wrist or forarm. I was fine, and that's pretty unbelievable, considering how little exercise I get in life. If Leo and I can get it together to actually play tennis every week, we'll both be gold-star atheletes by the end of the summer, slug poison notwithstanding...

sk's word of the week


Main Entry: flo·ri·bun·da
Pronunciation: "flOr-&-'b&n-d&, "flor-
Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin, feminine of floribundus flowering freely
: any of various bush roses with large flowers in open clusters that derive from crosses of polyantha and tea roses

With thanks to Merriam Webster Online and, of course, SK, who has been saying "floribunda" for about a week now.