Food, television, classism, mind control – you know, the usual.

We’re staying with The Husband’s family for a minute while we reacclimate to normal human society (whatever that is – I really couldn’t tell you). I find myself suddenly confronted with things I had largely forgotten about: delicious fried foods, the convenience of living five minutes from a real town, roads off of which it is mostly impossible to plummet to a watery death, cat allergies, and television.

Oh, sweet opioid light box, how I both love and loathe you.

On one of our first mornings here, I sat down to have some coffee and watch the news, but it was Saturday, so the news was all puff pieces and celebrity gossip (as though war and genocide and bigotry and violent death also work 9 to 5 Monday through Friday – WTF, CNN?). I’m not sure how it happened, but I ended up getting sucked into a vortex of reality tv. It was that one show about people who save tons of money with massive numbers of coupons, and I was utterly transfixed for a few straight hours. Transfixed, I say.

First of all, good on these folks for gaming the system. Getting a few hundred dollars worth of stuff for ten bucks? Awesome. Way to stick it to the man? I guess? (Although there are probably easier and more environmentally friendly ways to both upset capitalism and use coupons – so much paper!) However, it took all of two minutes for me to start armchair psychologizing all over these people. What the hell is wrong with them? This seems like a mutant hybrid of OCD and hoarding, with a little addictive behavior thrown in for flavor. On the one hand, I was completely fascinated. On the other, I think some of them might need real help. As usual, I was angered by reality television exploiting people, and by people wanting to be exploited by reality tv. Not to mention angry at myself for becoming a drooling zombie while watching (even though I watch cooking shows all the time and they’re not that different, they don’t switch my brain off in the same way – I swear reality tv is subliminally screwing with us somehow).

Of course, I do love a good deal. I appreciate a sale or a discount as much as the next red-blooded American homemaker. But the logic here is not sound. To buy a thousand of an item just because they’re only a penny each still means you’re spending money you wouldn’t have spent. On something that you may not actually need or use. Save the money, you’ll be better off. Or, buy the thousand items, keep the few you’ll use, and donate the rest. To spend a fortune making your house look like the Wal-Mart with a lifetime’s supply of every brand of every item just makes no fucking sense. Am I wrong? Am I missing something? First, I don’t switch brands that often. I don’t need to have them all onhand. Second, as The Husband pointed out, some of these families are destroying their homes with the weight of their stuff, which will cost them more to fix than they’ll ever save buying shampoo by the gallon. And third, I think it’s pretty gross to play on people’s economic fears and insecurities by promoting this doomsday bunker, scrimp and pinch mentality like it’s a game these particular people are playing better than others. Like the viewer isn’t good enough at being poor.

The other thing that bugs me about this show is that, almost without exception, the food that they’re getting these amazing deals on is crap. Why would you buy hundreds of boxes of pre-packaged, preservative-filled, salt and sugar and chemical shit that’s probably going to expire before you use it all? You will get diabetes and die of cancer before you plow through that truckload of Hamburger Helper, I assure you. This is all reinforcing the idea that poor people (or even people on what I would consider a reasonable food budget) don’t deserve to eat fresh, healthy food. That it will and should remain out of their financial reach. Ooh, it pisses me off so much. So. Much.

And look, I understand that my eating organic (when possible) and vegan (mostly) is big, fat, ugly privilege. I get it. But I’ve been broker than broke for long stretches of my adult life. I’ve had the cabinet full of 10-for-$10 Hamburger Helper and fifteen-cent dollar store brand ramen. I have cooked the last meat in the house and given it to my dog because it’s all we had until payday. I have survived for days at a time on McDoubles paid for with pennies. I won’t apologize for any of it. I shouldn’t have to, and no one should be made to feel like they have to. It’s fucking Les Mis out there, for real.

But have you noticed which foods in the grocery are covered by WIC or EBT and which aren’t? Have you noticed how politicians and pundits harp on Welfare recipients being freeloaders, being lazy, wanting handouts, when really all these people want to do is feed their children? Have you noticed that the people who eat this chemical shitstorm food are always sick? And how their medical bills keep them from getting off of Welfare or their disorders prevent them from getting better jobs or their needing access to disability and/or better healthcare makes them doubly shamed in the media? Have you noticed that kids who don’t eat decent food or enough food get lower grades in school, perpetuating a false meritocracy that favors the wealthy? Have you noticed that this is all connected? Have you noticed that it’s purposefully orchestrated? Have you noticed that living in the forest for so long has made me a cynical conspiracy theorist?

No, I kid. I’m not a cynical conspiracy theorist. I prefer the term “realist.”

What burns my biscuit (man, I’ve really missed using that particular Southernism), is when people roll their eyes at me or call me a hippie or some other dismissive thing. The bottom line is that this is massive systemic control over our bodies. It’s not healthcare or abortion or microchips or colony collapse or poisoned municipal water, but it is fabricating a narrative that convinces us to voluntarily put shit that will kill us in our mouths all day every day. I loves me a Big Mac, I do. I really, really do. But they are not food. That’s all I’m saying. That doesn’t make me crazy. Saying that they’re full of drugs that make us dumb and passive and obedient would be crazy.

Although it’s not entirely out of the question.

Things are getting better, in some ways, in some places. CSAs and community gardens are popping up in food deserts. Some schools are incorporating cooking and nutrition classes. Subscription box services like Blue Apron are making it almost as convenient for people (who can afford it) to cook as it is for them to eat out. People are actually asking where their food comes from and what’s in it, even if those answers might be manipulated or flat-out lies (“natural” doesn’t mean a goddamn thing, y’all, stop paying more for it). I had dinner last night with my web guru and his family. We talked about food and GMOs and Monsanto and the meat industry and, eventually, how many restaurants there are in our little town now. When last I lived on this side of the country, I never would have guessed that we’d be able to sit down and enjoy a local craft beer on tap on Main Street. It blows my mind that there’s a bustling farmer’s market here in the summer. It makes sense, though. I always wondered why, in a town surrounded by farms, you couldn’t buy any of those products in the grocery. So, good on you, hometown. Now, let’s work on improving those school breakfasts and lunches and maybe get some more veggies available to families who can’t afford them, maybe? Baby steps. You got this.

Anyway. I’m still getting used to being around people again. Please pardon me if I come across as a crazed cave dweller, dazed and blinking and stumbling in the light. That’s not too far from the truth, really. I might go on and on about totally normal things that, for no good reason, strike me as bizarre. Things like eating food, watching tv, and having a beer with friends. It’s all new and batshit and weird. I’ll get used to it. Probably. Fingers crossed.

An apology, an update, and a small galaxy of strange possibilities.

So, I have good news and I have bad news. When asked which I prefer first, I always go with bad, so as to end on a high note. Sticking with that logic, the bad news: I’ve been a real deadbeat blogger lately. And while I’m truly sorry about that, I don’t expect it to improve anytime soon. There may be a workaround, if we can all stomach my talking about myself more than usual, but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it. At the moment, we’re all going to stay here in blog limbo. At least we’re together.

