12/21/16

There’s a lesson in here somewhere

It’s been 11 months since I last blogged. I’m sorry. Did you want your money back? Do you have a receipt?

My rottweiler Dorothy and I moved back to Seattle in April where I reunited briefly with my old ginger boyfriend. We split the rent on an $800 room in a shitty apartment with a nice, normal roommate and his two cats. My boyfriend and I were clearly so incredibly into this thing that we couldn’t stand to sleep in the same bed together. He slept on the bed and I slept with Dorothy on a mattress pulled next to the bed on the floor.

This time in Seattle wasn’t the worst, exactly. I liked riding the bus into the city and looking out the window. Seattle has good restaurants and movie theaters, and you can see Mt Rainier if you’re facing the right direction. On the other hand, everybody thinks they’re better than me in Seattle and there’s nowhere to park. There was never enough money and the ginger boyfriend didn’t love me enough, in my opinion. Point is, I moved back to Michigan and I’ve been here since August.

I live in a house with four of my old friends in Royal Oak, just a few miles north of Detroit. By sheer coincidence, the house is three doors down from my long-dead grandmother’s house, where I spent much of my childhood. There’s a park across the street that I ran away to when I was just a toddler, making everyone in my family believe I’d been kidnapped or killed. Around twenty years later, I tripped on acid in that park with my friend Ian. I remember saying to him, “You’re really weird.” (Projection). He said, “Are you sure it’s not just the drugs, though?” Anyway, now I live across the street from that historic site. Isn’t it cool how you try and try to get away but instead you just spin around in circles? They ought to put up a plaque.

This is the park.

This is the park.

Do you remember when I got sober for 11 months back in 2011-12? Perhaps you read about it in the newspaper. I mean literally, I wrote feature stories about my sobriety for a newspaper in Montana. Then I started drinking and smoking again, and let’s just breeze past this part and say that the last four years have gone steadily downhill from there.

Cut to this labor day in Michigan. My friend Lindsay had a pool party at her parent’s house in Waterford while the folks were out of town. People were getting high and drunk, and then my friend Travis came barrelling in like John Goodman with a shitload of mushrooms for everyone. Hey, I thought. Why the heck not, for old time’s sake, let’s kick this party up a notch. This is just the kind of shit that grown up children in the midwest do.

Hallucinogens don’t sit well with my tummy and never have. I always spend the first half of the night puking. September 5 was no different; I draped myself over the banister and puked in large chunks into the bushes. It felt like I was shooting ping pong balls out of my mouth made of wet dough. Lindsay’s dogs came around and ate the vomit. “Is that okay?” I asked. “Are the dogs going to trip out on my vomit? Is there a doctor in the house?”

It was dark and warm and my friends were sitting around the poolside talking ecstatically. I should clarify: the extroverts were ecstatic while the introverts and I listened helplessly from a private hell inside our bodies. From this place, all of a sudden, “I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.” It wasn’t a voice or a vision so much as a calm and wonderful knowing that this was the last time. Starting tomorrow, I didn’t have to drink alcohol or do drugs anymore. I felt like Forrest Gump when his idiotic shrimping business takes off and he says, “That’s good. One less thing.”

From there, I wandered aimlessly in and out of Lindsay’s parent’s house, pouring beers down my gullet in a quiet panic sponsored by too many hallucinogens. It was okay, though. I knew it would all be over soon. The party had a hot tub full of party animals. I got inside the tub and dunked my head under to drown out the voices, came back up again, repeat. A man named Frank laughed heartily at everyone’s jokes. From under the water, he sounded like a God. Inside, the non-partiers invariably said: “I wish I’d done slightly fewer mushrooms than I did.” Field studies confirm: However many mushrooms you take in your 30s is just a little too much.

These spontaneous conversions under the influence of psilocybin and other drugs are not so uncommon. Check the scientific literature on it, I don’t know. Quitting forever wasn’t what I was going for, exactly, but I’d been sick for a long time and I did sincerely want to get better. At the very least, I know I went into that party with one of those withered promises to myself of, “I’m going to party hard tonight and then take a serious breather. For like two weeks. OMG you guys, I’m serious.” It’s been 109 days of sobriety, according to this app on my phone, but who’s counting. I’m glad about it and I want to keep at it. This is embarrassing to talk about, and I know I’ve said it before, but just do me a solid and take my word on it this time.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I can start blogging about other things.

For example, Dorothy died the other day. She was ten years old, she had cancer, it happens. She was my destiny and my soulmate and I miss her a lot. The grief is worse than I thought it would be, but what can anybody do but stand it.

She seemed a little depressed about her diminishing condition, but resigned and wise about it, too. Toward the end, she was too weak to stand on her own. It was an honor and a privilege to carry her everywhere. I felt like a firefighter doing something important for a special person. I had her scheduled to be put down on Wednesday but I dug the hole on Sunday because I was afraid the ground would get too cold if I waited. Also, pardon me, is this weird? It’s just that I’ve seen it done so many times in films and the act is so mystical and terrible that I couldn’t resist: I carried her outside and made her watch me dig the hole.

She died the next morning sprawled out on the floor next to me while I finished up writing a review for a critically acclaimed film that I hated. Her teeth were bared in a frozen, half-growl that had little to do with her life. She didn’t vomit or shit or do anything gross. Her body was frozen in place and even then I had to stare and poke at her for a pretty long time; it seemed like she was faking it and still breathing. She looked mean and perfect.

Merry Christmas? Let’s talk again soon.

11/10/15

The Incredible Journey.

On the other hand, why would anyone willingly move back to a suburb of Detroit, Michigan?

It became clear over time that life in Seattle with my dog had become fodder for an unfortunate narrative. “Well, thank god you have Dorothy,” my mother would say to me through heavy sighs on the telephone. I may not be a smart man, but I know when I’m being patronized.

Three days alone on the road with my dog. We murdered thousands of butterflies against the windshield. At a Motel 6 in Joliet, Illinois, Dorothy and I ate pizza so gross that we both puked on the bed spread, and you know the legend is true that those things never get cleaned.

Homeward Bound.

Homeward Bound.

There was something pretty seriously wrong with me. The fall leaves, everyone said. Look at all the colors. First of all, autumn leaves are at most three to four colors. Secondly, I’ve seen it. More than 30 goddamn times I have seen leaves die and fall off of trees. Why do they call it change when it always happens, answer me that.

My mom didn’t know what to do so she brought me home a fifth of Evan Williams every other day on her way home from work. After a week or so of that I was all, no mother, this place is a health spa and I am the earth’s humble student, so instead she sent me to the quack family doctor to get diet pills and anti depressants.

A lot of little things made me want to leave Seattle. I remember I was at a service counter at a Safeway in White Center. A customer said, “Why do you lock up the little bottles of booze but not the big bottles.” Before the clerk could answer, I said, “Because they’re the easiest to steal.” She said, “That’s exactly right.” We formed a unit in that moment, the three of us, but then I said, “Bob Marley says that locking your doors is like saying you don’t trust people.” Why do I always say this. It makes people uncomfortable. The customer said, “Right. Exactly.” I held the state of Washington responsible for feeling misunderstood in that moment, but that’s not fair. They respond the same way in Michigan. Of course you can’t trust people. There are poor people everywhere.

spaceneedletools

Then I took this picture of attractive young professionals my age in Queen Anne and that was basically the last straw. I could hear them speaking. The one on the left explained the view to the other two. “This is the space needle,” he said. If you don’t understand why I didn’t want to share a city with these people anymore, I can’t explain it. I am aware now that I may have overreacted.

The pills aren’t working, thanks for asking. They gave me a tricyclic anti-depressant, the old school kind, because it’s also a sedative and I told the doctor I couldn’t sleep. The idea that you go to a doctor and tell her what medicine you want based on what commercials you’ve seen is batshit insane to me, but this is America and this is how we do it. I told her my mom said I should ask her for a pill called “phentermine” that her friend from work said made her skinny, and that was it, she just wrote it down on a pad and said, “Anything else?” Then I got cocky. I was like, throw in a little ambien.
“I can’t prescribe ambien with phentermine,” she said.
“But I need a downer to go with my upper,” I said.
“That’s the exact issue,” she said.

I thought about the scene in The Departed when Madolyn valiantly recovers after Billy Costigan rattles her in their first therapy session. Theirs is the sexiest relationship in all of cinema. She gives him a script for lorazapem, and then she says,  “Have I done my job to your God damn standards? Because according my standards, you fit the model of drug seeking behavior. And too damn bad if you don’t like my initial clinical reaction.” It was a baller thing to say. I feel that I too fit the model of drug seeking behavior. The fact that I really am overweight, suffer from insomnia and exhibit symptoms of severe clinical depression are immaterial against this feeling that I’ve done something wrong.

“You can’t sleep,” she said, and I agreed. Her next question was, “Do you have kids?” I said no, and she prescribed the amitriptyline. What is the relevance of the question about kids (is a question with no answer).

My mother and I went down to Florida to babysit my sister’s six month old. Her name is Veda and I am her aunt. She stared at me for long, perplexed moments. I look like her mother but I am not her mother. Happy, sad and confused seem to be her three primary emotions. In Florida, my dearth of normal human feeling began to gnaw on the people around me. It was getting to Sylvia Plath levels of despair. I may have had three lines of dried red blood on my cheek, for all I know. I was so dead inside I doubt I cast a reflection in a mirror. Not to mention the tiny lizards that scurried under foot with every step on the pavement. I imagined them falling out of the trees and into my hair, or scurrying up my pant leg. I love every animal but a lizard. After Florida, my mother agreed to pay for my talk therapy.