By way of explanation, the good news: I’m moving! Across the whole damn country! Again! That’s what has me so preoccupied that I can’t do a lot of writing right at the moment. And I want to, but I haven’t been able to wrap my head around anything for more than a couple of paragraphs before I get utterly distracted by packing and arrangements and route planning and blah blah blah. My writery impulse is not dead, merely buried. So I apologize for my inability to multitask, and I assure you that I’m slowly stomping my way through some fairly coherent sentences about the newly resurrected X-files. But Mulder may be best friends with E.T. before I finish it. We’ll see.

So that’s what’s going on right now. The other thing, the less predictable upcoming future thing, is that moving 3500 miles with two dogs is stressful as fuck. And when it’s over, I’ll need some recovery time. I have no idea when we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming. Just bear with me. Please please please.

The maybe upside is that, like a lot of people who moved often as children, travel energizes the shit out of me. I might scribble like a madman while I’m on the road, go back to spewing some Kerouacian nonsense about life, the universe, and everything wonderful about seeing America’s back roads, the astonishing loneliness of an empty highway on a warm night, the sunrise over the desert while my beautiful husband sleeps in the passenger seat, how we’re all connected by the space and time that separate us, how travel replenishes the soul while fast food crushes my recently vegetarian intestines to a greasy pulp. It certainly makes a difference that the only book I kept out of the boxes to read along the way is the final David Foster Wallace novel. This might be brain overload, but surely something usable will come out of it. I put complete faith in the gods of both the highway and the footnote. They’ve never done me wrong.

And after we get where we’re going, there’s a wealth of possible material in my reacclimating to normal human society, my inevitable culture shock, and the weirdness of moving, temporarily, back to my hometown. This is why I say you might get sick of me talking about myself. Ironically, it’s probably going to get worse as I come out of a state of complete, crushing, mind-numbing isolation. Weird, that. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The bottom line is that right now we’re in blog purgatory, and I don’t know how long we’ll be here. I say we kick back, put on a Doors album (the only acceptably purgatorial music), roll the windows down, and enjoy the shit out of the ride. Who’s with me?

Row, row, row your boat.

Once upon a time, I thought I could be a poet. I thought anyone could. Which, I suppose is true. But I was/am a horrible poet, and I had delusions of one day being A Great Poet. That has never happened. I like all the steps of writing poetry, though, the process. First, the purgative brain spew is quite nice. Then, the cutting and grouping and rewording, finding where the pauses go, looking for when to breathe. Everything clicks into place, eventually. Poetry is some of my worst writing, but my most satisfying editing. Occasionally, particularly when I’m having a dark day, I still give it a go, mostly to kick all the bad words off the hamster wheel. And don’t get your hopes up – I am putting very little of that shit in this post. You sadists. But here’s one snippet that I wrote when I was about sixteen. I come back to it often. It runs through my head in the middle of the night, uninvited:

Down to my last cigarette

and there’s no end in sight.

There are demons in the tv.

They provide fantastic light.

Yes, it is awful. Take a second to appreciate that terrible little blip from my adolescence. Read it again, really soak up how bad it is.

Now, shut your giggle hole, because I’m going to tell you why that nibble of suck is important.

It’s important because it’s a moment, pinned down and euthanized like a butterfly. It exists somewhere on paper, trapped in an old journal in a box in a basement in a house in a town that, I’m convinced, tried to kill me. Still, a moment: it was late and I wasn’t sleeping again. I rarely slept. I read books and chain smoked and drank lots of tea, but I rarely slept. Normally, I would have been watching Trainspotting or Empire Records or Pulp Fiction because I know all the words and I could ignore them while I read, but my VCR had died a horrible death that day so I had late night talk shows on mute. For company, I suppose. Even back then I cared very little for the chit chat of famous people on television, if they weren’t Star Wars or comic book adjacent. I remember not knowing who any of the guests on any of the shows were, and by the time Carson Daly came on (does anyone remember that guy? Or his shitty show?) they were all just grinning skulls, pretending to laugh, trying to pass as human. I got really angry. Like, irrationally angry. And I scribbled pages and pages of unintelligible nonsense. Like I do.

It was just a moment, but it was the beginning of something. For whatever reason, that moment with the cigarette smoke and Carson Daly’s pixel rictus was the moment that I realized that my thoughts were not okay. Not “not normal,” but seriously not okay. It’s not okay to get so mad at a smiling handsome talk show personality that you want to hurt yourself. It was when I finally talked to my family about maybe getting some help. That process did not go well (the help, not the talking to my family). The pieces didn’t click together. I never really figured out when to breathe. But fuck, it could have been so much worse. I started seeing a therapist who asked to read my notebooks. I roundly told her she could go fuck herself. She gave me that line about “you have to help me help you.” But I knew that all the garbage spewing from my Kerouac-and-insomnia-addled brain would only help this underpaid hick land me in the bughouse. I might have been wrong. Still, I feel like all my blah blah about death and sex and demons and drugs would have been misconstrued. This is, after all, the woman who tried to convince me not to go to college, told me artists couldn’t be trusted, and eventually kicked me out of her office without a referral to another therapist saying, “I can’t help you, you need medication” (I was already on quite a bit of medication). Oh, and just for context, this all happened less than a year after my dad died. Since then, I’ve been largely managing my own mental health. I quit taking medication my sophomore year of college (and very quickly had to take a semester off when my grades nosedived), but the counselors there were very helpful. I meditate. I drink too much. I lean heavily on the kindness and compassion of friends who, I’m sure, are tired of listening to me have the same crises over and over.

The writing helps, usually. I’ve been trying to write a reasonable blog post all week. The last one was actually really difficult for me. And everywhere I look, there’s just horror. Shootings and war and death and Donald Trump. Hate and anger. I can’t muster enthusiasm for anything, let alone write with any levity. The title of this post was going to be “With a Heavy Heart.” Which is not melodrama. When I get like this, so sunk in, I am literally heavy. It’s hard to move, like I’m wearing layers of coats. I forget to eat. I have to set a reminder alarm so I shower. I’m trying. I really am. I’m sleeping better most days. I surround myself with things that make me happy: The Husband, our lurpy dogs, bad slasher movies, new books, tea, the occasional cheap cigar. I go through the motions. I do the dishes. I play nice. I smile. I try to pass as human.

Anyway. I thought I’d take a moment, for you guys. Taking moments is vitally important. Take them, they’re yours. A dear friend of mine used to say “We only get one moment, it just moves around a lot.” Take a moment to breathe. To cry, to scream, to punch a wall, to write a shit poem or a rambling blog post, to drink some water, to take a shower, to ask for help. Especially to ask for help. There is no good reason not to ask. I’ll say that again because whatever argument you were about to give is a bullshit excuse, not a reason. There is no good reason not to ask for help. Literally ask someone. Make a phone call. Send a text. Don’t just post something ominous and vaguely suicidal on fucking Facebook and scare the shit out of your family, hoping someone gets the message (and be assured, it does scare your family and friends – we know your backstory and we know that you don’t normally talk like Elliot Smith). Don’t offhandedly mention “not doing so well” or make what you’re going through sound like you have a cold. And if people offer you help without your asking them, do not blow them off. Those might be the people you need. They might not, but don’t try to convince them that you’re not worth helping.