I’ve known my therapist since I was 17 years old. He’s a smart, funny man who I am probably in love with, but only under the healthy umbrella of transference. It took me several minutes to tell him that David had died. I kept gesturing with my hands and trying to get the words out of my mouth, but they wouldn’t come. Three sessions later my therapist told me that my grief stacked on top of the depression, stuffed inside a pre-existing horror show like the chicken in a turducken, and there is nothing to do but grieve and feel the feelings. Finding out how sad you are: This is an example of progress and a good thing. That’s how bad it is.

lamb of god.

lamb of god.

 

I wanted to turn my head into an animal for halloween. Last year I was a crow, before that, a dog, and a rabbit the year before that. I tried to make a horse but the horse turned into a bear. I didn’t like the bear so I resolved to start over with a lamb. I imagined the lamb with the machete from the horror film You’re Next, isn’t that terrifying? I went to Goodwill and bought two stuffed teddy bears, for christmas, with a texture like a lamb’s tail. “These are cute,” the clerk said. “I’m going to cut them up and wear them on my face,” I thought of saying, but be proud of me, I didn’t.

 

 

 

 

bear of god.

bear of god.

 

I mention the manic making of the masks because I have to admit that this focused attention on an ultimately irrelevant task means that I am probably getting better. I punctured my thigh with a pair of scissors, but that was a harmless accident. The masks make me feel safe and desirous of your presence. I want to hover over your bed with the head of a lamb and watch you sleep.  I’m renewing my interest in things I once enjoyed.

Is that good? Are you proud of me? Have I done my job to your goddamn standards?

10/5/15

David.

My friend David went missing in late July. I’ve known him the longest of anyone, since we were 15 years old, and we stayed close even after I left Michigan for school in 2009. Always we were united in misanthropy and sadness, but somewhere along the line, it was like I went out the front door into the world and he slipped unnoticed out the back.

It started during the college years, when we were all in our 20s. He kept having these frightening breaks from reality. One time on acid he went mad on the Wayne State campus and allegedly attacked a security guard; I found him strapped to a gurney the next morning at Detroit Mercy Hospital. Another time he flipped out in the middle of a 10-day meditation retreat and the buddhists had to send him home. At first we didn’t know what was wrong with him, because there were all these confounding factors: drugs, the stress of meditation—but eventually he got diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic episodes. It’s an affliction that looks a lot like schizophrenia, with an equally dismal prognosis.

He was never really the same after that. The medications clouded his brain and made him lethargic and unmotivated. It stopped the mania but somehow made the depression worse. He couldn’t work, which meant he had to live on a pitiful disability allowance. Then his car broke down, leaving him stranded alone in a tiny apartment in Hamtramck. One thing stacks up on top of another, and after awhile it becomes a case of how much can a person take?

Lindsay texted to say she hadn’t heard from David in a few days. This was standard protocol. Many times before he’d gone off his meds and disappeared for a time, but always he’d resurface, the hospital would pump him full of meds and he’d be back where he started. I checked our gchat history and found our last conversation was about a week ago. When I saw he hadn’t logged into google in more than five days—I think that’s about the time that I knew in my bones that he was dead.

A day later, neighbors called the landlord to complain about a smell. They found him decomposing in his apartment with a plastic bag over his head. That’s how he always told me he would do it: with helium and asphyxiation. He’d told me many times before that he wanted to die and he wasn’t scared. He stayed alive as a courtesy to his parents. If you’re thinking I should have said or done something, you don’t understand. I am the friend you can tell your darkest secrets to without judgment. This is one of my few, unequivocal gifts. In the aftermath people said things like, “I wish we’d done more to help him,” but those of us that knew him best knew that it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t for a lack of love. It was something deeper, hideous and ultimately unknowable.

I flew in for the funeral. Somehow, my friend Travis and I landed the task of identifying his body at the coroners. I expected them to open a large drawer and then dramatically unzip the body bag, but these days you just go into a room and look at a picture on a computer screen. He didn’t look at all like himself. His face was black, bloated and without expression. When the lady asked us, “Can you make a positive ID?” we lied and said “Yes.”

Lindsay and I spoke at the funeral to a packed house full of people weeping. David was a gay man from a conservative Christian family. His spiritual beliefs were nuanced and intelligent and beautiful, so when the pastor said a lot of generic bullshit about how David had repented and embraced christianity in the moments before his death, my friends and I were, how you say, annoyed. Lindsay even got up and walked out of the room in protest. The worst part was when they played the most god awful rendition of “Amazing Grace” the world has ever known. It was dumb and sad, but I had the feeling that David would have understood and pitied his family for clinging to superstition. I weirdly thought of the part in the bible when Jesus says, “Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.”

If I had to choose, I’d say the most surreal thing about David’s death was when his mother handed me a felt pouch after the funeral service with a mini urn of David’s ashes inside. I said, “Oh. Thank you. I wasn’t expecting that.” Later I watched her give one to Lindsay, and she said the exact same thing. “Oh. Thank you. I wasn’t expecting that.”

I don’t mean for this to be a well thought out and beautiful essay about suicide, or an advocacy piece for people with mental illness or anything like that. Those are fine, I’m just not up for it. More than anything else, I am filled with an ordinary, overwhelming sadness. I miss hearing his voice and seeing his face. I miss his dry humor and cunning, compassionate intelligence. I inherited his army green satchel, a few books, his tarot cards and his crystal balls. We had this in common: our obsession with the divine tempered by a nagging skepticism. Since it happened I haven’t dreamed of him once or seen him as a floating aberration above my bed. It makes me sick in the stomach, this feeling that he’s lost. That I don’t know where he is.

I’m not angry at David for hurting us. Nobody has an obligation to stay alive in pain just because we don’t want to face the suffering of living without them. And I don’t subscribe to common ideas that suicide is selfish or cowardly. I don’t think it’s noble either, but don’t tell me that the scariest thing in the world doesn’t take courage.

When I got home to Seattle, it didn’t feel like home any more. David’s death turned Seattle into the loneliest place on earth. More than that, it forced me to take an objective look at my own depression, how I’ve been letting it run my life unfettered for more than three years. I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t making it. My friends and family kept saying, we miss you. Come back. So I said, fine. Thank you for still wanting me. And here I am.

 

12/12/13

a day in the life part million.

Before we begin: Does the new theme decoration make you nauseous? Perhaps I’ll have changed it before you read this, but right now know that the background is bright red slabs of meat with a real life bloody bathroom scene as the header photo. I can explain: I don’t have photoshop installed to tone down the reds. If anybody wants to help me design something prettier, by all means, come at me.

Never mind this crippling fear of the blank page followed by an avalanche of projections into a bleak and unrealized future. I went to bed with this “never mind” in mind and tried to wake up in the morning still thinking it, but the mind wanders. I had three dogs to walk today. I said to myself, unconvincingly, “I choose to be a dog walker!” This is one of the new head tricks I’ve learned, in a nutshell: Act like your life isn’t horrible.

There’s a coffee shop about a block from my new studio in capitol hill. I don’t like it because the drip doesn’t taste good and you can’t get anything bigger than 12 oz (classic joke: The food is terrible, and such small portions!) but it’s on the way to the bus and I’m trying to be a good sport.

Inside the soundtrack featured christmas music sung by harmonizing black voices, and I was listening to the music while staring at the girl’s hair in front of me. She had hair that looks like she tousled it in the morning on purpose, like if you snapped a picture of Kate Moss when she first stepped out of bed and she still looked good.

The girl with the hair said, “Is this Beyonce?” and the man behind the counter with the skinny tshirt, beard and glasses confirmed, “It’s Destiny’s Child.”

It was just as I suspected, and in my sudden commitment to be vulnerable and genuine with the people around me, I said to everyone, “I was really enjoying the music, and it caused me to confront my true self and my previous beliefs about the entire holiday season and the meaning of Christmas.” I pointed to my heart while saying this.

The man behind the counter corrected me: “It’s pretty horrible.”

The other guy handed me my shitty 12 ounces of coffee and said, “Yeah, it’s bad.”

Let me just reaffirm once more that the music was gorgeous, I mean empirically, you’d have to be some kind of monster. I thought, “Am I on candid camera?”

Out loud I said, “Then why are you playing it?” but no one heard me.

The girl with the tousled hair agreed with the coffee workers that the soulful, joyous rendition of “here come the bells” was terrible. “I like the RUN DMC Christmas album,” she said, and followed that with, “Are you playing this on vinyl?”

It didn’t seem like she was kidding, but how can that be? They said: “No, compact disc,” and the three of them talked about vinyl right up to the moment I walked out the door.

That’s actually what unfolded during my first attempt at openness with people in my neighborhood. I’m like a raccoon who climbs out of his hole at the first thaw with a longing for spring only to immediately get hit by a truck.

On the way to the bus downtown I thought to myself, “I need to start saving my money so I can go on vacations, have experiences and meet new people.” Shortly after on the sidewalk I ran into a panhandler for probably the third or fourth time, but she tends to only remember me if I’ve got a dog in tow. She’s a tiny, pretty thing, and she’s always nice and I always give her money. She said she needed four more dollars to get a subway sandwich, and I handed her five dollars out of my empty dreams fund.

She said thank you and told me I was tall. Being told I’m tall usually feels like a pin in my belly but I’m starting to recognize that people think they’re giving me something nice when they say this. They think they’re complimenting me, so with this new information I have to sort of pull out the pin and clean off the blood.

The odds suggest the girl is a drug addict, which is fine. I am happy to give her five dollars for whatever is going to make her feel good. What I find is that I’m craving to know her better. What kind of drugs? How did she get into them? Will she ever change or will she die on the streets? I know that she’s special. I’d like to follow her back to wherever she goes at night and crawl into the sleeping bag next to her, but I hold back! This is why I’ll never be a crack addict; I’m too shy.