Listen, here’s the bottom line: depression lies. It’s a snake in the grass bastard that sneaks up and whispers in your ear and you’re doing what it says before you even notice that it’s there. But it lies. Everything it says is a lie. It will tell you that this is just how life is, that this is how you’ll always feel, that it’s normal to feel like screaming all the time. It will tell you that you don’t deserve any better. It will tell you that it’ll get better on its own, that you don’t need help, that you’re not worth helping. It will tell you that no one sees that there’s something wrong, or that no one cares. It will tell you to self-destruct or self-harm, that you’re not worth the effort it takes to care for yourself, that other people should always be your priority. It will tell you that it wouldn’t make a difference or that things would be better if you weren’t here.

Lies. All fucking fat, ugly, slimy lies.

Take that moment, too, to remind yourself that depression lies. Take it a hundred times a day if you need to. Look that little demon motherfucker straight in the eye and tell it that you know it’s a liar. It doesn’t like to hear that. That little bit of proactive self-care can change everything. It may not feel like much, but action is action, and we sometimes have to deal in baby steps, right? That same friend, the one who talked about only having one moment, he was a real weirdo. His favorite song was Row, Row, Row Your Boat, because “It teaches you to be a man of action, Vanessa. And that’s important, very important, very very important indeed.” You’re in the boat, and you’re going down the stream. The stream will carry you, if you let it, if you’re lazy. But if you row, you’ll get there faster, and you’ll have gotten there on your own. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.

You know the rest.

“We are all just prisoners here, of our own device…”

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like lately. What I have written has been pretty good, and I’m happy about that, but I find that when I try to sit down and pound out the pages I’ve been hitting more and more walls. So, as an exercise, I decided to put my iPod on shuffle and write whatever came to mind for the length of each song and then move on, sort of a stream of consciousness plus timed meditation deal. I used to do it in college to clear all the blah blah out of my head before writing a paper.

Here’s the thing, though – I’ve got fourteen or so gigs of music on my iPod, and out of all those songs only about ten of them are happy. I exaggerate. It’s got to be more like twenty. And of those “happy songs” most are not objectively happy, they just make me happy. That counts for something but is a bit beside the point.

No, you know what? That is exactly the point.

When Brick comes on and you hit skip because it’s bumming you out and the next song is Down in a Hole and you’re like “Oh, so much better, what a relief,” you should really reconsider the roots of your emotional reactions.

“You” in this case being me.

A couple of years ago I read a book about time management and how to be organized in a more psychologically healthy way (because I’m a horribly obsessive control freak who doesn’t respond well to deadlines – how does that work?). The writer said one of the things he does is to make a new playlist every few months, so that if he gets in a negative headspace his playlist won’t put him back in that rut. It makes good sense, right? That logic totally tracks. So I tried it for a while, tried to rustle up a happy playlist. That winter was really, really tough, one of my blacker black wave times. Now, almost all of those cheery ditties put me in a foul mood. They’re ruined. The experiment backfired. Bummer songs make me happy and happy songs piss me off.

It’s one of the items on an increasingly long list of shit that’s wrong with me.

But is it “wrong,” really? If the end result of listening to a sad song is my feeling better, isn’t that good? Isn’t that the point? The point of making things? Of liking things? The feeling you end on, no matter which you started on? Something something artistic catharsis? The fact that my iPod reads like a suicide note to an outside observer should really be irrelevant if I’m happy knowing I have all those songs in my pocket.

I don’t have a favorite song. I never have. At best, I could maybe give you a top five favorite bands, with a few runners-up for greatest hits albums (not counting soundtracks). I used to think that was weird, that everyone has a favorite song. Now I’m pretty sure that favorite songs are a bullshit thing teenagers invented to more efficiently size each other up because they’re sociopaths. Or maybe I’m just chronically indecisive and would rather stick to loving a thousand songs that make me dance or laugh or weep or call someone I’m reminded of. On the other hand, I’ve often said that I wish I could cue my own theme music when I walk into a room. In the movie of my life, I know what every character’s song would be.

To that end, a story. Get comfy.


Once upon a time I was a college student. I have a degree in Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing, which just means I wanted to be a writer but have commitment issues. In order to graduate I had to submit a portfolio to the English Department, forty pages of which had to be in one format. I chose fiction, which as you may have gathered, I do not do. But it was the dream, at the time. My thesis adviser read an early draft and called me into her office (prompting a panic attack of epic and unmatched proportions). She told me that I wrote like a screenwriter. That wouldn’t have been a problem, we could have slapped that forty pages into a script easily, except that to graduate with a screenwriting concentration I would have had to declare a theater major a year earlier (which logic I contend makes no sense, but what do I know? I have a lowly literature degree). So I spent my last year of school learning how to not write like a screenwriter. That adviser and I got my bad fiction into somewhat presentable shape, along with another thirty or so pages of nonfiction that was already pretty alright, if I’m allowed to say so. I should have taken the hint at that point and realized that fiction wasn’t for me. I did not. Such a dumbass. I did learn a lot from that experience and from her, and while I obviously harbor her no ill will, I think that must have been some of the worst advice I’ve ever gotten. Right up there with “You look great in red” and “Eat another handful of mushrooms.” I should have learned how to do better what I was already doing. Not because I have any sort of plans to be a big fat Hollywood screenwriter. I didn’t even know I wrote like a screenwriter. But in retrospect, that seems like a skill I could have worked on, rather than squeezing myself into a fiction box where I don’t fit just because fiction is what I enjoy the most. The devil you know, as they say.

Anyway, some time later my sister and I were sitting around one night boozily yacking about The Eagles, something we do more than normal people would think is actually necessary. It started when our dad died. I suppose we were trying to bond with a dead guy by listening to his records. Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker, Rare Earth, Cream, Queen, BB King, and especially The Eagles. All really good stuff, and all stuff we had grown up loving, only now it seemed more important. A message from beyond. The thing about The Eagles is that their songs are like snapshots, vignettes, little peeks into weird microcosms. As, I suppose, a lot of great songs are. But their music in particular has a storyteller-ish quality that my sister and I respond to, probably because we’re both writers. That’s my working theory, anyway. So, we were sitting there trying to break down Hotel California, arguing over whether it’s about Satanists and demons or American classist consumerism and I said that either way it would make a great horror movie. It’s all there: setting, plot, conflict, characters, soundtrack. Everything but an ending. She said I should write an ending. Seemed simple enough.

That was twelve years ago.

I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve started and stopped more times than I can count. I’ve got a fat folder full of drafts, snippets, stray lines of dialogue, character and costume designs, descriptions of sets and locations – none of which, I’m sure, are in any sort of acceptable screenplay format. I can see it all in my head, some weird combination of From Dusk til Dawn and The Shining. And still, I have no ending. Because what the hell does one do with “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave”? I hate to get all meta and lit-major-y here, but that’s pretty much how I feel about this project. “You can write as many endings as you like but you can never finish this goddamn story.” And now, because oh how we do love an inside joke, it’s become a point of reference for my sisters and me.