You’re reading the words of a girl who’s interested in change and right action. I joined a cult recently. I hope it helps. It’s not my first choice for a cult because I think it’s a little corporate-y, and they’re super aggressive about trying to turn me into a little soldier who recruits other members, but overall I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor, at the moment. Think of the kind of compassionate capitalists with glazed over eyes you see in the crowd of a Ted Talks video, these dolts who have just discovered for the first time the value of mindfulness, and that’s the kind of peeps my new cult is largely made up of. I think I’ve got something to learn from these people. If you think I’m selling out, well. The girl from two weeks ago who didn’t join this cult hasn’t finished a story in over a year and a half, so what the heck. Let’s see if this helps.

I’m single again. Lost another one to God, what else is new. Going to Detroit this weekend. I tried to go to the post office but the line was too long and I couldn’t understand how to buy stamps out of the self service machine. That’s a true story. If you’re still waiting on a free letter, what can I say? LoL. Keep waiting. 

06/6/13

you haven’t met yourself yet.

Work

Nobody didn’t see this one coming: I put in my two weeks at the retirement home. I knew for sure I was on my way out when they told me I had to go to a meeting designed to hone our team building skills, and much like Camus and the Myth of Sisyphus, my first thought was, “Should I go to the meeting, or should I kill myself?”

You don’t understand. The lady made us answer ice breaker questions. When she asked me what my two favorite foods were, I said, “Ramen and tofu,” because that’s actually what I eat the most of, and aren’t you supposed to love the one you’re with? I really let the team down with that answer; you could feel the energy in the room deflating down to nothing. You’d have thought I squashed a sparrow under my boot in front of everyone and laughed about it.

Really though, this country fetishizes food and the food industry exploits animals, I’m not in the mood, I hate when people ask me what my favorite food is. The team should consider itself lucky I didn’t elaborate. [In high school, my friend Kevin used to do an impression of me wherein he put on my glasses, waved his hands in the air and said, "I'm Molly. I'm anti-everything!" It's still true! I still wear glasses!]

So ends that reign of terror. I got two new jobs, get this, we’re all really pleased about this: 1. Dog walker. 2. Mentor/private tutor.  But let’s not get into it here. Old people don’t really google, but everybody else does and I’d rather not get fired immediately.

Detroit

I made friends with a poet on the internet and I visited him in his basement apartment. It was a neat room with wood paneling on the walls, important books and hundreds of VHS tapes of violent films. The poet told me more than once that if not for poetry he’d be a murderer and if you’ve seen his beard like I have you wouldn’t doubt it. I feel like I find myself alone in rooms with men like this all the time lately and I’m never scared. I saw his bedroom in a dream ten years ago and I told him so. In the dream we sat on the floor on the edge of his bed. The poet didn’t talk much and I don’t know if he thinks I’m a necromancer or a dumb girl who says untrue things or what.

In a diner not unlike the one in all of David Lynch and indeed many films, the poet told me for a second time about a book he liked called The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell. He told me about turning to a random page (57, he thought?) and reading a passage that said something like “You’re looking out a window at rocks on a Tuesday in 2009” and the Poet swore he was doing just that. I had ordered the book from a second hand seller on amazon not long after the first time he told me he liked it. I pulled the book out of my purse and looked for page 57, but pages 53 through 58 had been ripped out. The coincidences just stack on top of each other without meaning anything. They stack and stack like a room full of dirty plates until you can hardly move but still your life doesn’t mean anything. You want to smash the plates but the plates don’t care if they’re smashed or in tact; you can’t win.

LSD

You’re not allowed to talk about drug use in the present tense, so assume this happened a long time ago, to someone else, in a dream, with a wrench, on a boat:

She took LSD with some old friends for old time’s sake. It was terrible, she just crawled inside her heart and saw how black it was, but her friends wanted to have a good time so she pretended like she wasn’t in a private hell. They watched a lot of Eliot Smith and Sparklehorse videos and mourned their suicides all over again. She'd eaten pizza earlier and spent all night puking up the pizza, and then all sorts of items that weren’t pizza; she puked marbles and spare change and keys with no locks. She felt like she didn’t love anyone or care about anything anymore, and that’s wrong. There’s no point in doing LSD, she decided. Taking LSD felt like arriving at a fun party hours after everyone’s already left and the lights are turned off. Then you put your hands on your knees and spit up a wilted balloon, and there's not even anybody around to laugh at you.

New, better jobs. Seattle stays in the picture. I’m so happy. Look at this photo of me. I’m so happy:

 

05/22/13

training for a big fight.

The other night at dinner I tried to take a lady’s order. I said, “Would you like to order dinner?” and she said, “I would, but no one has asked me yet.” I said, “The special tonight is dill encrusted halibut with wild rice and broccoli and cauliflower.” She stared at me and I said, “Would you like the special?” She said, “I don’t know what the special is!” I told her what the special was again. I told her about the other menu items but she was equally astonished by everything. I eventually talked her into ordering the special.

Later I asked her if she wanted more coffee. “What did I order?” she grabbed my arm and begged me to tell her, and the circumstances forced me to answer back “the special,” all cryptically like some horror film villain.

I brought out the special and set it in front of her sharp yet uncomprehending eyes.

“What is this?” she said. And I explained to her that it was dill encrusted halibut with wild rice and vegetables. I pointed to each food item, apologetically. She looked at the food like it was a pile of calculators.

“Does it not look good?” her dinner companion said.

“Would you like something else?” I asked. We all just wanted to be helpful.

“I don’t know what it is!” the woman said, and kind of snotty this time, like it was my fault. Like she was mad at me for bringing her a plate of calculators for dinner.

I told her all about halibut, that it’s a kind of fish. Again I asked her if she wanted something else.

“I just don’t know what this food is,” She said again. “I’ve just never seen anything like it before.”

And this is what it is to be old, everyone. The world stops making sense. You’re lonely and scared and no one can help you. Dementia isn’t a river in Egypt. It’s a thing, and it’s waiting for you.

Lately, every morning when I open my eyes I think, “I hate my life.” I know, that’s not ideal, and I’m not trying to upset everybody, but there it is. Every day I try to get fired, but I make every light. There’s always a parking spot. It’s like God wants it this way for me. The residents are always ordering dessert at lunchtime, and I think that’s wrong. But Tony Robbins says it’s fine to hate your life as long as you’re working toward something better, so let’s say I’m doing that and nobody worry about me.

I joined a mixed martial arts gym and I spend a lot of time pretending that I’m Hilary Swank from Million Dollar Baby, training for a big fight. In class we pummel bags with our fists. I try to get angry and imagine the bag is the face of my enemy, but there’s nobody I’m mad at. I’m not mad at my ex boyfriend. I just want to rewire his brain or bring his mother back to life. It sucks that my job sucks, but that’s a thing, not a person, and whose fault is a shitty job, the sun? Fuck the sun, I fucking hate it too, long live the fucking beast.

Remember when I sent some of you postcards? That was fun. I made it a permanent thing. Check out the free letter  section.

I’m going to Detroit this weekend, hide the fine china! JK I know you don’t have any, you’re Detroit.

05/3/12

travelogue: star date infinity.

I left Michigan on Tuesday morning. There’s the blunt edge of how much my mother will miss me to deal with, but so it goes. Birds fly away. Leaving the cats tears me up even more, because they don’t understand. You can’t send a cat a text message that explains why you’re leaving them.

The thing about me lately is, to be perfectly frank, I can’t stop thinking about faith and God and love all the time. I want to practice what I’ve learned like a teen might dutifully play the clarinet for an hour a day, but it’s not that simple; you can’t hold faith and love and God in your hands.

Imagine someone with the gall to rape in broad daylight wearing rainboots. This is the alley they would choose.

There was a man getting off the plane in Chicago from my connection to Boston. He was alone, quiet and unequivocally different. He had the proud suit, hat and beard. I couldn’t tell if he was Hasidic or Mennonite or what, but anyway, you know the type. When he got off the plane, he crouched down in the causeway to stuff a worn bible in his carry-on. I wanted him to know that I love God as much does. I wanted to talk to him about it, say something like, “Isn’t it cool how God is the same no matter what weird beard he’s wearing?” Anyway, there are men like that all over the city. They’re always alone and it seems to me a little sad and bewildered by what’s happening in the world around them. I could be totally wrong about that.

"Nobody ever mentions the second world, but it exists, like plate tectonics exist. It's called Detroit." That's the line that got the people most riled up from the poem I read at Cantab Lounge's open mic night . (That's not me in the picture, of course.)

It continues to be hilarious how terrible I am at the basic goings ons of city life. I never put the metro card through the machine in the right direction, for example. Two separate New Yorkers who are old and special friends made a point of mentioning to me how slow I walk. In Michigan, where I came from, there’s not much more than parked cars to walk to. In Montana, where I’m going, there’s the scenery to gawk at. I’ll get a steady pace worked out. Don’t nobody worry about me.

Real Pigeons of New York

Today is tattoo day! Tomorrow, the mountains. We’ll be in touch.

04/23/12

turning thirty.

Everybody says that your thirties are better, and I believe them. Seems to me like the fire inside of you burns steadier, that you care less what other people think. There’s more grace to be had from knowing from experience, instead of having to act strong and guess all the time.

It feels like a very significant birthday to me. My whole life I’ve felt this way, that when I was thirty, something profound would shift. It feels as though all of the changes I’ve made recently are meant to prepare me for whatever is next. Never mind that it’s 2012 and the world is coming undone in all the ways I’ve seen in my dreams since I was little. I’m not scared about the future, but I’m very curious. In a week I move back west again, and let me tell you… not a moment too soon.