When are you going to finish your degree?

When are you going to finish your Hotel California script?

When are you going to marry the lovely man you’ve been living with for a decade?

When are you going to finish your Hotel California script?

When are you going to get your shit together?

As soon as I finish my Hotel California script.

This thing is a monument to unfinished business, and rightfully so. Those bitches know exactly which buttons to push, though, don’t they? I feel worse about not finishing some stupid writing project than they do about either of those life decision-y things I mentioned and they know it. To be fair, while I’m being fair, the one without the degree has her dream job and the one with the wonderful boyfriend is blissfully happy, so clearly it’s my hangup and not theirs. It’s not just about finishing the script, really. I’ve got a lot tied up in this emotionally because of my dad. Maybe I’m not ready to be done with it yet. It’s funny how certain things become symbols, touchstones, talismans, and how they’re often weird or unexpected things. I don’t remember ever talking to him about Hotel California. We did talk about music a lot. The last couple of years before he died we talked about music all the time. I suppose it’s safe territory for a musically-inclined parent and a difficult teenager who’s trying to figure out what she likes. One time we stayed up until dawn arguing about who was the better drummer, Mitch Mitchell or Ginger Baker. It remains a mystery for the ages (but largely irrelevant because John Bonham). I am unprepared for those conversations to be well and truly over.

I suppose this story doesn’t really have an ending, either. Seems appropriate.

Meanwhile, I venture onward in the never-ending search for the elusive happy song. A most noble pursuit, indeed.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words are bloody complicated.

Holy shit, Rachel Dolezal. Rachel, Rachel, Rachel. I’ve been fascinated by this story for the past week. She is the living embodiment of WTF?. In case you missed it, Rachel Dolezal was the head of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. While interviewing her for a local tv news piece a reporter, seemingly out of the blue and unrelated to the topic at hand, asked her if she is black. Confused, I assume, about the relevance, she responded, “I don’t understand the question,” bumbled and spluttered when asked again, and then walked away. Now, that would have been fine, and excellent news blooper fodder. Except Rachel Dolezal isn’t black. She’s been posing as a black woman for almost a decade. Which would also have been fine, if she hadn’t accepted a college scholarship for black students, filed several police reports saying that harassment incidents were racial hate crimes, and told her adopted son not to blow her cover. That’s where this gets a little fraud-y and gross.

Legitimate fraud aside, why does this story seem so batshit crazy? Is it because her white birth parents (from whom she is estranged) outed her suddenly after all this time? That definitely makes me think there’s some weird backstory we’re not being made aware of. Or is it because we’re hearing about it in the aftermath of all the recent stories about systemic racism and police brutality against people of color? And all that very real, very nasty shit makes Dolezal seem silly? Is she actually mentally ill or delusional? Is she conducting a social experiment? Is she taking advantage of and defrauding social programs like Affirmative Action for her own financial or career gains? Again I say, WTF?

Because white people appropriate black culture all the time without running around in blackface. Furthermore, white people get jobs with the NAACP. White people teach African American studies. White people have black spouses and adopt black kids. You do not have to be a thing or pretend to be a thing to love and protect and fight for it. Somehow her charade feels really icky and insulting. But I’m white. I don’t necessarily know how sure my footing is in my arguments against her actions. I do know that I’m a hopeless Anglophile, but I haven’t cultivated a fake accent or lied about where I grew up. That’s a really weak analogy, but you see what I’m saying. She may feel a deep and abiding affinity for black or African culture, but she damn sure hasn’t had the black American experience.

But then that raises even more questions. What is the black American experience? Can one even say “the” rather than “a”? Why does it seem so weird that she would choose to go from white to black, given that black is, ostensibly, “harder”? What does that even mean? What does it say about our country that we can label one racial identity “harder” than another out of hand, without even thinking about it? And on a similar note, black people straighten their hair and lighten their skin all the time. Why isn’t that weird? Does it insult and offend and appall people like this story seems to have? I honestly don’t know.

Not to change the subject too drastically, but I wonder if Dolezal’s story would have had a different impact if she had been a man. So often we talk about body image and beauty standards as a distraction from bigger, more important issues. Oddly, in this case, it really does seem to be at the heart of the matter. Having said that, I find the many comparisons of Dolezal to Caitlyn Jenner really annoying. “Transracial” is not a thing. Transgender definitely is. Transgender people legitimately feel that there is something physically wrong with their actual body, and they make the decision to transition after years of struggle and pain, knowing that their path is not going to get any easier. Jenner didn’t just slap on a new vagina and a new name like someone getting a tattoo or a haircut or some overzealous bronzing. The comparisons between these two women are absurd. Jenner was seeking truth and authenticity. Dolezal is a liar. Although I can see the logic in saying that while Jenner always felt she was a woman, she also didn’t have to go through life having the experiences common to women in America – misogyny, harassment, unequal pay, job loss due to maternity leave, the costs of child care or the controversy of contraception, sexual violence or threats of sexual violence, body shaming. But she will now. Welcome to our wonderful sisterhood, Caitlyn.

Our bodies and our identities are inextricably linked, obviously, and we’re advanced enough to change one to suit the other by both small and large degrees. And that’s fine. That seems healthy and like a step in the right direction. Why, then, do I support Caitlyn Jenner but think that Rachel Dolezal is a raving banana sandwich (actual prosecute-able fraud aside)? Where’s the line? When is a body just a body? Are medicine and psychology ahead of or behind our culture? I mean, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder in the DSM until 1986, for fuck’s sake. We’re still fighting to keep people out of those evil sexuality conversion places, but at the same time require sex offenders of all stripes, no matter the severity of their crimes, to pay enormous amounts of money out of pocket for court-appointed therapy, basically trying to change their sexual proclivities in exactly the same way. There’s a particular body dysmorphic disorder where people feel like a part of their body (usually a limb) is not theirs, an alien, intrusive thing. They, too, are routinely sent to therapy and heavily medicated in order to be “normal,” and often resort to crudely removing the offending appendage themselves. We still have puritanical prejudices against the heavily tattooed or body modified. We fat shame and skinny shame, making some arbitrary average number the demarcation of “health,” but only if it looks a certain way. While we simultaneously pump our food market full of poison, fat, sugar, and salt, we fill our media exclusively with airbrushed ectomorphs. We sweat the hot ladies in skimpy outfits and overtly sexualized scenarios on every billboard, magazine, and commercial, but are deeply unsettled by public breastfeeding. We rejoice at the sudden acceptance of the “dad bod,” but put only fit young hipsters and ripped silver foxes in Father’s Day ads for beer and burgers. We extoll the virtues of diet after diet after diet so we can show off the sexiest body possible to whomever will look, but cry foul on a rape victim’s allegations when her skirt was too short for our outdated sense of sexual modesty.