My zero birthday, April 23, 1982: I was born at home, with midwives, in the house my mother and I still live in. These are iPhone shots taken of actual pictures, inelegantly. (Put them through an instagram filter and the universe would probably unfurl.)

my brother and sister are excited to meet me. They don't know anything about the future.

My father cuts the chord. it's weird to think that my parents were once married. I'd recognize that silver bowl anywhere. We fill it with lettuce leaves, still.

My mother was 30 years old when she had me. At last, we're the same age.

I think that shadow is my hand, lurking from the future. I don't know what else to say. My mother is so pretty. Last night, she made me a raw vegan carrot cake.

Look. I don’t weep, do you?

 

 

03/9/12

try to think of no one in particular.

Right after the Virginia Tech shooting, I was at a laundromat in Detroit, working on a little something while I waited for my clothes to dry. The attendant asked me what I was all about, and I said, “I’m a writer.” “Uh oh!” he said. “I’m scared of you!”

That’s right! He should be.

A lot of writers are just bad, which is a comfort. It’s the ones teetering on mediocre that are so upsetting. I imagine them spending hours alone, hunched over a desk in a lonely attic spitting out hackneyed prose, pitifully disconnected between their own ambitious thoughts and whatever magic spark it takes to engage an audience. Then one day they leave the attic, and snap! It’s finally time to share, and the audience is not moved. This is how people get killed.

Never mind the obvious fear that I’m the person I just described.

I remember this story from an undergraduate workshop I took at Wayne State. We’ll call the author Tom, out of respect or whatever, but also I can’t remember his real name. Tom was around 30. He was trim with short dark hair, forever clad in pastel polo shirts. He was a real blank canvas. He was the kind of person you picture when you’re trying to picture no one in particular.

The story’s protagonist resembled someone very much like the author who had a conspicuously close relationship with his sister. The workshop conversation went something like this:

“Does anybody else think it’s weird that he brushes her hair for a really long time in this scene?”
“I don’t think it’s normal for grown up siblings to brush each other’s hair at all.”
“There’s definitely a sexual undercurrent between the brother and sister character. I wonder why it’s here or what it contributes to the present action of the story.”
“I don’t think the incest is doing anything for the story and should be removed.”
“Nay, I think that without the incest, the story is nothing, and if anything, it should be amped up or made more explicit.”

As it turned out, Tom had not intended for us to read any funny business into the sibling’s relationship. What we’d done instead is shine a flashlight on deep-seeded perversions in his psyche for 45 uncomfortable minutes. This was only the first round of workshop. He never came back to class after that, although his spirit lived on in our memory.

Say your brain is a big house with many rooms. When you write a story, you’re saying,  ”Come take a tour of my house.” Maybe you’re not prepared for brats in your workshop to go exploring beyond the parlor, kicking doors open down hallways you thought you’d made clear were off limits, but that’s what brats do.

I envy people like Tom. I bet he went home, boarded up the room filled with creepy thoughts of fucking his sister, and he’s never been back to it.

I wonder if he still writes. Eh. Who knows. Maybe we were wrong about everything and the brother and sister really were just good friends.

03/5/12

things fall apart.

The writers conference I went to in chicago last week started off on a high note, and then everything began to unravel. Here’s a list/summary of what I learned at AWP.

  1. I went to the conference for two reasons: To read my stories into a microphone and to meet my twitter friends. All told, I hugged around 15 new people, which is beautiful, which is the point of life, which is meaningful and true. More than anything, I discovered that really, I already knew them. I am a very affectionate person and it meant a lot to me to express my inappropriate love for Internet strangers in the physical. To love and be loved, this is the point of life. Duh. Everybody knows that, even if they don’t know that.
  2. As for the readings, one was pretty good and one was sweet but terrible, which averages out to okay. They were just fine.
  3. It’s fun to go to panels and muse on the writing process and everything, but ultimately, for myself, School is Out. At one of the panels I went to, somebody in the audience asked a question about “theme.” What are your themes? How do you stay true to and interweave themes into your novel? I have a masters degree in writing and I don’t know what a theme is. It’s an issue of too much craft and not enough soul.
  4. Sometimes I heard myself trying to casually interject my piddly credentials into conversation (I was published here, I got this fellowship, I know this person, puke) out of a made up need in myself to make it clear that hey, I have a right to be here. Whatever, I’m an asshole just like everybody else, but what I hope to learn from that is, in the future, don’t fucking do that.
  5. I spent the whole last day of the conference walking around on the brink of tears and not knowing why. Emotional exhaustion, probably. You don’t believe in magic, blah blah blah, but whatever; physics agrees with me that thoughts are things and we’re all one. By the end of that debacle, we were swimming in each other’s feelings, which, in a sea of writers, are complicated and many.
  6. Ambition is the worst, and from now on, I’ve decided to abstain. I’ll keep writing fiction and trying to get published, but I’m over worrying about what caliber of journal I can get it into, whether or not I can get paid, who will read it and whether or not I can make some kind of lasting impact on the literary canon before I die. None of that really matters, right?
  7. I always say that a writer is a person who hates writing, which is cute and sometimes it feels true, but it’s not true. I love this shit. I love it so much. I would die without it. When I’m able to express a hard to reach idea through words, and people take it in, and I feel like I’m understood? That’s all that matters. None of the other shit matters. And finally, obviously:
  8. Write from your fucking heart.