Why do we have to have all this running commentary on other people’s lives? The real problem, I think, is that so many folks see those lifestyle choices as an affront to their own. The word “tolerance” has been thrown around so much lately as to make it meaningless. As in: “Why do I have to tolerate you but you get to be intolerant of my opinion? Who are you to judge?” Well, who the hell am I to judge? Who am I at all? Is there a Venn diagram that perfectly lays out the topography of my personality? I mean, I guess so. But I’ve never really had to defend any of the ways that I identify from outright attack. I’m white, but I have had people be shitty to me several times when I had a deep tan because they thought I was Hispanic (and once, Asian – weirdly, this usually happens in grocery stores, maybe it’s the lighting). I’m from a lower-to-middle middle class family, which has only ever been a problem when I’ve told people that my dad worked for the most evil corporation to ever evil, but clearly that wasn’t my decision. I’m bisexual but nobody cares – except maybe that one girlfriend I was an asshole to in high school because she wanted to hold my hand in the hallway and I didn’t want to put up with any redneck bully bullshit (I’m sorry about that, Mel, I truly am). I’m an atheist, and I guess that’s the one where I have to pick my battles the most. But I’m not evangelical about it, like a lot of atheists I know who start fights just so they get to tell religious people they think they’re stupid. That shit is mean and unnecessary. And, by the way, just as ignorant and judgy as they think religious people are.

But these are all words. Words that we hear and assume we understand. A word or a label is never the whole story, the big picture. We use so few words but we need so many to really explain ourselves, and then we let a disturbing number of them go in one ear and out the other. There are very few words people use as identifiers that I immediately react negatively to (pedophile, for example, or Neo-Nazi). So long as you’re a nice person and you tell me which pronouns and adjectives you prefer, we can probably be friends. Why can’t we all just be a meaningless jumble? Why don’t we realize that we already are? There’s this saying about religion that I often regurgitate. It varies, but it’s usually something like: “Religion is like a penis – it’s fine to have one and love it, but don’t wave it around, show it to my kids, or try to stick it down my throat.” Truth is, lots of words can be substituted in that analogy. Race, religion, sexual preference, gender identity, politics, wealth – anything can be a penis. Just don’t be a dick about it.

No pilikia today. Sit. Talk story.

My family reunion is this weekend. Sadly, I’m not able to be there this year (Hi, family! Love you! Air hugs!). It’s a huge family, probably two hundred folks or so. Not Dugger huge, but former Catholic huge, which is pretty damn huge by normal human standards. And we’re Hawaiian. Hawaiians don’t “chat” or “visit” or “catch up.” We “talk story,” a figure of speech that I absolutely love. Very direct and to the point, Hawaiians. Probably a result of only having thirteen letters. The problem with having such a big family, though, is that I don’t get to talk story with all of them. There are far too many who I don’t know at all, and by this point we’ve grown into such a many-headed beast that I can’t even keep straight whose kids or spouses are whose anymore. Not to mention that I live so far away, which is a whole other bucket of bullshit.

Anyway, the other day I listened to a TED Radio Hour episode with Dave Isay, the guy who started StoryCorps, and I honestly think he’s a genius. If you’ve ever heard StoryCorps, it was most likely a snippet on NPR. But if you’re unfamiliar, the basic idea is that two people sit down in a recording booth and interview each other. The interviews are all archived in the Library of Congress and have become the largest collection of recorded human voices. There’s also a podcast, if you’re interested, but both it and the pieces aired on the radio are just short excerpts from each interview. Some of them are funny, some are mundane, some are baffling, some are gut-wrenching. Which, I suppose, is true of all conversation. So why are interviews different?

I listen to a shit ton of podcasts. Like, I probably spend five or six hours a day listening to podcasts. This may be an actual sickness. Some of my very favorites are interview style, with interesting people in both chairs. But here’s the thing about StoryCorps: the whole point is that everyone is interesting. We forget that, I think, obsessed as we are with celebrity and gossip and commentary and punditry. I may have some weird social anxiety stuff and prefer to watch people over talking to them, but I know that every single person has at least one interesting story (except babies, babies are pretty boring). How simple to just ask for those stories. How elegant. And potentially really important. Like Isay says in his TED Talk, the older generations will be gone one day but we can keep what they have to say forever. And some people don’t get to tell their stories. Either they’re part of a marginalized community that nobody cares about (prison, retirement home, freaky cult, etc), or simply, and perhaps more sadly, no one ever asks.

For example, recently one of my cousins was talking to one of my aunts and my aunt said something about the time when my mother lived in Iran. My cousin had no idea that my mom had lived in Iran. Or Singapore. Or Scotland. Or any of the other weird things my mom has done. She’s an interesting lady, but it had never come up, I guess. Not that I think a sit-down interview that’s being recorded would necessarily bring any of that to light, but there’s something about a microphone that flips a switch in our brains and eliminates the need for chit chat. Frankly, I’ve always sucked at chit chat. It’s kind of a chicken-or-egg thing with the social anxiety. Obviously, being a writer and an eater of books, story is important to me. Some people probably don’t give a shit what regular folks have to say. But we should always remember that those among us who are extraordinary are only made so by their stories. And sometimes we need to hear the story to see that they’re extraordinary, if they’re hiding in plain sight, masquerading as normal. Things like StoryCorps (and, in a slightly different format, Humans of New York) are making it easier for us to see the amazing stuff about each other that we might have missed.

And now StoryCorps has put out a smartphone app so anyone can record an interview and upload it to the collection without having to go to a sound studio. This is going to change the game. Of course I thought of my giant, wacky family when I heard about this thing. Wouldn’t it be incredible to get interviews from all two-hundred-something members of one family? What a great artifact, not only for us to have for ourselves, but as a weird little slice of this whole human story? I think I’m going to make it a project for the next family reunion. Get some quality microphones and set up a quiet place, have everyone pair off with a family member who they don’t know very well (or who they know has a good story they want on record). It could be so fun.

More to the point, it could be really important as our old folks get older and eventually leave us. We lost one of my uncles a few years ago (in a motorcycle accident – SHARE THE ROAD!), and I’m sad to say that I didn’t know him very well. I would have loved to hear his stories, but now I only get to hear stories about him. Same with all four of my grandparents. And, it’s funny, when my dad died the first thing I forgot was what his voice sounded like. I don’t think I have any recordings of him just talking, and certainly not singing or laughing, although those are the three things I remember him doing the most (when I could hear him over his tractor). We mythologize the dead in our minds, but for whatever reason, in my head they’re silent. Static. Makes me sad.

There’s a strange linguistic thing that happens in groups of people – families, friends, coworkers, whatever – called liminal language. It’s a sort of shorthand specific to that group, very referential, and it binds the group together. So, for example, if I walk into my little sister’s house and say “Hello, meteor!” there’s a very good chance that either she or her mate will say “Aaaah! The atmosphere!”. Nobody else gets that, but there’s a story there. A dumb story, granted, but a story. A series of events and experiences distilled down to four words in a silly accent. I’m endlessly fascinated by the brain’s ability to do this. Memory, language, representation and reference – these are stories. Stories inside stories inside stories. Everything is story, inescapable and infinite and all-consuming. I see it everywhere, like the fucking Matrix.