Friday night I went out with an old friend from grad school, a writer I met from twitter and a couple of his friends. I’ve been sober for almost 6 months now, maybe you heard, I don’t know. It’s tiresome to always talk about not drinking, but whatever. (To quote Margaret Cho: “If Richard Pryor had a period, he would talk about it.”) What is drinking but a contract of cowardice amongst friends?We’re afraid to get close so we agree to go on a voyage together. Not drinking is like treading water alongside the boat. Or maybe I’m in the boat and everyone else is in the water. Metaphors have their limits, let’s move on.

Over the weekend I thought a lot about how it would have been if I were drinking. I feel like I might have gotten lost or hurt. I feel like it would have been unsafe, and it’s hard to imagine that I used to hurl myself into danger so often.

I worry that people who drink are afraid of me. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to get close to anyone ever again.

Around 2 am, I got on the train and went back to the couch I was surfing in Wicker Park, and the party continued on without me in a hotel room with party drugs and Romanians. What would it have been like if my old self had attended? Here’s what I think: I would have felt closer to them at night, and then farther away in the morning.

Since then, nothing has gone right. I figured I’d mosey on out of the city on Saturday afternoon, but I was too chill about making train reservations and I missed the $35 train out of Chicago at noon, leaving only the 6 PM train for $93. I felt that dumb, heavy regret of knowing I’d lost a lost of money and it was my own fault. It will take me two hours of watching a dreary holocaust film and another hour or two of writing up the review to recoup not even half the difference.

Money is depressing. Wasting it is depressing. Whenever this happens I have a trick where I project myself a month or so into the future, when it doesn’t matter anymore, and it works, sort of. But I always know it’s a trick.

The train broke down somewhere outside of Kalamazoo. The conductor came on to say, “Well, the computer is on the fritz. We’re going to try to shut it down and reboot.” Apple+Q the train computer. That didn’t work. He came back on and said, “Well shoot. You know, this doesn’t happen very often.” They got the rear engine working and we travelled backwards to a rondevu point.

Here’s the best joke I could think of for the occasion, maybe I texted it to you or you read about it on twitter: “How long was it before they all started eating each other in that Mark Twain story?”

Another train came along and we swapped engines? I don’t know, it all seemed insane. The whole thing took about three hours. I spent the time feeling lonely and thinking about friendship. The signal on my phone was bad and for a few minutes, I started to consider that it might be the start of a national or global apocalypse, and I wished I had a man around who was good at building things with his hands, or even just a friend to make jokes with. It was a tragedy of boredom and inconvenience. It’s not like we were on a boat or an airplane. There was basically no chance we would die, which to me, almost made it worse.

A couple hours later in Detroit, the train hit an abandoned car on the tracks. The conductor came on the horn and gave an impromptu speech filled with pathos and insecurity. “You’re probably wondering why we’ve stopped,” he began. I wasn’t, actually. We didn’t feel any impact. He assured us that no one was hurt, and he told us to stay calm and try to be patient. It was the “please stay calm,” part that was really unnerving. We waited another two hours on the tracks for the railroad police to come. All told I spent 12 hours on the Amtrak, but what is time?

Like I said at the beginning of this very long blog post: everything is unraveling and falling apart around me. My sleeping schedule is a little messed up. Sunday night I spent a few hours preparing my class lesson for Monday morning. I went to bed at 3 am, but I forgot to set my alarm. I was having this long, ornate dream where I took acid and engaged in all kinds of debaucherous lesbian sex. I do this all the time in my dreams. I drink or take drugs and I fuck women. What does it mean, Freud?

My Monday afternoon class starts at 1. I woke up at 2:13 PM, and that wave of disbelief followed by overwhelming despair and regret washed over me. I had spent the last 11 hours partying and fucking women in my sleep, which made it doubly wrong.

My students communicated with me through email that they left their papers on the desk, so I had to drive the 40 minutes to campus to retrieve them. My 95 Saturn won’t stop gobbling up oil. The oil isn’t leaking, it’s just burning away. Where does burnt oil go? It has gotten to the point where I have to fill it up around every 30 miles. The 95 Saturn is my ticket out of Purgatory, Michigan, and I find the troubled engine troubling.

I bought three quarts of oil at the gas station, and the attendant said to me, “Have a day.” That about sums it up.