And I could tell you that the written word and the spoken word are equals in our efforts to preserve story, but they’re just not. Reading and listening happen in different parts of the brain using different neurochemical whatsits. This is why I maintain that one should never read the plays of Shakespeare, but should see them onstage whenever possible. They weren’t meant to be read off of a dead page in cold ink, and doing so turns them into a wholly different creature. On a similar note (but in no way trying to compare myself to Shakespeare), it’s interesting that people who know me say I write like I talk. I think this is true, for the most part. However, when I was younger I helped out occasionally with producing my older sister’s radio show and would sometimes have to speak on-air (notice I say “have to” and not “get to”). She told me that I sound like a dead fish, that my voice only works when someone is looking at me. This is also true. My voice is rather monotone, but I talk with my hands a lot and pull tons of stupid faces. I imagine that talking on the phone with me is much like reading my writing – if you know me, you can see me saying it. If not? Potential dead fishness. This is why I blog instead of podcasting, and why recording people’s stories can be so much more impactful than writing them down. The medium does make a difference.

Anyway, check out StoryCorps. It’s a hell of a rabbithole to get stuck in. More importantly, even if you don’t record them, ask people to tell you their stories. People you love, people you hate, people you don’t know. It’s an incredible moment of human connection, some serious brain-on-brain action. Talk story. It’s all we are.

To Blog, from Brain, with love.

I have been neglecting my bloggenings here lately, friends. For that, I apologize. I have a few reasonable excuses, mostly to do with time management, but it’s a lot of blah blah that you don’t want to read and I don’t want to write. I spent most of today working on a very weird post that I’m not going to put up. It was a love letter from my brain to my blog, a sappy sort of “please don’t leave me/I’m so sorry” thing. But then I realized that I’ve never had to write or say anything like that in real life and what I had written was very much out of the playbook of a bad chickflick dramedy. The kind of rant one might hear on a show and change the channel if no one killed themselves at the end of it. Also, my blog is never going to write back, so it’s an unrequited love anyway.

The fact remains that I’m having a hard time focusing. I can’t seem to effectively string words together these days, much less make a cohesive point or find the deeper meaning in the silly things I so enjoy. I often misspeak or use the wrong word for things. I’ve been having a hard time remembering words at all. I lose my train of thought, lose track of time, lose people’s names while I’m talking to them, write pages and pages of crap and then throw it away. All of which, of course, terrifies me. More than that, though, it pisses me off. Fucking immensely, irrationally, outlandishly pisses me off. I nearly kicked a whole case of beer through a window the other day because I couldn’t remember the word “defenestration.” Irony, that. True story. Not funny.

Well, maybe a little funny in hindsight. But not fun.

What bothers me more than my writing suffering is the real-world consequence of word choice. Particularly the written word, with its lack of inflection and physical cues. Better to say nothing at all than to risk saying something stupid or mean or easily misinterpreted in the service of making a point I would gladly defend. Recently, this blundering (admittedly, while angry) may have cost me one of my most important friendships. Maybe not, but I honestly don’t know and I’m gutted by it. I’ve been completely frazzled ever since. You know those friends who are like your big toe? You don’t think about them every day, but when you hurt them your whole body hurts and without them you couldn’t stand up? Maybe that’s a bad analogy. Well, yeah, actually that’s a terrible analogy, but you see what I’m saying.

Stupid. Fucking. Words.

Problem is, words are all I have. I’m pretty tough, fairly resourceful, and a hard worker, but at the end of the day I don’t have a hell of a lot of skills. I’m good at words. I’m a decent writer and a ninja editor. More to the point, I love words. I read books about them, about linguistic history, Broca’s area, the Great Vowel Shift, the cultural impact of people learning Klingon. Nothing makes me happier than turning a sloppy soup of words into a clean, sturdy paragraph. No drink or pill or powder has ever held up in comparison to grinding out thousands of words and then starting over at the beginning to put them all in their proper places. I’m dead serious, it is literally my drug of choice.

My whole goal here from the beginning has been to find big ideas inside small ones. They’re not always there, but when they are, they can change the way one looks at everything. Sometimes they’re hard to explain (like how colors smell on LSD). Other times a bunch of them need to be stitched together (like my buddy’s recent thesis comparing the work of Sartre to The Matrix). We need wordsmiths. That moment when a writer makes us laugh or cry or think, across countries and cultures and centuries, bridging even the gap of life and death. That can be a huge moment. I don’t know that I’ve ever provided that moment for someone (and, for the record, I am still alive), but the idea of it is important to me. Language is the glue of the world, if I may borrow a phrase. I hate to think I have, or will someday soon, fail that tradition by being quiet or overly cautious. But perhaps I should be. Or, maybe I just write my ass off about whatever nonsense I want until I lose my damn mind. Which is the lesser sin? Right now I couldn’t say. But I’ll let you know if I figure it out.

A whole bucket.

*Trigger warning: gnarly bad news shit ahead. Death and destruction, etc, etc.*

The technical term for these past couple of weeks is “a bucket of suck.” It’s frustrating because I know I’ve been something of a downer lately. I want to write about awesome things or things I’m excited about, but all I can think about are these terrible events. I’m preoccupied, distracted. So I figured I’d just write it all down and purge the system. Maybe then I can focus on writing about more happy slappy stuff. Pardon me if this seems like I’m writing lists again. Just humor me. Deep breath. Ready?

Thing the first: Leelah Alcorn

Alcorn was a transgender girl from Ohio who killed herself by walking in front of a truck. In her suicide note she said that she felt like she had no support. Her parents had sent her to one of those conversion therapy places and cut off all her ties to friends and social media. Now, I don’t believe in spiritual stuff, but I do believe in evil. Evil comes from people. This shit? This shit is evil. Bigotry is evil. Conversion therapy is evil. It’s particularly fucked up that they combined that practice with complete social isolation. That’s tantamount to sticking your child in a box and waiting for Stockholm Syndrome to fix the problem. A person being trans is not a problem. While I’m sure they thought they were doing something to help her, their idea of what help she needed was the actual problem. It makes me sick to think about. I’m sorry for their loss and their grief, obviously, but I sincerely hope they know this is their fault.

How do we still think like this about LGBT people? How are these conversion therapy idiots not laughed out of business by now? What fucking year is this? I just got an email this morning about legislation in Virginia, my home state, that proposes to allow doctors, lawyers, and government employees to openly discriminate against LGBT folks based on personal religious views. Can you imagine the damage this could do? We’re supposed to be moving away from this kind of backwards mindset. How many more children have to die? When can we all just be people? We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to condone or promote behavior we don’t approve of. But we have to stop actively trying to hurt each other. No good can come of us all being exactly the same.

Thing the second: Charlie Hebdo

Twelve innocent people dead over cartoons. Seriously? Fucking seriously? I think Jon Stewart had the best thing to say that I’ve heard so far: “Very few people go into comedy as an act of courage, mainly because it shouldn’t be that. It shouldn’t be an act of courage.” Comedy can be offensive. Lenny Bruce got arrested for saying the n-word in a roomful of white people, for fuck’s sake. Satire can bite, because its job is to point at the truth and laugh. To show the ridiculousness of a situation in an effort to bring about change is both noble and difficult. Which is not to say that it can’t be hurtful, but sometimes culture needs some growing pains.

Gunning people down over art is never the answer. Making people afraid to be artists is never the answer. Curtailing free speech, via either law or terrorism, is never the answer. If we don’t talk about things, they don’t change. Or, they change by violent revolution rather than informed discourse. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, even if it’s as they’re lining me up against the wall: I might hate the things you say but I will defend your right to say them. I will fight tooth and nail, no matter how much I disrespect you or disagree with your opinion. None of us should have to live with that kind of fear.

Thing the third: #FamilyDontEndWithBlood

On December 27th, a coordinated campaign of hate messages were sent by anonymous users to certain folks on a couple of tumblr fan sites for the show Supernatural. These fans had spoken up online about their various struggles with depression and mental illness and reached out to the fan community for support. Many of the messages were aimed at getting these people to kill themselves. Three of them did. Five more attempted it. Others were reported missing, and I don’t know how many of them were found unharmed. Later that evening, one of the people who had reportedly committed suicide turned back up perfectly fine. All of her social media and email accounts had been hacked. The hackers had posted a suicide note, a message claiming to be the friend who found her and called an ambulance, and another message claiming to be a different friend who was at the hospital with the girl’s mother when the doctor brought the news about her death. That still leaves two people dead.

I had been following the events on Twitter and tumblr all day, and as soon as she showed up saying that she’d been hacked, posts started streaming in saying that she and the others were just losers looking for attention, that it was sad that their only friends were online, that killing themselves was still an option and would have been better. The outpouring of love and support from other fans continued, but was soon peppered with vitriol. Now, think this through. Someone had to pick this person out, hack all of her accounts, fake three separate personalities, then just sit back and watch the fallout. That’s sick. What kind of mind does it take to do that? I really think that’s some serial killer behavior. And that’s just this one case. The anonymous messages that started all of this numbered in the thousands and all began at the same time. This was a planned barrage, not a slow accumulation. There were several tumblr pages dedicated to talking shit about Supernatural and its fans. They were full of celebratory posts about these deaths before they were shut down. I haven’t checked to see if they’re back up, nor will I.

I know I said I believe unconditionally in free speech. That’s not quite accurate. There’s a difference between “I think you’re dumb” or “I don’t like a thing you like” and “You should kill yourself.” Those are worlds apart. Just like there’s a difference between “I hate group X” and “We should kill anyone who belongs to group X.” I support free speech, not coordinated violence. And while no one actually touched anyone else in this situation, I do believe it to be a violent act. And over what? A television show, and a silly one at that. This is not Michael Moore getting a bomb threat at a movie premiere that we’re talking about here. These are regular people who used a fandom as common ground to make deeper connections with a community. You know, like human people do. I believe it’s referred to as “making friends.” What motives these assholes could possibly have in wanting to take that away from strangers is completely beyond me. I don’t care if one group of fans thinks their show is better than another show. These victims were delicate to begin with and I have zero sympathy for those who prey on the weak. Fuck those people. Tumblr turned their IP addresses over to the cops and I hope they all go in a deep, dark hole for a very long time.

So. Anyway. What else is new? How are you guys?

Yeah, there’s no way to segue out of this post. Sorry.

But, like I said, hopefully my brain can see this as a sort of reset button and get on with thinking about other things now. Nice things. Happy things. Fluffy bunnies and shit. Let’s all cross our fingers. And, you know, maybe try to make the world a better place. Just a little. For fuck’s sake, please, just a little.

Round and round and round we go…

Happy New Year, kids! I hope everyone’s festivities were sufficiently festive. And the holidays before that. Sorry I didn’t post anything last week. It was Christmas and I was busy making a few hundred cookies. I don’t know why I decided that would be my project for this year’s celebration, but it’s been a week and I’m beginning to regret it. When I was finally finished bringing the Cookiepocalypse upon mankind, I posted this photo on Facebook:


The picture got a perfectly reasonable number of obligatory likes and a couple of comments. Nothing I wasn’t expecting. Except for one. It’s been rattling around in my head ever since. The back and forth between myself and my buddy Jess:

Jess: Pure, unadulterated awesomeness.

Me: I cookie like I have children, man.

Jess: It’s a good way to cookie. A good way.

Jess (one minute later): Wait and p.s. Cookieing like you have children would mean 2 batches of shitty shortbread/gingerbread with terrifying decorations and a hangover from how much you had to drink to get through it.

Me: A fair point.

First, I don’t know what cookieing like I have children even means. Like, make more? Because spawn have to eat? I don’t know. Secondly, let me be clear. Jess has two kids. They’re beautiful and smart and well-mannered little nibbles of awesome. Should either or both of them turn out to be the President or the King of Mars or that rock star who eliminates world hunger, I would not be shocked. I’m only issuing this disclaimer because that comment could be read as an outsider’s perspective on what it must be like to be burdened with kids while trying to make tasty holiday treats.

It sounds, basically, like something I would say.

And here’s the thing: Jess is amazing. She’s one of those people who makes it all look so easy. She’s an attorney who specializes in environmental law, saving the world by shutting down one gross factory farm at a time. She’s got great kids, her husband is a dedicated minister and a freaking adorable gentleman (full disclosure: also my best friend from high school). She’s hilarious and gets all my geeky jokes. Remember my post a while ago about being intimidated by badass women? I was thinking a lot of my mom and Jess while I was writing that. So when she said that about the cookieing and the kids, it rocked me a little. I never in a million years would have expected that comment from this particular woman. I’ve always had this Norman Rockwell-ish (Rockwellian?) version in my head of her doing Christmasy things. Everything turning out beautifully, with ease, and if it doesn’t everyone has a good laugh and a beer over it, no face covered in flour and butter and sweat, great house flawlessly decorated, except for the adorably lopsided knick-knacks made by the awesome fruit of her attractive loins.

Now, we can all agree that this is an unrealistic depiction of anyone’s life in the long term, superhero or no. Anyone can manage it for a day, that perfection, but it’s impossible to do it all the time. Unless you’re Martha Stewart, and I feel like she may snap one day and blow up a bunch of craft stores or something. We never see the icky bits of other people’s day, do we? The spats with the partner, the piles of dirty laundry, the monumental effort it takes not to scream at the kids, the headaches, the dog shitting on the rug, the leak in the basement. Social media has made these blind spots bigger. Because we don’t have to post anything but the best pictures and the cutest stories. I read an article last summer sometime, I think, about psychologists identifying a new type of depression that’s specifically tied to envying other people’s lives on social media and, conversely, trying to depict one’s own life in a certain way on social media and not feeling that it’s good enough. Oh, how far we’ve come.

Thinking about Jess’s cookie comment for the last few days has made me feel like a pretty tremendous asshole. Not because of what she said, but because of my own assumptions about what her life must be like. Wonderful, sure, but in my head I edited out all the realism, cleaned it up, took out the hard parts and the tears. This could be dangerous. What if she, or any other friend, came to me because they were having a hard time or a going through a rough situation? Just hypothetically? Because I’ve got this idealistic nonsense bumping around masquerading as reality, I might proceed as though whatever problem is less than it actually is because either A) all the other awesome in her life will balance it out or B) she’s awesome enough to handle it well and doesn’t really need my help because I am, provably, a loser. Both of these are unfounded, dismissive, asshole maneuvers. Am I less likely to think those things because I’ve gone through all of this in my head already? Sure, but it scares me that it’s something I may do without thinking, or that I could have ever done it in the first place. And these are people I’ve known for years and love dearly. I fucking know better. What assumptions and preconceived notions do I have about other people? Groups of people? Anonymous or faceless or voiceless people?

I bring all this up for a reason. I’m not just kissing my friend’s ass or airing my latent jealousy. As you know, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I do not need yet another vector for failure. But this week is my three-year Blogiversary so I figure it’s as good an excuse as any to set myself a new writing goal. If it carries over into my real life, all the better, we all win.

I’d like to rely less on assumptions. I’d like to learn how and when to ask the right questions, rather than jumping ahead based on what I think the answer is. I’d like to get better at recognizing when my arguments are fallacious or unfounded or circular. I’d like to make fewer overgeneralizations. I’d like to stop lumping things together and pigeonholing without evidence. I’d like to be more careful when I’m being critical, more considerate when being analytical.

I’ve been writing these posts for three years. Sometimes I feel like I’ve done excellent work and sometimes I feel like the hackiest hack to ever hack. I think both are true, but I think I can do better. We can always do better. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to figure people out because I genuinely do not understand their behavior. I can’t grok quite a bit of what is considered “normal.” I have these questions that seem unanswerable because I don’t get the basic mechanics of how a lot of people think. Sometimes I feel like I’m stumbling along with bad directions, a colorblind kid trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

A while ago, my mother-in-law told The Husband that she thought she made a mistake in not teaching him to want stuff enough. That it made it hard for him to relate to people. I disagree that it was a mistake, but agree that he has a hard time understanding other humans. But I feel like that’s an advantage in a lot of ways. Similarly, I was never really taught how to fit in with people, how to adapt or camouflage myself. And while I try to be a strict follower of Wheaton’s Law and strive to solve every problem first with kindness, I tend to ignore things I don’t understand which has made me dismissive at times. I have a history of running roughshod over people’s feelings and not realizing until it’s too late. I can be harsh, inconsiderate, selfish.

Some of you are going to read this and tell me not to be so tough on myself. I will take that under advisement. Meanwhile, I hope that I can improve both my writing and my brain function, and possibly my limited interpersonal skills, by making these small changes in how I approach the world. I predict that I will often come across as befuddled, if I don’t already. I don’t really know.

Anyway. Happy New Year. Happy Blogiversary. Happy Everything, to all of you. Now someone come help me eat the rest of these goddamn cookies.

Tired writer is tired.

I’ve got nothing, guys. Seriously nothing for the blog this week. My brain, that bastard, has taken off for parts unknown, gone looking for food like a stray cat. I’ve done stuff this week that I could tell you about. I read the newest Stephen King book. I watched a bunch of great movies. I had about five existential crises. But none of it seems worth writing about. Right at the moment, anyway. I’m sure I’ll get around to some of it soon. I hope so.

I’m tired. Being tired makes everything feel either A) equally dire or B) equally meaningless and what’s the fucking point? I have been sleeping better, which seems important. But I can’t rally any enthusiasm for the things I know I should be stoked about. I haven’t created anything I love in quite some time. I spend each day going through the motions, waiting for it to be over. When I laugh it feels fake.

We’ve reached the oversharing portion of our program. I apologize. Boundaries, man. I think some of my filters have broken down.

You know that Damien Rice song “Grey Room”? It’s been stuck in my head for days and days and it’s starting to feel more like an accurate description of my life. Speaking of which, this is how tired I am. An actual item from my ongoing list of possible blog topics:

Ways in which I do not ever want to be described, even though they’re accurate-

  • A plaid wearer
  • A She Wants Revenge fan
  • Mustachioed
  • A farmer
  • That girl who always talks about [insert geeky whatever blah blah here].
  • Makes good spaghetti
  • Tries so hard
  • Average
  • Angry

Boring, boring, boring, all of it. I heard somewhere recently, maybe on a podcast, that people who are more self-confident or in positions of power will refer to themselves less in written communication than other people. Interesting, that, and counter-intuitive. I talk about myself all the damn time. Click on that tag that says “me talking about myself again” and about fifty posts come up. Well, not that many, but a lot. Perhaps it’s because I have mostly myself for company. I don’t know.

I found a snippet that should have gone in my last post (but was in the wrong notebook – seriously, what the fuck? Clearly I’m falling apart) about our relationships to objects. It’s a big part of the character’s day-to-day life in that book, and I think it’s completely different for people who are isolated in some way than it is for regular people. Look at hoarders or recluses, for example. Their possessions are their expressions of self, largely because they’re not getting any societal pressure or feedback. They are bound by their lack of boundaries. Somehow when we’re alone (or even just lonely) we stray from the norm. Which is not to say that normal should be anyone’s goal, but there’s healthy-but-weird and then there’s pathological. Somewhere around “why am I surrounded by fifty years’ worth of newspapers and probably some dead things?”. I suppose what I’m saying is that my lack of human contact is making me feel like it will be difficult to reestablish human contact. I talk to my dogs more than I talk to other people. Hell, I talk to my coffee pot more than I talk to other people. He’s a surly motherfucker.

I’m getting twitchier. I’m nervous all the time. My writing is suffering because I spend so much time talking to myself. And, just as we are all our own worst critics, we’re also all our own bad influence. We validate our bad behavior, especially if no one else keeps us in check. What’s that dumb self-help mantra? “Character is who you are when no one’s watching.” I think I got that in a fortune cookie once. It’s pretty terrifying.


Blurgh. I need therapy. Sorry for unloading on you guys. I maybe shouldn’t have even posted this one. Well, there’s always the delete button. I’m sure I’ll be better soon. It’s just winter. The rain is getting to me. I’ll white-knuckle my way through. I always get there. And I’m doing stuff that helps. I haven’t had a drink in a week. Egg nog is helping. Star Trek is helping. Remembering to breathe and eat and shower is helping, even if I have to write myself notes to accomplish them. I promise I look crazier from the outside. Probably. That’s not really reassuring, though.

So, onward and upward. On to new things. I’ll be back next week with something of substance, provided this rainstorm doesn’t wash us all down the mountain. I think it’s hilarious that the worst rain to hit Humboldt County in a decade is being called the Pineapple Express Storm (if you don’t get that joke, go look it up). Meanwhile, I’m stuck in a bubble over here so feel free to send me things that I should read/watch/listen to/write about. Input is always appreciated. Input! Number Five is alive! (Again, go look it up, whippersnappers.)